Power-up your start-up


#1

So you’ve got an idea. The Idea. It’s got legs and you’ve got a start-up. Now what? Are you ready to grow it? How do you know?

There are many types of ‘readiness’ when it comes to business. Possessing internal qualities like passion about your business and a drive to succeed, as well as a commitment to weathering the highs and lows of self-employment are a no-brainer. Having the skills to bring your idea to life and the experience or networks to support your endeavour is another. If you possess these qualities, you’re halfway there. Another type of readiness, one of the most important (if not the most important), is preparation and planning. Before you venture into the world of start-ups, you should have established a plan. Once you’ve got one, you’ve got a starting point. The start of a start-up, if you will.

Having a clear plan and having done the thinking behind your business is one of the main things the selection committee for BNZ Start-up Alley looks for. Start-up Alley, held every year at Webstock, is a celebration of New Zealand start-ups who want to scale rapidly, those doing social enterprise work, and those seeking to establish themselves as long-term, sustainable businesses. The prize package is extensive, and is an amazing springboard for businesses looking to scale and grow their enterprise.

The application requirements are pretty simple: be a New Zealand business, have 5 or less employees, be in the web/technology or social enterprise industry and have a working concept or product for your start up business relevant to these industries, and be able to demonstrate a clear direction and purpose.

Believe it or not, the ‘demonstrate a clear direction or purpose’ is often what applicants (and emerging businesses in general) struggle with.

This is where the plan comes in. It gives your business a path, and serves as a guide to keep you on track. It’s what the Start-up Alley selection committee will be looking out for – that you have a vision, know where you’re going (or, at least, where you want to go) and have (some) idea of how to get there.

Here are some of the questions budding entrepreneurs (in fact, any business owner) should be able to answer about their business:

  • What does your business do and/or provide? What problem are you solving?
  • Who are your customers? Who are your potential customers? Do you know them well?
  • Who are your competitors? And how do you stack up against them?
  • Who have you got on your team? What resources do you have at your disposal?
  • What’s your revenue plan? If you were to get an injection of capital, how would that money be spent?

So you know you’re ready. What now?

Take the plunge and throw your hat in the ring at Start-up Alley. We know it can be a daunting task to put together a 5-page application, so here are some tips from the selection team.

Keep it clear and concise, but be sure to include the following:

  • What the product is
  • Who’s behind it
  • What the market is
  • What you have done so far in terms of building/launching/selling
  • How will you use the prize money
  • What is the growth/revenue plan

Things that excite our selectors:

  • Businesses where there is a genuine market for what they are producing or offering – it can be niche, as long as it exists!
  • Products or services that are easy to explain to others
  • Businesses with a genuine business/revenue model in place
  • Transparency around numbers
  • Unique ideas

Things that annoy our selectors:

  • Not tailoring the application to fit the competition you are entering – don’t just submit your standard brochure
  • Spelling mistakes and typos
  • Broken links
  • Irrelevant information – don’t pad it out, just because you can. You don’t have to use all 5 pages!

Once you’ve submitted your application, check out our blog from last year on perfecting your business pitch.

We have done the draw for the two tickets to Webstock ’16 but be sure to read everyone’s _ anecdotes and advice about starting out in business in the comments below. _

 


#2

Ask yourself: am I solving a real problem, or manufacturing a problem to fit the solution I want to build?


#3

Know your customer - what they like, what they don’t like, where they hang out online, and especially what problem of theirs you can help them solve. Everything you do flows on from that.


#4

Next year we are setting up a magazine similar to the big issue magazine that is sold in the UK. The structure will most probably be a non-profit organisation or charity. The magazine will be sold by the underprivilleged that need a hand to get started in small business and who want to improve their lives. The contents of the magazine will be promoting the community and community events and provide oppotunities for people to learn real life skills so they can improve their financial wellbeing and start their own great businesses. The revenue model will be developed and taught to others.

My “plan” may not fit a traditional business model or the start-up Alley criteria so I decided to post it here instead. But it will address some of the “real problems” in our community that are not being addressed like crime and poverty.

The real purpose of business is to create jobs and wealth for others so our whole community benefits.  My plan will bring members of the community together and that will be in allignment with the goals that people want for our community and that is a safe and fun place to live. When those things are put first then everything else falls into place.


#5

I think the hardest thing about starting up is tenacity. You have to ignore the opinions of others (particularly others who have given up on their own dreams and have now committed to tearing others down).

When I first started, I had a boss who was so supportive to my face, but spent hours tearing me down to others. That has left me in a position of whenever I want to give up (and believe me, I’ve wanted to give up heaps), I think of her. And when I think of her it gives me the burst I need to keep going.

Entrepreneurship is ups and downs, it’s dozens of things that don’t work until you find the thing that does. It’s the tenacity to keep going, to keep evolving, and to keep the blinders on to the haters that makes a success.


#6

A business plan is an essential tool here, not just for start-up, but as the architecture of your goals and progress.

But you should also analyse whether or not you’ve got the right kind of personality to go into business. If you’re a worrier, you like security, having a ‘normal’ job, receiving a pay check each fortnight or you like structure and having other people make decisions for you, then going into business for yourself is probably not the best decision. So it’s importatnt to take a good look at yourself and be honest about whether or not it’ll suit you.


#7

Always, always, always get someone else to read through any content you’re producing, to make sure that what you’re writing makes sense not just to people within the industry but also those outside it. 


#8

Have a clear vision for your product, what you want it to be, how you want others to see it and feel about it. Write it down and refer to it often.


#9

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

  • Winston Churchill

#10

Self-awareness is really important. Admit what you don’t know, and ask for help.


#11

Know who your customers are and what they want. Then give them what they want.


#12

Having seen friends and workmates enter the world of digital start-ups, I’ve realised that one key to success is knowing when to trust yourself, and when to ask for help. You’re doing your own thing because you’re commited to it, and good at it. But there’ll be parts of running your business that aren’t like that. Perhaps you’re great at building things, but marketing or sales makes your skin crawl. Maybe you love the Big Idea and making useful industry contacts, but you don’t get the same rush from sweating over tiny product details.

The sooner you identifiy the things that aren’t your calling (and ideally find a way to not spend your time on them), the better. You only have so much energy, so direct it where it’s most valuable. Ideally, find people with a passion for the stuff that you don’t enjoy, and get them to help fill the gaps between you and and a great business.


#13

Be realistic about how long it will take to get your business off the ground. Lots of work, focus, tenacity, etc. is required up front with little reward - outside of the satisfaction of doing your own thing.


#14

Start it while you’ve got passion and before paralysis of analysis kicks in. Whether it’s your own over thinking or that of others, it’s important to concentrate on opportunities.


#15

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” - Yoda, Jedi Master


#16

In business it is important to ‘back everything up’. Assumptions (with research), coworkers (with support), websites (with data), strategy (with the big picture) and talk (with action).  


#17

Start with a clear Vision of what you want to achieve.

Understand your Mission. Why you get out of bed to do it.

Be clear about your Values with which you’ll run the company, make decisions and hire people by.


#18

Fear is the enemy of progress. Either ignore it or treat it as your enemy - Somebody important


#19

Best piece of advice I would give is to ensure (if possible) to get a fixed price contract with your development team, software will always go over budget, blow out timelines and take longer than you ever expected. There are always bugs, issues to sort out along the development path. So be prepared for that!


#20

pray, pause, and pray somemore