The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What are some tips for maintaining a successful startup?” is written by Haomiao Huang, cofounder and CTO of Kuna Systems.
Startups aren’t for the faint of heart. Although I’ve been engrossed in the startup scene and have started a successful one myself, I’m still constantly learning every single day. One of the key aspects that’s often hard to master—and maybe even impossible—is knowing the steps to maintain a successful startup.
While there isn’t an exact blueprint, here are my top three lessons and pieces of advice to founders:
Talk to people
It sounds like a given, but a lot of first-time startup founders are actually pretty timid when it comes to putting their ideas out there, either because they don’t want to risk other people stealing them or they fear fellow entrepreneurs will think they’re foolish.
But without talking to people—customers, advisors, experts, potential investors, and the media—you won’t be able to get the feedback you need to make your idea better. The more you talk it through with different types of people, the easier it is to refine it and produce something that will truly resonate with your customers.
Even today, I still have to tell myself to prototype and test more with users. Your customers’ feedback can help you work through any bugs or imperfections. We learned a ton at Kuna just from installing our Alpha units. Some of the units had trouble working half of the time—our first Alpha user got his house broken into, but we didn’t catch it because our unit wasn’t working. That was a big wakeup call. It showed us what we needed to fix, but was also a huge validation for our product.
Interest doesn’t always mean money
Many startups are founded by extremely brilliant technical minds who are building something incredible that no one else can do. What happens a lot, though, is that they then struggle to make it into a product or determine if they’re solving an actual problem. Taking it from an idea to something people will pay money for is harder than it sounds.
Surveys are a great way to see if there is interest or a possible need for the idea you have, but that’s not to say that people will actually pay for your product when it’s on the market. The only way you know someone is going to pay for your product is when they actually slide a credit card or cut you a check.
That’s why I believe crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter are so valuable to startups—it’s the route we took, and it worked out really well for us. When people are willing to hand over their money before your product even exists, you know you’ve got something that’s going to stick. Try to sell whatever it is you have on one of these platforms, and then shape it and mold it based on feedback until you have something people will consistently give you money for.
Be a Segway
You need to find the perfect balance between moving too fast and not moving at all. A Segway moves by falling over and then catching itself before it actually tips—it’s constantly moving just fast enough to catch itself.
The same principle applies to your startup. Don’t be afraid to move too fast, but catch yourself before you fall. If you feel like you’re almost about to collapse, that’s probably the right speed. If you don’t tilt over at all, you’ll never move in the first place.
Being part of the startup grind is one of the most exciting experiences you can have, especially if you’re passionate about bringing ideas to reality and having a clear impact on people’s everyday lives. Although the road to success isn’t always smooth, if you keep these three lessons in mind, you’ll be better off to ensure your startup stands the test of time.