Startups · Entrepreneurship

Where to begin?

Matthew Cook Associate at Deloitte

September 1st, 2015

I believe that I have an idea with huge potential that is not on the market in any way shape or form. The problem is that I have no experience with coding. I am 19 years old and so have limited experience in terms of building businesses but i do work in finance and have a good understanding.

Where do I start if I am serious about this idea, who do I contact? I understand that an idea is worthless but I believe in its potential if done properly, so that's how I want to do it. Any advice on how to build this idea into something tangible would be greatly appreciated.

Perri Gorman Founder of Archively & UnrollMe

September 1st, 2015

Hi Matt. There are about a million things you can do before you write a line of code. I'm not sure where you are located but you might want to check out a code-free hackathon called I'm on the Board and I believe in non-technical people having the tools and means to get their ideas into the world. A good book to get is Business Model Generation. It can help you flush out your idea. You should also try mocking up your idea in something like invision or Balsamiq and then showing it to who you think a potential user might be to get feedback and learn. In general I would recommend you talk to at least 100 people who you think are your target user to verify that there is a need/want for your product. The fact that you don't code does not matter at all because frankly there is zero guarantee that if you did code that you would build something people actually need. The work to figure out whether something is viable can all be done with no code. Then when you have something viable, you can explore the many different ways to get it to the next level. Best of luck!

Jaudat Ali Co-Founder GiFsports

September 1st, 2015

1. Research the Market your idea is most applicable to.
2. Make a static landing page (launchrock is best for it, its free). Here Landing page = MVP
3. Share the MVP (landing page) with communities related to the target market you researched before. Use facebook, twitter, linkedin, google+ for mainstream stuff. If the market is specialized, get in touch with people from those markets through linkedin or other services.
4. Measure the response and validate whether the idea is actually as valuable as you think. If not, see what kind of tweaking in "features" etc would get you one.
5. Once you get market validation (no matter how small the market), it'll be very easy to convince others to help you develop it.

You're doing three things here; getting an MVP done you can share with anyone. Validating (and finding the right form of) the idea and its market. Making contacts for early adopters.

Nick Gray Co-Founder / Sales / Data Architecture

September 1st, 2015

Hi Matt - what sort of field is your idea in? 
I'd appraise it with someone who knows what they are talking about first and if it makes sense, speak with some developers to work out how easy it is to do. 
An idea is just that - a business is a finished product with people driving sales and looking after customers - not a one-man job!
We will code new products for free and take an equity stake if we think they are any good and that you have the ability to make the business a success. 
Good luck

Kristian Anketell Business Builder | Currently Constructing Big Tipping & Collective Avenue

September 1st, 2015

Jaudat listed out pretty much my thoughts :) 

One thing I would add is that your MVP may need more detail than a singular landing page. For this you can use PowerPoint, which is a great way to convey information. This could even be linked to, or included in your Launchrock page. You can also use something like PowToons to create a brief video, which can work really well to get your message across. For this you can also outsource the work for 1 - 2 hundred dollars; think of it as an investment :)

One thing I would definitely do is to survey as many people as you can. Either in person, on the phone or through an online questionnaire. It all makes a huge difference to what your MVP ends up being, as well as providing you with great information on who your early adopters will be.

I always enjoy this very early stage of a future business, so let me know if you think I can be of any help mate.

June Choi CEO/Founder, Serval Ventures

September 1st, 2015

As an advisor & teacher to startups, now also CEO of an accelerator/investment fund, I have many meetings with budding successful entrepreneurs who are at the same stage as you. I suggest that you:
- identify your customer segment (market in the gap)
- think about what customer channels would apply
- come up with a prototype that people can understand - can be a drawing, landing page, short info sheet
- use that to start gathering initial market response ('get out of the building')
- if the response if really strong, find a developer co-founder (someone else who believes in it as much as you).

There are certainly other approaches that might be appropriate depending on your concept, but if you can't get a few people excited enough to help you find a co-founder, it's going to ge a hard slog.

Reach out if you want a quick advisement session.
Good luck!

Peter] Peter Jones creates solutions for product USP, market messaging, team building, venture and other commercial capital

September 1st, 2015

Hi Matt,

Go onto, find a few Dev(eloper) meetups, go along and pitch your idea, looking for a CTO.

You'll get many different answers. Try to get a balance between seniority, talent, established teams and cost.

If you pitch well, and respect your developers time, you may find a CTO who will donate their spare time and build a prototype for you to demonstrate.

Obviously if you spend some money that will accelerate your learning, but is still no guarantee either of top notch development or that your idea succeeds.

Good luck, this is no easy journey you want to go on, but one you will learn heaps from.

