Most Common Issues Facing Startups Today
At the Tandon Group, we’ve heard at least two startup investment pitches a week over the course of the last 40+ years. We’ve invested in promising startups and passed on countless pitches that didn’t convince us of likely success. In that time we’ve come to recognize common issues that many companies face. Our hope is that by divulging these issues future startup founders can avoid them.
Knowing what not to do can sometimes be just as important as knowing what to do. The issues we’re going to discuss are a major enemy to any startup’s success. In his classic The Art of War, Sun Tzu remarked, “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.” As a startup founder, you’ll be forced to face hundreds of “battles” in the pursuit of growing your company. Remember this fact before you start and it’ll save you a lot of stress over the course of your career. If you can avoid the common issues outlined below, you too might build the next million (or billion) dollar company.
- Issue #1: Doesn’t solve a problem. By far, the number one mistake startups make is building a product or service nobody needs or wants. “Cool” and “quirky” ideas may be fun and even attract notoriety but if that same idea doesn’t solve a problem or make someone’s life better, the novelty will eventually wear off. All successful businesses either solve a problem, improve an existing solution, or create a new market all by themselves.
- Issue #2: Lack of sales. Some startup founders think that a large user base is all they need to be successful. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. While a large, million-person user base can result in a large startup valuation, it isn’t until the company finds a way to extract money out of users that the company produces a profit. Great startups always have an end-goal for producing revenue from their users. If you have an awesome product or service you deserve to charge for it in some way.
- Issue #3: Undercapitalization. This point is tied directly to the previous issue. A startup being undercapitalized (not enough money) is the direct result of not enough sales. If a company is always producing sales in excess of their lost customers they would never go out of business. Most startups need to solidify their revenue generation strategy before they try to expand further. We see this problem even in popular services like Soundcloud which, according to recent reports, only has enough cash to survive 50 days.
- Issue #4: No true leader. When multiple co-founders are involved in startup things can get tricky. Miscommunications, disagreements and large egos can all get in the way of running a successful business. Defining a single leader and true CEO is the only way to structure a company so that decisions (and progress) can be made. This can be one of the hardest conversations you need to have but it can also be the most beneficial.
- Issue #5: “Copycat” business. “We’re the next Facebook…” or “We have the same business model as…” are phrases used all too often in the startup world. If you define your business in terms of how it relates to another business, you don’t have a unique selling proposition. Why is your business different? Why are you unique? You need to be able to answer these questions without even thinking about it. The live-streaming app Meerkat was a perfect example of a company that raised a lot of money, wasn’t truly unique and ultimately went out of business.
- Issue #6: Poor customer service. The customer isn’t always right, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. The purpose of a business is to gain and keep paying customers. Some startup founders believe that customer service is somehow beneath them when, in fact, it’s one of the most important things they could be doing. Upset customers will tell you everything you need to fix, what they don’t like, and what you could improve in your product or service. Happy customers can provide invaluable testimonials that help sell your product to more people. Either way, you can’t ignore feedback.
If you’re able to successfully avoid these major pitfalls within your startup, your chances of success will dramatically increase. The Tandon Group is always interested in helping growing companies get to the next level. If you’re looking to raise capital for your business or expand your offerings within the Indian market please reach out to us. We’d love to learn more about your company and see how we can help.