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9 Startup Lessons You Can Learn From Canva – Melanie Perkins

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It seems that everywhere I go people can’t stop saying how they think Canva will be the next billion-dollar company and how everyone loves their online design platform. Canva Co-Founders Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obercht have been able to convince the likes of Bill Tai, Lars Rasmussen and Guy Kawasaki to join their vision for a revolution in online design technology.

Canva only launched on the 26th of August 2013 and they now boast some amazing stats like:

Over 5 million users who have created more than 30 million designs,

– Nothing but word of mouth marketing (until recently)

600k of unique visitors to the site monthly

– Over 14,000 blogs have written about Canva

– More than 2000 videos have been made about the product

If that was not impressive enough, Canva has raised $12.6M USD to date and has gone from 2 million users to 5 million users in just 4 months. The reason Canva has been so successful comes down to a number of points, which Melanie shared with me in a recent interview.

The whole philosophy of Canva is best described by their Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki (former Apple Evangelist), who says that they are democratising design the same way Google democratised search.

The fundamental point that I drill into with Melanie is how an earth they were able to convince influential people to support them even when they hadn’t even built a product and Canva was nothing more than a cool idea.

Below are the nine startup lessons that Melanie taught me about Canva’s journey when I interviewed her.

 

1. You must have determination and guts

The strongest attribute Melanie has is determination. It takes a long time to create a company and there is a lot of rejection, failure and times where it would be a reasonable thing to give up. A great example of determination is the fact that it took Melanie three years from meeting their first investor to actually landing the first investment.

Let’s face it, most startup founders would give up after 12 months, but if you keep an eye on what you are trying to achieve and really keep focused on the vision (the vision is what people will rally behind in time), you will eventually break through and come to the right solution.

Canva Melanie and Bill Tai
Not only do you need to have determination but you also need to have guts. Melanie spoke to lots of people about Canva long before a product even existed, which takes real guts and belief in what you’re doing. VISION VISION VSION !!!

 

2. Influence one lighthouse person (the butterfly effect)

One of the sole reasons Canva has been a big success is that Melanie focused in the early days on finding one highly influential person in their space and getting them to help with their startup – stop trying to meet hundreds of people and just concentrate on a few big names.

The first person that Melanie was able to connect with was the very well-known venture capitalist Bill Tai. She met him in 2011 when he was in Perth for an event called inventor of the year and he told her to look him up when she came to San Francisco.

Like any clever entrepreneur, Melanie took action and six months later she arrived in San Fran where she planned to stay for two weeks. After meeting Bill there, Melanie ended up staying for three months. Bill told Melanie that for him to invest in Canva she must find a technical team to build the product because at this stage it was no more than an idea.

After raising the problem, he then introduced Melanie to Lars Rasmussen, who agreed to help find the technical team. One year later they had a technical co-founder that Lars referred to them. The beauty of this whole process was that Melanie was able to get some amazing people to buy into her vision even before she had any product at all.

Canva Investors Bill Tai And Lars Rasmussen

Left: Bill Tai Right: Lars Rasmussen

When I asked Melanie how she was able to influence so many high profile people, she said to me that she has a diagram, which she calls the butterfly effect. The diagram shows once she was able to influence one powerhouse person like Bill, her network followed a butterfly effect and she met everyone else through some sort of link to Bill.

Every single step along the way you could say “if that didn’t happen nothing would have happened” – that’s the butterfly effect. You don’t know what could have happened or would have happened. How do you find people like Bill? The same way everyone else does; through conferences, LinkedIn, email, telephone, along with persistence.

 

3. You don’t have to be a coder

Many startup founders have a limiting belief that you must be a coder of some sort to be a founder of a tech company. First of all, every new startup can be considered a tech startup because almost every product will be connected to the internet in some way.

Secondly, Canva Founders Melanie and Cliff had no coding experience what so ever. With their first startup Fusion Books, they outsourced all the technical part of their business to another company.

This was a great lesson for them because it allowed them to focus on learning how the technology works, educating themselves on product management, and it even helped them to develop project management skills.

They learnt on their second startup Canva that because the product was heavily reliant on technology they would require a technical co-founder. The genius of their startup was that they had a highly skilled person, Lars Rasmussen that was doing the hiring of software engineers.

This resulted in only the best engineers being hired and allowing both founders to focus on their strengths because the technical side was taken care of. When they eventually brought in a technical co-founder, they had someone who had equity in the company and who was then motivated to see the business succeed.

Also, keep in mind that highly skilled engineers are attracted to things that are very challenging and have never been done before so if you’re startup’s vision aligns with this, the odds are stacked in your favour.

 

4. Having a startup track record helps

If you’re attempting to convince investors to invest in you before you have a product, Melanie recommends that it’s preferable that you have some sort of track record in business beforehand. When Melanie and Cliff were searching for investment for Canva before they had a product, they were able to show a track record through their first startup Fusion Books that had already had success.

The beauty of Fusion Books was that Melanie and Cliff were able to start with a small niche, prove their skills, and then go wider with Canva. This is great advice for any startup that is in the early stages of executing on an idea.

Bill Tai wanted to invest in Canva even though there wasn’t a product yet because he was very surprised that Melanie and Cliff were able to build a profitable company beforehand (this is extremely rare). He also loved the vision, which is why he chose to help.

 

5. Don’t be obsessed with the drug called Venture Capital

A lot of startups suffer from the drug that can be venture capital funding. They become obsessed with raising capital and it becomes what they use to benchmark whether they are successful or not. Melanie explained that venture capital funding can be like a time bomb, once you raise, your startup must grow like crazy otherwise if it doesn’t, you will very quickly have no company at all.

