Working with Startups – Balancing Potential and Risk.

Realities of Working with Startups

Wednesday Dec 02, 2015

Author

Matt

Matt

Co-founder, President

Have you, or someone you know, ever started up a business? If the answer is yes, then you know the energy that surges through a brainstorming session, as creative thinking creates an atmosphere of openness and the sky’s the limit for innovative ideas. Here at IT Hands, we’ve observed as we work with web companies that there are two types of clients: old, mature companies and new, startup companies. This blog is about the realities of engaging with startups. It is crucial to consider both potential and risks before moving forward in a partnership.

Lots of Potential

The Thrill
Working with startups is thrilling to us, as we come alongside entrepreneurs who have an idea for a product or service and are passionate about it. The excitement is contagious! It livens up our office, boosts our morale and brings us together as we are all involved in making the client’s dream a success.

Good Product Owners
Entrepreneurs also make good product owners. They aren’t just out to get a paycheck (though that’s definitely a bonus!). They have vision for what they want in a project and are usually good decision makers when it comes to what they want prioritized in project development. It isn’t hard to contact a product owner who is eager about a project. These men and women have skin in the game, so they are the ones who review the progress and provide feedback to our development team.

Recognition
Another thing we love about startup companies is the potential for one project to generate future projects and then (modesty aside) the bragging rights we get from doing the work. If we build a successful product for an entrepreneur and the business grows as a result, then we will most likely have more work cut out for us. While that could also be overwhelming, depending on how much work ends up on the table after a success, we’re glad for the positive reinforcement. Plus, like any designer or engineer, we aren’t immune to showing off our work and our client. There are not many things more satisfying than accomplishing a project and sharing it with others.

Cutting Edge Technology
Also, startups are usually on the cutting edge of technology. These innovative business owners are risk-takers, as opposed to an established company that usually prefers popular,mature frameworks and software. As we work with an entrepreneur, who wants to try ground-breaking technologies and pioneering projects, we benefit by enhancing our skills in a new way. We are ready learners when it comes to growing in knowledge of a new technology.

Risks
Not to put a damper on the glowing feeling you now have about working with a startup business, but risk also factors into the equation. It can’t be ignored.

Scope Creep
As with any project, there is a certain measure of flexibility a team has to make changes as necessary or expand a project. With a new business though, the danger arises when creativity explodes past the limits agreed upon. This is termed “scope creep” by project managers. We get it. The entrepreneur has a vision which can change, but if the goals for the project are not definitively laid out and then controlled, the result is disastrous for both the client and us. This can even result in a project left in shambles, a disillusioned client and our team not getting reimbursed for the efforts.

Lost Opportunity
Another risk can also be missing the window of opportunity for a client’s product to successfully hit the market at the appropriate time and in the best way possible. Many factors play into this. First, the client’s product has to be more marketable than any competitor’s out there, or else the competition will win in the end. Next, there can be time sensitivity for some products. Does an academic product need to be ready before the start of a school year or brought to market before a known competitor? These possible risks are not only for the entrepreneur to weigh, but for us to realize before diving into a project.

The Balance
Now that you’ve been taken through the emotional roller coaster of thrilling excitement working alongside a startup as well as the twists and turns of navigating potential risks, here is one piece of advice: back away from your emotions.

Never (I repeat, Never!) go into a business venture without clearly documenting agreed-upon goals. You cannot be too clear. Repeat back goals to your client. Clarity is key at this stage. Document, document, document. A trusting relationship will be built upon thorough documentation and straightforward deadlines.

Also, know that many companies get their clients through referrals and networking. Yes, there are those dream-come-true partnerships that can form between absolute strangers, but that is not common in the real world of business. If you get a referral, do what you can to validate the person, as well as weigh the costs and benefits of joining hands with the potential client.

Last bit of advice: Trust your instincts and don’t get wrapped up in emotions and dollar signs of the possible outcome when making decisions. Walk off the roller coaster of big dreams and mind-crippling doubts, and make the decision when your feet are firmly planted on the basis of prior experience, logical thinking and good counsel.

Would you like us to leverage our experience in helping you work with startups? We would love to help. Contact: solutions@ithands.com

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