With five days to go before the end of 2023, I want to share five important things with you.
These are the top five things I wish for all new founders in 2024 to know – to give them the highest chance of reaching Product-Market Fit and scaling.
If you’re already on a startup journey, there are some important reminders here for you, too.
Getting a brand new business model off the ground is an epic feat – and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds of it.
While we’re taking some downtime in the lead-up to the New Year, now is a great moment to remind ourselves of the important fundamentals that we must not lose sight of as founders.
We need to remember these if we truly want to create a thriving company and a saleable asset with our business idea.
Here are the top 5 things you must know as a startup founder (to avoid the startup graveyard).
1. The most important goal for any startup founder is to get to Product-Market Fit.
Problem is, most founders either don’t know that, or don’t know the criteria for reaching Product-Market Fit (and therefore do not follow a coherent process to get there).
Most founders get an idea then rush to get their product built so they can be first to market with the idea.
However, first to market means nothing if you’ve taken the wrong product to market – which is almost guaranteed to happen if you haven’t done your pre-revenue market validation work (i.e. market research, user research, and solution concept development).
All that results in is someone who does have the resources and know-how to get to Product-Market Fit taking your idea and going to market with the right thing.
2. The hardest part about being a startup founder is knowing whose advice to follow.
The hard truth of building a startup is that the quality of advice you choose to follow will determine if you succeed or fail.
Bad advice is like a bushfire for capital. It burns up runways and it kills most startups.
It’s a challenge because bad advice is hard to spot.
Advice is usually well-intentioned, which is very disarming.
Advice can look very credible, without being credible.
This includes advice from very credible institutions and individuals.
Relevant credibility is what matters.
3. The biggest mistake we see from startups is founders building the wrong thing and taking the wrong product to market.
This is the one thing that, as a founder, you need to be on high alert for. (It’s the biggest cause behind the whopping 95% global startup failure rate).
Despite your enthusiasm for your idea, assume you’ll take the wrong thing to market – and then do the rigorous work to make sure you don’t.
The most crucial step to get right in your pre-revenue market validation phase is your user research. Each conversation should follow a precise 6-part framework and adhere to some fundamental rules (like not revealing to your user research candidates what you’re planning to build).
4. Marketing agencies do not hold the key to you getting to Product-Market Fit.
What’s more, a marketing agency won’t be able to save you if you’ve made the mistake outlined in point 3.
There’s a disempowering perception that marketing agencies have all the answers when it comes to making a product or service wildly successful.
It comes from the deep-rooted belief that marketing is a special art that only marketing agencies have the power to wield.
This is a hangover from the pre-social-media days of TV, radio, and print advertising where the media owners were in full control of the scarce advertising real estate.
How many times have you heard a founder or business owner say: “I’m not a marketing or advertising expert, so I’ll hire the professionals to do that part.”
This also leads to the dangerous perception that working with an agency is going to be the silver bullet to getting to Product-Market Fit and scaling exponentially.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and this belief puts startup founders at great risk of spending big money and resources in the wrong areas at the wrong time.
5. The wrong kind of investment at the wrong time can be the nail in your coffin rather than the wind beneath your wings.
At some point in your startup journey, you may decide to raise capital to help you get to the next stage.
Like most founders, you may bootstrap the building of your startup to a certain point and then look for an injection of funds to take things to the next level.
But, like many milestones on a startup’s pathway, raising capital is much easier said than done.
Plus, the way you go about it can also have major implications for the success of your startup and how smooth or bumpy the ride turns out to be.
One of the big fatal errors we see is founders taking Venture Capitalist money too early and then getting rushed to market with the wrong product because the VC firm is on a mission to get a fast return for its LPs.
One of the most important things you can learn as a startup founder is what types of investment are out there, what the investment agendas are, and how to find investors that truly align with your vision.
There are many counter-intuitive fundamentals involved in building a startup, which is why it’s so easy to take a fatal turn in the process.
If you’re considering embarking on a startup in 2024, or you’re already on the journey and are looking for some redirection and guidance, we’d love to help.
Fill out this short questionnaire to tell us about your situation, and we’ll get in touch in the New Year with your next steps.
In the meantime, here are my holiday recommendations if you’ve got some downtime to explore something new.
1. One of my favourite reads of 2023 was the Elon Musk biography by the renowned biographer Walter Isaacson.
Most people have a superficial view of Musk through the media, but love him or hate him, there’s so much to learn from reading about his life story.
All role models have their flaws and it’s worth recognising and taking the good lessons while leaving behind the bad ones.
2. This might come as a surprise, but one of the most valuable things I did in 2023 was start using TikTok as both a consumer and a creator.
As a founder, I recommend opening an account and starting to explore it first as a consumer as a way to learn about the leading edge of marketing.
Find a content creator that you regard as a role model for your industry or technology. Watch them and learn from them the way they deliver their message and retain engagement.
3. Learn what’s possible with the top business-building tools like Canva, Miro, Notion, CapCut, and Figma. YouTube is the best place to dive in with learning about these tools.
As a founder, they are invaluable for helping you to build out your ideas and convey your message to early-adopter customers, investors, and for social media content.
Did you find this valuable?
Go here sign up to receive future editions in your inbox.
On LinkedIn? Click here and press “follow” to get notified of the startup insights I share.