The benchmark you should be using to measure your startup’s success is when customers give you their money, which is also a much better way to raise capital. This demonstrates that people other than yourself believe in your startups solution and that it’s solving a real world problem.

If you decide that you must raise venture capital then you should only do so when you know roughly how many people you need, you have a clear execution plan, you know what steps you need to take, and you have a product market fit.

 

6. The problem you solve must be ambitious

A factor that helped Canva stand out from other startups was that their solution was ambitious. The reality is that highly successful people are attracted to ambitious, challenging and world transforming ideas.

Guy Kawasaki Canva Investor And Chief Evangelist (Apple)

Guy Kawasaki

If you want to attract amazing people like Guy Kawasaki to your startup, then your startup must meet this criteria and that’s exactly what Canva did, which is why they attracted great talent. This great talent then attracted more great talent and the success cycle compounded again and again.

Ambitious problems take time to solve and take a long time to build momentum, but when you do solve these types of problems, there will be no shortage of successful people desperate to help you with your vision.

“Solve customer’s problems and make sure that the customer is representative of a large market and then you will have a pretty good formula”

 

7. The pitch deck needs to be all about the problem

Part of the journey whenever you are trying to sell your startup idea to people is to be able to use a quality pitch deck. Given the number of times Melanie had to pitch to investors, I asked her what advice she would give other startups when putting together a pitch deck.

Melanie explained to me that before Canva’s first investment, they had revised their pitch deck over one hundred times. The feedback that Melanie got consistently was that investors didn’t know much about the design landscape so this had to be addressed in the deck.

It’s a good idea to address anything that is tricky or confusing about your product right up front. When you are putting together your pitch deck, you need to start from a macro perspective and begin with the problem you are solving first. You need to be spending 80% of the deck on the problem and only 20% on the solution.

Your pitch deck needs to explain to investors the huge opportunity that exists, the large market for your solution and the macro landscape that exists. Instead of telling your solution right up front, focus on demonstrating its importance first. The other key point is to make sure your solution is a problem that people care about and want to be solved.

“Anyone can have a solution but if no one cares about it, unfortunately, you are not going to have a very big company”

 

8. Understand the risk appetite of the person your pitching

One of the most powerful lessons Melanie taught me is around knowing when to pitch to certain investors based on your startup’s life cycle. Different investors have different risk appetites so as your startup hits each milestone, different investors barriers to risk are removed.

If we look at Canva’s life cycle, they started with a strong vision, then they had a skilled team, then they had a great product, then they had a highly engaged community, then they had very strong performance graphs and now they have a strong monetisation model (thanks to Canva for work).

As Canva hit each milestone, Melanie said that different types of investors wanted to be a part of their vision. In the early stages, the only box that Canva ticked was a great vision and so this didn’t meet many investors risk appetite, although it did interest a few.

The Canva pitch to investors was rejected many times but what Melanie realised was that when investors said no, what the investor was really saying was that the current phase of their startup didn’t meet his or hers individual risk appetite.

“The rejection is often not because of the reasons you think they are rejecting you”

 

9. Regular contact after the pitch is crucial

I think that anyone can get in contact with an influential person at least once, but to keep in touch with someone who is high profile, takes real skill. When I presented this challenge to Melanie, she described how she was able to overcome this.

She explained to me that after the initial contact with an influential person, she would tell them what the next milestone was that Canva was going to achieve, and then when they achieved it, she would let them know.

In-between key milestones she would send influential people a copy of any Canva press to help keep her startup front of mind. The key Melanie says is that when you tell someone you are going to do something then just do it.

If you continue to do what you say you’re going to do, and you’re persistent, it will build up your credibility over time with the influential person. The other key trick is to send updates of your startup every few months – don’t overdo it with weekly updates.

 

***Melanie’s Recommendations***

Favourite Book – Designing the obvious (product design book) – Robert Jr Hoekman

Best Venture Capital Advice – The Venture Hacks Bible (Melanie used this PDF to learn what was involved in raising capital)

Favourite Quote – “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony” – Gandhi

Favourite Startup Tool – UserTesting.com (understand how users are using your site)

Melanie Perkins Canva Founder - Addicted2Success Picture Quote

If you have any of your own startup tips then please comment below and make sure you visit Melanie’s latest creation Canva For Work here.

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared hundreds of thousands of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around success, personal development, motivation, and entrepreneurship. During the day Tim works with the most iconic tech companies in the world, as an adviser, to assist them in expanding into Australia. By night, Tim coaches his students on the principles of personal development and the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net or through his Facebook.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Esther Mellar

    Oct 2, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Tim,

    What strike me is the following:
    ‘The Canva pitch to investors was rejected many times but what Melanie realised was that when investors said no, what the investor was really saying was that the current phase of their startup didn’t meet his or hers individual risk appetite.
    “The rejection is often not because of the reasons you think they are rejecting you”’
    Do you know Tim, did she actually ask for clarification/guidance, or it was only her positive attitude and belief in herself and her product?
    Thank you!

    • Tim Denning

      Oct 19, 2015 at 11:33 pm

      Esther, Melanie asked for feedback but it was mainly her belief in what she was doing that drove her. Melanie and her co-founder Cliff both had success with their first startup Fusion Books so that helped them have the optimism they needed. None the less, all entrepreneurs need to be able to visualise their vision before it’s real – Melanie did this beautifully.

  2. Lawrence Berry

    Sep 30, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    I love stories where other people kept pursing their dreams until it eventually paid off, and one thing that I have learned is that almost everyone who never gave up on their dream eventually made them come true. You learn from your failures and plant enough seeds over the years, you will eventually plant a fruitful seed. I love this young lady’s advice and her story.

