May 3, 2017

Finding and Implementing The Right Tools For Your Startup

By Jennifer Klostermann

Implementing Startup Tools

Many startups believe implementing cloud tools help reduce operation costs as well as the time taken to enter a market, and so when taken along with the faster product development and increased productivity benefits, more and more startups are building in or moving businesses to the cloud. From accounting to customer support, analytics to cyber security, and hosting to CRM, cloud service providers offer a range of tools to suit just about any need and budget, and provide scalability benefits for the growing venture. The best third-party cloud tools are easily integrated, reliable, and stable, and with many interoperable they allow organizations to create their own combinations for a truly bespoke solution. Many startups are, in fact, trusting other startups to manage fundamental business management aspects of their businesses, often automating resource-intensive business-building pieces.

Below is an infographic highlighting the 2017 startup ecosystem around the world discovered via Rikvin. Not surprisingly, Silicon Valley leads the way, followed by New York and London, UK.

Worldwide Startup ecosystem

Getting the Most Out of Cloud Tools

Those considering employing or already utilizing cloud tools in their business are likely aware of the many benefits, but should also identify and implement the necessary policies to ensure these tools are always being exploited to their fullest while avoiding complications.

Separating Core and Non-Core Systems

Cloud implementation isn’t necessarily relevant for an entire organization, and practical business founders pick and choose the cloud tools most pertinent while separating out that which should and shouldn’t be stored in the cloud. Though security in top providers is high and failures very low, some organizations will split out the core and non-core systems, using cloud only for that which is not utterly essential to the running of the business and managing core systems in-house. Others will use the cloud for the core as well as non-core systems, but carefully ensure thorough in-house backups able to take over in the case of cloud failures. It’s unlikely that, if selected for reliability and with a solid reputation, your cloud vendor will fail permanently or lose all of your data, but sometimes even a few hours of inaccessibility can break a business, and since disasters will happen, it’s best to have a strategy in place for the worst case scenario.

It’s All About People

Cloud tools might offer a wealth of assistance, but unless they’re being optimally used much of this could be wasted. Often, this comes down to who is responsible for implementation, and their continued employment thereafter. Service Providers might offer valuable assistance in the initial deployment of tools, ensuring the organization has what it needs in place, but training staff to maximize usage of these tools turns a good investment into a great one. Don’t be fooled into complacency by the theoretical possibilities of the tools you’ve effected, but rather be sure to focus on making them a reality.

Information for Optimization

Getting all of the information, before, during and after implementation of cloud tools and processes, helps businesses get the biggest bang for their buck. Most will put the time and effort into investigation  in the early stages, but once solutions have been employed will leave them to run as they are. Experts, however, recognize that inefficiency is often due to a lack of information to make appropriate decisions, and so continuously monitoring processes and the benefits provided by cloud tools ensures increased employment of those providing highest gains, revised execution where necessary, and abandoning those tools and processes which offer no real benefits.

Cloud computing is a constantly evolving technology, and many businesses will find tools that support at least some aspects of their organization; it’s a never-ending exploration and staying competitive means keeping up with what the technology can offer. Defining which elements of your business should be moved to the cloud and which tools offer the most assistance is a worthwhile practice, and optimizing the usage of cloud monitoring services and tools can influence profits, productivity, and overall organization resilience.

Startup Accelerator Programs

Startup accelerators, not to be confused with incubators or angel investors, play an important role in the development of global startups and can significantly impact the results of these startups while simultaneously benefiting the community as a whole. Startup accelerators support growth-driven organizations in the early stage through fixed-period financing, education, and mentorship. Says Susan Cohen, a University of Richmond professor of entrepreneurship, “Broadly speaking, [accelerators] help ventures define and build their initial products, identify promising customer segments, and secure resources, including capital and employees. More specifically, accelerator programs are programs of limited duration—lasting about three months—that help cohorts of startups with the new venture process.” Accelerators typically provide a little seed capital as well as working space and networking opportunities.

Why Choose a Startup Accelerator?

Though most of the programs devised to assist startups can provide some level of value, startup accelerators are so popular because of the intense and focused attention they offer and the practical education provided that helps founders learn what they need to in the shortest amount of time possible. This hands-on learning process tends to be particularly effective with regards to the Scaling of ventures as years’ worth of learning is condensed into just a few months. It is, however, important to select an accelerator programs carefully as there is some evidence that only the best ones help startups reach critical milestones more quickly, while others may, in some cases, slow startups down. Overall, accelerators tend to positively impact regional entrepreneurial ecosystems and encourage the spill of early-stage entrepreneurial financing across both accelerated and non-accelerated companies.

