Image from Pasukaru76’s photostream on Flickr.
In the advertising world we have a number of people that have to approve a creative idea before it goes to market, firstly you have a creative partner who has to back it, then the creative director and then ultimately the client will kill or approve your idea. In the startup world you’re pretty much flying blind, there is no ‘Startup Director’ to pull you aside and take a really hard look at your idea and give it some constructive criticism. Before you quit your job, flip the whole office the middle finger and kick down a server stand on your way out to start your own startup, ask yourself the below questions.
Is my startup idea in line with people’s habits?
A big part of the success of your startup will be if it is in line with what people are actually doing, how it fits in with what their natural habits are. You may think you have got a big disruptive game changer on your hands but then again you may not. You may be asking people to do things that they just can’t be asked to do or is too much effort. An example of something that broke people’s habits but was successful was Apple’s iTunes. They started their service at a time when everyone was downloading music for free. No one was paying to download music, but Apple made the service easy and convenient. Eventually they broke the habit of people not willing to pay for music downloads. One example that looks to be failing because of going against people’s natural habits is Airtime. Who goes online and does video chats with random people? on a regular basis? Yes we all do video chats but with people we know and then it’s mostly only now and again. Unlike voice or text which is more frequent. Have a good hard think about what people are doing naturally online or in the real world, and how your idea enhances or fits into it these habits. This is not all or nothing but it does help to be swimming downstream, not everything has to be ‘disruptive’. Just make something way better that people are doing anyway.
Am I building a long-standing company or just having a little bit of fun?
Are you going to build something from the ground up that enables you to retire on a shedload of cash or is this a little bit of fun to do in your spare time? Think long term, think big and think the type of stuff you can retire on down the track. Don’t waste your precious time on little bits and pieces projects that make a quick buck then burnout. Apps can be an example of something that can run really hot for a while, but are not necessarily long term. An internet based platform that may be a slow burner to start with but will be around making steady money for longer and worth a lot more when it comes time to sell it is more where you should be thinking.
Am I willing to sell it in, day after day?
No one will give a crap about your startup, seriously they won’t. Friends, family even partners -they’re all busy doing their own thing, working, living their lives and so on. Until your startup gathers some sort of success people will view you as ‘salesman guy’ always promoting your thing to whoever will listen. You will have to be comfortable with being that salesman guy. Are you willing to stand up in a room full of people and back your idea against all odds? You have to be willing to unflinchingly back your idea, time after time and do it with pride. Be proud of what you have left that stable career at the office for. For Pete’s sake make sure you are not having to polish a turd week after week, otherwise you will just give up on it.
Can I personally follow through on this?
Everyone thinks and talks about starting a business, starting is the easy bit. It’s the exciting bit that we all love. You register the domain name, put up a cool coming soon page and open a fresh new Twitter account. All hype and mystery. What you have to think about is the day in day out burn of running the business. How long can you maintain the enthusiasm and grind of it? And it’s not just you, if you have a business that has ongoing users and customers that rely on your startup you have to look after them, you start a legacy that has to be followed through either until you shut the business down, sell it or you get bought out by somebody who inherits the responsibility. We’re talking years here friends. Not weeks or months. Also If you’re quitting your ‘day job’ to embark on a startup mission remember you have to give up all of the big office stuff, workplace socialising, big company perks, office parties, and general workplace banter that you may have come to enjoy. Once your startup has an office and a number of staff then the banter starts again, at least you’ll be the boss this time round! But until then, it’s a really small team and often lonely journey without Mike the funny guy from the mail room to get drunk with at the staff party.
Do I have the background for it?
You’re not going to start a business based on something that you know nothing about right? You have to pick something that can be bolstered by your existing career, knowledge or life experience, it’s not mandatory but it really helps when you know your stuff. You will also already have people in your network that you can lean on that will take you seriously when you’re trying to ‘do your own thing’.
How am I going to monetize it?
No seriously, how are you going to make money off it. Yes there are many examples of startups that build up the numbers and user base first and then think about monetizing it later. More often than not the monetizing plan pretty much consists of retro fitting a whole bunch of advertising into it, sometimes wrecking the original startup idea or experience. Try to have a think about a clever, more unique way to monetize. Or just simply monetize right from the start so your customers know what they’re in for.
Does my startup idea live or die by someone else’s tech?
There has been a number of startups and apps that have literally been ended because a larger player in the market has the final say on its existence. You’re better off creating tech or a business that does not solely rely on the App Stores or the Facebook’s of this world. They are constantly changing their policies and technology. Facebook is really hot right now but would you base your whole companies future around it?