If you’re a young, savvy entrepreneur who may be pondering, “Is launching a start-up worth it?” Then, Ben Lamm, a tech startup expert, has some things to confess.
Most of us like to dream about the allure of a start-up. The big ideas, creative collaborations, and ending mindset draw many fans into the promise of success. And who can blame us? The most successful companies today were built on the backs of entrepreneurs who dreamed big but started small. Apple, Uber, and Twitter were all start-ups once. And if they can make it, then maybe so can we – right?
But behind the curtains, most of us don’t know how hard it is to start a start-up. For one, there are a lot of hidden pros and cons of working in a start-up. Even Lamm, a start-up unicorn who has made building start-ups his full-time career, says there’s a lot more to the industry than meets the eye.
Five start-ups and counting
So, exactly how hard is it to start a startup?
In an interview with CNBC Make It, Lamm says he thinks he cries more than the average person. Like many others hustling in the industry, his success relies on his ability to work long hours. It’s a testament to how he has had the time to launch six start-ups over the last few years.
Over the last twenty years, the 40-year-old Lamm has built and sold several tech startups. His portfolio includes the AI-powered Hypergiant, the e-learning company Simply Interactive, the online gaming company Team Chaos, and a conversational intelligence company named Conversable. He is currently working on Colossal Biosciences, a company aiming to disrupt the biotech scene with its gene-editing techniques.
But Lamm says that his job is often glorified by the media, which isn’t entirely false.
On long hours and lack of sleep
For starters, there’s a lot of pressure for start-ups to succeed. Is launching a start-up worth it? Maybe not if you value your sanity. Most start-ups fail, whether from lack of funding or because of reckless business decisions; not everyone succeeds. Because of this, there’s a lot of pressure to grind and grind to get the business going.
Lamm says that building a start-up often requires entrepreneurs to work and travel over 200 days a year. There are moments of pure exhaustion and endless anxiety. It also involves a lot of personal sacrifices. Unlike a regular 9 to 5, start-up builders don’t have the leisure to spend a lot of time with family.
It can also be incredibly hard to disconnect work from daily life. In fact, Lamm says to be a successful start-up builder is to be blessed with the “right mix of dysfunctional traits.” It’s also a psychologically exhausting journey. You’ll work extremely hard on an idea and get rejected by investors, partners, and even close people in your life.
Lamm says the pandemic has forced him to take a step back from his usual routine. Because of his decreased travel schedule, he has forced himself to take more vacations. Apart from this, he has also made serious commitments to disconnect by limiting his time to check on emails and messages.
Lamm has been an outspoken critic of the prevalence of burnout in the start-up industry. Despite his extensive work portfolio, Lamm is not shy to open up about the serious psychological setbacks of having to compete in the rat race.
Given Lamm’s confessions, the question remains – is launching a start-up worth it? In the end, it’s up to the person in question if they will make it worth it or not. And to hit the sweet spot, it’s all about setting your priorities and knowing from the get-go what your non-negotiables are and what aspects are open for compromise.
How a Startup Incubator Can Accelerate Your Business
In today’s fast-paced and competitive business landscape, startups often find themselves navigating a maze of challenges that can hinder their growth and potential.
This is where the concept of a startup incubator comes into play as a guiding light for emerging ventures. A startup incubator is more than just a physical space; it’s a dynamic ecosystem designed to nurture and propel early-stage ventures toward success.
In this article, we’ll tackle some of the most common questions surrounding incubators. For instance – what is the role of a startup incubator? How does it differ from an accelerator?
And most importantly, how can it optimize your business?
What is an incubator in a startup ecosystem?
In a startup ecosystem, an incubator refers to a supportive environment or program designed to help early-stage startups grow and develop.
Incubators provide a range of resources and services to entrepreneurs, typically for a fixed period of time, with the goal of nurturing and accelerating the growth of their businesses.