    I agree with her statement that you don’t have to be a coder in order to achieve success with something techy, but you do need to know how to delegate tasks. You want to learn how to hand off the jobs that you don’t know, or are not the best at, but keep this vision intact. This vision and plan will make help you achieve success.

    • Tim Denning

      Sep 30, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      I love these stories too Lawrence. It’s so cool that they didn’t even have a product yet they were able to convince one of the most well-known venture capitalists to invest in them. This just shows you how important a compelling vision is.

  3. denny

    Sep 30, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Great insight on a contemporary path to wild startup success. I suppose identifying a short list of key industry influencers should be a part of early startup planning. Likewise, a focus on clearly communicating the market, the need and the vision to meet that need are all first steps – prior to technical design.

    • Tim Denning

      Sep 30, 2015 at 7:50 am

      Thanks Denny and appreciate you sharing your startup tips with us.

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Startups

3 Reasons Why It’s a Good Thing Your First Startup Failed

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startup failure

Statistics on business failure are a matter of heated debate. Back in 2014, a study in The Washington Post rubbished the oft-repeated claim that “nine out of ten businesses fail,” saying that it had “no statistical basis.” Even so, a more accurate figure from The Small Business Administration still points to only around half of businesses lasting beyond five years.

As such, there’s still a 50/50 chance that your first startup will fail. If this has happened to you, it’s unlikely to have been a pleasant experience. But does that mean that every bit of the time, money and effort was wasted? Absolutely not. In fact, the value of failing has been discussed on this site before.

As Henry Ford said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” One thing you can be sure of is that in the wake of a failed start-up, you’ll have a heap of lessons to learn from. Every one of them represents an opportunity to do things better or differently next time and increase the chance of your next business being the one that truly goes the distance.

Here are three big reasons why the failure of your first start-up could prove to have been a blessing:

1. You know which tasks not to expend time and money on

It’s pretty much impossible to get a business off the ground without making some mistakes, especially when it comes to putting time and effort into ideas and activities that don’t move the company forward.

However, it’s easy to forget and write off, for example, a futile Google Ads campaign or a pointless dalliance with Instagram if the business goes on to be a success. However, if the company fails, then these drains on time and money suddenly come into far sharper focus.

This being the case, the chances are you’ll have quite a sizeable “never again” list, even if it’s only stored in your memory. Everything on that list is an opportunity not to make the same mistake again whether it’s a web developer you’ll not be using again or acquired knowledge on which advertising strategies do and don’t work. You have a body of knowledge that’s going to ensure your next venture is leaner, meaner and more focussed.

“You have to work on the business first before it works for you.” –  Idowu Koyenikan

2. You know what did go right

Of course (hopefully) you got some stuff right too? This knowledge is equally valuable. One way of looking at it is that your next start-up business can operate like a carefully edited and curated version of the first one.

All the ideas, working practices and promotional avenues that delivered results the first time around are things you can potentially recreate (albeit obviously only where the business similarities are relevant!) What’s more, because you’ve done these things before, they should take you less time the second time around.

There may even be documents, contracts, databases and various other things you can repurpose for your next company. This can result in big savings in both time and money. Just because the business failed doesn’t mean there aren’t considerable resources you still have to show for your initial efforts.

The same applies to the contacts you made and the suppliers and companies you used. That network is still there, and once again it’s now a “curated” network – you know exactly who to work with again, and who to swerve.

3. You’ve learned a valuable lesson in resilience

Gever Tulley is an American writer, TED talk host, and founder of San Francisco’s Brightworks school. He says that “Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.”

This is very relevant in start-up businesses. Entrepreneurs who find huge success with their first business actually miss out on a valuable and crucial part of the learning curve, and this can come back to haunt them when there’s an unexpected bump in the road further down the line.

Yes, watching a much-loved business fail can be upsetting and demotivating, but coming out the other side still willing to have another go is undoubtedly a bold and determined move to make. It’s almost inevitable that the process will change you, and will certainly change the way you do things.

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan

But it’s no bad thing to be more sceptical as to the claims companies make when they sell you something, tougher when it comes to price negotiation, or more cynical about the benefits of jumping onto the latest online bandwagon.

The last quote which I shall use to tie this up is from an unknown source, and it says that “the only person you should try to be better than is who you were yesterday.” If you can stick to that rule and use the failure of a business venture to bounce back with humility and determination, it should set you up well for your next attempt.

All the work that went into that “failed” business still has a huge amount of value. So move forward, concentrate on one thing at a time, and you should stand a good chance of success the second time around.  

What failed venture are you grateful for in your life? Let us know in the comments below!

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3 Powerful Ways to Stay Motivated While Building Your Startup

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building a startup

I hear one particular story being repeated over and over again in the startup world. See if you’ve heard it before. A friend tells me how excited he is about a new business idea. He’s talked to several potential customers who seem really interested, and he’s even contracted folks in the industry to help him build a prototype.

Two months later, I meet with him again. He’s still very excited, working hard at all hours of the day, and he says that they’re actually about to release the prototype. Another 2 or 3 months go by and I check in to ask him how everything is going.

Glumly, he tells me, “Well, we released the prototype to a couple of early adopters, but we didn’t find they were using it on a daily basis.” Or, “We spent like $50 on Facebook ads to spread the word, but nobody signed up.” And on and on it goes.

Just like that, another wantrepreneur’s dreams are crushed. “Maybe this entrepreneurship thing just isn’t for me,” he says. Sound familiar? It happens to all of us. We have that initial burst of excitement and we get super motivated to pursue our business idea, but then when reality hits and things don’t go as planned, we lose that spark and our motivation hits rock bottom.

