5 Rookie Founder Mistakes
While there’s untold freedom to forge your own path, there’s also many common traps that can ruin even the most promising business ideas and the keenest new founders.
You’re too isolated.
While popular culture might make it seem as if successful startup founders are all laser focussed one-person crusades, the truth is that very few – if any – of your entrepreneurial idols made it all by themselves.
In fact, most successful startups have at least two founders at the helm, or at the very least, a single founder with great friends, connections and professional contacts. Many venture capital firms and investors look to see that there is at least one technical founder on the founding team, especially if you’ve got a technical product.
While it might be tempting to get into a rut of constantly working from home and avoiding human contact for weeks on end, you’ll actually be far more motivated and productive if you spend some of your time joining (and attending) networking or meetup groups, hackathons, events or even doing some volunteering.
If your budget allows, it can be great to work in a startup-friendly co-working space in your city. This can allow you to meet other founders, forge strong connections and pick up healthy working habits from a professional, yet relaxed, environment.
Your business name is gimmicky.
Startup names – particularly those in the tech industry – can follow such a painfully predictable pattern that even a computer could churn out thousands of them.
Try to avoid these cliche trends, as they’ll have the effect of blending you into the background of your competitors, as well as dating your business considerably should you find success a year or two from now (a moment of silence for all those businesses who opted for ‘-tronic’, ‘-master’ and ‘-omatic’ suffixes as a trendy move 15 - 20 years ago).
Key questions to ask: will your chosen name hold up to expansion? Will it be easy to remember, spell, and be relatively unique on popular search engines? Does it say anything important about your business? Have you checked the trademarks indexes both at home and abroad? Can you register the domain names, both local and international? Is there any history with this name that could impede you - perhaps a previously failed startup or similar using this name?
You commit to spending or invest in equipment before you need it.
Many people, upon choosing to take action, will immediately turn to material goods as a means of solving the problem at hand, or as a ‘necessity’ required before they can start being productive.
For startup founders, this might take the form of buying furniture, software, hosting services, tech goods and stationery up-front before actually getting any work done.
At best, you could be potentially wasting your precious cash in the event you don’t use these items, and at worst this behaviour can be a form of elaborate procrastination that will become a financial and productivity drain.
Instead, try to buy your resources as you need them, and make getting things done – not acquiring tools – your number one priority. You might be surprised at how few resources you’ll actually need to accomplish amazing business feats! You’d also be amazed at how many freebies you can get by joining startup organisations (such as Startup Victoria) or from businesses that have done deals with co-working spaces. Other founders are often the best source of information here.
Your marketing strategy is unfocused.
Unless you’ve had some experience with designing, branding and marketing, it’s probably very worthwhile to outsource these tasks to a professional.
While you might know your product or service inside out, you might unconsciously be falling very short of being able to present it – or make it exciting – to your potential audience.
A great first impression is key when it comes to both the consumer-facing and enterprise-facing business you’ll do in the future, and scruffy, unfocused marketing and branding can send clients and investors running before your foot is even in the door.
On the other hand, a professional and organised image can help to inspire trust and confidence in your business without you needing to say a word.