NEW DELHI: We live in an age where anyone and everyone can turn an idea, a dream or even a hobby into a business. After all, it’s the era of the smartphone and the age of open-source software. If ‘failed start-up-turned-billion dollar company’ AirBnB is anything to go by, there are three essentials that make a start-up truly great. The first, of course, is that billion-dollar start-up idea that you hope will be projected into a successful business. The second most important aspect is the people you hire, and the third is the money that you’re going to need to make it all happen.
But how do you launch a start-up without effectively breaking the bank in the first place? Because let’s face it, starting a company from the ground up is no easy task. While you don’t need to consider ongoing expenses (think rent and salaries) in the start-up phase, you will need to shell out one-time costs for company registration and incorporation, website development and other expenses that work as investments. Money aside, you’ll need a good deal of passion and an equal amount of planning to set yourself up as a start-up founder who’s in it to win it.
Start small, but don’t sweat the small stuff
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 as an online bookstore and sold his first book only in the following year. Today, the company is the world’s largest online retailer of everything under the sun. Like Amazon, some of the biggest brands started off as small but valuable start-up ideas. While it’s natural to expect your business to become an overnight success, don’t forget that it’s the small steps that count. It’s also important to not allow initial failure to demotivate you during this phase.
Starting small might be the first rule of every successful start-up, but thinking big comes in at a close second. Look at the journeys of entrepreneurs who dared to dream big, even though their start-up idea was initially considered absurd. You’ll notice that even they eventually went on to become some of the world’s greatest innovators.
Believe in your business
American business magnate and innovator Elon Musk once said, “Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death.” It’s true; the entrepreneurial journey is marked by risks, uncertainties, failure and criticism. Worse still, not a single person might sit up and take notice of your business at all. But remember: In the big, bad world of critics and haters, there needs to be at least one person who believes in your business and, for now, that’s you. Perseverance and time will bring in praise and recognition.
Wear different hats
No matter what your start-up idea might be, you’re going to need the right team of people to take care of different departments. However, in the initial start-up phase, with limited resources at hand, be prepared to wear the hat of the CEO, creative head, COO, sales head, accountant, and even that of the handyman.
Hire the right people
Since you don’t have a lot of resources to work with just yet, you might need to start with one or two employees. Not only will this help in distributing tasks, but you might even find yourself learning a thing or two from them. The key, though, is to hire the right people — people who are skilled and flexible enough for the role and who are as motivated and passionate about the company as you are.
It’s easy to believe that the world is your oyster when you are starting up a business. You’d obviously want your marketing efforts to reach as many potential customers as possible. But, at the risk of coming across as a wet blanket, that will empty your pockets even before you get your first customer. Instead, you’ll need to identify your target audience and direct all your marketing efforts towards that group for maximum exposure. Find out who your customer is and why he or she would want to buy your product.
Do your research
Think about it — right now there might be someone across the world who’s working on starting a company that will offer the same product as you’re working on. While you cannot really do anything but work at a faster pace to launch your product first, you can still do a fair bit of research to find out if your idea will meet an unmet need in the market. Size up your competition, learn more about the demographics of your potential customer, find out if your idea is viable and try not to lose objectivity. With the easy availability of online surveys, you won’t really need to shell out money for this important step.
Remember the time you scribbled your start-up idea on a restaurant napkin? It all started from there. And now, here you are burning the midnight oil trying to get your company up and running with little or no funds. It might seem risky even as your start-up idea looks like it’s about to crash and burn. But hang in there, for uncertainties are a part and parcel of every successful start-up.
Network, network, network (and find a business mentor)
In between building your product and setting up your company, don’t forget to take time out to network and surround yourself with inspiring people and stories. Although working within the four walls of your room might seem like you’re being productive, it’s essential to get out there and connect with other like-minded people. There are a number of start-up events that take place regularly across various Indian cities. You won’t just come away with a better insight into the industry, but you’ll also leave inspired with that much more drive to kickstart your company. It’s also not very rare to meet your dream collaborator or even your business mentor at such events.
Don’t overspend on office space
The biggest companies — Apple and basically every other Silicon Valley start-up — once started out in a garage. Rent can wipe out your bank balance, and besides, it’s not very difficult to find a space to work out of these days. Co-working spaces are mushrooming by the day across India. Not only does it cost a minimal amount for desk space, but such places also open up networking opportunities by the dozen.
Save on overhead costs
These days, start-ups don’t need to overspend on office-related necessities. Instead of paying for server space, use low-cost subscription software and cloud computing services. Instead of working up a grand mobile phone bill every month, use Skype or other inexpensive communication solutions.
Don’t pay to market your start-up just yet
There are many ways to market your product or company. Creating a presence on social media platforms and aiming to go viral with interesting content is just one of them. Write-ups in news outlets and magazines is yet another.
Don’t wait for funding
Most rookie entrepreneurs believe that investors are all it takes to get a start-up up and running. Truth is, all you need is a great start-up idea, an innovative but practical business plan, and oodles of hard work and patience. If your start-up idea is a good one, you can be sure of the fact that a few good people who believe in your idea will also want to invest in it. That said, go ahead and create your business plan and spend money on areas like product development. The funding will arrive when you least expect it.