Stillborn Online Ventures – A Grim Reality & How to Avoid It
Before starting my own venture, I worked for a couple of IT companies in various roles. During that period, I came across many startups based on promising ideas that perished within months of operations. Their premature demise often set me thinking, and what I discovered mostly was that they never had a chance.
Actually, they had a chance but it was taken away. My findings made me coin the term ‘stillborn online ventures’ to represent this dismal group.
Let’s dwell a little more into SOVs before sharing how you can save your startup from a similar fate.
Let’s start with an example
I think I have made the meaning clear in the intro itself but let’s go over it again for sake of clarity.
Ms. Elizabeth realizes that there is no ecommerce store dealing in cool accessories for millennials in her country. She undertakes initial research and it turns out to be true. She has some money for building a ‘cool’ ecommerce store and hires a team for the same.
Store is up and running in few months. In the meantime, she invests in pre-marketing to generate traffic at the time of launch. Sales happen from the initial monetary push but they soon dry up.
Ms. Elizabeth asks the development team ‘what’s wrong?’ and they shrug their shoulders. The site looks good and is working fine. They did what they were paid for. She puts some more money into paid marketing. The sales graph climbs up a little but falls back soon.
Blame game begins and soon Ms. Elizabeth gets tired of it all. The cool accessories store is left to gather dust.
Wondering what went wrong?
Most online businesses that I saw bite the dust were run by young entrepreneurs who outsourced the technical part. They didn’t have much knowhow about site architecture, URL structure, onsite SEO, and other critical details that make an online venture promising in the long haul.
Unfortunately, their hired ‘experts’ only concerned themselves with what they were paid for. They kept their billing-hours to minimum by never looking beyond client guidelines.
I didn’t use the word ‘startup’ anywhere above because they usually have deft minds to figure out all the technicalities. Founders too usually have sound knowledge of code & other technical aspects. Or they partner with someone who does. Schoolmate, college buddy or colleague.
It is the online business aspirants with little knowhow that fall into this trap and end up with stillborn online ventures.
How to dodge the stillborn trap?
There are 2 ways to avoid ending up with a good-for-nothing online property. The first one is:
Get your hands dirty
You won’t slip on a banana peel if your eyes are open and they are on the road. Similarly, if you have industry knowledge and you know the ‘wrong’ from ‘right’, then, your online business won’t suffer. You got to gather insights on:
- User experience
- Development basics
- Best design practices
- URL structure
- Offsite and onsite SEO
- Conversion funnel
- A dozen of other things
Now, I’m not telling you to get certifications on all the above. Just spent some time:
- Reading blogs about them
- Discussing queries on forums
- Sharing doubts with your potential team
WARNING – THIS WILL TAKE TIME.
I’m talking a month or two here if you give a couple of hours every day.
This newly acquired knowledge will not only help with your present venture but will also prepare you for future ones.
Appoint a watchdog
As I said, learning it all could be time consuming especially if you have a fulltime job and family responsibilities. If you don’t have the time, then, the best option would be to hire someone who already has the knowledge.
It can be friend, family member or someone you pay for doing the job. This expert will be responsible for keeping a watch on the whole design-development process and make sure that no crucial detail is missed.
Introduce him to your development team, give him access to the project management system or just share progress files. Before appointing one, confirm:
- Industry expertise and knowhow
- Design, development and SEO knowhow.
- Online identity and reputation if hiring online.
Usually, such ‘regulators’ don’t charge a fortune for their services and make sure that your investment doesn’t go down the drain. Their third party nature guarantees honest observations and makes them fully reliable for the job.
The point is…
Whether you are launching a lifestyle business or building your dream ecommerce store, you will need help from designers, coders, and marketing experts. If you have your own team, then, there is nothing good than that.
But in case you are hiring someone you haven’t worked with on personal level, it’s best to either have knowledge or a watchdog by your side. Sure you can go through portfolio but trust me it can be misleading sometimes.
And let’s not get started about the smooth-talking company representative you are exchanging mails with. He is being paid handsomely for the job.
Varun Sharma is the cofounder of spotent.com, a startup committed to simplify search & hiring of IT companies. He also helps small businesses and big brands discover site leakages by sharing reports on site UX, content strategy, SEO performance and conversion loopholes.