As an early stage startup, it’s easy to spend time fussing over the specifics that you think could make or break your startup. What language are you coding your apps in? Are you developing for Android or Apple users? What’s the ideal snack-to-employee ratio for the break room?
Although all of these questions are important to eventually have answered, your number one priority should focus on developing a high-level strategy for your product launch.
Why focus on high level strategy first?
Having a cohesive strategy can help you to “fail fast and learn faster”—an important lesson for every entrepreneur. In addition, nailing down your strategy early provides you with a vision to return to when you get lost in thought about what type of craft beer your startup should have in its kitchen. Think of your startup strategy like an inverted pyramid—at the top is your vision, from which your product, customer, and marketing strategies are derived.
Assuming that your idea is new and innovative, your startup can also have first-mover advantage in your field. As a lean organization without the bureaucratic constraints of a slow-moving industry player, you can bring your product or idea to market faster than the IBMs and Microsofts of the world. However, when trying to bring your product or idea into fruition, you may forget one important component of your strategy: protection.
You may have built the best, new innovative app on the market, but without protection, you’re putting your idea (and business) at risk. There’s nothing stopping competitors in a crowded market from copying your exact idea, and profiting from it. That is, unless you intentionally craft your strategy around the concept of protection.
Although it may not occur to many early-stage startups, intellectual property protection is one of the best strategy investments you can make in the short and long term for your startup. Intellectual property protection can include patents, trademarks, or copyrights, although if you’re protecting an idea, you would likely look for patent protection. While you may have heard many myths about patents, the fact is that if you’re looking to either grow your startup, gain venture capital funding, or IPO your startup, patents are valued as intangible assets on your startup’s balance sheet. A strong patent can provide your startup with upwards of 1 million dollars in valuation when an outside party attempts to break down your startup’s money-making components.
In addition to providing you with a higher valuation and a viable competitive advantage over competitors, a patent can also act as a defender of your idea. When both big and small copycats attempt to steal your startup’s idea (and they will if it’s a good one!), you’ll be able to use a patent to swat them away.
Specific Steps You Can Take TODAY:
Have we convinced you to start thinking big-picture? If so, here are some tangible steps you can take today to improve the status of your early stage startup.
1. Consider applying for a patent now.
2. Continue to learn as much as you can in order to guarantee success. As Dr. Seuss aptly wrote, ““The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
And the last step…
3. Learn how to do an effective patent search, to find out if you are first!