7 Lessons for Founders and Startups – CSF2023

I had an opportunity to attend most of the talks and some of the closed workshops and lectures. I was surprised by the level of shared knowledge. 

Happily, our way of designing digital products in Push Buttons is consistent with the approach presented by worldwide startup specialists.

Finding gathered knowledge is crucial for future founders, I want to share some of the most bold thoughts with you.

 I hope you use it well!

Your early investors are your clients.

I’ve met many founders who were upset with difficulties in finding investors. It takes work to get one. But remember – one way of creating a startup is bootstrapping. It means you fund your startup with your own money (and maybe with FF money – collected from your family and friends). What you can do more, you should start selling your product, so your early customers become your investors – their money will help you to keep building your product. Moreover, you can talk to them and improve your product quickly.

This instant feedback loop is often underestimated.

Start selling your product even if it’s not ready.

As mentioned above, having customers as soon as possible is perfect. But what if I tell you you could have a few without a product? That’s the ultimate way to validate your idea and start collecting the money! It’s only sometimes possible, of course, but worth trying.

To test your idea, you can start a landing page, set up online ads, and check if your audience is converting to customers. Even if they get a message that the product still needs to arrive, and you will inform them when it will be ready.

You can also find a client to pay you for some particular app functionality crafted exclusively. It’s a great way to collect funds and get traction. 

Don’t spend too much time (and money) on MVP.

I can’t count founders polishing their MVPs as long as it’s perfect and has all the functionality they think is needed to make the first sale. And then… well, it’s not always a success story. Actually, in most cases, it’s exactly the opposite. Polishing your MVP and adding more and more functionality before market launch is missing opportunities to test your idea, gather feedback, improve, and iterate. Sometimes you can miss strong signals to pivot.

So, remember – it’s much better to start MVP and start learning asap than to polish a perfect product and fail….

Fail fast, learn faster.

Let’s stay a little longer with failures (but not too long 😊). Every successful founder was telling about his failure stories. Without regrets, without shame. Because every failure is an opportunity to learn, improve yourself (and your product), and move on with better chances for success.

So remember not to be afraid of failures cause they’re natural steps to final success. But only if you can learn your lessons and avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Go global from day one!

When asked for globalization advice, all founders say, ‘Think global from day one.’ That doesn’t mean that you should start your product on unknown markets from the beginning. No! It’s good to start on your home market. The market you understand, with customers and culture you know.

But use that market to test your ideas, get initial traction, and start your operations on other, more significant markets. In most cases, it’s the only way to become a scaleup and get new, bigger funds.

Your product is very cool… so what?

Avi Wiesenberg – Partner at Team – X – during his speech titled ‘From Lead to Close Won! How to sell to global companies!’ showed up with a slide ‘Your product is very cool’ and then added ‘So what’? In the following words, he explained that it doesn’t matter how cool your product is as long as it doesn’t solve a real problem. Only a few people pay money just to have a cool product. In most cases, they expect an actual value.

So if you want to build a product that will be saleable, discover your users’ problems, create a solution, and learn how to show the value the product is giving. Without that, it’s gonna stay as a gadget that only a few can pay for.

Don’t undersell yourself.

The last one was explicitly dedicated to Polish founders.

During his talk ‘Raising a successful A round from International VCs’, Ariel Finkelstein gave some great tips for Polish startup founders. One has especially come into my heart as I often see this during different events. 

We must be taught how to sell our products and ourselves in Poland. Some of us have this natural instinct, but more units believe everyone else is better, stronger, and more valuable. Especially when it comes to competing with US-based companies.

So the advice from specialists was… well, don’t do it 🙂 Believe in yourself, believe in your product, and don’t undersell your value!

You are as good as others, or even better.

Never forget that!