How to prevent copycat startups?

In today’s world, nothing goes unnoticed as well as your business ideas. Many entrepreneurs and companies take, copy and sometimes improve existing products while leaving to the creators nothing but anger and frustration. From Facebook with “Stories” to Germany's Samwer brothers with Rocket Internet. So how do you make sure your idea is not being copied?

Secrecy and Startups

The process, each and every entrepreneur goes through, requires a large degree of transparency and at times publicity:

  • During the commitment stage, the idea is first exposed to the team. In this context, trust is further backed up by confidentiality agreements.

  • Word of mouth starts the preparation for the launch and the first steps towards marketing are executed.

  • During the traction stage, you are testing your product’s feasibility and conducting market validation interviews. The pilot users are the second collective of people to have access to the features and specifications of your offer.

  • The solution is again illustrated and elucidated during public events. Its characteristics are now widely known.

After this explanation you may start wondering if it is de facto possible to impede the coming of look-alike businesses.

Disclaimer

You can’t.

The true title of this article should be “How to defend your company from copycat startups”. We won’t sweeten the pill and claim that imitation is the highest form of flattery, nor we will try to explain that every idea is an offshoot of a bigger concept and thus more than one person might arrive at your same conclusion.

What we will attempt to do is give you the best practices in order to differentiate yourself in a market filled with clones.

Customer care

Fostering loyalty in the early stages will prevent clients from switching sides down the line. The following are customer service habits which will leave a positive mark in their minds.

Sign it!

Depending on the resources you have, chances are that as an entrepreneur in the beginning, you will take the responsibility to interact with your clientele. Our advice is to include in any communication your signature.

“Most people understand that leaders have their hands full, so they’re more likely to be appreciative when those leaders make the time to help them out personally”(Pienaar, n.d)

Customization

With the advent of bots and automatic replies in both emails and social media, prospects now tend to appreciate human and personalized sentences every now and then.

Create a support culture

Advocate and encourage your team to become great communicators and be flexible to changes. In many cases, the structure and roles will be reformed and reshaped at unknown intervals.

Ask for feedback

Stimulate great conversations, explore their interest in the product and try to receive as many comments as possible about the features. Listening is vital to deepen relationships.

Innovation

Formation is followed by transformation.

Ninety-three percent of executives surveyed by global professional services company Accenture stated that innovation is critical to their company's long-term success.  (Tredgold, 2018)
While duplicates with your same offer may appear, they cannot copy your thinking process.
Slight modifications, increased number of features and complementary services will ensure your position in the market and separate your business from the homogeneous aggregate of enterprises.

Observe and evaluate customers’ observations to implement new components and thus add new value.

Branding

Build an identity people will recognize and remember, it helps to differentiate you from all the other startups struggling to earn attention in a marketplace. Furthermore, people will become your soldiers when they will notice ditto armies ready to attack you.

Consider building a personal brand

Having a face on your company helps clients relate and connect more. The hardships and challenges you face will become theirs.

“As a co-founder, building up my personal brand was not only an excellent way to get in front of a wide audience, but also one of the best ways to build up our brand’s credibility, and therefore, keep one step ahead of the smaller copycats out there.”  (Garcia, 2019)

Secure a wide network and investment opportunities

Participating in multiple events will spread brand awareness. By the same token, strategic partnerships and funding are other benefits that might arise. The protection of a bigger company or new capital flows will prove useful in retaliating to mimic startups.

The Finals of Present Your Startup are the perfect venue to meet brilliant, creative and resourceful minds and entities.

Do you want to attend? Go to:

Written by Steven Pango

steven@innovate.today

How to give a 30-sec pitch

You are in a bar after a long day of work, the place is half empty. You are enjoying the ambience and go to the counter to order another drink. You look around and notice a person who could be defined as a “white collar” worker, upon closer inspection you realize is one of top angel investors in the country. Or maybe you are at one hotel on a business trip and while returning to your room, you encounter a potential lead in the elevator.

What’s your next move?

In this era, where each conversation holds the potential of being a stepping stone for your career, can you allow yourself to be unprepared? “The problem is that too few people are ready to deal with such a situation. They haven’t considered what they would do, much less prepared something to say or rehearsed it.” (O'Leary, 2008)

From startup owners, small and medium enterprises, established business to multicorporate, brief but comprehensive communication is welcome and preferred. Conversely, for the elevator pitch itself, you need extensive time and preparation to deliver a sublime presentation in the least number of seconds.

What are common pitch mistakes?

The most common misconception about this type of pitch is the goal: entrepreneurs approach potential leads and investors with one thought in mind: “conclude the deal”. But while this is the ultimate desired outcome, the elevator pitch is nothing more than a powerful introduction.

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“An elevator pitch is an overview of an idea, product, service, project, person or other solution to a problem and is designed to just get a conversation started” (O'Leary, 2008)

Let’s go back to the elevator’s scene. You press floor n.6 and they politely ask you to press floor n.5.

