The importance of Traction in Start-up’s

The importance of Traction in Start-up’s


Hello entrepreneurs, I hope my weekly tips have been adding value to your knowledge base on how to start and grow a start-up. To continue with our current series on how to fail proof your start-up today we focusing on the important subject of building traction. Without traction your start-up will never grow and graduate into a successful venture. Today we are going to look at what traction really is and why it is so important in the start-up world.

“Traction is essentially momentum and progress as best exemplified by customer adaption and sales. And if you, the entrepreneur, can demonstrate that you have gained some traction you are reducing the risk for investors, as factual evidence will always trump assumptions, projections and wild conjecture,” Alan Gleeson. Gleeson is London based marketing consultant with a passion for helping tech companies generate more sales.

In simple terms traction is quantitative evidence of market demand for your product or services as it also reflects on your momentum and potential growth.

Traction is usually evidenced by the following in no particular order:

1. Profitability, your start startup must be able to show the profit margins in your business models, it is a good barometer of how well a company is performing financially.

2. Revenues, turnover is equally important to you as the founder and also to potential investors.

3. Active users, for example your services are through a mobile application, make sure you know track the accurate numbers. This will help you analyse whether clients are interested in your services. Growing numbers also excite potential investors. Registered users, makes you aware of whom you have reached, how you can improve your marketing through raising awareness of your product.

4. Engagement by your target stakeholder groups. If you are building a development platform, look at the number and quality of developers using it. If you are building a consumer play, how many consumers are engaging with your product?

5. Partnerships/clients; how good are your partnerships and what impact do they have on your start-up.

It sounds simple enough but it is not. Getting customers to buy from you requires careful planning and product development. We will look at this in more detail in coming weeks.

The importance of Traction
Traction is not only about raising capital. Yes, contrary to popular belief investment momentum does not give you real business traction. Convincing investors to give you money does not get you any closer to determining whether or not you have a business on your hands. The only thing it proves is that you have the ability to convince investors to give you money. Some actually have very good convincing skills and can convince you to buy a shoe size 8 when you actually are a size 6. You will find that money might not yield anything because the founder has good convincing skill not business skills.

Traction is also not about being excellent on media.
Media coverage is obviously good for business and can cause spikes in traffic and can serve as a nice marketing piece to send to a potential customer when pitching your business. But media coverage is not traction and your business can not rely on it for growth.

Traction works hand in hand with growth of the Start-up
Traction is not everything without growth. In fact, especially to an investor, your history of growth is equally important and can even make or break a prospective investment deal. start-ups with flat or very little growth over time. Unfortunately for those founders hoping to raise more capital, sustainable growth is the secret weapon, and essential if they are to attract investors. Flat growth can make capital-raising both time consuming and extremely frustrating or worse still unsuccessful.

Investors start to question why your business is taking so long to grow and, ultimately, whether your business has really found the right product/market fit. That’s what I mean when I say that growth history could be your business’ biggest enemy when you are trying to raise capital. Of course, some lean months aren’t necessarily the death knell for your business. Professional investors understand that you can’t expect to power ahead every quarter, and that there will be some lulls – they just don’t want those lulls to continue indefinitely.

So how much flat growth is ok before it becomes a serious problem? In general, a period of flat growth that exceeds six months will begin to worry investors.

Now that you know what traction is how do you build it in your startup?

You must work very hard, ever heard of the word “Hustle”, you must get your hands dirty and go down into the trenches to find and get customers to eat of our hand. This is not easy but it must be done if you want to build a successful venture that succeeds for years to come.

Look around you and see how local brands have hustled for customers and amassed users in no time. It is not really about the hours you put into it but the effort and consistent prodding that matters. I like to use a system, one that tracks the daily effort of which customers I reached and what stage they in my conversion process.

There are various tools that can be used to track your effort and to make it easy for you to keep track of your activities in building traction.

If you want to learn more about how you can build traction join Tech Hub Harare’s entrepreneurship club at We host monthly meetings and workshops on how to start and build your start-up. I am looking forward to hearing from you. You can contact us on 0713016754 or email [email protected]  

Originally published in the business times