How can you make your startup grow faster? There are several options - their effectiveness varies depending on a process-related factor: the clarity you have learned about in the previous materials. Explore the tools that bring you closer to your goals!
Whether you're an aspiring entrepreneur or you have already established a business, you're probably wondering what you can do to help your startup reach its full potential in the shortest possible time. There are several ways you can do this, but their effectiveness varies depending on another factor in the process: clarity. In other words, if you can more easily decide what the most important step to take at any given moment is, you will move faster.
As the number of startups in Romania increases, so does the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem - and more and more initiatives dedicated to those who lay the foundations of a business appear. Being very diverse, it can be difficult to navigate through them, especially when you're starting out - to gain the clarity I was writing about above, you need to understand this entrepreneurial growth territory and all its dimensions. And through this material, we aimed to map all the learning options, acceleration/incubation, as well as the differences between the concepts.
How do you grow a sustainable business?
Unfortunately, we do not have (for now at least :)) an exact, mathematical recipe for getting a successful startup - and, contrary to popular belief, it's not just about funding. It is important to know that each startup shapes its own path, which depends on a lot of factors (from the industry and geographical space it belongs to, to the point where the founders want to bring it, and to the values they want to cultivate).
Therefore, the tools you use are "subordinated" to such factors: in order to choose the right tools for you, you need to be clear about where you want to go: for example, if your business model is a traditional one and you realize that the only way it can become scalable on the long term is through franchising, then you will choose from the very beginning the options that open this perspective.
In order to accelerate your business, you can use several tools: learning (both about business in general and about your industry in particular), involvement in programs for entrepreneurs (incubation and acceleration) and funding to support the development of your business. We will talk about the first two in detail in this material.
Learning about entrepreneurship
1. Learning about business
Entrepreneurship is not included per se in the formal learning curriculum, so it primarily involves a self-education effort. Most people starting their own business get their information from several sources:
- Events and workshops for entrepreneurs. In addition to the actual know-how, they are also an opportunity to interact with other entrepreneurs and business people with whom partnerships can be established.
- Reference books about business & business planning, startups, economics, psychology, sociology & consumer behavior, habit formation, innovation, etc. - the good news is that a good part of them have already been translated into Romanian.
For example: Lean Startup, Business Model Generation, Start-up Nation, Grit, Outliers, The Culture Map, Cum îți vei măsura viața?, The Luck Factor
"I read everything I can in my areas of interest, whether they are books or blog posts", says Cristian Ionescu CEO & Chairman of the Board Instant Factoring. "Another resource I recommend is Audible - Amazon's audiobook service - I constantly listen to one or two books," he adds.
- Educational platforms - for example, Startarium.Edu, where you can find a lot of resources and collections grouped by basic topics for entrepreneurship: Management & Leadership, Funding, Financial & Legal, Inspiration, Marketing & Sales, How to Start a Business.
2. Strategic learning
- In addition to the theoretical information related to process and trends, complex notions about the industry you operate in, the type of product you are developing and offering, consumption habits and customer categories will help you to a great extent. Use local and foreign business publications to stay up-to-date on economic trends and opportunities that impact your business.
- Get out of your comfort zone - this is usually where evolution originates from, even if the learning process itself is far from comfortable. "Learning by doing" is an extremely valuable experience, both in the case of successes and in the case of failures.
- Take part in as many pitching competitions, hackathons, makeathons as possible and pay attention to the things you learn and the feedback you receive. Use them further in what you do.
You can enter local or national competitions, such as: Startarium Pitch Day, Techsylvania, Social Impact Award, How To Web
"We have enrolled in all the available programs for entrepreneurs - the biggest benefit that Re.flex has obtained from them is the learning experience and new challenges", says Camil Moldoveanu, entrepreneur and founder of re.flex.
- Use moments of crisis as opportunities for learning & development. When you get stuck, ask yourself questions like: “Why did the thing I thought would work actually not work?", "What do I do from now on?", "With what resources will I do that?", the story of Iulian Cîrciumaru, co-founder of 7card, last year on the Startarium PitchDay stage. He also told us about the book "Getting to plan B", written by one of the biggest investors in the United States, Randy Komisar: "He said that two-thirds of their investment portfolio, which includes several hundred start-ups, pivoted and changed their business model."
