Here at Red Hills we have been in talks with a number of start-ups and working with some of them to take products to market. We have also been involved, with different degrees of success, with other start-ups in the past. When you are trying to make a commercial decision on which ones it is worth getting involved it helps to have a set of criteria.
In my experience these are the critical factors
* The idea – everything starts with an idea. Fundamentally, it obviously has to be a good one. It does not, however, have to be unique. There are many examples of companies who entered late into a market and came to dominate it i.e. google, facebook etc.
* The team – it is important that the team has a good blend of skills, and preferably is more than one man! There has to be belief and a good attitude. Without either of these there is no point.
* The leader - there has to be one. A leaderless team is doomed to failure. Someone has to have a vision and a belief in it.
* The reason – for me it may be the most important factor in success. What is you reason for existing as a business? What do you offer that the competition does not?
* The customer - do you know who you will sell to, and why they will buy it? Unless you have a completely new idea you won’t get away from having to know and research your competition.
* The execution - this is important but it is not the most important. There have been many successful services which didn’t get the execution correct at the start but reworked when they achieved mass i.e. twitter. If you are going to fail, fail early and fail fast.
* Marketing – it is important to be marketing from early in the project. Naive organisation might pour it all into development and only turn to marketing when they launch. You should be marketing earlier. It is a reason why I have a problem with the Startup Weekends. I wonder does that put an emphasis on coding/design before actual research on the customer/market.
* The attitude – one of the fundamental traits that sets successful entrepreneurs apart is that they will never give up. They will endeavour, tweak and refine their proposition until they make it a success.
Some other factors which I don’t see as having a big impact are
* Technology – it doesn’t matter too much whether it’s java/.net/ruby. As long as there service runs. Code can always be refactored.
* Money - not critica, for a startup,l as long as you can afford to build the app and get it to a funding stage. It is critical once you start to try and bulk up.
Do you have any others which you think have a bearing?