The best startup advice for entrepreneurs in 2018

Growth

Monthly Archives: January 2018

The best startup advice for entrepreneurs in 2018

This week marks the end of January. An innocuous time that represents the so-called ‘quit date’ for almost 80 per cent of the population who made new year’s resolutions. According to U.S. News, it’s the most popular time of the year for people to abandon their goals and to-do lists.

Of course, entrepreneurs — just like everyone else — have a hard time sticking to resolutions. Regardless of whether its boosting time management or just saving money, turning thought into reality can be tough. To help readers stick to their goals we’ve collected some common startup-related questions DMZ companies posed last year and paired them with the perfect advice from today’s top entrepreneurs.

Launch a successful new product

 
In today’s non-stop world, being first can sometimes feel like the most important thing in the world. However, putting out an inferior product is all it takes to tank a company’s reputation for good. In a 2017 Rolling Stone interview, Elon Musk confesses some of his past mistakes and what he’s learned over the years about what it takes to launch a successful product.

“Better to do something good and be late, than bad and be early.” @ElonMusk, CEO of @Tesla and @SpaceX

Advice: Make sure your product is significantly better than the competition. If it isn’t go back to the drawing board and make those necessary improvements. Tiny incremental upgrades won’t be enough to sway the marketplace. Consumers will usually choose a trusted and well-known brand over a new one. Figure out if your product is ready enough to go to market before wasting time on promoting it.

Always test your product with industry insiders who aren’t friends or family. Sometimes friends will encourage your progress without divulging their critiques. This will only hurt you in the end.

Find the right people for your team

 
Hiring the right talent to grow your company, especially when you’re just starting out, is hard. Startups don’t have the extended network or expertise that older companies do at their disposal. Steve Jobs, infamous for being fired from the company he once co-founded, found a way to get around this.

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Steve Jobs, cofounder of @Apple

Advice: Entrepreneurs should look for smart people who are passionate about their role not just the most experienced in the room. It’s these people who can help further your company’s goals and are likely to put in the extra work needed in the very beginning.

Don’t neglect potential hires because their background and education differ from what the industry expects. Hire based on their ambition, skills and openness to learning on the job. For example, one of Job’s most famous hires was Debi Coleman, a 32-year-old English Lit major from Stanford. She was hired as a controller for the Macintosh project in 1981 and later became the company’s chief financial officer.

Overcome bad press and/or industry coverage

 
Uber isn’t out of the gates just yet, but it could serve as the perfect case study for future companies on what not to do. The ride-hailing company has been criticized for years over everything from its surge pricing to security mishaps. And even though it still has several issues it needs to address and overcome it’s now working to overturn its image. The company’s new CEO has apologized for the company’s past behaviour and on a mission to change its public image.

“We don’t have a PR problem; We have an ‘us’ problem.” @Dkhos ‏, CEO of @Uber

Advice: When a company makes serious mistakes sometimes the best next step is to acknowledge it and start making amends. Uber did that through its public apology to London users last year. It also pledged to do better and launched a new campaign.

Address the issues that created big mistakes. Uber did this by removing its founder Travis Kalanick and implementing a new board. While firing an entire group of people may seem a little extreme, the lesson here is to make sure the problem never happens again.

Can entrepreneurship really be taught?

Whether good entrepreneurs are born or made is a question that’s been debated and dissected for years. Can the essential skills entrepreneurs need to survive — risk-taking, dedication and creativity — ever truly be taught? Or is it simply like driving a car, which can be learned and eventually mastered with enough time and practice?

For some of today’s most successful founders, entrepreneurship is a life lesson that never stops teaching. Innate talent plays a role in building up a successful business, but it’s not the only deciding factor.

“Genius is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent perspiration.”
– Thomas Edison

Jamal Edwards, the self-made millionaire who launched his YouTube business in 2010, believes hard work is what matters most. “I wholly reject the idea that entrepreneurs are born,” he said. “It would be one of the most limiting ideas and it would be a real shame if it was true. To my mind, that we’re even still discussing whether an entrepreneur is born or made is sad,” he told Forbes magazine.