- Use startup planning tools to identify opportunities and weaknesses
In outlining the business model (for which you can use the Business Model Canvas), for example, it helps to test as many variants as possible: build several scenarios, ideally together with your team, display them in a visible place, where you can easily look at them and see what can be learned from the differences you identify.
3. Learn with and from others
Sometimes the answers you need are closer than you'd imagine - all you have to do is say utter your questions out loud. Even if it doesn't seem like it at first glance, the community you belong to can and is willing to support you.
"The network of people in this ecosystem of startups helped us a lot with their macro advice. Even though it's a developing ecosystem, people help each other a lot", says Adrian Cernat, CEO and co-founder of SmartDreamers.
When you need to clarify the situations you are facing, you can turn to people who have a broader experience or experience that is complementary to yours: there are mentors, coaches or consultants who can help you clarify the situations you are facing, find solutions, keep a constructive mindset / the right attitude for entrepreneurship, without exhausting yourself, without despairing.
For example, external consultants can relieve you of things that burden you and that they can do faster, better, and with much less energy consumption versus the resources you would have to invest if you were to do the respective things yourself.
Coaches can help you look beyond limiting beliefs and come up with new solutions to old personal/professional problems. They can also help you to be more action-oriented and guide you towards the result you want to achieve, exploiting all the inner resources you already have.
"I get coaching - I’ve worked with several coaches until I got to the current one. Having someone who listens to you when you have a problem, is very important, it makes you see the problem from other perspectives and find elegant ways to overcome that obstacle and move on", says Cristian Ionescu, CEO & Chairman of the Board Instant Factoring.
Mentors are experienced entrepreneurs who understand the challenges of starting a business and can share their experience with you. The process will help you use certain "shortcuts": for certain situations, you will not start learning from scratch, and you will thus save effort, time and energy. You can apply for a mentor here.
Opportunities offered by the business ecosystem
There are several programs that can help you go from an idea to the outline of a concrete plan, its implementation and then to the development of your business. What's important is for you to understand the specifics of each type of program and also to document yourself regarding the requirements of each enrollment stage.
Incubators and accelerators are programs designed and implemented with the same goal - to support startups to access the resources they need to move to the next level (from mentors and coaches, to connections with investors or facilitating access to other types of funding), but their structure differs (the same can happen with programs in the same category).
Incubators are long-term programs (usually running for a period of time between 1 and 3 years, but there are also incubators with a duration of less than a year) aimed at early stage startups. They also provide logistical support (including work space) and networks of resource people, which contribute to obtaining clarity, on the one hand, and to taking concrete actions, on the other.
Accelerators run for shorter periods and have an intensive structure to help entrepreneurs move more smoothly and quickly through certain startup life stages. "By participating in an accelerator, a start-up evolves faster, and arrives at a business model that has been validated on the market in an efficient way", says Oana Craioveanu, CEO and co-founder of Impact Hub Bucharest. They provide startups with resource people and a well-organized program, sometimes divided into modules. Accelerators generally end with a major event - either a pitching session or an actual product launch.
There are also corporate accelerators (which originate inside a company) which provide startups their internal resources (to which they would otherwise not have access) and usually develop services / products that are then used in the respective companies. "They practically provide everything an idea needs to get to the stage of a finished, viable product, and the companies, in their turn, benefit from competitive solutions, whose outsourced development would entail a greater consumption of resources - including time", Oana Craioveanu adds.
Every program works according to certain conditions - they vary from the stage in which a business is (validated/non-validated idea, customers/no customers, etc.) to the number of team members or the participation costs (some programs charge a registration fee, other require equity in the company).
In the materials in the suggestions section, you will also find:
- a list of the programs which are currently run in Romania with their particularities - from the way they are built, to the types of industries/stages of development they target, so that it is easier for you to navigate among them.
- the recording of the webinar about the ways in which you can accelerate your business, with key players from the ecosystem.
- a review, with explanations and conditions, of the most frequently used funding tools that a startup can access from its establishment to its scale-up stage.