7 Commandments for Start-ups

They say practice makes it perfect. And I suppose it is true, however, pure practice is a mere repetition. There’s a difference between the latter and repetition. We need feedback to iterate. In my previous blog post, I was talking about Dragon’s Den what a good practice it was. Today I’d like to share the feedback masterly: received, and what it means to me as well as feedback all of the participating teams have received. Let’s call it a priceless advice from the almost seen-it-all dragons on which I’ll be primarily focusing.

  • Start with an ELEVATOR PITCH it must be short, clear, and compelling – it should captivate one’s attention immediately as well as inform in an intriguing manner – you want to leave you fellow longing for more info about a product or service. Masterly: has received a mixture of marks which suggests it wasn’t too bad, however, there is room for improvements because not every judge was found our elevator pitch compelling. As a general rule it should be structured using the following framework: Problem -> Solution -> Product -> Value.
  • P&L and SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS. As great as your elevator pitch is every Dragon likes numbers. It’s kind of Obamacare or warranty. It should demonstrate your understanding of finance, your awareness of it and how in touch with reality you are regarding financial forecasting and control. It’s (dragon’s) money, so it’s critical.
  • VALUE PROPOSITION. Apparently, all of the teams lacked it. It’s funny ’cause we thought we had one. And I’m sure all of the other teams thought they’d had one too. All of us were given a set of marking criteria we’d be judged against so no excuses there. In reality, it was too weak – next time we must make it much stronger. It’s extremely important as this is the part where you describe a value you promise to deliver to a user through your product or a service.  Possibly it’s the case of convincing and not the strength’s unless it’s a unique mix of both.
  • CUSTOMER DECIDES. As convincing as you might be customer decides whether to purchase or not. Respect your customer and talk to it. Don’t just assume it’s going to buy just because it’s available. Increase your chances by listening to the needs of your customer so that you can tailor your product or service accordingly. I’d start with iteration + market research + marketing to help the customer decide.
  • DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL. I can’t exactly remember which of the dragons said this. Nonetheless, these are golden words. The whole thing must be properly thought out until you know you have answered all the questions and anticipated all the possible scenarios. It’s probably impossible to oversee everything, though the more prepared, the better. Moreover, gather some devil advocates to truly question your idea and plans. And be bold yet truthful to yourself.
  • DESIGN IS SUCCESS IN THE MARKET. Dragonette Elmira couldn’t emphasise enough how branding is important. The design of a product goes hand in hand with branding – it tells a story, has values, voice, dreams… A product alone is no more than just a mere object. Behind every article, there are people that believe in certain things which a user can sympathise with. Thus a product can be an extension of your own unique personality, meaning the product within the market must be unique, too.
  • GO WITH TIME – another advice from the Dragons. I see a double meaning in it. Firstly, it reminds me of an ancient Greek saying: “rest on one’s laurels” meaning if achieved something great that’s because of work you’ve put it, and you’ll need to continue working if you want to stay on the top. And secondly, as time passes things change. Since the time keeps moving forward, you’ll have to do the same. Otherwise, your product will be at risk of becoming irrelevant.

Nothing that has been advised seems to be extraordinary. And yet presumably many start-ups forget these rules. They’re rather rational and could be used a checklist. Most certainly I’ll be referring back to this post not only before the next Dragon Den but also when assessing other people’s products or services regarding feasibility and viability.

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