People don’t realize that building a startup is like a roller coaster – one day you’re on top of the world and the next you’re having the worst day ever. Motivation is like the fuel in your car, when you run out, your company stalls and comes to a complete stop.

People always ask me how I maintain my motivation throughout the ups and downs of startup life. Like any other positive habit, you have to train yourself and you need a few techniques in your back pocket to help you get out of that rut when you (inevitably) fall into it.

Here are a few things that have helped me stay motivated while building my business:

1. Listen to or Read Something Motivational Each Day

This is actually one of my main sources of motivation. Every day, I listen to an entrepreneurship podcast and learn something new.

When you hear an interview with a successful founder, and he says he wakes up every day at 4AM to spend 2 hours writing a chapter of his book before heading into work, it makes you think “Wow! I thought I was working hard!”

I’ll listen to an owner talk about how he lost everything and managed to bring himself back from ruins. That kind of story can motivate anybody to push through the rough times in their own life and business endeavors.

When I hear these types of inspirational interviews during my morning walk, I go home eager to start work for the day!

“Your reputation is more important than your paycheck, and your integrity is worth more than your career.”  – Ryan Freitas

2. Have a Learning Mindset

No matter how excited you are about your startup idea, remember that it’s a learning experience. A year from now, you may end up developing something totally different based on feedback you get from customers. If your first prototype doesn’t get the traction or results you were hoping for, then learn why that is.

Did it not solve the customer’s pain point? Were you solving the wrong problem? Call up the users and ask them why are they’re not using or buying your product! Brice McBeth in his book ‘Salon Chairs Don’t Sell Themselves’, shares his experience with the launch of an e-commerce website that he was trying to promote.

He found that potential customers were just not signing up, even though his team built a visually stunning website. It wasn’t until after he called several customers that he learned they felt the website looked too fancy for them.

They weren’t signing up because they thought the product was too expensive even though they hadn’t even looked at the pricing page. They based their assumption purely on the landing page. He changed the website and the product took off. So don’t get discouraged if your first launch fails. Go out and ask for feedback and correct your mistakes!

3. Sign Up Real Customers

The biggest motivating factor for me so far has been signing up our startup’s first real customers. Not a friend and not someone I met at a networking event who was doing me a favor. A complete stranger who found us on the web and wanted to sign up because she was interested in the product.

When I talked to this customer on the phone, she had no idea we were a startup in the beta stage. She was an office manager of a landscape and lawn service company who was looking for a time tracking software. Having a “real” customer using our application and depending on us to process payroll was a huge responsibility, but it was also motivation for us because we didn’t want to let a customer down.

I’ve found the wantrepreneurs of the world are a little intimidated by the important step of accumulating real customers. When beta customers sign up, they expect to have some issues with the product or software, but when a real, expectant, interested customer signs up and hands over their hard-earned money, it’s a whole different ball game.

But don’t be intimidated! The key is providing excellent customer service. Then your customers will stay with you even if your product is basic and buggy, because they know you will fix it and take care of them down the road. Trust me, waking up every morning knowing people are depending on you is the biggest motivation of all!

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” – Thomas Edison

Maintaining motivation while you’re working on your startup, especially at the beginning, is like anything else important in your life – you have to work at it! Listen to or read something inspirational every day, maintain the mindset that everything is a learning experience, and take that plunge to find real customers.

Then, use your system to be accountable for your work and provide great service, and you’ll discover the motivation to move forward even in the toughest of times.

How do you stay motivated while building your startup or running your business? Comment below!

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3 Highly Successful Startups and the Lessons You Can Learn From Them

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successful startups

To get success in life, it doesn’t always about having a university degree with top class. These days, successful businesses and entrepreneurs come from different walks of life.

When you will consider some of the successful startups of the world and entrepreneurs, who lead them, you can notice that they can also represent varied products, brands, generations, industries, and cultures.

Keeping aside diversity and backgrounds, successful entrepreneurs, businessmen and leaders have at least one thing in common, and that is the wide learning curves that they have had to undergo along the way on the road to their success.

However, the way to startup success is not always a predictable one because only 30% of seeded startups are securing some additional funding. In order to know why some of the startups thrive or some stagnate or fail, it is important to examine successful startups and different lessons to learn from them.

Here are 3 Successful Startups & Lessons That Can be Learnt From Them

1. Airbnb – Build a Product or Service That Customers Fall in love With

One of the leading American startups, Airbnb offers an online marketplace and hospitality service for people worldwide to lease or rent short-term lodging, including hostel beds, holiday cottages and apartments through its application. When the company was struggling in its initial stage in 2008, Paul Graham, a founder of the well-known incubator startup, Y Combinator, gave  advice to the CEO of Airbnb.

The CEO of Y Combinator asked Brian Chesky to focus on building a product that people fall-in-love with. Instead of building a product that people like, you should give attention to building a product that people truly love.

If most people are loving your product rather than liking it, they will recommend it to their friends and relatives. The word of mouth marketing for your product or service will play a more important role than any other marketing ways. With word of mouth marketing, it is enough to propel most businesses to new heights.

Lesson to learn: It would be a great choice to develop a product or service that people love instead of liking it. Your potential customers will indirectly help to get many new customers and expand your business.

“Ideas are commodity. Execution of them is not.” – Michael Dell

2. Uber – Always Think of Solving a Problem  

To achieve vivid success like Uber, it is a must that you think for one such service or product that gives a solution to your customers’ problem. Let’s consider Uber, a leading on-demand taxi booking app service provider, delivering on-demand taxi services to people worldwide, ensuring that they do not have to wait too long for a taxi.