The startup life

These days more and more millennials are ditching traditional jobs in favour of the startup life. The result can be incredibly beneficial, according to a 2014 study by BNP Paribas.  The report found that millenniapreneurs (entrepreneurs born between 1980 and 1995) are more likely to outperform their elders on almost every metric.

“Everyone has ideas. They may be too busy or lack the confidence or technical ability to carry them out. But I want to carry them out. It is a matter of getting up and doing it.” – James Dyson

As a result of the sudden increase startup interest, the market has taken notice. Individuals can now find classes, seminars and even one-off workshops about how to bootstrap, run and manage their own company.

Sean Mullin, the executive director of the Brookfield Institute, believes combining practical at theoretical is beneficial for individual hoping to launch their own company .

“There’s a debate about how much of entrepreneurship you can actually teach in an academic setting. I think that’s why a university like Ryerson — that has a strong academic component as it relates to entrepreneurship and supports it through various programs — is a real leader in this,” he explains. “I think that combination of understanding theoretically what it means to be an entrepreneur but then being given real-life experience to test it out and learn for yourself is actually what you need to support it at that level.”

To learn more about innovation and how Brookfield is playing a pivotal role in Canada’s tech ecosystem listen to the BusinessCast podcast above.

To hear more podcasts like this, hosted by Robert Gold, make sure to visit our official iTunes page.

4 Toronto startups to watch out for in 2018

Last year saw explosive growth in the Toronto startup scene. Some of the city’s most popular homegrown companies raised million-dollar investments, extended their services across the country and expanded into the U.S.

While it’s never easy to pick which startups to highlight for our must-watch list, the following truly stood out in 2017 and arevexpected to do big things in the coming year.

TopHat


TopHat is one of the few Canadian startups dominating the education technology (edtech) space. It offers college and university instructors an easy-to-use platform that combines online tests, interactive tools and digital textbooks. In fact, the company’s products have even caught the eye of high-profile schools at home and abroad (Dalhousie University, California State University and Indiana University, just to name a few).

Standout: Last year, the company won ‘Startup of the Year’ at the Canadian Startup Awards for its new learning tools and raised a whopping $30 million. Insiders expect it to do big things in 2018 after taking on international education giants, like Pearson and McGraw.

Ritual


Ritual’s app isn’t used by everyone in Toronto. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find a store in the downtown core that doesn’t feature the company’s logo.

The foodie app lets individuals pre-order food ahead of time for easy pickup and since launching has signed more than 100 businesses across the GTA. Its 2017 wins include a massive Series B round; likely a precursor to more high-profile developments in the coming months.

Standout: Aside from a never-ending list of positive press (everything from features in the Washington Street Journal and Canada’s BetaKit), it also snapped up $43.5 million. The company’s executive team also revealed its 2018 plans to expand into several U.S. major cities.

Rumie


The words ‘nonprofit’ and ‘startup’ may sound like an oxymoron, but companies like Rumie are proving it’s possible. They’re transforming the for-good sector and bent on changing the world by using new technologies.

The Toronto startup develops and delivers low-cost digital learning tools to underserved communities around the world. Its reach extends to Jordan, Turkey and Syria where it teaches refugee youth basic education. In northern Canada, the company is connecting communities that suffer from unreliable bandwidth with offline learning materials.

Standout: Any startup that wins Google’s ‘nonprofit of the year’ award is likely destined to do great things. This year, Rumie plans to expand its presence in Canada and beef up its Toronto offices to take on even more challenges.

StackAdapt


The software company, based in the city’s trendy King St. East area, is no novice in the tech field. The advertising firm counts industry leaders like Google, Banque Libano and Kodak as clients. Most recently it garnered headlines with its #HackDiversity campaign.

The initiative highlights the company’s free app, Unbiasify, which removes names and profile photos of candidates applying through online recruitment platforms.

Standout: Diversity is a well-known problem in the tech community. This startup could help make a real difference with its latest project.