When athletes race, the winner will be decided long before the crack of the starting gun. Elite performers know preparation is essential - Training. Diet. Race strategy. When the gun fires the athlete should be peaking and ready to hit maximum speed.
This is the same in the startup world.
Aspiring entrepreneurs have game-changing ideas. However, the lack of preparation means even strong propositions can fail. Entrepreneurs are so keen to launch, they omit critical stages.
Like an athlete with massive potential, but tight hamstrings, they'll pull up before they really get going — and lose a race they were meant to win on paper.
To ensure all startups have the best chance to succeed I founded BizNest.
A startup validation platform for entrepreneurs to test the viability of innovative ideas.
Want to learn how? Read on!
So firstly, let’s take a deep dive into the problem, and understand why so many startups fail in the first place.
There are many reasons for startups failing, but the biggest reason (by far) is because they build a product with no market need, as demonstrated from this research by CB Insights:
Ultimately, the main reason startups fail is because they don’t validate the market demand for a product, before diving into building it. So why do many startups build a product without a need in the market? Why is this you ask? There are three main reasons:
The majority of founders will have gained some form of experience working for an established business (note I said business, not startup).
Established businesses repeat a business model that already works. Subsequently, their main goals are focused on executing a plan, and becoming more efficient.
By contrast, startups are searching for a business model that works. Consequently, the goal of the founder in an early-stage startup is to learn, and not to blindly execute a plan.
This table below, created by The Power MBA shows some of the key differences between ‘Low Uncertainty’ (established) and ‘High Uncertainty’ (startup) businesses:
The core difference is that in an early-stage startup you are trying to learn what works, and not simply executing a plan of what you believe will work.
This required approach for innovation goes against what many founders have already learnt in the corporate world. Understanding the goal of a startup, depending on the stage it’s at is vital for creating something viable.
Creating an innovative product requires frequent experimentation. The goal is to run small experiments to test your assumptions with real customers. As you can imagine this churns out a lot of data; managing all of these insights, and crucially knowing what to do with them, is tough.
Key insights from customers get lost along the way and founders proceed to build a product that isn’t centered around their customers.
There are also different skill sets required at different stages, which is why having a diverse and competent team is paramount. This brings me to the third reason...
Successfully launching a business requires a lot of support. Even a seasoned entrepreneur will need to utilise others for guidance, funding and carrying out certain tasks. Support is a broad area and we define it at BizNest as all of the key people who will support you along your journey. This may include:
Knowing who to bring on and when is no easy feat, especially if you’re a first-time founder. The way a startup is presented, who is involved, and the traction they have gained all play a big factor in the startup's ability to build its dream team.
Ok, there’s lots of support available, so let’s take a look at what’s already out there to help navigate the startup maze!
For the above 3 points, there are existing solutions that can provide support.
Incubators can provide fantastic support for early-stage founders. They combine a structured program with mentorship, and at the end may even have a ‘demo day’ where program graduates can connect to investors.
Programs typically lasts around 12 weeks and are combined with guidance from experts at certain stages to provide bespoke feedback.
Many incubators will specialise in certain industries e.g. cyber security, AI, or FinTech. Incubator programs can be free or paid and the benefits provided really depend on the nature of the program.
Over the last 20 years or so, there’s been a real insurgence of entrepreneur support programs within business schools and universities. They operate similarly to incubators but tend to be less structured. They focus on providing connections to seasoned advisers and investors who can help to support talented teams of graduates.
There are a plethora of resources online to help entrepreneurs. Most of these offer guidance on how to develop an innovative product, along with a community to connect with other founders. The main communities that are active and worth their salt are:
Over 80% of startups are created by first-time founders and the challenge for most entrepreneurs is they don’t know what kind of support they need. We’ve seen many founders with an app idea immediately want to hire a CTO, before conducting any market or customer validation!
Innovation does have a clear process, which is taught successfully in top Incubator programs. The lack of this process in a digital environment means that founders are left feeling lost and overwhelmed from online resources. Connections created online are suboptimal as the stage and current challenges of a founder are not fully understood.
There are Incubator programs and University Business Schools providing fantastic support, but only 1.8% of UK startups get into Incubator programs and Business Schools require a significant fee and time commitment. This leaves the majority of entrepreneurs without the necessary support.
So what exactly is BizNest?
We are a startup validation platform that helps early-stage startups and innovation teams to properly undertake the process of building an innovative product. Specifically we help them to:
This is achieved by combining three core offerings:
We created our workflow by combining the best practices from Innovation Frameworks such as Design Thinking and Customer Development.
Essentially, an Innovation Framework outlines the required steps for creating an innovative product, and are typically applied depending on the stage of the startup, as indicated by this graphic from Gartner:
My team pleaded with me not to include the above infographic, but I thought it helped to illustrate the point that one framework does not fit all and the best approach to building a startup is to use a blend of the best practices.
How, why and where we’ve used different frameworks for the BizNest workflow is something we are going to cover in more detail in a further post, so watch this space!
There have been many Innovation Frameworks created and whilst they differ in some ways they typically share one core principle:
All innovative startups are surrounded by risks. To make the venture a success the founder/s must successfully identify the key risks and then test these in the market with real customers.
With this in mind, here are the 3 main steps we took when creating our workflow:
This is what we’ve ended up with:
At each phase in the workflow, the founders must focus on validation by identifying and testing key risks with the market or customers.
Don’t get me wrong, education is important, but it only solves part of the problem. The web is full of guidance on how to build a startup but very few resources that actually provide a tool to make tangible progress.
We’ve embedded into our platform a mechanism for running experiments and then storing customer and market insights all under one roof:
This key feature ensures that as founders move through the workflow they actually move the needle towards validating their idea.
Exactly how is done will be covered in our next post, which will be focused entirely on the first step of Risk Identification. (Subscribe below
Management might sound dull, but we promise this process will be fun and engaging! Imagine building a viable startup being as fun as playing a game.
Something we are looking into...
We are building a network of mentors and active investors to help support startups. Connections are made based on the startups’ stage, industry, market type and their current challenges. Our workflow gives context to connections; all users within the ecosystem will have a more detailed understanding of how and where to find the right support.
You may have heard the expression ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ - this could not be more applicable than in the startup world.
A diverse and experienced team is much more likely to build a successful business. Period. Our skills matrix outlines the core skillsets required to build an innovative product. Once founders have mapped out their own attributes, they can then identify gaps that need filling and source these via our network.
Startup teams tend to consist of core skill sets and characteristics and while our matrix is still in R&D mode, I can reveal we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the ‘Hipster, Hacker, Hustler’ personality types:
“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team”.
Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn
The vision for BizNest is to create a better world.
Innovation is the primary force that’s improving life on earth and we want to accelerate this by democratising the tools and support network for entrepreneurs.
This democratisation will empower entrepreneurs in all corners of the world to fulfil their potential, in-turn creating a better existence for everyone.
Our dream is to give the single mum in Ghana access to the same resources as the MBA graduate in Silicon Valley.
You will benefit from BizNest’s platform if you:
We are launching our Beta product in October 2021! If you’d like to sign up to our waitlist, and stay in the loop about future blog posts then please sign up below:
Our next post will outline how an entrepreneur can use BizNest to reach the first milestone in our product: ‘Customer-Problem Fit’. This first step ensures that founders test the problem they are solving is valid, and identify their early adopters.
This stage is frequently overlooked and is one of the core reasons for startup failure!
Until next time!
The BizNest team