For a tech startup, creating momentum is the most important thing to do in the beginning. Momentum means traction. It means progress that matters for the long game. Progress that is sustainable and that increases the chance of startup success by the day. Momentum for a startup means turning all that potential energy into kinetic energy. In the first weeks at the Atlanta Tech Village, I’ve spoken with at least 65 tech startups in all stages. In each of these conversations, I’m seeking to identify what programs, services, and amenities the Village can provide that will have the most impact on a startup’s momentum.
The reoccurring theme across startups of all stages (from successful, to on their way, to doomed) is that traction occurs when entrepreneurs find the right balance of building a product and selling that product.
Some examples: there are some startups who have gone through accelerator or mentor driven programs that focus intensely on customer discovery. They interview, interview, interview… they find out all the answers, but they don’t actually build anything that they can sell. In the end, there is no momentum. There is no kinetic energy. They’ve added potential energy only.
Then on the other end of the spectrum, there are hack-a-thons and other really cool geekfests that output a lot of cool shiny products that the entrepreneurs don’t ever take the next step and release, market, promote, and sell! They have kinetic energy, but without some motion towards revenue, they won’t last long.
I’ve noticed that the ones that are the most successful are able to find that very delicate balance of building products that are just enough to sell, then refining the products while the sales efforts are ramped up.
It seems to be that if there is a secret to a successful startup it is this: balancing product R&D with sales that drive revenue.
Our goal at the ATV will be one of helping tech companies find that balance and constantly focusing on both sides, that are equally important to succeed.
Foot note– this perspective is from the “bootstrapped startup” approach. This already complex balance becomes even more complicated when you have VCs and certain angels involved. Not that you shouldn’t raise money if you can raise money, just that you may change the dynamics of your short-term progress with more folks having a vested interest in your company.