DOs and DON’Ts for Startuppers

SEP-OCT 2016|BY YANNIS RIZOPOULOS, JOURNALIST/HOST, TECH TALKS CENTRAL; MEMBER OF INNOVATION, EDUCATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP COMMITTEE @ AMCHAM
Our persistent economic crisis has obliged lots of people to take more creative roads to confront unemployment, particularly high among the young. Instead of looking for a job in the public sector or in an enterprise (which are scarce, anyway…) many of them, full of ideas and enthusiasm, launch their own startup company, offering innovative solutions, products and services. Startups, however, have their own rules, their DOs and DON’Ts, which the aspiring startuppers need to observe to minimize the inherent danger of failure—only a handful usually succeed—and not give up early. Let’s see some (because there are lots…) of them.
  • Contrary to the general rule and the established belief (To succeed, think big!) DO think small, at first! It will be easier to manage things, organize your team, make your prototypes and check your services.
  • DON’T ask for outside money during the early stages of your effort. Try first the famous 3F (friends, fools and family) method to kickstart your project. Explain your vision and make them your first followers (and financial supporters).
  • DO team with the best! People you know and trust, but who are also doers and achievers with strong knowledge in your field. Team quality and coherence always come high in investors’ assessments.
  • DON’T hesitate ask “your questions” to an angel investor or VC you are talking with! If they are going to be a partner of yours, you should “grill” them, too, asking about their activities, start-ups they have supported, funding capabilities, networks and the like.
  • DO talk about your project to your smartest friends. Describe your product or service, answer questions and record their comments or ideas for improvements. You will be surprised at how many things you’ll want to change on the way to a better solution.
  • DON’T forget to properly protect your prototype (or application). You may fulfil the preliminary steps yourself, then talk to lawyers who specialize on I(ntellectual)P(roperty) issues. You should also agree with your co-founders on the percentage each one of you owns on your collective IP!
  • DO be very precise on what you propose, want, ask for… Your vision should focus on the problem you are trying to solve and only that! Lost time is more expensive than you may think…
  • DON’T avoid “grey” advice! Elders may belong to a different generation we usually don’t correlate with startup companies (although innovation has really nothing to do with age…) but they have amassed lots of valuable and useful experiences during their careers.
  • DO work, work, work and… work! Read as much as you can about the market you want to penetrate; then, keep on trying, testing, hoping, risking, inventing and re-inventing yourself and your solution until you are satisfied. Always, keep on trying…
  • DON’T be afraid! The journey may be long and tiring, but it offers knowledge, skills, know-how, experiences (pleasant and unpleasant…) – “profit” in the startup world means more than money. Usually, money comes with the exit, which may be just a temporary stop…

PS: If you want to really “live your dream,” then practice again and again your description of it; your pitching must be impeccable, intriguing and “appetizing,” so that listeners should ask for more…

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