Startup ideas are everywhere

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A startup idea is perceived as a moment when a brilliant geek through a sudden stroke of genius gets an idea, sits down somewhere (preferably dorm room or garage) and start coding the next big thing. In a year or less, the geek is smiling at us from covers of most major publications and laughs all the way to the bank. There is almost a cult following of Zuck, Larry and Kevin and we’ve all heard of Facebook, Google and Instagram. While they should be admired, I can’t stop myself from thinking what about the rest of us. We can’t all build empires but maybe we can create something of our own, make a small dent in the universe and have an impact on a smaller scale. Maybe with time some ideas will transform and get big but they usually start small. Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself.

Are you prepared?

Getting your business started is hard. Are you prepared for the long hours? Do you have financing? How are you going to build the product? These questions are valid once you’ve found an idea which is compelling and someone will pay for. You have thought about this, right? Don’t start doing something unless you’re going to commit to do what needs to be done and it’ll be messy and hard so be prepared.

Go big or stay small

Twitter, Facebook and Google are incredible companies and their growth is remarkable. They are true empires with enormous number of users tweeting, interacting and searching at any given time. They have solved big pains, scaled to millions of users and are technology power houses.

A lot of people I speak to are raving about their ideas that will change the world but I can’t help but think not every company needs to be a McDonalds. There are multiple smaller restaurants or even chains that are successful, provide enjoyment for the owners and the employees and probably serve better food. What’s wrong with that?

My word of advice would be to identify a small pain and solve that in a remarkable way. If you can do that, you’ll have a successful business. Paul Graham writes about startup ideas they like to fund through Ycombinator and majority of the ideas are not world changing at first but they’ll grow (I’m sure he would not turn you down if you have a killer idea though).

How to get more ideas? While startup ideas are everywhere, sometimes you don’t see them. A great article on ideas from  James Altucher talks about exercising your idea muscle and becoming an idea machine.

Last but not least Amy Hoy advice is  you should not be thinking about the perfect idea but instead find a customer. Solving a pain for that customer becomes your product and that is another way to get to a startup idea.

Execution

Most founders will tell you in order to get to a successful company idea is 1% and 99% is execution. There are lots of founders that had a great idea but that failed through poor execution. Actually more than 90% of small businesses fail in the first two years. When you think about it if you have superior execution, you can usually out execute the original idea. Look at Google and other search providers. Google out executed Lycos, Yahoo, etc. even though they were way ahead of Google with the actual idea.

Focus on product

Once you’ve identified what you would like to try, go and get some feedback from friends/family/acquaintances who would be likely customers. Ask them if they need what you plan to build. Does is solve a real problem? Are they willing to pay for the solution? If they’re make them your first customers. Engage them in your development. Their input can be priceless for how you develop a solution to their problem.

Promotion

Lots of people invest hours in developing a product and expect success right away. Building a product is just the first step in order to make this a business. Do you have what it takes to promote your product? Engage on social media, blog about what you do, try to schmooze reporters to cover you are just some of the things you’ll need to be doing. You need all the attention you can get.

Always be selling

In a startup and being the founder you’ll have many tasks but this is what makes or breaks your business and getting good at this means you’ll still be in business in six months. There is one major thing you should be thinking about constantly – revenue. How to increase sales? How to improve the copy on your website? How to increase conversion? How to decrease the churn? You do A/B testing, right? You are tracking what your customers do? Know where they’re in the funnel and help them when they’re stuck? Know what your CAC (customer acquisition cost) is and if it’s more than 1/3 of your CTV (customer lifetime value) – act accordingly.

Good luck

There is nothing more exciting about going in and starting a business. It’s an extension of you and I have nothing but respect for many founders who are putting in crazy hours in order to get their startup profitable and growing. I just think a lot of very smart people are now starting companies just because it’s cool, not to solve a problem and unprepared on what’s to come and what to expect. With first sign of problems, they give up. In order to make it, you need to be focused and determined. Good luck! I’ve started and hope it’ll work out.