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Scaling Your Tech Startup - key things to consider

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by Startacus Admin

Startup to Scaleup

Without scalability, your tech startup is doomed to remain a small operation - perhaps even simply doomed.

If you go into it knowing that it isn’t scalable and that you don’t need it to be, that’s totally one thing; however, if you go into a tech startup not thinking about scalability full stop...doom! That said, it’s unlikely that you’ll willingly have little to no scalability, as growth is a natural part of any sustainable business. You’ll never feel like a successful entrepreneur saying, ‘Ten years ago, we started business with one employee and two clients, and today we still have those two paying clients!’

So, to ensure you have more than two clients ten years from now, in fact six months from now, here are some key things to think about, in no particular order, when aiming to scaleup your startup.


Don’t rush

The first thing to think about is timing. Firstly, you don’t want to scale prematurely and have the businesses topple over. This is what will happen if you don’t ensure the foundations are strong first, as you can’t scale up something that is imperfect and expect the bigger version to magically work. Don’t ignore the idea of scalability when you’re starting up (remember the doom?), just don’t try to start and scale at the same time.

Ensure the core product is everything it should and can be. It should be solving the problem it was designed for, you should have found your core market, said market should be aware and interested in your product, you should be profitable, and so on. All the usual things that mean a business is doing well. Once your business is working the way it should, you can start to think about making it bigger, developing new add on products and services and growing outwards and internationally.

Startup to Scaleup

Financing

You don’t want to run out of money at any time, but certainly not when you are in the middle of scaling the business. Spend time working out what scaling is going to cost you, what you will need to be bringing in at each stage of growth to remain viable, how many employees you will need to hire, overestimate, and compare with your finances. Unless you are doing remarkably well, there’s a good chance you will need an additional round or two of funding before you fully scale. This should be easier, of course, with a demonstrably working business, than when you were just a headcount of one with an idea. Make sure that your business plan is always up to date, that your pitch-deck is spot on and that when you do meet and chat with VC Investors you look to find one that is interested in seeing their investment as the starting point for more development, changes and growth. Gaining Investment really is the starting point after all - not the end goal!

Public perception

As part of the basics you need to get right before scaling, you need to think about how you are viewed by the public. Every interview you do, every event you go to, and particularly social media. This is not about marketing, which we’ll cover later, but rather how people think of your business (and you, if you are a particularly public face of it). On the extreme side, you don’t want to be scaling your business whilst in the middle of a PR nightmare after you hit that homeless person with your car. In short, the better the public perception of you, the better your scaling will go.

Recruitment: In-house & Outsourcing

As you grow, you will need to employ more people, but you’re not running a multi-billion pound business just yet. This means giving extra consideration to the positions your are hiring for. If you’re very very lucky, the people you hire will be experts in multiple fields - your graphic designer will be able to write up your legal documents and do your books, all while writing compelling articles for your blog - but this is pretty unlikely and in fact can be counterproductive to your success. You now need to now be at the point, where each job role and subsequent employee that you hire, is not just filling a role, but filling a specific gap in your businesses performance and success. Well defined job roles and job descriptions can be key here.

This also may mean thinking about what needs to be done in-house and what can be outsourced. As a startup, there will be plenty of things you need only occasionally, that don’t warrant a dedicated employee, so be smart and keep costs down.

When you do hire, make sure you hire the right people. It might be tempting to hire someone who is simply good at their job, but in a startup this might not be enough. A startup’s team members need to have a little of the entrepreneur in them, driving them to make the business work, taking initiative, coming out with good ideas and, preferably, bringing in transferrable skills. The kind of employee who does their job well but is interested only in getting to the end of the day and picking up their pay cheque at the end of the month probably won’t cut it. Finding employees that match your company culture can be key here.

Startup to Scaleup

Marketing & PR

This is a vital part of scaling the business. If you aren’t getting word out to people beyond your existing customer base, you can’t expect the business to grow. Expand outwards from your core market. Identify what kind of marketing works best for your business and focus on that. Increase your content marketing output and social media presence and broaden its scope if you can. Content marketing drives sales, attracts interest, builds trust in your brand, and more, all without a hard sell tactic, making it one of the best kinds of marketing. You may also wish to employ a PR company that can get you grade A media coverage - but beware that many can charge a small fortune and often deliver very little.

International scaling

If your startup is in the process of scaling, chances are you want and need for your business to expand overseas. There are specific things that you need to consider when it comes to this, and each country has its own laws and customs that may alter the way you conduct your business. Be mindful of everywhere your business is going geographically and if you need to forecast in for new headcount, legals, and office costs in those new international markets - can you manage international scaling remotely, or do you need to hire new talent to be based in each country you scale into. It’s not simply a case of world domination and all from your living room after all! Our previous article on free tools and resources to help with international marketing may also help too. 

Next week we will return with an article that focuses on some of the challenges you will face as your startup begins to and continues to scale.


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Published on: 22nd February 2017

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