Start-up Advice

By Mark Nuyens
6 min. read🚀 Entrepreneurship

Launching any business is hard, and this definitely holds true for an online business. As someone who has launched several websites and applications over the years, I can attest to the challenges and lessons learned throughout the process. For me it all began back in 2004, when I built my first website offering free fonts. Although it was a very simple website, it actually laid the foundation for my journey into the world of online entrepreneurship. In 2018, I took a more serious plunge and launched a SaaS application that helps academic research groups quickly launch their own websites. Along the way, I also developed other online products and services, each experience teaching me valuable lessons on bringing ideas to life while managing time, energy, and resources efficiently and effectively.

Launching a successful online business in today's digital landscape is not exactly a walk in the park. While it may seem easier now due to technological advancements, it's crucial to remember that the market has also become more saturated, with countless individuals recognizing the potential of online businesses, in part thanks to developments in artificial intelligence. To truly stand out today, one must think beyond technical expertise and focus on critical features and human engagement. Merely mastering JavaScript functions is no longer sufficient. Building something unique requires a broader perspective and understanding of user needs and experiences.

When I launched my first small start-up, my housing situation was comfortable and considered a luxury looking back on it. While this provided me with the time and freedom to pursue my ideas, it also demanded discipline and self-motivation. What I lacked in experience, I made up for with a willingness to learn and adapt. Along the way, I encountered numerous roadblocks, but I remained optimistic, viewing them as opportunities for growth. One valuable lesson I learned is not to dwell on potential technological obstacles that may arise. It there weren't any, someone else would have done it already. Instead, embrace the unknown and have faith that you will find solutions as you progress. Taking calculated risks is essential, but avoid jeopardizing everything you have for a single idea. Maintaining a balance between ambition and practicality is key.

However, launching a business can be isolating, especially if you're working alone. It can be quite daunting to face the typical "empty sheet of paper" scenario, without the support of a team, especially if you're used to personal interaction. On the other hand, those same people skills will most likely allow you to balance rational thinking with a more human-centered approach. While coding and technical challenges may require logical solutions, understanding how your users will interact with your product on an emotional level is equally important. For instance, web and app development encompass various disciplines, such as UX design and DevOps, each demanding a different "mental mode". It's essential to find the right momentum and switch tasks based on your "intellectual mood" and energy levels.

Up to this point, I've been focusing mostly on the instrinsic aspects of entrepreneurship, however, marketing is a whole different ballgame. One important piece of advice is not to pour your heart into product features that may not be truly desired by your end users. Building features based solely on personal assumptions or preferences can lead to wasted time and resources. Instead, focus on your goals and the requirements you've outlined. If users later express a specific need or desire, it's a luxury problem to have, indicating that you've gained your first potential clients. Additionally, don't try to fix something that isn't broken. Many entrepreneurs tend to romanticize their ideas without considering if people are willing to pay for or invest their time in them.

Unless you're a company like Apple, with a massive budget and a knack for selling products people didn't even realize they needed, it's advisable to focus on filling a gap within a niche market. Launching the next TikTok may be a lofty goal, but starting with a narrower focus and gradually scaling can lead to more sustainable success. Creating a safety net by checking off as many success indicators as possible helps to keep you motivated and psychologically healthy. Even if your initial venture doesn't pan out, the skills and knowledge you've gained can be applied to future projects,

Timing definitely plays holds true for an idea. Even trillion-dollar companies like Apple carefully consider when to launch new products. Research has shown that the most successful ideas were introduced at the right moment. Similarly, Google's failed attempt at their AR glasses demonstrated the consequences of poor timing. It's crucial to understand the market and societal acceptance of emerging technologies before introducing your product or service.

Finally, and I hate to say it, but know when to throw in the towel. Whether it's due to a limited budget, emerging opportunities, or an impending failure, recognizing the right time to move on is crucial. Persistence can be admirable, but blindly pushing forward without a backup plan can lead to disastrous outcomes. While some individuals have achieved success by taking risks, it's important to distinguish between calculated risks and unrealistic expectations. Desperation should not guide your decisions.

In conclusion, the startup mentality is inspiring, and the process of creating something from scratch is a rare opportunity in our daily lives. While entrepreneurship comes with its fair share of challenges, for those who can navigate the demanding aspects of life, enjoy the journey of creation, and manage the associated risks, pursuing their dreams and passions is highly rewarding. It's a luxury to have the freedom to pursue something you truly desire, and even if success isn't guaranteed, the personal growth and sense of accomplishment make the experience worthwhile.

Thank you for reading!