For many fledgling entrepreneurs, trying to start up their own business can be an admittedly exhausting and arduous task. Not only are they trying to get their inspired endeavor up and running, but they also are struggling to acquire the much-needed capital to actually successfully fund the startup.
In addition, they’re fiercely competing with every other burgeoning business that is vying for the same funding, compounding the obstacles they face when trying to grow their business.
In the past, securing capital was not unlike fielding an organized racket at the hands of predatory bankers and other similar types of lenders. Oftentimes, it was limited to high-interest bank loans and perhaps the occasional philanthropy of venture capitalists. Combined with the already existing challenges of trying to launch and grow their business in the first place, it can be more than enough to make anyone want to give up before they’re past the starting gate.
Fortunately, the advent of the internet has changed the way startups get their funding, making access to a variety of financial resources easier than ever before. By taking the time to carefully vet each lender, and by being creative in how they approach securing their capital, these unique hardships can be mitigated.
In turn, today’s startups may discover that just as modern industries have changed thanks to this new and innovative technology, so have the means by which they can secure funding.
A Need for Money: The Root of All Startup Problems
Were you to ask any entrepreneur what their most pressing concern was regarding their product or idea, they would most likely unhesitantly reply “money” — or, rather, the complete lack thereof.
We’ve all heard the stories of how an intrepid businessman or woman could simply walk into a bank and ask for a loan, then seemingly somehow become a millionaire overnight. However, while these rags-to-riches stories are undoubtedly inspiring, they leave out several pivotal steps in outlining the narrative of their success.
The fact is, securing capital for a startup is one of the most difficult parts of starting a business. Yes, there are other pressing considerations, too, such as connecting the product itself with a buyer and building a reliable team of workers to help design and create it.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, one of the biggest things holding entrepreneurs back is their inability to secure the much-needed funding they require to establish and grow their businesses.
These days, though, getting the financing for a startup doesn’t have to be the herculean task it once was. While banks are typically the go-to for many, they are no longer the only option available. Between peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding, and even so-called “angel investors,” a hungry entrepreneur no longer needs to suffer at the hands of greedy, unscrupulous lenders to finally be able to get funding.
Finding Alternative Means to Acquire Capital
With so many different options to choose from, an entrepreneur is no longer stuck with only a handful of ways to get the necessary capital to fund their startup. Instead, there is a myriad of choices from which they could use, allowing them to be judicious when selecting their source for funding.
Not only does this help facilitate securing the capital, but it also helps safeguard them from exorbitant interest rates or having only a limited amount of resources.
One such option an entrepreneur can utilize to secure their funding is via crowdfunding. Originally introduced in 1997 by the British progressive rock band Marillion, this means of acquiring capital has surged in popularity, and for good reason. This route allows startups to raise money from a number of different investors, using platforms like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and Crowdfunder.
This is an incredibly flexible option for aspiring entrepreneurs, one that also helps generate consumer interest and establish a digital presence for the startup.
That’s not the only advantage of using crowdsourcing, either. Generally, it also allows potential consumers to get a share of the business — whether through equity or an actual tangible item or product itself — to bolster confidence in the brand.
In many ways, it’s mutually beneficial for both the startup and the investor, minimizing risk while maximizing the opportunity for profits. By pooling your capital, it’s easier to keep tabs on the source of the funding, as well.
A lesser-known option, angel investors are almost always on the lookout for new startups to invest in. Similar to venture capitalists, these investors are able to offer a wide range of funding to startups.
Unlike venture capitalists, though, angel inventors use their own money to finance a startup. However, this means the amount they can offer is somewhat lower than what a venture capitalist may provide, ranging somewhere between $200,000 for individuals and up to $350,000 or greater for syndicates.
