What it takes to be a "nimble" startup?


Having worked in a startup since the mid 1990s, the most evident advancement in starting a co. or launching your idea is that the cost barrier to entry has been drastically lowered. Infrastructure and marketing costs alone allow entrepreneurs with simple or complex ideas to get started quickly. However, navigating the initial startup to launch and thereafter trying to grow your business in a fiscally responsible manner and achieve goals can be tough. Do you think there are certain attributes, components or what ingredients can make you a "nimble" start up. I define nimble as a startup that can be productive and effective with the limited resources they have and hit targets? Web2.0 brought some nimble startups to the game after the web1.0 model of getting a bunch of funding and going bust was no longer en vogue.

Is there a guide to being a nimble start up?

Costs Productivity

asked Feb 27 '10 at 09:20
71 points

5 Answers


I used to work for such a startup. It took:

  • Two experienced sales people who knew the market inside out. They also self-funded the company, and had previous experience with building a company from scratch.
  • 6 experienced engineers from that industry: 3 sw, 2 fpga logic designers, 1 hardware.
  • part-time accountant
  • manufacturing technician who joined after the 1'st prototype was developed. The office was of a size of a large studio. It took us a year to develop a fully functional product, better than the competitor's in many characteristics. They started selling it right away. I guess the most important attribute was that everybody knew exactly what to do, so that time and money was spent efficiently.
answered Feb 27 '10 at 12:14
Output Logic
341 points


You need to be able to zig and zag. When something gets in your way or your great idea just hit a major road block, you have to be able to get past it.

This sounds easy but a lot of people fall in love with their idea/direction and are reluctant to change. This does not mean you chance everyday but you need to know when road blocks occur, that you can change course to get around them.

answered Feb 28 '10 at 00:24
Jarie Bolander
11,421 points


I agree with Jarie. My experience is that you need to have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. Stay dialed into all the data you can to understand what's happening with your business. And have smart, experienced people who are able to recognize when adjustments need to be made. Don't fall in love with anything except success.

answered Feb 28 '10 at 04:18
4,214 points


I think to be a nimble startup starts with having an idea that is flexible enough to be adjusted as conditions change.

So, if you are designing an electric car, and you are going to use a battery from company A, and you have everything so tight that only that battery will work, what happens if there is a better batter that is cylindrical, rather than having flat sides? Can your engineers quickly change the design? Or, have you designed with enough space that you can move components for a change? Basically, how flexible is your design and design process?

You need to know where your inflexible points are. For example, if you decide to write software for .NET, then if MS suddenly changed their prices, you are stuck, as changing to a different platform may be too costly.

By knowing where you can be flexible and where you cannot, you can then focus on tracking changes where you are flexible, but, that also depends on where you are in the design process.

If you have started going through testing on your car, as you have a prototype, then changing the battery may be a bad idea, that may be for version 2.

That is the other thing about being nimble, accepting that you need to ship at some point, and just start to plan on a version two, but, try to keep the interface or controls similar enough so that users don't have to relearn how to use your product. For example, if you used drive by wire in your car, and used a joystick, that may be a good design, but we want cars with steering wheels, as that is what we have experience with, using a joystick will lead to slower acceptance. So, even if you decide to use drive by wire, and later change to fiber optics (drive by light) then as long as you are still using a steering wheel the user won't notice a difference in how to use it, but they may notice the car being more nimble.

answered Feb 28 '10 at 06:08
James Black
2,642 points


I think the "lean startup" approach fits the concept you're describing. Lean startup is a term of art, similar to "agile starup" (if you're familiar with that term).

Ash Maurya is employing a rigorous lean startup framework to the company he's currently starting up, which he's documenting in his blog. All the articles on his blog are an excellent read -- I've learned a ton. You can check it out at http://www.ashmaurya.com/ (Note: I have no affiliation with Ash.)

answered Mar 2 '10 at 06:49
61 points

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Costs Productivity