Have You Asked Yourself These 10 Questions Before Starting Up

Big startup in making

Entrepreneurship is at an all-time high, not just in India, but around the world. Between 2006 and 2013, the number of companies founded in the Silicon Valley by people under 35 more than doubled from 145,104 to 247,049. According to 2015 Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking, Bangalore showed the second highest Growth Index, 4.9, with the highest market reach and one of the highest talent. All this has given rise to a new breed of "wannapreneurs" – entrepreneurs in the making.

If you are reading this, you are most likely already bitten by the startup bug. But before you leave your (in most likelihood, cushy) day job and take the plunge into the startup world, here are 10 questions you need to ask yourself before becoming an entrepreneur:

  1. What is your core strength? – The first step that any wannapreneur must take, and the one step that most fail to, is to identify their core competency. Successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs built their companies utilizing their core skills – programming and product vision – respectively. Identifying you core strength will also assist in identifying and hiring the right skills required to complement your competencies.
  2. What is your commitment level? – The initial months of entrepreneurship are similar to a honeymoon period. You attend meetups, meet like-minded people, discuss and brainstorm ideas. However beyond that there is a LOT of hard work involved. This is where most startups fizzle out. Be ready to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the company, such as trading you kid’s, spouse’s or parent’s birthday for a night of code debugging.
  3. Will you enjoy it? – Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group, is known to be the epitome of personification of “Have Fun, Work Hard and Money Will Come” mantra. From creating the first offices that had lounges and beds, to flying in air balloons or dressing up as a drag queen to market the Virgin brand, he ensured his employees had as much fun as he did. In a profession where you will be working under high pressure 24 x 7, it is imperative that you enjoy your work.
  4. Is there a market for my product/service? – Nine out of 10 startups fail because the founder/founding team misjudged the need for the product they were creating. According to a 2014 report by CB Insights, 42% of the startups in US failed due to lack of market, making it numero uno reason for the failure of startups. Knowing your market is the key to success of your startup.
  5. How long can I sustain before I make my first sale? – According to the same report by CB Insights, the number 2 killer for startups is lack of cash flow. It accounts for around 29% of the startups meeting ill fated destinies. Do you have a secondary source of income that can give you a breathing space while you try to build your venture?
  6. Are you making life better for some people? – Most successful startups are those that have a purpose behind them. While not essentially philanthropy, it gives your startup a sense of direction and purpose. Try to find that higher purpose.
  7. Who are your competitors? – Knowing your competitors is extremely important for the success of your business. First, presence of competitors will automatically tell you that there is a market for the product/service. Lack of competitors means either there is no market or the product is coming before its time and this means a long gestation period. Second, you can learn from their mistakes. Third, according to HBR, a challenging environment helps start-ups stay focused on satisfying customer needs along with lowering and containing costs.
  8. How committed is my team? – HubSpot Co-founder Dharmesh Shah says that though co-founder Brian Halligan was involved in the company for more than a year, Dharmesh was unable to judge his commitment level. Brian’s commitment became apparent when he started talking to friends, family and colleagues about HubSpot and why he was involved in it.
  9. How will I retain key talent? – This is a question which will come haunting time and again, no matter what is the size of your business. According to this Telegraph Article, Netflix amended its leave policy and let all salaried employees take as many days of paid vacation as possible to boost employee morale and retain talent. You may not want to do that, but you should make sure you have the answer to this question before you startup.
  10. What is my Plan B and Plan C? – Lacking a Plan B could be your startup’s biggest mistake. The fact that even established companies need Plan B comes out clearly if one studies Research In Motion (RIM) closely. For years, roughly 80% of the company’s revenue was derived from the sale of smartphones. But a dip in sales and lack of a solid alternative business model, cost it dearly. If you pretend you did not know Plan A will fail, don’t. (By the way, you know that your Plan B, too, isn’t foolproof, right? So be prepared with Plan C.)
(Image Source: Creative Commons under CC BY 2.0 license)

Arunima Shekhar has 9+ years of experience developing, designing and marketing technology. Currently she is Co-Founder at Scrambled Works - a creativity lab. In the past, she founded Tell-A-Tale, an education startup.

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