Starting a business can be an exciting undertaking for budding entrepreneurs. Launching the next big startup requires more effort than buying a domain name or registering the company – you must plan out every step of the journey. That’s why you need a startup roadmap.
In this guide, we’ll explain why you, as a startup founder, need to use a roadmap for your business’s success. We’ll cover what a roadmap is, why it’s important, and include a few pointers to get you started.
What is a startup roadmap?
Simply put, a startup roadmap is a comprehensive plan to reach a startup’s launch and growth goals. It covers goals and milestones for market research, product development, and marketing strategies – providing a clear path to success.
Why do you need a startup roadmap?
Every business is unique, whether starting a neo-bank or establishing the next leap in last-mile logistics. But you can’t just say you’ve opened a new company and expect the clients and money to start rolling in. It would help if you mapped out how to attract clients, why they should use your solution or offering, and how long it’ll take to reach the next level of growth.
Now that you know the necessity of planning, let’s look at several aspects you must cover.
The 6 steps to getting started with your startup roadmap
Here are some helpful tips and questions that you need to ask yourself when getting started with a startup roadmap:
1. Speak to potential customers
First and foremost, you should be speaking to and networking with potential customers. Why? To understand their pain points and if your startup idea can potentially help them. The more information you have about your customers, the more informed decisions you can make.
Don’t just rely on one-to-one sessions; check out industry reports, conduct customer surveys, and scour social media to research the market you want to enter.
Once you understand the market and your customers, you should be able to define a specific target audience for whom your product/service solves a problem. You should also get clarity on how to reach this audience to spread awareness for your solution. The reality is that if you need to learn how to sell your product and grow revenue for your business to succeed.
2. Conduct a competitor analysis
This is an assessment of your competition’s strengths and weaknesses and their strategies. It’s preferable to have information from your market research phase, such as revenue figures, cost trends, and the industry’s size, before attempting a competitor analysis.
A competitive analysis is essential if you’re planning to raise capital, as it provides insight into your business’s ability to perform in the intended market’s competitive landscape.
The process includes three key sections:
- Select the appropriate competitors to analyze — Ensure you’re picking the right competitors to assess. All of them won’t be direct competitors, so narrow it down to the most relevant ones.
- Research the competition — Research into your selected competitors will give you valuable insights and inform the rest of the process.
- Analyze their pricing and tech — Use your gathered information to create a detailed view of the competition’s pricing structures and how they implement technology into their offering.
- Analyze their marketing strategy — Look at how the competition markets their products and services and how it overlaps with yours.
After looking at your competitors, you should have a clear idea of what makes your business unique or different from these competitors.
3. Define the business’s objectives
What exactly do you want to achieve, besides success, of course? Do you want to be the Edtech leader of online postgraduate courses? How about the bespoke last-mile delivery service that cornered the market for collection lockers?
You’ll need to ask yourself:
- What is the goal of the business?
- What is the total addressable market for your product or service?
- What is the motivation for achieving this goal?
- How will you measure success?
- And a question that only a few startup founders will ask themselves: How fast can I pivot?
4. What are the key milestones?
What are the critical steps you need to take to reach the objectives of the business?
Break down the start-up roadmap into smaller milestones and ensure each step is measurable and achievable.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into smaller manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain, American Humorist and Author.
Here are a few milestone examples:
- Onboard X number of customers this year.
- Work on X product features by the 3rd quarter/month.
- Set up a presence in X market by the end of the year.
- Develop a marketing plan by the 4th quarter/month.
Your milestones consist of every major event needed leading up to your startup’s launch and growth goals.
5. What are the technology and resources needed
Figuring out how long it will take to develop, test and launch a product can be tricky for a startup. The product development process involves so many variables that it’s impossible to predict precisely how long it will take.
That said, it’s also vital to prioritize features and functionalities to launch a minimum viable product (MVP) and gather user feedback to iterate and improve the product over time.
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” –Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn Co-Founder and Venture Capitalist.
Having a clear plan that outlines not only the technology resources but also the right people resources to launch your MVP product, implement customer feedback and grow initial sales will help you to stay focused on your goal.
6. Will there be funding requirements?
You need to ask yourself: “Can I bootstrap the startup, or do I require outside funding?” Many entrepreneurs choose to bootstrap their businesses initially, meaning they rely on their own resources or those sourced from friends and family.
Others opt to take out a bank loan, while some more ambitious startups look to angel investors or venture capital firms for more significant amounts of funding. When looking for funding, founders must have concrete business plans before approaching an angel investor or VC.
These are the typical early funding stages:
- Pre-seed – The beginning of a startup’s funding journey typically sees an idea or concept emerge – often warranting seed funding from family and friends or angel investors.
- Seed stage – After the idea stage, a minimum viable product (MVP) or prototype has likely been created and seed funding is used to develop the product further and conduct market research.
- Series A – Once the startup has made progress and demonstrated a viable business model, investors such as venture capitalists may participate in this funding round. A startup may use this money to expand the team, bolster marketing efforts, or expand operations.
“It’s almost always harder to raise capital than you thought it would be, and it always takes longer. So plan for that.” – Richard Harroch, Venture Capitalist
To help you prepare to pitch your company to investors, we created a pitching deck template you can download and use. Getting early and frequent feedback on your pitchdeck should be part of your process to get funding.
Build your network for success
Finally, creating a network of early customers, other entrepreneurs, and investors with whom you can share ideas, gain valuable connections, and get honest feedback can be a lifeline for new entrepreneurs trying to launch a successful business.
Here are some ideas to get out there and build connections:
Attending pitching competitions
Attending pitching competitions is an excellent way to gain valuable feedback and exposure for your business. Pitching competitions also provide an opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs and investors, which can be beneficial for networking.
Here is a list of several startup pitching competitions you should keep your eye on:
- Startup World Cup 2023
- TechCrunch Disrupt 2023
- Web Summit PITCH 2023
- SXSW EDU Launch Competition 2023
Incubation or accelerator programs provide early-stage startups with mentorship, resources, and access to investors, making them perfect for founders needing support and guidance. During the program, founders have the opportunity to get feedback on their businesses, build relationships, and gain advice from industry experts.
VC open office hours
Many Venture Capital companies and other ecosystem enablers often organize open office hours where startups can meet and get advice directly from investors on issues they are struggling with.
Learn more about upcoming Newtown Partners office hours sessions to meet our investors.