You learn from the knocks you get along the way.
Having founded three different SaaS startups, there are three precious lessons in particular that I want to pass on to anyone who wants to start their own business.
Build your audience first
When people have a business idea, they usually start by developing a product. After spending anywhere from months to years, they launch the product and then wait for the customers to come. It’s like opening a shop in a town with no residents.
Instead, the first thing you should do is identify the target audience that will use your product and create an interested audience through a content channel. This could be through blogs, YouTube videos or regularly sharing content via social media about, for example, the problems your target audience is facing and that your product aims to solve. Once you have a solid group of interested followers, it will be much easier to knock on customers’ doors with your product. Most of the time, they will come on their own.
Creative content is also probably the best and cheapest way to drive traffic to your website, but it needs to be authentic and have real value for your target audience. At Storyblok, we still see some of our first blog posts, which we wrote five years ago, lead new customers to us. Back then, we wrote articles about how to optimize website speeds and what a headless CMS really is, which placed us at the top of Google’s search pages.
That helped us understand what people were looking for (and therefore demanding) and we then built our product around that.
Fortunately, we live in an age where all trivial, manual tasks can be automated. When you’ve done a task three times in a row – ask yourself if it’s time well spent or if it’s not worth trying to automate the process via software robots (RPA) instead.
Automating repetitive tasks where possible frees up unimaginable amounts of time for business development and allows you to scale quickly and efficiently without necessarily needing more staff.
Early on, we streamlined and automated large parts of our business like billing and support. This allowed us, despite the fact that our company then consisted only of myself and my co-founder Dominik Angerer, to handle around 25,000 customers!
Remember who you’re doing it for
The road to a successful startup is long and along the way you will undoubtedly find yourself in situations where you feel like giving up. These are the moments when you need family and friends to motivate you – before you get the urge to actually give up. Especially if you are a sole founder, you often isolate yourself at work, which usually leads to failure.
If you’re asking yourself whether you should prioritise work over family, stop and think about whether it’s really necessary to sacrifice one for the other. Successful people want both at the same time and it’s crucial that you learn to balance work and home life.
When starting a business, it often happens that you have to work 12-16 hours a day to succeed. This can be done for short periods of time, but it should never become normal and if it does, it needs to be addressed urgently. If you find yourself in such a situation, ask yourself how you are going to manage a whole team if you can’t even manage your own time.
Alexander Feiglstorfer, CTO & Co-founder, Storyblok.