Startup Success: How to Avoid Being in the 20% That Fail in Their First Year

Joe Jowett, CEO and Co-Founder of StrikeX, talks about vision, a talented team and messaging that works.

Succeeding as a startup is no easy achievement, as increasing numbers of new businesses have discovered over the last couple of years.

COVID-induced lockdowns led to a spike in the number of startups created in the UK, with 726,000 founded in 2020, and March 2021 posting the most of any month since records began in 1989. This breeding ground of businesses has made many people acutely aware of the fact that one in five UK startups fail to survive their first year.

So, the question for new founders and fledgling CEOs is: how do I avoid becoming one of the doomed 20%? We recently celebrated our first anniversary here at StrikeX, so we know a thing or two about how to make sure your business survives its first ever year – and beyond!

By keeping a few simple principles at the core of your business, you will give it the best possible chance of succeeding.

Innovative Ideas

Every business that has created a long-lasting legacy has started off with a unique idea – one that challenges the status quo around it. This goes on to form the lifeblood of any successful startup, and shows the relevant industry what problem your startup is trying to solve.

Many startups in the crypto arena, for instance, start off with the idea that blockchain technology can be used to bring the benefits of traditional financial services to a broader, more diverse audience. From retail trading, to wealth management, to asset-based finance, this idea of democratisation is a very powerful one, and one that has proven to be a strong basis for several new businesses.

A Vision That Adds Value

Any idea, no matter how great, is only valuable if it is viable. Many startups that began with brilliant ideas have subsequently foundered without a robust business model that clearly maps how they will deliver the value that their vision promises, with contingency plans in place for any setbacks encountered along the way.

Mapping out your vision in a clear and concise way allows you to keep track of your progress, and provide potential customers and investors with an accurate representation of how your business is performing. Doing this is not only essential in the early stages of your startup, but also as you move forward into the later stages of your business’s development.

StrikeX’s roadmap, for instance, helps our community keep up to date with our progress, and allows us to hold ourselves to account. But rather than setting a series of deadlines, the roadmap is about reminding everyone (including us!) where each step of our journey has taken us, and how it fits into our overall vision of a better future for retail trading.

A Talented Team

No matter how ambitious your roadmap is, without the right people to execute it, you will struggle to succeed. Any effective team needs to have the right mix of skills, experience and personalities. CEOs must surround themselves with colleagues who are genuine experts in their respective areas, from tech to marketing to sales, and who have the attitude, as well as the aptitude, needed to nurture the success of a business.

Additionally, it is also essential that your team consist of people who share your vision for the company. This will ensure that the original ideas which motivated the creation of your startup both survive and evolve as your startup continues to grow.

Finding people who meet these criteria can be difficult, but in a sense, it has never been easier to connect with the best candidates, with the increasing use of online communication. Discussing key issues at virtual events, for instance, is a great way to gauge who has the qualities you are looking for – and who you can work well with in a digital setting.

Messaging That Makes an Impact

Not every company can launch one of its products by literally sending it into space. But nor should a startup’s message simply promise that it is “going to the moon”, to use a phrase made famous in the crypto industry. Messaging has to mean more than that.

For many firms in our industry, messaging has recently had to pivot to reassuring customers of crypto’s long-term viability, amid a sector-wide shakeout that has understandably shaken user confidence. But this is a lesson worth learning for startups across sectors – even the most innovative offerings must work hard to win users’ trust.

Social media can be a powerful means to this end, though not necessarily through eye-catching imagery and viral hashtags. More important in building a trusted brand is a consistent pipeline of content that raises awareness among your audience of the value that your products can add. Education is key to empowering your customers.

Following this advice will give you the tools you need to make your startup stand out in a crowded market. Despite many startups faltering in their first year, this does not mean the end for your vision. Integrating these steps into your planning will give your business a level of resilience that will afford your ideas the best possible chance of surviving.

By Joe Jowett, CEO and co-founder of StrikeX.

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