These days, it seems like everyone wants to launch their own startup and become a billionaire. However, the path to success is not always easy. A few Northwestern startup teams can attest to that by sharing their struggles and the lessons they learned from it.
Now that The Garage has established itself on campus, it seems that the startup bug has hit Northwestern!Founding or working in a startup can be an exciting experience, but it isn’t easy. Startup culture, with all of its unicorns and idolization of entrepreneurs, seems to gloss over problems, but even the most successful startups stumble. NBR talked to current student teams in The Garage about their experiences, and what they thought were the most important things to consider when starting a startup. Here are some pieces of advice that these students had for aspiring entrepreneurs.
1. Believe in what you’re doing
Google, one of the most successful startups in the world, had a plan centered around user happiness.
Don’t start a startup for the sake of starting a startup. Have a clearly defined problem that you care about solving. This will help you keep going when things get tough (and they will).
2. Choose your teammates carefully
Though Steve Jobs was considered brilliant, many say that he was a difficult person to work with.
When you decide who you want to work with, don’t make the decision to work with people solely because they’re your friends. Look for people who have the skills and traits your startup needs, and who work well together. Also, don’t be afraid to fire people. Although it may feel bad to fire someone who is slacking off from a small group, it may help to remember that the team’s time and effort as a whole need to be respected as well.
3. Communication is key
We’ve all learned how to take notes in class. Now use those skills at your next startup meeting!
Set meeting agendas and take meeting notes so that nobody’s time is wasted. At the beginning of the startup journey, make sure that everyone is on the same page in terms of why your team believes in solving the problem, and what the team wants out of it. However, goals will change, so it is important to consistently communicate.
4. Don’t be afraid to speak up
Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Ginsberg didn’t always see eye to eye, but that didn’t prevent them from doing their jobs.
(Image courtesy of gwtoday.gwu.edu)
Try to take emotions out of the equation. Don’t be over-aggressive, and don’t be passive-aggressive. It can be difficult not to take things personally, but always keep the goal in mind and know that if someone finds problems with an idea, it is the idea that they want to change, and not you.
5. Know your market
Hackathons are a sprint. Startups, on the other hand, are more like marathons.
Startups are not like hackathons – in the end, someone should want to use your product or service! Know your market, customers, and competitors. Do research and back up your decisions with data. If you don’t really care about profit, that’s fine, but make it clear in the beginning with all of your teammates.
6. Failure is a learning experience
Even the most successful startups are built upon numerous failures, like Angry Birds!
(image courtesy of arkenea.com)
It’s really easy to want to give up when faced with problems. This is understandable, as the success rate is low, and it takes tenacity to get past challenges as a team. In most cases, there is no immediate profit, and sacrifice is required. It can be helpful to view each failure as a lesson that you can benefit from if you persevere and figure out a way to address it.