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When you’re considering new business ideas, building a digital platform sounds exciting and appealing. There are fewer overhead costs and virtually no limits on growth and expansion. Theoretically, your business can experience fast and consistent growth as long as you keep pushing sales and attracting customers.
In these instances, it can be easy to focus on growth and assume that a sustainable business model will simply come together as you go. The truth is that this mindset will lead you down the path of failure, and your brand likely won’t make it past its first year.
Did you know that 90% of startups fail because of self-destruction? Not competition. Not a lack of interest. Not even funding issues. They fail because they don’t start with the correct end goal: sustainability.
(To be clear, sustainability in this context refers to the longevity of your brand, not your eco-friendliness or environmental impact.)
It’s a common mistake to conflate growth with longevity. In fact, it’s so common that about 74% of Internet startups fail for this reason. Do you remember Yik Yak? JAAK? RewardMe? GroupSpaces? Probably not, and sadly, nobody else does either. All of these promising startups fell prey to the allure of growing too fast, and they crashed and burned pretty quickly as a result.
This is why it is always better to prioritize sustainable development. Keeping an eye toward long-term success will allow scaling to happen organically as the need arises. In the world of startups, you have to think about development as a marathon, not a sprint. This is the key that helps early movers develop competencies that will ultimately position their brands ahead of the competition.
5 fundamentals for developing a sustainability-first mindset
1. Never skimp on compliance
If you take on a sprinting mindset, you’ll be much more tempted to only do the bare minimum to meet industry regulations. It’s easy to say that you’ll shore up your compliance standards later when you’ve grown, but this is the wrong approach.
Beginning with a strong foundation is the only way to succeed. You can’t build a great platform on a slapdash foundation because you were in a hurry to grow. It’s essential to take the time to study the regulations and standards for your industry. Find the highest, most stringent standards, and focus on building your brand around adherence to those regulations. Go above and beyond when possible.
Not only does this attention to detail show investors and potential customers that you’re a serious, reputable force in the industry, but it gives first-mover advantages around innovation as well.
Related: What Business and Government Should Do When Innovation Outpaces Regulation
2. Take advantage of the limitless opportunities of an online platform
Global online platforms have nearly unlimited potential. There are no geographical constraints, so you can truly tap into the worldwide community. You can pull from a global talent pool, seek funding from foreign investors and take the time to find the perfect audience for your product.
Leverage this potential in every area of your platform. Source high-quality talent. Utilize your resources to find a global audience that truly needs and wants your product. If it’s appropriate, crowd source your funding. Online platform building puts huge advantages at your disposal, but it’s up to you to use them well.
3. Let better user outcomes drive innovation
The focus should always be on optimizing the end-user experience. How can you add value to your platform for the user? How can you offer more benefits than the competition? Let these ideas be the driving force behind innovation.
It can be tempting to drive innovation based on internal business objectives. Remember that this shifts your focus from sustainability to growth, and that’s a slippery slope that leads to failure.
Instead, consistently seek out customer feedback and then act on it. Use the wants and needs of your customers to create a product that addresses these needs and provides an actual solution to their problems. This positions you as an invaluable resource and helps develop sustainability.
4. Introduce up-to-date technologies
There’s no room for technology that’s even slightly inconvenient or outdated in today’s world. Your platform must be seamless, not only for the end-user experience but for assessing overall customer satisfaction. In order to get a clear picture of what your customers need, it’s important to use the latest technologies.
For example, Novakid implements machine learning to assess a child’s emotions during a lesson. This allows the platform to automatically adapt the curriculum to better meet the student’s needs. AI-assisted tracking can benefit any online platform. It will enable your company to track consumer behavior patterns, and that information can be used to further product development.
5. Focus on measuring social and economic impacts
There are many metrics companies can use to determine success. Measuring how your online platform positively impacts social and economic outcomes is an excellent indicator of whether or not you’re headed in the right direction.
Of course, these don’t have to be the only metrics you look at, but they are critical to include in your reporting. Some brands may even choose to create a separate sustainability report that dives deeply into the social and economic impact of your platform. This data will show you not only what you’re doing well but what you can improve upon to increase the quality and longevity of your product.
Related: How to Avoid the Premature Scaling Death Trap
Opportunities to sign lucrative deals and experience explosive growth will always be tempting. You can’t be a successful entrepreneur without ambition and big dreams, after all. However, like I said earlier, you have to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Focusing on steady, sustainable development will help your business secure a strong and stable position in your chosen industry. Always keep your sights on long-term results so that you don’t get distracted by short-term benefits. This leads to accomplishing your goals, and will inevitably lead you down the path to growth as well.