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In business, adapting to different situations is a constant. In a world without guarantees, one of the few constants of managers is that you must always adapt to the changes around you. Many entrepreneurs start out as a self-sustaining startup, when they have to get by without outside help, and if they are successful, they move on to a venture capital-funded operation. Both phases present managers with challenges and difficulties.
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How we went from “startup” to “VC funded”
The development of our customer intelligence platform began a few years ago as a start-up, later evolving into a stand-alone project for a major company. When you run your own project, you maintain ownership and control over the direction of development. At the same time, you lack funding and certainty. But at the core of it all is the entrepreneur’s responsibility to build a business that really works and then convince others that it works.
When you develop a service, you must cover all the bases if you want to offer consumers a comprehensive solution to their pain. The best way to do this is to take a step-by-step approach and have a certain “test group” give you feedback as you go along and add more options and features.
The company that hosted our project believed in us and gave us the necessary “wow”. They were our customers, investors and, most importantly, supporters. Working on our product development with them and getting their constant feedback allowed us to have a better focus. It also helped us to optimize our platform and, as a result, offer a better product. That paved the way for adding more investors to our product.
Affogata is now in its fourth year of operation and is a VC-funded company. Gone are the days of being a boot operation. With many customers now and a better developed product, we are not resting on our laurels, but continue to work hard to better serve our current and new customers. Our shareholders help and support us as we continue to grow our business. With growth comes greater responsibility to our customers, employees and ourselves.
Related: Fundraising Vs. Bootstrapping: How to Decide What You Need for Your Tech Startup
the lessons i learned
Since our business revolves around the analysis of customer feedback for our clients, we view the wishes and wishes of our clients with the utmost attention. Your feedback helps us not only serve you better, but also serves as a roadmap for new areas to delve into. They lead us to build a business that really works and gives us all a sense of accomplishment. So lesson number one is to never lose focus on how your product can better serve your future customers.
In addition, it is the desire of all companies to grow faster with data, but many of them ignore what customers are already saying and do not analyze such responses. Eighty percent of the organization’s data is an unstructured voice of the customer, and once we understood that, it helped us shape our vision and change the way businesses work with technology. We realized that to put the customer at the center of organizational decisions, every team in the company needs data, as well as a fit to the use case of every other department.
A second lesson is to understand that ideas for new features come and go, and it’s part of the process to see if they work. But as usual, not all ideas evolve into real features, and if an entrepreneur understands that discarding some ideas is part of the process, this would not seem like a failure by any means. Testing and more testing is the name of the game, until your product becomes something worthy of your customers’ attention and use.
A third lesson relates to focus. You can’t be all things to all people all the time, and you need to figure out what strengths your product has and how to translate it for market leadership. In our case, we decided to solve challenges for specific industries. That meant focusing, for example, on the gaming world and offering our AI analytics capabilities in areas like player product feedback. Another big market for us is fintech, where consumers manage their finances with minimal human intervention, making it crucial for these companies to uncover their users’ discussions and complaints about such services.
The fourth and final lesson is, and this is true for both the startup and VC-funded stages, that it’s all about people. If you have good people around you, both professionally and from a friendship perspective, your chances of success increase. You may not agree on everything, but you should keep an open mind to hear new and sometimes different opinions. If all conversations are conducted for the benefit of customers, entrepreneurs and their partners will see each other’s ideas as contributions to the overall product and maintain a positive attitude toward the process and their peers. Keep all of that in mind as you develop the next great startup idea.
Related: How to Raise Venture Capital Funds When the Odds Are Against You