Agile Startup, eight important things you need to know

agile startupThere is nothing harder and emotionally gut drenching than starting a new company or business. Managing startups is like having a baby that never sleeps nor stops eating! You can’t take your eyes of your new baby for a second and if you make a mistake, it could be fatal. Such is the early days for those who start a new venture.  If you think you will launch a startup and will be an overnight success, I hate to layout it our to you, your chances are less than wining the lottery. You need to prepare your self and your startup to be agile ad work for long hours, doing mundane work which you don’t like and multitask like crazy just to have a chance to make it. In short you have to be an agile startup. I have listed eight important things you need do to improve your chances of success in startup world. Remember overnight success is just a myth, most successful startups get there by hard work, great planning and following a good thought out plan.

1-Plan but be flexible

In startup world you need to plan and plan well, but at the same time be flexible to modify your plan or come up with a totally new plan in short notice. In short you need to be an agile startup.  When you make plans, you don’t have all data and some of the data you have is wrong. In addition market conditions change rapidly specialty in tech world. To be successful you need to plan and change it as soon as new conditions shows you initial assumptions where not 100% right. This means you and your organization need to be agile. In fact most startups these days have realized the value of agile methods in planning and execution. A good place to start is to use a tool that helps you plan and develop in agile mode. there are a few online project management software options in the market which support agile methodology.

2-Find a co-founder that complements your weaknesses

Nobody can do it alone, you either need money to hire the right people for key positions or use equity in the company to attract people you need. Try to find a co-founder who brings new talent and expertise in the areas which you have little experience or you know you have weakness. If you and your co-founder have the same expertise and come from the same background then one of you might be one too many. In agile startup there are no overlap job functions, you need to be lean and agile to survive.

3-Keep an eye on the cash-burn

Like blood in human body, money is the blood of business. Startups because of their low cash situation and low credit are always in danger of running out of money and forced to close down. Keep an eye on the money you spend and only spend if you can determine the expense is 100% justified. Always keep an eye on your burn rate and make sure you have cash in hand for at least six months of operations.

4-Hire the best and make them a stakeholder in your Startup

You need the best brains for you startup. You can’t compete in pay. Bigger and more established companies have more cash and reputation than you. The way to attract top talent is to make them stakeholder in your company. You ca use stock grants or options to give key employees a piece of the business. One more thing about hiring, Be agile in your hiring too. Just hire people that you absolutely need in your business. The larger the organization it gets in an startup, the harder it becomes to manage and get things done.

5-Aim for your Agile startup’s MVP

MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. Why MVP is important, you might ask? Because as a startup you need to get to market as fast as possibly you can. You don’t know what exactly the market needs and your definition of a complete or ideal product or service may not be what your customers need or willing to pay for. By releasing your minimum viable product fast, you can test the market as soon as possible and figure out if your ideas are valid or not. MVP also gives you time to focus in the areas where your customers tell your where their pains are. After the launch of the MVP, you can start thinking about the most important features you need to add to your product to capture more market share.

6-Kill your ego or at least leave it outside

Ego and startups are like oil and water, they don’t mix! Leave your ego outside as soon as you enter your startup. Their is no shame for asking for help, advice, money and customers. Your number one job and probably the only job that counts as a founder is to make your startup a success. Remember ego is the biggest enemy of any agile startup and you should learn to get rid of it as soon as you start your new venture.

7-Customer is not always right

There is a saying “customer is always right”. In most cases it is true, but not always. This is specially false when your existing customers ask for new features. Just because one or two customers ask for a certain features, it does not mean those features are what your product needs or is missing. You know your road map, not your customers. Make sure features you add are part of your overall road-map. As an agile startup, you need evaluate trade-offs between features and time to market and what is absolutely needed and what is nice to have.

8-Sell, Sell soon and Sell again

The first day you start your company, start selling. Sell the idea, sell the potential and sell the dream. Most entrepreneurs think they need to wait for the product or service to be ready to start selling it. That is absolutely false. Remember you need to sell your ideas to venture capital investors, to potential customers and to the media. When I started working as an engineer my second job out of college was to work for new startup (I was the forth employee) which was planning to make a new kind of plasma etcher. Plasma etchers are big expensive devices used to make silicon chip. The founder and my boss Arthur W. Zafiropoulo, sold the idea to IBM & HP one year before the product was ready to ship. Think about it, a company only a few months old, with no products and only design on paper selling an expensive piece of equipment to companies like IBM and HP! Art was and is a great entrepreneur who knew how startups should execute.

I hope this is helpful if you are thinking about starting a new venture, just make sure it is an agile startup to increase your chances of success. Good luck!

David Robins


David Robins is the founder and CEO of Binfire. David studied at both Cornell and MIT, and was the Director of Software Engineering at Polaroid for 11 years.


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