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?

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.

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. 

John Meryl Siddayao Founder, Field Researchers Philippines

September 14th, 2017

There is no great place to get help specially if you don't know the person who wishes to fund your idea, unless otherwise they are already known around the world. If you want someone you can trust you can start looking around your friends and colleagues that you think will agree to your great idea. If they do and if they think it's a really good one, then the next step is for you to get them onboard. You can ask them to be managerial partners or financial investors. The key is to start from the inside of your circle because they are the ones that you can trust. If they can't invest but likes your idea, then maybe you can ask them if they can refer someone they know who might be interested in investing. You'll expand your contacts and make more friends in the process. Or if you don't like that idea, you can try looking for a community of investors in your area it's just a matter of knowing where to look for them. Cheers!

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.

Theresa Robbins

April 1st, 2016

The best advice I received (and I got a lot) was bootstrap as long as possible. Getting funded is not always a good thing. Here are the reasons why I would wait. 
  1. It may limit your ability to pivot when necessary, because you will have to answer to your investors.
  2. A MVP (Minimum Viable Product) looks a lot different when you have money to spend. Different is not always better.
  3. As the CEO, you will be less likely to challenge yourself to learn new skills necessary to bring your product to market. I would not have pushed myself to learn how to use Adobe Suite, do my bookkeeping, or create and maintain a basic website if I could have hired someone else to do it. 
Bottom line, bootstrapping is like a badge of honor. Figure out what you can do without raising money and you will be better off. It will be painful at times, but if you are passionate about the idea, and determined to make it happen, you will be successful. 

Karl Schulmeisters Founder ExStreamVR

April 3rd, 2016

I agree with most of what Sam has written. I too reviewed the deck and I see lots of warning signs

a) aggregating other people's data is not easy. Not only can they and do they change data formats at will (which requires recoding of the crawlers on your part) But in many cases you do not have a right to reuse the data.

I've not looked at the EULAs for Yelp etc., but I'll lay odds that many if not most of them prohibit reuse of the data without permission- at the least they hold a defacto copyright on the data.

That means Tanya is very likely to get sued very quickly if she does what she plans to do.

b) as Sam said - "getting lots of users" is increadibly hard - it seems Tanya has not done her research in this area

c) Monetization is very poorly thought out. the idea that Tanya will make money from coupons is completely pie in the sky. She needs to go read up on why LivinigSocial and Groupon have all struggled. the short answer is that its fundamentally a telesales model with extremely low margins. And she does not seem to have done the research on this

d) that's a lot of slides with a lot of words. Because the idea basically is something I can put on 3 slides
  1. Intro to the qualifications of the team
    1. Who you are
    2. What your experience is
    3. what your current funding is
  2. What your idea is
    1. Aggregate consumer feedback sites
    2. Monetize by selling coupons
    3. Monetize by ???
  3. Go To Market stgy
    1. How you will gain users and at what rate
    2. what the average user value to the company is expected to be
    3. what your rationally justified growth rate will be so that in 3 years you have $4million in annual sales (based on $1 million 1st year and $500k for yr 2 and 3 in investment).

      $4million in sales would make your company worth $20-$30 million in an exit. And your VC will want $20 million of that.

The problem is that if you really dig into what Tanya posted, reducing what she has as content to those three slides and those three sub bullets results in a less than compelling presentation

Tanya - you are offering a Software as a Service offering

Go spend some time at SaaStr.com and read up on what you don't know.

Right now your idea is just going to result in a lot of time spent and then lawsuits

hemant c #Failed Startups #co founder #Passionate #Developer

Last updated on September 13th, 2017

Your Idea might be great or in fact the best out there, but at the starting/early stage chances of getting funded are slim and its best for an entrepreneur to not get funded at this stage of a startup.

I would recommend a book that summarizes all the crucial steps needed for a startup before trying to get funds ,including making the first prototype with little to no cost.

A must read for every first time Entrepreneur

The Lean Startup - Eric Ries