5 Powerful Lessons From Famous Startups

Build Your Business Skills – LinkedIn

LinkedIn was pretty much destined to become successful. The founder had spent time building up a wealth of experience and skills that would enable him to create the perfect startup.

At college, founder Reid Hoffman decided that he wanted to make an impact on the world, and thought entrepreneurship would be the right path for him. He strategically chose a series of jobs which would teach him all the skills he needed to build a successful startup one day in the future.

Hoffman wrote a list of all the things he would need to learn — and got jobs which would teach him valuable skills and lessons in those specific areas.

He cut his teeth at Apple, learning about software development, then moved on to Fujitsu, where he knew he would learn about product management and business. Hoffman worked his way to a top position at Paypal, where he honed his problem-solving skills, before leaving to launch his own startup in 2002.

LinkedIn benefited massively from the skill-set that Hoffman had built up, and the startup began turning a profit in 2006. The networking platform now has millions of members in hundreds of countries — and boasts some of the top names in business as members.

Be Customer-Focused – Skype

Skype had very humble beginnings, launched in 2003 by a small team of developers from Estonia. As a startup, Skype had many competitors, but the thing that made it more successful than all the telephony giants was its unwavering customer focus.

In 2002, the Estonian team dreamed up a way of making voice calls cheap by using peer-to-peer data sharing. By 2003, beta testing had started and feedback on the new technology was somewhat poor. The Skype team set about finding ways to fix glitches and make the service quicker and easier to use.

Skype’s vision was to make a voice-calling program that was simple enough for anyone to install and use. From the start, the emphasis was on working hard to get things right for the end-user. The startup had zero tolerance for memory leaks, crashes or sloppy coding.

Despite the fact that MSN, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google were all making plans to launch voice-calling services, Skype prevailed, as the team continued to focus firmly on the customer experience, changing technology to be able to support a larger number of users without losing quality.

Today, Skype is so successful because it stands by its original startup attitude of making things easier for the customer. The team, which is now much larger and global, is still looking at how it can evolve to offer an even better experience for customers in future.

Modernize to Grow – Netflix

In order to grow and become successful, startups must be fresh, forward-thinking and modernize their offerings. You only need to look at how Netflix has grown and prospered, while its giant competitor Blockbuster went bankrupt, to see how modernization gives businesses the edge.

Blockbuster was a video rental giant with over 60 million members and stores in 25 countries. But the firm failed to keep up with the demands of modern consumers and was declared bankrupt after it lost business to Netflix.

Netflix was founded in 1997. Launched by by Reed Hastings, it was originally a startup that offered home delivery of DVD and video game rentals. Customers could use the internet to choose films and games, which would then be delivered to them at home.

After risking bankruptcy itself, Netflix realized it needed to modernize to keep up with changing consumer needs. In 2007, it started offering paid video on demand via the internet. While DVD sales plummeted in the early 2000s, Netflix continued to grow by offering customers what they wanted: a modern way of paying to watch videos and play games.

Netflix was able to keep up with modern consumer trends, such as streaming, in a way that Blockbuster failed to. Startups should always consider how a market may change in future in order to grow and succeed.

Adjust and Pivot – Groupon

Sometimes a startup just isn’t going to work, but rather than admit defeat, a determined entrepreneur will adjust their business to help it grow. That’s what Groupon founder Andrew Mason did when he realized his first startup was doomed to failure.

One of the fastest-growing startups in the world, Groupon was conceived after Mason’s original idea for a fundraising platform floundered. Mason completely pivoted his idea, turning his fundraising website, The Point, into Groupon — the daily deals site that he is known for today.

Groupon was a way of using Mason’s clever idea of creating a “tipping point”, whereby a deal would only go through once a certain number of people had bought into it. Mason had originally hoped this model would work for collecting donations for non-profit projects, but he realized he couldn’t get enough traffic.

In 2008, Mason recycled his idea and created group-buying site Groupon, where a certain number of coupons had to be sold for all customers to receive a discount at a local business.

Today, Groupon operates in many countries and has millions of customers. It has continued to adjust, now offering a range of services, including discounts on holidays and events, and a VIP membership model.

Be Unique – Ben and Jerry’s

In order to make it in a crowded marketplace, you have to stand out from other startups. No matter what business you’re in, put a lot of personality into your brand and you’ll set yourself apart from other companies.

Ben and Jerry’s is one of the world’s biggest producers of premium ice cream, and its success is not down to a complex business model. Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield succeeded because they put their personalities into their brand and made it special.

Cohen and Greenfield launched their startup with $8,000 of their own money and a loan of $4,000. Their first premises was a small shop in a gas station in Vermont. Instead of sticking with traditional flavors, Ben and Jerry’s launched with 12 unusual ice creams, including peanut butter-flavored Tuskegee Chunk and Chunky Monkey, which contained bananas.

Their quirky flavors were a hit and within a few years, Ben and Jerry’s was distributing to grocery stores and restaurants and opening franchises.

Today Ben and Jerry’s makes over $200 million in sales every year and continues to differentiate its brand with eclectic flavors and names. Customers love the brand because its got a strong personality, a trait which will always give a startup a competitive edge.

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