“Hey, I’ve got this killer idea…promise not to tell anyone? Wouldn’t it be cool if there was an app that did this? Or a website that did that?”
Sound familiar? Whether it was your big idea or a friend letting you in on how they were going to make their millions, we’ve all been there. So, what happens next?
The unfortunate truth that we all know too well is…more often than not, nothing happens.
Ideas are easy. Actually doing it is hard. Very hard. And most people simply don’t know where to start so, the idea remains just that…an idea.
For those familiar with The Lean Startup, most things shared here will not be earth-shattering. If you haven’t read it, definitely pick one up and pay attention. If there were a proven formula for startups, we’d all be millionaires, but of course, there isn’t. However, there are some great ways to start small while still thinking big. Like investing your time before investing your savings. Or throwing out the bath water, but hanging on to the baby.
First off, no matter how excited you are, don’t make the mistake of assuming your idea is golden without first doing some digging (i.e. customer discovery). Oftentimes, to your utter surprise, no one wants this awesome product you’re selling or no one really has (or knows they have) this problem you’re trying to solve. Or more likely, it “sounds cool” but no one is willing to pay for it, meaning you don’t have a business.
Assume nothing until your idea is validated. What does that mean? Invest as little as possible until you have substantial feedback from your target audience. How do you do that? This might literally mean hitting the streets, walking around talking to people, approaching strangers in town or at events filled with people you think will really need or want what you’re going to create. Don’t just talk to your friends and family. They like you (hopefully) and are going to just tell you what you want to hear.
Heard of an MVP (minimum viable product)? Cool, but we’re not even there yet. Start prototyping with sites like POP or Marvel. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Get something out there, see how people react, see if you think they’d buy. Many people make the mistake of wanting to hold off until they can put something “perfect” out there, put their best foot forward, or make the best first impression. This is a really big mistake. More likely, you’ll spend tons of time developing your idea or product only to realize you don’t get the reaction you expect.
At Tyrannosaurus Tech, we get a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs that come to us with a big idea they’d like to develop and, that is an awesome part of what we do each day. It is inspiring to be working with folks who are passionate about changing the world and are willing to move boldly forward with their ideas. That being said, there’s always a painful moment in the “ideation” phase when we’re speaking with our prospective clients about how to build out their app. First of all, we’re focusing our initial efforts on building out an MVP. What does this mean? Remember your awesome idea that does this and it does that and integrates with this and does this extra awesome thing? We’re going to take a machete to it. We’re going to hack away everything that is not absolutely crucial. What is the one simple defining feature in your app? Let’s start with that. Only when we get users on board, using that one feature, and giving us feedback, can we even think about investing more into building this product.
Think big, but start small.
And remember, some of the most beautiful products out there are incredibly simple and easy-to-use.
Another thing I find puzzling is when I come across an entrepreneur with an awesome idea…but they won’t tell you what it is. Or they want you to sign an NDA. Come on. Really? Disagree if you want but, I’d say go to opposite direction. Tell everyone your idea. Don’t worry about someone stealing it. Anyone crazy enough to want to steal your idea has ten ideas of their own they’re working on.
Remember, ideas are cheap. If you can actually execute and make it happen, that’s what’s valuable. How can you get feedback or support or success without sharing your idea? Simply put, you can’t. Get out there and sign it to the heavens.
I also talk to aspiring entrepreneurs occasionally that are heartbroken. They’ve discovered someone else somewhere already running with their idea….gasp!!! Hold on. Competition is a good thing. If someone else has thought of it and is crazy enough to think they can make a business out of it, maybe you actually are on to something. Alternatively, if no one else in the world is trying to do something at least remotely similar, that might be a sign that there isn’t a viable business there or that you’re early (too early) to a particular market or technology. Being on the cutting edge is great. Being on the bleeding edge isn’t.
Starting a business or building a product can be tough. Really tough. Save yourself the tears (at least some of them) by not over investing when you’re in that exciting idea phase.
The key to really finding something worth running with is getting feedback, experimenting, iterating. And hopefully getting closer and closer to solving a very real problem and giving people something they really need.
One nice thing about having this perspective and approach is when you have an idea, the next step or first step isn’t so daunting. It’s not necessarily “go find investment capital, incorporate, get business insurance, and find some office space.” It’s “go talk to people about your idea, share a stripped down mock up, get feedback, learn something, and go from there.”