Three Valuable Lessons from These Famous Web Start-up Stories

Everyone wants to be the next silicon valley superstar, right? However, considering that approximately 90% of start-ups fail, many within their first year or two, we understand that the stakes are high for budding companies looking to navigate the tumultuous tech world.

What are some of the biggest problems that such start-ups face when it comes to “making it?” For starters:

  • Their product simply doesn’t meet the needs of their market: likewise, the market may simply not exist
  • They overlook key aspects of running a business, including delegating jobs and responsibilities, in the wake of start-up cash and stars in their eyes
  • They simply ran out of cash, unable to essentially grow fast enough and got lost in a sea of fierce competition

There’s perhaps no better way to uncover the keys to success, and the potential pitfalls, in the start-up world than by looking at some of the biggest rising stars and flops of the past decade. Whether you’re a budding business owner wondering how to become a millionaire or simply ensure that your start-up survives the long-term, keep the following lessons in mind when it comes to your products and audience.

Be Willing to Budge

Mark Zuckberg and Facebook have become synonymous with “start-up success.” Zuckerberg’s social network now boasts over one billion daily active users and three million advertisers resulting in Facebook’s valuation of approximately $350 billion in 2016.

However, bear in mind that Zuckerberg was adamantly against any form of advertising in the infant stages of Facebook. The independent appeal of Facebook during its initial years of launch built its audience, but its ad platform is what allowed it to become the behemoth it is today.

In short, Zuckerberg managed to have the best of both worlds by holding off on advertising at first; however, he couldn’t afford to keep the platform ad-free forever.

While budging on your principles may be the last thing you want to do, don’t let stubbornness be the death of your business. Entrepreneurs should keep their vision in mind alongside (and not separate from) their bottom line.

Give Power to the People

User generated content perhaps represents the new wave of the modern web: from selfies to blogs and beyond, providing our audience the ability to speak their voices and let their creativity shine is paramount.

Consider the tale of Digg vs. Reddit. Both sites were founded on the principles of “upvoting” content (user-submitted or otherwise) to a front page, where the proverbial cream would rise the top. So why is Reddit one of the most popular sites on the web and Digg, which actually came first, is a mere afterthought?

Digg’s upvote system put the power in the hands of a select few users to determine which content was best; meanwhile, Reddit gave that ability to all users. Likewise, Reddit boasts over 600,000 “subreddits” where users can discuss anything from politics to cat pictures, tapping into countless niche for the site’s user-base.

By putting power in the hands of your audience, they ultimately feel closer to your product and brand. Take that power away and, well, you can imagine what happens.

Don’t Overload Your Audience

On the flip side, businesses should strive to keep it simple wherever possible, whether it be in regard to marketing or product features. While we may want to give our users everything, sometimes a “less is more” mentality is more prudent.

Such is the story of Myspace, the now-forgotten social network that was valued at $12 billion at its peak in 2007. What went wrong?

Myspace was quickly overtaken with the emergence of minimalist sites such as Facebook and Twitter. By overloading its users with bulky features that bogged down the site, such as custom HTLM/CSS and auto-playing music, the site’s audience quickly jumped ship due to a lack of usability.

Always keep user experience at the forefront of your business. If something seems superfluous or may potentially have a negative impact on UX, think twice before implementing it.

Becoming a start-up success story is easier said than done. However, by keeping an open mind and understanding exactly what makes your audience tick, you can build a business that serves the need of its users and stands the test of time.


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