I want to start a startup… Now what? Top things you MUST know before you start…
“Welcome to six flags! “ The announcer called. “This is one of the fastest, tallest, wildest, gut-wrenchingest rides in the country! Keep calm and enjoy the ride!”.
“Do I really want to do this I asked myself?” Climbing up on our seat and buckling.
Feeling like you want to get off? But its way too humiliating to leave now. What will everyone say?
Six flag — scary ride or startup? They feel the same at times but the ride in Six flags is so much shorter and you know its probably pretty safe.
Hmmm so what does this say about starting a startup???
Every month I’ll share what I learned during my current startup journey. Join me on this adventure. Please comment and contribute. I’d love to learn what works for you and share with others the most relevant tips I’ve received.
1. Be prepared for the ride of a lifetime
I started as a software engineer. Life seemed stressful at times and I certainly pulled some all-nighters but when you think about it — they paid me to write the bugs and then paid me to fix them. Not a bad deal at all.
I moved to sales engineering and then product management. Both roles certainly had major challenges and some ups and downs — Is your product easy to use? Did you get a major feature on time? …Does anybody care?…
Thought I’ve seen it all when I became an executive and lead the entire team of technical sales, business development and account management of a startup. When major deals didn’t go through I could barely eat. When features wouldn’t come on time I couldn’t sleep. Customer had a show stopper I could barely breathe. But I managed through it all and we built our little empire with an amazing team.
Proud, confident and very driven I decided to start my own venture.
After-all — if I could do all these and bring them to success before, why would my own startup be any different?
Well… now I can only say — it IS VERY different because this time it IS all you:
No one to blame, no one to take decisions for you and the ride is crazy fast and long.
When things go wrong — you need to get yourself and the company out of it. Quick.
In a single day you may make more critical decisions than you made in your lifetime.
Your head may be in the clouds after some great press mention or nice win and few hours later you will toss and turn all night about a wrong decision, something someone said or some competition that just popped out.
Your stomach is hurting, it seems harder to breathe and you wake up morning looking like someone beat you all night.
So — make sure you know why you are doing this. Money will probably come much simpler in a bigger more successful and already proven company.
Pure ego reason wont hold on when times get tough.
Perhaps even write the reasons down — you may want to go back to them when in doubt.
And there will be doubt!
2. Work on your idea way before you start coding
I’ve seen too many great coders jump into coding way before they know why, what and for whom. Its easy for some of you amazing folks but a big mistake. Some entrepreneurs are afraid to discuss their idea but at least my take is that in 95% of the time the idea is not that unique.
The execution is.
Talk to as many relevant people as you can. Practice your story (pain, solution, market/benefit, potential) and listen to the feedback. Not everyone will like your idea but make sure you know why people do and why they don’t. Write the main points down and who gave you which feedback. Talking to dozens — you will forget and you’ll be sorry you did because you may want to follow up. As you compile your notes you should start seeing some pattern — which market likes it better than others. This can be your initial target market or shrink it to make sure it is. Too wide of a market initially — you will get the user experience and features wrong. Guaranteed.
3. Learn startups
I came from multiple startups but honestly I didn’t know the startup scene. I needed to start getting familiar with it if I want to run my own venture and so should you if you want to sound professional. There are many components here: Jargon used, common articles and content providers, influencers (people and companies), startups with traction etc.
So how do you know where to start?
There is a lot of information on LinkedIn and Twitter from key influencers. I wont go into a list — Just look at people you trust and see who they are following.
Here are my top sources of information — love to know whats yours:
The Lean Startup — Eric Ries
Zero to One — Blake Masters and Peter Thiel
Hooked — Nir Eyal
Venture Deals — Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
Content and blogs to follow:
Techmeme and techcrunch I follow pretty religiously
Product Hunt — need to monitor and plan how you launch on their platform
Crunch Base — Certainly want to see whats trending, what investments are being made etc.
AngelList — is a great source. Both for understanding trends and to see how startups position themselves (for example startup videos). They also have a good archive that is worth exploring — http://venturehacks.com/archives
Paul Graham: http://www.paulgraham.com/articles.html
Fred Wilson Union Square Ventures : http://avc.com/
Chris Dixon from Andreessen Horowitz http://cdixon.org/
Brad Feld Foundry Group http://www.feld.com/
Mark Suster Upfront Ventures http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/
Andrew Chen http://andrewchen.co/
Nir Eyal http://www.nirandfar.com/
Other links you could consider:
Quora — Even if you are not active — its a good source for finding answers to common questions
Founder dating — Finding a co founder or monitoring some conversations
Growth Hackers — https://growthhackers.com/
I hope this was useful.