As an entrepreneur, sometimes it's hard to know what tools you need to be successful and what is superfluous. Especially for a start-up, hitting the ground running is essential. So I have put together my personal top five list of essential tools for any start-up, and how they have helped me in starting my own venture:
1. Co-Working Space
Although its tempting to save cash by working from your lounge room and taking meetings in cafes, getting office space can be really beneficial to the health of your business, as well as your mental health! Surrounding yourself with inspiring people and entrepreneurs can lead to great connections and ideas. From the conventional cube-like corporate digs at WeWork to the triumphant atmosphere at Hubs in most major cities, co-working space can be a great affordable option for start-up entrepreneurs.
We are fortunate to be housed at the infamous "most badass co-working space on the planet" -- Alley NYC. Managers Jason Saltzman and Nsi Obotetukudo have created a unique culture at the Alley that has left them with a waiting list as long as your arm. For us, being part of the Alley NYC community has led to us finding the right strategic partners, sourcing services through our co-workers, and even a TV interview!
2. Lean Start Up
Lean Start Up has gone from methodology to movement in just two short years, and it's clear why. It helps entrepreneurs deal with the two horsemen of the apocalypse of any start-up -- uncertainty and failure -- and highlights how you can translate them into measurable key indicators on the journey to building a successful venture. Embracing a 'scientific' approach, the Lean Start Up theory takes you through a method to avoid wasting time by building a product that nobody wants to buy. Sounds simple, but its an affliction that has been the end of many start-ups!
The sheer number of groups and workshops that have sprung up to help start-up entrepreneurs implement the methodology is astonishing. Check out your nearest meet-up to find entrepreneurs preparing to "pivot" their business in response to new data, or admonishing the woes of "vanity metrics" designed to impress investors but that don't represent real business traction.
Lean Start Up was essential for our team as we started to think about the kind of processes we wanted to build and nurture our team culture, and also helped us narrow down the development shops that we wanted to work with - one that believes in constant user feedback and small work batches throughout the process.
No longer must we go, cap in hand, to those powerful bastions of seed capital and urge them to give us 5 minutes of their precious time. The masses are fighting back with a new way to launch on a public platform. Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding platform, commanding a unique community of inventors and their pioneer funders. Kickstarer has a huge amount to offer start-up entrepreneurs - 0 percent equity ceded, pre-orders on just a prototype, a ready-made customer base at launch, and PR opportunities for projects that gain traction.
On July 13th we completed our own Kickstarter campaign, raising over $100k in under 45 days. This created for us a great community of almost 700 supporters who believe in what we are doing and support our work.
I find that organization is often pretty low down on any start-up entrepreneurs' priority list (much to the detriment of productivity), but with the latest release of Projecturf 4 things don't have to be this way! It's so much easier to manage staff and interns, billing hours and product timelines, with this incredible project management tool.
Unlike their clunky competitor Basecamp, Projecturf delivers a clean interface and easy organization -- just type in a new task at the top of the screen and hit enter. I love that I can add detail later, just getting out a bunch of tasks that were in my head instantly without stopping so I can keep my train of thought.
We used Projecturf during our Kickstarter campaign to manage all of our objectives and tasks, streamlining our operations and communications with our team all over the globe. It also integrates seamlessly with our Dropbox and Google Drive, which is awesome. Entrepreneurs at any stage of growth can benefit from this affordable solution to help teams collaborate better, improve workflow and deliver projects on time and on budget.
5. Pitch Anything
This book flipped my pitching on its head. Now in pitch meetings, rather than pandering to the client, this book teaches you how to keep the power and have the clients coming to you. The author, Oren Klaff, himself says that these techniques are risky, but I think the risk is in not developing your own pitching style based on these principles. Forget all the sales tricks and closing techniques you have ever learnt!
In our first three months, myself and my co-founder were spending about 50 percent of our time pitching or planning pitches, so this became a handbook for us, and helped us refine our strategy, and ultimately find the right partners!