I am CEO and Co-Founder of Social Sweethearts: The world's leading publisher of personalized content and games (over 100 million monthly users of the Facebook instant game "nametests").
At the age of 12 I started my first internet projects. In these 17 years I launched over 50 different products. Within the framework of social sweethearts gmbh I was able to generate over hundreds of millions of users, with over an eight-digit profit.
9 out of 10 startups fail and I want to empower you with the help of 23 golden rules that will make sure your startup is not part of that 90%.
But first a bit about myself: I’m Daniel Minini, 29 years old and I studied Business Administration at the University of Cologne. Since my first semester in 2011, I’ve been working with my business partners: Johannes Helminger and Steffen Doersam and we founded social sweethearts GmbH.
We are currently a team of 41 employees, with offices in Cologne and Munich. We work together with a worldwide network of freelancers and generated 8-digit sales in 2017. We are a technology-based publisher and our mission is to make people smile. Our most successful product is Nametest, a game on Facebook with more than 320 million users.
So basically, every eight Facebook user worldwide has played our game in the last 7 months. Online Marketing Rockstars wrote a detailed portrait about us at the beginning of March. However, I'm not going to talk about social sweethearts anymore, but am going to focus on my experiences which will really take YOU further.
At the age of 12, I started my first internet project. During this time I tried at least 50 different ideas, but very few projects were successful. I learned a lot during these 17 years, some of which I am going to share with you today so that you’re among the 10% of startups that will be successful!
Your startup success depends on three important factors:
As with most things, the first thing you need is an idea, but how do you come up with the perfect idea - something that actually seems appealing?
1. Fix your own problem. Solve a problem in an area where you are already an expert. Chances are if you have the problem many other people will too. Solving a problem that many people have is called business.
2. Be original! I observe again and again that many founders focus on their first ideas which are usually the same; an app to be more organized, an app to find friends on a map… Be better than that!
3. Do extensive research. There’s a good reason why something on the internet doesn’t exist. If something was successful you are bound to find some information about it. However, if it failed, you’ll find very little. My personal experience – often when I hear new ideas from people, I’ve heard 90% of them before because they’ve already been implemented and failed, which potential founders know nothing about.
4. Minimize the risk. How can you best minimize your risk? Look for a successful player in a market from a different country, eg America or Asia. Other countries are far ahead of us. Also, if your idea has not been successfully implemented in other countries, it is usually a bad sign, and you should probably think again.
5. To grow big, you have to start small. Niches are perfect - they are small enough for a fast market entry, there are not many competitors as big companies see too little potential and it’s perfect to test out your idea.
6. Start with a micro niche. A fictional example. You and your photographer friends have a problem. You have too few orders. Begin your startup with a Mirko niche, specialize, for example, on a platform to mediate application photo Shootings.
7. Expand to a multi-niche. If the first idea is successfully validated, expand your startup with more niches eg wedding photos, baby photos. Why does it make sense to move forward step by step? If you fail, you can just get smaller again.
8. Only then expand vertically. Have you successfully validated your multi-niche approach? Very good. How booking everything for the perfect photo via your platform? For example makeup artist and locations. See what happened? You grew by starting small!
9. Collect your ideas. Create a list of your ideas and put them in different categories:
Observe your ideas over a longer period of time and evaluate them again and again.
Let's get started on the second part - the implementation.
10. Put your idea into practice quickly as MVP. What does quickly mean? Not 3 years, not 1 year, but max 30 days! To validate a first idea you should invest less than 30 days. Nowadays you can test an idea within a few days. I shall show you how this works in the following points.
11. Try out multiple ideas simultaneously. The advantage of being fast, you can validate 12 ideas in one year.
12. Your enemy is perfection. Putting things on the street should be your top priority, follow the MVP approach; test your idea as quickly as possible.
13. Back to our photo shooting example; fake it until you make it! Build a fake landing page, book first ads on Facebook and Google and see if there's any demand at all.
14. Make A/B testings. Try out different prices, target groups, and niches! Application photos don't work?
Try out other niches e.g. a photo shoot for Mama's birthday present or a photo shoot for Tinder.
15. Do it yourself. Instead of hiring other people to build your product, or even employing agencies, build the first version yourself! On the one hand, the agencies pull the money out of your pocket, on the other hand, you can be much faster with it; you can react immediately to changes, e.g. start a new A/B test on a Sunday.
16. For the first version, you don't actually have to code. I can't code myself. Nowadays there are so many tools with which you can quickly get a landing page together.
To do this you don't need to write a line of code.
17. Start with a web app, not native. The development of a native iOS or Android app is expensive and time-consuming. Start with a mobile-optimized website to validate your idea. You can still implement a native app later.
18. Don't give up - but don't bite into an idea. Build something yourself. See if it works. If not, build something new. See if it works. If not, build something new. Only if your idea is working, you should try monetizing it. But don't bite into your first idea, try out a lot.
19. Keep your costs down. You're starting to get some income now. Great! Is it now time to hire the first employees in order to scale further? Only now can you think about renting an office or working remotely from home to save costs. Be aware, at least 9 out of 10 of your ideas will fail. This way set yourself up to keep costs down so you can try out as many ideas as possible, as quickly as possible. One successful idea will refinance all unsuccessful ideas if you keep the costs low from the beginning.
Last but not least: The right time for your idea is incredibly important.
20. Benefit from technological changes. The Internet, the technologies and the habits of users are developing super-fast. We are privileged to live in this world as early adopters. The idea you had 6 months ago that was not technically feasible can become possible within a day with the release of a new API.
Be quick, be the first to use unexpected and advanced technology to your advantage. What could this be? A new feature on the iPhone, a new API, a new product from Google, Amazon or Facebook.
21. Be at least 10x better. Solve your problems at least 10 times faster and find a much better solution than an old existing one. People are creatures of habit, it is incredibly hard to change a person’s existing habits. Nobody will be willing to give up their old habits just because your product is a “bit better” than the existing product. However, if you are 10 times better, of course everyone is more than willing to give up their old habits for your amazing product. But how can you be 10x better?
22. Use APIs and third-party services. The big players in particular offer you countless API interfaces: for a small fee you can use their billion dollar AI & Machine Learning Service for your startup. This includes AWS from Amazon and Google Cloud Services. It's never been easier to build a business around such APIs.
23. Finally, always be the first to join; use the first-mover advantage. Just as a small startup, you are still fast and agile and can react to new possibilities. Be the first to be represented on a platform that uses a new interface or brings a new validated idea to Germany.
Thanks for reading - I hope some of these tips will take you further. I am looking forward to hearing about your findings and ideas!
Presentation at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences: 23 golden rules to make your startup a success!