So, You Want to Build a Startup? Here Are 10 Classic Mistakes You’ll Want to Avoid

Over the last couple of years, the number of startups has been exploding, all around the world. Increased accessibility of technology is probably the biggest contributing factor behind this global startup movement. But underlying factors, such as governments’ willingness to fuel entrepreneurship, as well as increased speed of consumer adoption of new technology play a big role.

In 2016, it seems that everyone from Oslo to Abu Dhabi is determined to hop on the startup wagon. With the world being more interconnected than ever before and distance no longer being a determining factor, it has never been easier for entrepreneurs to reach out to consumers around the world. From day one, a startup can now be a ‘micro-multinational (as coined by Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur Steve Blank).

It’s common knowledge that with so many startups bursting on the global scene, competition for consumer attention has never been so fierce. The big question that remains, however, is how many of these fresh startups will still be around making a difference in ten years’ time.

The big question that remains is how many of these fresh startups will still be around making a difference in ten years’ time.

In this terribly exciting yet ever-so-changing startup ecosystem, several classic pitfalls should be avoided.

I’ve broken down ten of the most common mistakes that young entrepreneurs make when navigating through uncharted territory:

1. Not Being Mentally Prepared For What’s Ahead

If you want to build a successful startup, keep in mind that you’ll have to stay in the game for the long haul. Launching a startup will consume all of your time, money, and resources. Be prepared to work long nights, limit your social activities, and consume a whole lot of coffee.

2. Having a Vague Idea of What Your Business Is About

Building a business is a tedious journey where a lot of the nitty gritty details are determined along the way. However, settling on a clear definition of your idea, target audience, and strategy from the start is critical. Start by knowing exactly what you want to build, then determine product/market fit. A product design sprint will help you face the hard facts early on.

3. Putting On a One-Man Show

Don’t think of yourself as a jack-of-all-trades; there’s only so much you can do on your own. When starting out, make sure to use your network and team up with one or more business partners. This will increase your chances for success.

Don’t think of yourself as a jack-of-all-trades for there’s only so much you can do on your own.

4. Selecting the Wrong Partners

Finding the right business partner is never easy. When looking for a partner, consider your professional network first before running to your best friend. There’s nothing wrong with partnering with a friend, but you want a partner who not only can bring skills and experience into the business, but who’ll also approach your entrepreneurship journey with the same level of enthusiasm and devotion that you have. Teaming up with someone with strong financial acumen isn’t the worst idea either.

5. Neglecting Your Users

Simply put, your end user is your single most important priority. Before investing time and money into your idea, find out whether it’s something that your consumers truly want. Even later on, everything you do should be with your user in mind.

6. Obsessing Over Perfection

Now let’s face it, your product will never be perfect. The more effort you put on perfecting your craft, the more you’ll identify new areas of improvement. Successful companies like Google have very early on adopted the ‘launch-and-iterate’ mantra for all their product releases. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t do the same. Following on from my post entitled Why You Should be Running Lean, I cannot emphasize enough on the importance of prioritizing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). As Eric Ries puts it, the MVP is “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” Also, announcing a product in beta is always a good idea to gauge the interest of early adopters.

I cannot emphasize enough on the importance of prioritizing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

7. Postponing Sales Activities

A lot of new entrepreneurs think that if they build a new product, consumers will line up to buy it. I have news for you: new products don’t spontaneously go viral. One thing’s sure, virality is almost always the result of calculated growth hacking decisions. The bad habit of delaying your sales and marketing activities acts like a slow poison that jeopardizes your survival.

8. Not Thinking Big Enough

A startup is, by definition, a new company that’s geared for exponential growth. However, many founders tend focus their efforts on a single local market for years without daring to explore other territories. At Norselab, we often meet entrepreneurs who are content with restricting their business to the local landscape they operate in; but this might cost them big time. While getting initial traction in your local market is key, if you don’t start thinking globally from the get go, you won’t be able to grow your business to its utmost potential.

9. Not Preparing for the Unexpected

No matter how bulletproof your business plan is, unexpected turns of events will occur. Make sure you to be prepared to face them with openness and adaptability as you navigate through the complexity of building your business.

10. Giving Up Too Early

This may sound silly, but giving up too early is often one of the main reasons for why startups fail. One thing that’s certain is that, by starting up a business, you’ll face a lot of struggles — be it from competition, partner pitfalls, poor sales, unexpected expenses, and so on. As long as you have traction and don’t give up too early, you’ll most likely find a way to surpass your limits and fears.

The Bottom Line

At Norselab, we’re all too aware that startups are not for the faint of the heart. The key to success lies within learning from your mistakes, embracing agility, and focusing on your users. Avoiding some of these classic mistakes might also raise the odds of your success. Good luck!