Digital entrepreneurship for start-ups
Some definitions refer to digital entrepreneurs as only to those focused exclusively on digital commerce, with digital products, delivered exclusively through digital means. However, in other views, this concept encompasses a much larger group of entrepreneurs, who act in various business fields and their activity is not limited to digital products only. They might be active in any field of activity – however, they make use of digital means and tools to increase their competitiveness, operate their business, promote and sell their products. In this training course we will use this wider approach in defining digital entrepreneurs and digital entrepreneurship.
Initial investments and operating costs needed to get a business moving is usually one of the most discouraging aspects for many aspiring entrepreneurs.
There are various ways digitalization and digital tools can help start-ups and aspiring entrepreneurs to reduce their initial investments and optimize the limited resources they have in the very beginning.
So how can a young entrepreneur make the most of those tools? You can use them to:
- Educate yourself for free or at reasonable costs
- Create your business plan and concept
- Use free or reasonably priced tools to manage your business
- Communicating and collaborating internally
- Project Management
- Document management
- Communicating with clients
- Accounting and finances
- Identifying workforce, including freelancers
- Creating your own website and promotional materials
- Social networking and e-commerce – see Part II modules 3 and 4
There are various online, cloud-based platforms you can use to create your first investor-ready business plan. They might not be completely free, but most of them offer trial versions, and affordable, starter versions which might be just what you need and cost far less than a business plan written by a specialized consultant. You can try several of them before settling for the one you consider the most appropriate for your business.
Look for one that is intuitive, easy to use and visually-rich. Another important feature that con be of use for start-ups is automatic financials – you just enter your data and there’s no need to enter formulas, everything is automatically calculated, and tables/charts/statements generated.
Many of them offer hundreds of sample business plans, pre-made sections, and comparative analysis with your competition.
Here are a few examples of such platforms:
LivePlan is one of the most popular and offers all the features mentioned above plus some more – such as collaboration tools – you can share your work with team members or guests, a one-page business plan model to explain your business plan in 60 seconds. Sometimes discounts are offered for startups.
Enloop – also creates 3 years financial forecasts.
123bizplan – allows you to download and customize pre-made business-plan templates. Although not as interactive and visually-rich, they are premium templates which can impress more conservative investors.
Most of the above-mentioned software allow you to export the business plan, or the most important part of it as a business presentation – either in slides format or as a one-page summary with graphics.
However, depending on your target audience and the profile of your business, you might want to go for something different.
For a more conservative audience, you might want the use the well known and reliable Power Point. It is worth investing in a premium template though. If you are using any online business cooperation tools, you can event use PowerPoint Online.
Google Slides is another affordable and easy to use option, and if you need more exposure to decision makers in the online environment, you can take advantage of LinkedIn SlideShare (which is less a presentation authoring tool but it is allowing you to get lots of visibility). Various third-party materials and tutorials are available, and you will have exposure to a large online professional audience.
If you need more a more dynamic presentation, you can go for tools such as Prezi (allowing you to create non-linear presentations with impressing zoom in).
If your business profile and target audience is allowing it – you can even use and animated video instead of a classic presentation. PowToon is one of the most popular and easy to use, and it is allowing you to easily create presentation or explainer animated videos from pre-existing templates of from scratch.
Collaboration is one of the key aspects of successfully running a business in any of its development stages. There are various online-based tools to help you maintain clear communication channels, organize work processes, manage resources and documents.
It is better to have everything in one place, rather than using various tools for various aspects or parts of your business processes. Ideally, the solution you choose for your business should also have built-in security features.
You will need professional emails for your business, a document management/archiving tool, a planning tool, and on-line meetings available.
Google Suite is one of the most popular tools chosen by various small and large companies around the world. You can create professional emails for your team, it integrates collaboration tools for video conferencing, team chat, calendar and documents storage. Also, you will have access to word processing software, presentations builder, website builder, forms and spreadsheets builder.
If remote work is your thing, you can look for a more specific software, such as Monday.com.
You can get started with a free version, by creating a board where you can have everything at a glance. You can manage and track your team’s workload, workflow and everyday activities. Pre-made ready to use blocks are available for more effectiveness.
Zoho, although less affordable than other options, offers various integrations and tools for emailing, communication, organization, documents management, accounting, payroll, sales, HR, analytics and much more.
Odoo.com is another online suite of business apps. It offers various features, from websites builder, to documents management, signatures, forms, project management, billing, invoicing, accounting, inventories, quality management, CRM, HR, social media marketing, sms marketing, email marketing and much more – around 50 apps and integrations available. Although not free, you can only choose the apps you need and pay for those a monthly fee. You can add more apps afterwards, as your business grows and needs change.
Of course, these are only a few examples, there are countless options available – try and choose the one that fits the best your business needs.
Here are a few tips on what to look at when choosing your business collaboration tool/s:
- Features and integrations (does it have all you need, is it compatible with tools you or your partners are already using)
- Pricing policy (is it a one-time payment, monthly subscription, pay-per-user? Is the investment/expense worth/reasonable for your scope and needs?)
- User-friendliness (is it easy to use, no special trainings are needed for your or your less technical-savvy team members?)
