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Lift off: piloting your startup into the stratosphere

Written by Lex Deak on Wednesday, 05 October 2016. Posted in Start-up Diaries

The weeks immediately after a startup’s launch can be the most exciting and turbulent in its life. But keeping a cool head can help ensure your business doesn’t break apart in the process

Lift off: piloting your startup into the stratosphere

Once you’ve assembled your team, built your product, garnered support from your industry and gotten everything ready to present to the world, it’s time to get serious about your launch plans. No doubt at this point you'll be starting to feel somewhat anxious and very excited about releasing your baby into the wild. It's important to temper yourself and to make sure that you don't rush through the last 5% of detail in favour of just getting the thing live. The last few preparations can make a big difference and so brace for one final step back to evaluate everything. Enlist the help of friends, advocates and possibly agencies to help test the product, iron out any last bugs and refine your marketing messaging to ensure all is consistent. 

In launching OFF3R, we identified a few key news outlets that we felt would provide us with the highest number of quality conversions. It’s so important to micromanage this process and work with a good PR firm or freelancer to synchronise everything. We offered an exclusive to our first choice and enjoyed a tidal wave of interest and sign-ups off the back of it. You may have embargoes in place, in which case you'll need to make sure you don't jump the gun, something that happens more often than you'd think.

We slightly underestimated the level of interest that we would generate and so the weeks following our launch were spent frantically following up on all the new opportunities and prioritising them in order of relevance to our short-term goals. It’s easy to wander off course, thinking to yourself that you should be expanding territories or building new features but all the while losing focus on what you need to do to get there. I'd suggest a new inbox folder named 'Launch Responses', where you can silo off correspondence that relates to the launch without it getting lost.

It’s emotional 

The process of evolving an idea into a full-blown tangible product with a team of people is a demanding and emotional experience. Akin to an artist or musician releasing their work for review, entrepreneurs will feel many of the same emotions. In the build-up to launching your business, you need to look after yourself, eat well, sleep well and spend time with positive people. You need to compartmentalise any feelings of doubt and revisit these when you have some evidence to support your decisions.

When we launched OFF3R, I was pretty confident that the concept would be well received: I had enough evidence from peers and enough belief to carry me through. But I was less sure of how the product would be received. Had we oversimplified it? Was it serious enough? Was it fun enough? The fact is you never know until you get it out there how it will be received, so it is best not to have any expectation other than the need for rapid iteration and data collection. After all, being flexible and responsive to the demands and feedback of your customers is a key characteristic in early success.

A capital idea

Take the time to pat yourself on the back, share the good news with your team and then quite quickly move on to the next milestone, which will doubtless include trying to bring your business closer to the vision you had when you initially conceived the idea. For many companies, the next step will also include a plan to capitalise the business. Entrepreneurs are faced with an overwhelming choice of funding options and this can be a double-edged sword.

If you are looking to raise investment, you'll need to start as soon as you're in a position to demonstrate robust unit economics, essentially ‘if we put X in the top of the hopper, we’ll get Y out the bottom’. It can easily take six months to secure funding, even in the current climate. Forecast ahead and make sure you don't find yourself with one month's runway left before you start having serious investment conversations. Investors can smell desperation and that's not a good look.

In the next article, we’ll dive into the options and strategies for raising investment into your business. It’s a great time to raise funding for your business but as the number of options increases so do the number of pitfalls. 

About the Author

Lex Deak

Lex Deak

Deak is one of the UK’s leading experts on investment. In June 2015, he launched OFF3R, the world’s first mobile crowdfunding aggregator. The platform has been heralded as the ‘Tinder of crowdfunding’ and helps users discover and track the best opportunities across 30 leading platforms. Deak is also the founder of QVentures, a private investment company that has raised over £35m for 30 companies and has 60 satellite offices around the world.

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