Growing and expanding a startup comes with a fair share of trials and tribulations. As the startup grows, you have to grow as well, and it can be challenging to go from simply being an entrepreneur to becoming a company owner.
I spoke with Matt Bailey, Founder & CEO of GameOn, a B2B technology business providing interactive social experiences around sports, television and live events, to learn about how he’s achieved success. Here’s his advice for entrepreneurs:
Find your own path to success.
There isn’t just one path that leads to success, it’s different for everyone. “Don’t be fixated on a single path to success because there are so many ways to win. You just have to find the right one and be flexible in going in different directions,” advises Bailey. Embrace the highs and the lows, the challenges and the successes, and the journey itself.
Take advantage of educational opportunities.
Take full advantage of programs designed specifically for entrepreneurs and startups such as incubators, mentoring programs, and online courses. Incubators are great for first-time founders, as they provide education and resources to help get a business up and running. Bailey attended a Techstars incubator in 2018 and was able to secure his first deal through the program, as well as making incredibly valuable networking connections.
If you don’t qualify for or have access to a large incubator program, check out local programs in your city or professional groups in your field. Both of these options provide resources for entrepreneurs as well as host events so you can start to grow your network and find industry contacts, mentors, and business connections. Events, both in person and virtual, are valuable because they offer both education and networking. The more you can learn, the better you’ll be at building your business. “Knowing what you don’t know is really important,” advises Bailey. When you’re able to identify your blindspots and weaknesses, you can find ways to rectify them.
Know that there’s more than one way to get funding.
Getting funding from a VC is the most popular way to grow a startup, but it’s not the only way to raise capital. Another option is to go public. Bailey pursued the VC route for two years before being offered a different option to access capital – going public in Canada. “An interested party reached out and told us that going public in Canada can unlock capital. It’s not like a New York Stock Exchange exit, it’s access to capital at a startup exchange,” explained Bailey.
It was a decision that proved to be quite fruitful, as GameOn had their assets acquired in December 2020, raised $5.8 million in pre-IPO financing in March 2021, and listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange in June 2021. For earlier stage funding, crowdfunding and private loans are also viable options. Before you decide which route to pursue, do your homework and research the pros and cons of each method so you can make a fully informed decision.
Hire as you grow.
When you’re just starting out, you’re often wearing multiple hats, doing the job of half a dozen people, and just grinding until you’re able to bring on someone else to help you. The sooner you can start hiring, the better, even if that’s only adding one or two more people to the team. Even when money is tight, adding one key employee is a wise investment.
Expanding the team helped Bailey be able to truly take GameOn to the next level. “A year ago, it was just three of us working on the business, and I was the only founder. I’d be wearing so many hats that I shouldn’t have been wearing, so I was working a lot more, but not smarter. I was just kind of treading water, not really making much progress. Now, with a team, we’re working much smarter and making tons of progress,” he explained.
In today’s competitive job market, one of the easiest ways to find talent is to not limit yourself to your geographic location and instead hire fully remote employees. “We hire for the role, not for the location, and that’s definitely opened up a wider pool of talent,” explained Bailey. Also remember that you don’t have to do everything on your own. If you’re growing your team quickly, it can be worthwhile to bring on a recruiter to find talent.
It’s also important to hire for key roles first and fill in the rest of the supporting team after. Think about which areas of the business need the most attention and fill those positions first. While it will differ for every business, key roles are often in HR, product development, various tech positions, and marketing and content creation.
Embrace the challenges.
Building a business is not always smooth sailing. There will be days when you feel like you want to give up and that you just can’t keep going, but if you push through you’ll come out on the other side stronger than you were before. This is all part of your growth as an entrepreneur. Without those challenges you wouldn’t be able to savor the successes in quite the same way.
I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice from Bailey: “Know that it’s going to be tough, but you just need to find a way to keep going, to survive. And remember, there’s more than one way to win.”