|Susan Solovic, The Small Business Expert is an award-winning entrepreneur, an attorney, a New York Times best-selling author, a media personality and a highly sought after keynote speaker.|
Four Reasons You Need to Launch Your Startup Early
Talk to successful veterans of the startup world and one piece of advice most will give you is to launch your startup early.
Let’s unpack this a little. I suppose we could say that there are three possible times to launch your startup:
We can eliminate “late” because by definition it’s a mistake to launch late. So that leaves us with early and right on time. Next we can eliminate “right on time” because you can never know this until much later down the line…if at all.
So that only leaves the option of launching early. If you don’t feel like you’re launching early, you’re probably launching late. Before we go too much further, we should talk about what an early launch is. The way I’m using the term, it means that not everything is in place.
For example, if you’re launching a service that will be ultimately automated via software, with an early launch you might use people power in place of developing all the software. In other words, you haven’t burned through all your development money yet.
With that background, let’s look at some of the advantages gained by an early launch.
1. You learn the market. No matter how much market research you do, there is no substitute for actually being in the market. For example, you can ask rooms full people if they would by this new Acme Widget with all of its great features and how much would they pay. But until they are actually faced with the prospect of the money coming out of their bank accounts, you won’t really know if they’ll pull the trigger on the purchase.
With an early startup launch you can get a real sense of what the market will bear and because you haven’t spent all your development money yet (hopefully) you’ll be better positioned to take the next steps.
2. You get great feedback. Not only will you get an understanding of how price sensitive your market is, you’ll soon find out what product or service features are popular and which are a waste of your resources. This will help you tailor your offering to exactly fit what your customers or clients want and will prevent you from wasting money developing features that don’t increase the desirability or value of your product.
3. You suffer fewer financial pressures. The above two points both illustrate the fact that an early launch helps save money. In those examples I’ve implied that you have received startup funds from some source. Frankly, we all know that the source of those funds might be your savings account, charge cards or even a mortgage on your home. Let’s consider a worst-case scenario for a moment. (It’s painful, but always a necessary exercise.) If you do an early launch and the only response you get from the market is the sound of crickets on a warm summer night, you can pull the plug early.
The longer you wait to launch your startup, the more money you will have invested and the more difficult it will be to walk away from your startup. Let’s be honest: Sometimes walking away is the smartest thing you can do. It typically takes entrepreneurs three tries to become successful.
4. You beat the competition to market. This is, of course, one of the biggest advantages of pushing your startup to an early launch. Every day you delay gives your competition an additional opportunity to be the first one to market. Think about those little grains of sand that drop from the top of the hourglass to the bottom of the hourglass. You want more sand left in the top of the hourglass than your competitor.
If you’re considering your first startup, remember that you’ll never have all your ducks in a row. Just get enough of them lined up so you can bring a minimum viable product to market. Once it’s out there, the next steps you need to take will be much clearer.
Pondering "When is it best to launch a startup?" is something that every entrepreneur does and it's natural to be anxious about launching too soon. Knowing that, maybe the difficulty of taking this lesson to heart is why it usually takes entrepreneurs three times to become successful.
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