So you came up with a great start-up idea? What is the next step? We work with start-up founders and entrepreneurs every day, listen to the problems that they want to solve, and help them with starting their dream project. In doing so, we have learned that there are a few things that are consistent with start-ups that ultimately succeed. So before you write up your business plan and start pitching to VCS, here are some things you should consider in your pre-launch phase to set yourself up for success.
1. Research your idea
The most important thing to do is to find out if your idea has already been executed. When entrepreneurs come to us with their idea, the first thing we ask them is have they googled it? In 2017, it is easy to research your idea to find out if it exists. Also, find out if there is even something similar to your idea. Use that information to determine if you have potential competitors and what is working for them. Also, research what is not working and how you can improve on it. Sometimes real disruption is just about doing things better, not dramatically differently. Don’t shy away from an existing model. There is a reason there is an uber and a lyft. It is important to recognize the strength, potential opportunities, weakness of the idea and lot of research is required to be done on this basis.
2. Research the industry
Research the industry your idea is applicable to. Google some more. Read business books. Seek out counselors and talk to industry veterans. Business schools and industry associations can also be invaluable sources of information. For instance, you might approach business schools in your area to see if one of their marketing classes will take on your business as a test project. You could potentially get some valuable market research results at no cost. Once you learn more about the industry, you can make better assumptions about how the industry works relative to your idea. Airbnb had to assume that people would want to rent a bed from a stranger rather than stay at a hotel. Your idea should be something that makes an industry shift.
3. Research your customers
Focus on what problem your idea is going to solve. Research who the customer is and how they will use it. Talk to people and find out if there is a potential customer base for your idea. Determine how your idea will help, disrupt, or elevate your customer’s life. Share your idea and let people poke holes in it so you can address and pivot. Part of your research is to validate the idea. In your gut you may feel like you have a brilliant idea, but your target audience must agree with you and that is when you can say that you have validated your product. In order to have a successful business, you have to create a product that your target customers, and not just you, would love to use.
4. Research the product
Yep, more research. Research how the product will actually work. You know what you want it to do, now research how it will do it. Don’t worry so much about features and product launch. Sometimes entrepreneurs get overwhelmed thinking about all of the features of the product and get stuck. It is better to have a few key features that address a problem rather than having 25 features that try and do everything. A simplified product is also much easier to execute. As you grow, customers will give you feedback and you can add features later. You may also find that your product can help solve additional problems as it grows. When uber launched they didn’t have uber eats, but they figured out “hey, if we can move people…we can also move food!”
While launching a successful startup is the dream of every entrepreneur, not everyone succeeds in the long run. The best course is to do the preliminary research to make sure you are laying a strong foundation to amplify your success.