Here is a difficult question.
If you had to name one scarcity as the biggest enemy of a startup, what would it be?
Speaking about newborn businesses, would it be capital shortage, lack of business contacts, maybe niche expert skills? In common these are all daily startup difficulties but all can be defeated with the right amount effort.
But the scarcity I am about to explain from an insider’s viewpoint will be: Time.
Having long working hours, and hearing other startup team members complaining about several todos that were left unfinished, turned my attention towards the issue of time management. Why startups need to be focused on time management, what tools and techniques are available to squeeze out more from same amount of time?
There are several obvious reasons why startups have absolutely zero time to waste. The most important are the following:
Burn rate – time to survive
Most startups are bootstrapping, they use family or personal money of the founders to make their first steps towards recognition. Burn rate is the amount of cash being eaten up each month and thus states bluntly how much time is left to get additional investment or reach the stage where at least ramen profit – breakeven – is met.
While the myth that 80 percent of startups fail in less than two years has been broken by statistical data, still a great portion of companies fail within the time period set by their own burn rate. But there isn’t enough time even for failure, as the Silicon Valley saying goes, fail fast, learn fast.
According to Startup Tracker – site monitoring new business creations in the UK – on the day of writing this article over 2000 new ventures were created. While not all of them are focused on scalable business models and disrupting industries – core elements of startup definition – still statistical numbers describe all, one should know about competitive threat.
Whatever disruptive product or service is the big idea, certainly several other teams are working on it already, no matter if it is AI, cryptocurrency, IoT or any other trending theme related. It is enough to check the main keyword in Google Trends, or visit a few crowdfunding platforms to find very similar or often almost identical startup firms.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, it still makes much more sense to cut ineffective time spending, narrow down the focus and push all streamlines to make progress (marketing, product, sales, IT, legal, funding, etc) based on the scheduled plan.
What is the difference between a startup and an SME? It really is the scalable business model. Just think about Instagram, Lyft or Robinhood. With the help of innovative apps these companies could make significant impact on existing markets, and they made it real quick.
If a startup does not grow quickly enough, somebody else will disrupt the landscape, catching investor’s attention and money. The key to survival is showing up impressive results in short period of time. This also radiates the sense of agility and productivity of the startup team towards the outside word.
Saving time with the right tools
So far it has been illustrated that there is no room for dilly dallying for sheer survival reasons. Time can pass ineffectively in several ways but fortunately innovative and handy apps are there to help.
Startups need to cut expenses wherever it is possible. Not having an office, working from home is absolutely a standard condition but distance and lack of physical presence brings up communicational difficulties.
Overcoming these with tools like Slack is pretty easy and cost effective. Messaging, sharing docs and calling each other in an organized way helps to know where things stand within the team. Rational time management at its best.
Time has passed by the practice of sharing excel tables with each other via mail. Instant and simultaneous access to documents, easy editing options and cloud based safety are key. In this field Google Drive is still a good and free option, but with a tiny 12 EUR per month fee Evernote is a tool that competes with Google.
Project management apps
With project management apps no day will get started with the good old what do I need to do today question. Teams are effective if they work in sync, and people get notified instantly whenever project steps are finished. No need to call each other, asking about progress, re-planning old stuff,etc. Asana with Instagantt integration is very likely the best price for value project management app out currently.
Conversational agents aka chatbots are with us for a time now, but these insomniac 24/7 robo customer service providers are showing more and more features – like user sentiment detection, anomaly detection, predictive analytics – bypassing AI therefore is a huge mistake for a startup. From time management point of view, answering standard questions, collecting customer feedback can eat up a really big chunk of the precious startup working hours, thus it is really important to focus on automation opportunities right at early stage.