A support system is critical to the success of a startup. In meeting with early- and late-stage startups over the past several months, I’ve realized that the most successful startups have a solid foundation and infrastructure in place. And I mean the type of infrastructure that is made of people, networks and associations. Here are a few key areas that you should be focusing on to help find the right support system:
1. Connect with a strong set of mentors and advisors.
As your startup matures from conception to being a vetted solution, the first thing to do is find a strong set of mentors. Look for experienced professionals, entrepreneurs and business leaders to help guide you.
When you establish your company, you will soon need to look for strong advisors on your board. Your board of advisors would include your investors, industry experts, technologists and seasoned entrepreneurs. These people are your guiding stars in a world filled with ambiguity and analysis paralysis.
2. Programmatic support to build a solid foundation.
This is the type of support that you can get via top accelerators such as TechStars, from companies such as Microsoft that support entrepreneurs via the BizSpark program as well as venture challenges and business plan competitions. Organizations like Founder Institute hold classes for new entrepreneurs while Startup Weekend hosts a weekend full of startup activities to get your feet wet. As you can see, depending on where you are -- from idea to startup, from early stage to mature stages, there’s programmatic support available for everyone.
3. Media and promotional networks for marketing.
Based on the city, there are local companies such as Entrepreneurs Unpluggd that cover startups as well as national and global companies such as Tasty Trade and Mashable that help promote your success story. As you establish your startup and want to get the word out, a strong media campaign can help promote your solution and drive customers. Press releases can make a huge impact on the perception of your brand. Microsoft’s BizSpark network has a blog for "Featured Startups" which provides a voice and platform to reach out to the global community of approx. 50,000 startups.
4. Funding to sustain and grow.
From friends and family to angel investors to Venture Capital funds, startups wouldn’t be anywhere without the funding behind the product. A lot has been said about funding startups and ways to get funding. Suffice to say that without the financial support, your new venture may not take flight. Outreach to angel investors in your area, financial institutions or approaching venture capital funds focused on startups, are some of the options available to you.
As you take off on this sky-rocketing journey, a strong support system can make all the difference between reaching the stars and rocking it as a startup or fading away into the distance!
Sonal Mane is a Chicago-based startup technologist. She writes at Windows of Words and you can connect with her on Twitter. Her team creates a platform for startups to gain visibility and technology support and is also looking for the next high potential startup to nurture longer term. A variety of events form the backbone of Microsoft’s program for entrepreneurs, Windows Startup challenge, Accelerator for Windows Azure, supporting the 500 Startups Demo day, Startup Weekend and DevCamps. The program is also engaged in financial funding and providing great mentors all over the country.