When Should You Ignore Startup "Best Practice"?

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You've heard all the rules on how to build a successful startup, but what should you do when they don't work for your company? By Tejal Shah (CEO & Founder, KidAdmit, Inc.)

There have been numerous books, blogs, articles and tweets written about a successful startup formula.  While there is no magic formula, there are best practices. But what happens when these best practices don't work for your startup? This is the challenge I am encountering as I build my startup KidAdmit, which is part software-as-a-service, and part consumer product targeted to preschools and parents. We are navigating a non-traditional space.

Best Practice #1: Investors Need to Feel the Pain

Key Difference: In order for an investor to feel the pain of a parent, they need to be one. This affects raising capital since my pool of investors shrinks to the ones that have children. I once pitched to six venture capitalists of various firms and not one was a parent. After I got done pitching, a couple of them said they "heard" finding a preschool was a problem but not one experienced it. Hearing about a problem will not get anyone to write the check.

Lesson Learned: Do your research and find out which investors can relate to the problem you are solving. Even if the pool ends up being small, the connection will be stronger.

Best Practice #2: Offering Exclusives and/or creating Embargoes

Key Difference: My users are parents and preschools that may or may not follow technology news sites so following this path does not really help me.  Getting coverage in a technology news site will help with the investor community but will not help me reach my targeted community. I need to navigate the world of key influencers in the Blogosphere (translation: extremely influential parents who have built a strong brand and reputation). And offering exclusives and creating embargoes does not work in this world. The Blogosphere is all about building relationships and establishing trust.

Lesson Learned: Research which marketing and media sources reach your users and learn how they want to be contacted. Start building these relationships early and recognize that they have a business to support, too. Remember to ask about their business and how you can help them. You can offer your connections and promote their blog.  Just make sure you ask and listen!

Best Practice #3: Getting Mentors From Successful Startups on Your Board

Key Difference: Key mentors from successful startups are important from a product and scale perspective in the technology world. I applied to a few technology accelerators that could have provided this kind of support. But then I asked myself, what about my need for mentors in education and in government? I realized I needed to expand my search for an accelerator that would help my specific company grow in three ways: technology, education and government.

Lesson Learned: Best is relative and what works for some companies doesn't work for the rest. Research what the right mentors would be for your company and make sure to broaden where the expertise is coming from. There are many accelerators that you can apply to and many of them are pretty niche so seek them out.  They may provide you with everything you have been looking for.

What key differences have you experienced in building your company?

Tejal T ShahAbout the guest blogger: Tejal (@tejaltshah) is the founder of KidAdmit, Inc., a site dedicated to streamlining the preschool admissions process. KidAdmit is creating a better experience for parents and preschools so both can effectively communicate throughout the admissions process. Previously, she co-founded Peninsula Wealth, an independent wealth management firm.