Thursday, February 26, 2015

Learn from the new startups

Proto by Adamr @

Remember when you started your business?  Did you have a formal business plan?  Did you keep your plans to yourself until you were ready to launch?  Did you want it to be perfect, with all your ducks in a row before you started?

Guess what, that’s not how it’s done these days.  According to Sean Wise, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University, as small business owners we could benefit and learn by adopting some of the strategies used by today’s startups.

At a recent event, he outlined six ways startups are different today.

1.       Startups share, don’t keep it a secret

In the past, a new startup was hush-hush.  Everything about it was kept secret and under wraps until the owner was ready to launch.

Well, not anymore.  As part of the customer development process, the startup lets the customers try it.  In other words, as Wise said, “they get out of the building” and ask what’s working or not.

2.       Startups fail fast and often

The end product or service doesn’t need to be perfect, and so the start up is quite comfortable testing things out, and through this hypothesis testing learn what to do next.  It’s no coincidence, for example, that Amazon sends suggestions to regular customers.  They’ve tested this strategy and found out what is effective. 

Wise’s advice – Let action not assumptions drive your business.

3.       Startups don’t write business plans

Remember that lengthy document – your business plan - that you sweated over before you started your business?  Well no more.  Instead startups now use a business model canvas to scope out their plans.

Using a white board and post-it notes, the “plan” has a fluidity to it which seems appropriate given how much your initial plans can change when starting out, and later down the road.  Samples of the model can be found at

4.   Startups get ready, fire and then aim

They don’t try to be perfect, and instead measure the results of their “launch” and adjust according to feedback.

5.   Startups co create with customers

Instead of approaching the traditional sources of funding – banks, venture capitalists, etc… these startups use crowdfunding as a way to get the necessary funds to start up. This process also involves buy-in from their potential customers, creating a better outcome for their end product/service.

6.   Startups are innovative looking at ways to deliver   

A great example of this innovation, is Netflix.  Instead of going to Blockbuster, picking up a movie, returning it and likely paying the late fees, Netflix came up with the idea of streaming movies and TV series into your home.  You don’t have to go anywhere, and if you want, can binge watch your favourite series for the same price.

Letting go of the need to be perfect seems integral to this new approach to starting a business and it’s a good outlook to have whether you are in startup mode or more seasoned in business.

So often we get hung up on everything being just right before we launch, when reality is, there is always something to learn, change and tweak.

What you would differently if you were starting up now instead of when you did?

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