This Course focuses on issues of Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. It leads the students through the entire process of creating a start-up from an idea.
We believe the barrier to entry for people to start a startup is still too high. We want to make it easier for people to start a company, regardless of who or where you are, so we're starting by sharing what we've learned, through this course.
1. Striking out on your own
Omondi finds himself working in a dead-end job, and feels the desire to strike out on his own and start a business. He’s got a really great idea for an app that can put freelancers in touch with restaurant and cafe owners, and allow them to book tables for work purposes, mutually benefiting both parties. But, his only issue is that he’s never been to business school, and doesn’t know how to even start a business. He turns to Emma, who explains to him that the first step in this process is research. She explains that it’s important to conduct a lot of market research, to try and minimise the risk of prematurely launching into a market that’s not ready for your product. She then goes on to explain that it’s really, really important to take time over the decision, as once you start, there’s no going back. The onus is on you if you launch a company, and you’ll always have the last word. As such, it’s imperative you’re ready, and able, before you do start a company.
2. Startup Mechanics
Omondi assured Emma he’s ready to do it - he’s got the passion, and the motivation, but lacks the knowledge. She responds by informing him of something called Startup Mechanics, which refer to the potential pitfalls that new businesses may run into. Omondi's never heard of them, so takes out a notepad to make notes. Emma tells him that there’s such a thing as a lifecycle of a company, which involves a series of steps that all have their own potential problems. Firstly, she talks about how there are different types of start-ups, like a Sole Tradership, Partnership, Limited and Unlimited Companies, Corporations, and lots more, and how each is suited to a type of business. Most countries will have a governing body that will need to recognise and or register you as the type of company you are, before you can start trading. Opening a business puts you in a position where you have to consider taxes, income, and other legal matters, so it’s important to cover all these bases before starting so that they don’t affect you later on.
3. Ideas and Metrics
Omondi believes that his idea will revolutionise the world, but he’s not done a lot of research into how long it will take to develop his idea, how much it would cost, what competition is on the market. She tells him that most of the time, the idea you start with initially is too large, complicated, and often not possible to carry forward, and as such, Omondi needs to be prepared to make compromises. It’s important to adapt to each new hurdle, and let the market guide you moving forward. You may think your product is great, but other people might not. And as you have to please them, it’s important to continually allow feedback and other market factors guide you moving forwards. While he’s inventing, and reinventing his product, and learning more and more about the market, she tells him it’s imperative that he constantly keeps track of the potential customers and the market. She tells him that keeping hold of all figures moving forward will reveal patterns in his business.
4. Building your products
Omondi is confident now that he’s evolved his idea to a point where he’s ready to go into production, but Emma tells him to slow down, because the next step is very important. She brings up the idea of ‘minimum viable product’, which involves stripping the idea back to the simplest form it can possibly be, before going to market. This entails cutting overheads and doing things as simply, and as cheaply as possible in order to minimise the amount of money that is risked being lost. But, alongside that, she tells him that it’s a balance, because the thing that users may love about your product over others may not necessarily be vital for its function, and may well be something that could be scrapped and save money on the production side of things, but it may make it so that users won’t buy your product. With this in mind, building your products is a fine line to tread, and customer feedback is vital in the refining process.
5. Identifying and accessing new markets to facilitate growth
Emma tells Omondi that now that he has his product, and he’s confident that it’s going to sell, that he needs to get it in front of the right people. The key to growth is retention. The people who already use your service or product are the cornerstone of our business and Emma tells Liam that his business plan should be as much about finding new customers as it as about keeping your existing customers satisfied. Even if you have a very small organic growth figure, but your retention rate is very high, then your business will continue to grow. Businesses that rely on one-time transactions often see a fall in total sales if they aren’t doing enough to keep their old customers coming back for more. Emma explains that it’s important to get your product championed by your existing customers, than to just push it on as many people as possible.
