The great thing about the internet and the community here is that first-time founders have some great advice to ensure they don’t make some of the same mistakes that other founders made. Here are some mistakes that I made (and am still paying for!) but hope you don’t. Instead, make new mistakes!

1. Don’t Raise Before You Have Traction

It is VERY tempting to just take some money for a little stake and get that cushion. Especially, if you’ve been slogging it out for a while without any pay. But it should also be obvious that if you’re pre-revenue, the terms that you will get for the money from VCs/Angels/Funds etc., will be less than favorable, to put it gently. And while that initial check feels great, as you grow, those terms come back to haunt you.

For e.g., an angel or VC may put in a term that a founder can’t pay himself/herself more than $X for 18 months, irrespective of the revenue of the company. That starts to really hurt in the long run when you’re also trying to support your family along with running your startup.

Or your term sheet may ask for Y% of your gross revenue to pay back a convertible debt to your investors. Sounds easy enough initially, but when you need every dollar to grow, those dollars start to pinch when they go out of your bank.

The alternative — struggle and hustle until you have some real traction. Doesn’t have to be thousands of users or thousands of dollars in MRR. It just needs to be meaningful enough for you and the investor to realize that you have a real business. Not just an idea. At this point in time, you now have the power to negotiate terms that work for you.

The worst outcome in this case — the investor doesn’t like your terms and doesn’t invest. But you already have a real business!

2. Build Less, Distribute More

It’s amazing how often it’s been repeated that having the best product with the most features doesn’t ensure success. But a majority of the startup founders, including me, fall into the trap of ‘Build More Features and the customers will come’! How I wish that were true :)

Instead, one of the best pieces of advice I received was — Just keep distributing. For an early-stage startup, there is no faster way to finding PMF than to have as many people use it, as fast as possible. Launch on PitchGround, ProductHunt, AppSumo, JoinSecret. And keep doing it again and again! Which brings me to the next related hack — always be launching!

My great fear (and for a lot of other founders, I think) is that you launch something once, people don’t like it or worse still, no one cares about your launch! But the great thing about the internet is that you can keep launching —

Add a feature and launch. Rebrand and launch. Tweak your messaging and launch. Change pricing and launch. Change distribution channels and launch. Add a referral program and launch…..

The point — Keep launching until you get to PMF! After that, use your customers to build your roadmap and add value to real users rather than the imaginary users in your head!

3. Build in Public

For a bootstrapped, early-stage, pre-PMF startup, it’s hard to compete against the dollars from well-funded competitors to attract customers. The easiest way to find and engage with your target audience is to #buildinpublic. Be authentic, own your mistakes and be truly open about what you’re building, your challenges and your successes. You will be surprised by how many folks root for and will go out of their way to help founders trying to build a successful business. I definitely was pleasantly surprised by the number of people reaching out to me to give advice, make connections and even offering to invest! Use places like Twitter, IndieHackers, Slack & Discord channels to build in public, build a community and get advice, connections and investors from folks who have been following you on your journey.

4. Raise from Strategic Angels

If you HAVE to raise, consider a more strategic approach. Think about who your target audience for your product is. If they are decision makers, reach out to them and tell them what you’re building and ask if they’d like to help by investing in the company. Remember — be genuine in your ask. Having these folks on board allows you to have someone truly vested in your success, unlike a VC that may have hundreds of companies in their portfolio and their goal is simply to increase their AUM and focus on the 2:20 rule (2 % interest, 20% carry).

On the other hand, your strategic angels will actively try to make introductions, give genuine feedback on your product and be a champion. Side effect — These are your ICPs so their advice is pure gold! I got some pretty stellar advice the other day from the founder of PitchGround on how to effectively use AngelList and RUVs to raise money from strategic angels. I’ll write a longer post on this, but until then, DM me or send me an email and we can talk about this in more detail.

5. Be a Remote First startup

The pandemic has been horrible for most people. But it also allowed us to rid ourselves of excesses which were taken for granted or considered necessities earlier. Case in point — physical office locations. These are expensive and have a lot of overhead other than just the rent. Now, with everyone working remote, founders are saving thousands of dollars a month which they can deploy towards customer acquisition! As you scale and grow, you can also use some of these savings to pay yourself and finally get off the Instant Noodles diet! While there are countless other benefits of a remote first culture, this is one of the most tangible and most impactful for startups where every dollar counts!

PS — Check out SmartCue if you’d like and give me some honest feedback! I’m especially interested to hear the feedback of sales folks who deliver client demos as part of their sales process.

PPS — I’m still hiring for Engineers, Growth Hackers, Product Managers, and Sales Team members. Check out all of the open positions here.

Robin is the founder of SmartCue, a SaaS platform that enables your sales teams to deliver the BEST Product Demos, FAST. SmartCue is a Upekkha UP-22 cohort startup.

This article is republished from the original article written by Robin on medium.