#bellwetherdiaries S01E02 — Starting a business: Picking the right idea

Taking over the world with drones or revolutionizing influencer marketing?

Welcome back to the second episode of the #bellwetherdiaries. If you have missed our first episode of our Medium show on our entrepreneurial journey, you can read it here. In this episode, there is a big elephant in the room, metaphorically speaking. After our amazing exchange semesters in Mexico City respectively Austin, Texas, why dealing with the hassle and hustle of founding a company? Particularly, it is our last semester, so why not settle back and enjoy the last months before the “real” work life starts?

10 years from now

Truth be told, it’s a damn good question — and one you should definitely ask yourself, if you are about to start your own business. Why? What motivates you? Being your own boss? Money? Having a major impact on something? My mentor asked me to describe a typical day for me in ten years from now. He really wanted to go into details. When do I get up in the morning and is there someone next to me? If yes, who is it or who are they? Yes, he literally asked that. What do I do, where do I work, what do I eat? You get it.

At first, I felt it’s nothing more but a nice a way of daydreaming. However, when I started to struggle to answer the questions for myself, it clicked. It’s not about daydreaming, not about fake it ‘till you make it. It’s about finding out, what really matters for you and what resources (time, money, etc.) you need to achieve that.

Startin’ up — why now?

After knowing why, the next question is why now? The answer to that is way easier. Our master program presented us with the perfect opportunity. Basically, the last semester is about writing your master thesis and one practical course. We were presented with three choices: a research project, strategic consulting work or starting up a company. I tried all of these things: I worked in consulting, I was a research assistant at our university, and I founded my company three years ago. While I quit the first two jobs, I still run my company. So, the course named “Startin’ up” it was.

Weekend hustler

After two days filled with team building challenges and entrepreneurial guest speakers, we were assigned to teams and were given five Euros. The challenge? Make the most of it over the weekend. Suddenly, all of us became hustlers for a couple of days: renting their cars out, hitting the casino to make more out of it, selling polaroid pictures, …

In the end, Alex’ and my team won. What we did? We knew that we had 5–10 minutes to present the results of this five-euro challenge. We decided to sell the presentation slots to companies, so that they can promote a job offer or an internship. Our selling proposition: We are about 15 grad students and all about to graduate in a couple of months. This is a highly targeted group of soon-to-become young professionals. Additionally, we offered the companies media coverage on our master program’s social media channels. Basically, we set up a guerilla marketing campaign for job offers. Below is the picture that we used on our facebook channels. By the way, we were very surprised that we attracted that huge companies: REWE at more than 50 billion revenue and L’Oréal at 25 billion.

Alex on the very right and me right next to him

Drones, dropshipping, influencer marketing and the mythical blockchain

Besides the challenge, we had to figure out a couple of rough business ideas and go for one. Alex and I got together for our ideation session at a Japanese sushi buffet to ensure a constant protein supply. It took us about four nigiri sushi, before someone dropped the b-bomb. Blockchain. Four more sushi later (which is about two minutes for those who don’t measure time in sushi for whatever reason), we had to acknowledge that we had no clue how to run a blockchain-focused startup. Next idea, flying drones in Austria is a pain in the ass from a regulatory standpoint. You have to get a permission for each and every flight which can take up to weeks and is not cheap at all to obtain.

This is not only incredibly annoying for me as a photographer, but also for anyone who would use drones for business purposes, like vineyards, dachdecker etc. The idea basically is to find enough use cases for drones, where they can solve an actual problem, and obtain a permanent drone operating permit. It seems like a feasible idea, but it didn’t blow our minds altogether.

We briefly discussed the idea to build a tool that facilitates the lives of the army of China-to-US drop-shipping solopreneurs. However, we had to realize that there are so many great tools out there that you basically can run your drop-shipping business on auto-pilot up to a certain size. The true challenge with drop-shipping still remains to find a profitable niche, and that can’t be replaced by a tool.

The final candidate

On went the seafood feast to surge up our creativity levels. Alex then started to talk to me about an influencer outreach tool. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue about what he was talking at first. The more he explained the concept to me, the more I got the pain point he wanted to tackle. Influencer Marketing is a grind: finding the right influencers, contacting them, negotiating the price, setting up a campaign, assuring the quality and measuring its success. On top, you have to deal with low response rates and reliability issues, as there are a lot of drop-outs.

I understood the struggle; I have two Instagram accounts with over 30k followers in total where I showcase my photography. Working together with other photographers is bothersome and painstaking. We took the shot and decided it might pay off to do some further research. The main-learning: A promising hypothesis named micro influencer marketing.

Micro influencers: The promised land in marketing?

Let’s say you plan an influencer marketing campaign on Instagram. Instead of approaching Kim Kardashian with your must-have product and paying her an obscene amount of money to have it featured on her Instagram, you do quite the opposite. Look for highly targeted and relevant micro influencers with 3,000–10,000 followers and run your campaign with a legion of micro influencers. If you’re interested in the fundamentals of micro influencer marketing, here’s a great study by markerly. If you’re German speaking, check out our blog on micro influencers.

The engagement significantly plummets, the larger the accounts get. By working with micro influencers you can skim the cream and get the highest engagement and save yourself a ton of money. The cherry on top: credibility. Micro influencers are trusted by their followers as they haven’t used their channel for promotional activities before.

Yes, your reach is incredible if you have a celeb like Kim Kardashian featuring your product. But it’s not targeted at all. So our idea is to be the sniper of influencer marketing. Why doesn’t everyone do influencer marketing like that? Because you’re fucked, if you don’t have a tool that allows you to identify and manage your army of micro influencers.

Boom, our idea was born and bellwether.io founded.

What a perfect moment for the final cut of this week’s episode. Two major outcomes: We did not only agree on what we want to do, we also learned that there is a positive correlation between creativity and sushi feasting. The more, the merrier. Tune in next Tuesday, April 18th at 5pm UTC.

If you enjoyed this, be sure to ❤ of our story. As the creators of #bellwetherdiaries, it means the world to us. We are excited to hear from you. Let us know what you think in the comments below. Last but not least, make sure to follow us on Medium to be a part of our journey to world domination.