One of the biggest reasons for startup failure is that the founders or product designers set unrealistic expectations for themselves, their product or service.
It is easy to run away with thoughts of overnight success and a grand product vision. At the start of the project, you may well be feeling ambitious and full of energy, but will this be the same several months in? Developing and launching any significantly sized startup is a huge undertaking, one of the hardest things you may ever do in your career.
On top of all the hard work you need to do to develop the product, investors will reasonably be expecting regular progress updates and friends and loved ones will be missing your company. Whether, like the vast majority of startup founders, you are bootstrapping, with no external funding and working in your spare time alongside your regular job, or you already have investment from a third party, you will begin to feel the strain pretty early on.
It is important to be honest with yourself from the start. Before commencing on this wonderful but extremely arduous journey, you should set some time aside to ask yourself some tough questions, to be sure you are doing the right thing, for the right reasons. You’ll have your own questions relating to your specific circumstances, but here are some to get you started:
- Do I have the time and energy to fully commit to such a huge undertaking?
- Do I believe in this product wholeheartedly and am I willing to commit my immediate future to pursue it at the expense of other interests, no matter how hard it becomes?
- Do I have the support of friends and loved ones and do they understand that I will be focussed purely on my startup, perhaps at the expense of me spending time with them?
- Are the essential aspects of my life (finances, family, friends, relationships, etc.) in a good place for me to fully commit myself to this project for the foreseeable future?
- Am I pursuing a realistic dream or simply a whimsical fantasy?
- Have I carried out thorough market research and have positively identified a product that I wholeheartedly believe will be successful?
- Do I have, either in myself or in my team, the necessary knowledge and skills to not only deliver the product from a technical perspective but to take it to market and run a business?
- Is this a risk I can afford to take? Do I have any strong doubts about doing this?
If you can answer these questions with strict, soul-searching honesty and see no reason in your answers to rethink your plans, then you are certainly in a good place to start. But it’s important that you are realistic, at every level, at all times throughout your startup journey.
So many startups fail because the founders had unrealistic expectations and weren’t truly honest with themselves. In some cases, they simply didn’t ask themselves the difficult questions in the first place, in others they lied to themselves, blinded by the dream, unwilling to let it be shattered at any cost.
Take the time to reflect and question everything, not only at the start but throughout. It is a difficult skill to master, to ask yourself tough, searching questions and answer yourself honestly, but it is one that will stand you head and shoulders above others who can’t as you strive for startup success.