As a startup, it’s easy to get carried away with certain aspects of your business and forget or overlook other important factors. And sometimes, by the time you realise this, you could have missed out on great opportunities or have competitors surge ahead of you.
In a discussion with some of 99X Technology’s startups, Kjetil Odin Johnsen, Founder and CEO of the risk analysis software Whatif, shared some pretty useful pointers for all startups to keep in mind:
1. Don't lose focus of your market
Sometimes you're so focused on the product, you can forget about the market you are creating the product for. Be tougher than your heart! Don’t get carried away by your product. Test and draw feedback, always test and improve. Kjetil noted that presenting a MVP of the product via Skype, using videos etc. are great ways of getting feedback if face-to-face interactions are difficult or time-consuming.
2. Pivot, pivot, pivot
Your initial product may not be accepted by your target market. Or a competitor beats you to the finish line. Never be afraid of pivoting, success lies in your ability to be flexible. CoverYa, Kjetil observed, one of his startups, initially was not well received by the market. Many product pivots later, he identified a new market need - having to adhere to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - and aligned CoverYa to deliver precisely that. The product started selling like hot cakes!A good team and the right technology is vital for this, he observed, adding to that, 99X Technology’s use of Serverless in his products has made it very easy for him to pivot as the technology is so easy to change or update.
3. Act fast
When you face a closed door, be quick to draw yourself out and find another space that works for you. Don’t spend too much time in a market you can’t work in. Kjetil in fact enters two to three industries at the same time to speed things up and see what happens! Calls, emails, newsletters - try every way to get your target consumers’ attention. Find where you fit in but remember that unless you have a lot of money, you won’t be able to pursue a market deeply if you can’t make it work for you from the start.
4. Follow up
Always respond to emails and comments from any client or prospect. It's time-consuming but that's where your leads are. Track analytics - digital marketing is of absolute necessity here.Even follow up with customers who’ve left you! Yes, losing customers are the worst. Kjetil says he absolutely hates it but always calls the customer to find out why. It can always give you insights into how your product can be improved. And sometimes, they actually come back thanks to the follow up.
5. Go with your gut feeling
If you gut tells you there’s an opportunity, go for it. However, it can be dangerous and you can lose money! Some market research to support your gut feeling will never go to waste :)Try and meet your customers. It's expensive and time-consuming but it's worth it, especially when your product is an expensive one, adds Kjetil. And don’t be afraid to experiment with your pricing, it’s one of the most difficult things to decide on and needs experimentation to get it right.Kicking off Whatif in 1993 and managing several successful products with no investor support up to date, Kjetil’s living the startup dream: “I wish I was three persons so that I could use my life to create more products - it's a good life!”