I meet a lot of people with ideas. Being a curious personality, I tend to ask them to share their concept. Some excite me, while others turn me off completely. Not because the idea is dull, but the approach is.
So, what if you have an idea and wish to make it a success? Based on mine and studying other’s experience, I am writing this article to help as many as I can.
One size cannot fit all. Hence, you can consider this article as a step by step guide or maybe generic framework for your evolution.
We will follow the lean growth model in this framework.
Warning: There will be moments of excitement, hate, anger, frustration, happiness, despair, pride, anxiety, stress, ecstasy, regret and all other possible emotions. But I promise it will be worth it in the end. Proceed only if you have a strong will. Entrepreneurship is not for weak hearted.
Don’t think out loud yet
You experienced a light bulb moment? Great! but wait before you start jumping or go around spreading the thought thinking it is unique. Chances are high that ‘your’ idea has already been implemented by somebody around the globe.
So, relax and breathe as it is too early for you to even validate the concept.
A simple Google search will help you understand whether it already exists or not. If no, well congratulations, but if yes then time to reanalyse whether would you really like to give it a try anyway?
If the answer to above question is no, then stop reading here and comeback when you have another idea and are willing to pursue it. And continue reading, if the answer is yes.
Think small and focus on detail. The bigger picture will always confuse you and make you wander aimlessly. Because Rome was not built in a day. Google and Facebook were not what they are today, when they started.
Brainstorm a little bit and sleep over the thought before you move to next step. Evolve slowly like a Chinese bamboo tree, strong and firm. We are going to build a business to last and leave a legacy.
Start with Why
We all have seen Simon’s TED talk (if you haven’t then please watch it here).
As he mentions that why is important than any other factor. Ask yourself why do you want to pursue this particular idea out of all? Why do you want to become an entrepreneur in the first place?
Unless you have that cause or pain point as driving factor behind the concept, it will be difficult to lift it off the ground (not impossible, but just difficult).
If you do not have a why then first find it or if required create it, only then comeback and continue reading.
What’s your story?
We humans, have been telling stories since the dawn of time. We love stories, not just telling, but listening as well.
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, start learning how to tell stories. There are numerous blogs and articles (just like this one) on internet to help you become an effective story teller.
Some of the great products/companies were built because founders needed something for their own self and not because they wanted fame or wealth. Do you have that kind of emotional story backing your idea?
Build a story, not just different but engaging and equally exciting which gets better and better as you narrate. This story should revolve around your cause conveying the why crisp, clear and to the point. Practice it over and over to make it near perfect. Just make sure, you do not bore the audience.
A vision is something which can be (and should be) defined in one statement.
Fix your eyeballs to the final product/service. The route to reach there does not matter, be flexible. The more you embrace change, the sooner you achieve the desired results. Understand that change is the law of nature.
Have a very clear picture of what you want to achieve. Wake up every day to make progress towards the vision no matter how small. Let it fuel your motivation.
It should scare the shit out of you. Your vision should make you think that it is impossible to achieve, only then it will be considered real and enough to get you going.
Embed it to your why, the story and the idea at large.
Get out of the building
As David Rose said, the real learning and growth lies outside your cosy comfort zone. Time for you to get out of the building and have a reality check.
Now the fun begins so let’s get rolling. This activity will be very tough for first timers.
Go and tell the story first to your family and then to your friends. Do expect some initial encouragement and you have all the right feel proud and happy about it.
Do not forget to make a mental note of their facial expressions and responses. This is the feedback which they won’t give you so as to not hurt your feelings. Ask them whether they loved the story, liked it or just heard it? Work on the feedback and improvise.
Now we expand, talk to your acquaintance, even strangers and random people and tell your improvised story. Again, capture their facial expressions and body language. Then ask for actual feedback and be prepared for some brutal honest truth as these are the ones who will give you the real points to progress upon. Because nobody outside your direct group will care for your emotions in real world.
Most of them will criticise and tell you to go home. This harshness might even make cry to bed (and there is no harm in that. I have done that many times), but wake up like a ninja the next day and keep moving towards your goal. Don’t lose hope as this is the process you need to go through.
Few important points to remember at this stage:
We are sharing only the story. Do not bring your idea anywhere in the picture at this stage. You will be tempted to do so but it is not required at this stage. You will know why.
Don’t just talk to people ‘you think’ are your target audience. Talk to any and every one you can. It will help you broaden your horizons and give you a better perspective.
What feedback to capture and how to do it is completely up to you. Everybody has their own way to learn and understand.
The reason why we are not sharing our idea is if we do share, the response of listener will be biased and not genuine. Hence, to get an honest feedback of what a person thinks about the cause (which is very crucial to grow) just tell the story which triggers emotional response.
Idiot proof your idea
Do not give up! C’mon you can do it. Remember all those motivation quotes and videos you watched when you started out? These are the dark times when you need to keep up that motivation and keep moving forward.
Last stage was difficult, wasn’t it? Be honest to yourself and you will fear no one. Good news is everybody goes through this stage and that criticism will be the turning point. Learn to accept it positively.
