Entrepreneurship9 September 20207 min

#WisdomWednesday: The top essentials for starting a business

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Starting a new business in this economy may be tough, but it's not impossible. Making certain choices and moves will help you hit the ground running and maximise your chances of success. To help you take off faster, this #WisdomWednesday we’ll give you the rundown of the top essentials every startup needs to make a flying start.

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Start with a story

Can you put into words what your startup does? This may sound obvious, but many startups (and even established companies) express themselves in jargon or vague terms. Or even worse: they only talk about all the benefits of their product or service. But guess what: nobody’s interested in (just) that. People don’t just want to buy a product, they want to buy a brand, a company culture, a story. Customers, accelerators and investors all want to know about the humans behind a company.

So get all Simon Sinek and focus on the Why of your company, the emotional aspect. What drove you to start your business? What problem did you pick up on, and how do you want to use your experience to resolve a certain frustration? Shed some light on your goal, and how your startup is working towards it. Want to bet that your story will also help you build up a community in no time?

Curious about what good storytelling looks like in practice? Check out these great examples from our startups Davai Dumplings and Loop!

Pick the right moment

Timing is everything, right? When it comes to starting a company this is certainly the case. So pick the moment to start up with care by considering what’s happening in your industry, with your competitors, with startup funds, and in your personal life.

When the moment is right, be ready to seize the day with a complete business plan and decisive moves. While it’s important to think everything through carefully, don’t make the mistake a lot of startups make by getting stuck in the early stages of development. This seems to be especially tricky for Belgians: we’re perfectionists, and we don’t want to launch a product before it’s flawless. But the trick is getting feedback as soon as possible so that your startup can grow faster!

It’s also important to be able to pivot quickly if you see your product or service isn’t catching on. Our startup WeGroup reeled in their first customers with their initial B2C product, but quickly ran into the limits of marketing a B2C product in Belgium. “At a certain point, we just didn't have enough resources to make the product successful in the form it had at the time. We needed a significant amount of funding to reach our desired audience. When we got more and more interest from insurers and brokers, we decided to offer our virtual assistant as a white-label B2B product ,” CEO Arvid De Coster said in an interview.

Get your A-team (or network) in place

Given that the outside world wants to get to know the human side of your company, of course the people you have on board are of crucial importance. Every good founder knows that. The family startup DinnerGift is made up of four founders who know each other through and through, which makes for smooth teamwork.

But not everybody has an entire dream team at their side right from the start. Luckily there are also other ways to surround yourself with the right people. By now you know that everything revolves around having a good network. The founding couple of Justified, for example, decided to set up an advisory board in the beginning, believing this would reduce the startup learning curve. Thibaut Nivelles of Setle (formerly Homeweb) found the same: “We are level-headed enough to realise that we can’t accomplish this mission on our own. A good network and strategic partnerships are essential to our growth,” he says.

At Start it @KBC we couldn’t agree more! That’s why we work with strategic partners who can further support our startups in their growth. An accelerator’s network can also be very useful. Pieterjan of Bolt considers himself lucky to be surrounded by the right mentors and people from the start. “Believe me, Bolt wouldn’t have had a shot at success if it had been set up by me alone in a garage or attic,” he once told us.

Think international from Day One

In these digital times, anyone in the world can become your competitor, but also your customer. So it’s worth it to make your startup “international proof” right away, which can be done in a number of ways:

· Put together a diverse team: it could be your biggest asset, giving you faster insight into how people in other cultures or countries perceive your product, service or sales approach.

· Communicate in English from the start, so that you can literally reach the whole world

· Build and maintain an international network so that you can fall back on it later

A small side note: you certainly don’t have to be active all over the world right away. Prepare to internationalise, but start by testing your product or service locally. Otherwise you will scale too quickly, and you may also scale your mistakes. “We started as an international company, but with a good dose of Belgian caution,” Roderik Van der Veer of Settlemintonce joked.

Follow through!

Running a startup can be extremely tough. Setbacks are commonplace. You hear no more often than yes at first. You can have the brightest ideas and the best business plan, but it won’t amount to much if the company’s leaders don’t have the perseverance and grit to follow through to the end. In the end, getting a startup off the ground is very hands-on. You not only need knowledge and experience, but also a serious amount of energy and a go-getter mindset.

Aline Muylaert remembers the criticism she had to endure when she started up CitizenLab very well. But in the end it made her drive to make something out of it even stronger. “I was able to put that into perspective: it is not easy to reconcile local authorities with digitisation. That made it all the more important for us to quickly convince the first cities and municipalities. Since the public sector often looks at what others do, we wanted to create that first domino effect. And we succeeded!”

Want to make your chances of a successful start even bigger? Apply for the next pitch wave at Start it @KBC!