It may be pathetic, but I am obsessed with being a successful startup founder. I spend 75% of my day reading Techcrunch or related sites and dreaming of being mentioned and respected in the tech community. I have several concepts that I truly think would work but have several issues. No tech skills, no contacts and no money. I feel like giving up trying to be something because it feels like it’s impossible with these obstacles. What do I do? Hire someone to build an MVP and then pitch it to VCs? Find a tech co founder and hope they have adequate skills to make my vision come to life? Give up? Sorry for not keeping it concise.
LLC stands for Limited Liability Company, a type of business structure that
Do you have a day job? Why don’t you try to pick up programming?
I am self employed. I make a living but am not getting rich. I think it would likely take years to learn enough to be able to make these concepts work. Even if I could code just enough, is it feasible to think I could pitch a prototype only with no users?
I’ve been there. Here is my take.
First, check your motivation. Don’t do that for money. Be genuinely interested in the problem you’re trying to solve. It is really hard, building a company, it consumes you totally.
Next, the sequence is: idea-product-company. In that order. Forget about pitching or funding for a long while, make all you can to bootstrap. Research your idea (try to kill it as hard as you can, if you don’t do that, the market will.), your customers, using Survey Monkey or similar tools. Research your market. Listen to people and iterate. Don’t listen to your friends and family; listen to your potential users/customers.
Next, try to emulate your idea without any coding. For instance if it is a service, try to use a landing page and sms messaging instead of sleek app. Validate that people need it.
Then come up with an MVP. Simplify it. Repeat it again and again. Be resourceful in that process. Learn coding as much as you can. Even if you hire someone, you must understand coding well enough to be able to supervise him and make important technical decisions-with his/her help, of course.
Then hire someone to build the MVP. Simple MVP will cost you less, that’s why it must be simple. Divide the project between several freelancer developers if you’re concerned about potential competition from their side.
Get users-even a small group. Iterate and pivot if needed to grow your user base. And lastly-during the entire process try to find a co-founder. Go to meetups, talk to friends. It’s easier to sell your vision when you have an MVP or at least some work in progress. It is almost impossible to make it alone.
Disclaimer: I am almost certainly wrong.
Thanks for the time taken and excellent advice. The thing is, these are not software services or business products. These are consumer web type concepts that in my opinion pretty much need to go big from the beginning to work. A first to market approach I guess. Maybe I’m being naive.
Believe it or not snapchat took a LONG time to go viral. About a year or so. Basically nobody would use it and then a niece of one of the founders used it in her school and it started to get traction. A lot of these overnight things only look overnight from the time it went viral but from the first version often it would take a while.
Draw each page on a piece of paper. Hire an indian on craigslist to make it for cheap. If you don’t want to learn programming, learn online marketing.
If you make it BIG, can you handle the spotlight ? Can you talk in front of large audiences and not look stupid ?
The best things start small, very small . If you think that your idea need to go big right from the beginning, think again. Then again and again. You have a lot to learn and the best way to learn is to think, act, measure and correct.
My friend, it seems you’ve got it backwards. Here’s my two cents:
Unplug from the tech blogs, IMMEDIATELY. It’s wasting your most precious, limited time, not to mention stunting your creative mojo. Those articles are nothing more than the by-products of people or companies who (hopefully) got agitated enough about and set out to solve a real, human problem, and executed upon it.
If all you want is tech blog publicity, industry respect, your name in lights, or whatever, then that will almost certainly elude you. There’s no two ways around it amigo. You need to mentally and emotionally REJECT the thing that you want MOST – this fame or whatever. Clear it out of your life completely! Until you achieve creative, mental, and emotional clarity, almost like giving yourself a blank intention slate, you are not operating from a position of strength. An you are currently operating from a position of weakness.
You say you have “concepts”? That’s a start. But concepts are meh. You have to meticulously observe your own world around you, and see what human problems that you have that others share with you possibly as well. Start keeping a record of your problem observations, like in a little note book or something. Pen and paper is extremely useful and powerful. It’s just like sales baby – you have to “find the pain”.
Do this every day: Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Observe. Record. Think of yourself as a gold prospector, panning for gold in a California river, back in the 1800’s or something. Make it a game, make it fun, because it’s not easy, and takes mental and emotional work. You’re panning for REAL problems that need to actually REALLY keep you up at night. If you’re not passionate enough about a problem – like say, improving conference call technology as an example, then just keep moving along until it slaps you in the face like an slimy eel – http://eelslap.com. You’ll know it when it does tho, trust me, and trust yourself. THAT’s where the fun, and truly hard part begins…. but you will now at least be in a position of strength to share your enthusiasm and passion to enlist the help of others to help you solve the problem, which I might add, may not be obvious to 99% of the population. Did you even know that you needed email, before you even knew what email was?
