7 tips for every start-up struggle

By Gabriele Gedvilaite

For the last few years Amsterdam has been listed as one of the best cities for start-up companies in Europe. The recent rankings announced in October 2015 indexed the capital of the Netherlands as the 2nd best city for start-ups in the EU. Good policy, sufficient amount of innovation investment and a young and multinational population are among the factors that create a perfect environment for scale up businesses. This is reflected in the number of active start-ups: currently there are more than 1100 companies in Amsterdam area that are working on next Facebooks, Ubers and Airbnbs.

A great advantage of start-ups’ ecosystem in Amsterdam is its network. With hundreds of conferences, workshops or meet-ups, active innovators discuss their experience, struggles and tips. One of such events that took place on the 10th of December and was organized by Apps Alliance, invited successful App makers to share their stories and practice on how to be successful in any scale-up business. All the advices may seem as well-known guidelines for anyone starting a new business, but as all the participants of the event say, it is really easy to forget something once you are in a process of launching your start-up.

If you are working on a new start-up, make sure to research well your audience.
If you are working on a new start-up, make sure to research well your audience and its behavior.


1. Think and rethink your target audience

The target audience of your business, no matter how small it is, is not homogenous. Christan Batist, a Managing director of Online Game Consultancy, says that each audience has many different sub-segments that need to be defined and researched. There is a reason why we live in the age of algorithms. Every user is different and this needs to be taken into account when marketing and positioning your product.

2. To charge or not to charge?

The question that many start-uppers face is whether to make their users pay for the product or service. It might depend on the product, but as Peter Warman, a founder of Newzoo, claim, if it is related to your target audience’s hobby, make the users pay for it. People tend to spend a lot on their hobbies (for example, gaming or travelling) and they are always willing to pay for it. Additionally, do not be afraid to set a high price. It is always easier to lower it down than to increase it.

3. Data of your users is everything

If your product or service is used through online platforms, think about the way you can track your users’ experience. Setting the analytics is important, but there are other ways to get more information about who is using your production. A free and easy user registration is a very good tool to gather the data on users’ behavior, says Pamela Neelis, founder of Tinder for fashion Swipe & Shop. According to her, many start-uppers fear compulsory registration as it might lead to lower amount of users. Neelis’s experience showed, that an easy, well designed and quick registration will not make the audience shrink.

4. Test it before you launch it

This means that you should not only test if everything works as you want to, but also find the first users of your target audience and let them try your product or service. Such practice has two main advantages. Firstly, feedback from the users will show what needs to be improved and changed. Secondly, according to Robbert Bos from BUX, it will connect you to the first ‘ambassadors’ of your product who will spread a word to their friends and will make your audience grow.

5. Reviews are crucial

Very often new businesses count the number of downloads or purchases of their products or services, since it is believed that such statistics is a good indicator for potential users to join. Though, reviews should not be forgotten. Nicholas Duddy who works in a London based mobile App marketing agency says that a mechanism to get people review your business is a crucial element to make your target audience grow.

Design is very important and the biggest mistake many start-uppers make is thinking that same design can be applied for different markets.
Design is very important and the biggest mistake many start-uppers make is thinking that same design can be applied for different markets.


6. Global design does not work

If you decide to expand your business to other countries, do not assume that everything will work the same way it did in your market. One important element to think about is design. Former booking.com App designer and current design manager at Uber Jelle Prins claims that there should be the same amount of time spent on researching and experimenting with the design as with the market. Prins’s experience working at Uber showed that certain cultures require certain design. He gives an example of designing the app for the Chinese market: “We had to change some icons, for example, the black envelope which means bad luck in China”.

7. Socialize to get funded

The final tip heard during the event was from Irina, a young Romanian who is currently working on launching her innovation in Amsterdam’s bicycle business. As she said, the start-up market in Amsterdam is very competitive and your idea has to be really creative to be funded. Of course, the traditional ways of applying for private and governmental funds or contacting business angels can still work, but there are many other options to find investors. According to Irina, networking is one of the most important ways to look for financial help as it links you to the right people. “I go to every innovations event, meetup or workshop and I set my goal for how many people I should talk to. And I always speak to few more people than I initially planned”, says Irina.


Gabriele Gedvilaite is a Lithuanian journalist currently based in Amsterdam. Find and contact her on LinkedIn.