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How to Build a Startup Remotely and Keep Your Sanity

How to organize a startup remotely. What you need to know to successfully go through all the phases without blundering. Choosing an idea and testing a niche.

A startuppers’ journey begins with a beautiful idea that should eventually enable them to get multimillion-dollar income. On your way, you’ll need to cope with many obstacles of different levels of complexity. If you have chosen this path for yourself, you should be ready for hard and painstaking work. The process of building a startup remotely requires preliminary preparation, detailed step-by-step planning, control, gaining expertise, and forming a professional team.

To keep your sanity while handling the abundance of tasks and finding solutions to regularly occurring problems, we recommend that you act consistently and rely on the tips that we provide. Ups and downs are inevitable, but in the end, the result might exceed all your expectations.

Working with an idea

Any startup is a new project with an untested idea that needs to be turned into a profitable business. The future of the company directly depends on the preliminary preparation of the product. Its value for the consumer determines the result of the startup’s activity, which is profit.

The initial stage of creating a project includes developing an idea as well as determining how relevant it is to customers, which risks it involves, and how efficiently the product solves the market’s problems. At this stage, a startupper should look not for an opportunity to earn money but for a demand that no one has met yet or that they can satisfy better than anyone else.

Choosing an idea

Most startuppers prefer to create analogs of foreign companies. However, in 90% of cases, they need to introduce drastic adjustments to the project to achieve success.

If you lack an idea and it doesn’t dawn on you, you can use these three search methods.

  • Choose an option abroad that has not yet been adopted in your country. For instance, you can take ideas that are successful in the United States as a reference point. You might consider studying the projects from the CB INSIGHTS Unicorn Tracker page, estimated at over $1 billion.
  • Improve an idea that already exists in the market but fails to sufficiently solve its problems. You should rely not only on your own conclusions but also on other consumers’ opinions.
  • Follow global trends and changes. For example, this is one of the trends of recent years: the growing demand for products that preserve the ecology of our planet. This includes introducing electric cars and eco-clothing to the market, rejecting plastic, and so on.

Of course, when searching for and choosing a suitable idea, you need to focus on its potential profitability. For example, you should compare it with similar projects that already exist on the market. However, it is much more important to pay attention to the ability of the product to relieve the pain of the consumer. You should learn what the already existing solution to a certain problem lacks to satisfy the consumer.

Testing a niche

Before launching a product, you need to carry out its qualitative assessment and analyze its compliance with market expectations. Insufficient demand or complete lack of demand as well as users’ dissatisfaction with the offer are signs of a startup’s unprofitability. In this case, you need to either replace or improve the product — or look for a different target audience.

Initially, you bring a “raw” offer to the market, which enables you to see the consumers’ reactions and form a hypothesis about your startup’s future. Your offer an MVP to your target audience — a minimally viable product that has limited functions but at the same time is enough to meet the needs of your first customers. Further, if your project receives a good response and positive forecasts, you should finalize and improve it.

Remote testing of a market niche often begins with the first trial sales, a free offer, a consumer survey about product satisfaction. To determine the demand, you can make a flash banner with a backup animated gif for your site, build a landing page or use contextual advertising (such as Google AdWords). After you study people’s real response to the product and their reaction to it, you can conclude the viability of launching the project.

The best viability proof for your idea is the first sales that started before the MVP stage. This happens not too frequently but it means that you 100% hit the pain point of your target audience.

When testing a niche, you should never deceive your users’ expectations. If a landing page offers a certain product that meets a person’s need, it must provide this product to the consumer.

Business plan

The document includes a description of the idea (as detailed as possible), its relevance, demand for it, ways of implementing it, and its profitability. When building a startup remotely, you need to make a plan to send it for study to creditors, investors, and other persons financing the project.

The document provides the following information:

  • about the company: name, legal form, information about the founders, and their shares,
  • the description of the product, its concept (what user problem it solves), target audience, competitive advantages, results of market analysis (demand, supply, and capacity), niche testing,
  • financial performance indicators: profitability, costs, and so on,
  • sales markets and marketing activities,
  • the number of employees and their positions,
  • information about investments: how much is required, the payback period, the return period, acceptable conditions,
  • description of intellectual property,
  • partnership relations, if there are agreements with representatives of another business.

