Starting the path of entrepreneurship could be very challenging at first but also very rewarding and exciting. There is no end to the struggle, starting with the financial aspect and marketing all the way to customer development and running your company.
But remember, you’re not alone.
Search for qualitative advice from people that have been through the same challenges as you. Search for a support system that helps you gain the energy to thrive. Join programs and communities that want you to succeed. StepFWD is only an example.
Through the last two editions of the StepFWD pre-accelerator, we invited entrepreneurs, investors, corporate partners and industry experts to be mentors in the program. As a community program, these people volunteered their time and energy to inspire the next generation of diverse startups. We have gathered some advice from them and we are hyped to share it with you.
If you are here you know that you have to do the work. You must have a solid plan and never stop planning your startup journey.
“Decide why you want to do it. Is it because you actually want to grow your business, and your team, and your product? And you have a plan to do it? Not just a dream?“Ciprian Borodescu
“If there’s one thing that I would advise emerging SAS startups to do is to think about positioning. Peter Thiel, the famous author investor, advises emerging startups to dominate a small market first, and then expand.”Valerian Banu
“It would have helped me a lot to know more about growth, when growth happens, and how growth happens.”Gabriela Bejan Amarie
On getting out there
Your entrepreneurial journey is about getting out there, getting feedback, getting the help you are looking for and getting back home to implement. And after this, reiterate.
“The entrepreneurial journey is certainly not easy, but it is an exciting ride, with a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of getting out of your comfort zone – which is also the best way to grow. Only after 5 years of ‘stumbling’ we participated in our first educational program and we were blown away, it was eye-opening on many levels. And it was a turning point for SmartBill and for our mindset and it helped us grow so much.”Ioana Hasan
“Get out of your comfort zone, growth can only happen if you are challenged. The moment you feel comfortable and relaxed, is the moment you stop growing.”Vik Salic
On your team
It’s really simple: a great team makes a great product. It is important to share the same values with your co-workers. The company culture starts with the people inside and promotes itself. For us, at StepFWD, the team represents 75% of the selection criterias.
“Choose your co-founder very wisely. Then know when to give up, if needed.”Alex Negru
“In some particular ways, a co-founder has to be more trust-worthy and helpful than a friend. It is not enough to be friends, you need a common set of values, the same view on the world and the desire to succeed. I do not expect my friends to share my passion for my startup, but I really want (and need) to see that in my co-founders.”Alexandra Anghel
I know, you build things, validate them, and iterate these steps. You have to talk with your customers and see if your product is the right one if you built what matters. Do your customer interviews. Master your pitch and get the product out there.
“Try to listen more to your clients and see how we can involve them in building your business.”Alin Claudiu Apostu
“Pitch a lot. Talk with your friends, your family, your neighbors, everybody. Get feedback for your product and adapt quickly.”Andrei Dudoiu
Have in mind to make meaningful connections. Build your network.
“Focus on building strong and long lasting relationships with people. A startup is an institution or organisation. It’s not a goal in itself. You can start and close down companies but the entrepreneurial journey goes on for a long time and it takes time. You’ll go through multiple projects, initiatives, startups in your life. Never sacrifice personal or business relations for a company. Companies are founded and closed by those personal relationships that stay with you, and these are those that will push you forward. So focus on creating and building strong and long lasting relationships with the people that you share similar values with.”George Diță
Build your network and find the right mentors for you and your business.
“Being an entrepreneur for several years, I know first-hand how valuable the help of mentors and acceleration programs is when trying to build a company. “Cristian Munteanu
“Adding a mentor to the recipe can look spicy in terms of time and costs. But taking the risk in the smartest way possible, having access to those connections which really can improve your results, having a good backup plan and learn from the ones who can share real-life business experiences, all these can make the difference between idea and success.”Alexandra Roată
“I made a lot of mistakes when I founded my first startup, but I greatly appreciated mentors’ suggestions because I saved time, gained clarity and I did more with less resources, vital for early-stage bootstrapped startups.”Cezar Nourescu
As a startup founder, you have to be ready for financial challenges.
“Do not underestimate the fundraising process. It’s a full time job, and prepare to meet with 10s of investors and be rejected constantly. Before getting to one Yes. You have to be resilient and get that first commitment.”Ciprian Borodescu
“If somebody offers you money, take the money. It could be a customer, could be an investor. It’s your duty, as startup founder, not to run out of money. “Rumen Iliev
You have to take care of yourself in order to be there for your team and business.
“The culture surrounding entrepreneurship and startups glamorizes the long work week and the self-exhaustion that accompanies it. It’s become a competition to see who can spend the most hours in the office and away from the things that make them happy or fulfilled, an exercise counterintuitive to the productivity of the founder and, as a result, the business itself. It is time for entrepreneurs and founders to care about the wellness of their businesses, by bettering themselves. When you take care of yourself, you take care of your business–it’s really that simple.”Gv Freeman
Be ready to have an entrepreneurial mind-shift.
“One of the most important pieces of advice would be developing the right mindset and the right habits in order to overcome the threat of failure, making the right decisions, hiring the right people and managing growth.”Catrinel Hagivreta
“Maybe it doesn’t mean yes. So if you’ve got a few maybes you think something might come across the line, don’t rely on those don’t sit back waiting for maybe to become a yes, keep going and going and going and make sure that some of those maybes become yeses as quickly as you can.”Andrew Tibbitts
Starting your own startup is a constant process of growth and learning. It’s mandatory to have in mind to build both practical and emotional skills. Sharpen your skills by doing stuff again & again. Learn by doing.
“Invest money and energy in you. Start by educating yourself. Learn the best methodologies. The most effective processes that you can use in order not to be one of the 93% startups that fail in the first 3 years, but to be one of those who succeed. You will be able this way to, to really do something that has a good impact in your life and other people’s life.”Dragoș Nicolaescu
Diversity is different for everyone. Our perspective can be easily shifted, and the balance feels altered based on our belief system.
“I strongly believe that diverse teams are better – they think out of the box, they’re more creative, they are less prone to biases. And I am not talking only about gender diversity here, but, even more importantly, diversity of backgrounds & characters, which shape both a company’s product and its culture.”Irina Scarlat
On your support system
We know how difficult it is to keep you accountable for your next steps. Also, have a guide for the journey and a sense of belonging.
“In addition to having the support of friends, family, and advisors, sharing knowledge with your peers can be very valuable. Entrepreneurship is a difficult and lonely journey, and founders usually take a lot of themselves. Talking with other fellow entrepreneurs can put things into perspective and get a helping hand whenever you need it most.“Alexandra Anghel
Know your resources and spend them well.
“Mentors help you ask yourselves the right questions and refine your ideas so that you can make the best choices going forward. Time is limited, your energy is limited, make sure you spend them wisely. There will be a lot of things out of your control but what you can control is how well equipped you will be to handle the unknown. “Ioana Hasan
On curiosity & fun
Who says it can’t be fun? Be in love with the process and explore all the perks of entrepreneurship.
“I think that sometimes it’s best not to know a lot of things and this also applies in business. Of course, legal, management, sales knowledge, you name it, is important but you just have to enjoy the ride and be happy and grateful for every moment you are stayin’ alive in the game.”Diana Miron
“Keep having fun. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy every step.”Mălin Ștefănescu