Launching a startup is exciting. But it is also nerve-wracking. The uncertainty of plunging into the deep end of the unknown can be scary – especially if you’re lacking the right tools needed to succeed. But what exactly are these tools deemed ‘necessary’? And what makes one startup more prone to success than another? A panel of representatives from both local startups and large corporations gathered at Mindspace Hamburg to discuss just that, and dig deeper into the world of startups. Here are our takeaways:
A winning team is the #1 asset to any startup
Forget about timing, product, or market. When questioned as to what the most valuable asset was for a startup – panel speakers gave a resounding one-word answer: A team. Sabela Garcia of Next Media Accelerator said that a strong team is key, and that “even if a product is subpar, a great team will find a way to do something great.” Oliver Rößling of 12min.me emphasized that to create a functional product you need a “proper team,” which, according to Melanie Schütze of Alsterloge is a perfect example of pro-creation: To bring a product to life you need to test it, and for that you need a team. “It’s all about letting people give their input,” she said. #teamwork for the win.
You’ve got a long way to go to success – even once your MVP is launched
It takes a lot to launch a good product. To make sure that your product actually gets past the beta phase and has a long life-cycle, be prepared to make changes. “Most startups start with lousy products, said Oliver Rößling. The good product only comes later, after you build upon your MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Jeremy Abbett from Google stated the difference between startups and big companies: startups, at times, mess up. But they learn from their mistakes, and they grow from it. “Startups really want to try things out,” he said, and it is this willingness that differentiates them from the crowd in the long run. Agnes Leder of Lemonaid said that the key to long term success is a mixture of vision and “having a really good idea,” – testing the product is key and having employees come together to do so is needed for product success. Martin Gardt of Online Marketing Rockstars emphasized the importance of offering something fresh – it’s all about “having an idea that adds something to the experience of people.” So go on, find the added value people! And listen to the heart’s desires of your customers.
Don’t raise money for the sake of raising money
It’s easier to raise money in the US than it is in Europe. At least Jeremy Abbett thinks so. “US is a country of pioneers,” he said, which explains why entrepreneurship is so big in the states. But in Europe, “people want to take little risk.” And trying to take risk is, in itself, considered risky. The startup ecosystem and infrastructure is not as mature, making it harder to fundraise in the German market. Well, that makes things complicated.
Remember though, fundraising doesn’t have to be your go-to. There are two ways to launch a startup: one, is DIY (do-it-yourself and take on all the risk), or two, take money from others. Abbett said he’d go the DIY route since, “if you’re in a startup just to make money then you shouldn’t be in it.” A startup is like a romance, he said, and you should be in it for purpose, not revenue. Carolin Hoyer of Unilever begged to differ. She said revenue and purpose could coexist side-by-side. “It’s not all about revenue,” she said, but also about doing social good.
Oliver Rößling threw out a golden rule he picked up from an investor in the US: “you shouldn’t raise money for the sake of raising money.” Why? Because remember, “once you raise money, it’s not your risk anymore. It’s owned by someone else.” And remember, for the investment firm or accelerator, the bottom line is all about the money, said Sabela Garcia. And your vision may get lost in the moneymaking machine.
So what’s more important, purpose or profit? You decide. It’s clearly up for debate.
Content marketing is where it’s at with B2C
When it comes to online marketing for B2C, giving people value beyond just product selling is key, said Martin Gardt. There is a shift away from selling advertising space and towards giving people valuable targeted marketing content. “You don’t need a big budget for that,” said Carolin Hoyer, “any good marketing campaign starts with good insight,” which leads to great targeted content. The perfect example? Dove – with its ‘Real Beauty’ campaign.
Oliver Rößling said that nowadays, the focus for B2C is content marketing. “Companies are buying articles,” and using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to promote their products in posts created by influencers with 200K+ followers. And that’s what works. Content marketing is all about asking yourself: “what do people really want?”
‘Go disrupt yourself or be distruptive’
We set out to discover what the nature of a relationship is between big corporations and startups. Is it harmonious? Competitive? Do they nurture a relationship characterized by harmony and foster the others’ growth? Or do they just look for opportunities to knock each other down? How can they coexist and learn to profit from the other? Carolin Hoyer answered. She said it’s all about this quote: “go disrupt yourself or be disruptive.” If a startup disrupts the market, it’ll spur the interest of the large corporation; a corporation will want the disruptive startup on its side for its differentiated approach. It’s an opportunity to enrich the brand portfolio. #classicexample.
Sabela Garcia, pretty much says this is rare, though. It takes a while to get a large corporation to meet with a startup – they often show interest yet don’t follow through. And this should change in order to help startups get moving.