I love reading the insights of successful entrepreneurs contemplating on their decision-making evolution and try to draw insights from my own experience as a startup owner. The more I’m into it, the more I realize that growing a startup is all about decision making.
Although my portable nect MODEM is still in its infancy, I can single out 7 strategic decisions I had to make to reach this point of the startup growth.
Some were right. Some were wrong. Some were unavoidable. Some - a matter of principle.
Each contributed to the product we are bringing to the market and the overall progress of our startup.
Hardware is hard, they say.
Now, I realize it is much harder than I could have imagined. Nonetheless, I am still glad I didn’t listen.
SaaS startups win on many points. They have a shorter time to market, a severe bug resulting in a non-working product can be resolved in just a month (compared to 6-8 months for hardware along with the pile of useless consignments), selling to a dozen of clients can be enough to return the investment. Consequently, investors consider SaaS startups less risky and are more willing to give it a try.
Still, my passion for the product idea and my background in science makes me convinced I have made the right decision.
After I had the idea of the product - a portable modem that could provide 5G LTE internet connection wherever you go or travel - I have started building a working prototype. It took me about 5 months.
Worst of all, I didn’t disclose the idea to anyone during this long time, being convinced that you can start speaking about a product only when you have a hardware prototype ready.
This was a major mistake setting the startup growth back 5 months.
It is vital to discuss the idea with a wide range of potential stakeholders to predict their interest and learn from their needs and pains. Now, I understand that a smart decision for a startup is to optimize the product before even starting the work on its hardware version.
While some might see that as a waste of time, I think that choosing a vision statement for a company is an important thing to do from the very beginning.
For our company behind nect MODEM, it’s High tech can be green. And this vision has informed many startup decisions I have made.
For example, the product is designed with recycled plastics, and we are further going to promote sustainability on each stage of the product creation, including manufacturing and logistics. The core team and partners we work with - all share the same values and vision. It gives us direction and sets the boundaries.
Another difficult choice was whether to invite anyone to share decision-making responsibilities. Thankfully, I have met excellent professionals, who share my values and have soon developed strong ownership of the product.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to understand how much change their support makes. The case is, I was in the United States after attending CES when we received an invitation to Boomtown Accelerator, so I moved into the campus right away, waiting for the other two weeks for the rest of the team to join me.
One conclusion is clear here: even the best mentors cannot substitute having a core team you can rely on.
Like any other startup, we had to think if it worth going to conferences with our product. And I wouldn’t say I hesitated before saying yes, we definitely should.
I have already shared our experience of attending conferences as a startup and - a short spoiler - it hasn’t been flawless for us. Some wrong decisions made us pay too much for our gains, and some decisions dictated by the wish to cut expenses (like not taking the whole team to the US for CES) resulted in some lost opportunity. In some cases, it is not up to us to choose any more: MVC Barcelona 2020, the next conference we were attending (tickets bought, hotels booked), was canceled due to COVID-19.
Other life-changing resolutions in terms of the life of our startup have been choosing a platform for crowdfunding and joining a startup accelerator.
Of course, the decision to launch a crowdfunding campaign is more than answering a yes or no question. It is about taking hundreds of operating decisions that make it all a viable idea. We take ours every day and believe our crowdfunding campaign that starts on Indieogogo on the 28th of April will prove a success.
Concerning an accelerator, it has been for me to know which one to join, and there is a whole story behind what made me come to Boulder. Although I can already note some great gains in terms of knowledge and business optimization, a distance of time is needed to assess the true impact of this decision.
Other induced decisions have been due to an unexpected factor you all must have heard about.
First, it seemed it would impact the startup dramatically, as we saw digital nomads and frequent travelers as key segments interested in a portable modem with reliable LTE connection and affordable, flexible plans worldwide.
However, our target audience is much wider, and now, when people need a back-up internet solution to stay connected when working from home, our portable modem has got another business case.
Of course, the change called for adapting the targeting, the imagery, and the overall content strategy.
Every new stage of growth poses unique challenges. Some decisions are taken spontaneously. Some take much contemplation and weighting of threats. For many recent entrepreneurs, the knowledge of the latter, as well as the increasing budget and the risk of letting down stakeholders, is paralyzing.
What about me? Well, I start learning to live with it. After all, doing business is all about decision making.