A lot of people want to build a tech company – some points to consider. (Article 1 of 2)
Obviously, the dream of being the next unicorn is one reason so many people aspire to be an entrepreneur. But if this is the main reason, you are unlikely to succeed. Don’t get fooled by the apparent coolness of being an entrepreneur.
A much better reason is if you strongly believe you have the idea for how to solve a key problem in a new and better way. So instead of joining an established company to work with what you consider yesterday’s solutions, you believe enough in yourself and your idea to take on an enormous challenge.
But make no mistake – this is hard work.
The challenges involved with starting, funding, developing and leading a new business are many. Most new entrepreneurs do not see the big picture early on. They underestimate the risks, the complexity and the absolute necessity to invest thousands of hours of hard work. It’s not enough to be technologically savvy, nor is it enough to have a business or technical degree. To succeed, you need to build a team which has truly complementary skills, and to build a collaborative culture with the ability to execute over time.
Many companies never get their product to market, because they never think it’s quite ready from a technical viewpoint. Sometimes, they are right. One obvious piece of free advice, is to actively engage some of your prospective customers into the development cycle. This way, you can ensure you build what the market needs – and that it actually works. Later, you can always improve it over time. Quite a few companies manage to build decent, even good products and solutions, but still fail – sometimes miserably with their business execution. It’s just a fact that people; as well as companies, fail from time to time.
What can we learn from the successful ones?
What distinguishes the successful companies and their leaders is their ability to learn from experience – and having the tenacity to try again – and again. Using Norway as an example, very few of our technology companies have succeeded in building a large, international business. Traditionally, we build strong products and solutions, but still never get to experience success in other markets and geographies than our home market. We typically end up with small and midsize companies. (Which obviously may be more than good enough.) Regardless, it’s extremely interesting to look closely at the few who have succeeded, and see what they have done differently.
One trait the successful ones have in common, is that they don’t suffer from an inferiority complex vs. large competitors. Instead, they are convinced that what they have to offer is competitive and compelling on a large market. They are also clever enough to understand why this is the case. They do understand that you have to do business differently in different geographies. Which is easy to say, but difficult to do. Typically, they also approach those of their potential customers who will benefit the most from their product offering early on. Further, they understand that to scale successfully you need to combine marketing, sales and customer care with technology in a smart way – and you do need all of these functions.
The most important common asset the successful ones share, is the non-typical Norwegian skillset of ability to execute; combined with a positive sense of urgency. More often than not, the companies that know this choose an innovative approach for how to scale, doing so in a manner that reduces risk and increases speed. Time to market is important, and to build a position at the right time is equally essential. The CEOs of the few very successful companies also share a very clear vision of where they want to take their companies, and are skilled in communicating this internally and externally.
Reach out if you need support.
A key thing we at abcb have learned from working with many smart and savvy business leaders through our career, is that they recognize their need for someone outside their company to discuss and bounce ideas with. It’s quite easy to be too internally focused and convinced that your unique ideas are optimal.
By discussing with a more objective person with relevant experience, you often get a more complete and objective picture. You typically also get additional ideas for how to approach and work through your challenges. The best leaders don’t believe they should do all their thinking or all of the necessary work themselves, but instead seek out people with relevant experience who can benefit them, their customers and their business.
If you believe your business too can gain from working with external, unbiased advisors, don’t hesitate to reach out.
A conversation with abcb is free and confidential.