When I started my first company, I was a little bit lost, because there were not that many open resources back at that time, 20 years ago (not to date myself). There was the city library, of course, and the option to attend a lecture from a successful business owner at the local university. But, otherwise, there wasn't much.
Oh, have things changed. Today, startup founders can easily access numerous organizations, websites and experts to help them launch their startups and see them thrive. After all, knowledge is power, right? And knowledge is key to making the soundest decisions you can, and developing optimal strategies, to get your startup off the ground and into a position to sustain itself.
Resources I'd recommend? Here are 10 that startups in 2017 can use to gain their biggest advantage possible:
1. Global Accelerator Network
Gan.co, or GAN, is an incredible resource for startups comprised of more than 70 accelerators across six continents and 100 cities. GAN offers a way for startups to benefit from short-term, mentorship-based programs that help them launch in a smart, strategic way.
Started in 2010 by two co-founders of TechStars, this network has helped 3,300 companies complete their GAN program as well as raise more than $4 billion across the globe to fuel these companies and create nearly 22,000 new jobs. Startups enjoy access to best practices, industry data, discounts and perks, consulting, investors, peers and mentors.
2. Startup Grind
Billed as one of the largest startup communities in the world, Startup Grind brings together more than 400,000 entrepreneurs in 85 countries and 200 cities. The community offers a network of resources, which include events, partnerships with organizations like Google for Entrepreneurs and media opportunities. There are also local community events that help entrepreneurs meet up with others for face-to-face assistance and connection.
That assistance includes ways to reach out to talent, innovators, investors and educators. Startup Grind started in 2010 in Silicon Valley and has grown, to offer online and offline opportunities for tapping into some very important resources and opportunities for funding.
3. Young Entrepreneur's Council
Young Entrepreneur Council, created by entrepreneurs is an application-only resource that offers startups considerable support and resources. For marketing, YEC offers a free website, numerous opportunities for media exposure, tools for brand-building and invitations to special events and conferences.
As a resource, YEC has knowledge-sharing, networking and professional development opportunities. Other perks include affordable healthcare options, a travel agency and discounts for co-working spaces all over the country.
If you're looking for a convenient, affordable way to expand your own knowledge and skill set as well as that of anyone you hire, Coursera will connect you to the world’s universities and their best online courses. There are numerous specialties available, including machine learning, Python, data science and a wide range of other very relevant topics and courses to assist today’s startup founders.
Prices range from $25 to $99, making this a very affordable way to expand knowledge and skills within a typical startup founder’s budget. Online degrees and certifications are also available, depending on what you are looking to achieve.
Strategyzer offers a tool called Business Model Canvas, which helps users to create, on one page, a business model that helps direct their startup journey. The company also offers other resources, like the Value Proposition Canvas and other tools businesses can use to improve their strategic management processes and overall direction when they're not sure where they are going or how to get there.
Similar to Coursera, Udemy is another excellent resource for learning about all types of subjects and acquiring the necessary skills so businesses do not have to invest their lean funding in additional staff to handle those projects. This global marketplace of learning offers more than 42,000 courses and a network of more than 14 million students. Numerous certifications are also available.
Sometimes it’s difficult to know if your website, app or idea really has enough traction to go the distance and become a full-fledged business. So Userinput.io helps startups get honest feedback from users willling to provide their opinions. The benefits for the businesses are a very affordable way to get reviews and input from selected reviewers. The feedback comes quickly and offers constructive criticism to make the necessary improvements to increase a startup’s chances at success.
While similar to some of the other educational resources on this list, edX offers free courses which are especially attactive for startup founders facing a very limited budget. Those courses' major benefit: They're from prestigious universities like Harvard, MIT and the niversity of California -- Berkeley. The organization also has business partnerships with universities, professors and industry experts all over the world and features a global community that facilitates connections among entrepreneurs.
Growthority is a growth-hacking service that helps startups by taking over the early stages of growth for them. It’s akin to an outsourcing service for growth, where startups have a team that can handle online marketing and technical skills as well as provide other knowledge necessary to help build the busines into something larger, with the traction needed to continue the momentum.
Clarity is an organization geared to providing access to mentors and experts that can help entrepreneurs in specific areas. Users can browse for experts by topics such as business strategy, marketing, social media, strategic planning, SEO and business development, to name a few. Users then select their expert and connect directly with them to get answers and advice. This is a great way to tap directly into an area founders are unfamiliar with, to get the assistance needed, rather than hire someone full time to do the same thing.
In 2017, be sure to leverage these free and low-cost startup resources; most are available on users' preferred time-zone schedule and platform. In return, users can obtain the necessary advice and support to build up their startups to the point where these businesses have a life of their own, and founders have the knowledge and savvy to operate them.