LEVEL ONE

How do I begin the conversation?

You: the background and expertise.

It all starts with enthusiasm, a brief description of who you are and what you do, refrain from reciting your LinkedIn profile. The advice is to brainstorm a powerful sentence which makes your heartbeat a little bit faster. After all, if you are not excited how can the audience be?

LEVEL TWO

They know who you are, but they have yet to connect. Use a story!

What is the origin of your startup’s idea?

Depict a challenge you faced in the past or an experience engraved in your brain.

What is the problem your company is trying to solve?

Emphasize the issue at hand with the current market/players.

LEVEL THREE

While your experience may not be an isolated case, your solution must be individual.

Explain your unique selling point.

Outline your product, service or idea what sets your business apart.

In which other aspects do you have an advantage?

Portray your working style, attitude and other personal techniques you use.

FINAL LEVEL

You have concluded on what YOU wanted to say, let them take over the talking.

Attract and engage your audience.

Remember that this is a conservation and therefore mutual curiosity is imperative. Ask your prospect about their profession or current way of handling the discussed situation.

CHECKLIST FOR WRITING AN EXCELLENT STARTUP ELEVATOR PITCH

Now that you are aware of the concept, formulate your lines. James Harrington and Frank Voel can be of help with “The Innovation Tools Handbook”:

  • First, write down all that comes up in your mind.

  • Then cut the jargon and details. Make strong short and powerful sentences. Eliminate unnecessary words.

  • Connect the phrases to each other. Your elevator pitch has to flow naturally and smoothly.

  • Memorize key points and practice.

  • Have you really answered the key question of your listener: What's In It For Me?

  • Create different versions for different business situations of your elevator pitch

INVEST TIME AND EFFORT, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!

Still unsure on what to say?

An example is worth more than a thousand theories. Read our elevator pitch (aimed at early-stage entrepreneurs) compiled thanks to our speech history and prompts from Mindtools:

“Hello, my name is Horiold Steven Pango.

I am a creator, writer and communicator at Present Your Startup.

Upon graduation, I have seen countless friends with brilliant ideas fail to acquire funding, forcing them to give up their ambitions.

My company develops high-value programs and organizes competition pitch events to ensure successful market access to revolutionary companies.

Unlike other accelerators, we deliver customized and concrete instructions. With our help, participants have collected over 5 million euro so far.

So, how do you prepare to engage investors and venture capital funds?

Was this article worth the reading? Don’t miss out on valuable information and tips for startups. Subscribe to our news updates!

Written by Steven Pango

steven@innovate.today

Only two spots left for our Introduction Day!

Would you like to have professional support building or extending your business? We aim for young and growing industries such as tech, internet of things, new media, sustainability, gaming, social entrepreneurship or 3D-printing.

If you have a scalable and innovative startup and you want to get to the next level, we can help you with our program! This 26th September we only have two spots left for our Introduction Day. If you are interested, keep reading this article.


About the program

This 26th September, we will have our Introduction Day, where you will get a masterclass in finance, meet investors, pitch your idea, get to know more about our program and of course, have a great time!

After the Introduction Day, we will decide which startups will be invited to participate in “Prepare Your Startup Hotel”, which is a one-week intensive training. During this training week, you will receive courses on different areas like business model, finance, pitching, legal aspects of a startup and marketing. During the week, you will also have time to put in practice what you have learned and work on your startup

After the training week, we will select only five startups based on their drivers, business plan and how well they developed in the week program.

The five selected startups will be invited to an exclusive dinner to introduce them with investors of our network and they will receive extra training just before the finals. On December 4th, we will have the final event, where he shortlisted startups will get the opportunity to pitch. At the end of the finale, our jury panel will announce the winner of Present Your Startup Netherlands 2019.

We only have two spots left. If you wish to apply, follow the next steps:

1.      At our website, you have to fill out the application form.

2.      You will receive an opt-in confirmation email.

3.      After the Introduction Meeting on September 26th, we will select a limited amount of startups by September 30th to participate in the exclusive Prepare Your Startup Bootcamp. For the program “Prepare Your Startup Hotel”, we ask a fee of €795,-. per person. This includes 4 nights in a shared hotel room, 4 lunches and 2 dinners and two “borrels”

Six factors to be prepared for when raising money from investors

In most startups, getting funded is a fundamental step to get further and grow. Therefore, investors are crucial in the process. You must look for a truly match, where they are engaged to your startup.

In this article, we will explain you, six factors to consider when raising money from investors.

1. Passion. Definitely, passion for the project. Investors are looking for someone willing to invest their own money in their project, which is evidence of the financial commitments and sacrifices you have already made. You must believe in it and be ambitious about it, to achieve the goals you have settled. This also means you must know everything about the startup, even if it is not part of your daily task. If you have a meeting with an investor, be prepared to explain every detail. Work with your team possible questions and answers. This will give you a better idea on how to sell your product with a few lines. Remember time is gold.

