Killer Startup Idea – Now What?

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Do you ever get ideas for a startup that you would like to create?

You know, the kind of inspirational strike where the mind starts racing and you can’t seem to write your thoughts down fast  enough.

Man, I love that initial phase.

However, if you are like me, then comes the next stage where you return to reality and deal with self limiting thoughts and the fear of  failure. Typical negativity might include:

  • How can I possibly get this monstrous idea off the ground?
  • I don’t have the time and maybe I’ll get to it in six months.
  • People who launch successful startups are all well connected and live in Palo Alto, New York, or Washington D.C. (Not saying that’s the case it’s just one of my crazy recurring, negative thoughts.)

I’ve recently gone through the first two stages (euphoria and fear) and at present I am moving on to hopefully making my latest startup dream a reality.

If you are in the fear stage, or dealing with thoughts of self doubt, read this article in the NY Times, For Web’s New Wave, Sharing Details Is the Point, which mentions that Blippy recently secured $11 million from venture capitalists.

Nothing against Blippy at all, but if they can get funded and off the ground, then so can YOU and I!

Goals

Do you know how to take your startup idea out of the thought & 
dream phase and into the viable action plan, tangible goal, and launch stage?

Neither do I, really.

However, most recently I’ve been thinking a lot about small business and the social media space. Specifically, how the whole experience can be improved for busy small business owners as the field progresses over the next 10 to 20 years.

And my recent startup thoughts have centered around creating a venture that focuses solely on developing applications which can help small business owners with social media.

The sticky point, I’ve never launched a for profit online startup venture (we did Train for Humanity but that was non profit) before and have lots of questions. Pretty much, I need to know everything from seeking funding to hiring programmers.

I don’t know how far I am going to get with my latest entrepreneurial idea but I plan to detail all of my steps here. During the next week, my immediate goal will be to contact some already successful startup folks and to seek their input. With their permission, when I have their advice I will post it here.

My other goals for the coming few weeks are:

  1. Create a loose business plan.
  2. Register domain name(s).
  3. Continue to post helpful small business articles here and at ProBlogger to grow my audience.
  4. Consciously take everything one day at a time, but also to try to make small 
    steps everyday towards the completion of this project.

Some questions for you:

  • When you are thinking about launching a company or new project, what are your first steps?
  • How do you find programmers?
  • When you are seeking funding do you just go with a concept or do you need a prototype?
  • What is the best way to approach potential investors?
  • Do you have any resources that you would recommend I check out or people I should talk to?

Please let me know your thoughts below.

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Mark Hayward

 

15 thoughts on “Killer Startup Idea – Now What?

  1. “And my recent startup thoughts have centered around creating a venture that focuses solely on developing applications which can help small business owners with social media.”

    Excellent Mark, I have been picking my brains for the last few months on this particular regard. The main problem I find is that I want to apply it to self-employed and SMEs in countries where Social Media hasn’t boomed yet.

    In this case, the issue, more than fear et al, is that you cannot teach a customer what they need. There must be a perceived need, or painful want, and educating customers is close to impossible.

    How to go about it? Don’t know, probably just diving in. I am now at the domain stage, and more than blog writing, I am into freebeeing anyone I think can benefit from (from now) Twitter and Facebook. However, I am conscious that, they have to own the idea to be able to tweet, update status and even write a blog they don’t even have.

    Old habits die hard, even when you are dying.

  2. I’m in that position also, Mark. I had several great idea that I really would like to launch, but there are a lot of things that I don’t know yet.

    Currently, I’m at the market analysis stage now. This is not an earth shattering concept, but I realized that even though my idea is “super” great, it doesn’t mean that the market would think so. We would have to spend more effort and time to “create” the market demand, than to “satisfy” the market demand. So, this is probably the first thing I would do if I were you.

    If you have one hour to spare, watch this video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8X57eucxnI Guy Kawasaki is probably one of the best entrepreneur nowadays, and in this video he shared his “Art of Start”. I hope you enjoy it.

    Also, if you are looking for a programmer, go to elance.com. They have wide arrangement of all sort of programmers there. I have used them before, and they worked satisfactorily, make sure you pick the one with high ratings.

  3. Steven – thanks for your thoughts! I have watched Guy’s video before, but am going back to have another look. How is the market research coming along? Have you found that there is indeed a demand?

  4. JCasinos – as someone who did technology transfer work for many years, I completely agree with you that the need has to start with the customer! How are your freebies doing? Have you had many takers?