Like crowdfunding, there are quite a few advantages to turning to an angel investor for your capital, such as the fact that they don’t typically require repayment. Instead, they usually ask for a stake in your business, either through equity or convertible debt. In addition, they can provide the money fairly quickly — provided you’re able to find the right angel for your business. And finally, one clear perk of angel investors is the invaluable professional advice they can provide, allowing you to grow your startup much faster.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Funding
Another viable option for entrepreneurs, peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is a means for startups to secure their funding without an unwanted middleman interfering with the process. Recognized as a type of debt-based crowdfunding, P2P funding allows individuals to borrow money from specific lenders through a larger online platform. With P2P funding, you’re able to secure your capital from a team of retail investors who are able to provide you with these requisite resources.
Using P2P funding has its own share of benefits, making it a great option for many. Because it does cut out the broker, you’re typically able to get much lower interest rates on your loan. They’re typically much easier to pay back, too, as the lender often allows payments in convenient monthly installations.
It’s also much faster to get the funding, and most individuals are able to get their online installment loans approved in as little as three days. However, having a strong credit score is frequently a requirement, making getting this resource a barrier to some.
Incubators and Accelerators
While accelerators and incubators are two entirely different things, they often go hand-in-hand in helping startups grow and flourish. When combined together, they’re an indispensable resource to any entrepreneur.
In addition to providing them with the capital they need to succeed, they also can often provide a location for them to work, too. Both can also offer the desired funding, but an incubator is more focused on refining a business idea, whereas an accelerator helps to scale it.
The benefits of using incubators and accelerators are fairly straightforward: not only do they offer seed capital, but they also help encourage the startup’s success.
The amount of capital can vary, ranging from $150,000 and up, and they typically require equity in exchange for the funding. However, the mentorship that can come with using an incubator and accelerator often makes this more than worth it. It’s also important to note that they are fairly exclusive, though, often only selecting “blue ocean” ideas with high growth potential.
Small Business Grants
As the old adage goes, nothing in life is free, but grants do come remarkably close. Unlike angel investors (which require equity) or P2P loans (which ultimately do require repayment), these require neither. Instead, it’s a type of funding that comes without repayment strings attached. These grants can be provided from a variety of sources, including both government and private organizations, to help encourage entrepreneurs.
All you need to do is meet their requirement criteria to qualify, and you can then be awarded a grant to help cover some or all of your startup’s expenses.
That said, despite all of the benefits of securing a grant for your business, they are unquestionably difficult to obtain. First and foremost, they are not intended for your average startup. Instead, they are usually earmarked for businesses that have a philanthropic angle, such as a non-profit or charitable company. T
hey are also often reserved for specific demographics (like women or minorities), or those that give back to a community. And finally, because they are so hard to acquire, many people turn to grant writers to help them get the funding they need.
Finding the Means to Help Your Startup Succeed
Gone are the days of an entrepreneur desperately trying to barter for a nominal sum to help fuel their startup. These days, the very face of capital itself has changed, and conventional resources are also quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Funding for a startup can take on a multitude of forms, ranging from the conventional (such as secured lines of credit) to the unexpected (like using cryptocurrency, for instance). No matter the type of capital, however, all are fundamental resources for the motivated entrepreneur.
From trying to seek out the elusive angel investor to turning to the government for a small business loan, there is no limit as to how a startup can acquire the financing it needs to be a success. Whether they were started out of someone’s garage in Silicon Valley, or they were drawn up on the desks of a Fortune 500 company in New York City, there’s no limit to the abilities of these new companies.
Today, virtually anyone can be the next big rideshare or social media app — just as long as they have the funding they require, of course, and they also know how to get it.
5 Ways To Grow Your Business With Technology
“I’d like my business to remain stagnant.” No entrepreneur, owner, or CEO ever uttered those words. You can be sure none ever will, either. That’s because corporate growth is always an overarching goal for any organization. Growing your business comes with its challenges, of course, like figuring out which steps will make it easiest for you to scale and expand.
One thing’s clear: You need to develop a clear-cut growth strategy. And technology needs to play a huge part in that strategy. After all, we’re living in a primarily technological world. If you’re not making the most of the tech at your fingertips, you regularly miss opportunities to strengthen your brand’s position.
Where can you start? Below are a handful of ways that you can leverage technology to grow your business’s footprint. Try these recommendations, whether you’re a micro startup or a mid-size corporation headed toward a Fortune 500 future.
