At the beginning of each year, I like to think about what the big trends are for startups that make it easier to build your business, raise capital or just make it easier for you to get going. To start with–a trend that has been continuing for several years now is the decreasing cost of technology solutions from the cost of laptops to the proliferation of online business services such as TokTumi.com, an Internet based phone system that’s only $15/month. It works and I use it for my own startup so I got rid of the expensive business land line, saving over $100/month. This enables the startup to really get going with a home or virtual office that saves on expensive leases, office & telecommunications equipment but still gives you the feel of the ‘big guys’.
Back to 2011 trends— Overall I expect that the following trends are going to gain momentum and you’ll be hearing more about them.
1) Easier to market for less money- Think social media. Businesses with an online presence that are able to gather friends, fans & followers are also effectively creating new customers and retaining older ones. Through newsletters, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or any other online community, you’re connecting with your base. Before this, you needed to stand on a corner and hand out flyers or put an ad in the local paper. This is not “free” as you need to spend the time of an employee or resource to connect and communicate but hey, you need to consider this part of your marketing effort. It can be effective and less expensive than other types of traditional marketing since it’s very targeted.
2) Anything mobile- According to Gartner, by 2011, over 85% of handsets will include some sort of Internet browser. Smartphones (i.e., iphone, android) are a big chunk of this market as they continue to proliferate. People will continue to use these as a primary way to connect to the Internet and web related services. Making life easier or accessible for consumers in their palm will dominate. Startups that leverage this mobile technology for their own products & services will win the hearts of their customers. I too will have to make my online business accessible on smartphones within the next 12 months— someone tweeted about it. (How great is it to get that kind of feedback- real time?)
3) Alternative sourcing of financing- With banks still reticent to lend- even with loosened SBA standards, what’s a startup to do to get $$$? Besides breaking your piggy bank, and hitting up Uncle Buck, you can consider some alternative sources of financing. Consider fan or crowd source funding using sites like Profounder.com or Kickstarter.com to raise money in the form of ‘donations’ for cool ideas. Think Diaspora which raised $200k. Profounder is a new entrant to the market is ProFounder.com where you commit a percentage of future revenue streams to pay back investors. I met the founder and she’s brilliant.
Think about these trends as you start or grow your own business. Not only can they save you money, but they can help create a deeper connection with your customer base, who, after all are your biggest and will drive business to you.