Strategy · Early Stage Company Development

I am just starting out. I have an idea and no funding. Where do I go from here?

Tanya Bourque

March 31st, 2016

I have an idea and slide deck prepared. I have no funding and no prototype. where would be a great place to get help and how do you know who to trust?
A great idea is 1% of the work. Execution is the other 99%. In this course, we’ll teach you how to conduct market analysis, create an MVP and pivot (if needed), launch your business, survey customers, iterate your product/service based on feedback, and gain traction quickly.

Troy Sheets Executive Producer / Business Development at Blue Shift, Inc.

March 31st, 2016

These people are all so cynical and depressing. They are so focused on all the ways that you're NOT going to succeed. Forget that nonsense. Focus on how you are already succeeding and your road map to becoming a live product.

Shift your language. Powerfully state what you are vs. what you want to be:
  • "We're looking for the right partners to develop our prototype with."
  • "We are pre-seed and networking right now and will move into the seed round soon."
  • "We are making this project happen and are always looking good partners."
Then get to work under your new context:
  • Start building the product out through wire frames and story boards.
  • Share your idea with as many people that can help you as possible.
  • Be positive, inspiring and grateful when help comes along (it will).
  • Blog about your experience designing and developing.
  • Join workshops and developer meet ups and network.
  • Invite people you click with to be a part of your team.
Be a powerful leader. Inspire people with your vision and passion. Build a team that believes in your idea and in you.

Network, network, network.

Remain true to your vision and authentic with your passion and you will succeed.


Kevin Chugh Founder, Main Street Computing

March 31st, 2016

Hi Tanya, would you share your slide deck?   That would help with a reply.  If it's a B2B play, I would search linked in, find potential customers and then email and call them (do both), and be totally honest, ask for 15 minutes of their time and explain you're evaluating a business idea.  You'll be surprised how receptive people are to that. Do that 5 or 10 times, take good notes and then use that as a pseudo-scientific basis for whether your idea has legs.  If it's C2C or B2C, do something similar, maybe pay for a fake mockup and go to a Starbucks and ask people for feedback in exchange for you picking up their coffee.  This is also a highly effective strategy.  Be careful of all sorts of biases, people being nice but not realistic, etc. But still, you'll learn a lot.  I would also echo a lot of the sentiment here, don't be over protective of the idea, you and everyone else needs a ton of time and money to execute it so there's likely zero risk of someone stealing your idea.  "Stealing your idea" is a phantom problem a lot of entrepreneurs worry about, but the value of being open far exceeds the risk of failure to launch from being irrationally protective.  Hope this helps.

Kevin

Steve Owens

March 31st, 2016

An idea is not very valuable - it is the ability to execute that is rare.  I would not waste time on any idea unless you were certain you can execute.

There is plenty of money out there looking for people who can execute - money is easy to come by if you have this ability.

First step is always market validation.  This step should cost almost nothing - other than a lot of your time.

Good luck.

Sam McAfee Building Popup Incubators for Corporate Innovation Programs

April 1st, 2016

Look, entrepreneurs need to be realistic and deadly serious about the obstacles. Here in SF there thousands of founders running around with ideas good and bad. They are all trying to get traction and funding and hire talent. It's a bloodbath. And most of them, no matter how good the idea is, will not make it, not because they didn't try, but because they're too stubborn to listen to those who have been through it. I talk to people like this literally every day.

My understanding of this forum was that it's for tactical advice rather than inspiration. Yes, you have to have an internal drive and passion. But good entrepreneurs have that already or they wouldn't even think of doing this.

I am on my sixth startup. And I have coached about two dozen other founders the last 15 years. The biggest problem I see with them is not a lack of passion or needing to be encouraged. It is that most of them don't listen to the experience of others. They have people cheerleading them on all over the place about "following your dreams" and "you can do it", and that's all great. But rarely are enough people saying "have you validated your idea with data"? Tanya, I am not saying you're going to be like that. I just think it's all too common for founders to keep pushing an idea long after they should have pivoted to the next one, rather than quitting too early on the one "big idea" because they didn't push hard enough. Sure, the latter is a risk, but the former is much worse and much more common.

