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What did you wish you knew when you first started your business / startup?

I have just started a newsletter which aims to explain startup concepts and ideas in a layperson manner - through simple illustrations.

Right now, it is completely new with zero issues and I was thinking, how should I best build this newsletter in public and co-create with the community?

So I thought I would ask everyone here: what were the concepts you found most confusing when you first started or if you have any advice you wish you knew back then?

These would then be the topics for the first few issues of Startup Illustrated.

You can see the landing page here: https://www.startupillustrated.com/

If you have any other feedback on the concept or landing page, please let me know as well!

Let us help educate the next generation of indiehackers and founders together!

  1. 4

    I wish I had known that not all investment money is good money. It's something most of us know, but in the excitement (or ignorance honestly) of the first fund raises, it is easily overlooked and can be quite painful to manage on the long run.
    Thankfully learnt my lesson on my second Startup!

    1. 1

      Oh, I have not had much experience with fundraising but I can see why this would be something that would affect your startup in the long run.

      Any tips on how to identify what is good or bad money? (e.g. red flags, positive indicators etc.)

      1. 2

        Unfortunately not always easy to assess...

        Some red flags could be:

        • Investor that wants to take a controlling position in your company from the outset (Chair for instance) without even seeing how you operate.
        • Investor that does not have investment experience and expects a fixed return or no dilution during the journey.
        • In early stages, investors that will focus exclusively on your financial projections without "buying" into the vision: chances are your financial forecasts will go sideways, and if an investor is in just for that, you might have a difficult relationship to manage.
        • In later stages (VCs), a VC that imposes drastic conditions on the founders: if they are all about the success of your venture (and in turn, their own success), then they should know that crushing founders is about the worst you can do to a startup. However, some conditions appear harsh to founders, but are standard, and also in place to protect the investors.

        All in all, unfortunately no silver bullet on the topic. There are 2 rules of thumb that founders (especially first-timers) overlook, and it's a shame:

        1 - If you smell a rat, don't go - trust your instinct and judgement. In the end, it might at times fail you, but it is the one thing you have that no one can really manipulate. Trust your own feelings. If you have a bad one, then don't take the deal.

        2 - If it's too good to be true, it's too good to be true - Deals that are way too appealing probably have a hidden catch, that may not be obvious at first, but might come to bite you back later in your journey.

        Hope that helps!

        1. 1

          That is really helpful! Thank you!

  2. 1

    Very simple for me: a seriously well explained, honest and real picture of time investment it requires when starting solo to build a 100K ARR business.

    I don't think I would recommend anyone per se (trying) to go solo. There's so much work and it's just too easy to spread yourself too thin. Also it's not always fun at all as you'll be doing SO much you don't like to do. But have to do. Then a lot of stuff you simply don't have enough knowledge on to be efficient.

    You're either spending your time coding. Means you're not marketing yourself. You'll be doing customer support, you're not coding nor marketing. You're doing sales, you're not building nor marketing nor helping customers with support. Then there's no budget so you need to do consulting. Meanwhile clients don't get attention and lose their interest slowly as they work with an MVP and you don't have time to market for new ones. It's a vicious circle of solopreneurship. Very hard!

    And another explanation that goes in to cash flow. Especially how fast money flows out. Specifically to your own salary. I can imagine this can be very funny pictured =)

    1. 2

      Oh yes, that is true. Doing a startup solo is a daunting task.
      And on top of this, there would be the mental burden of anxiety and doubt.

      Yes, definitely something to illustrate to ensure people know about this before starting.

  3. 1

    Before I got started, I made the same mistake as most of us make which is building in a vacuum. I was thinking about the product and not the problem/distribution.

    After I found a little success, I under estimated the support costs. This was something that was a bit of a surprise and a bit frustrating at first. I figured if I built a product that worked and wasn't buggy there would be very minimal support questions. I also didn't realize how important good support was, if you do it right it can really help you grow by word of mouth.

    1. 1

      Thats true. I found the same when I built my first product a few years back. In the end, I found that while the product was good, it didn't solve the root problem and decided to close that project.

      At the same time, distribution is not really talked about enough in the space and does get overlooked.

      Regarding support, I didn't realise that as well till I had to manage client relationships! Support tickets and requests will keep coming in no matter how great your product and you are right, it can be a big differentiator - just look at Zappos.

      Spending the time impressing existing user tends to have greater impact compared to spending time acquiring more users.

  4. 1

    When I started my own journey of building app.ruttl.com, I conducted an extensive secondary research on the problems faced by the design community. However, to answer you question, I would say that conducting research interview with focus groups is highly effective in both, validating your idea and optimizing your product. This is probably the thing I wish I knew before starting out on this journey.

    1. 1

      I see, that makes sense! Research interviews and focus groups are an effective tool to use. The participants in the focus group could become your first customers as well as they are much more invested in the concept!

      Just curious, how did you manage to find people for your focus groups? Also, when conducting the focus groups, how did you combat things like group think or people being swayed by the answers from other participants?

      1. 1

        A great way you can find people for focus groups is by finding leads using LinkedIn sales navigator (if you are based in a B2B market)

        Another way to find people is through Facebook or Community Forums like IH itself, where people are enthusiastic to try new products

        To answer your question regarding the group thinking, I actually didn't face it that much. The opinions of people were pretty similar to one another, which was actually quite uncommon.

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