Renowned Silicon Valley investor and serial entrepreneur Peter Thiel wrote in his best-selling book, “Going from 0 to 1 is the hardest thing in the world.” You’re creating something out of nothing, with no past precedents, no current references, no validation to help you figure out right from wrong. It’s like a blind person flying a supersonic jet with little to no visibility. Starting something of your own can be a daunting challenge, especially if it’s your first rodeo.
It can be intimidating and full of uncertainty. And yet, if done right, it can be the most thrilling, rewarding, and emotionally fulfilling job in the world. 9 out of 10 startups fail because there is a lot of contradictory wisdom on the Internet that only serves to misguide you. But we’ve put together a list of 7 tips for first-time entrepreneurs that can help you navigate the mazy and confusing world of startups.
1. Identify Your Niche
One of the most common startup tips floating around is to go after a large market. And while that does entail more $$$, it is a double-edged sword because it also means more competition. Instead, as a first-time entrepreneur, you better identify a small but sizable niche and become the dominant player in that segment.
Once you get a strong foothold in that space and capture significant market share, you can always expand horizontally into new, allied markets. Be the biggest fish in a small pond instead of hundreds of smaller fish in a large pond.
2. Find Your First 100 Fans
Too many startups commit the fatal mistake of going after perfection. They spend an excessive amount of time building a feature-rich version of the product or service without knowing if there are any takers for it. Avoid the trap of perfection and embrace iteration.
Build a minimum viable product (MVP); it can be a landing page, a video, an Excel sheet, a blog, or a no-code prototype and just put it out there. Spend all your energy on finding your first 100 fans. Because if you can get 100 people to love a makeshift version of your product, imagine what the response will be when you have something tangible and fully functional.
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3. Assemble an A-Star Team
A good product in a lucrative market is nothing without a top-notch team to execute it. Hiring people smarter than you is the cardinal rule of StartupLand. While skill-sets are essential, also ensure that a prospective hire will gel well with the team. Recruit diligent people with a positive attitude who are team players.
Jackpot if you can find someone who takes ownership and does not treat it as a mundane job. If you’re looking for co-founders, work with someone who shares your vision and work ethic and is not afraid to stay out of the comfort zone for long periods.
4. Know Thy Competition
As a first-time entrepreneur, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is operating with blinders on. While tunnel vision can help you focus on the core objective, it can make you lose track of what’s happening around you. A thorough competitive analysis is a prerequisite for success.
Google your competitors and see what they’re doing to get a pulse of the direction your market is heading. Make a note of competitor playbooks, strategies, communications so that you can differentiate and carve out an identity for yourself. Get a top-level view of the competitive landscape first before diving deep into building anything.
5. Be Receptive To Feedback
Having a strong gut is essential, but don’t let it blindside you. First-time entrepreneurs should always keep their ears firmly to the ground and listen to early customer feedback. Sit down with your first 100 fans, understand their pain points, and use those insights to inform your product. Let them contribute to feature selection discussions and influence your product roadmap.
You might have a strong instinct about something, but you should discard it, and of course, correct it immediately if the majority disagrees. Have a thick skin, don’t get attached to your ideas and beliefs, accept you might be wrong and embrace constructive feedback.
6. Exercise and Eat Healthy
Running a startup well is impossible if you’re not operating at a 100% capacity every day. The nature of the business is such that you can get physically and mentally fatigued quickly. Founder burnout is commonly observed in startups because there are new headaches and stressors every day. The best way to tackle startup exhaustion is to exercise, eat healthily, and get a good night’s sleep. Going at full tilt without taking breaks or recharging your batteries can be injurious to your health and mental well-being in the long run.
7. Quitters Never Win
You’ll face many hurdles in your startup journey, and every time you come across a big obstacle, your fight-or-flight mechanism might kick in. Remember never to throw in the towel and keep ploughing at it until you dig yourself out of a hole. No entrepreneur becomes an overnight billionaire, and as such, there are no shortcuts to startup success.
There are so many things that can and will go wrong, but the one thing you can control is your attitude. Never doubt yourself, believe in your abilities, and just put your head down and power through. Put up inspirational quotes around your office, if need be, to motivate you to go the extra mile.
Above all, read. You don’t have to take our word for it; take Warren Buffet’s. For any first-time entrepreneur, knowledge is a moat and something that can set you apart. These startup tips can mean the difference between being a unicorn and an also-ran, so we hope you internalise and act on them.
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