Likewise, Uber has solved a problem of people that they were facing while hiring a taxi. Even it could start with just one problem and probably, your startup could deliver a holistic solution. So, whenever you get an idea, ensure that you start analyzing the idea and think about how it can solve a problem of people.

Lesson to Learn: Always think of your customers’ problems and try to solve it through your services or products. Give them a reliable solution that makes their daily life easier.

3. Atlassian – Have a Mission-driven Company Culture

Atlassian Corporation is an enterprise software company that is well-known for making business software, helping different teams of all sizes work faster and better together. A highly popular creator or products like Jiri and Confluence among others.

The company announced that they had spent $425 million to purchase another business-software company called Trello in early 2017. It is one of the biggest lessons that startups can learn from Atlassian as they have a mission-driven company culture.

Lesson to Learn: Do you know that the right culture can lead your company to success? You can realize the significant performance improvements. Build a culture, where people just love to work, expanding your business from one level to next.

“Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you.” – Tony Hsieh

These are three highly successful startups and different lessons that can be learnt from them. These above-mentioned startups have a different success story, however, an organization that mainly focuses on customer-centric and mission-driven culture along with delivering a world-class product, tend to be successful.

Moreover, the companies that found solutions to customers’ problems and improve their daily lives, can lead to success. So, follow the hard-earned lessons that I mentioned above and it may help you to join the ranks of the unicorns.

What are some of your favorite & successful startups? Comment below!

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The 5 Most Common Myths Associated With Starting a Business

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business myths

We live in a world of opportunities. I can remember growing up and always dreaming of wearing a suit and tie to work. It was my absolute dream. I was maybe 14 years old at the time and my grades in school were awful and I didn’t exactly have the brightest future ahead of me. I always had these misconceptions about success and what it took to achieve it.

After almost a decade of putting my head down and investing the time, I can finally say I have a profitable business. However, this isn’t about me and my business. This is about the myths that most people are allowing to rule their lives and hold them back from their greatness.

Running a business isn’t about making millions of dollars. When you own a business you’re making the world a better place. You’re providing a solution to a problem. You’re giving others an opportunity to earn money by becoming an employee. You’re doing so much more than making money. It’s good for the economy. So don’t let these common myths about starting a business fool you.

Here are 5 common myths you need to let go of once and for all:

1. You must be intelligent and good in school

Have you ever thought that it’s a basic requirement to graduate college with a business degree? It makes sense if you look at it from a distance. You go to school. You learn how to run a business. You start a business.

The flip side? Business school doesn’t teach you how to handle failure. School will never teach you how to adapt to the market place and make split second decisions that could impact millions of people’s daily lives. School can’t teach you to be you. Although school may not hurt, it’s 100% not required to run a successful business.

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” – Henry David Thoreau

2. You need money

Almost everyone I’ve asked about starting a business has brought up the concept of needing money to get started. I’m here to tell you that you can start thousands of different businesses without money. The most practical piece of advice I can give here is to go out and sell your service, collect the money, then invest a portion or all of that money into the tools needed to complete the job.

If you’re dead set on a business model that requires a lot of cash upfront, use resources like kickstarter or angel investors to get going. You personally don’t need to have any money to start any business ever. You just have to be willing to get creative when it comes to finding the necessary money required.

3. You need experience

As entrepreneurs, we are actually innovators. A lot of the things we are doing have never been done before. We’re constantly experimenting with new ideas and that comes with a lot of failures. You gain the necessary experience needed to run a business while you run your business. You’ll never learn everything you need to know and not a single day will go by where you don’t gain more experience. So dive in, have fun, and don’t give up.

4. You need a following

With all of these mega influencers on social media, it can be challenging to believe you can do anything without a massive following. This isn’t true at all. Everyone on this planet starts with the same following. ZERO. No one knows who you are until you put yourself out there.

Sure you may not have thousands of subscribers, you may not even have ten subscribers. The point is that if you put out good content and provide a service or product that actually helps make the world a better place and solves a problem for your customer, you will win. Just keep putting in the time and energy.

“If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

5. There’s too much competition

Everyday you wait there will be more and more competition. If it was easy everyone would be doing it right? Your product or service is the difference. If you provide a better experience you will win. If you put in the work for the long haul and ignore the short term gains, you will win. Business is a massive competition and if you’re doing it right your competitors will become your friends, mentors, and possibly customers.

This article was written specifically for you. To help you overcome some of the fears of taking that leap of becoming an entrepreneur. Don’t get me wrong, it’s challenging. However, if you truly believe in your idea, there should be nothing on this planet that can stop you from bringing it to life.

What tips have you used to start your business? Comment below!

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3 Simple Steps to Remove Drama From Your Life Immediately

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drama

You come home, tired from work, and as soon as you open the door, the drama hits you in the face. Either your boyfriend/girlfriend is throwing a tantrum which ends up in a full-out fight for hours or your boss has a love/hate relationship with you and gives you so many responsibilities that you end up working late in the night. Maybe it is simply your parents who keep forcing you to take the job, partner or university you don’t really want. (more…)

Bruno Boksic is a writer at Medium.com. An avid reader of personal development books, with a 7-year long experience of helping people become the best version of themselves. I don't have all the answers, but the ones I do, I share through my writing.  You can contact me at boksicbruno@gmail.com

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Esther Mellar

    Oct 2, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Tim,

    What strike me is the following:
    ‘The Canva pitch to investors was rejected many times but what Melanie realised was that when investors said no, what the investor was really saying was that the current phase of their startup didn’t meet his or hers individual risk appetite.
    “The rejection is often not because of the reasons you think they are rejecting you”’
    Do you know Tim, did she actually ask for clarification/guidance, or it was only her positive attitude and belief in herself and her product?
    Thank you!

