Building a new startup can be a daunting process. Beyond the thrill of pitch competitions and contests, startups are hard work. The challenges of sustaining an early-stage venture are even more difficult when entrepreneurs lack access to funding, connections, and critical human resources. To help kick-start creative solutions to these problems, we’ve collected key insights from our TechConnect webinar, Innovative Problem Solving with Limited Resources.
Lesson 1: Opportunities for funding may be easier to find than you think!
A simple Google search will often produce funding opportunities from large, global endeavors such as corporations, governmental organizations, or foundations. There are countless digital databases of grant and fellowship opportunities from organizations around the world, and unlike in-person meetings or calls, internet research is relatively time-efficient. In particular, look for ‘ecosystem maps’ that detail the funding and networking sources operating in specific regions and countries—for example, the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs has created a few region-specific resource hubs on their website. The GIST Network website and social media feeds are also great resources to keep up to date on global trends and opportunities.
The funding and network sources you reach out to can range from local angel investor groups to multinational aid organizations to regional pitch competitions. The Angel Capital Association (ACA) and its counterparts such as European Business Angels Network (EBAN) and others maintain a directory of angel groups that can be useful for entrepreneurs to review.
Regardless of which funding avenue you pursue, it’s vital to work with partners that deeply understand and believe in your company’s vision. The best way to position your startup for long-term stability is to pursue partners and investors whose values, resources, and focuses align well with your needs.
Lesson 2: Prioritize connecting with the right people in the right way.
You don’t need to reach everyone—you just need to connect with your core customer segment of early adopters. Not every startup needs to spend a lot of money on marketing and advertising—in many ways, it’s more effective to tap into small segments of a community and market to them directly. A small rate of sustained growth from engaged audiences is much more valuable than rapid growth from people who aren’t truly interested in your product or service. Look at the Get Keep Grow method for expanding your market reach.
Once you identify the specific demographics and communities (customer archetypes) you want to reach, be sure to take advantage of free or inexpensive digital platforms and tools, particularly social media. Customer discovery and feedback can be accomplished with free survey tools like Typeform and SurveyMonkey, and sharing news and engaging customers is straightforward and accessible on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
With that said, it’s important to remember that time is a limited resource too. It’s key to create marketing content with purpose—irrelevant and unsubstantial content clogs up inboxes and news feeds, and wastes everyone’s time. The frequency and scale of marketing communication will be unique to every startup, but as long as you share specific, engaging, and intentional content, you’ll intrigue potential new customers and strengthen the community around your startup.
Lesson 3: Find a mentor or a peer group.
Mentors have faced changing dynamics, difficult choices, and failure but have also overcome those obstacles and can share their wisdom and experience with you. Peer-to-peer networking is another crucial way to discover creative solutions to some of the most pressing problems you may face, particularly when you’re working with limited resources and time. But when networking, it can be hard to admit to needing help. Entrepreneurs often feel pressured to emphasize their success and hide any signs of struggle. However, being honest about the challenges you’re facing and the support you need opens yourself up to more useful advice and more promising collaborations.
Beyond business partnerships, there are multiple benefits of prioritizing genuine and long-lasting connections with mentors. Entrepreneurs with more experience in your field can offer tips to help you avoid mistakes they’ve already made, and alongside newer entrepreneurs, you can brainstorm fresh ideas to some of the shared problems you face. Having a strong sense of community with other entrepreneurs in your network ensures you have people to turn to when you need help, and similarly, that others can look to you for support as your startup continues to grow. Check out sites like Meetup and Eventbrite to find industry conferences and startup support events, or even consider organizing your own entrepreneur-focused event like a Startup Huddle. By prioritizing open communication, entrepreneurs can develop more productive relationships with their peers, and foster healthier and more successful startup ecosystems.
Many thanks to our Innovative Problem Solving with Limited Resources panelists for sharing their insights on this important topic:
- Debra Alfarone, TV anchor, on-camera coach (Moderator)
- Bri Losoya-Evora, Learning and Impact Manager, CEED
- Natasha Ramanujam, BEMPU Health, Head of Growth & Strategy
Watch the full Innovative Problem Solving with Limited Resources TechConnect webinar to learn more strategies for success.