  5. Mark, I’m in US now, and my target market is Indonesia, where I came from. Social media has not developed as well there as it is here in US. But just like JCasinos said, the customer has to perceive first that they have the need and ability to utilize all the social media tools that we have now. Indonesia still lacks that right now.

    My business idea requires participation from people to be successful. The more people join, the more attractive the business is to other people. So now, I’m still waiting for the right time to actually launch my business idea. Most likely, I’ll start it when I’m going back home to Indonesia within a year or two.

    One important thing is to not wait. If you are able to start it now, you better start it now. If you come up with the idea, the chance is someone else has also come up with that very same idea, and it hurts really bad to see that someone else implement that same idea before you do. You basically just lose your start.

  6. Well Mark, there is a difference between freebies and what I do. A writer actually asked me whether I could give him a hand with this “social media thing.”

    I started off with social media doing some work with a small charity, he is one of Council Members and I might well be his only link to the SocialMedia world (he must have very little contacts in that world.) The thing is that I haven’t been able to sit down with him… and I am not sure he meant it. But he started off a fire inside me. “Someone asked MOI to help him??”

    To boost the learning curve I starting opening Twitter, Facebook, HootSuite and other accounts for anyone I knew who had a business and could benefit from it (and these are unrequested freebies.) Together with devouring blogs, Faqs and articles about the matter, I hope to get enough momentum to dive in.

    America is still in the geeky/infancy chapter of Social Media, MySpace seems to be fading away and the flavour of the month (this month) seems to be Facebook (and Twitter the new kid on the block), but it is true that slower markets will, as usual, catch up.

    I am betting on Spanish-speaking countries and Social Media, where, despite the low penetration, last week I was reading reports of trade organizations talking about requiring professional certifications for those working on Social Media. At first I thought, “preposterous in a rising and still evolving industry.” Then I thought, “this might be signal I was waiting for.”

    Still, I’ll join up with Steven and Mark when saying that you cannot and shouldn’t try to teach a market of a need they are not even aware of. I have tried with a friend () and got nowhere, as he replied that computers were not his thing.

    I am shooting left and right so that I can analyse and compare results, but I need final users to engage and have the will to follow up, and that is surprisingly difficult with the self-employed and SMEs. Surprising because they are the ones who can benefit the most!

    On the meantime, at my J-O-B it seems that they are willing to move towards the Social Media spectrum as a new channel, and noone seems to be up to the job. Needless to say, I jumped in, but all takes time, specially in government behemoths.

    I keep playing about, after all, what’s life without learning, researching and enjoying the ride?

  7. I started by asking myself the basics first: how is this company going to make money? (I kept it simple). We design. We speak. We educate (via live webinars).

    Once I answered that question, the rest was about putting a team in place to make all parts of the sales cycle (from initial client acquisition to execution of a project) function.

    I’m attending an event later this month called: Startups Uncensored. The subject this month is on raising capital. Ha! I’ll be sure to take lots of notes and share them with you :-)

  8. @Ricardo Looking forward for your insight from “Startups Uncensored”. I’m in the process of raising capital also. That’s one of the reason why I’m staying in US for few years now. It’s easier to raise capital here than back home.

  9. Steven: interesting. Where are you from? What’s your area of business?

    I’m looking forward to the Startups Uncensored event. I’ve been to a few of the mixers that they’ve put on in the past and I think that they have excellent guest speakers and offer great insights. This is one that I’m definitely looking forward to attending.

  10. @Ricardo: I am originally from Indonesia and just finished up my graduate school. I am open to any new job opportunities as I’ll be residing in Atlanta now. For now, I plan to get more experiences from corporate life here, and eventually, my goal is to open up my own small business in Indonesia where I can really promote e-commerce, social media, Internet marketing and the whole nine yards about it. These can translate into many things: on-site training, webinars, even establishing new services like HotSuite and such. This whole thing became my passion after I worked for about a year in one marketing company in Fremont, CA couple years ago.

    However, as you can tell, I still have so many things to learn especially from you guys here, Mark, JCasino, and you. I especially envy Mark, who lives in Caribbean now. Life can’t get better than that, right? I know….the process to get there was not easy. Nonetheless, Mark…you inspire me.

  11. Update. A new turn of events, one of the unrequested pro-bono job I have done for a part-time cupcake biz backfired two days ago “Please kindly send us the account details. We would like to take charge of our own marketing from here onwards.” And that is after feeding in lots of “engaging and relevant content, websites and info” which (again my fault) were unrequested but found requests for more.

