How to Scale a Startup

It’s been a super busy week, and an exciting one. Members of Intel Ignite’s fourth cohort are getting advice on how to take their companies to the next level as part of our series of sessions on how startups can succeed.

Startups start with an idea – one that is going to change the world and/or make millions for its founders. But getting from idea to exit (whether that’s a buyout, IPO, or other satisfactory result) takes time, patience, skill – and the right kind of startup administration. How can a startup scale from humble beginnings to success? Obviously founders will have a plan, but the big question is how to administer that plan. How can founders ensure that their vision indeed comes to pass, and what can they do to ensure their vision’s success?

There are three areas where founders need to invest their energy: the hiring process, the management process, and the communication process. Get control of these areas, and you are well on the way to startup success.

Hiring: In the startup business, money is important, but competent and skilled people who share your vision are even more important. Therefore, founders need to ensure that the people they hire are top quality. Candidates of course need to be formally qualified, but they also need to be smart enough to take responsibility and think out of the box – it’s the nature of a startup that everyone pitches in. Anyone who isn’t flexible enough to do that, or smart enough to pick up the skills needed to do that, doesn’t belong in a startup. Founders will be able to tell pretty quickly if a candidate is a good fit, and if they aren’t, they need to let them go ASAP.

Management: Hiring the right managers is critical, especially in a scaling-up phase, as the company gets bigger and more tasks need to be allocated and divided. There is a tendency among many of us to be impressed by people who have had prestigious jobs in prestigious companies, and there’s nothing wrong with hiring prestigious people – as long as they are on the same page as you. It needs to be clear to managers that despite their experience and background, you as the founder are calling the shots – and those shots will be based on what is good for the company. If a manager tells you that they want to join your startup in order to achieve “personal growth,” don’t hire them. The startup is not a platform for their advancement, but for the success of you, your team, and your vision.

Communication: One of the blessings of scaling-up is the plethora of tasks that need to be undertaken. These are usually divided by founders who assign responsibility to managers. But that blessing can turn into a curse if founders aren’t communicating with each other on a regular basis and in a clear manner. Programming milestones are very important, but founders need to invest time in “foundership,” ensuring that they retain the same vision and that the actions they and their managers are undertaking advance the “big picture.”

Startups are where many of the great ideas are born, but too many of those ideas fail because founders didn’t manage the scale-up process properly. Founders who want to ensure that their vision indeed comes to pass need to learn the proper skills for the nitty-gritty daily management of their babies.