No astute definition of ‘start-up’ exists. It is broadly categorized as a new business venture. It could be based at home, a street-side stall or have hip presence on Internet. In brief, all new businesses are start-ups. Everything from a new neighbourhood sandwich cart to glitzy high-tech software companies are start-ups. Businesses less than five years old get included in this definition too.
A word of caution
Setting up a start-up is easy. Finding funds is hard. Keeping the business afloat is harder. Findings by British commercial insurer RSA indicates, 50 percent of all start-ups in UK failed within the first five years. Insufficient government support, lack of bank loans, regulatory issues, intense competition and high operational costs are cited as reasons. Venture capital experts claim that about 90 percent of all start-ups fail . This scenario indubitably requires strong strategies for launching any start-up.
Off the beaten track
Proverbial flock mentality plagues most start-ups. Entrepreneurs eye successful ventures to imitate. Pitted against established businesses, they stand little chance for success. Uniqueness or exclusivity is the first rule for success. Evolve concepts nobody dreamt of. Get a fair idea about target customers, suppliers and logistics. Discuss ideas with people from diverse industries but remain secretive of your own concept.
Putting it in words
Type the concept on a PC, laptop or simply write it down. Readable concepts can be further developed and refined. Amend any feature where required. Once you have a clear idea about the start-up, draft an excellent project report. Funds permitting, rope in services of a professional project report writer. Great project reports attract attention. Finer detail boosts prospects of the right person reading the project report- and taking action.
Incubators and Accelerators
Joining a renowned start-up incubator works wonders. Start-up incubators guide and instruct entrepreneurs. They refine a project while developing business models. Incubators focus on innovations and are industry specific.
Accelerators help businesses grow. They help by focusing resources of start-ups in most profitable directions. Accelerators look at putting start-ups on the fast track of growth.
Both are vital for a successful start-up strategy.
What’s in a name?
Everything and more, as history has proved. Catchy, easy-to-remember, innovative brands fare better in the market over those with boring, traditional identities. Stretch your imagination, get creative or seek help from relatives and friends. Great concepts with brand identities exhibit a penchant to flop. A good sounding brand requires great looking logo. Presentations for start-ups look better when made under a brand and logo. They lend a business look. Make branding a major part of your start-up strategy.
The trickiest part comes here. Funding start-ups is extremely complex and tiresome. Angel investors and venture capitalists are spoilt for choice. Bank loans for start-ups are almost non-existent. Financial institutions do not lend to companies that live in fertile minds and a few scraps of paper- they require proof. Thrift is key for start-ups. Launch the business with minimum budget, limiting operational expenses where possible. Common and not-so-common modes of staffing and operations combined help save costs while maximising profits during initial years. Successful start-up strategies do not include high costs.
A great strategy for successful start-ups involves finding seed or initial capital. Knowing who can finance how much is key to successful funding. Start-up incubators and accelerators provide essential insights into the complex world of angel investments and venture capital.
- Self finance: Investing your savings/ assets to seed a start-up.
- Crowd funding: Collecting money from public for a start-up. These investors get stocks of your company, commensurate with amounts chipped in.
- Bank/ Institutional credit: Money borrowed from banks/ financial institutions to fund start-ups. Most lenders are reluctant but with some collateral, you may get lucky to get bank loan.
- Government funding: Almost inexistent. Yet, some ministries do offer soft loans and credit for ventures they believe may help the society at large. These include start-ups concerned with environment protection, animal welfare, alleviation of poverty, child and mother care, facilities for persons with special needs, prevention of HIV/ AIDS and other sensitive, global concerns.
- Social organizations: Start-ups with obvious benefits for the society attract attention of social welfare organizations. Some consider chipping in with seed investment.
- Family holding: Hailed as best way to fund start-ups. Getting family members interested in your start-up by encouraging them to invest in exchange of stocks. Ensures your successful start-up remains within the family.
- Venture capital: Those who got strategies and presentations right attract venture capital. Such funding is limited to seeding the business and initial years of operation.
- Conglomerate funding: Business conglomerates look for start-ups that can assist their trade. A good presentation to those in your field can help generate much needed funds.
Taxes and government charges often wreak havoc on profitability. Acquaint yourself with local taxation regimes. Superb strategies for successful start-ups find ways and means to lower tax burden. This means operating from a section of your home, if merited. Avail tax benefits offered to new businesses.
Low cost employment
Students, fresh graduates and freelancers make excellent staff, once trained. Base your start-up strategy on employing these categories of manpower. They can be paid by the hour or for specific jobs only to help cut expenses on wages. Qualified professionals can be hired as consultants only, when required. Working online and getting staff to work from home reduces transportation expenses immensely.
Carpet bombing the market
An essential component of a successful strategy for start-ups is creating brand awareness before hitting the market. Teaser ads in local media, through stores and restaurants, clubs and community hang-outs, social circles help create excellent brand awareness. Those lucky may find investors and customers well before launch.
Splash in cyber world
Strong presence in cyber world is prerequisite to any successful strategy for start-ups. Register the domain of your company and post regular updates about the project. These should be sufficient to keep interest alive but insufficient to alert competitors. Blogging about your start-up, posting frequent press releases and ‘leaking’ insider news to websites works in favour. Email stakeholders frequently about latest developments and innovations, company news and other relevant information aimed at keeping them engaged.
Social media spans the world
A decade ago, nobody would have imagined Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to stand where they are. For start-ups, healthy social media presence works miracles. It helps disseminate information about your start-up to people across the world at fraction of a penny. Social media allows stakeholders, decision makers, investors and other entities to “feel” your start-up through pictures, videos, posts and comments. Social media offers essential tools for introspection and quick turnaround of offerings.
Health and wellness
The secret to successful start-up lies in your health and wellness strategies too. Setting up a business is indeed tiresome. Lack of sleep and skipped meals are common. These take severe toll on wellbeing of entrepreneurs. Lack of concentration combined with mood swings can destroy an enterprise before it gets off drawing board. Include health and wellness as part of your start-up strategy. It also helps foster a good impression among investors and other stakeholders.