The 4 stages of your startup journey: Introduction


The 4 stages of your startup journey: Introduction

This is an edited crosspost from Nuwait.

Every startup journey is unique in the time it is created, the circumstances in which it exists, and the blend of personalities that bring it to life.

But beneath the unique experiences lie a common pattern that ties all startup journeys together, including your own.

In the first part of the series about the startup journey, we'll explain what the four stages are to any startup, what challenges to expect at each stage, and what to prioritize and focus on.

Haider Al-Mosawi talking to Nuwait about Sirdab Lab's mission in Kuwait. (Image via Nuwait)

As a cofounder of Sirdab Lab, the first startup hub in Kuwait, we worked closely with startup founders for over two years, and I see startups going through the same sequence of steps and struggles again and again.

In an effort to help our community members focus on what truly matters to them - where they are - we had to spell out this pattern so that everything we offer at Sirdab Lab had a clear audience. This first part of this series is an overview of the entire startup journey.

Stage 1: Explore

Not everybody who wants to be an entrepreneur knows what they want to build.

Those blessed (and cursed) with an entrepreneurial spirit know that they want to create something that doesn't currently exist. They're experiencing quiet (or not-so-quiet) dissatisfaction with their lives, and they believe they have a lot more to give and contribute to the world.

But many of us have a multitude of interests we want to pursue, and a variety of problems we want to tackle. This leaves us feeling scattered and overwhelmed.

Trying to decide what to work on and commit to leads to a bottleneck situation where we end up doing nothing as all our ambitions compete for our time, attention, and effort.

In this stage you want to explore your options, before you decide on which you want to commit. You shouldn't simply focus on what brings you joy, but you must also consider who would find the product or service you are creating useful (i.e. your target market) and how many of those are out there in the world? Without customers, you’re pursuing a hobby, and not a business.

Stage 2: Plan

If you don't have any business experience, or if you're venturing into a space you're not familiar with, then planning is indispensable.

However, you should also know that planning never ends because there's always more to learn about and consider. You don't want to cripple your ambitions with over-thinking or imagining that you must have everything figured out before you take a single step forward.

You must accept that you won’t know everything there is to know about your customers and their needs before you have a product to show them. To reduce your risks, you can start by talking to potential customers and understand their pains and needs. What emotions are they expressing online? What are they asking for? 

Once you have a good idea of the problems your potential customers are facing and what they’re currently using and buying, you can move on to the next stage.

Remember: Your customers don’t buy your ideas or your ambitions, your goals or your dreams. They buy tangible products, services, and experiences you offer to them. And if you get stuck planning, you will not be creating something valuable your customers can buy and make use of.

Stage 3: Build

It's a lot easier to talk about entrepreneurship and get excited about it than it is to actually start building something, and figuring out whether it'll work out or not. The vast majority of the population never make it to this stage, and the vast majority of those who do make it to this stage never see it through to the end.

You don't want to build half a business. 

You don't want to build half a product. 

You want to build something that's valuable enough to attract customers. To do that you need to know what features to prioritize and when to share your offering with your audience. 

Not having an ambitious product means you will likely not garner enough attention to make it successful. And having an overly ambitious product will likely mean that you'll never end up launching in the first place. 

Clarity is key here. What should your product (or the first version of it) look like, and when will you start offering it to the world? Here comes the importance of user experience design and you can read more about it on a previous article on Nuwait

Stage 4: Expand

Once you have your offering ready, you will want to increase the amount of customers you serve. Expansion can be within the same market or into other markets.

In either case, it's essential that you understand each market you're targeting, and the factors that lead to success in it. What's the culture like? What's the business environment like? What is the competitive landscape like?

Your own startup journey

Now that you know what the four stages are, it's important to recognize where you are on your journey. Stay tuned to read more about each stage in the upcoming articles. 

Which stage are you in and what are you currently struggling with? Leave a comment with your personal experience below.

Feature image via Infomoney.

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