The team, the market, and the product are the three legs that hold up any startup project. If you have a serious problem with any of the three, the project will inevitably crumble to the ground. Getting this particular trifecta right is a must.
Because of this, it is imperative that you know what the fundamentals of these three aspects of startups are in case you plan to start your own project.
Startup Team Fundamentals
The cliché when it comes to startup founders is that they are college dropouts with an extreme passion for what they are doing. While this might be true in some cases, this is far from what is important when it comes to a startup team.
In fact, there are a lot of surprising startup statistics when it comes to startup founders:
The reason for this is that what actually makes startup founders successful isn’t a vague term like passion, but rather competence (experience and know-how, domain knowledge) and access to resources (a powerful social network, access to capital, etc.).
Because of this, when building your startup team you need to consider those factors first. If you are young and inexperienced, you’d do well to draw in a more experienced founder or at least a mentor.
Also, keep in mind that founding teams of two to four people are much more likely to succeed than solo-entrepreneurs, so make sure to attract cofounders and ideally let them compensate for the areas where you are lacking.
Startup Product Fundamentals
A bad product would have a hard time succeeding in the long run, but when it comes to early-stage startups the important thing to keep in mind isn’t quality, but viability.
Early-stage startup products fail not because they are not polished, but because the market doesn’t need what you are offering.
Because of this, the biggest product mistake you can make is to work behind closed doors on your product until it is perfect.
Instead, you should constantly keep in touch with your target customer for feedback. Your first order of business is to validate your idea. Then you’ll build a minimum viable product based on the feedback, and validate it once again.
Finally, you will proceed to build your “polished” version only once your offering has passed through these two tests.
Startup Market Fundamentals
You’ll often hear how innovative startups build their own markets. Thinking about markets in this manner can be destructive, however, as it can lead you to believe that the world will adapt to you rather than the other way around.
What innovative startups are actually doing is discovering (not creating) a new market by satisfying a previously unsatisfied need. While influencing the market is possible, it is extremely difficult to do and usually requires access to tremendous resources, power, and influence. This is something that is not true in the early startup stages.
Because of this, it is more useful to think of a market as something you cannot influence. Instead, it is something you need to obsessively learn more about in order to adapt your offering to it. This is why keeping in touch with your target customers is your number one priority as a startup founder. This is also why competition research is important – it lets you learn what already works in the market you are targeting.
In practice, the fact that you cannot influence the market means that if you cannot find your product-market fit, you either need to change your product based on market feedback or change your target customers.
- Startup team: focus on experience, expertise, and access to resources.
- Startup product: don’t worry about quality, worry about viability; validate your ideas before building.
- Startup market: adapt your offering to the needs of the market, not the other way around.