What You Need to Know about Startup Accelerator Programs

For starters, it’s necessary to recognize that accelerator programs were created for startup founders eager to grow through collaboration, shared learning, and experience, along with other startups. Most of the organizations participating will have a prototype ready to go to market, or perhaps even have just launched a product. To be accepted into a top-level accelerator program, a startup will need a dynamic and hands-on team with an outstanding idea that’s aimed at a sizeable market. With the startup factors necessary to join an accelerator program in place, finding a program with the right fit requires some further evaluation.

Startup Accelerator Programs

Because not all programs are alike, and different programs will provide a better match for certain startups, time should be invested in evaluating the accelerators available. The people running a program, as well as the mentors involved, are a chief consideration because for a few months interaction with them will be near constant. Furthermore, individual programs focus on particular industries which can be highly valuable when correctly aligned. Not only will this provide the most relevant experience, but networking opportunities will be far greater than for those involved in a generic program.

The sizes of accelerator programs will usually be similar, supporting between half a dozen and a dozen startups at a time, but recognizing the pros and cons of smaller versus larger cohorts is necessary. While small groups will perhaps receive more attention than larger groups, there may be far greater networking and collaboration opportunities for the larger groups. Finally, the investment terms should be carefully considered; most startup accelerators follow a standard format, typically providing some seed funding for a fair amount of equity. With regards to financing, be sure you’re getting value for value.

Big Data Employment

Small businesses and startups tend to be more open to innovative new technologies and readily implement fresh tools into their daily operations. This is, in part, because smaller businesses typically have the benefit of being more agile, but also because resources and capital are less than that of their larger competitors, and so finding ways of improving efficiency while reducing costs is part of ensuring business success. Big data is a notable technology that’s often entwined with startups, and through the rapid growth of both the raw data and the tools available to analyze it, it’s given many smaller businesses the edge they need to compete effectively with some of the bigger players in their field.

(Infographic Source: Datacamp)

How Startups Successfully Manage Data

Launching a new business is a challenging ordeal chock-full of so many different demands that many would feel the obstacles never-ending. Big data, however, can be highly beneficial when applied to prioritized tasks, and if challenges are clearly defined analytics helps produce active methods of tackling them. Another consideration is the end goal: for many startups, the ideal situation is early success that leads to a buy-out by an organization able to invest heavily in growth (and line the founder’s pockets). In such scenarios, having a full set of data and analytics information in place helps sway the interests of potential buyers, providing the necessary data around business success, but also enabling better integration of the startup into the purchasing company. Of course, managing all of this data is only one of many demands on new business leaders; fortunately, self-service BI solutions available are cost-effective and user-friendly enough to suit most needs, and with the many customizations available ensure scalability and flexibility as required.

Marketing & Big Data

In the early days, startups find themselves taking on competitors with much greater resources and a well-developed market share to boot. Developing their own customer base is essential for any kind of success, and big data analytics is one of the strongest available methods for growing their market share. Detailed information and the insights gleaned from it help create personalized consumer engagement strategies, an area in which small businesses are often more able to meet customer needs than their larger competitors. Big data can also provide timeous and relevant feedback and monitor brand progress in the social media realm. Significantly, the tools necessary to employ big data for marketing strategies are available in so many different forms that startups find themselves as equipped as industry leaders to create successful marketing campaigns.

Compliance Issues

Of course, big data and it’s employment does come with some difficulties, compliance issues not least of all. As data complexity grows, along with privacy and security issues, collecting and storing information needs to be carefully managed. Startups would do well to carefully assess internal compliance efforts, pulling them in line with regulations in all of the areas they work. It’s also imperative that data protection measures be in place, and the creation of policies around encryption and accessibility is a task not to be neglected. Though keeping up with data compliance can be a challenge, particularly when working across different regions, it’s a fundamental piece of building an efficient business.

Considering the many complexities around big data, some new businesses might deem it an unnecessary complication in the early stages; this would most likely be a mistake. If necessary, utilizing a data scientist or analytics service in the early days for essential functions only could provide the starting point for the development of a big data strategy. Because startups are uniquely positioned to quickly act on big data insights, it would be impractical to dismiss the field in the early stages of a business’s growth when product visions and customer engagement are most malleable. Finding a way to incorporate big data processes is an effort well worth taking.

By Jennifer Klostermann

Jennifer Klostermann

Jennifer Klostermann is an experienced writer with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in writing and performance arts. She has studied further in both the design and mechanical engineering fields, and worked in a variety of areas including market research, business and IT management, and engineering. An avid technophile, Jen is intrigued by all the latest innovations and trending advances, and is happiest immersed in technology.
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