Top tips: how to create a successful startup
Would you love to start a business, but have no idea where to begin? Yodit Stanton set up OpenSensors to find solutions for her daughter's asthma, and offers her tips for budding entrepreneurs
Yodit’s business, OpenSensors, makes Internet of Things data accessible and useful, enabling anyone to create public or private projects. OpenSensors has featured in Wired.com and Techworld.com, and has enabled thousands of people to use real-time open data. OpenSensors was incubated as part of the ODI Startup programme.
Yodit says: “I found it really frustrating as a developer and a ‘data nerd’ to not be able to investigate whether environmental factors made my daughter’s condition worse. It’s an utterly simple concept but a challenging technical problem underneath it all.”
1. There is no right or wrong way to build a company
There are many ways to build companies and get started – there isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. Some people build products while consulting and others go headlong into product development as they understand clearly the issue they are solving. The best thing to do is figure out what is best for your team and your circumstances.
2. Beware of good and bad advice
A lot of people will offer you advice about what you should do. This can be great and well intentioned but at times it can be noisy. You need to quickly learn how to filter out the bad advice. You also need to learn when you can't take 'good' advice because you don’t have the ability to act on it. For example, you won’t be able to afford to hire the best people in the industry early on. You just have deal with the cards you have in front of you.
3. Be clear on your product or market
A lack of clarity around products or markets can be tremendously dangerous for any company. It’s very important to be able to quickly learn from your customers. Make time for speaking with them, along with your potential partners, to understand what they need, how to target your services and how to take advantage of opportunities to collaborate.
4. Take your customers with you
Hopefully my colleague Chris Taggart from OpenCorporates won’t mind me paraphrasing him. He once said: “Find customers that are excited about and will use your painful first release, because it’s solving a big enough problem for them to bear with you and work on making sure they are happy. After that, find others like them.” In the startup world – when everyone seems to be talking about ‘growth’ and ‘scale’ – this advice is gold.
5. Share your learnings and have a rant
The most valuable support I have is from people that have 'been there and done that'. I spend a lot of time with other startup founders – it’s really the only way to stay sane. We are lucky in that Slack and other communication platforms provide us with semi-private spaces to share learnings and have a rant when we need one. Nurture that support network, as you will need it.
6. Believing in your mission will get you through the hard times
Most startups fail. It’s a fact. And starting a company obviously means taking a leap of faith, but also putting a lot on the line both financially and career-wise. Your company’s mission has to be important for you to get through times when things go wrong – and things will go wrong – and survive. Running OpenSensors has been hugely challenging at times, but I believe in what I’m doing and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
OpenSensors was incubated as an ODI Startup in October 2014. Now two years old and graduated from the programme, OpenSensors maintains a strong relationship with the ODI, a natural partner in fulfilling its real-time open data mission.