Startups are our teachers. By analyzing how they act and by being consumers/users, we’ve been able to grasp valuable business lessons from startups. Generally speaking, you can learn from every person and any type of business. However, we are believers that you need to learn the most basic and/or relevant lessons first. That’s why we’re taking a look at a few extraordinary startups. Honestly, we could dedicate a full post to each one of the following startups on what we’ve learned from them thus far.
1. Buffer: Content is King
Buffer, if you are not familiar with it, is the leading tool for digital marketers when it comes to social media automation. Buffer has one of the most popular and successful digital marketing blogs on the web. Their main blogger, Kevan Lee does an extraordinary job creating new content and not just republishing known tips in a different tone. Lee and co. introduce new tips, strategies, and know-how into each post.
Creating such a wildly successful blog has essentially enabled the company to use it as their go-to tool for marketing their service. In short, blogging and content are very well alive and relevant to creating growth.
2. Uber: Don’t Play Low Ball
One thing that stands out are some of the tactics the company has used in the past. If we were to watch David vs. Goliath, none of us would like to see the latter use cheating or inappropriate tactics, whereas many would never give it much thought if David were to do so. The tactics that Uber employed are still considered “below the waist”, and probably should not have been used.
As the “Goliath” of ride-sharing, Uber owed it to itself and its users to play the “adult”, and not play down to the other’s level. Luckily, they’ve moved on and continued growing. The lesson is simple. Know where you stand in the market, and then choose your strategy wisely.
3. Gett: Adapt to the Market
Gett, or what was recently known as Get Taxi, made a brilliant move recently. They adapted their brand to match changes in the market, both from the side of the consumers and their competitors. From July, with the Gett app you’ll be able to order some of the following to where you are: food, beauty products/services and home services – and not just order a taxi.
Startups are known to change and pivot until they find their “sweet spot”, so this change isn’t unusual. With that in mind, the change came at exactly the right time, smoothly, and successfully. What you need to do is take a 360 degree view of the market and see how you can effectively be a bigger player in that market.
4. Fab: Control Burn Rates
Fab is the infamous startup that I remember most of all for its huge burn rates that led to its demise. A company that had been valued at $900 million in mid-2013 ended up being sold for something between 15 to 50 million dollars. The company had burned $200 million of the $336 million it had raised, and it had failed to find a sustainable business model. Fab co-founder and CEO:
We spent $200M and we have not proven out our business model. We spent $200M and we have not proven that we know precisely what our customers want to buy.
You don’t max your burn rates without doing a few mathematical equations beforehand. And you don’t burn $200 million when you still don’t know what your business model is.
5. Product Hunt: Personal Social Presence Matters
Product Hunt is the coolest cat on the block right now. Product Hunt surfaces the best new products, every day, and has essentially become the home on the net for early adapters to discover and share the latest mobile apps, websites, hardware projects, and tech creations.
A wise lesson for any entrepreneur is to create your community, around yourself and what you are doing. After that, it’s all peanuts. Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt, spent two years running his blog before launching the current startup, and helped Nir Eyal write his book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”.
From a First Round piece:
If I hadn’t been blogging and active on Twitter, I think it would have taken way longer for Product Hunt to become what it is right now. So my advice is to start early. If you want people to listen to you eventually, you have to build trust over time.
6. DropBox: Explain the Problem you’re Solving
Supply and demand is how the market tends to work. There was a slight demand for Dropbox from day one, but that was not the demand that the company was trying to serve, and in that case, they’d have excess supply. Dropbox created a home page with a video with a story of a stick-figure losing his things while traveling to Africa. From that point on, demand increased and the supply matched it.
If you did not understand the above metaphor it’s this: people are not always searching for a solution, and some of those people don’t even realize there may be a problem that needs to be solved. The problem and solution Dropbox offered was easily understood. You need to “market” the problem and solution.
7. Robinhood: It’s Never too Early to Create Traction
It’s never too early to start creating traction around your future product. Robinhood’s Facebook page has activity dating back to December 2013, with their promo-video launching in February of 2014, and the launch on ios taking place in December 2014.
Starting a startup is not easy, in case you thought it was. It’s probably one of the most time consuming things someone can take on, other than being President of the United States. By setting up social media profiles the team was able to find themselves at the launch after already accumulating a steady following.
Really, this could go on and on…for centuries. Buffer is an ideal model for transparency. Uber can show us a bit about how to rock the “sharing” realm. Gett can probably dish out a handful of tips for working in the Russian market. Dropbox probably has more than a few growth hacks that we would love to use. Fab had its good times that we could learn from, especially insights on design. Any entrepreneur should admire the emails that actually work and bring results from the ridiculously talented team at Product Hunt. What will you learn from others that you’ll use for your own startup?