We’ve recently held a successful workshop at Arctic15. My sales knowledge was well-complemented by Dominik’s technical approach. We uncovered some of the secrets of scaling tech startups. We had some great interaction with our audience – mostly startup founders and investors. But why keep all this knowledge to ourselves? Here are the five things I would tell every tech entrepreneur.
1. Your original team lineup should have the right skills
The best lineup for growth is are people who have different skills – and who can use those skills. The problem is, you usually start with a handful of people, and it might not always be the perfect combination. It’s hard to grow without knowing how. Startups need to grow exponentially. A lot of startups struggle to find a technical co-founder (we’ve mentioned it’s good to have a tech person on board, but it isn’t absolutely necessary), but it’s the sales person that can make or break the deal. Do they know how SPIN works (situation, problem, implication, and need-payoff)?
You’ll be selling a lot at the beginning. To investors, to the end customers, selling people on the idea. To scale well, there needs to be a business idea owner and a monetizing owner that thinks about how to bring in the money.
2. Don’t fail too fast!
Fail fast! We hear this over and over. The premise of this statement is sound. You give something innovative a try, and if it doesn’t work out, you don’t despair – you move on, learn from your mistakes and do better next time. But if you really want to succeed, don’t discard your message so fast. A customer needs to hear your story 3-4 times before they buy. If you’re going to get discouraged after just one try, it means you’re failing TOO fast. If you change your product’s name, message, price, the whole lot – you restart from scratch. The whole selling cycle starts from zero again. Is it really worth it? Remember – 3-4 times!
3. Fail internally, not externally.
You also need to fail internally, not externally. What does this mean? Internal failing means you change something smaller, honing the details. Re-hauling your poor marketing strategy is an example of ‘failing’ internally. External failing is when you’re doing something very much visible to the outside. You’re letting the whole world know you’ve failed and are changing your key message. Try to avoid that. Stick to a 3-year strategy of keeping your key message. You’ve made a great heart monitor? Keep it a heart monitor!
4. Timing & replication
If an investor gives you money for your idea, they’re not going to wait years. They’ll expect results soon – and so should you. Be ready to get something out there in about half a year. Once you have your product, plan a business model for a specific customer. When that works out, you’re ready to go further. The key is to replicate a good model. If you have different versions of the product – launch one at a time.
5. Scaling tech startups also means scalable resources
If you have your own solid devs from the beginning, they can keep working on the key idea. But you’ll need more people as you scale up. And you’ll need to get rid of some developers if you scale down. Startups seem to have a tough time doing that, as they don’t get rid of the devs they don’t need. If you have hired teams, you can scale up or down as you please.
This is what we’ve often tried to convey – it’s frequently much better to get an offsite team that can work with you so you, a startup founder, can focus on what’s important.
Things are more problematic if you’ve started out with mediocre developers, or those who are just not experienced. If a system you built works well with up to 10 users and that’s it, it’s not scalable. It’s inevitable you’ll need code correction then. We’ve seen this happen and corrected such code ourselves! Ideally, your first step should be to build scalable code. And remember, a testing MVP is not a professional product just yet.
Looking for more tips? Here’s the presentation we used at Arctic15. We’ve included some good practices and tips on avoiding bottlenecks. Click through to see a slightly more technical approach to scaling for the win!