Already at the initial stage of the company’s development, you should keep reports of its performance and conduct analytics of its indicators. This enables a startup to choose the right strategy, change it timely, or understand the unviability of further activities.

Budget planning

Reports include indicators of the financial and economic activity of the company that can be determined at the current stage of development:

  • Initial investments
  • Expenses
  • Expected income and profit
  • Payback period

The business ownership shares are shown in the capitalization table. It includes shares, preferred shares, and options as well as various sums contributed by concerned parties for these securities.

The spending item of the budget includes the costs of developing, manufacturing, and promoting the product: employees’ salaries, professional consultations, payments to outsourced specialists, raw materials, equipment, software, remote work services, website development, advertising campaigns, and other costs, based on the specifics of the startup’s activities. Pricing is carried out on the basis of expenses. You should also include a reserve for unforeseen expenses in the budget.

Even before the launch of the project, you need to think over important performance indicators (KPIs) for the company. These can be attendance, growth of new customers, turnover, net profit, etc. depending on the characteristics of the startup. At the initial stage, you need to fix these parameters daily.

If the company has already confidently entered the market and got its first customers as well as money for the product, you form its balance sheet to maintain a full accounting of income and expenses.

To carry out remote accounting, calculate taxes and contributions as well as form documentation (acts, invoices, invoices, and so on), you should use special software, such as Freshbooks. Some programs additionally provide consulting services.

Sales and marketing

The analysis of the market and the target audience is aimed at identifying the most effective sales channels. Sales planning involves choosing where the product will be sold — in a separate region, throughout the country, or abroad. It is important to not only keep records of new customers but also to track the churn rate of previous ones (CR). This parameter should not exceed 5% per month. Ideally, you should aim for 1—2%.

To successfully launch a startup, you should conduct a strong marketing campaign. You need to determine your advertising channels, outreach, and budget.

To interact with your clients remotely, manage your sales, analyze and optimize your marketing policy, you should use CRM systems: Salesforce, Bitrix24, HubSpot, Freshoffice, and others. Automated platforms allow the founder to track business processes (customer acquisition, churn), set tasks for subordinates, monitor the implementation of plans and KPIs as well as evaluate the effectiveness of promoting the product for individual employees and the company as a whole.

Forming a team

One of the advantages of remote work is the absence of geographical restrictions when searching for talents. You get an opportunity to attract the best specialists, regardless of their place of residence.

A startup creator has to be multifunctional to control the company’s activities: work on the product, sales, marketing strategy, and so on. The founder needs to allocate the skills and functions necessary for the project. They should take some part of tasks upon themselves (based on their abilities) and delegate the other part to employees (along with responsibility).

The founder should look for financially stable people with sufficient savings or another source of income. They should be full of enthusiasm and agree to get a very limited income during the first year.

To find remote employees, you can use traditional job search engines. However, in this case, you’ll need to spend a lot of time picking the right candidates from a wide selection. To speed up the process, you can turn to specialized personnel search services for a startup. Such sites take into account the specifics of recruiting staff for startups. You can set additional conditions to significantly narrow the selection of potential candidates: working schedule, specialization, type of payment, and so on. As a reward, a startup can offer an employee not only a salary but also options or a share in the business.

It makes sense to look for specialists in the profile groups of social networks, such as Facebook. It would be better to outsource one-off or small permanent jobs to professionals — for example, you can use the Toptal platform.

To successfully form a remote team, the founder should adhere to the following rules.

  • It is important that the founder trusts professionals within their competence but never forgets about control.
  • The team might be small but you should distribute the roles in it properly. Everyone has their own scope of responsibilities, i.e. a programmer should not be in charge of marketing.
  • You need to stimulate your employees based on the results of their work. For example, when a staff member implements the sales plan, you can pay them a reward. If there is no financial opportunity to do so, a guarantee of prospects can serve as an incentive (you can promise to the staff member a higher position or a share in the business).
  • Set goals and objectives but stop interfering in small things and exclude quibbles.