After a lot of criticism and rejections, we now have a good amount of responses to work on the core idea. Figure out how you can improvise the initial concept to fix the loopholes (which you thought never existed) and solve real world/life problems. We are not in college anymore. Time to think out loud.
But, is your idea solving any pain problem? Not necessarily it should solve world hunger, global warming or terrorism, but remember the fact that people are willing to pay only for their top five pains, not even the sixth one. Make sure you get a position in top five at least if not the first.
Most of the customers are attracted towards products/service which satisfy their wants, so we need to help them identify their needs and then sell our product/service. Be obsessed with the user and start seeing things from their perspective. Stop speaking now. Your time to speak is over. Let them talk and listen actively.
Make it full proof with the backing story so that anybody who listens to it jumps out of their seat to be a part of the initiative.
Most of the first timers are reluctant to share their ‘world changing’ idea fearing that somebody will take it to market before them. It makes me chuckle and sad at the same time knowing that how naïve they are and limiting their own growth.
Some even asked me to sign a non-disclosure agreement before they shared their creative concept. My response to them is, ‘In this 21st century, even if you plan to invade Mars or Jupiter, people have done that and done it much better than you plan to.’ Insecurities will lead you nowhere.
The goal here is to be different, not better or unique.
Go and tell your WHY story, converging towards your idea at the end, to as many people as you can. This time we will just focus on target group instead of mass. Identify those early adopters and talk to them, have a deep conversation and capture the response. Just keep sharing and you will realise how few really care.
Soon you will have an idea very much different from what you started with. Congratulations! You have made a great progress and your hard work will soon pay off.
Do NOT quit your job
Time to execute our idiot proof idea. A lot of ‘industry experts’ or ‘gurus’ say take risks, quit your job and take a leap of faith. Remember, they speak from their perspective, not yours.
They do not know your life situation, so listening to them and making foolish decisions will only make things worse. Many first timers quit their job and pursue their idea and end up failing. Unless you want to be in that list, do not resign. Stay low and keep doing what you are best at.
Now that you know the why and what, time to bridge the gap with how. At this stage we will just focus on strategies and build an approach/roadmap to reach our destination. Remember to be flexible on the way.
Unless you have a market traction and/or revenue, you should not quit your stressful boring job. Keep the income rolling in for your sustenance. So now the question is how to reach there? Read on…
Get a co-founder and prototype
Let us define co-founder first. A person who believes in what you believe and is equally passionate about the idea as you are is and should be a co-founder. Somebody who you can trust in your absence.
The person should have complimentary skills sets to bring the balance in your universe. Know your area of expertise & passion and work hard while you give space to your partner to perform in their field. Trust and watch each other’s back.
Trust me, it is nearly impossible to find one. So, when you have one do not let them go and be very clear with your terms and conditions. Especially with the dispute scenario, as the entire future of the product/service depends upon that. Do not take this point lightly or you shall find yourself in big legal trouble.
Build a basic tangible version of your idea. Something which serves basic requirement and is functioning. Many call it the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), while some call it a prototype.
Experiment with your target group/early adopters and improvise on feedback. Hooray! You have successfully executed the idea and time to grow.
Register your company and open a bank account you are in business.
Bonus: The Start-up, Value and Investors
First of all, stop calling your idea/concept a ‘start-up’. The word has lost its meaning now. Many do not even know what the difference between a start-up and a company really is. A Start-up is a company who does not know its product, does not know its customers and has no business model.
Call it a project or an experiment, so even if it fails it will not haunt you much.
Stop chasing money. Instead focus more on value. Most of the companies/start-ups are wasting their time, money and energy on their competition. If you do as well, you will only grow to their level and not beyond. Instead be better than your own past self.
What if you run out of money? Will you be able to digest the failure? No, right? Try to bootstrap in early days. Pump in money from your own pocket and seek external capital only when you need to scale.
Go to investors when you do not need them. This way you will be able to get a better deal, be able to approach many and have them compete to fund your project. Remember, no matter how good you think the investor is, the person is only there for returns. Talk in numbers, facts, figures and statistics or else loose the chance. You are looking for capital, investor is looking for a future.
What most of you are doing is improvising an existing concept based on the same business model. Which should not be considered a start-up at all. Apart from all this, there are hundreds of ideas floating around in the market, what makes your special to be funded?
No investor will fund your project if you, yourself don’t believe in it enough to invest in it. Be frugal and spend wisely.
External capital is a humongous mental burden. Remember why you quit your job and opted for entrepreneurship? Only to be your own boss and have no one above you. So why let an investor rule you. Bootstrapping is the way to go.
Thank you for reading
Above all remember it is all about the journey than the destination.
Even though I am an optimistic person, I prefer a pessimistic approach. It only helps me grow. I wish you good luck with your new idea and hope to see you successful.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of free resources out there on the internet which can help you evolve.
If you liked this article and found it to be helpful, you can bookmark this webpage to refer to in future. And please, do share with your network so that it benefits many.