Here’s the usual process of how an incubator supports a startup:
Startups who applied and were accepted are welcomed into the incubator with an orientation session. During this phase, startups get an overview of the program’s structure, expectations, and available resources. They also meet their mentors, advisors, and fellow cohort members.
Mentorship and Guidance
Startups are paired with mentors who have relevant industry experience or expertise.
Regular mentorship sessions provide guidance, feedback, and insights to help startups navigate challenges and refine their strategies.
Workshops and Training
Incubators organize workshops, seminars, and training sessions on various aspects of entrepreneurship. Topics covered during the startup incubator program may include:
- Business planning
- Marketing strategies
- Product development
- Legal and regulatory matters
Access to Resources
Aside from training sessions, startups can also gain access to resources such as:
- Office space
- Co-working environments
- Internet connectivity
- Meeting rooms
Some incubators provide access to shared equipment, startup software, and other tools needed for product development.
Networking and Events
Incubators often facilitate networking events, pitch sessions, and demo days where startups can showcase their progress to potential investors, partners, and the broader community.
Startups work on refining their business models, products, and market strategies. They receive support in identifying their target audience, creating a value proposition, and developing a sustainable revenue model.
Funding and Investment
Incubators may provide introductions to potential investors, venture capitalists, and angel investors Startups also learn about different funding options and how to pitch their ideas to secure investment.
Successful completion of the incubator program results in a “graduation” for startups.
Graduated startups may continue to receive support through alumni networks, ongoing mentorship, or access to incubator resources.
Startup Incubator vs. Accelerator
A startup incubator and a startup accelerator are both support programs designed to assist early-stage startups, but they have distinct characteristics and objectives. Here’s a comparison between the two:
- Focus. Incubators typically have a broader focus and cater to startups in various stages of development. They often work with startups that are in the ideation or early development phase. Accelerators, on the other hand, are more specialized and typically work with startups that have a viable product or service and are ready to scale rapidly. They focus on accelerating growth and reaching key milestones quickly.
- Stage. Incubators are well-suited for startups that are still refining their business models, conducting market research, and building their initial product or service. Accelerators, meanwhile, are best suited for startups that have a minimum viable product (MVP) and are seeking to refine their business model, gain traction, and secure funding to scale.
- Mentorship. A startup incubator provides mentorship and guidance, often with a focus on helping founders refine their business ideas, develop prototypes, and validate their concepts. On the other hand, an accelerator’s mentorship is often geared towards specific aspects of growth, such as scaling operations, marketing, fundraising, and product-market fit.
Startup Incubator Examples
If you’re looking for the best startup incubators in the world, here are a few you of the most popular ones to consider.
1. Y Combinator
Situated in the USA, Y Combinator is considered one of the best startup incubators which has played an instrumental role in fostering the growth trajectories of some of the most renowned startups globally. The Y Combinator program spans a duration of three months, during which startups receive a funding injection of $500,000, albeit subject to certain conditions.
Subsequently, founders are immersed in a sequence of mentoring and refinement initiatives that culminate in the prestigious Demo Day. Here, founders showcase their concepts to an audience comprising investors and handpicked media representatives.
Mentees: Airbnb, Dropbox, Coinbase, Gitlab
Techstars directs its energy toward nurturing startups rooted in technology. Since its inception in 2006, Techstars has been a driving force behind the growth of numerous startups. Annually, they select more than 500 fledgling companies, providing them with up to $120,000 in investment and the invaluable chance to partake in mentorship programs.
Backed by an impressive funding sum of $21.3 billion, Techstars stands out as a reliable choice for technology-oriented startups. Within its portfolio of activities, Techstars hosts several high-profile events and initiatives, including Startup Week and Startup Weekend.
Mentees: Uber, DigitalOcean, SendGrid
3. 500 Startups
500 Startups operates as a dual-purpose platform, functioning as both an accelerator program and a seed fund dedicated to startups. Positioned primarily as a venture capital entity, they proudly proclaim a management portfolio worth $2.7 billion. Their primary interests converge on sectors where technology, innovation, and capital growth converge harmoniously.
