3 Essential Business Strategies to Humanize Your Startup
A still-recovering economy has meant that fewer employment opportunities in large, corporate settings are available. On the flip side, 13% of US adults (the largest volume in recorded history) launched ventures in 2013, making the US the global leader in startup activity. This could continue to increase as 56% of American adults in 2012 reported that they had the ability to start a business. While the launch of innovative small businesses could have a tremendously positive impact on the US economy, are we developing a startup scene based on quantity or quality? Whether for-profit or nonprofit in structure, companies must generate revenues to be viable, sustainable, and to grow. Companies and organizations that focus first on developing a product that uniquely solves a human challenge will create the most efficient, sustainable social and financial value. This is the human-centered model.
How can startups, and existing companies, create a human-centered model? Below are three best practices that we at Kinvolved, a Benefit-Certified education technology startup, have effectively baked into our model.
Whether for-profit or nonprofit in structure, companies must generate revenues to be viable, sustainable, and to grow.
Build products that have your customers’ seal of approval.
This comes straight from the Lean Startup handbook. I’m not too focused on studying theories to build business, but this practice has been key to our early successes. And, it’s saved us a lot of cash in what could have been useless, invalidated product development. Before building out our attendance and communication app, we spent two years beta testing. We asked more than 400 teachers, parents, administrators, and students for their feedback at every stage, from ideation to wire framing to implementation. Publicly launching this September, we are creating tools and processes to collect this feedback at scale.
Target funders that prioritize customer value in the short-term rather the “hockey stick.”
Taking the time to build products or services that have your customers’ seal of approval can delay revenue generation. Large companies might have the luxury of pouring millions into developing a new product, which might flop on the market. Startups typically have one shot at delivering a strong product, so take the time to get it right. If customers value what you offer, they will pay for it. Kinvolved sells to schools and nonprofit youth programs, often assumed to be tough customers because of their limited budgets. However, before we even formally launched out of beta, we booked $90k in revenues because we spent time building a product that out customers need.
Companies and organizations that focus first on developing a product that uniquely solves a human challenge will create the most efficient, sustainable social and financial value.
Track and advertise your product’s proven consumer or constituent value.
Because you’ve created an awesome product validated by your customer, your company will likely be able to show real data that proves the value you create. The sooner you can prove the value you add, the faster your company can grow. Kinvolved started collecting attendance and family engagement data at the beginning of our beta test, and used it to show how our app and services prove to increase attendance. That data has made our sales pitch much stronger, and has helped us grow to now 70 school sites from just 18 last school year.
You may have caught the startup bug, but before diving in headfirst, consider how to test, prove, and grow based on the social and financial value your product or service can provide. If your product has passed the “validation-impact-growth test,” financial success will inevitably follow.
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