Getting started · Startups

A lot of great ideas, but what next?

Mohamed Nasr Business Coordinator

April 1st, 2015

I always thought I am set out to be a serial entrepreneur. After so many great ideas and a few attempts, I am starting to think otherwise.

To be honest, I always find myself dropping the ball and calling it quits at the same point every time. I come up with an idea, I research the hell out of it and learn the market, register a domain name & build a website, then....... I don't know how to proceed.

Does anyone have any advice? I've read so many books, so please give it to me straight
Growth-hacking isn’t about quick wins and shortcuts, although they exist. In this course, we’ll cover the six-step growth hacking framework, how to measure user retention for your business, how to increase engagement and retention, and a bunch of case studies.

Bob Crowley Investor, Entrepreneur, Athlete

April 1st, 2015

I've found we've a tendency to lump ideas, founders, builders and operators all together as an "entrepreneur", when really they are distinctly different and rarely all one person.  Maybe you are one or more of these.  I'll explain.
Ideator - a problem solver, who can't help but see issues and conceive of solutions.
Founder - an Ideator who takes action on his/her idea(s) by creating an actual product or service
Builder - a Founder who constructs a business plan to proliferate the product or service to defined markets
Operator - a Founder who takes what the Builder has done and scales the business. 

It's rare that one is all of these roles.  More commonly, a person is best suited for one or two roles ( for example it's common to see Ideator/Founders - who get stumped at the Builder stage or a Founder who is darn good at being a Builder for the first market - proof of concept, but struggles with the skills to be N Operator and scale the business).

At each step along the way, if you've the self realization as to where you fit in this spectrum, it will help you identify the kind of talent you will need to take your idea, product/service or business to the next level.  Maybe you are one of the few lucky ones who can spam all these roles - if so, then you've an exception career ahead of you.   It's no shame if you are not - that would be the norm and there are many famous leaders who have struggled to maintain leadership in their businesses as the needs shifted.  It's in the knowing what your strengths (and weaknesses) are and thus where you fit, that will lead to your ultimate success.  Good luck.


Hope this helps.  Best, Bob






Trevor Collins Crowdfunding Entrepreneur & Co-Founder of 100 Danish

April 1st, 2015

To be honest, the founder entrepreneurs I've met who launch and grow big things are extremely action-oriented. They have an insatiable hunger to advance the cause of their project. 

It is more than okay to not be the idea-generator and original starter. Go hunt out a founder with a killer idea and join them. See how you can add value. Watch how they recruit people and resources. Then watch what they do when they hit obstacles. The good ones will relentlessly figure out a way to make things happen. Join them on the rise and see what they do right and what they do wrong.

Then decide if it's in your heart of hearts to be a serial entrepreneur. If you can't brainstorm for an afternoon and generate 20 action items of how you might proceed after you set up your startup cosmetics, then this learning period is likely needed. Best of luck!

Bill Kelley

April 1st, 2015

This is a common problem. An entrepreneur needs to have a 'fire in the belly' to carry him/her over that threshold. You go farther than many -- who just have the idea and stop there. You may not be an entrepreneur at all. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as successful entrepreneurs can be pretty close to sociopaths in their behavior. 

If the issue is not running out of steam, but rather running out of 'process,' any number of people can advise you on next steps.

But the truth is, the domain name and web site are premature without a business plan. That comes first. A good business plan will drive you to product/service definition and a process to create, test and launch it. That is the most important (and hardest) task. 

Anonymous

April 1st, 2015

Try to do the opposite of some things you've been doing:
1. Don't use your ideas. You are too attached to your "own baby" and will defend it even if the market will not like it. You'll be trying to prove the market wrong, instead of listening. 
2. Get ideas from future customers. Select market niche and interview 20+ decision makers (owners, execs) in selected market - ask them about problems they have, and ideas they have to solve these problems. Also ask them how much it costs them NOT to have a solution. 
3. You will get 5+ ideas from 20+ interviews. Sort these out and find most frequent problem/idea.
4. Sketch a solution and show it to them. Iterate 4-5 times (as needed) - until they start offering you money to build it. Ideally - you pre-sell product to 4-5 customers. It's their ideas - to they have no resistance to their own ideas. And you don't have to follow any selling method.
5. Now you have a paying customers and budget to build the MVP product.

Forget about business plans and investors. It's "old school".
Customers don't read business plans. 

Focus on solving painful problem for real people, and deliver fast.
If you find and solve their pain with your product - you have a business.

If your business takes off and start growing fast - then you may consider taking money from investors, or not. They will come to you. And you will decide if you need them.

Good book reference:
"Start with Why" - Simon Sinek
"7 Day Startup - you don't learn until you launch" - Dan Norris

Alex Eckelberry CEO at Meros.io

April 3rd, 2015

Guys, go easy on the guy. He's at least trying :-)

Mohamed, first, re the business plan, it's true that business plans aren't really used these days to start a business -- but you're right, if you're getting SBA money or bank money, you need to have one. I discuss this in my blog post here: http://blog.eckelberry.com/starting-your-startup-the-pitch-deck-and-what-it-all-means/

Now, there is a vast gap between an entrepreneur and a successful entrepreneur.  The gap is largely an issue of delivering what's needed and wanted to the market.

Throw out the books you've been reading. You're just confusing yourself. Go back to first principles of business.