    Most likely the formula I am using is faulty, but I agree with Steven, there is sooo much that can be improved in those countries with just a tiny commitment or vision from self-employed and small business owners… but if getting them to see the options out there is difficult, kicking off a cultural shift is wishful thinking.

    That’s why USA churns out Apples, Twitters and Googles as hotcakes and the rest of the world… ponder to death.

  12. Mark:

    Long time no talk! Do you already have a new idea or just thinking of them?

    There are too many people around me claiming they are the experts in social media marketing. To be honest, creating a Facebook fan page and have over 5000 followers on Facebook or Twitter don’t make you a success social medial marketer.

    Social Media is just tool to social with other people. If there is no social activity, it will not work. Without user engagement, building trust and increase customer retention, it’s only a click of mouse to become a fan of Facebook fan page.

    This is how I started my startup. I am still working my way up and adjusting my direction, creating new ideas, and offering new solutions. I can only say that I have learned a lot in the past 2 years.

    1. What problem are your solving?
    2. What solution are you providing to solve the problem?
    3. Are they a high demand niche or simply just crazy idea?
    4. Location Location Location. No matter where your business are conducting, location is always important.
    5. Chicken or Egg. Do you get your customers before finishing your product or get your product done before getting customers?

    Here are my steps to start my new project.
    1. Take ACTIOIN!. You will never know if your startup will work until you try it. You tried it and improve it.
    2. Get your prototype up as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the longer you start making money.
    3. Setup Facebook Fanpage, Twitter account, get domain, start new blog and start ranking (SEO) it on major search engines (Location on Internet)
    4. If your business have location presence, register your business on all FREE local listing site. Google Place, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, MerchantCircle, Yellowpage, Superpage, Yelp, Foursquare, GoWalla, BrightKite, Kudzu, etc. (Physical Location)
    5. No one knows my idea and business rules better than I do. I will program myself or closely watching the person who do the program.
    6. Use blog and your social media presence to get more exposures. You may surprise that some much bigger companies come to you to partner with you and feed you money.
    7. Engage with your potential customers and get feedback from them.
    8. Create the demand. Create contest, Buzz, controversial event to get free exposures. Your are 100% responsible for create the demand to sell your products.

    My biggest challenge is not to know what I need to do. It is to have someone do it for me and use OPM (other people’s money) to do it.

    I was very much scared, because my niche is very crowded and there are many big player in front of me. Now I am slowly taking the position and market share.

    You should start taking action yesterday.

  13. Terence – thanks for the great insight! I agree with everything you list. My project really was going to be about automating some of the social media process for small business owners. I have done a ton of research and the brick wall I am running into is finding programmers to develop my idea….

    Ricardo – thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation! It seems (especially from a small Caribbean Island!) that putting a team in place is my greatest hurdle right now. Funny, but I have a mock-up, business plan, etc and as a small business know that there is a tremendous need, but just can’t seem to get with any programmers. I’m actually looking at trying to license similar software now.

    For all us, I don’t think we need to be focusing on now (well we do but), we need to be thinking 10, 20, or 30 years ahead and what the social media landscape is going to look like then. Can you say holograms…? ;-)

  14. Mark:

    I actually have the similar idea about helping small businesses (especial small local businesses) to create social media presence and I am doing it manually now.

    It’s hard to make it a routine, because every business is targeting different customers. And not every business sees the same value of each type of social media. You will have to customize the routine and tell them what to do. If I can figure out the routine and be able to customize for each customer, programming is not difficult at all.

    If you are willing to discuss the idea with me, you can contact me offline.

    I am off to dig your posts on ProBlogger. I have been away from reading blog for sometimes.

  15. Terence/Mark,

    I think that the three of us are working on the same idea but different markets. I should say, though, that you two are working on it and I am still struggling with the lizard brain (paraphraisng Seth Godin) and you are not only far ahead, but far more experienced.

    I am still at the stage of getting to understand Social Media myself and hopefully translate in into the routine that Terence comments. That’s where the freebies came in, lab mice for my learning experiment.

    Mark, you might be in the programmer stage, but I am still working on the mastermind phase, and trust me, it is not easy… I need to expand my circles quick and big time.

    I witnessed the empowering force of the mobile phone while working in Southern Africa. I see how social media can do the same in levelling the marketing playing field for small business owners and self-employed in non-competitive markets. It can be a second coming for local economies as Terence says.

    I would love to collaborate with you too, just give me a shout offline if you need a hand.

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