How to organize the remote work of your staff

An advantage of a remote work schedule is a significant saving of overhead costs: renting an office, its maintenance, purchase and maintenance of the equipment, etc. However, this form of activity creates certain risks and difficulties that are related to rational working time management as well as your control over employees and their activities.

To organize the productive work of your remote staff and their effective interaction, you should use software tools for solving specific tasks. Depending on the specifics of your startup, you can rely on the following types of software.

  • For communication within the team (audio and video calls, instant messages, shared channels, chats, conferences). You can use such platforms as Slack, Zoom, Ringover, Skype, or such messengers as Telegram or WhatsApp.
  • For employee monitoring. These tools track the activity of each member of the remote team, their activities, and task completion. Also, such tools can manage distraction when a staff member switches to irrelevant stuff. This type of software includes such programs as Time Doctor, BigTime, or ClickTime.
  • For project management. These planning tools allow you to set tasks and subtasks, sort them by importance, performers, and urgency as well as track the progress of their implementation and completion. This software category includes such solutions as ClickUp, Todoist, or Planio.
  • For file management. Such tools enable you to share documents and work on them together with other staff members. The G Suite package is a popular software of this category: it includes such apps as Google Drive, Documents, Sheets, and others.

Depending on the specifics of your remote activities, other services might also come in handy for your company — for example, for spell checking, working with legal documents, and so on.

Financing and investments

The search for initial capital is the main problem that startups face. The primary sources of project financing include the following options.

  • Personal savings. The 3F rule (Family, Friends, Fools) is a common way to raise funds. It implies that the initial capital is formed by investments of the founder’s family members, their friends, and sponsors who share their enthusiasm.
  • Bank loan.
  • Investments from business angels. Private investors might be interested in the development of the project at its earliest stage.
  • Venture funds. They are one of the main ways to attract funds to startups. Investment of projects is carried out at the expense of the fund’s money, as well as those transferred to it by clients in trust management.
  • State. When launching a startup, you might receive a subsidy from the government. However, in practice, most companies get a refusal.
  • Crowdfunding. It suggests raising funds through donations and voluntary investments. Public campaigns are popular in the United States and are only gaining momentum in other countries.

You should use several sources of financing and not neglect the possibility of receiving a subsidy from the state.

How to keep your sanity — the main startuppers’ mistakes 

A startup is always a risky project. No one can give a 100% guarantee of its success. To minimize risks, you should plan each stage of the company’s development in detail as well as assess and control its current state. You should analyze other people’s experiences, both positive and negative.

Common mistakes that startuppers make include the following.

  • Excessive confidence in the success of the idea. Such a conviction leads to the refusal of the entrepreneur to check it and test the niche. You should keep in mind that you can consider the value of the idea only when it brings income.
  • Refusal to use profile services for remote work, schedulers, and CRM systems. Automated platforms significantly simplify business processes, allow you to conduct deep analytics, and optimize your startup strategy.
  • The desire of the founder to create an ideal product at once, spending considerable financial and time resources on its development. Eventually, they might fail to get enough response from the consumer.
  • An outdated approach to management. It is expressed in the reluctance to test and implement new technologies as well as budget restrictions on product promotion, advertising, and so on.

Let’s sum up the results

To build a startup remotely, thorough preliminary preparation is required. It will enable you to minimize (although not completely exclude) the risks of failure. Any idea should be tested. Make an MVP, launch it on the market using various promotion channels, and evaluate the results. If the idea generates a good response, finalize the project based on a detailed analysis of the needs of your target audience. As a result, the market will receive a high-quality product that has every chance to succeed.

To avoid burnout and keep your sanity, you should delegate some of your functionality and responsibility to your employees. However, this form of employment is productive only with proper organization and reasonable control. You can achieve it by using profile services and automation platforms. Plus, you should not forget about the corporate spirit. It is impossible to build a profitable startup without a professional team, motivated for success.

Incubator director of the Admitad Projects startup studio

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