Do your research on what people are using now, what they are asking for, what they need. And then start the hard work of delivering that.

I discuss this extensively in a webinar I just did -- email me to get the link so that you can get back to some fundamentals.

I've sold billions of dollars in software and professionally invested in over 30 tech companies. I can say one thing: When it goes right, it looks easy. And so we get a raft of people giving advice who had it easy. But the basic elements of business haven't changed.  Heck, you could go back and read the old books by J. Paul Getty and get some of the best advice you'll ever get. These concepts are timeless.

Regarding the comments by people getting on you for building a website first, hell, Steve Jobs would start a company with a logo (i.e. NeXT).  It's actually helpful to put the dream out there first and then make it. Don't sweat that kind of stuff. You just need to get back to first principles.

Rodger Raderman

April 1st, 2015

Jason Calicanis wore a T-Shirt at Disrupt one year, which sums this issue up pretty well:

"Starting is easy.  Finishing is hard."

Rob G

April 1st, 2015

Sell it first.  In order to sell something you must understand the market and the need from the customer's perspective AND you will better understand your distribution options much more clearly.  This forces the discipline of getting out of the office (a Steve Blank-ism) and talking to real prospects/customers about solving real problems.  Granted, some mobile apps, for example, don't necessarily solve a 'problem' per se, but the process is still much the same.  Solving real problems for real customers provides a very clear path to value proposition, features, revenue model and distribution.  In my experience it is lack of a clear value proposition (customers don't understand why they should buy A solution, buy if from YOU and buy it NOW) and distribution that kills more startups started by technical founders than anything else. 

Benjamin Olding Co-founder, Board Member at Jana

April 6th, 2015

A lot of sports have an idea of "follow-through": don't kick the ball, kick through the ball.

To use my kind of lame sports metaphor here, it sounds like you're making contact, but then you don't know what to do next.

A lot of advice in this thread seems to be along the lines of "accept that you're not the guy to do this & find someone else." Not bad advice, if you do know someone, but maybe a little defeatist?

Look, this is a learnable skill.  I learned it from a cofounder who had it naturally.  Just because some people have it naturally & others seem not to doesn't mean it's like "height" (can't teach that!).

When an entrepreneur really has follow-through, sometimes people say "wow, he or she has vision!" Don't be distracted by those people: learn to walk before you run.  You don't need to be Jobs or admire Jobs or even care who he was to start a company.

What you do need to do is take one of your ideas - any of them - and abstract them a little.  Why is your idea relevant?  Who does it serve?  What would be a worse way to serve those same people?  What would be a way worse way?  What would be a comically worse way?  Did this need exist in the 1800s, even metaphorically?  How were those people served?

As you answer these questions, you'll start to put your idea in context and you can decide whether you like the idea because it's a clever optimization of the world as you see it today or because it's a new way to serve the  world in a way you want to be of service.

If you pursue ideas that are still interesting to you even after you abstract away your clever optimization, you may find you naturally have follow-through after all.  This was my experience, at least: I still love most ideas, but when I find a market I'm interested in serving AND a clever idea, knowing what to do next isn't that hard for me.  However, when my "worse" ideas seem just awful to me, I know it's only the cleverness, not the service to others, I am interested in.

With just an idea, the first sign of defeat put me at the wayside, and I had to rely on my cofounder to say "who cares?  Here we go with the next step anyway!  The future looks bleak, but we're chasing a point 10 miles beyond the horizon...  keep running!"

Good luck!  I can't tell you how many people say "I'd love to be an entrepreneur, but I just don't have an idea." You're closer than you think to figuring this out - don't lose hope; what you're missing can be learned.

If everyone had to be Jobs to start something, there would be no startups.  You don't need 1000 mile vision to be an entrepreneur, but you do need to practice looking through the idea and seeing who it's serving, then holding on to that goal as you run into the next challenge.  If you do that, you'll keep generating new ideas that help you get through the next challenge (rather than feel like the next idea should start from scratch).

Julien Fruchier Founder at Republic of Change

April 3rd, 2015

I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this but... your ideas suck. Let me explain... 

If just one of your ideas was good enough, you'd be so passionate, committed and focused that nothing would get in the way of you making it happen. 

A lot of people make the argument that ideas are a dime a dozen and that execution is everything. They're partially right. But I'd argue that if you don't have a superior idea, you won't have what it takes to execute it. 

Also, to comment on your approach, if you're starting with names, domain names and websites, if you're confused about business plans, I would advise that you think of building a business as you would building a house. You don't start laying a brick and then figure out where the bathroom is going to go. First you need to figure out what you want the house to look like, create it in your mind, then draw a blue print, then and only then, start laying brick. So, with a business, you don't start with names, domains or websites. Start with being clear about why you exist to begin with, then understanding who your customers are, then how you reach them, then how you build a ticking clock of an operation, then how you pay for it all and so on and so on. That's a business plan. How long or how short doesn't matter. A business plan is not for investors. A business plan is first and foremost for you to get clear about what you're doing. 

Anonymous

April 1st, 2015

Do you ever proceed and launch the site and make sure to have user acquisition strategy and analytics (google analytics/mixpanel/kiss metrics etc) to back it all up?

I think it is hugely valuable to ensure that you have both to see if you are speaking to a market that has a need- once you see product/market fit backed by some solid metrics that is usually enough to keep you motivated and going.

Gluck!