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What Are The Various Stages Of A Startup?

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One of the most fulfilling journeys anyone can undertake is to begin a startup.  There are a lot of stories about how a startup makes it big in the market and reading them can inspire oneself to undertake a similar journey.  However, beginning a startup and scaling it up is easier said than done as there are multiple stages to running a startup.  Identifying a problem and coming up with a solution is not the only thing which matters when it comes to founding a startup but there are multiple other parameters which need to be considered along the journey.  By looking at the multiple startups which succeeded and the big picture, a startup’s journey can be quantified into stages.  Skipping any of these stages and moving on to the next stage would surely be a setup for a failure.

Read along to find out the various stages in the journey of a startup.

1) Problem discovery

Anybody can come up with an idea but the most important thing is to come up with an idea which solves a particular problem.  This stage is about discovering bottlenecks and problems faced by customers in a market.  This is the stage where a startup needs to focus on what the customer wants rather than what a startup needs to do.  This is where startups need to interview customers to find out the problems they are facing and come up with a solution.  For example, Uber discovered that customers need a simple way to hail a cab and came up with their platform which connects cabs with customers.

2) Ideating

The next stage is to find a value proposition for customers.  This begins by ideating to find opportunities and create good solutions.  There are high chances for good ideas to come up in the discovery stage during the customer interviews as they might provide their own insights and ideas.  By the end of this stage, a startup should be able to come up with a solution which solves a problem by providing a solution which an existing competitor would not provide.

3) Problem/Solution fit

There is a high likelihood of the first solution not being the right solution.  The initial plans might not work out and therefore Plan A should never be assumed as the right solution.  Sometimes the immediate solution will not nudge a customer to make a purchase.  This stage exists to make multiple iterations and if possible pivots into different product models.  During this stage, a startup needs to introduce a product design, clickable prototypes, or product features which the customers can interact with physically.  The initial problem could be solved if customers show interest and prepay for the product or have taken a certain set of actions that you can define based on your product, target and market.  For instance, in the case of freemium models actionables could mean completing a long survey, joining a waitlist and referring X number of people or applying to become a user.

ALSO READ: What Is Seed Funding And What Are The Sources For Seed Funding For Startups

4) Product/market fit

In order to go for a product/market fit, a startup would need data like customer acquisition costs (CAC) and customer lifetime value.  This could only be done with a launched product which is in use.  One of the best indicators for a good product/market fit is acquiring customers at a lower acquisition cost.  A CAC can be calculated by dividing all the costs spent on acquiring more customers (marketing expenses) by the number of customers acquired in the period the money was spent.  For example, if a company spent INR 100 on marketing in a year and acquired 100 customers in the same year, their CAC is  INR 1.  Net Promoter Score (NPS) is one of the easiest ways to measure product/market fit.  Net Promoter Score is the percentage of customers rating their likelihood to recommend a company, a product, or a service to a friend or colleague on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highly likely and 1 being highly unlikely.

5) Scaling up

This is the stage where a startup needs to focus on diversifying their product offerings.  This is where a startup needs to iterate what is working and put in processes which make these workflows faster.  This is the stage where a company could think of hiring more resources, opening a larger office space and expanding in different areas.  For example when the hyperlocal delivery startup Dunzo began, it was limited to Bengaluru.  However, Dunzo soon expanded to other metropolitan cities to expand their operations and scale up.  

Many startups and entrepreneurs focus on scaling  up rapidly without going through the proper startup lifecycle and often end up in losses.  Building a startup could be fun but it is important to pay attention to each of these steps throughout its journey.  

 

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Suki: This Startup Wants To Transform Healthcare With Its Artificial Intelligence Tool

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We live in a rapidly transforming era where humanity is making exponential leaps in technology.  Thirty years ago, no one would have believed you could talk to an online voice assistant to create tasks and get things done.  Ten years ago, no one would have believed humanity would land robots on Mars.  Technology truly has improved the quality of living of every human who owns a smartphone and has access to an internet connection.  Voice assistants are slowly replacing manual tasks and making lives easier and efficient.  Siri, Alexa, Google Voice Assistant are just some of the widely used artificial intelligence based tools which are employed on a daily basis.  Artificial intelligence, which is hailed as the technology of the future is now slowly making its way into much more complex domains like self driving vehicles, quantum computing and also health care.