1. Automate repetitive manual processes.
Is it worth automating all the mindless to-dos in your business in order to grow? Yes, especially if you do the numbers.
McKinsey research studied the ordinary tasks of several occupations. They concluded that around 33% of the tasks of six out of 10 jobs could be automated. For example, let’s say your company is modestly sized at 50 workers. If your staffers work a traditional 40-hour week, 30 of them are frittering away 13 hours. In other words, you’re losing nearly 400 hours weekly to pay employees to handle repetitive duties.
To be sure, not all tasks can be automated. However, you owe it to yourself to find ones that can. For example, is your finance department team processing payroll or inputting invoices by hand? Then, invest in software to remove the tedium—and reduce the chance of human error.
Check out your sales and services processes next. Do your salespeople or support agents have to cut and paste information? Are they forced to switch between two or more programs that don’t communicate? Look for ways to integrate those systems to free up everyone’s valuable time so they can concentrate on growth-based responsibilities.
2. Strive to make customer first impressions stickier with tech tools
Tons of articles highlight the importance of growing your business by retaining customers. It’s true that retention tends to be less expensive than acquisition. Nevertheless, you can’t hold onto your customers until you get them in the door. So put a premium on delivering impeccable first impressions that urge people to stick around.
The right type of technology can assist you in wowing your best leads via an unforgettable customer experience. Take first-time logins, for instance. Okta reports that asking a visitor to set up an account turns off 37% of prospects. So what can you do to overcome this friction point? First, you can rely on social logins to streamline the process. From the customer’s viewpoint, being able to login via already-existing Facebook, Google, or credentials is effortless. From your company’s viewpoint, you can begin marketing to yet another buyer or potential buyer.
A strong CRM can be equally beneficial to moving leads into and down your sales funnel. Once you’ve captured prospects’ data through a social sign-in, personalize future communications like emails, texts, and DMs. Only two years ago, McKinsey found that 80% of retail buyers valued the personal touch. So whether you’re in retail or not, strive for individualization to keep new buyers coming back.
3. Bring a virtual assistant to your team.
You may not have the funds to hire live customer service representatives 24/7. That’s okay. Chatbots can give your organization the ability to offer visitors self-service, even during non-business hours. And they can do it for a fraction of what you’d pay a live agent.
Not sure you’re ready to put your faith in a chatbot? A New York Times article explains that today’s AI-fueled chatbots are only getting smarter. They’re also gaining widespread acceptance, with chatbot growth poised to hit around 15% in 2022. One Gartner executive even predicts that a genuinely conversational AI chatbot program is just around the corner.
Already, some chatbots are inching toward humanlike responses. A University of Florida experiment found that about a third of people could not tell a chatbot from a real person. Consequently, there’s little harm in exploring the wide world of chatbots for your company. Your chatbot doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated by customers with questions who want fast answers.
4. Investigate tech solutions to tap into your data.
Tremendous amounts of data flow into your company. Yet it would be impossible for you and your team to make sense of it all. Does that mean you have to give up on finding a way to unearth your data’s insights? Not at all. You just need a tech-based data mining solution.
You have plenty of choices regarding software that can analyze data and find trends. First, though, determine where your data exists. Is it in your CRM? Or a legacy piece of software? Once you know where to find your data, you can search for highly-rated data mining systems.
Be aware that some data mining programs have been developed with specific industries in mind. These can include healthcare, finance, e-commerce, or manufacturing. It never hurts to see if something’s already been created for your sector.
5. Invest in a branded mobile app.
Mobile app use continues to rise. By 2025, one Forbes writer notes that the app market will approach $1 trillion. So why, then, doesn’t your brand have an app of its own?
This is the question a lot of business leaders are asking themselves. Offering customers the chance to interact with your company through an app makes sense. Not only does it give them an immediate connection to your organization, but it simplifies the purchasing process. At the same time, it helps buyers feel that they’re getting special treatment as you deploy push notifications and exclusive offers.