Their extensive investment history spans more than 2,600 startups worldwide, underscoring the maturity and comprehensiveness of their accelerator program across diverse markets.
Mentees: Grab, Canva, Credit Karma
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do I need an incubator for my startup?
If you’re in the early stages, lack experience, and could benefit from structured guidance, resources, and mentorship, an incubator might be valuable. However, if you’re aiming for rapid growth and have a clear roadmap, an accelerator could be more appropriate.
Do startup incubators provide funding?
Yes, many startup incubators provide funding as part of their support package. However, the funding offered by incubators can vary widely depending on the specific program, location, and the terms of the agreement. Some incubators offer direct funding to startups, while others may connect startups with potential investors or provide resources to help them secure funding elsewhere.
10 Best Startup Software for 2023
Every new business owner wants to keep costs as minimum as possible. This will allow them to do more with the limited budget they have. If you are one of them, the following startup software can significantly help:
An online presence is a necessity for new businesses. Hootsuite can help you create content and get more followers quickly and easily. It is one of the most popular startup software, with a user-friendly interface and affordable pricing plans.
It has a free plan that allows you to schedule 30 posts across any social media platform. Not only that, Hootsuite will help you monitor the Return On Investment (ROI) of all your social media campaigns. This will let you know which works and which doesn’t. Its three other plans start at $49 per month.
2. Google Analytics
Understand your website better with Google Analytics. This startup software will let you track the traffic coming to your website. This will allow you to tweak whatever strategies you have in place as it tells you what needs improvement.
You can use Google Analytics free of charge as long as you don’t exceed 5 million impressions a month. It will help you understand your customers’ journey and improve your marketing ROI. It will provide insightful data that can aid you with your marketing strategies.
Excellent communication with your customers helps build stronger connections and build loyalty. Whatever messaging channel you choose, SendPulse is a superb startup software. It includes lead generation tools as well as promotional channels such as email, SMS, social media, and messenger chatbots. It also offers a free CRM tool and many others features.
SendPulse has a free plan ideal for startups, but if you want to upgrade, there are three premium plans to choose from. Prices start at $7 up to $11 per month.
Once your business is running, you’ll be needing an accounting and invoicing software. That’s when you’ll need FreshBooks, an app that automates invoicing, bookkeeping, payment tracking, and many other financial tasks. In just a few clicks, you can view your financial status through its Profit and Loss Statements (PLS) feature, do taxation summaries, and check expenditure reports.
FreshBooks offers four pricing plans which start at $6 per month and up to $22 for the premium plan. If you need more services, they offer a custom plan in which you’ll need to contact them for a quotation.
5. HubSpot CRM
Primarily a CRM (Customer/Contact Relationship Management ) tool, HubSpot CRM is a must-have startup software. It lets you manage contacts, sales, pipelines, lead generation, and digital marketing, among many others. It consists of multiple tools or ‘hubs’ that you can buy separately.
HubSpot CRM offers three pricing plans that start at $45 per month and can go up to $1,200 monthly. It may seem expensive, but if you consider what this startup software can do, you’ll know it’s worth every penny.
Starting your business involves advertising and marketing. And to do this effectively, you’ll be needing graphic design. It can elevate your business in ways you can’t even imagine. For this, you need Penji, an unlimited graphic design service that lets you request all your visual assets.
For as little as $499 per month, you can request logos, digital ads, social media graphics, and many other branding collaterals. They have two other plans, plus a 30-day money-back guarantee that lets you decide without making a huge commitment.
According to statistics, infographics are the fourth most-used type of content marketing. They can increase traffic to your website by 12%. To create interesting and engaging infographics, you can use Piktochart. With this startup program, you can add videos, charts, interactive maps, and many other elements to your infographic and embed them on your website or blog.
Piktochart offers a free plan that’s suitable for startups and medium-sized businesses. If you want to enjoy more of its features, you can get any of its premium plans that start at $14 a month.