Suki, a United States of America based startup founded by Punit Soni, developed their own voice assistant which runs on artificial intelligence to simplify healthcare for doctors and other healthcare professionals.  In simple terms, Suki is akin to Siri for doctors.  While you could order a pizza or schedule an appointment on Siri, doctors could modify, edit and add health records of their patients.  Suki is a powerful tool to help doctors with documentation of health records which often take hours of their (doctors) time.  

Suki currently focuses on documentation but has the potential to expand its usage to data queries, ordering, prescribing and billing.  According to a white paper published by Suki, using its technology increases the time a doctor spends with a patient by 12% by cutting note taking time by 76%.  The time which is saved also brings in a financial benefit of $30,000 more in revenue a year on average for doctors.  

Suki raised a $ 20 million Series B round from Flare Capital Partners, First Round Capital, and Venrock, doubling its total funding to $ 40 million since its 2017 launch.  Suki is also looking to expand its reach in India and has decided to establish Bangalore as their base of operations.  India holds a lot of potential for Suki considering the amount of manual work which goes into almost any sector.  

It would be interesting to watch how Suki and other similar AI based startups would transform healthcare across the world.

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5 Successful Indian Startups Founded By Women

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The workplace has undergone massive changes in the last century.  At the turn of the Industrial Revolution, any workplace was dominated by men while the women were delegated to run the homes.  However, with the advent of the internet and new and exciting technologies, workplaces have undergone a tectonic shift.  Women are no longer comfortable staying at home and are instead opting to lead teams and organisations.  As every year passes, we get closer to true gender equality, women have proven time and again that they are equally capable to get the job done if not better in some instances.  Names like Wolfe Herd (Bumble founder,) Kylie Jenner     (Kylie Cosmetics founder,)  Masaba Gupta (Masaba clothing label founder) are just some of the names who are known for leading world famous brands with their unique style of leadership. 

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, we bring to you five women founders who run world famous and successful startups.

1) Upasana Taku-MobiKwik

If you are an Indian and are used to doing online shopping, more often than not at the time of payment, you would be directed to a payment gateway.  One of these gateways would normally be MobiKwik.  The startup is a well known name in the digital payments and digital wallet space.  MobiKwik was founded by Upasana Taku in 2009, who prior to founding MobiKwik used to work with PayPal.  Today Upasana Taku is also in charge of bank partnerships, business operations, and talent acquisition at MobiKwik.

2) Richa Kar-Zivame

An enthusiastic MBA student, Richa Kar, developed an online lingerie shopping platform in the year 2011.  Currently, Zivame is India’s leading online lingerie store with a valuation of more than $ 100 million.  The brilliant idea for her own lingerie business came to light when Richa tracked Victoria’s Secret’s sales, who was one of her clients when she was working at SAP.  She observed the lingerie sales figures reached peaks overseas but, Indian women were not provided with the similar innerwear.  While Richa was studying the Indian lingerie market, she realized the social embarrassment in India surrounding lingerie shopping.  Today Richa Kar could be credited with destigmatising the uneasiness surrounding lingerie shopping in India.

3) Falguna Nayar-Nykaa

After a long stint as an investment banker, Falguni Nayar founded Nykaa.com in the year 2013. An online one stop shop for beauty products from Indian and international brands, Nykaa changed the world of online shopping.  Who would have ever thought buying makeup online would be so easy? Falguni Nayar proved many critics wrong and created a brand new place for people who love experimenting with styles, designs and colors.

