A startup founder’s time is the most valuable thing he or she has, and unfortunately, it is also the most wasted resource in early-stage startups.

When you’re striving to provide an innovative product or service, you need to make sure your time in doing so is well spent. So today I bring you five areas on which to focus your efforts when innovating, and the tools to set you on the right path.

Within your startup

Goal

Select, motivate and retain key employees

Tool

Maslow pyramid

Having the right people by your side when building a startup is a huge factor in startup success, but it’s often overlooked in the startup community.

Think of how your company can affect, improve and escalate your employee in the hierarchy of needs. Especially when you are a manager, you need to understand this in order to lead your team towards the next step in their careers and your company’s trajectory.

Goal

Organize future development

Tool

Roadmap

A startup is run like a research and development team since you are always looking for the next project. Always have one project roadmap ready, besides the one you are already in. This shows both clients and investors that you have an eye on the future, without disregarding your present responsibilities, and it doesn’t overwhelm you or your employees with overplanning.

Trap

You don’t need a portfolio.

Portfolios are for large corporations that need to keep track of multiple things at once. Your job as a startup is much more focused, hence the roadmap.

For example: An e-learning startup can have, as their next service, structuring people’s courses or helping people speak in front of a camera. You can have different project ideas that are worth investing in, but as a startup, you need to choose one to focus on.

Advice

If you’re not sure what comes next, it’s always a good idea to take a look at existing clients and their suggestions. You’ll often find that in app store reviews already-paying customers might suggest a feature with the promise of paying extra.  

With your investors

Goal

Getting the right investors for innovation

Tool

Their EBITDA expectations

How do you know if your investors are in it for a quick buck, or if they really want to be a part of your company’s innovation? The expectations of your investors for your EBITDA can speak volumes.

If the investors want to have a growth percentage within the next year, they are definitely in it for short-term benefits. If they want to increase the market share by 20% to 30% in the next 10 years, that’s a real opportunity for innovation.

With your clients

Goal

Building a client base and having realistic profit expectations

Tool

Technology Adoption Life Cycle (Moore’s curve)

When the iPod came out, people said it was just another MP3 player, nothing more. But Apple ended up changing and rethinking the way people interact with technology. That disbelief in your company and your solution is “Moore’s Chasm.” A lot of startups get swallowed up by it. But once you get over that chasm, you start making money with the early adopters and early majority.

Goal

Expand

Tool

Proof of concept (POC)

Once you validate your theory and your product in the initial stages of your startup, you have proven your idea works and the target is reached, go ahead and move on to the POC. You need to continuously feed your idea with the contributions of your team members, and prove to your clients that you can do what you promised. Go to a bigger market, set new targets, start the process of internationalization.

Innovation is a process. It doesn’t happen right away like what some would think. Having a great idea doesn’t mean it’s going to get the attention or funding it deserves. So to get an idea, develop it into a POC; to improve it, build your first product or service; and then scale, scale, scale.

That’s the process of innovation. It requires good people and skills, passion, planning, collaboration, determination, and lots of research, among other things.

The fact that you’re here reading up on it, already is a good sign. So, go out there and innovate! If you need some help, check out my video advice series AskMyCTO, my courses, or even join my one-year CTO program.

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