Scaling your tech startup is an exciting phase of the whole entrepreneurial venture. The option to do so serves as validation that your product/service has value. In a cutthroat industry wherein 9 out of 10 tech startups fail, being able to scale should be greeted with a pat in the back for the good work.
However, before celebrating the fact that you’ve been able to survive this long, one must first consider if scaling is the best possible direction for your startup to take. Here are five things to keep in mind if you’re at this particular crossroad of whether to scale or not:
Determine Your Workforce’s Readiness
Scaling means higher volumes of work and more data to process. Is your team ready to take on this workload? Can they work under the stress and pressures that come with expanding to new market niches or new audiences? Sit down with other high-level staff, such as senior software development engineers and product managers, to figure out if your current team has enough collective brain power to handle the new technical challenges that scaling brings.
Start with the Small Things
It’s a preconceived notion that successful startups, such as Uber or AirBnB, were already high-functioning companies right from the start. However, these companies weren’t born superstars overnight. They began on the hard route, which is by working on tasks manually. Take Zappos as a good example. When the company started, its founder, Nick Swinmurn, visited local shoe stores and took photos of everything that was on display. He then posted those photos on a website. When someone clicks the photo and buys it online, he returns to the shoe store, buys it, and them mails it to the customer.
Figure Out the Tech First
A tech startup relies on technology to be able to move forward. If you haven’t figured out how to specifically scale your IT systems and product’s tech capabilities, it’s best to hold off any plans to scale. Figure out how to set up your cloud storage and organization, how to set up your hiring and training processes, how to automate your marketing campaigns, and how to improve on your product’s or service’s current technology to be able to offer future updates and features. The underlying tech behind these operations are vital for your company to keep up with new market demand without collapsing under the weight of increased costs.
Work on a Mobile App
A mobile app is an expected feature for any serious tech startup. App development and maintenance, however, can be expensive. You can choose to either have an app built in-house or by an outside app development firm. It depends on your budget as well as the technical expertise and specializations of your employees and teams. Look for someone experienced in Ruby, Swift, Java, and other mobile-friendly and agile languages. Before expanding to new markets, it helps to have a mobile app to represent your brand on consumers’ mobile devices. Without one, it’ll be difficult to get your brand out there.
Consider Outside Investment
Startups in general burn through cash quicker than traditional businesses. It’s one of the many reasons why investors treat startups as a high-risk investment. Before scaling, think about your runway. How much time do you have until you eventually run out of operating capital and require an injection of cash from outside parties? Six months? A year? Perhaps your startup is only afloat until the end of the month in which case it makes fiscal sense to focus more on how to bring in more investors and how to bring down the costs of software development and less on scaling.
Scaling a startup is a very tricky objective to say the least. There are a lot of moving parts, some of which are very fragile and reactive to change. Use the five things mentioned above as a template or checklist before making any final decisions and setting anything in motion.