The starting point is clear: you have an amazing idea and hopefully a unique product, too. Think about it – ideas and concepts may well be sensational, but customers want a real product that they can touch, use and apply. Not just the idea of something.
Things are much easier if you develop your vision together with a partner or with a passionate team who are not at all shy of hard work and burning the midnight oil.
Don’t shut yourself away in an ivory tower or become too obsessed with your idea. Spending more time working on an idea does not automatically mean better results. Get out of your studio, office, cellar or garage – head out into the world and be open for all types of perspectives and points of view that can be found in your surroundings.
Be determined – but also be honest with yourself when it comes to assessments of your innovation.
Be open to feedback. Even if it’s not what you really want to hear. Give proper consideration to critical voices. Weigh up which aspects of those criticisms are justified. Incorporate the feedback you’ve received into your idea. But don’t be dissuaded from continuing on the path you’ve set for yourself.
One of the biggest uncertainties when it comes to start-ups is that one generally doesn’t know who exactly the potential customers are and what it is they are looking for. All assumptions are based on guesses. So don’t expect a big bang right away. Try a small launch first. It is far better to secure your first 10 “real” customers and learn from their feedback than to make a mess of things from the start with a hundred. For more on the idea of the “lean start-up” and how you can most efficiently evaluate your market potential, it’s best to turn to its creator, Eric Ries.
Put together an airtight business plan that exhibits potential for growth, is replicable and dismisses any suspicion that the idea is a one-day wonder. Another tip for further reading on the topic is Steve Blank – teacher, author and the founder of several Silicon Valley companies.
Network, network, network.
Imagine you meet a possible investor in the lift and you have only the next couple of minutes to present your idea in an understandable, concise and convincing way. If you succeed, your financial needs will be met.
Have a tight sense of your costs and your budget. And that means from the very first second. If you don’t want to deal with this yourself or don’t think you have the necessary experience, then find someone you trust to take over this task. There is no way around it. But you always want to be your own chief financial officer!
As the founder of a start-up, you need to remain flexible. Business plans aren’t etched in stone, even if they are terribly elaborate. The parameters of the market can change swiftly and suddenly. It’s up to you to be able to react to such changes in a flexible way if you want to carry your idea to success.
This leads to optimal timing – a complex aspect and most frequently involving something of a balancing act. If you’ve investigated the competition, secured your financial basis, polished the product and have your own personal situation under control, then it’s time to get started! Otherwise you can end up being too late.
If your start-up does happen to fail, thoroughly analyse the reasons for this. Your next chance will come along.
Last but not least: always stay true to yourself and be genuine. Customers and investors value a transparency that delivers on its promises.