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Seven ways to escape a bear or, how to successfully run a startup without running away and screaming


Why is running a startup like dodging a bear?

For one, screaming is not an option. Neither is running away. Side-stepping a grizzly in the dark forest requires a combination of smarts and hard work. So is getting a startup off the ground

The entrepreneurial path is littered with the carcasses of businesses that simply starved to death in the forest or were eaten alive by bears. But it’s a well-worn path and survivor tales abound.

At PromiseLocker, we learned from WikiHow’s seven ways to escape from a bear and have survived to record online the promises of people. Here are our golden rules for survival:

#1. Avoid close encounters.

If you see competitors in your path, find another way. There is less chance of being eaten if the predator doesn’t see you around. It’s easier to grow a business if you do not have entrenched competitors in your market. At PromiseLocker, we chose a niche that does not have many competitors.

#2. Keep your distance.

Study your competitors’ habits and weaknesses from a distance before you show yourself. Create a safe market niche where you can thrive and still have access to a broader market. Watch the trends in the market as a whole and see how you can predict what they will mean for your niche. React swiftly to change.

#3. Stand up and fight.

If you want to attack an established market head-on, make sure you are perceived as the baddest bear in the forest. Stand tall and make a big noise. This will only work for a while. So make sure you deliver on the perception quickly.

#4. Know your bear.

Know your competitors and customers, really, really well. If you understand how Brown Bears behave, it doesn’t mean you can predict how Polar Bears behave. Find out what you really know well and exploit that knowledge better than anyone else.

#5. Understand the bear’s motivations.

Why? That’s the question that journalists will ask. Why should journalists listen to you and talk about your business? Think about how you can create a unique angle for your startup and make it newsworthy.

At PromiseLocker we targeted an election campaign and challenged the politicians to record their promises. This was picked up by talk-back radio and the opposition leader was challenged on-air to record his promises on PromiseLocker. We were able to insert ourselves into the hottest story of the week and have a popular radio presenter talking about our product. His motivation was to have something challenging to discuss with the politicians and we met that need.

#6. Respond suitably.

If approached by a grizzly bear, play dead. If approached by a black bear, fight back. First of all, know what you are up against, then consider the appropriate action.

Since your business is new, you will come across a lot of challenges. Take the time to assess the situation and carefully consider any decisions. Choices made early in the life of a startup can dictate its course over many years. So make the right choices, not just the convenient ones. But don’t take too long, hungry bears are rarely patient.

#7. Don’t stand still.

If all else fails, try something different. What have you got to lose? You will crash and burn if the money runs out. So be creative about your options. Think about partnerships, mergers, a new business model or offering your product for free. If you just stand still for too long, one thing is certain – you will get eaten!

Chris Noone is the CEO and Co-Founder of PromiseLocker, which helps people record their promises and share them online. Write to him here.