Great expectations: the biggest challenges for startups

by Jon Howell , Editor-in-Chief, Tech Trailblazers

TV shows might make the life of a startup company seem exciting. Days full of brainstorming, skateboarding, playing pool, and letting the creative juices run wild. The newspapers don’t help, with tales of millionaires appearing almost daily, but the reality is starkly different.

So, what is it like? It’s tough, much tougher than you might expect. Studio Graphene, in partnership with City Road Communications, asked more than a hundred founders of London-based tech businesses over April and May this year about their experiences to produce a study and the results were revealing.

  • Longer: over half (52%) reported that it took much longer than they thought to launch their businesses
  • More expensive: 15% said it was also far more expensive than they predicted
  • Draining: the emotional impact was often greater too, with 22% saying that they found the experience more emotionally draining that they believed it would be
  • Isolating: maybe a little less surprisingly, given the phrase “going it alone” is often used for kicking off a new venture, a fifth said that they felt isolated when starting their new business
  • Adjusting: 15% said that they found it more difficult to adjust to the life of running an early stage business than initially expected

The survey also dug into what the challenges were for the first year of running a startup and came up with some interesting data.

  • Acquiring customers: after the product launch, 33% of founders reported difficulty findingthose vital customers for their wares
  • Funding for PoC: 22% said that getting the money to develop an initial proof of concept was a struggle
  • Access to talent: 15% said that they couldn’t find the support to build the technology itself, along with 12% who found that they couldn’t hire the employees that they needed
Ritam Gandhi – founder and director of Studio Graphene

Do these results spell doom for startups? Nonsense. Information like this can only help the process, possibly suggesting that a solid grounding is necessary before setting off on the stormy seas of endeavour with a new business idea.

The founder and director of Studio Graphene, Ritam Gandhi, has some words of wisdom to share on the subject: “Despite all the great ideas budding entrepreneurs have, the research shows just how difficult it is to convert an idea into a successful business. From our experience, it’s vital tech startups remain focused on their core proposition and ensure the product functions as well as possible – thereafter they can adapt and evolve based on customer feedback, which will set them up for more long-term growth.”

Tech Trailblazers is also here to offer advice which will be kicking off soon in our regular “Don’t do that. Do this!” pieces.