Tuesday, March 19, 2013

From Idea to Startup

You’ve identified a problem that you feel is your calling and you’re at that juncture where you need to take the plunge.

But what do you do after that? How do you get started?

Like you, there are many aspiring entrepreneurs who have had to face this question. Like you, I have also had to figure out the answers.

I have put together these steps for you to follow to help you see your idea through to launch, so that you don’t have to ‘figure out’ for yourself like I had to.

Step #1 – Punch Yourself In The Face

This is probably the best advice that I can give you. Punch yourself in the face today. Get yourself out of the inertia. The single biggest reason why most entrepreneurs fail to start up is because of procrastination.

If you want to start up, just shut up and do it.

Most aspiring entrepreneurs just don’t manage to start their ventures because they spend endless hours mulling over the ‘idea’ or on whether the time is right!

Don’t make that mistake. Your idea is only worth as much as the piece of paper you’ve probably jotted it down on. The day you begin to execute it is the day that it turns into a potential million dollar venture.

Do yourself the favor of punching your face to wake up to endless wonderful opportunities that will come your way when you set out on the road to entrepreneurship.

Step #2 – Build A Minimum Viable Product

Thank Eric Ries for popularizing this strategy used for fast and quantitative market testing of a product or a product feature.

You want to build a product or a service that interests your customers so much that you are able to build a great business out of it. But, most often, you only get to know the market response once you’ve built the product and put it out in the market.

This implies that a product is complete the day it is shipped, which is the biggest fallacy. Successful products have evolved over a period of time through constant customer feedback.

So don’t spend all your money and time building that one perfect (in your opinion) product. Instead, build a minimum viable product or MVP.

The idea is to put out something that offers the core value or your product or that solves the core problem of your customers. The MVP could be a PowerPoint slide, a dialogue box, or just a landing page. This is something that you can often build it in a day or a week.

Build fast, release early, release often with the feedback you receive.

Did you know that “The first version of Gmail was literally built in a day?” Not my words, but that of the creator and lead developer of Gmail, Paul Buchheit.

Step #3 – Funding Your Idea

Once you’ve received feedback from your customers, you have to get into full-fledged development and start shipping. You will need the initial money to get you started.

But before you explore the options, assess why you need the money. Is there something that you can outsource?

If there is something that is not absolutely essential for starting up, don’t spend on it in the beginning.

There are options to raise funds for your startup: bootstrap, startup contests, friends and family, crowd funding, banks, Angel or Seed fund, and credit cards.

Don’t focus and stress too much about raising long-term capital. The most important factor in successfully starting up is to make your product available to your customers. This should be your goal, so simply secure enough funding to ship.

Step #4 – Hire An A-Team

Businesses don’t build great products, people do. To start building your product, you will need a team that can help transform your vision into reality. There are two ways to build a team – in-house or outsourced.

When building a team in-house, look for people with passion, look for people who are startup ready, and people who can multi-task and take on much more than just what they are ‘experts’  at.

If you think an in-house team is not for you to start with, outsource the development. Especially, if yours is a technology startup. Many jump up in their seats with the notion of outsourcing and advise (ill-advise) you not to. Nothing wrong, but nothing right either.

Some of the most famous products today were outsourced in their initial days – Alibaba, Fab.com, Digg, Skype. And these are only a drop in the ocean of such examples.

Your focus as a startup is to get your core product to your customers and if outsourcing to the right partners helps you to build your Beta, then so be it. Once you gain traction from the market, you will be able to afford to build an in-house team.

You can then hire the developer that worked on your product (like Digg did) or buyout the company that developed for you (like Fab.com did).

Step #5 – Get Ready To Hit The Market