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9 Critical Tips for the First-time Founders to Succeed in their Startup!

Janine Sickmeyer founded and built her legal startup, NextChapter, which she bootstrapped for over 6 years. As a first-time founder, she steadily grew to 20 employees and was instrumental in achieving 6,000 customers as well as 14% month-on-month consistent growth for 3 years. Eventually, her startup was acquired in September 2019 by Fastcase.

This post is taken from her Twitter thread, where she had shared her experience on, why being a first-time founder is so hard?

Wanna hear podcast instead, here you go.

According to Janine, for a first-time founder everything is apparently difficult i.e. it takes double the time and roughly three times the money to be successful.

Few tips to help the first-time founders stay focused and keep moving ahead!

1. Celebrate small wins.

As a founder, the highs and lows are so drastic and you feel like you're not getting anything accomplished. Hence it's so important to celebrate every win.

2. Pick up the phone

Call up your users/leads. I know you want to strategize and automate to send emails but nothing beats a good old fashion phone call to your target customers.

  • Pick up the phone and call them.

  • Listen to their needs.

  • Sell them the benefits of your product, and be an expert at that.

3. Focus only on development that will bring revenue to the company.

Everyone in my company really focused on that and it really helped us to control cash flow while bootstrapping.

4. Benefits are always bigger than Features

This is super important in every aspect of business, right from pitching to VCs, to marketing, and cold calls to your leads. Sell the benefits, it'll change how you communicate your brand.

5. Mentors are key!

Find peer mentors who are a few steps ahead in the startup journey, and can help with problems that no one else would understand. Find digital mentors you can look up to by taking in their written notes/posts, podcasts, or videos.

6. Avoid burnout!

  • Don't work yourself to the bone, it's just not worth it.

  • Give yourself some time to rest, reset, and come back stronger.

  • Take breaks, get outside, sleep, and enjoy your weekends.

  • Everything will be there when you get back. I promise.

7. Sales cures everything!

  • Get that MVP to Revenue, ASAP.

  • You will be embarrassed, there will be bugs, and you will likely have some naysayers. But, all of that is just OK.

  • Ignore the noise and keep moving to get your first dollar. Everything changes when you have revenue.

8. Check your downwards trend.

If you're not finding Product Market Fit, burning through cash, and unable to make it work. Then be honest with yourself, your team, and investors. Ask for help, they might have an idea that could save your business.

9. Finally, your worth is not your work.

As a first-time founder, your identity is tied directly to your company, and it can be hard to untie the same. But the sooner you realize that your worth is not your work, the happier you will be. Ask yourself: Who am I besides a founder? And be THAT proudly.



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