10 Steps to Bootstrapping a Startup
Starting up cannot be a flash in the pan. There are many impediments in the way of an an entrepreneur from converting his idea into a successful business. Capital, market research, finding a niche, identifying a team are some of them. Here are 10 steps that can help an entrepreneur bootstrap a startup and provide structure to the process.
Step 1: Ignite your passion: Bootstrapping a startup does not start with great ideas but with a passion to make a mark and solve real business issues. While an idea is very important to do a startup, the best ideas will fail if there is no passion to execute it. A startup needs a huge amount of personal sacrifice and an equal amount of hard work. There will be many days when a founder questions his move to be an entrepreneur and hence at such stages, passion is needed to carry on.
Step 2: Research your idea – Sometimes an idea should remain only an idea. This is the stage where a founder determines if his startup can grow to become a real business. Startup is not a charity and for a founder it is very important to determine if the idea solves a real problem, has an addressable market and people are willing to pay for it.
Step 3: No Plan B: A founder has to realize that a startup is a full time job. Very often than not a startup where the founder is moonlighting fails to take off. A startup cannot be bootstrapped as a plan B where the founders have attempted to work on their startup idea part time while working on their full time job. Plan your startup by taking all things into considerations. Ideally, if a founder can have a year’s expense in savings, it provides a great cushion to execute the startup without having to fret.
Step 4: Identifying the niche – Every idea must solve a problem in the society or provide utility. It is only when the product or service is really needed that someone is willing to pay for it and the business is sustainable. The entrepreneur needs to focus on specifics and pinpoint how his product or service would bring about change. If an entrepreneur can find an underserved market or can solve a pain point for a category of people or business, it will serve as a sweet spot. It is, however, advisable that the entrepreneur targets a niche that he understands and provides a service or a product that he has knowledge about.
Step 5: Defining the market – Once the need is identified, it is important to define what constitutes the target audience. This can be done on age, gender, religion, interests, where they reside among a host of other factors. Every market is different and it is very important that the founder maps out every aspect of the target audience. The more specifics and narrow an entrepreneur can get in terms of defining the market, the better are the chances of the startup succeeding.
Step 6 : Getting the right team : A founder cannot do a startup alone. Every entrepreneur needs a team to execute the idea and sometimes finding the right team is more important than a brilliant idea. The best laid plans can come to naught if the team behind it is not right. A founder should look for people who can compliment his skill sets so that all bases are covered.
Step 7: Creating your first prototype – Whatever may be the nature of the startup it is very important to get a working prototype of the key elements. This will be the starting point for the founder from which he can look to improve his product or services. A prototype is very important also because one does not want to incur huge expenses by building the final version and later finding flaws in it. Even in terms of raising money, investors always want to see a working prototype.
Step 8: Finding your first unpaid customers – Unpaid customers are needed primarily for two reasons. The first being once you have a final version of your product or service ready, the real feedback comes from your customers. Unpaid customers can be a great source of feedback where you get to know the good and the bad about your product or service and hopefully iron out the bad ones. Unpaid customers are more tolerant since they are not spending anything and if your product or service is great, they can also be a very good source of word of mouth advertisement.
Step 9: Prepare to scale – Many startups fail to scale, primarily because they have not planned for it. In its infancy, things are easier to manage for a startup, but teething problems begin when a startup grows bigger and starts addressing the higher volume of clients or consumers. A founder should plan out his execution strategies for scaling up – monthly, quarterly and even yearly. This way he ensured the customer experience is never compromised.
Step 10: Go to market – Timing is the key when launching a product or service. Founders are under tremendous pressure to quickly roll out their services and products, but what is important to understand is that one has to be ready for it. From your marketing to servicing to hiring, all bases have to be covered. More importantly, if an entrepreneur has found the prototype is not having the desired outcome, it only means he is not ready to go to market yet.