What Would I Do Different If I Had To Build My Startup Again From Scratch?
It’s been 4 years, 3 pivots, and thousands of dollars in founder’s capital invested. Somehow, I feel I’ve
just graduated from business school. I actually consider it cheaper and more beneficial learning by being
street-smart. I don’t think there’s any way I could have gotten my experiences from a campus or within
the walls of a lecture hall.
I went into entrepreneurship with the idea of creating scalable impacts in holistic healthcare. Getting to that point, therefore, means being able to learn continuously from the past. And so here are the things I would do differently if I had to start again:
- I would choose to redefine what market needs are. You can try to impress yourself with assumptions
or you can choose to face market reality. The market will always win anyway. When you are doing
business in a developing country like Nigeria, you have to understand what ‘a need’ is differently. For
instance, ‘healthcare’ is not a need, ‘emergency healthcare’ is. A subtle difference like this is what can
make you survive in the market.
- I would design products that mimic consumer behavior. We quip a lot about innovation but I have
come to realize that scalable innovation is not trying to change the way people do things but improving
them. (Change, used here as doing something different and improvement, getting better at doing the
same thing). Human beings are creatures of habit. Ask yourself, “How are my target customers presently
solving the problem I wish to solve?” And don’t try to change it! Instead, make it better (easier, cheaper,
and faster) for them to do it the way they are already used to.
- I would allocate the least resources to develop the initial product. The common notion is to build
products fast and push it out to the market. I would build the MVP within a month. Why? 95% of
products fail to attain market fit even after several product iterations. If you consider the probability
that what you are building has only a 1 in 20 chance of scaling through, then you would want to exercise
extreme control over allocating resources, especially time (you’re not getting any younger). Startups fail
because they spend too many resources initially and have none left when the time comes to pivot. For
every solution, there are always a thousand others and even better ones you can develop for the same
- I would reverse-engineer already existing business (read: revenue) models. Who is already doing
what you want to do? Study your long-standing competitors on the basis of their approach to the
market and model after their business in your early stages. There’s a reason why they have been able
to survive in that sector – the market simply likes it the way they sell. If you want the market to accept you
too, then copy the revenue channels intelligently!
- I would understand that the best feedback is from sales. If you actually have a hope of raising funds
from investors, then consider feedback from sales very carefully, especially your growth rate. If you are
not growing fast (at least 5% weekly) within the first year, then you might spend more time scouting for
investors than building your startup. It is better dropping the product/approach and pivoting after 6 months unless you have the virtue of ‘long-suffering’ or you are not interested in scaling. With sales, valuation is also kept simple and objective using revenue multiples and growth rate.
These are my personal opinion on the things I would do differently. But if there’s anything I would
continue doing, it would be pursuing my personal cum business mission – making healthcare accessible
and affordable. I wouldn’t change that for any reason, not even for the trending love for jollof rice.
Medical Doctor & Entrepreneur