The way that entrepreneurs move ahead in the world is through perseverance and innovation. The road to success isn’t straight, and it certainly isn’t flat – bumps, rolls, twists and turns are part of the journey.
There are ways to help straighten the path and improve your odds for success. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for the future is by learning from others that have already conquered similar journeys.
In this guide we’ll look at some of history’s most successful startups for lessons that can help you succeed as you dream, launch and scale.
Pandora: Get Personal
The biggest advantage that startups have over the big, established firms in their space is the fact that they can get personal. And when products are personalized to the end-user, they become far more popular and exciting.
Think about how Pandora came in and absolutely obliterated the traditional radio format. Sure, traditional radio was free, included ads and allowed music fans to listen to the music they love. But, Pandora changed the game by allowing further personalization – with song-by-song ratings that allowed their algorithms to better serve the listener exactly the type of music they wanted to hear.
Here’s how you can personalize your product or service:
- For ecommerce, leverage personalized recommendations based on the viewing history of your site visitor.
- Engage site visitors via chat and offer to help them find the perfect, tailor-fit solution to their needs.
- Offer the option of adding a custom name or message to the product – via embossing or embroidery. Customized products can be sold at HUGE margins. And many customers will gladly pay for a truly unique item.
- Encourage your customers to leave detailed feedback. By understanding what they like and dislike about your existing products, you can expand into areas that are more relevant to their unique needs.
When customers feel like their feedback is being listened to, they become much more loyal to the brand. Nike was able to triple their online sales by offering a custom channel that empowered customers to deeply customize their shoe.
Essential: Work Diligently Behind the Scenes Using Proven Innovators
Andy Rubin was the inventor of android OS. Google acquired his operating system in 2005. Estimates place the cost of the closed-door deal at approximately $50 million.
Since the buyout from Google, Rubin has founded and managed an accelerator program to help entrepreneurs succeed. One of the products to come out of that accelerator was the Essential smartphone. Its launch and may of this past year represented the first substantial threat to Apple and Samsung’s dominance in the hardware space – primarily because it uses premium materials and hardware, but cuts out some frills to achieve a much more competitive price point.
What can you learn from this earth-shattering startup?
- Don’t assume you need to generate hype while you’re innovating. Depending on the market, and your ability to fund future product development, it may be wise to stay quiet and work diligently to bring a disruptor into the space. Then shock the market with a ready-to-go solution.
- Find ways to connect with fellow entrepreneurs that have a history of success. Working alongside someone with experience is almost always preferable to going it alone.
- If you’re an inventor, focus on products that can serve as a hub for future inventions. Rubin sees his smartphone as only a first step in a long line of related products to enhance the customer experience.
Apple: Find Partners that Fill-In Your Weaknesses
There have been no fewer than six feature films featuring Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. That’s an insane amount of Hollywood pressure. But his story is fascinating. And, unfortunately it often overshadows the story of Steve (Woz) Wozniak, the brilliant tech guru that actually designed and built the initial hardware.
Jobs and Woz were a perfect match. One was a silky-smooth salesman with the ability to distort reality for those around him. And Woz was a passionate techy that loved designing new boards and pushing the limits of computers. Jobs focused Woz’s skills and passion into a marketable product, and then brought aboard additional backers to help turn the dream into a reality.
The core lessons from Apple’s meteoric rise from garage startup to the most valuable company in the world:
- Get out and find other people that are even more passionate than you are about the products and services you hope to offer.
- Don’t be afraid to pool the varying talents of a group of people to get a project across the finish line – the solo entrepreneur has to work ten times harder to get things done the hard way.
- Love what you do. If you’re not in love, you won’t be able to push through the insanely hard times ahead.
Render Media: Find Undervalued Assets and Put Them to Work Within a More Productive Framework
Eytan Elbaz is another innovator that ended up selling something very valuable to Google in 1999: Applied Semantics, which later became Google AdSense. Today Elbaz a co-founder at multiple LA-based tech startups.
The one that I want to highlight is Render Media. What Elbaz and his team do is acquire undervalued media properties, including websites, and finds ways to make them work. Some of its websites have been acquired on the cheap, and then retooled and nurtured to achieve 16x growth.
The lesson is:
- You don’t have to be the original founder to make money from a startup.
- If you can apply honest valuations to the companies around you, you’ll discover opportunities to acquire properties for far less than they’re worth.
- Take an undervalued property, invigorate it with the help of an experienced team, and find new ways to cash-in on your investment.
In conclusion, I want to point out that our free-market system affords us so many opportunities. It isn’t always just, or fair. But there is no better system on earth for motivated people to pull themselves up by outthinking and outworking the competition.
It’s my hope that the lessons highlighted in this guide help you to achieve your goals, no matter how rough the path ahead may be.