Do you know what the first thing most startups get started with? Their logo and company name. Hours or even days are often spent on this, even before the startup knows how it will make money and how it will add value. Don't you find that a bit strange? This article is about 'strange habits' of startups that may not be so strange after all.
Start with a company name and logo
It indeed seems logical to first understand what you are going to do as a startup and how you are going to add value. However, for many people, the company name and logo have great symbolic value.
I have already founded several companies, and when I started a new advertising agency with some former colleagues in 2015, I first wanted to know the name and logo. We knew we wanted to do something in the advertising world, something with strategy and campaigns, but the exact details were still vague at that time.
During a brainstorming session, the name "Mindd" came up. The second 'd' stood for 'The,' giving rise to names like 'Mind The Purpose,' 'Mind The Nature,' and 'Mind The Commerce.' The logo had different color variants and consisted of a square with a small circle. That round symbolized what we would add as a startup. Commercial companies received knowledge about purpose from us, and NGOs received knowledge about commerce from us. That way, thanks to the company name and logo, we knew how we would position ourselves and what kind of advertising agency we would be.
The emotion behind a logo and company name played a major role. Starting an advertising agency again was exciting in itself, but it wasn't until I heard the company name and saw the logo that I was able to connect myself to the new venture emotionally. It gave life to the project, so to speak.
Find investors before you make money
There are startups that believe that they can raise money from investors with just a good idea. Although there have been examples in the past where this has been successful, the likelihood of success is usually minimal. Still, the saying "no shot is always a miss" applies.
However, I believe it is always wise to speak to investors. This may not only serve to raise money for your startup but also to get valuable feedback. Investors often view your company from a different perspective and have insight into the value you add. You can learn a lot from that.
Moreover, investors often have an extensive network and can be of great value in a later phase of your startup when you are ready to raise capital. Building these relationships can be very beneficial to the growth and success of your business in the long run.
Starting a startup without a business plan
Some startups spend days, if not weeks, writing extensive business plans and financial forecasts. While I appreciate this approach, it is not always the best path.
I am able to draw up a business plan and financial forecast in two to three days. This is thanks to my market knowledge, experience as an entrepreneur, and skill in writing such plans. When I make an estimate, I can draw on a wealth of past experience from various companies. But if you don't have that knowledge and experience, it can sometimes be better to just start.
Every startup plan I've ever written turned out to be hopelessly outdated after about six months. And I'm not the only one to whom this happens. The fact is that you cannot predict the future, and as a startup, you have to anticipate unexpected circumstances that arise.
By simply getting started, you can gradually develop your plan based on the experiences you gain. This way, the assumptions are tested against reality, and your business plan becomes more solid. In my approach, you start with a plan, but you also adjust it as you go along. The difference is that I don't spend weeks or months writing the initial plan.
Aim your arrows at multiple targets
One of the most important pieces of advice you get as a startup is to focus entirely on one business. “Focus, focus, focus” is the mantra of almost every startup mentor, and essentially I completely agree. However, there are exceptions.
While it's virtually impossible to get a business off the ground if it doesn't get your full attention, you may not yet know exactly what direction you want to take. By developing multiple activities, you can gradually discover which activity suits you best, is the most profitable, and adds the most value.
The trick, of course, is to let go of the rest once you've found what you want to do. Because the rule remains that something can only grow if you pay attention to it. The more attention you give it, the greater the growth can be.
Putting culture before skills
When starting a new business, the instinctive approach is often to attract the best talent in the market; people with impressive resumes and a proven track record. But in the dynamic and often unpredictable world of startups, there is one aspect that is just as crucial, if not more important: company culture.
Imagine a team with brilliant minds, each an expert in their field, but without synergy or common vision. The result? A fragmented approach, clashing egos, and a lack of cohesion.
That's why more and more startups are opting for 'culture fit' over technical skills. This doesn't mean that skills don't matter; they are absolutely crucial. But what is even more crucial is a team that works in harmony, with shared values and a common vision. Such a team can overcome obstacles, adapt quickly to changes, and most importantly, grow as a unit.
In my first startup, not everyone was an expert in a certain domain and everyone was willing to go beyond the boundaries of their 'job description'. Whether it was addressing the media during a PR campaign or packing packages after office hours, the team did what was necessary. Because what we shared was not just a task, but a passion, a vision, and a common corporate culture.
Daring to Launch an (Un)Finished Product
When launching a new product, people often strive for perfection. A flawless product that customers love seems like the ideal route. However, in a rapidly changing world, waiting for that 'perfect' moment can mean missing out on valuable feedback and market share.
That is why more and more entrepreneurs are choosing to start with a so-called 'Minimum Viable Product' (MVP). This is a version of the product that has just enough features to allow it to be launched and collect the first reactions from customers. The target? Learning from the user experience, understanding what works and what can be improved.
Communication is important here. By being transparent about the fact that you are launching an MVP, you manage customer expectations. Instead of disappointment, this can lead to a community of users actively involved in the development of your product. They feel heard and appreciate the opportunity to have a direct influence on improvements.
So, while it may be tempting to wait for the 'perfect' version of your product, launching an MVP early can provide vital insights and build stronger relationships with your customers. It's not always about perfection but about progression and adaptability.