How can you make the most of your app once it’s been developed? First, make sure your customers know it exists. Lots of brands have apps that get very few downloads. The issue isn’t necessarily the app itself. It’s that they don’t know the app is available. Therefore, be diligent and consistent about talking up your app to drive higher usage and conversions.
You’re not alone if you feel that growing your business isn’t happening as fast as you like. Most leaders wish that they could get to the next plateau faster. One method to add a little speed to the process is to lean into the technologies you’re not using yet. Then, with the right combination of tech tools, you should begin to see a positive difference in your numbers.
Image Credit: Artem Podrez; Pexels; Thank you!
The Developer’s Guide to Mobile Authentication
Mobile app developers must ensure that the mobile app is effortless while keeping internal information protected and secure. Complex or repeated authentications can be frustrating for your mobile app users.
This article discusses various means of simple and secure mobile authentication, ensuring frictionless UI and UX of mobile authentication screens and data security.
What is Mobile Authentication?
Mobile authentication is a security method to verify a user’s identity through mobile devices and mobile apps. It caters to one or more authentication methods to provide secure access to any particular app, resource, or service.
Let’s look at the various mobile authentication methods developers can utilize depending on their business use case.
Mobile Authentication Methods
Email-Password and Username-Password are common types of password-based authentication. While utilizing these methods, developers should consider setting secure and robust password policies in their authentication mechanism, such as:
- Mandatory use of symbols and numbers
- Restricting the use of common passwords
- Blocking the use of profile information in passwords
These measures ensure better quality passwords and prevent user accounts from brute force and dictionary password attacks.
Limitation: Passwords are hard to remember, and typing in passwords on a small mobile screen degrades the user experience. Hence, developers must use authentication that does not compromise the security postures yet provide an appropriate user experience.
Patterns and Digit-based Authentication
The user must set a pattern or a digit-based PIN (typically 4 or 6 digits). Developers can utilize this as an authentication factor for their mobile application, as this authentication method is faster and more comfortable than entering passwords on a mobile screen.
Limitation: Both patterns and 4 or 6 digits PINs are limited. Also, users tend to use simple patterns and PINs like L or S patterns and 1234, 987654, date of birth as their password.
Users use an OTP received via SMS or email to authenticate themself. Thus, users do not have to remember a password, pattern, or PIN to access their account. At the same time, developers don’t have to implement password-based security mechanisms.
Biometric authentication uses unique biological traits of users for mobile authentication. Some common examples of biometric authentication are fingerprint scanning, face unlocks, retina scans, and vocal cadence.
Developers can implement pre-coded libraries and modules to enable authentication through mobile components like the finger scanner, camera (for facial recognition), and microphone (for voice-based identification).
It acts as a single sign-on authentication mechanism. Developers can implement this in mobile apps to use users’ login tokens from other social networking sites to allow access to the app.
Also, with social login, developers don’t need to worry about storing passwords securely and managing the password recovery option. It helps the user sign in to the mobile app without creating a separate account from within the app, hence increasing the user experience (UX).
User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) in Mobile Authentication
Login and registration screens are a gateway to your mobile applications; if they are a hassle, the user might not bother using the application. Thus, developers should pay a lot of attention to these screens regarding user experience and usage.
Here are some quick tips for mobile authentication screens:
- Simple Registration Process: Lengthy registration forms are a big no-no. Brainstorm essential information for creating an account via mobile application and only include those fields.
- External or Social Login: Allow users to log in via external or social accounts. This way, users don’t have to remember another password or credentials for your app.
- Facilitate Resetting: Include forget password on the login screen for good visibility and reach if the app provides password-based login. Also, setting the new password should be seamless and fast.
- Keep Users Logged In: Not logging out users on app close is helpful in a good experience. However, this depends on the type of app you offer. Developers should include MFA for better security if the app stores sensitive information or skip the stay logged-in feature altogether.
- Meaningful Error Messages: Errors and how they are handled directly impact user experience. Thus, developers should keep error messages meaningful and clearly state what went wrong and how to fix it.
