Sharing Israeli Wisdom

Five Tips for Building a Startup

Success is elusive for most high-tech startups, but if you are convinced that yours will be different, here are some tips that may help you avoid folding.

The chances of Internet and mobile initiatives succeeding are not high. That's true of both startups that require venture capital funding and ventures that are funded out of pocket. While development costs today are lower than ever, the growing expertise of users raises the bar higher than ever in an increasingly saturated market.

Despite these trends, the transformation of social networks into distribution channels and economic innovations like crowdfunding are driving more and more entrepreneurs to dive into the digital revolution. If you're one of them, a few of the following rules could help.

Start talking. “One of the first things that private technology entrepreneurs learn to say is 'no NDA,'" – no nondisclosure agreement – says Yuval Bar-Or, CEO of development company Y&A. It’s worth telling people about your idea – maybe not everybody, but certainly many people. The best ones to tell are people who specialize in the field you plan to get into. If you don’t reveal your idea, you won't get valuable input; for example, that the business model you planned isn't executable or that there are already dozens of similar applications available.

Stay close to home. The best enterprises come from people with rich experience in the fields they plan to operate in. Who knows the problems of the education system and its inherent needs better than a teacher with decades of experience? Who can identify the small sticks that get stuck in the wheels of the big processes better than an insurance agent? Your chances of success are always better if you operate in a field close to your expertise – and so are the odds that that you'll create something that has an impact.

You don’t have to develop something. Developing a new site or application is not necessarily the best solution for you. There's no guarantee that people will see your wonderful new site or download the application. Sometimes it’s preferable to leverage existing Internet platforms, like Facebook or eBay, to develop a business. While existing platforms lower your potential profit margin, it's worth checking that there's profit to be made. Even if you decided to develop a website or independent app, consider using services that greatly cut down development time such as the Israeli companies Wix, an automated website builder, and Magneto, which helps develop eCommerce platforms.

A product is just the starting point. The final stage of initial development is just the starting point. The real challenge begins after your creation is revealed to users. Any new Internet service is going to require adjustments after launch and substantial marketing. Only contact with users will tell if your service has a chance. If you intend to get assistance from a development company or freelancers, make sure that the lion’s share of the budget is reserved for changes that will be required after initial release, as well as for marketing and distribution.

Going viral and eyeballs are not business models. Every Internet entrepreneur wants his creation to go viral. It's common to think that the moment the first user sees what you've built, everyone will want it. Even if you're convinced of that, it shouldn't be a basic assumption. You can only see whether your application is viral after it's marketed. Similarly, try to avoid eyeball-driven advertising – slang for a business model or strategy that depends on views for success – as a basis for making forecasts. Even if you achieve an impressive amount of viewers, it doesn’t mean you’ll generate income. That's a lesson that many Israel companies learned the hard way.