By Beth Hacker
If you want to succeed in a startup of any kind, you must be willing to adapt.
A common myth exists that most breakthrough startup success stories started with a crystal-clear, brilliant vision. In reality, most, if not all, ideas have to go through a long series of trial and error. The initial broad idea may (or may not) stay the same, but the exact product that hits the market often looks much different than the original thought, as does the business plan.
We all look in awe at successful startups because they truly stand out. However, nearly all startups fail. Getting the timing and implementation of all the key pieces to align takes careful planning among constant change. These factors include refining the product, sorting manufacturing costs, securing funding, hiring, creating a go-to-market strategy, and creating a business model that can scale when the time comes. Every single one of these steps requires iteration-a cycle of testing, failing, learning, and trying again with improvements.
**Want to take part in our product development process? Try our Sneak Peek Kit today and tell us what you think!**
The best products solve a pain point for a large number of people-especially when those same people can afford to buy your solution. Big companies like Nike and Google go through rapid prototyping on their new ideas, building or drawing a basic version out of the simplest supplies in a day or two. From there, they start testing, asking potential customers for thoughts, and validating if 1) the company correctly sees a real customer problem and 2) if the product solves that problem better than current solutions. Then, they work with manufacturers to help solve specialized needs, such as raypcb services for fast prototyping of boards. Then they would look next to find testers for the product to put it through its paces.
At Explore Interactive, we interviewed and tested intermediate products with hundreds of parents, teachers, and students before creating our current version. Each new version came after a failure but also represented a lesson learned. The very best time to make changes in a company is at the start before too much time and money gets invested in any one direction. After all of this product refinement, we still have work to do on our financial and business models in order to test and launch a full product lineup.
Funding for Startups
Most ventures go through multiple rounds of fundraising. The first phase often includes funding from competitions as well as from friends and family. Startups can also approach companies like Early Growth Financial for assistance with their finances which helps the startups on their way to success. Currently, Explore Interactive is at this stage as we refine our initial product. Outside investors start small because they know the risk is large. As the idea and business continue to develop while further proving the concept, the risk decreases and the likelihood of reward increases. Therefore, professional investors in startups, called venture capitalists (VC), require businesses to meet certain benchmarks before agreeing to provide funds.
The real trick lies in the timing of expenditures given the limited funding while going through the prototyping and market research process. Hire, but carefully and only as needed. Market and sell, but only with specific objectives like building brand awareness and customer research. Customer research is very important, to find out just what they are looking for in a business, Luth Research helps with online market research and the tracking of customers behaviors to see what they are moving more towards.
For a tech company, especially one with a product for sale already (check out the Sneak Peek Kit here!), Explore Interactive has kept the budget relatively trim. We have had to rebuild some of our software due to technical problems like the cards being too large for kids to comfortably reach and still fit them all on the screen, for example. Each revamp requires more funding to pay software developers. One of the lessons learned is that the sooner you can identify a problem with the product, the more likely you are to fix it before running out of money. Staying open to change by accepting small failures actually makes the company more likely to succeed in the long run.
Once the solution to the customer pain develops, companies need to evaluate once again if the finances make sense. What assumptions, such as costs, profit margins, and the cost to gain each customer, have been proven? Before delving into full-on product sales and expansion, the wise startup evaluates if these assumptions make sense. Have we priced the product correctly for our most interested customers, and how can we most readily connect with them? How can we efficiently print cards, store them, track sales, and deliver them to customers?
Our Sneak Peek Kit aims to answer these questions. With each purchase, you take part in the success of a technology that can open doors to STEM careers for all kids. Stay tuned to see what we find out!
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