Tip: Customize the mobile app keyboard for the type of input field. For example – display a numeric keyboard when asking for a PIN and include @ button when asking for an email address.
Considering the above points would result in a great and secure user experience for your mobile app users. However, if you feel executing these guidelines would take ample time, be informed that CIAM solutions are available in the market to handle all these requirements for you.
10 Practical Ways to Maximize Your After-Work Time
After work, you probably want a relaxing, stress-free night. And that makes sense. Planning activities like reading or meditating can help relieve stress when things get tough at work.
In addition, you can use this time to expand your knowledge or develop your skills. Additionally, you can engage in new experiences or pursue a passion.
The benefits of participating in these activities can range from increasing your productivity to improving your health and general well-being.
With that said, here are 10 practical ways to maximize your after-work time.
1. Tie up loose ends.
My mom had a tradition that she followed every evening when I was a child. As soon as we got home from school, we had to clean up the house. It wasn’t a long bit of cleaning — usually, she set a timer for 20-minutes. Obviously, we whined about this and the time trying to get out of it was likely longer than the actual time spent. But this effort and habit kept the house tidy and saved us from major cleanings if the cleaning had waited until the weekend.
After I finish working for the day, I will set a timer for 20-30 minutes and tidy up. Or, I can handle items on my to-do list I couldn’t do during the day. Even though that’s not a lot of time, you’d be surprised at what you can actually accomplish.
You can clean dishes, fold laundry, make a grocery list, clean your calendar, or send an important email. In addition, a timer can be a great way to tie up the day’s loose ends and help your transition from work.
2. Get a weeknight hobby.
Commit to an out-of-the-home activity after work. Some ideas could be an exercise class, volunteering, or a night out with friends. Then, rather than spending your time at home, you’ll have more time to do what you care about.
“By scheduling your time after work, you are more likely to stick to your most important ‘to-do’ items. Many people find that they are most productive when they have more to do,” says Dr. Lisa N. Folden, licensed physical therapist and naturopathic lifestyle coach, owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants. “By having a scheduled event after work—especially one that can double as exercise—you have more accountability to avoid sitting around aimlessly scrolling through your phone or watching TV.”
3. Sweat it out.
Yes, I am aware. You’re well aware of the importance of physical activity. However, this still can’t be stressed enough. There is no doubt that a regular exercise program boosts your creativity, confidence, and resilience — whether in the workplace or the home.
In short, moving your body is one of the best things you can do to boost your productivity. After all, exercising relieves stress and relieves mental strain. The result? You’ll sleep better and be more energetic.
So, block out time at the end of the day — to go for a run, ride a bike, or join an exercise class. Other ideas would be playing with your pet or kids, dancing, or getting caught up on a chore.
4. Enjoy the company of those you love.
Spend quality time with those who are important to you, such as family, friends, and colleagues. Not only does it make life worthwhile, but it’s good for you too. It releases endorphins and lowers stress when you talk to your spouse, kids, siblings, parents, or friends. Even a simple phone call with a loved one can benefit your well-being.
What’s more, with friends and family, there are lots of fun things to do, such as;
- Go to a restaurant or host dinner at home.
- Visit a museum or art gallery.
- Go for a walk after dinner.
- Host a game night.
- Attend a concert or sporting event.
- Go to the movies.
- Participate in a group activity, like bowling.
- Attend classes together.
5. Address your needs.
“This may seem totally out of place in an article about getting a lot done after work, but hear me out,” writes Rachell Buell over The Muse. “While it’s very important to make the most of your time, the only way you will have enough energy to do so is by first attending to your basic needs.” Also, get plenty of sleep, eat, and relax. “By addressing these needs, you allow yourself the quintessential element to productivity: sustainability.”
“A few weeks ago, I had a serious moment of panic,” Buell shares. “Feeling completely overwhelmed by everything on my plate, I lost my cool.” Regaining my composure, I came up with a brilliant idea: a sanity list,” she added.
“The list included things like doing daily yoga and drinking 64 ounces of water every day of water and cuddling with my husband. Whenever I cross everything off my list, I feel like a million bucks, and I’m fired up for more.”
