The Beginners Guide to Startups

Often the most befuddling part of a journey is knowing where to start.

In the digital age, with wades of information and knowledge, aspirations of being location-independent is as much a work-life goal as being financially so. The sharing economy suggests that having access to stuff makes more sense than owning it. For instance, the generation before used to buy CD’s, DVD’s and display as collectables. Millennials no longer take home souvenirs but share their experiences socially as they happen in real-time.

The same shift is happening to business, the most disruptive fashionably known as “startups”. The headlines of course tell stories of overnight successes which often blurs startups in with the usual get rich quick money making schemes. Startups are much more than a fad, but are in reality a movement of people changing the world. They are rich with devotees in it for the long-haul, making their mark, dedicating themselves to solving real problems. It started first with tech-firms providing the tools and platforms to challenge convention. Today online we use them to “growth-hack”, quickly experiment and measure what ideas work against those that don’t. This growth-hack is a beginners guide for how to go from idea discovery to startup using fully online startup learning.


You don’t need armies of people and you don’t need offices with IT servers and marketing budgets. You need to work smarter not harder (the hard bit comes later as you grow). With any social environment like uni, college or school, the best way to learn is with others. Surrounding yourself with a community of other people also living and building their dreams is essential. The “lean startup” movement is out there waiting for you. Be part of it, let it challenge, confront you and give you confidence. Many (coworking) hubs are around the world that can help you. If you don’t have access, or the time, then there’s help online with platforms like startupacademy.orgthat provide startup learning fully online. Ride off the digital coattails of others, online there are heaps of resources, stay lean, find your tribe.

“The Electric Light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles.”
― Oren Harari


Never before have we had these vast, vast digital distribution channels in such an accessible way. These networks are growing at such apace that even the biggest companies struggle to keep up. For the small, nimble and lean startup, these dynamics are our advantage. Because change is so rapid, our timing can be more tailored and specific rather than simply reacting to the next wave. Products can easily have global storefronts like Amazon, eBay or Alibaba, and can reach new spaces on mobile like Apple App store and Google Play have unleashed unthinkable game-changers 10 years before. Social media now allows startups to create audiences around concepts first and test ideas before they are ready. If your concept is strong enough startups crowd “source” content and even crowd “fund” support to bypass cash-intensive obstacles. Big companies pay huge dollars to advertise, but if people Google Search a problem, and you’re the one providing answers, you’ve just beaten them! Timing is about leveraging the models of the big players, not yielding to them.

“It wasn’t the ice industry that came up with refrigerators.”
― Guy Kawasaki


The old “build it and they will come” mentality typically falls foul of the 80/20 rule: most customers (80%) using just a part (20%) of what you offer. So focus on what’s important rather than what’s not. Sure there are risks, but with calculated risks comes high reward. As well as the crowding funding platforms, like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Pozible, there are other ways to overcome investing lots of dollars in unknown outcomes. Skillotrade and Mastly for instance provide different ways to trade skills, or even split equity (see Slicing Pie) with the teams you need to develop your minimal viable product. Time is your most precious commodity, so use it wisely, do a “smoke test” even before you think about building something.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
― Henry Ford


You don’t need oodles of cash but you do need to set goals and figure out your runway — how long you can go for. Like building an audience and smoke testing, the good news is that you can quickly and easily build your digital ecosystem from little or nothing. Lots of the online tools you can start with are free, or extraordinarily cheap. Squarespace and Wix are developing so rapidly, that creating an ecommerce website is as quick as building an eBay, Amazon or Etzy store front. With Waitlisted or Untorchbeta-test signup plugins and your product doesn’t even have to be ready yet. Now you can drive your social media audience, harvest leads through Mailchimp, maximize your reach when you launch with Thunderclap and boom! This shit just got real.

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
― Steve Jobs


You don’t need to wait for your idea to become fully baked or you will take it with you to the graveyard. In fact the best ideas are the ones that adapt and can “pivot”. Be disruptive, don’t respect the existing order, be relentless and stay authentic. Remember, it’s easy to make things complex, it’s much harder to make things simple. We live in world that wants products that are convenient and frictionless. You may be unhappy with the way your ATM machine works, how it charges you, why you can never buy something when you want, the latest App is cool but not awesome… Dedicate yourself to that problem, (dis)satisfaction is a great place to #juststart.

“The only real failure is the failure to try.”
― Deborah Moggach

“Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.”
― Farrah Gray

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