It would be an understatement to say that the tech startup world is crowded in 2017. With the rise of companies of Uber and Seamless, entrepreneurs all over the world are searching for the next tech breakthrough that will make life easier — and will actually return a profit.
At X-Mode Social, we are well acquainted with how competitive this world can be. But we also believe in the power of ideas, and that the next great entrepreneur is out there somewhere; they may just need a little advice. Based on our own growth as a company in the last few years, we have collected here a few pieces of startup wisdom that can hopefully help a team with ambition and grit go from a crazy idea to a fully formed company.
Don’t be afraid to trust the power of serendipity.
First, let me make this disclaimer: no successful company has ever come together by accident. Behind every great entrepreneur is an untold amount of sleepless nights, unpaid overtime, and work that seems to never end. These ambitious business leaders, and the crucial teams that work for them, work their butts off because failure isn’t an option.
But X-Mode, like a lot of companies whose business is solving problems, wouldn’t be where it is today without the occasional assistance of serendipity. Drunk Mode, the company’s flagship app, would never have come into being in the first place if founder Josh Anton hadn’t received a regrettable text from an inebriated friend. The company’s location-tracking SDK — now the cornerstone of their business — was originally put together to fix a bug in the app’s already-existing GPS system.
These unplanned, serendipitous moments are key to successful innovation. They make room for creative problem solving, and allow companies to figure out solutions that they may have never considered if everything had gone smoothly. If you want to be an effective entrepreneur, you should always be on the lookout for these chance, unexpected opportunities for growth.
...But also remember to never stop pushing your company out of its comfort zone.
At the same time that unexpected occurrences can positively shape the future of your company, it’s important not to rely on them. After all, moments that you don’t control are moments that you have to wait around for. Real growth is accomplished by constantly reevaluating your core business model, and always looking for new ways to move forward.
After the success of the Drunk Mode app, X-Mode immediately asked themselves what other life hassles they could make easier with similar “modes.” Follow up apps Walk Against Humanity (which focused on exercise) and Family Mode (which helps families keep track of their loved ones) both stemmed from this brainstorming. This was an example of a company taking what they already did well, and considering how it could be expanded.
Another path to success is through lateral growth, when a company is able to expand into areas different from their original business model. Although Josh and the rest of the X-Mode team didn’t have a lot of experience in the complex world of location data, they knew they had built a location-tracking SDK that could compete with others in the industry. Without a willingness to pivot the company almost completely, X-Mode may have never gotten as far as it has.
Look for money in unconventional places.
Finally, any successful entrepreneur knows the importance of the word hustle. The startup world is a ruthless one, and only the companies that can intelligently leverage every possible source of revenue will be able to survive. For X-Mode, that meant expanding beyond initial App revenue and moving into user monetization — as well as distributing our SDK to other apps. Dependable technology and a strong business plan will get a company far, but being shrewd enough to find money in unexpected places can elevate them to the next level.
For your own company, this strategy might take many different forms. Is there another, more lucrative customer base that your current product could be serving more effectively? Are you sitting on mountains of user info that could be sold to location-data companies like X-Mode? The list of revenue sources is only as limited as your imagination.
Successful businesses are created by keeping all of these pieces of advice in mind: seizing opportunities when they present themselves, constantly innovating, and getting extra revenue wherever they can find it. I’m sorry to say that there are no magic “life-hacks” that will allow your company to skip over the long and often unrewarding amounts of work necessary to succeed. But any entrepreneur looking for an easy way out is probably not cut out for this line of work anyway.