How to Embark on Your Startup Journey [Full Guide]
The evolution of a startup is an ongoing process. However, it is important to be aware of the stage you are at, as this will help investors, partners, potential employees, and you as the founder to see the path of growth.
Based on our experience working with startups, we have identified four vital phases in the startup lifecycle. In this article, we'll provide you with a map and checklists for each stage to help you launch a successful product or service and avoid potential pitfalls.
At the end of the text, you will find a helpful checklist with all the steps. You can save it and use it when planning your product development.
What does a good startup journey look like?
A successful startup journey is a dynamic and often unpredictable adventure, so there is no "perfect" path. But David Skok, a serial entrepreneur and General Partner at Matrix Partners, makes it simple and identifies the following three "strongholds":
Find the right fit between the product and the market.
Create a repeatable, profitable, and scalable sales model.
Scale the business.
How to make it happen? Let's take a closer look at a startup path.
1. Ideation and Discovery
Many startups start with a compelling vision of founder(s) but it is not enough without a deep understanding of the market and the problem-solving mission of your product or service.
According to CBIInsights, the number one reason why startups fail is due to misreading market demand — this is found in 42% of cases.
So your first goal as a startup owner is to address your customers’ actual pain points, define your competition, and convey your product’s value to the target audience. This approach will help to offer the end-users a product or service they truly need. Investors usually call it the pre-seed stage.
During this stage, you are digging deep into the market and figuring out who your potential customers are. And what is most important, do they actually want what you're planning to offer? Here are some key questions to consider:
What specific problem does my product solve, and how does it make people's lives easier or better?
Who will be interested in using my product or service?
What do people want in a product like this? What features or qualities matter most to them?
Are there similar products out there already? If so, how is yours going to stand out and be different or better?
This phase is intended to examine and confirm the practicality of your ideas. You're sorting through them to figure out which ones make the most sense and how to put them into action.
In the startup world, the seed stage is the time when you can approach investors for funding support. Potential sources of investment can include startup incubators, angel investors, crowdfunding, and grants. Some early-stage startups are also funded by their owners and their relatives.
The seed money is typically used to find product-market fit. The funding allows startup owners to build their product while receiving feedback from early users and customers. Some startups use this money for MVP development.
If you want to bring the investments to your project it’s important to persuade investors by building a prototype. Even a simple prototype can play a big role in the early stages.
It allows you to demonstrate the details of your product and give everyone a clear idea of what makes it valuable. For more benefit, you can create a clickable design prototype and test it with real customers to get their feedback.
When the discovery work is done, you can form a business plan, mission statement, and goals. You can use guidance from startup advisors received during the seed stage. It is also time to create a product roadmap and see if you have the resources and expertise to deliver your product or service.
Understand if there is a market for the product or service
Define what are customers' needs
Develop the business plan
Design a prototype
Get the first investments in your idea
Now it's time to bring your idea to life and create an MVP. At this stage, a team of specialists with the appropriate technical, product, marketing, and analytical skills is essential.
MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
Minimum Viable Product is like an early version of your business idea with the most necessary functions.
The main task of an MVP is to test and validate your idea. Even if it turns out that the idea is not entirely successful and does not solve anyone's problems, it's okay. You'll still get valuable insights from the MVP stage.
Depending on your timeframe and budget, you can decide what to include in the MVP. For example, it could be a simple landing page explaining the core values of your future product.
MVP should include:
Idea. Describe the solution you offer and why it is worthy of attention.
UI/UX design. Think about what your app will look like and how users will use it. You should identify flaws in the logic and make sure your MVP is user-friendly.
Development. You take the design and hand it over to developers to turn it into a functional product.
Marketing. You need a plan to spread the word about your MVP. How will you attract users, put your product in their hands, and start getting revenue? Marketing also plays a key role in reducing knowledge gaps and driving the decision-making process.
To become a business that solves real, not imaginary, problems, you need to validate each new idea, make improvements, and repeat the process. The process of creating a successful product is iterative, not straightforward.