    • Tim Denning

      Oct 19, 2015 at 11:33 pm

      Esther, Melanie asked for feedback but it was mainly her belief in what she was doing that drove her. Melanie and her co-founder Cliff both had success with their first startup Fusion Books so that helped them have the optimism they needed. None the less, all entrepreneurs need to be able to visualise their vision before it’s real – Melanie did this beautifully.

  2. Lawrence Berry

    Sep 30, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    I love stories where other people kept pursing their dreams until it eventually paid off, and one thing that I have learned is that almost everyone who never gave up on their dream eventually made them come true. You learn from your failures and plant enough seeds over the years, you will eventually plant a fruitful seed. I love this young lady’s advice and her story.

    I agree with her statement that you don’t have to be a coder in order to achieve success with something techy, but you do need to know how to delegate tasks. You want to learn how to hand off the jobs that you don’t know, or are not the best at, but keep this vision intact. This vision and plan will make help you achieve success.

    • Tim Denning

      Sep 30, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      I love these stories too Lawrence. It’s so cool that they didn’t even have a product yet they were able to convince one of the most well-known venture capitalists to invest in them. This just shows you how important a compelling vision is.

  3. denny

    Sep 30, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Great insight on a contemporary path to wild startup success. I suppose identifying a short list of key industry influencers should be a part of early startup planning. Likewise, a focus on clearly communicating the market, the need and the vision to meet that need are all first steps – prior to technical design.

    • Tim Denning

      Sep 30, 2015 at 7:50 am

      Thanks Denny and appreciate you sharing your startup tips with us.

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Startups

3 Reasons Why It’s a Good Thing Your First Startup Failed

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startup failure

Statistics on business failure are a matter of heated debate. Back in 2014, a study in The Washington Post rubbished the oft-repeated claim that “nine out of ten businesses fail,” saying that it had “no statistical basis.” Even so, a more accurate figure from The Small Business Administration still points to only around half of businesses lasting beyond five years.

As such, there’s still a 50/50 chance that your first startup will fail. If this has happened to you, it’s unlikely to have been a pleasant experience. But does that mean that every bit of the time, money and effort was wasted? Absolutely not. In fact, the value of failing has been discussed on this site before.

As Henry Ford said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” One thing you can be sure of is that in the wake of a failed start-up, you’ll have a heap of lessons to learn from. Every one of them represents an opportunity to do things better or differently next time and increase the chance of your next business being the one that truly goes the distance.

Here are three big reasons why the failure of your first start-up could prove to have been a blessing:

1. You know which tasks not to expend time and money on

It’s pretty much impossible to get a business off the ground without making some mistakes, especially when it comes to putting time and effort into ideas and activities that don’t move the company forward.

However, it’s easy to forget and write off, for example, a futile Google Ads campaign or a pointless dalliance with Instagram if the business goes on to be a success. However, if the company fails, then these drains on time and money suddenly come into far sharper focus.

This being the case, the chances are you’ll have quite a sizeable “never again” list, even if it’s only stored in your memory. Everything on that list is an opportunity not to make the same mistake again whether it’s a web developer you’ll not be using again or acquired knowledge on which advertising strategies do and don’t work. You have a body of knowledge that’s going to ensure your next venture is leaner, meaner and more focussed.

“You have to work on the business first before it works for you.” –  Idowu Koyenikan

2. You know what did go right

Of course (hopefully) you got some stuff right too? This knowledge is equally valuable. One way of looking at it is that your next start-up business can operate like a carefully edited and curated version of the first one.

All the ideas, working practices and promotional avenues that delivered results the first time around are things you can potentially recreate (albeit obviously only where the business similarities are relevant!) What’s more, because you’ve done these things before, they should take you less time the second time around.

There may even be documents, contracts, databases and various other things you can repurpose for your next company. This can result in big savings in both time and money. Just because the business failed doesn’t mean there aren’t considerable resources you still have to show for your initial efforts.

The same applies to the contacts you made and the suppliers and companies you used. That network is still there, and once again it’s now a “curated” network – you know exactly who to work with again, and who to swerve.

3. You’ve learned a valuable lesson in resilience

Gever Tulley is an American writer, TED talk host, and founder of San Francisco’s Brightworks school. He says that “Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.”

This is very relevant in start-up businesses. Entrepreneurs who find huge success with their first business actually miss out on a valuable and crucial part of the learning curve, and this can come back to haunt them when there’s an unexpected bump in the road further down the line.

Yes, watching a much-loved business fail can be upsetting and demotivating, but coming out the other side still willing to have another go is undoubtedly a bold and determined move to make. It’s almost inevitable that the process will change you, and will certainly change the way you do things.

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan

But it’s no bad thing to be more sceptical as to the claims companies make when they sell you something, tougher when it comes to price negotiation, or more cynical about the benefits of jumping onto the latest online bandwagon.

The last quote which I shall use to tie this up is from an unknown source, and it says that “the only person you should try to be better than is who you were yesterday.” If you can stick to that rule and use the failure of a business venture to bounce back with humility and determination, it should set you up well for your next attempt.

All the work that went into that “failed” business still has a huge amount of value. So move forward, concentrate on one thing at a time, and you should stand a good chance of success the second time around.  

What failed venture are you grateful for in your life? Let us know in the comments below!