- Scope (is it in line with your business field, needs, activities, target groups)?
You may want to discuss with your accountant (if you do have one as a startup owner) before choosing a tool. Some of the above-mentioned business operating tools came with integrated accounting, billing, invoicing, payroll and inventory options. However, make sure those formats are compatible to your national legal regulations, and easy to use for reporting to national authorities.
As an aspiring entrepreneurs or start-up owner, you might not have the resources for hiring a HR specialist or even paying full-time workers for all the sides of your business. This is another task you can do it yourself, even with limited resources, by using online tools and platforms.
LinkedIn is one of the greatest places to look when willing to find experts from various fields.
You might also need someone to help you part-time or work remotely to a specific part of your business, for a limited period of time or for a specific project. Working with freelancers can be great as it helps you save resources and pay for results and not for hours spent in the office.
Fiverr is a good place to start, as well as UpWork, TopTal, SimplyHired, Crowded. Here you can find people with diverse backgrounds, expertise levels and mix of skills. Look for those with a good rating/price/experience ratio. Make sure than, when you post a job, you describe it clearly, together with the requirements in terms of expertise. Don’t be shy to ask for work samples or portfolios with previous work. Pay your freelancers fairly, even slightly over the market price and you can be sure you will get the best services.
Creating your own promotional materials is another way of saving resources in the beginning. Depending on your needs, various online free or affordable tools offering templates (static or animated) and stock photos are available. You can create your own logo, brochures, banners for social media, roll-ups, posters, teaser videos, etc.
Look for software that is easy to use and affordable such as Crello, Venngage, Piktochart, PowToon(for promotional videos). Some of the platforms for business collaboration also have integrated graphic design tools so you can easily collaborate with your co-workers and create nice visuals for your business.
In the beginning, if you’re not a passionate photographer yourself, hiring an expert can be expense. You might also no have a great portfolio or offices to show off yet – you may want to work with stock photos. You can use specific websites such as freepik, pixabay and flaticon (mainly vectors). Take into account that the free subscriptions might have special use conditions – you will have to mention the author/source on each material.
Self-awareness, adjusting you mindset
You will be able to remove negative thoughts.
You will be able to set achievable and measurable goals.
You will learn to identify and control the influence of the triggering factors.
Visualisation. Meditation. Goal setting.
Why this activity is important?
At subconscious level, the information received, thoughts (most of the time automatic), memories and triggering factors generate reactions and involuntary decisions which might not be optimal for your business success. However, by focusing on the clarity of a desired outcome, you will increase your chances of reaching it.
Description of the activity
Take a piece of paper and write down a list of 10 major past experiences.
Draw an arrow from each one and at the end of it write the main motivation. Was it a negative or a positive one? Why do you labeled it as either negative or positive? What emotion/s accompanied each one? Do you see a recurrent negative/positive emotion in the list?
Identify items with negative impact from the list and write them on a separate page. Develop the description of the emotion/emotions you identified. Find the trigger thought that created the emotion.
Change the meaning of each one by turning the negative into the positive (e.g. I can't because in I can because).
Highlight the expected final result – write it down as a measurable objective.
Create a long-term calendar to track your progress.
Self-awareness, creative visualization
You will be able to focus on the desired outcome and the emotions accompanying it.
You will be able to gain more clarity and take steps to improve your results.
Self-reflection, mindfulness and visualization. You will need to allocate at least 30 minutes and find a quiet place where you won't be distracted.
Why this activity is important?
Mental rehearsal is a techniques often used by high achievers in various fields, including athletic training. It will help you program your mind for success and also to get clarity on what you can do to improve the desired outcomes.
Description of the activity
The method itself is simple – however, it will take some will power to keep your focus and not let yourself distracted by automatic/negative thinking patterns and other stimuli.
Sitting in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for at least 30 minutes, choose an upcoming event in the near future that is important for you and you are not sure about the outcome: it could be an exam, a speech, presentation, negotiation.
Try to relax physically and mentally, and start visualizing the situation, with as many details as possible (where, who else is there, what are you wearing, sounds, temperature). See yourself as you are there, in the middle of the situation (don’t visualize yourself from the outside, it doesn’t work). See yourself as calm, confident, and performing as you would ideally want to. See the positive reactions of the other people. Feel the contentment/happiness of the desired outcome being reached.
Slowly get out of the meditative/relaxation state.
Take a piece of paper and write down the following:
- How do you feel right now?
- What was the most difficult part of the visualization (that took the most will power – maybe some negative thoughts interfered, or you couldn’t keep your focus). This part is probably where you will need more clarity so you can be better prepared for the real experience.
- What measures/actions can you put in place to be better prepared for the real experience.
- What were the negative thoughts that interfered with your visualization.
- Visualization helps a lot – but it does not replace real preparation/training. You can’t just go unprepared and expect to perform well at an exam just because you did a visualization exercise. It will help you with gaining more clarity about what you can do to be better prepared, and maximize the results you can get by programming your mind for a state of calm and positiveness.
As a young entrepreneur you may not have the necessary resources to employ experts for everything. There are things you might want to do yourself - you can take advantage of the free or affordable digital tools.
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