When it comes to startups, there's plenty of information and opinions to go around. But how much of what you hear and read are myths, as opposed to reality?
Here are six of the most common misconceptions about launching a startup, with advice on how to approach your new business with more facts and objectivity.
1. You Must Have a Breakthrough Idea.
Of course, the more unique your startup idea is, the better your chances are at success. But plenty of thriving startups began with one idea, and morphed into something else along the way. "No matter what your startup idea is, you'll probably 'pivot' a few times anyway," notes Darrell Jones, editor-in-chief at Elance. "Just make sure your 'killer' idea meets a market need, and gradually mold it into a successful business."
In fact, most "breakthrough ideas" aren't grand, unprecedented concepts—they're significant improvements on existing ideas. If your product or service represents the next step forward from something already in existence, chances are customers will respond favorably.
2. Nothing Happens without a Deep-Pockets Investor
Back in the day, every entrepreneur chased after big-name venture capitalists and angel investors with deep pockets. New funding options, including the growing arena of crowdsourcing opportunities, make raising capital less intimidating than in the past.
"Sure, there are angel investors out there—but not nearly enough to go around," says veteran small business owner Jay Goltz, adding: " ... most new entrepreneurs get money from their own bank account, their parents, their 401(k) plans and anyone else they know."
3. Customers Will Come in Droves Because of your Great Idea
Too many startups have foundered because of the age-old notion, "Build it and they will come." Generally speaking, a startup doesn't succeed on a great idea alone.
Customers must know about your business before there's any chance they'll flock to it in droves. This means, in addition to developing and executing on your idea, you must know what your target audience wants and needs, and how you'll reach out to that audience so they're aware of your existence.
"Startups assume that marketing is required when they're established, but in reality, it should be a crucial part of their business plan from day one," says tech writer Deepanshu Gahlaut. He urges entrepreneurs to design a full-scale marketing strategy "to achieve the growth either through social media, press release, webinar, content marketing, or journalism."
4. Any Big Competitor Can Drive You Out of Business
There's always the possibility that some big competitor will swoop in and attempt to steal away the customers you've worked so hard to acquire. But that likelihood is greatly diminished if you continue to offer something they don't have.
Another big element in your favor is that your startup isn't burdened with a slow-moving corporate culture or layers of unnecessary bureaucracy. Small businesses enjoy the competitive advantage of being small enough to offer better customer service than many large companies and, as Darrell Jones notes, by building their business "around niches that the big guys either ignore or don't understand."
5. At the Outset, You Can Do It All Yourself
Entrepreneurs by nature are self-starters and that's perfectly OK, up to a point. But in order to gain traction, the needs of your business can't possibly be met by you alone. You'll quickly require the assistance of a financial expert, technology geek, marketing wizard, and so on.
But don't panic! No one's talking about bringing on a full-time staff and all the HR headaches that might entail. There's a whole world of qualified freelancers out there—people with precisely the type of specialized skills your burgeoning business requires. Take a good hard look at what you can reasonably do yourself and then outsource the rest to people with experience in other key areas of a new enterprise. As the business grows, you can then look at hiring permanent employees.
6. If the Business Fails, I Should Give Up My Entrepreneurial Dreams
Everyone knows about the high failure rate among startups. What's less commonly understood is that the entrepreneurs who succeed most often do so after a couple of failures under their belt. Persistence and the willingness to recover from setbacks are the traits most frequently shared by startups with staying power.