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3 Powerful Ways to Stay Motivated While Building Your Startup

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building a startup

I hear one particular story being repeated over and over again in the startup world. See if you’ve heard it before. A friend tells me how excited he is about a new business idea. He’s talked to several potential customers who seem really interested, and he’s even contracted folks in the industry to help him build a prototype.

Two months later, I meet with him again. He’s still very excited, working hard at all hours of the day, and he says that they’re actually about to release the prototype. Another 2 or 3 months go by and I check in to ask him how everything is going.

Glumly, he tells me, “Well, we released the prototype to a couple of early adopters, but we didn’t find they were using it on a daily basis.” Or, “We spent like $50 on Facebook ads to spread the word, but nobody signed up.” And on and on it goes.

Just like that, another wantrepreneur’s dreams are crushed. “Maybe this entrepreneurship thing just isn’t for me,” he says. Sound familiar? It happens to all of us. We have that initial burst of excitement and we get super motivated to pursue our business idea, but then when reality hits and things don’t go as planned, we lose that spark and our motivation hits rock bottom.

People don’t realize that building a startup is like a roller coaster – one day you’re on top of the world and the next you’re having the worst day ever. Motivation is like the fuel in your car, when you run out, your company stalls and comes to a complete stop.

People always ask me how I maintain my motivation throughout the ups and downs of startup life. Like any other positive habit, you have to train yourself and you need a few techniques in your back pocket to help you get out of that rut when you (inevitably) fall into it.

Here are a few things that have helped me stay motivated while building my business:

1. Listen to or Read Something Motivational Each Day

This is actually one of my main sources of motivation. Every day, I listen to an entrepreneurship podcast and learn something new.

When you hear an interview with a successful founder, and he says he wakes up every day at 4AM to spend 2 hours writing a chapter of his book before heading into work, it makes you think “Wow! I thought I was working hard!”

I’ll listen to an owner talk about how he lost everything and managed to bring himself back from ruins. That kind of story can motivate anybody to push through the rough times in their own life and business endeavors.

When I hear these types of inspirational interviews during my morning walk, I go home eager to start work for the day!

“Your reputation is more important than your paycheck, and your integrity is worth more than your career.”  – Ryan Freitas

2. Have a Learning Mindset

No matter how excited you are about your startup idea, remember that it’s a learning experience. A year from now, you may end up developing something totally different based on feedback you get from customers. If your first prototype doesn’t get the traction or results you were hoping for, then learn why that is.

Did it not solve the customer’s pain point? Were you solving the wrong problem? Call up the users and ask them why are they’re not using or buying your product! Brice McBeth in his book ‘Salon Chairs Don’t Sell Themselves’, shares his experience with the launch of an e-commerce website that he was trying to promote.

He found that potential customers were just not signing up, even though his team built a visually stunning website. It wasn’t until after he called several customers that he learned they felt the website looked too fancy for them.

They weren’t signing up because they thought the product was too expensive even though they hadn’t even looked at the pricing page. They based their assumption purely on the landing page. He changed the website and the product took off. So don’t get discouraged if your first launch fails. Go out and ask for feedback and correct your mistakes!

3. Sign Up Real Customers

The biggest motivating factor for me so far has been signing up our startup’s first real customers. Not a friend and not someone I met at a networking event who was doing me a favor. A complete stranger who found us on the web and wanted to sign up because she was interested in the product.

When I talked to this customer on the phone, she had no idea we were a startup in the beta stage. She was an office manager of a landscape and lawn service company who was looking for a time tracking software. Having a “real” customer using our application and depending on us to process payroll was a huge responsibility, but it was also motivation for us because we didn’t want to let a customer down.

I’ve found the wantrepreneurs of the world are a little intimidated by the important step of accumulating real customers. When beta customers sign up, they expect to have some issues with the product or software, but when a real, expectant, interested customer signs up and hands over their hard-earned money, it’s a whole different ball game.

But don’t be intimidated! The key is providing excellent customer service. Then your customers will stay with you even if your product is basic and buggy, because they know you will fix it and take care of them down the road. Trust me, waking up every morning knowing people are depending on you is the biggest motivation of all!

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” – Thomas Edison

Maintaining motivation while you’re working on your startup, especially at the beginning, is like anything else important in your life – you have to work at it! Listen to or read something inspirational every day, maintain the mindset that everything is a learning experience, and take that plunge to find real customers.

Then, use your system to be accountable for your work and provide great service, and you’ll discover the motivation to move forward even in the toughest of times.

How do you stay motivated while building your startup or running your business? Comment below!

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3 Highly Successful Startups and the Lessons You Can Learn From Them

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To get success in life, it doesn’t always about having a university degree with top class. These days, successful businesses and entrepreneurs come from different walks of life.

When you will consider some of the successful startups of the world and entrepreneurs, who lead them, you can notice that they can also represent varied products, brands, generations, industries, and cultures.

Keeping aside diversity and backgrounds, successful entrepreneurs, businessmen and leaders have at least one thing in common, and that is the wide learning curves that they have had to undergo along the way on the road to their success.

However, the way to startup success is not always a predictable one because only 30% of seeded startups are securing some additional funding. In order to know why some of the startups thrive or some stagnate or fail, it is important to examine successful startups and different lessons to learn from them.

Here are 3 Successful Startups & Lessons That Can be Learnt From Them

1. Airbnb – Build a Product or Service That Customers Fall in love With

One of the leading American startups, Airbnb offers an online marketplace and hospitality service for people worldwide to lease or rent short-term lodging, including hostel beds, holiday cottages and apartments through its application. When the company was struggling in its initial stage in 2008, Paul Graham, a founder of the well-known incubator startup, Y Combinator, gave  advice to the CEO of Airbnb.