6. Inventing the future
Omondi tells Emma that now that he’s got his product developed, and knows that it will please people, resulting in customer retention, he wants to go to market. Emma once more informs him that he needs to think about something before he does. Is his product sustainable? She tells him that product sustainability isn’t to do with the environmental impact, but relates instead to how the current product will fare in the market a year from now. She talks to him about inventing the future - which is to pioneer new ideas that consumers will want one, ten, or a hundred years from now. Demand moves quickly, and Liam needs to be prepared for the tide to change.
7. How to find ‘Product Market Fit’
Omondi has done some thinking, and is now sure that he’s ready to start his business, but once more, Emma tells him he needs to think about the future. Inventing for the future isn’t just about creating a product that you think people will want. She tells him he has to imagine what the world is going to be like in a year’s time, and then about what his potential market is going to be like, too. This means, where are his competitors going to be - are his consumers going to be in the same frame of mind? It takes time to get a product to market, into shops, and in front of people, so planning for the future is imperative. The further ahead you can look, the more chance your product has of bedding into the market. Even if someone has a revolutionary design for the petrol engine, but in a year, everyone will be driving electric cars, then the idea, no matter how great, isn’t future-proof.
8. The importance of PR
Now that Omondi has a future-proof idea, and he’s thought a lot about his customers, Emma tells him he’s ready to start thinking beyond his transactional interactions. She tells him that he needs to consider his PR, or public relations. A lot of people will research and get in contact before committing to a purchase, and as such, it’s important to have a great relationship with the public, whether they’re buying from you or not. People are strange, and as such, will decide against buying, even if they love the product, if they don’t like the company. Being approachable, contactable, and trustworthy is a much overlooked factor in business that Emma tells Liam he needs to be aware of. Whether he’s handling it himself, or getting someone in, she encourages him to consider his PR style carefully.
9. Diversity & Inclusion during the startup process
Emma asks Omondi whether he’ll be hiring anyone to work at his company, and he says yes, he intends to, but hasn’t really thought much about it yet. Emma says that in today's society, with internet driving a large portion of commerce, it’s important to be aware of all the different people that are going to be accessing your services and products. In doing so, it’s important to move forward with marketing and growth with many different perspectives. Having employees from different classes of society, from different countries, of different genders, and races, with different views and opinions, is all very important for building a balanced company that can survive in today’s modern world. Liam agrees, saying he’d not considered that before, but he agrees that more viewpoints are inherently better, as he couldn’t possibly view the world as others might.
10. Building and Managing your team
Emma tells Omondi that it’s not just about diversity and inclusion, and that hiring people to work for a new startup is critical to its success. She tells him that the people he hires first will go on to shape the company. They’ll be working closely together, in a high stress environment, so it’s important that Liam look for people who are of a similar mind-set. These people need to have similar goals to Liam in the business world, and need to be capable of representing his mindset in his stead, acting as he would. With this as the necessity, he can begin to find people that possess the skills that he does not, to help the company grow. Finding experts to fill spaces is a great way to build a strong team that will then go on to expand. Emma informs Liam that he’ll be very busy as the company grows, and that having people who will represent his interests and make decisions as he would, for the good of the company, is imperative to keep the business on its trajectory.
10. Raising capital and ensuring success
Emma tells Omondi that when he begins his startup, there will be lots of costs in incur. He’ll likely have to invest money in the company for lots of things he never considered - website construction and maintenance, office space, wages, subscriptions, equipment, fees, and lots of other outgoings. As such, Emma stresses the importance of having all the figures laid out before he starts, so that he knows exactly how much money is on the line, and how much he stands to lose. By doing this, he can calculate the risk to himself, and move forward with a figure in mind for how money he’ll need to invest to sustain the company until it’s able to pay for itself. She tells him that this is the most important part of the process, because without having those figures and a business plan reflecting it, he’ll find it impossible to gain investment from outside investors, or a bank. Anyone willing to stake their money in a startup needs to be sure that the risk is worth the reward, and if Liam plans look for investment to expand his company in the future, he’ll need to have all of this data written down and organised.
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