As advisor and consultant to European e-health startups, I see so manyaspiring entrepreneurs popping up everyday. Most fail.
After over 20 years in the industry, I’ve failed too - many times infact. But, I've also helped build multi-million dollar businesses. As you mayimagine, 20+ years' worth of failures and successes have taught me a thing ortwo about startups – lessons that I am happy to share with you.
But, before I give you my list of compressed, easily digestible tipseveryone seems to love these days, I want to emphasise at the very start themost important one:
What startups need more than anything else is collaboration.
With that established, here are my top five tips for growing yourstartup:
1.Find a way to make your competitors irrelevant: Create the 'Blue Ocean'
This is based on clearly defining your unique selling point (USP) and –here comes a buzzword – creating the “blue ocean”.
Blue Ocean strategy is a theory coined by W. Chan Kim and RenéeMauborgne (it is a book too – look it up). It pretty much boils down tocreating a leap in value between you and the competitors so that any comparisonis irrelevant.
A great example of Blue Ocean strategy is Nespresso. Quality productsand good marketing have long differentiated Nespresso in the world of coffee,but the brand took it even further with the introduction of Nespresso capsulesand machines to give customers a coffee shop experience at home or office. Thatis how Nespresso created its own subcategory on the coffee market where theyhave no competitors.
The Blue Ocean strategy is also used in e-Health. Swedish company FRISQimplemented it by simply flipping the traditional doctor-patient dynamic. FRISQallows patients to be actively involved in all parts of their medical treatmentby monitoring their own medication consumption, and health records – a rolethat traditionally belonged to medical professionals. Their solution alsoallows the patient to share data via medical IOT devices to enable feedbackfrom the healthcare provider. That is how FRISQ created their blue ocean andfirst mover advantage.
Read and learn:
- Blue ocean strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
- Funky business forever, by Kjell Nordstroem and Jonas Ridderstrale
- The patient will see you now, by Eric Topol
2.You can’t do everything by yourself; Embrace outsourcing and other types ofcollaboration
As I said, collaboration is the key to staying in the game these days.The reason is simple: development and competition move incredibly fast. If youget stuck doing peripheral work, you will fall behind your competitors beforeyou even knew you had any.
Another reason for collaboration is that, sooner or later, a solutiongets so complex that it is better to be an absolute expert in your corebusiness than to try to grasp everything at the expense of specialisation.
To have in mind: As a startup, you might find itchallenging to collaborate with big companies. You might feel that bigcompanies are slow and inflexible. On the other hand, partnering with bigcompanies can grant you access to great resources and funding, and make you apart of a stable structure. It’s a tough trade off, but one you should be awareof.
3.Create a development plan
Focuson your core business and USP when creating a roadmap for your development.
A roadmap helps everyone involved, including customers, to understandthe specific customer needs your product answers and exactly how it does so.
A roadmap is also extremely useful to your development team and projectmanager(s) as part of their development and implementation planning.
There are lots of tools that can help you create a roadmap. A simple andeffective one is ProductPlan.
3.2 Development Partner
Whilechoosing the right development partner is a topic in and of itself, choosingthe collaboration model is easier. My experience suggests that Dedicated Teammodel works best if you are looking at a medium to long-term developmentstrategy because:
- You own the developers’ time
- Youcan manage the team, so they are essentially a part of your in-housedevelopment team
- Youhave more control over your cost and scalability
Important: Protect your IP
Ifyou choose to outsource your development, make sure to protect your IP! I haveseen too many startups make the big mistake of neglecting this. So, whendrafting the agreement with your development partner, make sure you include aclause stating that you own the IP.
4.Engage with your prospective and existing customers regularly. Let theirfeedback guide you.
4.1 Step out of your office
Usesocial media, but don’t get stuck in your office.
Meeting people face-to-face is much more powerful that limited onlineinteractions. To be diligent about this, join a hub or a community - this cando wonders for your business!
4.2 Nurture relationships
Wheninteracting with customers, don’t just turn to them when you have something tosell. Turn to them to learn about their needs. Listening is an underestimatedskill that can make far more deals than any fancy powerpoint.
I was recently asked by a startup incubator in Stockholm called STING,to be a guest speaker and share my experience with distributed development.Reps of about 15 startups from all over Europe were in the audience listeningto me.
Instead of talking at them for an hour, I decided to interact withthem; I asked them questions and gave them a chance to explain what were theirneeds and challenges that I could address.
During that event alone I got four serious leads, not because I’mexcellent in giving speeches (believe me, I’m not), but because I simplylistened and addressed their specific needs.
5.Spend time with investors from day one
Somewhere along the way most startups need to raise capital to be ableto grow and develop both the product and the company. Marketing is also verycostly.
In your annual activity plan, make sure you have activities with yourinvestors as well as the potential investors. Keeping them in the loop willincrease trust, so when it is time to raise (more) money, they will feel moreconfident and willing to back your business.
Another good idea is to view your potential investors as long-termcustomers so you can apply key account management (KAM)practices.
I’ve only scratched the surface with these five bullets, but hopefullythis can inspire you to dig deeper into each field and get better prepared forwhat’s out there. Good luck!