It seems as though there’s an entrepreneur around every corner—each one younger than the next. Fueled by unprecedented access to technology for mere pennies, the millennial generation has spawned a wave of hyper-startups: businesses that move from concept to implementation in a flash, circumventing the typical models for bringing a new business into the world.
These low-cost startups can be launched in a matter of hours and thrive or flounder in equally short order. While older generations may never choose to conduct business negotiations via Twitter, there are four important lessons we can learn from these hyper-startups.
1. Engage the customer prior to the alpha stage.
It used to be that a concept would be generated and developed and tested for user feedback at alpha and beta stages. But the proliferation of crowdfunding and crowdsharing sites like Quirky fosters input at the earliest stages, permitting entrepreneurs to shape their concepts prior to building them.
Crowds are powerful, and mining them for ideas, inspiration and refinements of your concept can provide a more polished product when you do arrive at the alpha stage of your development process. When you have access to your potential customers via social media before you’ve even created a prototype, you not only get that valuable input that lets you perfect your product before you launch it, but you also have an established line of communication that’s ready and waiting for your launch.
2. Serve any customer, and let your best customers find you.
Rather than deciding who you think your customer will be, remain open to the possibilities in other demographics. If you build your product or service and tailor it to a specific customer, you run the risk of missing the opportunity to connect with other customers—ones you might not have anticipated. Customers, particularly the unexpected ones, can offer you ways to use your product that you might not have thought of and help you realize greater distribution than you thought possible.
3. Be ultra mobile and always ready.
The J2 Global Annual Mid-Year Small Business Report Card reveals that a mind-blowing 56 percent of millennial entrepreneurs can see themselves working entirely from an iPad or tablet within the next year. That means these folks are ready to work the very instant that inspiration strikes. Technology facilitates the rapid launch of new ideas, and if you’re not finding ways to get at consumers who use mobile technology, and if you’re not employing that technology yourself, you’re missing out on opportunities and efficiencies all at the same time.
4. Ride the wave.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s hot lets you react quickly and get your share of the latest opportunity. The volatility of startups means there are risks and rewards in ample quantities for folks who are dialed in to the trends. Keeping just ahead of the rise and fall offers innovators the chance to actually shape those trends, too. For example, consider MySpace, whose fall has been inversely proportional to the meteoric rise of Facebook. Justin Timberlake recently purchased a share of the business—at a remarkably reduced rate—and is reshaping the MySpace platform to focus on connecting musicians with their fans. Finding the right time to launch your venture requires a delicate balance of exploiting and shaping trends.
Now here’s the cautionary part of this tale: It’s possible to get your ducks in a row, bring out the right product at the right time, find initial success and still fizzle out before you know what’s happening. There’s a real risk that rapid success may find you seriously undercapitalized, understaffed and unprepared for the next steps that have to be taken in order to sustain your business.
Fast growth can actually be bad. Just ask Jim Picariello: His organic popsicle company found extraordinary success and failed as a result. You can read about it here.
Though it’s smart to study the success of hyper-startups, you’re wise to apply some time-tested business sense to the decisions you’ll face. Being innovative, flexible and responsive doesn’t negate basic economic facts, and you’ll still need to nurture your business through its transitions.
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