10 student startup myths busted

There are many myths floating around the student startup ecosystem which can hinder the progress of some great ideas. Here we destroy some of them ….

Startup myth 1: Someone is going to steal your idea if you tell people about it

You probably could not even pay your top competitor to execute your idea – they have plenty of their own. So get out there and talk and test and validate. Execution is the key, not idea generation.

Startup myth 2: You are not an entrepreneur if you are not disrupting an industry or “making a dent” in the world

Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes – well, at least their businesses do. Sure it is good to have an earth-shattering idea that solves all man’s basic problems, but not everyone fits this category.

Renting text books to your faculty at the university, creating a party-finder app, building a bed and breakfast service in your home – these are all perfectly acceptable ventures. What’s more they might still develop into something bigger and at the least you will have learned a lot in the process of building them.

Startup myth 3: Friends and family will be honest and tell you if your idea is bad

Almost never! Your mates and parents want to encourage you and support you. They may hedge their praise of your “brilliant concept” a little, but are unlikely to be brutally honest.

What’s more, you probably would not even hear them if they did give you negative feedback. So listen carefully, speak to strangers or people distant from you to get feedback. Go to those people who are known to be ruthless in their criticism and commentary.

Startup myth 4: If your idea is truly great, your customers will find you
This is so untrue in so many ways. You must start with a real problem that is not being addressed well. You must know who your likely customers are and you must understand how you are going to reach them.

That means making them aware of your new widget, persuading them it is what they really need, letting them know how to get it. Thats the easy part! Next you have to persuade them to part with some money for it too! The startup graveyard is full of great ideas and amazing products.

Startup myth 5: If I read a few key books and articles I can work out the best way to launch, develop and grow my business

Maybe, but you will be one of the few. The problem is there is so much advice out there and a lot (seriously) is rubbish. Even if you can sift through and find the good stuff, you will frequently find conflicting advice. Why? Because what works in one situation might not work in another.

Try and tap into good experience in one way or another – find a mentor, get a good advisory board, go to an accelerator – or at least try and work through a recognised programme.

Startup myth 6: Customers will only use or buy a perfect product with all the necessary features

No. Your early adopters will be happy with something clunky they can play with as long as it is going some way to solving their problem.

What’s more, it is the users who need to guide (note: not tell) you on what features are necessary. The more features you have, the more difficult it is to communicate and sell. (If you have not heard of “minimum value product”, its time you read Ries’: The Lean Startup or signed up to Mashauri).

Startup myth 7: I can do this by myself, I do not really need other founders

At your peril. Of the businesses I have personally started and the hundreds of new ventures that we support, I know that co-founders play a variety of critical roles – from functional to emotional. Sure, you can try by yourself, but you are going to have a much higher chance of succcess if you are sharing the load with someone. (PS pick the right co-founder; but that is another blog all on its own).

Startup myth 8: I do not need to have experience in the problem I am solving
This may be controversial and there will be exceptions, especially for entrepreneurs founding their second or third businesses. But generally it is an order of magnitude easier to work in an area in which you have experience. If you are solving your own problem – even better! Then, if it is something you are deeply passionate about too, then you will have found your own startup sweet spot.

Startup myth 9: Getting the timing right is luck
This may be true in many cases. The point really is that it does not have to be luck. Think about the industry you will be competing in. Look at the trends (macro and micro). Consider where the world is moving to and think about arriving there at the same time.

There are always trends in the startup world (eg Blockchain, Internet of Things, TechHealth) and if your venture is in, or intercepts with one of them, then it will increase your chances of success even if it does mean tougher competition. Surfing on a wave is much easier than swimming out to the break.

Startup myth 10: You have to get angel or VC funding to be successful
The percentage of ventures that receive significant funding is miniscule. There are various ways of doing the calculation, but the number is probably less than one percent and certainly less than three percent (if you are more generous in your definitions).

The vast majority of ventures bootstrap or find other ways of funding their growth. Thats not all bad as once you find out how much ownership and control you have after the VCs have been through a few rounds, you may not want this anyway.

This article by Simon Gifford originally appeared on Mashauri.com and is republished with permission.



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