The Art of the Hustle: Unconventional Methods for Building a Startup
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” — Joseph Chilton Pearce
Creativity is the heart of entrepreneurship. The best companies were founded by people who saw a problem to be fixed, a gap to be filled, a demand to be met. But a creative solution is only as successful as its execution. The best, most lasting, and most impactful companies not only came from an ingenious idea, but from people who looked at the process of building a company and asked themselves, “How can I do this differently?”
Launching a startup is inherently risky, so if you plan on venturing into the world of entrepreneurship, why not take the opportunity to risk it all on trying something different? In this blog post, we’ve gathered some of the most unusual, unorthodox, and unexpected methods of launching a startup from some of the top experts in the field.
Recruit Your Team
No one can run a company by themselves, so picking your cofounders and first employees should not be taken lightly, because the people you bring on board to help you will have a lasting impact on the future of your company. Fortunately, there are a few creative methods you can utilize to help you find the right people for your startup team.
In the Inc article, “50 Ways to Find Co-founders”, Bill Murphy Jr. lists out a plethora of ways, both conventional and unconventional, that entrepreneurs can connect with potential co-founders. Here are just a few of the more unexpected approaches:
Network with people over drinks/coffee
This is an easy choice, especially for those who are extroverted, and it happens more often than you think. In fact, Dean Wright of Voytech Products, which makes Snack Spout, claims he became acquainted with his eventual co-founders when he overheard them talking in his local Starbucks about his area of expertise: consumer products.
Connect with people you went to school with
Take the time to meet up with your old school chums, whether you met in college, high school, or even elementary school. And don’t even think about skipping school reunions! Some people get started early. Again, cofounders who started as classmates is not uncommon. For example, Zach Schau and his co-founders at Pure Fix Cycles met when they were just little kids.
Team up with siblings, former co-workers, and spouses
Potential cofounders may be closer than you think. MUCH closer. For example, twin brothers Sam and Andy Prochazka started Novosbed, a memory foam mattress company, before they recruited their sister, Helenka.
Besides getting the satisfaction of giving back to your community, volunteering is also a great way to meet likeminded tech geeks. Just ask co-founders Michael Marshall and Paola Moya, who met when Marshal volunteered tobe an advisor for their shared alma mater’s architecture program, which led to them forming Marshall Moya Design in Washington.
“What’s worse than starting a business without a co-founder? Try starting it with the wrong co-founder. — Bill Murphy Jr.
Our previous blog posts, “The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Your First Employees”, features some expert advice from Dan Arkind, Founder and CEO of JobScore, on how to attract and recruit your company’s first employees.
Add excitement to your job listing
When posting a job description for a startup, too many founders rely on a typical formula, a formula that, unfortunately, does little to attract top talent. Take the time to inject passion, hope, and excitement into your job description, and structure it in the form of a story.
Ask for advice
While it may appear that you are only asking for help with your startup, what you are really doing is recruiting. Meetwith your colleagues in the startup and tech industry to keep an eye out for potential team members. Also, a word to the wise: there are countless talented people working for major tech companies that are looking to breakinto world of startups.
Build Your Product
While conventional startup wisdom dictates that you should build a functioning product before mass producing and making sales, there are a few, more obscure tactics that you can utilize when creating working version of your offering.
Ditch the “Coming Soon” page
Amir Khella’s blog post, “How I launched a profitable product in 3 hours”, covers considerable ground when explaining the process of building a successful offering, and is most surprising when it recommends bucking the traditional “Coming Soon” page so prevalent in conventional startup business models. However, that blog post does have a point, as “Coming Soon” pages are getting more and more gimmicky. Instead, replace it with a page that talks about your company’s story, updates, and mission. This is a great way to get potential customers interested in your company as opposed to scaring them off by telling them that your product is “coming soon”, whenever that is.
“Instead of a coming soon page, start a conversation: talk about your story, share your process and findings, and provide value even before the product is ready. There is no reason to wait for a product to be ready in order to have customers. — Amir Khella
And now that you’ve got your audience’s attention, give away a valuable freebie or anything else they might find enticing. Don’t forget to also create an email list to stay in touch with your potential customers.
Vladimir Blagojevic’s Scale My Business article, “The Ultimate Guide to Minimum Viable Products”, describes the advantages of several MVP processes, including the “concierge” approach. Before you build your product, start your company by first offering a manual service that consists of the same exact steps people would go through with your final product. For example, Food on the Table, an online meal planning and grocery list, validated their basic product with customers by actually doing groceries for people, before adding stores, first in their region, and eventually growing into a nationwide business.
In the hatchery.io article, “How To Do MVPs Right!”, Alex Kholti goes over variety of strategies for creating minimum viable products cheaply, quickly, and of course, unconventionally. Below are a couple of standouts from his article:
The “Wizard of Oz” MVP
If your MVP is still under construction, there’s no reason that all of your potential customers should think that you are falling behind on getting your product out there. Create a version of your offering that looks functional, but is actually operated by you behind the scenes, giving the appearance of automation. Even if you aren’t quite ready to launch, at least this will serve as a proof of concept to your target audience and will buy you time while create the finished version.
The “Piecemeal” MVP
Instead of a massive amount of time, money, and effort into building your final offering, create a “piecemeal” version of your product that is based on current technology. Slap together a functioning model that utilizes existing tools and services to emulate the experience and process your customers will go through.