1. They focus on the Solution, Not the Problem
We get it; you got this great idea that you believe is incredible, innovative, cool, etc. And that’s exciting! But we are here to warn you about making something “cool” for cool’s sake… that can be a slippery slope. And a potentially expensive one, at that.
If you’re going to commit yourself to entrepreneurship, you probably want to put yourself in a position to recoup the costs (and likely make a profit as well). The way to set yourself up for success here isn’t just to make something that you personally think is cool and interesting, but to create something that solves a problem for a large market.
Until you go out and do your research and hone in on what the actual problem you’re solving is, you don’t have much of anything at all. You also need to learn about how people are currently solving the problem and if they will pay for a better solution.
The best advice you can take in the beginning of your journey (not just as a first-time or aspiring entrepreneur, but as a seasoned entrepreneur as well) is to fall in love with the problem, not your solution.
2. They Think They Can Do it Alone
You won’t know everything about everything – no one does. And you’ll waste a lot of time and effort by trying to. Having a mentor and/or cofounder to fill in the gaps and support you and your venture when times get hard isn’t just helpful, it can be life saving.
Starting a new venture is challenging, lengthy, and unpredictable. Trying to weather that storm without guidance or assistance could kill a startup before it even has time to develop. Seek out people who love your problem as much as you do to join your team, and find mentors that have expertise that you don’t. You’ll thank us later for this one.
3. They Don’t Talk to Customers
This one is so easy for people to forget about and it drives us nuts. You can get so caught up in the execution of an idea that you don’t stop to think about what your customers need. Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be the first aspiring entrepreneur to make that mistake.
Before Steve Blank created the customer development methodology in the 1990s, the idea of talking to your customers early and often wasn’t really integrated into the startup culture. But now it’s a well-known fact that interacting with your customers at all stages of the startup process can make or break a company.
Talking to customers helps to refine your MVP (minimum viable product), improve user experience, and start building and developing your market early on. The people you talk to might even become your early adopters (which means that’ll probably pay you money), so their opinions matter.
Don’t be afraid to get out and talk to people just because you think the idea isn’t developed enough yet. The earlier you integrate customer discovery into your process the better, because they’ll help your venture grow more than you and your cofounder sitting in a room ever could.
4. They Are Investor Hungry
We hear it all the time at 3 Day Startup programs: “So, how do I reach out to investors?”
This may be a big concern of yours as well, but there are two things that you need to ask yourself right first.
1. Am I even far enough along to be worried about this?
Spoiler alert, the answer to this question is usually a resounding “no.” You’re probably worrying about this before you even have an MVP, aren’t you? Finding investors shouldn’t be the how the bulk of your time is spent.
2. Do I really need investors to get my venture off the ground?
The answer to this one could very well also be “no.” And there’s nothing wrong with that! There are other options for getting your startup funded, and they don’t involve giving away equity or subjecting yourself to the will of your investors.
Some of those options include: bootstrapping (an ideal option because it means you’re taking customer money in right away), crowdfunding (even before you have an MVP you can sell and gauging public interest), and looking to Angel investors instead of VC (Venture Capital) investors.
Oh, and don’t try to start a company just because you want a big investor to throw money at you. That’s not how this works, and they do expect you to pay them back eventually.
5. They Don’t Build to Scale
We see this mistake particularly strongly on college campuses (and will be writing an article wholly dedicated to it shortly). Too often young and aspiring entrepreneurs are thinking small and don’t have an idea for how their venture could grow beyond their bubble.
If your goal is to create a true startup, scaling is important. You want your venture to be able to grow and reach new customers and markets. But for that to work, you have to make sure that your idea is something that has a use and solves a problem outside of your individual campus or city.
You also have to think about what it will take for your venture to scale. That’s easier for some than others. Different ecosystems have different needs. And if it’s a service or an app that you’re developing, you may need to give some thought to just how niche it is.
This may not be the first thing you need to think about when you’re starting a venture, but if you don’t find yourself thinking about it at all once you start developing, it may be time to reassess.
Have an experience with one of these mistakes? Think we missed something in this article? Let us know in the comments! To learn more about bringing a 3 Day Startup program to your school or community, contact us today. Subscribe to our blog for more articles on getting started as an entrepreneur.