The CEO of Y Combinator asked Brian Chesky to focus on building a product that people fall-in-love with. Instead of building a product that people like, you should give attention to building a product that people truly love.

If most people are loving your product rather than liking it, they will recommend it to their friends and relatives. The word of mouth marketing for your product or service will play a more important role than any other marketing ways. With word of mouth marketing, it is enough to propel most businesses to new heights.

Lesson to learn: It would be a great choice to develop a product or service that people love instead of liking it. Your potential customers will indirectly help to get many new customers and expand your business.

“Ideas are commodity. Execution of them is not.” – Michael Dell

2. Uber – Always Think of Solving a Problem  

To achieve vivid success like Uber, it is a must that you think for one such service or product that gives a solution to your customers’ problem. Let’s consider Uber, a leading on-demand taxi booking app service provider, delivering on-demand taxi services to people worldwide, ensuring that they do not have to wait too long for a taxi.

Likewise, Uber has solved a problem of people that they were facing while hiring a taxi. Even it could start with just one problem and probably, your startup could deliver a holistic solution. So, whenever you get an idea, ensure that you start analyzing the idea and think about how it can solve a problem of people.

Lesson to Learn: Always think of your customers’ problems and try to solve it through your services or products. Give them a reliable solution that makes their daily life easier.

3. Atlassian – Have a Mission-driven Company Culture

Atlassian Corporation is an enterprise software company that is well-known for making business software, helping different teams of all sizes work faster and better together. A highly popular creator or products like Jiri and Confluence among others.

The company announced that they had spent $425 million to purchase another business-software company called Trello in early 2017. It is one of the biggest lessons that startups can learn from Atlassian as they have a mission-driven company culture.

Lesson to Learn: Do you know that the right culture can lead your company to success? You can realize the significant performance improvements. Build a culture, where people just love to work, expanding your business from one level to next.

“Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you.” – Tony Hsieh

These are three highly successful startups and different lessons that can be learnt from them. These above-mentioned startups have a different success story, however, an organization that mainly focuses on customer-centric and mission-driven culture along with delivering a world-class product, tend to be successful.

Moreover, the companies that found solutions to customers’ problems and improve their daily lives, can lead to success. So, follow the hard-earned lessons that I mentioned above and it may help you to join the ranks of the unicorns.

What are some of your favorite & successful startups? Comment below!

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The 5 Most Common Myths Associated With Starting a Business

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We live in a world of opportunities. I can remember growing up and always dreaming of wearing a suit and tie to work. It was my absolute dream. I was maybe 14 years old at the time and my grades in school were awful and I didn’t exactly have the brightest future ahead of me. I always had these misconceptions about success and what it took to achieve it.

After almost a decade of putting my head down and investing the time, I can finally say I have a profitable business. However, this isn’t about me and my business. This is about the myths that most people are allowing to rule their lives and hold them back from their greatness.

Running a business isn’t about making millions of dollars. When you own a business you’re making the world a better place. You’re providing a solution to a problem. You’re giving others an opportunity to earn money by becoming an employee. You’re doing so much more than making money. It’s good for the economy. So don’t let these common myths about starting a business fool you.

Here are 5 common myths you need to let go of once and for all:

1. You must be intelligent and good in school

Have you ever thought that it’s a basic requirement to graduate college with a business degree? It makes sense if you look at it from a distance. You go to school. You learn how to run a business. You start a business.

The flip side? Business school doesn’t teach you how to handle failure. School will never teach you how to adapt to the market place and make split second decisions that could impact millions of people’s daily lives. School can’t teach you to be you. Although school may not hurt, it’s 100% not required to run a successful business.

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” – Henry David Thoreau

2. You need money

Almost everyone I’ve asked about starting a business has brought up the concept of needing money to get started. I’m here to tell you that you can start thousands of different businesses without money. The most practical piece of advice I can give here is to go out and sell your service, collect the money, then invest a portion or all of that money into the tools needed to complete the job.

If you’re dead set on a business model that requires a lot of cash upfront, use resources like kickstarter or angel investors to get going. You personally don’t need to have any money to start any business ever. You just have to be willing to get creative when it comes to finding the necessary money required.

3. You need experience

As entrepreneurs, we are actually innovators. A lot of the things we are doing have never been done before. We’re constantly experimenting with new ideas and that comes with a lot of failures. You gain the necessary experience needed to run a business while you run your business. You’ll never learn everything you need to know and not a single day will go by where you don’t gain more experience. So dive in, have fun, and don’t give up.

4. You need a following

With all of these mega influencers on social media, it can be challenging to believe you can do anything without a massive following. This isn’t true at all. Everyone on this planet starts with the same following. ZERO. No one knows who you are until you put yourself out there.

Sure you may not have thousands of subscribers, you may not even have ten subscribers. The point is that if you put out good content and provide a service or product that actually helps make the world a better place and solves a problem for your customer, you will win. Just keep putting in the time and energy.

“If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

5. There’s too much competition

Everyday you wait there will be more and more competition. If it was easy everyone would be doing it right? Your product or service is the difference. If you provide a better experience you will win. If you put in the work for the long haul and ignore the short term gains, you will win. Business is a massive competition and if you’re doing it right your competitors will become your friends, mentors, and possibly customers.

This article was written specifically for you. To help you overcome some of the fears of taking that leap of becoming an entrepreneur. Don’t get me wrong, it’s challenging. However, if you truly believe in your idea, there should be nothing on this planet that can stop you from bringing it to life.

What tips have you used to start your business? Comment below!

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