While there is obviously no such thing as a blueprint for success, there are a number of key points that entrepreneurs should take into consideration, which can help their young businesses stay on track:
1. First, never neglect your target market.
Immersing yourself in your user-base from the very beginning will pay dividends. Time spent learning to empathize with the customer and really figuring out what makes them tick will help you target with a laser-like focus.
Innovative companies are often guilty of trying to execute on a big vision that is too all-encompassing for the user to fully engage with.
2. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel if you don’t need to.
The Internet has democratized access to all kinds of information, and if a successful process or structure exists for a non-core element of your business, use it.
This can be anything from administrative office functions to technical elements on the periphery of your central business proposition. If an effective solution exists, then the chances are it will not add value to your business to develop it from scratch.
3. Have a solid business model from the very beginning.
Have a clear idea of the value you are creating, how you are going to capture it, and how you will be able to protect it. Having clarity from the outset will provide a marker of ongoing success — or not — and allow you to make strategic business decisions accordingly.
Many Silicon Valley businesses do not take this into account until a lot of resource has been expended, taking themselves in the wrong direction and forcing an otherwise unneeded late-stage pivot.
4. Don’t be afraid to learn from your predecessors, competitors, and similar businesses in general.
You do not need to fail to gain a learning experience. I highly recommend learning from others’ failures rather than your own.
But be careful: Learn, don’t mimic; success comes from applying judgment, which is drawn from experience — yours and others’.
5. As hard as it may be, try to separate your natural emotion from your business concept.
You should be passionate about your venture and committed to it. But it is easy to fall in love with your idea and ignore the signals from the market and the views of others.
Your decision on how (and whether) to take it to market needs to be founded on research and data. Too many times in Silicon Valley we have seen businesses launch that should have been altered or even killed in the planning phases, purely because a besotted and charismatic founder pushes them through. This is a recipe for failure.
Yossi Feinberg is the John G. McCoy–Banc One Corporation Professor of Economics, Director of the Corporate Entrepreneur: Driving Innovation and New Ventures Program, and Faculty Director of the Stanford Ignite program.