I have found that some of the best advice I have received has not come from investors or mentors, but instead from other founders in my community. Fellow founders’ perspectives are clearer as they are also like you – chipping away at the mountain of work and having bet all-in on the business to succeed.
Hence, I believe in crowd-sourcing for advice from other founders who are also figuring it out. Helping other startups by paying it forward benefits the ecosystem. Also, mentors and investors can help, but they are often too busy or too concerned about their investment to fully understand a founder’s problems.
Regardless of whatever industries (be it email backup, online marketing workshops or online marketplace for traditional advertising) the startups are in, the list of similar problems faced is endless. I have highlighted five keys areas to get insights on how you can learn from each other.
Common Problem #1: Finding Money
One of the biggest challenges in any startup is in raising money. Beyond the idea, you need seed funding to get started. If the business shows traction, then there is a need for more money to grow. Sometimes, the fundraising efforts never seem to stop.
Founders in other startups can act as a valuable sounding board for your pitch. Their point of view is unique as they can see from both paradigms of investor and entrepreneur. There is much to learn from watching the pitch and perfecting it after repeated revisions.
Also, fellow founders can help make introductions to new and/or existing investors of theirs. They can also act as a back channel to negotiating deals and getting feedback on what is going on. It is a process of karma, and one day you could be in a position to pay back the favor.
Common Problem #2: Hiring and Firing
What better way to know if a new hire is trustworthy or if an existing employee isn’t than asking those in the scene? In corporate HR terms, you’re checking up on references. If there are any bad eggs in the talent pool, it will do everyone good to know.
The collective knowledge about a potential candidate or staff member may give a better picture than just the interview and interactions. With strong or weak recommendations from other founders, it will be easier to decide on rolling out the welcome mat or the sweeping broom.
Startups are usually short on money, but a secret weapon is the equity that they can give to employees. Once again, it is important to get a feeling on the ground of what is being offered in order to be competitive in the market to make the right hires that can spell victory for your business.
Common Problem #3: Marketing
There can be valuable lessons on viral marketing by watching others do it. If a wacky video or QR coupon can work for a similar startup, your business can employ the same tactic. Besides that, sounding out a fellow entrepreneur on your next move can also be beneficial. Perhaps even a tie-up or collaboration can be arranged for both businesses to be marketed together.
Having many years of experience and success in online marketing, I have personally been asked on many occasions if I can give advice on the channels to use. For this very reason I helped start HelpLearn.asia – a series of unprecedented workshops that focus on the real-life implementation of integrated online marketing campaigns. This will distill the essence of online marketing knowledge from founders of various prominent startups.
Common Problem #4: Government
Government regulations are frankly nightmares for most startups. With so many arbitrary rules and legal nuances, it is very overwhelming to do it all alone. You need to manage this as any missteps could spell the end to your business and dreams.
Fellow startups can refer you to the right legal consults and give you advice on how they over come these technical challenges. Often, there are other things that might also be available like grants or tax rebates that aren’t well publicized that you can take advantage of. If you are starting a business out for the first time, you would wish that someone showed you how to avoid the legal quagmires too.
Common Problem #5: PR
Startups are always looking for a bit of free press. The more you and your business are talked about, the more credibility and relevance you get.
Jump onto the networks of fellow startups and ask to be introduced to prominent writers and bloggers. It is a two-way street as the press is always looking for the next big story and the introducer gains from the goodwill.
Common Problems, Common Solutions
As every startup founder knows, there are plenty of difficulties facing them in building the next big thing. With 90 percent of startups failing after the first few years, it is a grim outlook.
However, the path isn’t always a lonesome one. With so many others trudging the same path to startup success, founders know that the best way to get there is to band together. Sharing frustrations, trading secrets and opening doors with each other can make life much easier for everyone.
All in all, it’s a great idea to talk to the people who are facing the same challenges: you might learn so much more.