Focus on core features and ideas you want to test
Assemble or hire a skilled team
Outline a strategy for MVP launch and user acquisition
Prototype, test, and gather user feedback
Looking for an outsourced development partner to help you
bring your idea to life? Our tech-savvy development team can guide
and support you on your startup journey. Book a call on our website
to discuss cooperation.
The launch stage is a time when you start to see your business generate its first income. You've already developed your Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and it’s time to introduce it to the world. Here's what the launch stage entails:
Customer Acquisition. Reaching out to your target audience through various marketing channels, such as social media, specialized groups, content marketing, and possibly paid advertising. You'll need to craft a compelling value proposition to entice potential customers to try out your product.
Feedback Collection. This feedback is valuable for refining your product. Encourage users to provide comments, suggestions, and report any issues they encounter.
Iterative Development. As you gather feedback, you and your development team will work on bug fixes, user interface enhancements, and the addition of new features based on user demands.
Marketing and PR. Launching your startup also involves generating buzz and media attention. You may consider reaching out to tech blogs, influencers, and industry publications to secure coverage. Public relations efforts can help you build credibility and attract more users.
Monitoring and Analytics. Implement robust analytics to track user behavior, conversion rates, and other key metrics. This data will guide your decision-making and help you refine your marketing and product strategies.
Scaling Strategies. You need to plan for scalability. This includes ensuring that your infrastructure can handle increased traffic and that your customer support and operations can scale alongside your user base.
Revenue Generation. Depending on your business model, you'll be working on monetization strategies. This might include subscription plans, advertising, or other revenue streams.
Competitor Analysis. Keep an eye on your competition. As you launch and grow, competitors may emerge or evolve. Staying informed about their strategies can help you adapt and maintain your competitive edge.
The launch stage is a thrilling and challenging phase, where the foundations you've built with your MVP start to take shape as a fully-fledged business. It's a time of learning, growth, and adjustment as you work towards achieving your startup's long-term vision.
Use various marketing channels to share your value proposition
Consistently analyze user feedback and data
Implement enhancements and bug fixes in your product
Generate buzz for your startup
Work on monetization model
Monitor your competitors
4. Growth and Scaling
Success at this stage often requires a combination of strategic planning, effective execution, and the ability to adapt to evolving market conditions
Once you see demand for your product in the market, you can seek new opportunities for expanding the business. Financial stability and healthy cash flow are a must. You can also find additional funding if necessary to apply your scaling strategies.
Startup owners can receive series A, B or C funding from venture capitalists. These are the next rounds after the seed funding. Product profitability and customer feedback are crucial points for investors’ decisions.
It is also important to understand that growth and scaling are different states for a business. Growth is maintained by allocating new resources such as money, technology, and labor. In scaling mode, a startup is increasing revenue without spending too much to get more resources. This means that startups can make more money while keeping costs low. Anyway, each mode requires investment.
When you get more funds, you can grow the team, scale operations to meet increased demand, continue improving the product or service offering, and expand the marketing budget. All these steps are inevitable during the growth period.
With the validation of their product or service, the startups can explore new markets or customer segments. This could mean entering new geographic regions, targeting different demographics, or diversifying into related markets.
Ensure clear financial management
Receive additional investments
Enhance your product or service
Build the team
Expand target audience or market
How to develop a startup as a non-technical entrepreneur
Many startups have been founded by entrepreneurs with no technical expertise. But having reliable partners can make all the difference.
Your path to startup success may include choosing a reliable development team that bridges the technical gap. According to Marketsplash statistics, outsourcing a team helps small businesses optimize costs, access talent from around the world, and accelerate time-to-market.
At Design Key, we help startups launch and grow. Our tech-savvy professionals, including architects, UI/UX designers, developers, and QA engineers, can help you through all stages of your business idea. Whether it's planning a product roadmap, developing an MVP, or refining your platform to scale further, we're here to support you.
Download our complete checklist to fortify your confidence on your path as a startup founder.
Book a call on our website to discuss your project and determine how we can work together.