Lessons from the trenches: Startup success is all about the journey…and the decisions you make along the way

By Editor February 4, 2014
Courtesy of Innovid.

Courtesy of Innovid.By Tal Chalozin, Innovid co-founder and CTO

My friends and I love video games. We also love drinking beer. One day, I was playing Guitar Hero with some buddies and thought: “Life would be perfect if we could combine the two simultaneously.” So, we set out to turn this fantasy into a reality. We stayed up for a week crafting code and building a robot to play Guitar Hero so it could do the easy work (playing guitar) and we could do the heavy lifting—with our beers. Even though this is one silly example, I’ve found myself in this situation many times—if there is an area I think could use improvement, I want to find a way to fix it. I enjoy looking for ways to use technology to make life easier.

If you don’t read any further, I want you to know this—the best thing I have learned about any startup is that it’s about the journey. There will be mistakes and failures amidst the successes, but they will be your mistakes and your successes. These will shape the future of your business or idea and are the best learning tools available. So, if you’re done reading, go out there and get to it! If not, I have outlined five tips below which have helped me evolve as a problem solver.

Be Your Own Guinea Pig

I will never claim to have experience in all product sectors, but I feel that whether you are attempting to build the best advertising platform, to sell wearable technology for the masses, or even constructing systems for combat airplanes, you must walk in your clients’ shoes. Essentially, to better know your client, become your client.

While working with one of our entertainment clients, we acted as if we were them. What did they want to sell? In this case, movie tickets. So we asked ourselves: “How can we make it so consumers want to purchase movie tickets?” The answer was make it easy. We added a feature to the interactive ad where consumers can not only locate the nearest theater, but also buy tickets without leaving the initial site. By offering an easy way to take every movie trailer and put it on steroids with an ability to purchase on the spot, we’ve managed to show an amazing lift in viewers actually clicking and transacting.

Live In Your Target Market

Make sure you know your most important market, both geographically and mentally. Pack your bags and put yourself in the heart of it—the sooner the better! Although the world is small and ultra-connected, there’s no better way for you to build a product and company than living and breathing the same lingo, culture, nuances, infrastructure, and weather.

Before living in New York, I was under the impression that people go to physical stores to buy their electronic goods (crazy!). Apparently, Amazon Prime does not cross the ocean (or at least not to Israel). Jokes aside, with a lack of an efficient postal infrastructure, the mindset of ecommerce could never come to fruition.

Confront Yourself Constantly

Initially, we felt like we solved ‘most’ of our business equation and strategy, and assumed the rest would be solvable and fall into place down the road (whether it be business models, client acquisitions, or the best usage of the product, etc.). We knew deep inside that the equations did not fully converge, but while riding that crazy roller coaster it’s not easy to stop and think. That problem (in most cases) does not go away, and you better confront it as early as possible and get used to it.

Walls Are Meant To Be Walked Through

Question things that seem atypical. Don’t take anything for granted in the thinking process. Just because this is not the way other people go from A-to-B does not mean it is ‘the way of doing things.’ There is no ‘way.’ You need to brazenly craft your own path.

Don’t Take ‘Top Five Tips For Entrepreneurs’ Too Seriously

No one knows it all! More importantly, as experienced as one will be, he/she does not run YOUR business, you do. I’m a true believer that you should do more and read less. Getting in the ditches and doing the dirty work allows you to learn while breaking barriers.

Thanks for reading. Good luck with your endeavors!

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Tal guides technology development and implementation, product creation, and business development activities across Innovid. He has over 13 years of development experience, including serving as an officer in the Israeli Air Force—Computer Unit, and co-founding GarageGeeks with Innovid co-founder and CEO Zvika Netter. He was selected for ‘Europe’s Young Entrepreneurs’ in 2008 and World Economic Forum’s ‘Technology Pioneer’ in 2010.