How to start a (social) startup – CS183B – Part 2

Okay, so I have two ideas. I’m going to look at the first one today in terms of the advice we have received from the CS183B class, including the readings.

Idea One, let’s call it Mindful Kids. (Why, because I had to come up with a name just then, in one minute, and I was thinking: nature, sustainable, simple, convenient, easy, organic, kids, dads and then I thought well that’s all a bit mindful. And I have been meditating a lot so I’m trying to be mindful right now. It will do as a working name.

The Problem:

Parents, especially dads, who are socially and environment conscious, while also being very busy, want to have simple, healthy, and sustainable clothes for their kids and they don’t want to think about it. Friends of these people want to buy a present for new parents or dads that doesn't have negative impact on the world. The gift of monthly organic and sustainable baby clothes is the gift that keeps on giving for the length of the subscription, it relieves stress on the parents by reducing their need to go shopping, and it means the gift givers can feel good about their social and environmental impact.

The Well:

‘When a startup launches, there have to be at least some users who really need what they’re making — not just people who could see themselves using it one day, but who want it urgently.’ — Paul Graham

I need this, right now. The longer I don’t have this, the more my kid’s mother spends on unsustainable clothes. I’m also about to have a bunch of friends have kids and I want to be able to give this as a gift. I think it’s an awesome gift. A gift I can give without feeling bad about participating in the consumer economy.

‘you can either build something a large number of people want a small amount, or something a small number of people want a large amount. Choose the latter.’ — Paul Graham

I think other dads, particularly single dads, also want this right now. They either don’t have enough clothes for their kids or they are using clothes that’s too small or torn because they are putting off going shopping for kids clothes. Or maybe they are just not looking forward to the next round of clothes buying as the kids grow. They would like someone else to take care of the job. I think people who are really socially and environmentally conscious also don’t like buying presents just for the sake of giving a gift. Whether it’s a new born or babyshower gift or a birthday or Christmas gift.

When you have an idea for a startup, ask yourself: who wants this right now? Who wants this so much that they’ll use it even when it’s a crappy version one made by a two-person startup they’ve never heard of? — Paul Graham

Dads. Single dads. And guys in their late 20s or 30s who are thinking about what to get new mums and dads as presents.

How do you tell whether there’s a path out of an idea? How do you tell whether something is the germ of a giant company, or just a niche product? — Paul Graham

I think the path out of this idea, the road to big scale, is to eventually target mothers. Mothers are busy and conscious too. But they probably have a higher barrier to trying out a new two-bit startup. We need to prove we work with the dads. Then the mothers will know they can trust us. Once we have mothers, we could be a giant company.

At this point I goggled the idea (baby+clothes+subscription) and found:


Wittlebee and the story of how Wittlebee failed






I also found Birchbox, as some of these companies were being described as the Birchbox of baby clothes and I thought about Quarterly, which is what originally inspired my subscription thinking. Along with Who Gives a Crap?

I felt like hmmm, people are trying to do baby subscription but none are doing it how I would (I tried to find eco versions too). They are not socially or environmentally conscious and they stock brand names. My target definitely doesn’t want brand names. For me these companies have too many choices and not enough sustainability in mind. I’m a dad, I just want simple, minimal clothes, not fancy stuff. Give me organic, sustainable, cotton with no prints. Give me one style of onesie, beanie, socks etc. That’s it.

I also thought, hmmm, famous entrepreneurs like Sean Percival, renowned content ninja and former Myspace VP, have had a go at baby clothes subscription and failed.

Is all this good or bad news?

After feeling a slight pang, I continued reading Paul Graham’s article about Startup Ideas and I decided it was good news.

“Because a good idea should seem obvious, when you have one you’ll tend to feel that you’re late. Don’t let that deter you. Worrying that you’re late is one of the signs of a good idea. Ten minutes of searching the web will usually settle the question. Even if you find someone else working on the same thing, you’re probably not too late. It’s exceptionally rare for startups to be killed by competitors — so rare that you can almost discount the possibility. So unless you discover a competitor with the sort of lock-in that would prevent users from choosing you, don’t discard the idea.” — Paul Graham

I have to leave it here as I’m out of blogging time. I only have 80min to write, edit and post these every two days. Stay tuned for the next instalment.

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