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As a barometer of likely startup success, ‘product-market fit’ is perhaps the most important factor.

The demise of a young business is often attributed to failure to find this; equally, a scaling company will cite it as the reason for success.

There is only one surefire way of nailing it, says Baltic Ventures CEO Claire Lewis.

“Successful growth is predicated on strong product-market fit: effective entrepreneurs understand their customers, their pain points and the dynamics of their target market better than anyone else,” she tells TechBlast. 

“If you are not close enough to these, get close. Investing time and effort on this in the early stages of planning growth always pays dividends.”

Baltic opened applications for its second Accelerator cohort last week, while Lewis is on the breakfast panel for FUEL Liverpool – supported by Growth Platform and Clockwise – on Tuesday 14th May.

Following that panel, experts and experienced entrepreneurs will pass on direct advice to a select group of 20-25 founders across masterclass pods focused on funding, growth planning, export and people.

Mark Sykes, head of entrepreneurial business at BDO, is among the experts on the growth planning pod.

“Think of the business and the product separately,” he advises. “Startups are always passionate about their product and customers, but as you start to scale, focus also needs to move to the business itself.

“They are not the same thing and most businesses plateau because they remain obsessed with the product but fail to change the business model.”

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Kellie Noon – co-founder at Interkultura, which empowers businesses and educational partners to achieve greater success through international growth development programmes and consultancy – echoes these sentiments.

“Ensure your product resonates with the target market and that you haven’t just checked for a gap in the market and thought it’ll be a slam dunk because there’s no competition,” she says.

Kathryn Bell, CEO at The Webinar Vet – which makes education accessible and affordable to veterinary professionals worldwide – is an expert on the growth masterclass pod.

“Automate the life out of everything you can!” is her tip for growth. “You must embrace automation, streamline repetitive tasks and optimise workflows to free up valuable time, while being careful not to compromise on quality.

“At The Webinar Vet, we are constantly thinking: ‘Can we automate this?’.”

Antony Shimmin is a co-founder at Mycardium AI, which transforms how medical imaging is delivered in healthcare through the use of ‘super-human’ AI.

“Don’t speak to too many people: gain a very small number of trusted advisors, recognise the areas you don’t know and focus on advice there rather than second-guessing yourself on things you are clear about,” he says. 

“Be clear about your definition of growth and what success looks like: number of people hired isn’t entirely a good metric.”

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Simon Roberts, CEO at EnviroTech firm Heatio, adds: “Be realistic! Growing a business is a marathon, not a sprint.

“Come up with a bite-size plan, commit to it and execute it well. Then reflect on your learning and apply it to the next phase of your plan. 

“Be agile, adapt to things you discover, and always learn and ask questions. You are walking a well-trodden path. Don’t do it with your head down.”

Ben Davies, group marketing director at Praetura Ventures, says “your first 10 hires are essential decisions”. 

He explains: “They will define your company. Certain types of people are attracted to growth businesses and startups – look out for that trait. They tend to enjoy the chaos it brings but will always get stuck in and want to solve problems on the fly. 

“Finding the right mix with the right values is essential.”