Respeecher started with a simple idea. What if it was possible to clone human speech and trade voices? If such a technology existed, it would change the entire content production forever.
In February 2018, Respeecher was founded by 3 friends and colleagues – our startup allows users to create an unlimited amount of vocal audio content using a person’s recorded voice based on deep learning technology. In 2019, our company completed the Comcast NBC Universal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Working with world-class entrepreneurs and business leaders to sharpen Respeecher’s business model and refine the tech before presenting the product to investors proved to be useful. In March 2020, Respeecher received $1.5M in startup funding from Venture Capital, Acrobator Ventures, ICU Ventures, Network VC, and several angel investors.
During that time, we acted according to certain principles which we would like to share with you.
Before you ‘start’ your startup
Start thinking based on the market and look for an idea there, instead of fantasizing about what the perfect market might be for your idea. We advise you to analyze the potential of the market you are going to enter and ask yourself two key questions:
- What changes in technology, applying to the market you are interested in, are currently taking place?
- What system solution can significantly reduce costs or accelerate current processes?
We were confident in achieving success for our startup because we could easily find the answers to both of these questions. These answers should be then validated by other team members and industry consultants to make sure that you are following the proper direction.
Focus on the problem you are solving, not the product
What may seem obvious is actually the most overlooked piece of advice. Before thinking in product categories, focus on the user problem that you aim to solve. You may be surprised, but actually every year there are thousands of product startups that don’t take off due to a lack of understanding the problem they’re trying to solve.
However, it is not enough to just solve a problem. You need to make sure that your potential users were looking for a solution before, but could not find an adequate one. Why haven’t self-tying sneakers become massively popular? Because while they solve an obvious problem, most people have never looked for a solution to it. That’s why it is crucial to make solid research and just ask your potential customers about the feedback on your business.
Your startup cannot build a product around something that is problematic only for you or a very narrow audience, investors are looking for scalable business projects targeting huge markets. An already existing tough competition on the market can be actually a good sign – it means that the problem has a wide audience. While building an innovative product, do your due diligence by analyzing the potential market to make sure you are chasing the right opportunity.
Do not concentrate on the success stories of other startups
Yeah-yeah, it sounds like very unusual advice, but everybody has their own way of reaching the goal. There is no easy recipe on how to be successful, raise funds or make a lot of money – usually, it is achieved in an unobvious and contradictory way, so don’t try to copy other entrepreneurs but rely on your own instinct and knowledge.
It is much more rewarding to learn from others’ experience and mistakes – how do other startups get stuck or lose money? The relevance of these stories will never disappear, and unfortunately, their list is constantly growing. In order to achieve success, you can’t just allow small distractions to disturb you from being the big kahuna.
Build a perfect team to gain momentum
The startup team is the key factor that attracts investor’s attention, so it’s crucial to pick the right people that are passionate about your business idea – hire the team members in small portions so that each new employee absorbs properly the already-established processes. The fact that it frees up resources for founders and key staff was my first major discovery in startup management.
The most important advice on hiring people at the early stage of startup growth are:
- Hire those whose expertise is missing from other team members.
- Hire people who can take over and scale already-formalized processes.
If you’re a young startup founder, don’t be afraid to bring in people who are smarter than you. You should try to surround yourself with experienced and motivated team members. This is the only way you can succeed – by hiring professionals, you avoid the trap of mistrust and micromanagement, which often drains valuable time from your main responsibilities.
Remember, a leader is not the one who controls everything, but the one who can create the right conditions and unleash the potential of the team.
Last but not least, if the person you hire finds it too difficult to choose between your startup and guaranteed earnings in a large company – this is definitely not the person you are looking for. You should seek the ones who, like you, prefer the prospect of a big win than a fixed cash grab. Otherwise, they may sow fear and insecurity rather than pushing a startup forward when the right time comes.
Don’t underestimate positive cash flow
This is the last and actually the most important piece of advice that many startups neglect until it’s too late.
You can search for money as much as you want and even spend it wisely – on development, on hiring people, on advertising, etc. But the only proof that investors need to support your idea is customers’ willingness to pay for your product/service. The longer you put off determining this, the more likely it is that you will end up having nothing to spend.
Do not think like a poor man – that you can only achieve success at the expense of an investor. If you can generate initial funding for your product today, no matter how small it is, don’t wait for an investor trying to improve your startup to perfection. Start launching the product on the market and generating proceeds. Only by acquiring real customers, you will be able to understand which direction your startup needs to follow in order to push forward product development and the business as a whole.
Ideally, investment capital should be raised when you cannot scale an already working business model without any additional cash injection. Taking money and hoping that it will solve the problem of validating a business model is not going to work out. Paying customers is the only true form of business validation that investors respect and are attracted to.
Remember, that is just a bunch of general tips we advise you to follow on your startup development journey. Treat them as guidelines that you need to adjust to your business condition and idea in order to work out your personal recipe for the startup success.