Most startup guides talk about the steps needed to take a startup project from an idea to an exit. Needless to say, taking these steps is easier said than done. Bringing a successful innovative business from 0 to 1 is one of the hardest things you can undertake, and every step on the journey requires you to face challenges on many levels.
In this article, you will find a list of some of the more common and more dangerous hurdles you are likely to face as a startup founder, as well as some basic advice on how to overcome them.
1. Finding A Real Problem
The first and arguably most important challenge a startup founder faces is the discovery of a real market need. Building something nobody cares about is arguably the biggest and most common startup mistake, and doing it is the easiest way to waste your time and money with nothing to show for it.
Domain knowledge is the best tool that would help you overcome this challenge and the best way to acquire it is to talk to your target customers.
2. Finding A Solution That Fits The Needs Of Your Customers
Unfortunately, once you’ve established a real market need, finding the right solution is just as hard. That’s why validating your startup idea before investing a substantial amount of time or money into building your product has become an industry standard.
Running presales is a great way to measure the solution-problem fit. If you gain traction – that’s a great signal to move forward to an MVP. If not – iterate on your solution and try to gain market feedback once again. Iterating your offering is very easy to do in the presales stages – once you move forward to building an actual product, then making substantial changes would become much more costly.
3. Securing Funding Without Sacrificing Focus On Your Product
Finding a real problem and establishing a viable solution could usually be done cheaply. Once you start building your product and scaling your business, however, you’ll find yourself in need of capital – most projects are too work-intensive to handle on your own, and paying people requires capital.
Finding investors for your startup project is certainly a challenge – only 0.5% of startups manage to raise a VC funding round.
Nonetheless, even though the act of raising capital is challenging enough, the real challenge is continuing to run and grow your business while at the same time fundraising – the two activities often add up to the workload of two full time jobs.
Unfortunately, putting your startup on pause until you find capital is rarely a good idea – investors wouldn’t be attracted to your startup if you fail to demonstrate tangible progress. Most investors would jump on the train only if they know that it’s leaving with or without them.
4. Hiring The Right People And Building A Healthy Culture
Once you can afford to hire people, attracting the right people to your project would often make or break it.
One of the more common startup hiring mistakes you can make is to rush to hire too many people too fast. “Hire slow, fire fast” is a cliché for a reason, and it is even more true for startups. In an early-stage startup, the team is the greatest asset of the company. Because of this, finding the right first hires is the seed that would allow you to cultivate a productive startup culture.
Bad early hires can lead to a bad culture, which inevitably spreads when you grow and expand your team.
5. Finding Work-Life Balance
Last but not least, one of the biggest challenges of running a startup is finding enough time and energy for your personal life. While it is true that there is a strong correlation between hours worked and revenue growth, taking care of your physical and psychological wellbeing will pay dividends in the long run personally, but also professionally.