How to grow a startup
Probably you've often thought about starting your own business. You'd like to make money, take on unlimited work time, go on vacation several times a year, reach for the fame and wealth. Post pictures on facebook from a private yacht. Receive awards from the biggest stages in Poland and in the world. Your shares on the stock market would only grow, and you could spend time with your family or pursuing your hobby. Reading about the successes of such companies as Brand24, Growbots or Uber, do you think - what's so difficult?
And it happened. You got into it. You created a startup.
A lot of money only fly out of your wallet, because it turned out that the monthly costs exceed your monthly earnings, creating an application to handle your idea cost more than you could imagine, and the website that you created after hours by IT student did not work, so you have to pay someone who will improve it. Mailing programs, computer hardware, production, sales, office maintenance, CRM systems, adwords, facebooks, business trips and... ends in such a way that you start to be interested in a loan or additional ways of financing.
Then the investor pulls out his helping hand. After all, the investor will cover all my living costs and finance a trustworthy business! My idea will change the world, I just need an influx of cash to gain momentum. You did not take into account that firstly you need to find a person who has money and wants to meet at all. You send emails, you call, you ask, you do not get any answer. Once you have lost all hope, you are invited to meeting for investors and startups. Great! You have prepared a piece of paper with the advantages of your product. I will read it to the investor! I am sure that he will enter this certain business. At the meeting you came to, there are 3 investors and 100 startups. You get acquainted with the competition. There are startups that are solving problems that which do not exist. There are also those that have technologies that you did not even know about. Revolutionary applications with AI technology, cars powered by solar panels, engines that uses 50% less gasoline, etc. You start wondering if this is place for you.
The moment of presentation has come. It turns out that the meeting is not face to face. You should prepare a speech that you will present to the entire startup audience and 3 investors. Five-minute time limit? But I could talk for hours about my product. The presentation should contain information about your technology, ranges, your team, expected sales, a story about how you came up with such a solution. You are terrified because last time you performed in public was in the primary school, reading a poem for passing. You have great fright. A 5-minute performance on stage in your head takes forever.
After the stress marathon, you come back to the office. Unlimited work time comes down to the fact that instead of 8 hours you work twice as much, because there are always too many things to do. Information about funding gets to you much too late, everything you do is a minute before deadline. You have a small team, and the work you have to do is twice as much. It turns out that you have to do most of the things yourself. As a technician, it would be good if you got to know the basics of programming, distinguish technology used to create certain things, know the basics of sales, develop soft skills, you should also know the law and the basics of running business (a business plan is also worth creating). You learn how to conduct presentations, how to write articles, what is growth hacking, how to talk with the investor, 5 simple marketing tricks, how to promote your startup ... and so on.
You will not post vacation pictures because you cannot remember when was the last time you go on holiday and your trips are limited to a rail travel for the next meetings with clients or companies with whom you can cooperate. Your meals are just a quick lunch in fast foods instead of a fresh fish by the sea.
But good times also come.
One day you will be able to convince the investor to finance your startup. Wonderful, right? Nope. It turns out, that it is not so wonderful. The contract you get has so many restrictions that you become even more terrified. You find out that your company can be taken over by investor. The percentage of shares is so overwhelming that it is not even worth it to occupy. Financial plans have so many strict guidelines that if you do not start to implementing plans, then your startup may be lost.
When you give up the investor option, start to consider startup contests. There are those that require participation in training weeks, arrival at the conference, filling application forms, weekly tasks, and implementation of projects. And you only look at your watch having in mind all the things you need to do this month. OK - sleep is for weaklings. Award in the competition is enough to cover monthly fixed costs. You feel a few more months like that and finish the story of Adam Miauczyński*. You start to ask yourself - "Why do I do it?"
And then you just realize how much you love it. Because you're getting better and better in things you did not know a few months ago. Because it turns out that financially you do not have to add anything to progress with your technology, and the market has noticed your product. Because you do not sit in the office for 8 hours doing the same job, just every day, every conference, every training, every client and every presentation start to bring new challenges and you do not feel routine. Phones start to ring. First orders. The first money from the technology that YOU introduced to the market. All the things you have learned in training or training begin to positively influence your life. You can read about yourself on the Internet - your startup helped someone in his work or life. The business offers you get are becoming more and more profitable and you start to determine on what terms you could sign contracts with investors. People you met while competing for rewards become friends and help you with networking, promotions and sales. You observe their businesses growing, and as you become a generation of people who think about future, together you start to create a new image of tomorrow.
And then you wake up ...
This American dream is not for everyone. Who's such a success for? How much stories about those who built the empire did you read? And how many of those who stayed with nothing? Should we take the example of the startups which succeeded? They found a crack. Free passage in the crowd. Now this gap is already filled with others who are trying to repeat their success. Perhaps, we should look at those who have fallen, not to repeat their mistakes? Where did they make a mistake? Have they been late with their product? They did not hit the market? Could they do something better?
Perhaps they lacked perseverance? Perhaps there was a lack of faith that what they are doing will succeed. Maybe it was too early to say that it overwhelms them, and they prefer to return to a comfort zone - free from this splendor. Whatever their story was - even those who reached the top - many times were in a place from which they could not see the way out, but they had the courage to constantly try.
Are you brave enough to face it?
*A character from the popular Polish movies "Dzień Świra" and "Nic śmiesznego".