When you’re working on an early-stage startup, figuring out what your business goals should be like what you should be achieving and at what stage is difficult. It’s not like school, where there are clear steps that lead to the next level. Or even like traditional businesses, which have clear business goal templates. No early-stage startup founders often struggle with the nebulous nature of their business goals.
Here are seven business goal posts you should be aiming for as you grow your early-stage startup:
BUSINESS GOAL #1: MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT
Your minimum viable product is the earliest version of the product you build. Getting the first iteration “out there” should be the first thing your list when you begin setting business goals for your early-stage startup.
By fleshing out the leanest version possible of your product, you are able to get feedback in a more timely manner. In turn, you can then build out several iterations using real feedback to improve your initial product sooner than if you built what you originally envisioned.
BUSINESS GOAL #2: PRIVATE BETA LAUNCH
Once you have your MVP, you’ll need to get some feedback. One of the best ways to get that feedback is by offering a limited amount of users access to your products via private beta. This should be second on your list of business goals. The customers who see your product in private beta should be invite-only. They’re your core group the people who need your product because you’re going to rely on them to give you feedback as you work out the bugs.
BUSINESS GOAL #3: KEY HIRE
So, you’ve built an MVP, tested it out in private beta, and maybe you’ve started redesigning and/or iterating — but you’re not quite ready to go public yet. This is a great time to bring on a key hire, someone who can take your company to the next level. You’ve proven the need for a product, if not quite found product/market fit, and you’re ready to make it awesome. Bring on the help you’re going to need it.
BUSINESS GOAL #4: REDESIGN / ITERATION
The design, feedback, iterate, redesign, feedback, iterate cycle is one that should be ongoing throughout your startup’s life. However, when it comes to business goals, the first redesign and iteration need to happen immediately after you get feedback from your private beta users.
Examples of questions you should ask are:
- What’s the biggest issue they’re facing?
- What keeps coming up, again and again?
- What are they asking for, either directly or via complaints?
BUSINESS GOAL #5: PUBLIC BETA LAUNCH
Think you’re ready to launch into public beta? Ask yourself if you’ve done private tests, prepped for a potential PR swarm, and made sure your technology can handle it if you get a bunch of new users. However, don’t ask yourself if your product is “perfect.” (Pro-tip: It’s not — and it never will be.)
BUSINESS GOAL #6: MAJOR MILESTONE
After your public beta launch, you’re going to be in the redesign/feedback/iteration cycle for a while as you figure out how to best refine your product. Within two years of launching, one of your business goals should be to hit at least one major milestone. That milestone is something you and your team should set together and it should focus on traction i.e. customers, clicks, downloads or profitability (FYI: This is unlikely). Whatever it is, you’re going to need it when you go to raise funding.
BUSINESS GOAL #7: FIRST INVESTMENT ROUND
If you’re going to convince people to give you money, you better have a compelling argument — and it better be backed up by data. Your first investment round or “seed round” shouldn’t be attempted until you’ve checked off everything in the list above. It’s the last thing on your list of business goals for early-stage startups.
Ultimately, there are no strict rules for a business goal or milestones for early-stage startups because, like snowflakes, every startup is different. But it always helps to have a little guidance along the way, so we hope this loose outline of business goals helps.