This guest article was written by Tomer Zussman, co-founder and CEO of TravelersBox. TravelersBox allows travelers to convert leftover foreign currency at the end of their trips into usable digital currency (PayPal, iTunes, Skype, Pre Paid Visa, etc) through easy to use airport based kiosks.
Establishing a startup is tough and challenging, but there are a few principles that, no matter which field you’re working in, you must follow in order to start the company with the right foundations and chance of success.
1. Your first investor is the most important one – choose well
We’ve all been there, you have this great idea, the presentation is ready, you practiced the pitch perfectly and the only thing left now is the cash. From my experience, most of them are very nice and even if they do not invest, in most cases you can get great feedback for your next meeting. I know. It’s tricky and it depends on the momentum of your roadshow but the decision on the first investor will be one of the most important decisions you will make throughout the life of your startup.
Once the money is in, you start dealing with decisions that will dramatically affect your chances to succeed. Having the right person next to you to help, advise, criticize, show you a different approach and help you make more money is crucial.
What should you consider when choosing the investor:
• Industry related (you must get the best advisor)
• Previous investments (don’t be shy to ask and even get references)
• Chemistry (like any relationship, if you do not connect, it won’t work)
• Reputation (it is very important to your next investor who the previous one was)
• Personality (are they good people?)
2. Don’t do it alone – share the restless nights
When establishing my first startup, I did it all by myself. This was a great challenge but most certainly a big mistake. Startups involve stress, tough decisions, multi tasking and a lot of sleepless nights, endlessly wondering – about what I did today, what am I going to do tomorrow, and how do I solve all of my R&D, marketing, operations and finance challenges. Doing it by yourself makes it even harder, you feel alone on the battlefield, and it is indeed a battlefield. Having someone else to help you carry the load is important, it really changes the weight you feel on your shoulders and helps to have a clear mind in order to be creative and motivated.
3. Don’t look back (or sideways), focus!
Time is of the essence and in most cases you don’t have the amount of money you need in order to get to your next milestone (even when you are positive $1 million will take you all the way).
You should run as fast as you can for your next milestone, don’t look back, never stop and don’t get distracted by anything. You will hear a bunch of ‘noes’, ‘this won’t happen’, ‘you are crazy trying to achieve this’, and more. Set your goal and go for it. Remember, momentum is very important at this point on so many levels.
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4. Don’t save your way to success
I’m not saying throw your money away. You should have a budget and you should try to stick to it.
But, if you discover a way to improve, get sales, bring users or anything else that will get you closer to your next goal – even if it is out of your planned budget – go for it. You received money in order to achieve specific goals.
You’re better off running out of money earlier than planned while you achieve important milestones, than presenting to your next investors that you kept your budget plans and you are the best at controlling expenses, but have achieved no or few goals…
5. Find the best team possible – ‘A’ players only!
There’s never time to train employees, no time to deal with micro management, and you simply can’t afford to be hiring and firing at this stage. Every employee you hire must be a touchdown. Your team will be the people who will help you achieve your goals, without them you are just an entrepreneur… without your team, nothing will happen. Invest your time to find A players, don’t settle for less than AMAZING. They need to be independent, goal driven and self-motivated. Don’t expect less than you expect from yourself.
Fintech entrepreneur? Here’s a bonus tip for you –
Take your most difficult obstacle and use it as a barrier of entry.
Fintech will always involve regulations. If you come up with a revolutionary idea, you will most likely be working in a gray area in regard to regulation and legislation. As a startup with limited resources, it is always hard to overcome these challenges up to the point that you might be forced to stop your activity or pivot.
Another way to look at it is to understand how the regulation can be a barrier of entry for your competitors while an open path for you.
It is only when you truly, deeply understand the market and the reasons for the limitations and regulation, that this could be achieved. By coming up with a few sophisticated changes (and some brave, but not stupid decisions), you can create a tough barrier to your competitors while you achieve your goals.