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When and How to start a Startup ?

Today, almost all of the companies holding a spot in the list for the world’s most valuable companies are technology companies, and they have become so in considerably shorter times than those which were in this list 20 years ago. This has made people and many students think about how to start a company like one of these.

Companies such as these, when started, are called startups. But what is the difference between startups and any other small business when first started? Why don’t we say the corner grocery store a startup? Let’s clear that.

A startup has two distinct characteristics. Of course, there can be a lot more, but to keep it simple and easy to understand, we can restrict it to two.

First, they are dealing in some kind of technology. Mostly it’s software, so a lot of people working in a startup happen to be programmers, but it can very much be a hardware company too like SpaceX, which makes rockets. Technology is the main thing startups distinguish themselves with.

Second, they grow very fast. You can notice this by observing that it took 40 years for Walmart to reach 100 Billion in market cap while only 7 years for Google.

How do they grow so fast? Well, that depends on a lot of factors, but you can say that many of the rules that apply to other companies don’t necessarily apply to technology companies, especially those who sell software, their product doesn’t need any permission to cross borders, has no logistical issues, and in many cases has no monetary barrier to use it. It is accessible to almost everyone. And since these companies grow so fast, there are people; venture capitalists, who are willing to give you money to start these companies, but more on this later.

So with a lot of students and adults thinking of starting technology companies which grow fast, what should they do? Well, that’s why we have invited Kaderjan, Founder of UpFounders, to help us educate those who wish to start their own startups.

Kaderjan has been involved in the technology space for almost two decades, working for companies like Citigroup and SAP. He has worked with many startups and businesses on the side during these years. Kaderjan has a professional background in software engineering (no surprise there) and has a passionate love for business, which is the reason he started UpFounders, to help new entrepreneurs succeed.

UpFounders is a platform for future and current founders to ask for advice, connect with other founders and mentors with extensive experience in the space, so they can make this journey a bit easier for themselves (but only a bit).

The conversation between me and Kaderjan was long one, so I have published a condensed version of it below, where I ask the questions people struggle with most when looking to start their own startups.

Our Chat with Kaderjan, Founder of UpFounders

Q: Do ideas mean anything?

Kaderjan: No, and I get this question a lot. The reality is, even if you share your idea, not everyone will agree with its potential. Execution is everything, not just the idea itself but It’s different with algorithms.

For example, Uber’s success lies in how they connect riders and drivers, not just the idea of a ride-sharing service. This is why sharing and discussing ideas early on can be beneficial, to gather initial reactions from people. So don’t overly protect your ideas.

Q: Is learning to code still worth it in 2024?

Kaderjan: If you are a tech company, learn a little bit about how it works, but right now, more than ever, we have a lot of resources, especially with the availability of no-code platforms. The idea is to launch fast and have a definite MVP.

People who can code fall in love with the solution, but they should focus on the problem and fall in love with the problem instead because it will be a much better return on investment.

Q: Is SaaS market getting saturated?

Kaderjan: Yes, the short answer is yes, the software market is getting saturated. Coming up with original ideas is difficult.

There’s one framework I love, the “job to be done” framework, popularized by a Harvard professor. This framework says that customers “hire” products to get specific jobs done, such as Google Maps and a paper map both serving the job of providing navigation, but with differences in accuracy and speed. By understanding what job customers are hiring a product to do, you can focus on improving key aspects like accuracy and speed, so you should go to the very bottom of what your customers want to do.

There’s a famous quote for it too, like people don’t buy a drill for the sake of buying a drill, they just want a hole, that’s why I also love Elon Musk’s first principles thinking.

Q: Can you bootstrap a start-up to millions in revenue or no, you have to raise funds to do that?

Kaderjan: I think it’s possible. Whenever I ask a founder who has an idea, like what’s the problem, they say funding. A lack of funding is a common obstacle for startups but I think all startups should bootstrap initially to show capability and validate their idea.

For hardware it’s different, but in the software space, you can do a lot with minimal funds and by getting initial customers. One of my mentors said all you need is a PowerPoint presentation showing features and market potential and just say you’re working on it, and that can be enough. Offer a discounted price to early customers to validate your idea. Collect payments through platforms like PayPal, and even if you’re not ready to deliver immediately, refund customers if necessary, but use these transactions to demonstrate market interest and validate your idea. This way, you show there are people willing to pay for it, and you can even put this on your pitch deck.

Q: Fundraising is for those with an Ivy league education. Yes or No?

Kaderjan: It’s Easier, because connections are important.

A lot of people attending an MBA class, they’re not just doing it for the degree, but also for networking. You can quickly access people like professors who can make introductions. However, there are many stories of people who have made it big without an Ivy League education.

Ultimately, it’s about your ability to execute. But yes, having an Ivy League education does make it a lot easier.

Q: You should only start a start-up if you’re young?

Kaderjan: No, actually MIT or Harvard, they did research on what was the best time to start a startup, and they found it to be 41, as your “why” becomes much clearer. At this age, you have a lot of financial responsibilities and jobs not cutting it.

Young people may see starting a business as a cool hobby without a clear “why”. Even at UpFounders, We thought our target audience was between 25 to 35, but it was 40s. Because you have more experience and a clearer understanding of business problems.

Q: You should trust yourself more than others, or you can also think of it like, trusting yourself over what others say. Yes or No?

Kaderjan: Yes, but I want to break it down into two groups of people: customers and others not involved in your business. For customer feedback, it’s crucial to listen and trust them because they understand the pain points. Sometimes, we may think we know better, but listening to customers is key. However, for those not involved in your business, it’s important to trust yourself because they may not understand what you’ve gone through or what’s best for your business.

Q: Please tell us about the progress on UpFounders?

Kaderjan: We have step-by-step guides for founders and connecting with mentors, and a lot of content, which is really important to us. We even have interest from people who want to launch their own exclusive program using our software, so there’s a B2B part of it too.

Eventually, we want it to be a hub for founders. In the future, we want a lot of founders who want to launch different kinds of startups like hardware, Housecare, because why not. Right now, it’s only invitation basis and we are focusing on content, so it’s going to take some time.

Q: Any message you want to give out for those who want to start their own start-ups one day?

Kaderjan: For college students, I know you don’t have much “why,” but you have a lot of time, a lot of resources, it’s a great time to start a startup because you have very little risk. Many students waste time in college, spending too much time partying, so if you have classmates with different skills to collaborate with, launch it with them. After college, once you start making a comfortable salary, the risk of starting a startup may seem higher, and you’ll overthink it a lot.

Launching a startup in college gives you little to lose and everything to gain. For those who dream of starting their own startups one day, don’t waste time on TV or social media, allocate some time to work on side projects, do something productive, have more control over your financial situation because you’re going to waste time anyway, might as well do something about it. There are many businesses you can start, many ways you can make money, making it easier than ever.

Q: I just thought of a question right now, so I want to ask it right away, Is college education still worth it?

Kaderjan: I have a kid; he is not college-age, but I think he should go to college, learn something systematically, and have some deep knowledge. People who are in these boot camps or short-term training, they don’t learn deeply enough.

I once talked to a person with an engineering background, and he said he was able to start a payments system because he had so much deep knowledge in that space, and you can’t get that in 6 months of training or boot camps but just to make a living, you don’t have to go to college.

I appreciate Kaderjan taking time out of his busy schedule to have this conversation with me and help us understand how to approach starting a start-up.

Got an Idea? We'll make your MVP!

Got an Idea? We'll make your MVP!

Got an Idea? We'll make your MVP

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