2. Traction. You must show investors that you are not just all talk or big ideas but have already begun taking action to build your startup. You must have a proof of concept to show, which validates the viability of the idea. If you do not have the final product, you can have a MVP (minimum viable product), which is the product with enough features to satisfy early customers and deliver feedback for future product development. Sometimes is best to do more than expected, if you are in an early stage and you have the possibility to make an MVP, do it! Investors appreciate every effort you put on your idea.

3. Market for your product. An investor will not be interested in funding an attractive product that has no research or that has a tiny market. You must show a commercial distinction, for example, you could emphasize in customers and/or frequency of purchasing. Therefore, get it ready! You need to make an effective market research that identifies customer needs, drives, fears, and frustrations. Afterwards, you must prepare a resume with highlights that support the idea of your startup.

4. Product differentiation leads to a competitive advantage. You must take time to dig deep in the market and analyze who are your competitors and possible partners. Establish what makes you different. This is product differentiation, to distinguish a product or service from other ones that are similar in the market. Think about this, how do certain geographic, cultural, or strategic advantages play in your favor? Again, you can make a list and select the top facts. When you have settled the product differentiation, it will be easier for you, to develop a competitive advantage, usually based on three sources: price, product and customer experience.

5. Highlight team strengths. It is essential to show investors that there is not a risk concentration in one person and that the formed team is both, complementary and efficient. Ask the following questions: what kind of expertise do we have that makes us visible and competitive in the market? Do we have complementary skills as sales, marketing, product development and operations? Is there a strong chemistry on the team, we help each other and we get along? When you are in front of the investor, you need to mention as many of the team strengths as possible.

6. Financial planning. You should have an idea of where your company can go to in the future. Think about how to answer the investors, the following questions: How much do I need to invest? When do I have to invest it? In addition, they might also ask How much will I get back? When will I get it? For these questions, you can prepare a financial projection to show a solid base. The investor must see you are committed to the idea and that it is worth it.

Have in mind, sometimes investors look for intangibles such us personality, charisma and ethics. Some others look for “someone that is real, that is not afraid to be him/herself, coherent with what it’s said, and what it’s done”.

If you have a startup and you want to increase the value of your business, we can help you! This 26th September, we have an Introduction Day about finance and how to get funded. There are only two spots left, if you are interested, click down here:

Written by Claudia Flores Jiménez

claudia@innovate.today

Why is Design Thinking so important for your startup?

Has It happen to you, that you have a brilliant idea, but it may not solve a main problem that people would pay for? “The number one reasons why startups fail, is because there is no market need for the product or service developed”, affirms Neeraj Joshi. That is why Design Thinking is such a useful tool. This systematic approach helps you to find a problematic that is worth solving.

In this article, we will explain you what are the steps of Design Thinking. This will give you a clear understanding on why Design Thinking is so important for your startup.

 

What are the steps of Design Thinking?

Empathize.

You need to be patient, open minded and use observation tactics. It is important to put assumptions on a side; put yourself in other people’s shoes, this means you are empathizing. You must analyze your “possible customers” in different matters like emotions, motivations, user’s experience, behavior, between others. Moreover, you will get a clear understanding of who the user is and what his/her needs are. In addition, you need to know the context and make a research about it.

Define.

With all the information you received, you can analyze your possible customers and get insights. Do not forget, that you need to construct a point of view. This will be helpful in order to make a list of problems. Then you will have to define and give priority to a bunch of this user’s problems. Afterwards, you need to define the problem you want to solve.

Ideate.

It is time to do a brainstorm and come up with ideas to give solutions to the problem choose. Have in mind that you need to be as open minded as you can. Do not be afraid of giving “unexpected or impossible solutions”, maybe in the process, you find a good way to make it come true. Besides that, you must research about all the kinds of solutions that this “problem” has so far. Perhaps this problem has no solution yet and your idea in not on the market or you can improve the solution you want to present.

Prototype.

After ideate, you must build the prototype. This means a simple demonstration of a proposed solution used to test or validate ideas. Remember you must show this prototype to people in general, not necessarily the target. The purpose of this test is to obtain information and communicate with general users. It will be helpful to have a general panorama.

Test.

At this stage, it is time to look for the target and test the prototype you made in first instance; during this phase you have the chance to see if you have framed the problem correctly. Remember that the people you select in this stage must be the “possible customer”; you will need their feedback to make the necessary improvements, if needed. In addition, you can repeat this process several times until you have the “solution”.

Launch.

Now that you have the solution, you can implement your vision. Introduce it to the market. In this last stage, you can also get even more feedback, experience and look for investors to scale your startup.

If you have a startup and you want to increase the value of your business, we can help you! Apply for a program.

Written by Claudia Flores Jiménez

claudia@innovate.today