5 Tips for Accelerating Your Startup

Life in a startup moves pretty fast, but sometimes progress seems to take forever.  How can you make more progress in less time? Here are five proven tips for enhancing productivity.

  1. Understand the Stage You're In - There are distinct stages that tech startups go through. Each stage carries with it a dominant task. It is correct to devote most of your time to the dominant task appropriate for your stage. Other activities may be a waste of time, or even counterproductive. For example, during the Formation Stage, the dominant task is forming the founding team and deciding what kind of company you want to build. During the Product Development Stage, you're primarily building and testing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The next stage is Customer Development where you're rapidly iterating the product based on detailed interviews and interaction with engaged users. Once you've reached a degree of Product/Market Fit, you're ready to Scale. It's important to focus on the right tasks at each stage.
  2. Narrow Your Focus - Many early-stage companies dream of building a platform to solve a big problem. Before you can solve a big problem for the world, you have to solve a real problem for a real customer. That means getting specific. Without focus, you'll spin your wheels. Getting specific with one real customer at a time helps you focus on solving a real problem. One tip here - a customer is someone who pays you. Many startups waste time with people who use their product without paying.
  3. Time Management - Some entrepreneurs get trapped feeling overwhelmed. Like a gerbil on a wheel, they feel like there's not enough time in the day to get everything done. Here are some ways to avoid this counterproductive but all too common fate. Focus on real, paying customers. What else? First Things First - know the difference between the simply urgent and the important. Focus on the important. Once you've identified your important tasks, delegate everything you can. You'll be more productive if you're not trying to juggle twenty different things. Learn to delegate so you have fewer things on your plate. Give your team tasks that are focused and important. Keep only what you can't delegate.
  4. Engage the Community - Invest in relationships inside and outside your company. These relationships will support you in ways that are impossible to predict. Before you run out of direct resources to delegate to, ask for help from interns, mentors, and others in your community. It's one way to build a relationship, as most people like to be asked for help. It's also surprising what you'll learn by expanding the number of people with whom you regularly work.
  5. Take Care of Yourself - It's amazing how often we undermine our productivity by undermining our well-being. Exercise, get enough rest, eat real food, avoid alcohol, caffeine and other drugs. Sound trite? It's not. When you're under time-pressure and stress, you need to double-down on these basics. The fact that most people do the opposite could be to your competitive advantage...if you're more disciplined than most. Here are some uncommon tips which can supercharge your productivity when used in addition to the basics. Breathe more deeply than "normal" whenever you can. Get up and stretch, take a walk, or do a few minutes of yoga several times during your day. Whenever you take a break, think of something that you appreciate and remember to cultivate a feeling of gratitude. These simple practices will not just enhance your happiness, they'll actually make you more effective.

Week One of the StartFast Accelerator 2014 Program was a Success

This week, roughly 20 entrepreneurs gathered from around the world to enter the StartFast Accelerator program in Syracuse, New York. The three-month program is intended to be intense, challenging, and productive. The goal is to gain in three months what would normally take one year.

When you first walk into the office space, engulfed by windows and sunshine, you look up to see very tall ceilings which gives you plenty of room and space to breathe and think.  The six lucky companies who have been given the privilege to be here are just a few feet away from each other and are constantly surrounded and given crucial assistance by local university interns and mentors with a variety of skill sets.  StartFast Venture Accelerator Design Star Tristan Toye thinks this year's group of startups are some of the most interesting he has worked with. "These companies have their MVPs nailed and will be working hard this summer to scale fast.  From what I've seen so far in such a short time, I have no doubts in my mind that they will surpass everyone's expectations."

Every morning, managing director Chuck Stormon, gives the companies a daily speech as well as any feedback, assignments, and guidance. He also gives the companies 30- to 60-minute private sessions to discuss lean startup methods, business models, user acquisition strategies, monetization techniques, and any other vital pieces of startup gold.  After having a LeanCanvas meeting with Stormon on the first day of the program, Founder & CEO of Sooligan, Natasia Malaihollo, quickly realized that the problem her team is solving is too broad and that they need to narrow down their initial target market.  ”We started to conduct experiments in the community to help us identify our initial market. Overall, I would say the first week is an indication that we are most likely going to modify the app significantly this summer through various iterations."

From my perspective, the first week was very fast-paced, full of immediate immersion into the typical startup culture you would find at a co-working space or other top-tier accelerator. I was welcomed by staff, other startups, and interns who jumped right in to help us with our goals for the summer, whether it be building a prototype for our new web version, organizing the delegation of tasks and priorities, helping with our marketing strategy and implementing it, or by simply taking detailed notes during private sessions to diminish the pressure and allow us to be more attentive. Cornell University student and intern Jenna Quindica thinks this is going to be an amazing summer. "I see a lot of potential in these startups, and the mentors have really insightful things to say about the concepts we're working on."

Influential mentors will be coming in to talk to each company weekly and providing invaluable advice and feedback.  So far, the feedback our startup has received from everyone has been invaluable, it has only been the first week, but it feels as though a lot more than a week's worth of progress has been made. With the way things are looking, we will not only reach our goals but surpass them, and I'm sure the other startups feel the same way. Looking forward to more acceleration in the coming months!