Think Like a Startup

If you’re attempting to start your business from scratch, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed. You’re pressuring yourself to create a rock-solid business plan that will earn you a certain percentage of growth over the next few years. You need a flashy logo. Do you have a support team to help keep your business afloat? What about marketing? Do you have enough money to roll out your first major campaign?

Slow down. Actually, you don’t need any of that.

If you’re thinking like a true startup would, then the only thing that really matters is simply creating a product that people want. All you need to worry about is how you do that today — and think about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. Just ask Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the juggernaut social media website Reddit, which now is valued at $500 million. As Ohanian told attendees at Real Estate Connect in New York on Wednesday, Reddit was launched by him and a friend in the kitchen of his apartment.

“Companies today get started with a couple of founders, a laptop, and an idea,” Ohanian said. “So many startups aspire to launch day. They’re not thinking about what they’re going to be doing 10 years from now. … You may see where the world is headed in 10 years, but if you’re not solving problems for people today, you’re not going to get there.”

When the first version of Reddit was launched 10 years ago, “we had no idea what we were doing,” Ohanian added. “But that’s OK. No one has it all figured out.

“None of our success was planned, and none of it was mapped out. We just kept trying to improve every day.”

Developing a business strategy shouldn’t be your top priority when you’re starting out, Ohanian said. Why? Because as an entrepreneur, your job is to rethink the way your industry works and come up with a new way of serving customers. That kind of innovation is often realized as you go, not planned ahead of time.

“Many startup founders get extremely frustrated because this model they’ve gotten used to no longer works,” he said. “The free market does not have a Cliff’s Notes or an obvious ‘yes, this is how this works.'”

The best thing you can do is simply to do your job as best you can, and the single most important aspect of growing your business is to engage your customers, Ohanian noted. When someone comments about your product online, respond to them and show them you appreciate that they’re paying attention.

Graham Wood

Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at

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