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Developing and creating a startup can be a daunting thought, with many entrepreneurs wondering where to start and how to expand their business model.
These basic eight tips provide a starting point for budding entrepreneurs and startup founders
Von Seidels, an intellectual property firm established in 2007 has provided a few basic tips of advice on how to scale up a startup. Beginning as a startup, Von Seidels is now one of the leading intellectual property firms in Africa.
Eight practical tips
1. Be original
Before you start moving forward with your business idea, check that someone else is not already doing it for your target market and location. The most effective method to analyse the investable and ‘selling’ point of one’s business product is to conduct in-depth research. Researching online if the domain name, product, or service you are offering already exists or is a unique offering.
2. Test the water
The best focus group to test your product is family and friends. Before you rush to market your service or product offering, test one’s business name in the ”would-be” market, ideally with other peers. Gathering data through this method can assist in improving one’s product or service and or contributing to new ideas for one’s business model.
3. Build your village
As the metaphor goes, ”it takes a village to raise a child”, the same concept must be applied to creating a startup as it provides the foundational support for the startup. One can create a community of support through insight from co-founders, partners, mentors, and other entrepreneurs. Each person will offer valuable insight and provide a sounding board to share one’s ideas and concepts.
Networking, start-up, and industry events give you opportunities to meet and socialise with entrepreneurs and experts. Word of mouth is free and effective for growing your business. Having people meet you and know what you do is important exposure.
4. Public speaking
Sharing your business idea and purpose convincingly and comfortably is crucial.
The best concept to apply when sharing your business concept with others is adopting the ‘elevator pitch’, where you are able to explain your business in a nutshell to someone in 30 seconds.
If speaking to others fills you with dread, start small – practise on family, friends, small events, and audiences.
5. Utilise free tools
There are a range of free tools and services at your disposal and can be used during the early stages of startup development.
A clear example of this is to register the company and open a bank account, this will indicate if the business name is available from a legal standpoint. Other free services that can assist in optimising business workflow and development include Gmail, documents, spreadsheets, etc.
Free marketing tools including MailChimp, designed for email marketing will help to market your startup digitally. Applications and webpages such as Zoho, Hubspot, and Insightly are tools used for customer relationship management.
Another important tool to utilise is social media, implement and generate a social media strategy to create an online presence, increasing one’s audience and customer database. Google analytics will assist in tracking the traffic generated on your website and provide critical insight into how you can improve your product or service both in raw product development and an online presence.
6. Attain scalable systems
Invest in reliable, scalable systems from the beginning as you will need these to expand with your business. Many systems and software tools have free or low-cost versions for start-ups which you can easily upgrade and add functionality to as you grow.
7. Legal protection
Protecting your company’s IP is essential. Trademarks, copyrights, designs, patents, know-how, trade secrets, domain names, image rights, data, and privacy policies are all forms of IP that can be protected.
There are simple and cost-effective techniques that will help protect your core IP assets.
Secure your crucial IP first – such as having a copyright assignment template for service providers and registering IP assets that are time-sensitive. The rest you can acquire and tailor as your business evolves.
8. Record agreements
Set up a clear, legally-sound agreement with your co-founders or partners at the beginning stages of the business development. Draw up confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and invention assignment agreements. These NDA’s can also be implemented once the startup has employees or freelancers to ensure that the intellectual property and trade secrets remain intact.
It is important to note that agreements can be contained in an email chain. It is also advised to confirm one’s understanding of all conversations with a follow-up email.
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