5 different ways founders need to adapt to the fast-changing startup landscape

15th Oct 2016
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“Cloud and startups have an inseparable relationship and I have been tracking this trend for eight years,” said Janakiram MSV, cloud computing expert, analyst, architect and advisor to startups at the first edition of DigitalOcean Tide. The way products are developed is fundamentally different from traditional ways.

In the book Lean Startup by Eric Ries, a startup is defined as a company or a temporary organisation designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. It is something we all strive for, and nobody can be a startup forever.

Janakiram explained that a startup journey is like crossing a bridge: you never permanently stay on a bridge. Citing an example, he pointed out that Flipkart today has matured into an enterprise and cannot be any longer called a startup.

Janakiram MSV at Digital Ocean Tide
Janakiram MSV at Digital Ocean Tide

Startups work under uncertainty

A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty, Ries had said in his book. Startups strive to become big; there are challenges at every step, especially in the early days of your journey. “If you have any doubts of the struggle or the uncertainty talk to any startup founder’s spouse,” said Janakiram.

Startups need to capture a moving target – Be agile

Six to seven years ago developing a product was a different game. One of the biggest differences today is that you know the problem but may not necessarily know the solutions. The solution is a moving target. Unlike a decade ago, you can no longer freeze the specs and start developing a product.

Having been a part of Microsoft, Janakiram has seen how products were developed. He explained:

“Typically, Windows had a cycle of three years. They have a well-defined product statement, well-defined solution and each product had its own lifecycle.”

Today, however, this cannot be followed. This is what defines the culture in a startup – agility. You need to build cutting-edge products and technologies that ship faster and are aligned with your customer needs.

“After creating the MVP, you get the feedback from your customers and are constantly reiterating based on that,” said Janakiram.

Startups encounter an unknown set of customers – learn and adapt faster

As a startup you have no idea where your next customer is going to come from. Citing the example of Digital Ocean, Janakiram said when they were still small, they had customers signing up from all over. He explained:

“This was even before they had their first data centre outside of the US, East Coast, and they had to deal with it. You are going to encounter an unknown set of customers who will use your products in the most unexpected ways and forms. You have to learn to adapt faster, and iterate quicker to stay relevant.”

Try fast and fail fast

A startup isn’t a startup if they don’t fail fast. And startups with a safety net aren’t going to fly high. If you really want to experience the depth and breadth of an entrepreneurial journey and develop a relevant product then you have to fail and learn from your failure. It is this ability that makes a startup much more capable of going through a long journey and staying relevant at all times.

Start with a MVP, put that in the hands of your customers, learn from it and keep iterating. Always go back to your pitch deck and see how much is still relevant.

To start small and grow big you need to take risks

For this you need a strong support system. Janakiram believed that for products today, the support system comes in the form of infrastructure. When you start developing a product, you may get into one of the two blindspots

a. Underestimating the demand – So you invest in a small infrastructural pool, which very soon gets outgrown. This means you are driving your customers to your competition, as they do not want to see a failed server or

b. Overestimate the demand – On the flip side, several startups over-invest and have excess and surplus.

To understand this, you need to make cloud your friend. It helps overcome the different blindspots that startups face.

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