Also, there is a huge difference between "an idea" about a particular solution and a "longterm vision" of the world. If you have a vision for the world, Tanya, how you would see things work differently, and if you're really passionate about it, then by all means go for it. But there are going to be lots of ideas along the way, and you should be prepared to rapidly try them, and if they don't work, move on to the next one. That's all I am saying.

Adam Crabtree Founder, undisclosed company

March 31st, 2016

Tanya,

Check out Ideator:


I have found it helpful for getting the ball rolling on my idea. Great community, great support.

Chicke Fitzgerald

March 31st, 2016

Tanya, The best place to start is by finding people that know you that believe in you that are willing to take a gamble on you.  Usually looking in the mirror is the best place to start.  Serious entrepreneurs will cash in life insurance policies, use their savings, use credit cards to fund the minimum viable product.   If you don't have that ability, then I'm afraid it will be a long road.  I agree with the others, an idea without the ability to prove that you can execute just isn't enough these days.  Get the Startup Owners Manual and follow it diligently.  

Sam McAfee Building Popup Incubators for Corporate Innovation Programs

March 31st, 2016

I looked at the deck you posted. The main problems with it I see:

0) As was said, ideas are easy. Execution is hard. Make sure the problem you are solving is one you are passionate enough about that you'll spend the next 10 years barely paid trying to solve it. I don't know you, but I am betting this idea won't be that for you.

1) Step 1, "get lots of users", is incredibly, prohibitively hard. I have seen many startups who have extremely compelling value propositions struggle to gain traction here. Sure you can spend a lot of money on social media ads, but you said yourself that you don't have any. So this is kind of a non-starter. What you need is a clear reason why users will come onboard in the first place. It's not going to be "to get deals", and it's not going to be "blah blah with friends". You need something more than that to cut through the noise of a million apps and sites out there.

2) The monetization model of businesses promoting deals by subscription is going to be hard without a sales team bringing them in. But you can't hire a sales team without revenue. You have a classic market chicken/egg problem here. The user base, assuming you get them, is probably going to have to be enough to attract them. There are too many easier and cheaper channels for businesses to access.

3) Competing with Google and Yelp? Really?

There are other wrinkles in the plan, but these are the biggest ones. I would encourage you to read a few resources, like "The Lean Startup", and "The Hard Thing About Hard Things", and follow a few blogs and discussions boards on how to bootstrap new business ideas.

I don't know what the startup community in Philadelphia is like, but you also need peers you can bounce this off of that aren't just a bunch of us graying consultants. ;-) If there are meetups you can go to with other product and starutp people, I'd do that first. Maybe hang out at this place: http://phillystartupleaders.org/coworking/ which I found in 5 seconds on Google. Pull a team of coconspirators together and see what other ideas you can come up with.

David Pace CEO, Business Speakers Bureau & Event Services. Serving the U.S. and the world * www.BSBspeakers.com

March 31st, 2016

Tanya: one of the best suggestions is to sign up for CEOSpace International. They hold a week long program that will give you all the tools and connections to get your funding and get your business off the ground the right way and you will connect with tutors and master mind associates. They hold sessions several times a year. Look them up on line or contact Michelle McBride, National Director, michelle@ceospacemaryland.com

Tanya Bourque

April 5th, 2016

I wanted to thank everyone for their comments & suggestions. Here is what I have done so far.

1. I have spoken to several experts and got great advice.
2. I have refined my idea to something that is actually going to work and generate revenue. 
3. The refined Idea doesn't violate any terms of service Yelp or Google or any laws. 
4. I set up an appointment at the local SCORE office to get business advice and help with a business plan on the refined idea.
5.  I have started full market research and will start building.
6. I have reached out to 20 people who said they would be interested in the idea.
7. I have purchased all the books everyone recommended and I am reading them.

Thank you all so much for your support and input. 

Ananth Agasthya Principal Facilitator at ILIFESigmoid

March 31st, 2016

There is no one answer. Trust yourself but also allow some doubts to be there. Trust yourself to make mistakes and learn from them unfailingly. Keep listening and observing the world as you participate in it. Best wishes Anantha Agasthya Principal Facilitator ILIFESigmoid +91 98806 31526 Sent from my iPad