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February 12, 2015

5 Typical NY Startup Mistakes to Avoid

New York is again living up to the nickname coined in the early '90's: Silicon Alley. With that in mind I've put together a few New York centric startup mistakes to avoid.

1) Miscalculating your office space requirements
In real estate, they say location is everything. For the small business owner seeking office space in New York, they should more accurately say: Location costs everything! Space is going to be one of your more expensive commodities - money out the door every month that you're not going to get back. Be as lean as you can and only provide square footage to your core-focused employees.

Calculate your space requirements realistically. Allocate just enough space for the team of pros you're going to hire to manage your outsourced resources. Don't fall into the trap of trying to do everything in-house. That's inexcusable in an economy where freelance talent abounds and there's a little easy access to WebEx, Skype and G-drive.

2) Carrying too much overhead
Right alongside real estate, the cost of salaries in New York is going to be the next major expense you'll assume. I get it, as an entrepreneur, you’ll have the desire to control every aspect of your business. All entrepreneurs have a tough time dealing with this reality; but, you've got to resist the temptation to maintain all of your resources in-house. It simply creates too much overhead at a time when it’s most crucial to establish cash positive cash flow.

Always stay focused on what you're good at, and do your hiring with the intended results needed to drive business in mind. Every other aspect of your business—accounting, marketing, public relations should be outsourced. You can hire managers to keep those aspects running smoothly. Admire those functions of your business—from afar.

3) Not having a clear marketing strategy
It's great you've created an online business. But you're toast if no one knows about it. There's lots of competition in this city. In order to stand out, your online business needs a clear marketing plan, preferably one that's built around a series of quarterly milestones and yearly goals.

Milestones should include basic metrics: SEO ranking, keyword strength, email marketing figures. You can do this relatively simply with tools like Google Analytics, but if we're sticking to that aforementioned goal of having you focus on your business, interpreting ROI numbers are better handled by a marketing team you hire out.

Whichever tactic you employ, the key is to closely monitor your site's bounce rates and conversion stats. As an online venture, your success is measured by the Who, What, Why and How of your web traffic.

Master these and you'll have a much better shot at developing a sustainable revenue stream.

4) Believing the site launch is your end goal
We’ve talked to numerous clients who have healthy "phase 1" budgets that will see their startups safely through the launch process. But after day one, the planning, in regards to their websites, seems to have stopped. Many of these businesses simply haven't budgeted for keeping their sites fresh. This is a major mistake. I've studied the successful sites, like SeamlessDocs for instance - they add features on a regular basis, respond to users feedback, and continually evaluate the usability of their site in light of technological advances. Keeping your site fresh by providing fluid user enhancements and timely content is the only way to stay relevant and retain visitors. The launch is just the beginning, in order to thrive you need to continue to evolve.

5) Not employing Responsive Web Design
With 50% of consumer search now originating from mobile devices, you've got to be certain your website is easily viewed and navigated on these diverse platforms.

It baffles my mind–and yet I see it every day– how many sites are launched and marketed that aren't compatible, or worse–not even functional–when displayed on a tablet or mobile device.

If you've marketed a site that hasn't been authored with mobile in mind, you might as well close the doors to that office you're spending so much on, right now. Users are going mobile and they'll expect you to give them a seamless experience no matter which platform they choose to be on … or they'll merely go elsewhere.

Attila Sary