It's a wild ride. No matter how many startups you have built, no two experiences are alike.
Creating something truly unprecedented means you can't always predict what you'll be working on from one quarter to the next. For many entrepreneurs and innovators, this uncertainty is a source of both excitement and stress. As Richenda Vermeulen, nTegrity Agency, recently mentioned:
The battleground in your head is at times more dangerous than the one out in the world of business. To come out the other side of hard times as a stronger and better entrepreneur, you need more than a strong business model or exceptional marketing – you need to personally evolve, change and grow.
When building a next-generation tech startup, developing strong mental resilience is key. Sure, you can have all the technical knowledge and know-how in the world, but none of that matters if you don't have a clear vision of where you're going or the mental fortitude to help get you there.
Do you have what it takes to survive the startup roller coster? In this article, we'll look at some of the key characteristics every startup founder must possess. Let's get started:
How to Survive the Startup Roller Coaster
1. Be Resilient
For every founder who's celebrating a new round of funding raised, there's another founder who's staring down a new challenge; unfavorable press, astronomical customer acquisition rates, competitors who always seem to one step ahead... Unfortunately, the list of challenges goes on and on.
During these tough times, the most resilient entrepreneurs remind themselves of their long-term vision and draw inspiration from those who have come before them. For example, Bill Gates' first company, Traf-O-Data, was a complete flop. Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Nick Woodman (GoPro), and Evan Williams (Twitter) all have very similar stories. The world's most popular inventions, products, and services were made by men and women who simply wouldn't quit.
2. Maintain Vision
Why do you do what you do?
It's a simple question that isn't always easy to answer. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, is notorious on the speaking circuit for encouraging budding entrepreneurs and seasoned CEOs alike to better articulate their WHY. According to Sinek, your WHY is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do.
Holding a clear vision serves two purposes: First, it provides a filter for daily, if not moment-by-moment, decision making. Second, it empowers you to keep moving forward in the face of current obstacles. That's exactly what Elon Musk did while sleeping on a couch and showering at the YMCA during the early days building Tesla and SpaceX. The innovator was so confident in his vision that he even signed over his last $3 million just to make payroll.
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3. Stay Organized
While keeping an eye on the big vision is important, turning it into a reality involves the execution of many small details. The most successful tech founders are either innately good at organization or they partner with someone who makes up for their lack of organizational skills.
Before you raised your first round, it was probably pretty easy to keep tabs on everyone. With only a handful of people on staff, it's not hard for a founder to keep track of primary goals and objectives. However, the more you grow, the more systems you need to keep everything running smoothly.
Some founders swear by daily, 15-minute meetings. Others are strong proponents of team objectives written on white boards for everyone to see. And most are heavy users of enterprise messaging software like Slack that allow team members to easily communicate throughout the workday. Experiment until you find the processes that work best for your team.
4. Communicate Effectively
One common mistake newbie founders make is hiding startup difficulties from team members. Understandably, they want their employees to feel confident in their position and continue to feel inspired to produce their best work. With that said, most people know what they are signing up for when they join a startup. If you made smart hiring decisions, those individuals will want to help you problem-solve.
So, don't be afraid to communicate with team members when crap hits the fan. Chances are they have the detailed information and feedback you need to strategize more effectively. Besides providing a routine platform for voicing comments and concerns, founders should maintain an open door policy that encourages healthy, two-way communication. The more often you ask team members for their opinions, the more comfortable they will feel offering authentic feedback.
5. Embrace Change
Finally, thriving on the startup roller coaster means embracing change. Building a tech startup is a dynamic project that will evolve as time goes on. In the beginning, you have a lot of untested assumptions.
As you continually gain valuable feedback from customers, employees and data metrics, you will be faced with instances where you must pivot to remain afloat. It's the founders who are the most flexible, without sacrificing their long-term visions, that often reap the greatest rewards.
Take Your Startup to the Next Level
The reality is founding a tech startup takes a lot of work, and most startups fail. However, as we have shown, you can increase your odds of success by implementing the aforementioned tips. Another way to improve the quality of "the roller coaster ride?"
Work alongside likeminded individuals who know exactly what you are going through. Over the past six years, we have seen 18 unicorns and dozens of success stories come through RocketSpace — all of whom benefited from our tech ecosystem. We have found that, on average, tech startups grow at a rate of two to three times faster when leveraging RocketSpace's ecosystem.
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