Successful Startup Entrepreneurs Are Doing These 3 Things Right
A lot of aspiring startup entrepreneurs in Singapore have been asking me for a success formula. While I don’t think there is any such thing as a perfect formula for all startups, there are some general strategies and habits that I’ve found successful among the most successful startups in the region.
I wrote down these 3 things long ago, but didn’t really publish them because I honestly didn’t know how to explain them in a way that would make sense to other people. But after much thought and discussion with friends, I realized that they form the basis of most (successful) business strategies.
Focus on being useful to others first, and then make money
Many businesses start out by thinking about how they can make money off their idea (or product), but this is not necessarily the best strategy.
You can actually lose a lot of time trying to figure out how you will monetize your business if you don’t know who your target audience is, what problems you are solving for them, or how they will pay you for your services or products.
If you don’t have good answers to these questions before developing your product or service, then it is quite likely that you are starting a business that no one wants or needs.
There are too many examples of this happening for me not to point it out: the Segway was an example of this sort of poor execution — it had an innovative idea but no one needed or wanted it!
Instead, focus on solving problems for people first and foremost and then figure out how to monetize your solution later on.
This will give you something tangible to talk about when talking about your business with investors or customers; it will also give credibility to your business when there is no actual product yet — “I want to create an Uber-like service using driverless cars!” sounds more credible than “I want to create an Uber-like service… but using driverless cars!” because the latter leaves so many questions unanswered as compared to the former statement which already has its core value proposition defined: “Uber-like service… using driverless cars!”.
By focusing on solving problems first and then monetizing later on, you will also be able to better control your costs as well as reduce risk during development stages because you already know exactly who you need feedback from (your target audience) before spending money developing something without knowing if people will want or need it.
Build up your reputation and trust before asking for money
One of the most important ways to build up a business is to get people to believe in you.
This is something that I’ve written about before: building a reputation takes time, and it’s really quite difficult to do so when you’re starting out, because there is little evidence of your past performance to rely on — or at least that’s how investors see it.
The best way to avoid this issue is simply by getting yourself known before starting out — write a blog, create videos on YouTube, start an online forum, etc., but make sure you focus on writing good content (if you haven’t already) and not just trash talking others or self-promoting all the time! (There are so many examples of this happening in Singapore.)
Another way to build up trust is by doing free work for others first — offer free advice online, help others out as a consultant or freelancer, join an incubator, join an accelerator, join meetups and attend events regularly so that people know who you are and then once you have built up your reputation, then contact potential investors with more credibility behind your business idea because they will be able to see that other people have also trusted you enough to invest in your business idea through their own investments.
Again: focus on being useful first and then monetize later on.
Have a niche market strategy by focusing on multiple niches at the same time
Many business owners think that they should pick one target market and only cater to that one niche; but this approach could be very dangerous if your main product/service is not appealing enough for customers in only one niche market.
A better strategy would be focusing on multiple niche markets at the same time but targeting them all differently: segment them based on geography/city/region, demographics (age groups), behavioral patterns (liking certain types of content), but try not to segment them too narrowly because if you only target people within a specific city who like specific types of content from specific age groups, then chances are good that no one else will want what you have rather than trying to be everything for everyone, focus instead on getting as many people to see you and your content as possible and then allow them to self-select themselves into one of the niches that you present to them.
Now, if this strategy fails, then it’s obviously because your content is not good enough or you are not reaching out to the right people (yet) — so just keep on trying new angles until you find something that works.
The best way to be successful is to focus on doing things that are useful or interesting to others first and then figure out how you can make money off it later on.
Building up trust and a good reputation is also important before asking for money from others, and the best way to do that is by building up a good reputation before you start asking for money.
Lastly, don’t try to be everything for everyone; instead, focus on a niche market strategy by segmenting your market according to different parameters (geography, demographics, behavioral patterns) but don’t segment it too narrowly — this will give you something concrete to talk about with your potential customers as well as investors.
About the Author
I am the Founder of Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co), a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and angel investor in other Startups of my other interests (Proptech, Fintech, HRtech, Ride-hailing, C2C marketplaces and SaaS). You can also find me on Cudy for early-stage Startup Founder mentorship and advice.
You can connect with me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderlhk) and let me know that you are a reader of my Medium posts in your invitation message.