Anthony CSM Business and IT Professional | Start-up Advisor

September 8th, 2015

Hi Matthew, I am inundated this morning. Can we push our conversation to tomorrow Wednesday at 11:00 AM PDT / 7:00 PM GMT? Best Regards, Tony Mobile: 415.939.4993 Email: Skype: anthony.caramagno LinkedIn:

Mark Silva Finance & Operations at KITE

September 1st, 2015

If you are at Deloitte you have the opportunity to engage in 100s of subject matter experts, prospective customers and even potential cohorts/co-founders before you launch to refine 1) who your initial target market is; 2) why they'll need your solutions; 3) how you will go to market; 4) what you will sell, what revenue model and what you make; 5) when you should launch. Agree, ideas are cheap and execution is everything. Spend the time and you'll be able to circumambulate your idea, give it form and launch when it's right. Best success. Cheers!

Trevor Power Business Development Manager at Warwick Ventures Ltd.

September 2nd, 2015

Hi Matthew

Lots of good stuff already posted, much of which assumes you're familiar with the Lean Startup. If that isn't the case then it would be worth reading Ries, Blank and/or Maurya to tune in.

One big decision you'll have to face is whether this is what you want to do full time, or whether you want to continue doing what you're doing. I guess that establishing yourself in a relatively new job and pursuing your ACCA means your plate is pretty full at the moment. Most people in this position will choose to carry on with their careers, at least for the time being, and attempt to validate their idea at minimum cost, at least to the point where they can decide that it's really worth chucking their job in and applying to Y Combinator!

I think it's worth considering 2 perspectives - one longer term, one shorter term:

The longer term perspective is that you're unlikely to be funding this from your own resources. So at some point in the future you're going to be sitting in front of some investors making a pitch. Whether they're your local Chelmsford business angel network or some fancy VC on Sandhill Road, they will have some fundamental questions in their minds, including:
  • Why this?
  • Why now?
  • Why you?
Why this? relates to the product, its market and the relationship between them. It's about whether there is a viable segment of the market that wants and will pay for the product,what alternatives they have, how easy they are to reach, what value you can create for them and what proportion of that value you can capture. The Lean context emphasizes the gathering of evidence to prove that you have in fact identified and can reach this initial niche, and have defined and can deliver a core set of features that they want and are willing to pay for.

Why now? is about market readiness. An element of this is to consider what changes have triggered the creation of the problem you're addressing, or the ability to solve it. An underlying thought is that if you're addressing a long standing problem and the technology to address it has been around for a while, then how come no-one has figured this out yet? That's not to say that no-one ever finds a $100 bill lying on the sidewalk, it's just that it's unusual.

It's very rare to find that there's no competition (apart from when there's no market!). Most of the time new products are better ways of solving old problems. So if you were developing an app to help people with anxiety, you might identify worry beads, Tetris and smoking as other ways in which people currently deal with this problem.

Why you?or more bluntly, 'why are you uniquely qualified to deliver on this opportunity?'. Good answers at various stages of development might include: having developed the foundations of a strong brand with a group of early adopters, having achieved early traction with a wider user base, having built a strong code base which puts you ahead in the race to deploy and capture eyeballs, having pulled together an effective and committed team. You might be (or become) a star coder, but my guess is that in this case a better answer is that you know everything about this market and why and how your solution is effective, which means researching in some depth how the problem you're solving manifests itself, different approaches that have been used to tackle it before and the pros and cons of currentalternatives.

In terms of a short term perspective, it's never too early to start talking to potential customers with a view to identifying the earliest adopters and working out how to reach them and define your MVP. I act as an external supervisor for an MSc course in Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Warwick ( and one of my candidates this year completed an interesting dissertation on how 'minimum' an MVP can be. He found a difference between paper prototypes, wireframes and clickable mockups, but not as much as you might expect (although he was dealing with a technically qualified user base). So depending on your own preferences and abilities, you could think about using one of these techniques to facilitate early discussions with potential customers.

One final point - you'll need to be a bit careful if you're going to make any formal therapeutic claims for your product. Anything beyond recreational use could lead you into an ethical and/or statistical nightmare. To get a feel for some of the statistical issues 'How not to be Wrong' by Ellenberg is an accessible text.

Happy to connect and talk some more if you're interested

Joe Walling Experienced software developer, software architect, owner of custom software development shop

September 1st, 2015

The first steps as mentioned above several times is to make sure that what you are creating has a market that the customerhas the money and will spend it on what you build. Figure all that out before you talk with developers. Then once that is done, comes the hard part and that is to find a developer that you can trust, that you can communicate well with, and that has proven experience developing commercial software. Don't waste your time with an inexperienced programmer just because you like their price better. In the end, an experienced team will more likely net you success than a hobbyist who practically does it for free.

Like Nick's company, we are startup friendly and can get creative on how we get paid for our development.