“After a long day of work, most of us need time to switch gears and give ourselves a mental break before we try to accomplish anything else,” Buell says. “Whether that’s plopping in front of the TV to catch up on the day’s news or going for a jog to take the edge off, take a moment and consider what you need to feel recharged during the week, and keep it on your sanity list.”
6. Write out your priorities.
Is there ever a time when you feel like something is a high priority when it’s not? When prioritizing productivity, it can be easy to focus on getting more done rather than considering what is really important.
At the beginning of each week, I find it helpful to prioritize everything on my to-do list. Then, during the week, I navigate my time more efficiently by determining how essential a given item is. Personally, I use the Eisenhower Matrix to assist me with this.
By figuring out where each item fits in, you can focus on where to begin. For example, when doing home projects, start with the most essential stuff — then move to the middle and lower priority stuff. With work projects, you can start the next day knowing what needs to happen in what order.
Best of all? Creating a list of priorities can help you feel accomplished even if you don’t start the project yet.
7. Get outside.
Are you familiar with “nature deficit disorder”? Initially, Richard Louv used the phrase in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv says our indoor lifestyles are causing a lot of health and behavioral issues.
Even if you think that’s a stretch, studies have found that we spend 92% of time indoors. And that can negatively influence our physical and mental health. Why? Because it’s a simple way to reduce stress, increase happiness, and live healthier.
Moreover, connecting with nature and the outdoors can replenish your energy.
With that in mind, Rachel Hopman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Northeastern University, suggests that you live by the 20-5-3 rule;
- 20-minutes. Twenty minutes is how much time you should spend outside, like at a neighborhood park, three times a week.
- 5-hours. Five hours is the minimum amount of time you should spend each month in semi-wild nature, like a forest, city, or state park.
- 3-days. You should go camping or rent a cabin three times a year to escape it all.
8. Power down.
In today’s culture, many of us are overly attached to social media and our smartphones. In fact, DataReportal estimates the average American looks at a screen for 7 hours and 4 minutes a day. So why’s that a problem? Research has found too much screen time cal lead to digital eye strain, impaired sleep, and diminished mental health.
Furthermore, too much screen time can result in information overload. And it’s also distracting when we’re trying to get things done.
Therefore, setting boundaries around your phone and social media use is vital. For example, set a timer to limit how long you play games, watch videos, or scroll on social media. If that doesn’t work, keep your phone in a different room or make sure you shut down all social media at a specific time each night.
Initially, this will be awkward. But you may be surprised how much more alive you feel when you’re away from screens. Eventually, you’ll feel re-energized rather than worn out after work.
9. Invest in yourself.
Did you know that the former CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, studied improv comedy? Why? Learning improv comedy improved his leadership skills.
Investing in yourself is vital to success, whether that means getting some coaching, participating in psychotherapy, taking a workshop, working on more hours for graduate school, or completing a certification program. You could also learn how to play a musical instrument, join a book club, watch a documentary, or take a language course.
Overall, you’ll succeed in your professional career whether you invest in your mind, body, or spirit.
10. Follow an evening routine.
“It’s clear that you need a specific morning routine to optimize each day and be more efficient,” writes Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar post. However, “a successful morning routine actually starts the night before,” she adds. “Simply put, you need an effective evening routine to maximize efficiency and productivity the following day.”
So, what should your evening routine consist of? Well, that’s up to you. But, here are some suggestions worth exploring;
- Plan out your day. Look at your calendar to find out what’s on your agenda for tomorrow. Doing so gets you mentally prepared and makes any adjustments.
- Pick out your clothes. The task may sound insignificant. But it will save you a lot of time and energy that you could use elsewhere.
- Eliminate negativity and reflect. You can reflect on your day in the evening and choose gratitude over negativity.
- Read. Turn off the television and read a book while you wind down for the evening.
- Prepare meals. Mornings are already hectic. Save your sanity and energy by preparing your meals the night before.
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Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska; Pexels; Thank you!