OP here. Thanks for the answers. All of them. I guess I should have been more clear. I am not after fame, but success. To feel I’ve accomplished something big. I am an entrepreneur and have been self employed most of my adult life, so am not naive to the hard work behind running a company. I’ve worn all the hats in each of my companies. In regards to the feeling of needing to go big right away is that I truly believe a first to market approach with GREATLY benefit this concept. I do understand an idea is nothing without implementation, but I have never been through starting a tech startup so I am definitely looking for help in what the best path is. Am I wrong to have the fear of spending a large amount of my own money on an app only to have someone with money and connections replicate it and render mine worthless?
Miyagi Sensei here:
Fear is normal. But you’re assuming that you need to spend a “large amount” of your own money to make it happen. That’s not necessarily true. Can you pre-sell your solution, and get revenue up-front from would be customers? They could potentially PAY for your development. True story.
Re: someone with more connections and replicating your thing, somehow rendering yours worthless? Must not be that great of an idea. What’s your idea anyway Daniel san? I could get hit by a city bus tomorrow… am I supposed to not leave the house and just prune bonsai trees all day?
Come on man…. Wax On | Wax Off!
Lol. It is consumer web type. It is a good idea, however it can be replicated fairly easily. Many products are good but can easily be copied. In the beginning, this will not be profitable. It will be completely free. But this I am sure of, it has not been done before. That’s not to say no one has ever thought of it, it just does not currently exist. Thanks again for everyone’s input.
How did Facebook win the social game ? i look at start ups as baking a cake.
The ingredients are the most important thing.. A baking contest; if you would .
There’s only one winner. The ingredients are the connections you make, the employees you track down and hire , the product tweaks you do.,the capital you raise. Facebook is still tweaking their platform, Thing that made it easy for Mark is that he had something that was in very high demand when he built it.He kept it away from the mainstream internet for about a year or so ? So he could obtain venture capital and tweak the platform. Then he dealt with competition, and won because he appealed to human needs and design.
If you don’t have something people want they won’t use it. I don’t care how much venture capital and cash you burn through. Think fab.com.
I hope your idea isn’t another one of these platforms with a blurred back drop photo and all sorts of accolades of press and confusion about what exactly does this ” thing do ” …
Business is a game. A highly intense chess game. Look at what the big companies are still doing once they get profitable and powerful.If you’re not good at it.You’ll get devoured before you even get started. Something to consider.
Wow ! You have no tech skills, no contacts, no money, and you spend 75% of your time dreaming while reading other’s success stories on internet ? You look like a lazy dreamer… Why would you deserve success ?
Start from the beginning. Success is something you can build, but it needs hard work and long term commitment, plus a strong willing to sacrifice yourself to your goals. Ask yourself what you can do to fill the holes: tech skills can be learned. Contacts can be made. Money can be earned. Yes, it takes long years of hard work. But if you really are an entrepreneur, you will get rid of all this and catch success. If it looks too hard or too long for you, well… you can continue reading techcrunch…
I have raised a family since 18, grown two businesses locally with no help or funding from parents, family, friends or banks. I know damn well what hard work is. Starting a large tech venture is much different than a local tangible goods business. Get off your high horse because you probably got your start from your parents or family. Constructive criticism is one thing, you’re trying to be an ass and succeeded.
Ok, my initial comment was too strong. I’m starting a tech venture, with not much money (only a few savings, my family is not rich and nobody helps me), and I have no valuable contacts. Fortunately I do have tech skills. I hope I can succeed with that. You certainly have some qualities needed for entrepreneurship I don’t have. But you told us only about obstacles and nothing about what could make you successful. So what could I say ? How could anyone imagine you have any chance to create a successful tech venture while reading you post ?
That’s fair. Perhaps I made it sound like I was some chump living in my parents basement with nothing but a pipe dream. That is certainly not the case but as you know starting something that you imagine going nationwide or possibly worldwide is quite different than a local small business and is quite an undertaking. Best of luck to you as well.
Ok, now it’s clear :o) My advice: check your qualities. Find what is unique in you. Or if not unique, at least nearly impossible or too expensive to replicate. You certainly have something unique. It cannot be the idea (any idea can be replicated), but maybe you are a champion in marketing, business models, or something else which makes the difference. You must use your uniqueness both as a starter, and also as a guarantee for future success. This is how you can both start and continue without serious competitors. You must believe in you.
Some practical advice: If your concept is an app or website, create a mockup. You can do this on a notebook or use a simple, cheap online tool like fluidui.
Then look on Meetup.com for startup and entrepreneur group in your area and start attending and mingling. There are several founder ‘dating’ meetups too.
Talk about your ideas to potential CTOs. Remember, they will have to believe in your ability to deliver. You may lack confidence at first, but the more you meet and talk, the easier it will become. Don’t be surprised if this takes 6 – 12 months.
Then try and get a demo or professional wireframes done. This is where the costs start and where the risk starts too.
Basically, take it one step at a time.
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