Hackernoon logoHow to Not Fail Your Next Startup by@baimurzinvlad

How to Not Fail Your Next Startup

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@baimurzinvladVlad

6 years as Software Engineer, 3 years as a Product Manager

Over the past 7 years I have worked in large IT companies in the Russian Federation, in the EU, worked on a project in the USA.  Before starting each project, I had misconceptions that now seem to be obvious mistakes.  If only I knew, perhaps I would have done something differently.

1. Six years ago, when I was working on my first project, I thought that an excellent fresh idea is enough.

It turned out to be not enough.  An idea is just a point in a coordinate system; project work requires a vector.  The main task is to move from place to place in the right direction and keep moving making changes.  The field for the movement itself must have a sufficient scale.

I mean, the idea itself doesn't mean anything, there are a lot of ways to implement it.  It is important that the market and demand for a similar product or service already exist.  Creating a new market takes time and money.

2. Then I thought how cool it is that the project has no competitors.  I am the first on the market.

Being the first on the market does not mean that you will lead it.  The market doesn't work like that.  There are precedents when a project is the first on the market and leads it, but it is important to understand what being first actually means.  Most likely, the idea has already existed, but the implementation is different (Blockchain, Uber, Slack, etc.).

Blockchain and bitcoin were the first on the market on the one hand, but the problem or situations that it solved may have already existed in a different form.  It entered the market and changed its rules, added features in the form of anonymity, distribution, etc.

Another thing is that you create useless goods.  You seem to be the first here. Someone may buy this product, but the market does not exist.  It takes long to change people's habits, and it takes even longer to develop a new market.  If your goal is to grow a project over generations - this is a priority issue. For example, Elon Musk and travel to Mars - such a market have never existed and does not exist now, no one knows when it will appear.

3. I was sure that the main thing is to attract an investor.  The fact that someone has invested in me made me feel that the project is doomed to success.

Let's say you've found an investor.  What's next?  You can make a product, but what about users and traction?  There are many examples: Russian LinkedIn, Sputnik Search, Russian Uber, etc.  (here is a list of such projects). In fact, this point can be interpreted in different ways.  Investment is not always good or bad.  It all depends on the particular situation. 

The scheme, when the investor gave money, and the success is guaranteed, is possible only if it is not a good Samaritan, but an investor from a sandhill road, for example.  In this case, it’s not an investment, but the fact that the project showed a steep traction, or they have a top team with people in distribution, or something related. In this case, the investment is an indicator of trust and the result of the work of top market analysts.  Conclusion: you should not look for an investor as soon as you have an idea, because gaining investment should not be your main goal. 

It is important to develop a product for the target audience, not for the investor. 

The metrics that the investor needs do not always have a good impact on users.  Andreessen Horowitz has an article on 16 startup metrics and 16 more metrics. This is useful information  that every startup needs to know.  However, it is wrong to operate solely on the basis of these metrics, since they do not reveal how to develop the product.

4. I had a story with an incubator / accelerator.  If we get elected, everything will go fine.

This is the same story as with the investor.  If there is no product, and you do not know how to sell it, a miracle will not happen.  Do not set this as a goal.  Better focus on product and users.  As a result of good work, you will get an accelerator.

5. The next project led me into one of the most popular misconceptions: make a product!  If the idea is cool, we will make a cool and high-quality product, and users will appear themselves...

As it turns out, making products for months or years is not worth it.  On the one hand, it is obvious that you need to validate the idea, audience, make sales, find value and make a product as soon as possible.  On the other hand, many people choose to just start making a product.  It seems to me that this is due to a fear that your idea will not be accepted by the market. You create nice packaging, delay the launch, pretending that the product is not yet ready for the market.

Conclusion: start selling as early as possible, validate as cheaply as possible.  Now I’m afraid that I’m wasting my time, but not that the project is unsuccessful or unnecessary and fails.

6. Ok, I do not regret the years and efforts spent on launching and investigating previous projects.  I learned a lot thanks to this... Now I do everything right, but still the first time turns out imperfect or not close to normal. What to do then?

There can be many variations of what went wrong.  It is worth understanding your unit economy: where and why something went wrong? is it possible to tweak something or simulate a pivot?  LTV> CAC doesn’t mean that everything works well.  This is not good in isolation from all indicators, since it can result in large expenses or small sales (luxury segment).  Examine the funnel, see the AAARRR section of the funnel.  Build a hierarchy of metrics for your product and prioritize the backlog according to your current goal.

This article is more for discussion and orientation for beginners.  It will be great if you want to share your own mistakes and misconceptions and continue this conversation on LinkedIn.

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