ALSO READ: Zivame: Founding Story

4) Sabina Chopra-Yatra.com

Yatra.com is a popular Indian website for making flight and hotel bookings.  Sabina Chopra was instrumental in identifying the potential for travel commerce in India and people moving towards cheaper or easier travel.  By the time, people started looking to make bookings, Sabina made sure Yatra.com was already in place.  Sabina was the former Head of India Operations of eBookers, which is also an online travel company based in Europe.  Along with this, she was also working with Japan Airlines which further adds to her experience in the travel industry.

5) Rashmi Sinha-SlideShare

SlideShare allows people to upload and access their presentations online.  While this feature is presently available everywhere, SlideShare was one of the first players in making this happen.  Rashmi Sinha was one of the founders of the presentation sharing platform SlideShare.  The company became so successful that in 2012, LinkedIn acquired the company for an amount of $100 million.

Let us know in the comments if you know any other wonderful women who have become leaders of their right or have started up and are doing extraordinary things.  We at Startup Stories wish a wonderful Women’s Day to all the women in the world who are changemakers.

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Why Are Ads On Digital Media Failing To Reach The Right Audience?

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If you are a regular user of social media platforms and also a fan of consuming content on the digital medium, then there is a very high likelihood that you have seen ads on pages you are reading or watching something.  There would be times when you have been targeted by an ad which feels like it was wrongly targeted at you.  Imagine if you are a vegetarian by choice and while browsing online, if you are targeted by a food delivery app which shows ads about chicken dishes.  The ad would only serve to spoil the mood of the online user instead of serving its actual purpose which is to push the user to buy a chicken dish.

These wrongly targeted ads might be the side effects of performance marketing or a weak brand marketing.  Performance marketing means advertising programs where advertisers pay only when a specific action occurs. These actions can include a generated lead, a sale, a click, and more.  Inshort, performance marketing is used to create highly targeted ads for a very specific target audience at a low cost.  Performance marketing usually means high volume for a very specific cost.  

Brand marketers on the other hand believe in narrowly defining target audiences but end up spending a lot of money on ad placements.  Gautam Mehra, CEO, Dentsu Programmatic India & CDO, Dentsu International Asia Pacific said, “You’ve defined a persona, you know the emotions you want to elicit, but then you buy a YouTube masthead and CricInfo sponsorships because IPL is up.  If brand advertisers look at audience-based buys more deeply than just placements, you will see more relevant ads (sic.)”  

ALSO READ: How Digital Marketing Is Impacted Due To The COVID-19 Pandemic

Performance marketing is more of a sales function rather than a marketing function and is about meeting the cost of acquisition.  This is a reason why budgets are usually high for performance marketing.  Mehra goes on to add, “the fact is that an engineer can out-beat FMCGs on performance marketing.  Advertisers who have cracked this are spending 10x and are on an ‘always on’ mode (unlike time-bound brand campaigns.)”

There is always the case of supply and demand, with the supply usually exceeding the demand on digital platforms.  Ultimately, it boils down to the choice between no ad versus low relevance ad and it is quite easy to guess that having a low relevance ad is better.  

Arvind R. P., Director – Marketing and Communications at McDonald’s India (West and South,) said “McDonalds’ for instance, has seen its share of spends on digital grow from 20% levels a couple of years back to over 40% at present.  Outcomes of this journey have been encouraging, proven by our media-mix-modelling and other key metrics.  We have seen best results from an optimal mix of Television plus digital (sic.)”  Moreover, Arvind also believes performance marketing only approach could turn out to be more suited to short term, versus a more consistent full funnel effort.  The latter ensures adequate emphasis on building consideration, as well as growing transactions.  Arvind feels digital is a complex medium which needs investment in the right talent who could use the right tools.  Brands which underestimate the need for the investment are often disappointed from the return on investment from the digital medium.

With the constantly changing consumer dynamics marketers are now shifting to unscripted marketing which frankly needs more insights into the consumer mindset.  The lack of marketers to do the proper research is why digital medium is plagued with irrelevant ads.

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