What it takes to Build a Killer Startup?

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Ever wondered how the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook achieved so much out of nothing. None of these companies were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. No doubt there’s years of hard work, dedication, and commitment. I have put together 7 ways how you can build a killer startup. Let’s check them out.


Probably the most important lesson the Startup founder should learn is to dream big and have a Vision. I highly recommend you to read this book Magic of thinking big by David J Schwartz. This will help you realize the power of dreaming big. Most people think very modestly. They fear to cross the chasm and see the whole new world of opportunities that can be achieved. I also insist all startup founders read this incredible book Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. I think it’s extremely important to have a dream and the vision to achieve the milestones. One can change over the years about what one does basis business environment and technology trends. The vision is vital because it allows new people wanting to join your business to figure out what you’re about. 


I think it’s important, very important to embrace mistakes. In fact, one should celebrate them, go with the team to eat out because screw-ups make you learn valuable steps in the journey to find out what does really works.  It is important to fail fast, I have seen many startups take almost a year or two to build a product or software. They then take another year to figure out that the product they built didn’t work because people didn’t want to pay for the product or service in the offering. One should take an agile way to build the product, which allows one to fail multiple times a day to get closer to finding out what works to get the product-market fit as soon as possible. Eric Reis in his incredible book The Lean Startup describes the five-step methodology to build the right product

1. Empathize

2. Define

3. Ideate

4. Prototype and

5. Test and then prototype and test, prototype and test, till the product is ready to hit the market.


Every entrepreneur must have the ability to clearly articulate in crisp, clear, and compelling terms what they are working on, and why it matters.  Storytelling is very important. A journalist whom you want to publish your startup idea wants to know the human aspect, the emotional side of things. It is not necessarily that the data and all the statistics be known but the summary of great examples would attract people towards your business.  You can tell your story by telling your purpose rather than the business you do, I have tried this trick many times to attract people’s interest and it has worked almost every time. Whenever I am giving an elevator pitch, I mention that my business is to help people create and unlock value for themselves, their employees and all the other stakeholders and almost every time I get a follow-on question, how do you do that? That is the time I tell them how do I do that.  Remember, one thing! Don’t give a presentation. If you tell a story people will be much more engaged and interested.


As part of my daily job, I come across many Venture Capital Investors and whenever I ask them what is that one thing they look into an early-stage startup when making an Investment decision, often I hear back from them is that they hate meeting startups rescuing a rainbow of ideas on the nonstop busting release in all the different ways they could do things, Venture Capital almost never want the startup to play with their money, they want the startup to keep the main thing the main thing because they give you a hell of a lot of money to build a business you told them you can build.  It’s extremely important to do one thing really well, look at Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Uber all these successful companies began with building one product which was really good.  Startup especially in the early stage of operations who try to spread out in different areas and juggle in multiple things usually end up dropping balls.  My Strong advice to startups is to focus on one thing in depth and endeavor to make it the best in the world.


To work hard and be nice to people is the sign of an office I love. We all know that building a startup is incredibly tough, the chances of you making errors at the initial stages are very high, hence the core is to bring on board the right team who can inspire customers whilst trying to sell your products. To understand what makes people stick is crucial in the early days of starting a business. I used to think IQ was the most important thing to bring people on board. However, when I look back at people’s academic records trying to figure out how small they were true, far more important is EQ emotional durability.


Stay hungry stay foolish, this is the famous quote Steve Jobs gave it at a commencement address at Stanford many years ago.  This is the one I want to emphasize for the entrepreneurs who are launching a new startup. You must be passionate about your idea. You should always be thinking only about it. Reading and drawing references about your idea is vital to deep dive. Be hungry about every tiny bit of information you can get your hands on. Speak to experts in the industry, attend trade shows, read every book you possibly can go super deep to build a startup. Creating a new product is a little bit like trying to put together very complex pixel fragments of information you get and add pieces little by little. Peter Sims, this incredible writer from Silicon Valley, California in his book titles Little Bets, describes the whole concept of taking little bets whilst building a startup business or product giving many good examples of how breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries.


What it takes to build a killer startup? - Keep simple

This is a well-known fact that most loved products in the world are incredibly simple and easy to understand. Masters of simplicity create products that even a three-year-old child can pick up and use. Embrace the whole idea of MVP (Minimum Viable Product), Eric Reis been talking about in his brilliant book The lean startup mentioned above. Try to figure out what is the minimum viable product that you can launch which is lean and agile. You should only be building something that your audience wants.

Building a startup is not easy, sometimes it can become chaotic.  It’s also one of the most exciting, challenging and rewarding things you can ever do. For any of you taking the plunge, I wish you the very best of luck

Z Nation Lab is a Startup Unicolsyt. Early-stage startups leverage on ZNL platform for getting access to mentorship, subject matter expertise, network and access to capital. ZNL has a strong presence & network in India & Silicon Valley.

About Author

    Amit Jain

    Venture Partner, Z Nation Lab M&A specialist, impact investor, mentor & strategic advisor, Silicon Valley-India bridge. Professional Experience – Citibank (treasury), PwC, KPMG & Grant Thornton (M&A) Qualification – CA, Harvard Business School (PE & VC Executive education)

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