"A Million Isn't Cool..." - Market Traction and Getting There

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By Ashwini Nadkarni (Founder, Appguppy) “A million isn’t cool. You know what’s cool, a billion.” It was the line that raised the bar for entrepreneurs everywhere on the meaning of traction. It certainly did for my startup Appguppy.

You hear the t-word bandied about all the time in the entrepreneurial community. It’s the golden ticket to getting venture funding for your company when you don’t have a couple of startup sales already under your belt.

But have you ever had the experience of pitching your startup to an investor, only to have them look at you glassy-eyed even after you’ve detailed your traction? So what really is traction and how much is enough to be a compelling startup?

You’ve researched the market elements that make your company successful: Most entrepreneurs get the inspiration for their startup based on a problem they’ve faced themselves. This usually leads to their conducting market research, either by examining data from studies or simply by talking to people. Either way, gaining market traction requires you to validate the extent to which your personal problem is experienced by others. In addition, if you’ve researched your competitors and detailed the ways in which your company is fulfilling a need that they aren’t then you’ve really moved toward gaining traction.

You’ve outlined a customer acquisition model and validated it: Maybe you’re using social. Maybe you’re calling people on the phone. Whether it’s inbound marketing or traditional outreach, you’ve found a model that’s getting you customers. A customer acquisition model that minimizes cost and time is not only the key to gaining traction but also the key to proving that your product is scalable.

You’re getting customers and growing them: So maybe you don’t have a billion customers just yet. So what? Growth takes time. Maybe the better measure of the growth of your customer base is the rate at which they’re accumulating. After all, once you do the math, you may realize you’d be better off accumulating a certain number of customers at a steady rate rather than a lump of them in one day.

Ultimately, the amount of traction you need to gain to be compelling is dependent on outside factors like the market you’re trying to reach or how sustainable the growth in your customer base really is over time.

If your venture has true market traction, then chances are, the funding, and better yet, the profit, will soon follow.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Ashwini Nadkarni is the Founder of Appguppy, a mobile startup. She is also a resident physician at Boston Medical Center. Ashwini has been published in the Journal of Cardiac Surgery, the American Journal of Psychiatry and BMC Molecular Biology. She holds an MD from Northwestern Medical School and her BSc from McGill University. Follow her startup at @appguppy.