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Often, the impression we get is that startup founders think it is enough to originate an idea and that that in itself is worthy of applause. With rising awareness of the Internet in the continent’s tech eco-system, the landscape is quite fortunately getting tougher and tougher. Once upon a time, it was actually quite plausible to launch a content website, have minimal traffic and gain quite a number of media mentions for doing that. Now, the landscape is changing, the audience (both media practitioners and online readers) is getting more sophisticated and the landscape is just about getting started to attain the maturity and respect it deserves.
Beyond the idea behind your startup, tech entrepreneurs should be focusing more on the story behind how they are differentiating themselves to ensure their success in the marketplace.
Beyond starting your website, what are you doing to become a true African Internet success story?
Here are some top three questions, we often ask whenever we spot a startup. If you aren’t asking any one or all of these yet, you should.
1. How are you scaling?
Scale, scale, scale.
Scaling is the secret sauce behind globally successful startups so this should be front and center in your startup strategy. Say you started an ad network, mobile or otherwise and you have supposedly “launched” yet you have no single credible publisher or advertiser. What exactly is the uniqueness quotient of such a startup. Clearly, there is a chicken and egg problem for such a startup, but resolving this s precisely what would make such a startup successful.
But how would you get publishers and advertisers without blog/media mentions, a startup owner might ask? The old boring way. Hit the streets, the phone and the web. Figure it out anyway and every way. When you have done this, write a pitch/copy. Your pitch will be worth showcasing.
2. How are you executing?
Often the excitement behind startups is the story of how they executed. How did they create excitement for their products? What made them buzz worthy? How did they reach out to their customers and who did they partner with? How quickly are they growing?
We often get excited when startups tell us about how they are adapting to the conditions in the landscape to ensure their success. One startup Founder told us he ignored the Lagos market in Nigeria and focused instead on Abuja and PortHarcourt since the business listings landscape in Lagos was already crowded. He was also using creative campaigns around his brand name and doing many interesting things online to adapt to what was becoming a tough environment. More of those kinds of stories please
3. How are you differentiating yourself in the marketplace?
Nothing feels more deflating than visiting a tech startup and instantly thinking what is the difference between this startup and x other very similar startup? This is not saying that one most always be extremely original. In fact there is a school of thought that argues that the most successful ideas are often rip offs of others. However there must be an obvious distinction. There are several ways of making this distinction. One of the easier ways is creating a memorable brand, having awesome user experience design, clearly communicating what makes your particular startup tick and many other subtle ways of highlighting that you are not just another tech startup on the block.
With interesting check marks in all three buckets above you will be well on your way to distinguishing yourself from the crowd and you will be exciting your consumers, creating a memorable brand and eventually excelling just as you dreamed you would!