Get a good team
And by good, it doesn't mean a top notch team of developers and business analysts with 6 figure salaries. It means a small group that can put up with each other given the least amount of resources and time available.That should be a good measure of how you put your team together. If we had nothing, how well would we work together? If you were all homeless and hungry, but saw potential in your product would you stick it around? Just a theoretical concept, no one need go hungry. But something to consider.
in the trenches
You'll see this phrase alot, and it's truth. Taking part in a startup starts off as slow and fun where you're all having too much coffee and living in dreams of grandeur. The honeymoon stage if you will. But at some point, things happen, and you all need to pull together. For us, this was the recent TechCrunch Disrupt. We had weeks to plan a trip for 5 and to plan a demo, pitch, QA and all the things in between. Sleep was a luxury and food was random at best. And every single member on the Renly team managed to make it through the process.
Those are the people that you want on your side. Because when the going gets tough, you're at least not alone on it.
Know your KPI's
Or Key Performance Indicators.
You need to have something to measure successful growth. And that's different for each company, but you need one. Whether it's new users, or page views, or transactions, you need to decide what you're going to be working to get.
And don't forget that your KPI's can change. That's something that many startups fail to realize. KPI's can change at the drop of a bucket if they aren't working out. In fact, better to change them early on, than when it is too late and have to work backwards from a far off place. Even unforeseen performance might be a good sign that you need to steer directions.
Don't build for yourself
Many new companies have the bad habit of building features that they themselves think are cool and useful, but that no one else asked for. A big problem, and one that leads to much dev time getting used up. So before you write a single line of code down, be sure that it is on something that you have tangible proof is needed by some portion of people. Not a massive portion, but some is always best.
And this comes down simply put, just talking to your client base. Spending some time with them and getting to know their needs. Many of the biggest tech companies now began their journeys going door to door and getting acquainted with their future clients. We do the same and it is invaluable information. Paid surveys work very well. For a few hundreds dollars you could end up with the right set of data that will point your company to a much better position down the line.
Realize you don't know what you're doing
One of the most important things that you can do, is to realize that you and your team are pretty much clueless about everything. But that's good, because it means that you'll be more than willing to learn. If you think you know everything, you're pretty much closing yourself off from any future knowledge.
So don't "learn" but just take everything in and use it to guide you where you're going. What worked for you and your team during month 2, won't work during month 5. It's a constantly changing ecosystem and all you can do is notice as you move along and steer left or right a bit until you reach the desired outcome.
Learn to fail
Things are going to go wrong during this startup process. You're going to lose data, get hacked and potentially get into legal trouble. And it is all part of the game. If creating a successful startup had a 99% success rate, few people would actually attempt it. We're not here to live boring lives. We're here to challenge ourselves and to learn a thing or two along the way.
The bigger your fail, the closer you are to a successful outcome. If you're getting into the realm of legal troubles, then you are making good noise in the business world. If you're getting a ton of complains from your customers, then congratulations you have a bunch of new customers. You fix the issues and continue on.
Ultimately it's up to the collective group to make a successful startup, but because we can't control other people, it comes down to ourselves and doing the right things. If you see something broken, you fix it. If you see something useful that could help your company down the line, you let everyone know. If someone is down, you help them back up.