Join the over 455 million websites that use WordPress, the world’s most popular website builder. It is an open-source content management system, which means it’s free to use. You can build the website of your dreams using this startup software’s plugin architecture and template system. It can help you create a website with responsive design, SEO, social sharing, and many other features.
Aside from the free plan, WordPress has four premium plans with pricing that starts at $5 per month and up to $45 a month if you pay annually.
Another CRM tool ideal for startups, Salesflare automates many repetitive tasks to make handling your business easier and faster. It can help with your email applications, social media accounts, company calendars, and many other processes. It also provides you with crucial data such as sales funnel analysis, quota management, sales funnel analysis, and many others.
Salesflare offers simple and affordable pricing. It has three pricing plans that start at $29 per month and go up to $99 a month. It also has a free trial that lets you try the software without a credit card.
If you’re thinking of strategies to add to your marketing campaigns, you need to add email marketing. It is one of the most effective but can involve a laborious process. To make it easy, use MailChimp, a marketing platform that lets you manage and communicate with your clients, customers, and prospects. With it, you can customize your emails, generate leads for your database, and perform many other email-related tasks.
MailChimp has a free plan if you want to try out the service first. However, its three premium plans offer many valuable features you won’t get from the free plan.
Growing your business can be an exciting yet arduous endeavor. There is a multitude of concerns, issues, and tasks you need to take care of. Fortunately, there are startup software that you can get to make your life easier. Whether free or paid, these are absolutely helpful and worth looking into.
How Side Startups Are Growing During the Pandemic
Side hustles aren’t unheard of. Zapier reports that a third of Americans (34%) have a side hustle. Many individuals rely on different sources of income due to increasing prices. Plus, it can help pay off debts and earn more money. Fortunately, more people are launching side startups or businesses because of remote work and flexible working arrangements. But how do people manage their full-time work and still conduct other activities through their side startup?
The Pandemic Side Gig Boom
Before we discuss how people manage side startups, which side gigs boomed during the pandemic?
- Selling on Etsy
- Freelancing on Fiverr
- Delivering groceries and food
- Launching small businesses
- Managing social media
How Has Remote Work Contributed to Side Startups?
Due to the flexible nature of remote work, many have decided to launch their side startups. For example, one pharmaceutical company director has started a Web3 company.
However, it’s not easy for him to manage the side startup while working for the company. He sees an unfair transaction. Although he does work eight hours, he believes that he doesn’t owe his company the extra work hours he might have after finishing his regular work. After all, he doesn’t get paid overtime for working extra.
Plus, whenever he’s up for a promotion, the company always brings up his family and how long he can take some time off after the birth of his children.
Shari Rose is another startup founder. Unlike the pharma company director, the dentist practice Rose was working for was more than okay with her startup. They have said they needed her to stay.
Should The Boss Know Or Keep It To Yourself?
For starters, many businesses aren’t too strict about their employees launching startups on top of their full-time work. However, having a side gig like a startup could contribute to their performance at their job. At the same time, it could affect their current professional relationship with their bosses. Plus, there are fears of employees being fired.
Vox interviewed a marketing director working on HR software and said he chose not to tell their boss about his side startup. Even if they searched on Google if they should or should not do it, they ended up not telling them. The marketing director says his current full-time work will help him develop his side startup because he’s not well off.
However, some bosses are open about having their employees start their business on the side. Kaitlyn Borysiewicz works at a nonprofit but is working on her startup, the Melanin Collective. She has received approval from her boss that she can work on her startup on the side but can only work on it outside the nonprofit’s operational hours.
The Employer Perspective
Some employers have voiced their opinions about the side startup arrangement. One manager, in particular, has mixed feelings about this. They don’t speak on behalf of the company, but they are 50-50 over the side startup because employee growth matters in their company. But they’re open to having their employees explore and discover what they want to do on the side.
Meanwhile, another employer, Chinwe Onyeagoro, is supportive of the side startup arrangement. What matters to her is so long as her employees are meeting their deadlines, they’re more than welcome to work on their side startup anytime.