5 Elements That Shape the Core of a Strong Startup Vision, values, product and engineering, feedback loops and resilience need to be in shape in order for your business to survive.

By Alex Iskold

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


In my yoga classes teachers spend a lot of time on the core exercises. If you do any competitive sports, your coach works obsessively on your core. Strong core is needed for overall body strength and resilience. It makes sense, because, by definition, the core is at the center.

Same is true about startups. The core defines what you made of, and how you are going to grow. The core defines how your startup will withstand extreme pressure and competition -- and survive and win.

Related: 4 Things Startups Have to Get Right to Survive

Here is what shapes the core of a startup:

1. Vision

Strong body starts with the strong mind. Strong startup core starts with strong vision. Why do you exist? What is your purpose? Why do you get up every day? What is your true north? Having clarity around your vision is the foundation of having clarity around execution, hiring, fundraising and every other aspect of your company.

Vision is the very foundation of the company's core.

2. Values

The second thing that helps shape the core of your company is your values. It can be speed. It can be exceptional customer service. Some companies have work-life balance as a core value, although it tends to be difficult for early startups. Values help you shape the culture. They provide the blueprint for the kind of people you may or may not hire -- and for the kind of company you may or may not want to become.

Ultimately, the founding team's values become the company's culture.

Related: 5 Skills You Must Develop to Succeed in Business

3. Product and engineering

In the past, great companies were about great sales and marketing. In the future, more and more companies will become great because of their product and engineering. A great product is necessary to win in today's market. To build a great product you need to have engineering excellence and focus.

Companies that have strong product and engineering core tend to win.

4. Feedback loops

The company core is constantly influenced by relationship between employees inside the company, its customers and business partners. Every single interaction is a small feedback loop. The sum of all interactions over time becomes a force that helps shape and evolve the core of your company.

Truly great companies have a core that evolves to be stronger over time.

5. Resilience

Strong core is a resilient core. You get knocked down a lot -- when the product isn't working right, when the sale wouldn't close, when competition is breathing down your neck, when the funding doesn't come through. When you get knocked down, does your core help you get up? Is your core truly resilient?

Winning the startup game means not dying. Is your core strong enough to survive?

What is the core of your startup?

Related: 10 Entrepreneurship Realities You'd Better Learn Early

Alex Iskold

Entrepreneur, Investor, Managing Director of Techstars in NYC

Alex Iskold is the managing director of Techstars in New York City. Previously Iskold was founder/CEO of GetGlue (acquired by i.tv), founder/CEO of Information Laboratory (acquired by IBM) and chief architect at DataSynapse (acquired by TIBCO). An engineer by training, Iskold has deep passion and appreciation for startups, digital products and elegant code. He likes running, yoga, complex systems, Murakami books and red wine -- not necessarily in that order and not necessarily all together. He actively blogs about startups and venture capital at http://alexiskold.net.

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