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[Guest article by Rachit, founder of Youth4work. Rachit shares some of the key lessons learnt,]
At Youth4work, we face the usual challenges that most Startups face: no money for advertising, no big team and an interesting product which is still being developed and evolved.
Now the challenge is how to build the critical mass on a product which is still not completely finished and quite frankly not 100% clear (admit it, you as a founder do not know ‘exactly’ what you are building and should be accepting and understanding this fact).
But we’re still making good progress. Sharing some of the things I learned along my journey.
1. Social Media isn’t good for user acquisition in a Startup
Facebook and Twitter are good to have. But they are more of brand building tools rather than user acquisition mechanisms. We have seen a very low click-through rate for the time and resources spent on it as compared to other options (I admit that our limited knowledge and expertise to use them might be a factor). The point, clear to us was that, to make the social media strategy successful, we had to work on building a ‘critical mass’ on your Facebook and Twitter profiles. We would rather spend that much time on building critical mass on our StartUp directly than on platform X, and then from there, have people come to our platform. Also, instead of making an awesome image/communication for sharing and getting few clicks we are better off then emailing it to a large group.
i. On Facebook, only ~10% of your fans on your official pages get to see your update.
ii. On Twitter, your followers have to be active when you post your tweet. Reach per tweet probably lesser than 10% of followers.
iii. Building a fan base or followers on your Facebook and Twitter account is a painfully long and time consuming process.
Disclaimer for above facts:
i. Above statements are not valid if business is based on social media.
ii. There are plenty of examples of StartUps based on API and algorithms of social media getting crushed after the platforms made changes to their policies/algorithms. e.g. the likes of Coke and Pepsi invested millions of dollars on getting millions of fans, assuming that forever they can be sharing updates on their page and communicating with each one of their followers. Facebook changed its policy and reach of updates and asked for further payment to make the page owners reach out to their own followers.
2. SEO + Email Marketing + Content = Works Beautifully
SEO may be a long term tedious work. But it’s long lasting, gets you the right traffic looking for something you are about to or have written about.
Email marketing is clear results. You may preach that it’s unethical, but tell me how many mails you do receive from ‘top sites’ of the world? Companies do spam. We did that too, just sensibly.
3. Launch the un-perfect product
As a founder and product manager you may not be happy launching that unfinished product, and always crave that you perfect it just a little bit more before launching it. But get the facts right, there are 0.0001% chance that it will go viral (even if it does, I can assure you your servers will not be able to handle it). So don’t fret over finishing it, polishing it.
i. Understand that you have too few users who might get affected by the bugs your launch might have, or be affected a lot by the font or pixels that you want to perfect.
ii. 99.99% of the time your first customer will not be completely satisfied with your product. You simply have to satisfy & support him personally.
iii. Most of the time, your market research and understanding of business is imperfect, and what you launch ‘will undergo change’.
4. Hire fast, hire what you get
Too many times I have heard the jargon that hire the best lot, build the best team. Being in the business of recruitment ourselves, there have been innumerable occasions wherein I tried to make my prospective team members understand and get real about their expectations. The fact is we are a StartUp, and thus more work, less pay, very less stability, almost no perks is what we offer.
You, as an entrepreneur, should get hold-of and hire the first reasonably talented person who is willing to work with you and is a bit excited about the product and vision.
5. Don’t spend too much time chasing investors and making plans
It’s easier said than done. I can understand the need of raising capital for your StartUp and the time it consumes. But what I have learnt is that the investor who really invests in you will not invest by seeing that perfect investor-deck or a very detailed business-plan. Any good investor, investing in early stage StartUps, knows that whatever is planned will be different from what the business eventually becomes.
My learning: Your vision about your product and the understanding of the market and competition are key things that will get you funds. What you talk matters more than the deck you present.
And quite frankly, if the investor is asking for too many details and plans, stop wasting time on him. Most probably he is just collecting info for his other investment.
About the author: Rachit Jain is the Founder and CEO of Youth4work, a skills platform for those at the outset of their careers, to help assess and map their talent and join an expanding community, in preparation for their career journey.
Image credit: Shutterstock