Learn from those who have done it before

What’s the biggest mistake a startup can make?

No startup journey is going to be perfect. Mistakes are inevitable and all rising businesses must overcome some self-inflicted frustrations on their road to success.

The key is to ensure these slip-ups are not fatal.

Mistakes can be made through misplaced priorities, ill-advised strategies or an inadequate understanding of markets and all can impact on a startup’s potential performance.

“The single biggest mistake I think a startup can make is thinking that someone won’t reply or that it’s not worth trying talking to somebody because they won’t be interested,” RPD International’s Josh Valman explains.

Business success requires a tenacious attitude and a persistence that will try all available avenues to generate invaluable early sales. Without that determination startups might not get started at all.

“A lot of people talk, a lot of people think, a lot of people come up with ideas – and some of them are brilliant – but so many people don’t take those steps to turn it into reality,” Growth Shack founder Ben Clark laments.

Startup founders must never lose sight that it’s the sales that will keep ventures surging and not other (albeit important) distractions that can drain away a lot of attention and energy.

“It’s important to be single minded about the proposition you are selling and really focused on earning revenue rather than spending your investors’ money hiring people and setting up processes,” KEM Investments’ Duncan Stirling advises. “It’s very easy to focus on operations rather than on sales. Revenue and cash flow is what startups need so sell, sell, sell.”

“With startups, the challenge is always understanding how they fit into the market and understanding the scope and potential of the idea,” engineering consultant Vincent Mifsud adds. “Ideas are common, what’s important is choosing the right one and making sure you take it through and succeed.”

Entrepreneur and startup adviser Gordon Clyne would warn businesses not to make their objectives too broad too soon. “I think the biggest mistake is beginning on one thing and then making the focus wider instead of keeping it laser focused,” he says.

Instead, businesses can flourish with the right business model and that means choosing the correct route to monetise the idea.

“[The biggest startup mistake is] not thinking hard enough about what the clients are buying,” Indigo&. co-founder Michael Gifford says. “Entrepreneurs think about the technology but they don’t think about what the client is buying, whether that’s data, a service or a product.”

Beyond setting the correct commercialisation route, it’s also key that businesses establish other essential processes to create a complete working machine.

“I find that often, particularly with technology startups, they put too much value on their product,” Salesforce’s Muj Choudhury explains. “There is this feeling that the product, the IP or the technology is the thing that will make a success of their startup when really it’s all the operational stuff: the sales, the marketing, the engagement and the understanding what the market wants.”

As entrepreneurs from the University of Southampton perfect their business propositions, they can call upon the wisdom of Future Worlds’ vast mentor network to make sure they don’t fall into the trap of repeating classic past startup mistakes.

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Jon Nurse

Content Manager
Future Worlds

Jon compiles the latest innovations, articles and interviews for futureworlds.com as the platform’s Content Manager. He is also helping researchers in Physical Sciences and Engineering impact society with their work as a Communications and Impact Officer at the University of Southampton. He previously worked as a Senior Reporter for the Trinity Mirror newsgroup.

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