Roadmap for the Startup Journey
Once upon a time there was this idea. It was about building something so wonderful, that no one could resist it. And the planets aligned, the good forces got together and made it possible: the idea came to life and made other people happy. And they all lived happily ever after. The end.
Wait, what? Does this actually happen? Well, no, not really. Just forget the end. And the story. Because this is all it is: a story. In real life, none of this happens, but you already know it. In real life, the road from idea to product to a growing business is long and bumpy. With a good map in your hands, there is no reason why you can’t get to your dream destination.
We, ourselves, are still on the road, following the map, adjusting our coordinates and finding the right path. Here’s what we’ve learned so far and how we think a good roadmap looks like:
Starting point: turn the idea into vision. Think about it in terms of “I want to solve this problem for those people and be perceived as…” This will act as a lighthouse to guide your strategy and tactics, no matter the adjustments, which will inevitably occur. We decided to “ease the pain” of cash flow management for small business owners in the creative industries. We wanted to make it more accessible to deal with one of the main reasons for startup failure – poor cash management.
Verify. As harsh as it may sound, make sure that your idea of problem solving will actually raise interest to a good number of people in the market. If it won’t interest people enough to buy it, then it remains just another good idea. Before even starting ThinkOut, we talked to some dozens of people we considered as potential consumers to validate and refine the idea.
Build a team: As an entrepreneur, especially if you’re in the creative industries, gather around you the people who resonate best with your vision. It is important to have good professionals, but even more important to have people who can work well together, are willing to learn, develop and also invest their knowledge, time and enthusiasm into the startup journey.
Plan: sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it? A plan that contains a plan. Still, it is an important step. Right down the necessary actions and a time frame. We had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done, but putting it in writing helped us clarify, assess and we even came up with some better ideas. Planning also refers to finances. Building this cash flow forecasting tool helped us better understand the importance of planning your cash ahead. A study reveals that more than half of small businesses fail in the first 5 years. One of the reasons specialists identified is poor cash flow management.
Build an MVP: once you know what problem to address and how to solve it, you already have a pretty good idea about the features. But building all those features will require a lot of time and resources. You can’t afford to wait that long before starting to generate revenue.
For ThinkOut, our plan includes various features that are meant to make it easier for business owners to manage the cash flow; we want to turn our platform into an intuitive assistant and to offer even further support, especially for business owners in the creative industries who find finances and business administration tedious. But we realized that waiting to have the entire set of features was not a good idea, so we built the main features into the Alpha and the Beta versions which we launched and tested. Gathering feedback helps us immensely to refine the further steps.
Landing page and communication: before launching the MVP, build a compelling landing page and plan the communication. You need as much quality in the presentation, as in the product. Don’t worry, you don’t need anything complicated. Make sure your message is clear, well said and displayed.
Launch the MVP: Make the ready-to-be-used digital product available and announce it to as many people in your target audience as you can. Start with your acquaintances and ask them to spread the word. Build a strong online presence and use direct emailing. Meet with people and talk over a cup of coffee. Encourage them to try the product and give feedback. No strings attached. The feedback we gathered in the early stage of ThinkOut revealed the turns we had to make and where we needed to focus our efforts. We still build upon our public’s reaction.
Adjust and develop: use the feedback to improve, to change where necessary and continue developing more features. Keep an open eye and ear to how users react and continue building the product to match their real needs. Use the market insight to guide your actions. Don’t panic if not everything goes according to the initial plan. Just stay flexible. It is more important to offer what the costumers need.
Funding: Network, connect, and participate in startup conferences and pitches. Talk to potential investors; convince them of the business potential of your product.
Build customer relationship: as your product evolves and the business grows, don’t lose your main focus – your customers. Whatever your future steps will be, remember that your mission is to solve people’s problems, to ease their activity and lives, to offer enjoyable experiences. This is why they keep an interest in your product.
Grow: this step depends very much on each of the businesses approach: either diversify the product, add extra services or address new markets. Just allow yourself to be creative. No matter the way, though, just remember to focus on a real need, to question and confirm your actions and to focus on the customer.
You can check our own roadmap here.