I have heard people say it just takes a good idea followed by a lot of hands to make a successful company. This can’t be further from the truth because building a thriving and desirable startup is really tough.
Sure, it starts with an idea (hopefully one that is based on solving a problem in the real world market and not just something that is ‘cool’). Very soon after, you need to start considering a million things:
- Business plan, formation and legalization, tax plan, cash flow, capital investment, partnerships, financial projections, strategic partnerships, expansion of the idea, architecture, functional and technical briefs, functional and technical specs, wireframes, compositions, prototypes, implementations, marketing plan, system architecture, system and network implementation and administration, alpha and beta testing, marketing implementation, and eventually your launch!
Chances are that in the beginning it’s just you (and maybe another person) bootstrapping all of this. The reality is, most of these components are absolutely necessary, and it can seem incredibly overwhelming. The fact that many founders skip a lot of these steps is one of the main reasons startups go bust so early (take for example that many forgo the financial forecasting, and thus, have no true sense of their revenue and profitability potential). The contrary can be said as well, that because some entrepreneurs focus too much on these areas they never really get off the ground.
You need to have thought out your business well and you need to successfully launch and continue to deliver. But how can one or two people do all of this? The answer is that you need to stay balanced and not get too focused into any particular stage or topic, and you need to reach out and discover what other successful entrepreneurs have done.
- Is it really necessary that your pitch includes a 50-page business plan instead of a concise but meaningful 10-page one?
- Do you really need to understand every detail about how to erect a functional specification, or can a short set of mockup diagrams be sufficient?
- Do you really need to spend a lot of time meeting with marketing consultants, or should you just hire a firm to take it over?
- How can you fund your business, and once it’s funded, how do you manage your cash flow?
- What do I really need in my business plan? Isn’t that overkill?
These are questions that are difficult to answer, and there is no single answer that works for everyone. You could get caught up in years of researching each of these fields if you’re not careful (this is why eventually businesses hire people that specialize!). Thankfully, there are conferences and training programs that can be really helpful. There are conferences that help you network and hone in on your skills for a piece of technology that you may use (i.e. RailsConf, Oracle OpenWorld, WWDC) and then there are conferences that help you with starting a business or marketing it (i.e. START!, Seed, TechCrunch50, BlogWorld Expo).
For example, coming up on October 2nd, 2008, is a one-day conference called STARTonomics in San Francisco that could help you figure out what pieces are critical to your startup, and which ones really aren’t. The sessions are led by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Here’s a little glimpse of some of the sessions that will be taking place during this intense day:
- Welcome to Startonomics & Startup Metrics for Pirates (AARRR!)
Overview of conference agenda + Intro to Startonomics: how to create simple, actionable metrics to help startups make better decisions in product development & marketing.
- Product Development 101: Designing & Prototyping the DNA of a Killer App
What does it take to plan, research, and develop a great web 2.0 application? Learn tips & best practices for setting the right process, goals, and metrics for your startup.
- Marrying Design & Development: a Match made in Heaven, not Hell
Learn about the basic fundamentals of web design, and find out how developers and designers can work together to create great websites and applications.
- Creating & Implementing a Web 2.0 Marketing Plan
How to design and implement an online marketing plan for acquiring users from multiple marketing channels, how to prioritize & mix channels based on stage of startup growth.
- Revenue: The Internet Wants to Be Free, but You Need to Get Paid
Learn how to generate revenue using a variety of business models & strategies including advertising, digital goods, subscriptions, lead generation, & e-commerce.
- Funding Wisdom: What I Wish I Knew
Forget the school of hard knocks – this is your chance to hear what 3 successful startup executives learned about the funding process, including timing considerations, types of funding, term sheets and working with investors.
- View the full list here.
This is a must-attend conference for startups working on Internet-based products! Beyond general session topics, you will be able to connect with other startups and successful entrepreneurs who can help you answer the really tough questions.
I’ll be there, soaking it all up. After the conference, I’ll write up a summary of some of the things I’ve learned from others that I think is most important for a successful startup!