Stuck at the Idea Phase? These 6 Collaboration Avenues Can Help.
"I have this great business idea, but I just don’t know what to do next."
This comment was from a casual conversation I had with my son's doctor this past week, as we waited in his office for checkup tests results. For all general purposes, however, the exact phrase could have come from any and every entrepreneur and inventor I have ever met in my career.
It might be the single most common phrase uttered by would-be entrepreneurs.
Indeed, bringing an idea to fruition is one of the most challenging and stressful experiences that entrepreneurs will have. Running a business is complicated, and starting a new business around a new product is more so. It is no wonder so many great ideas stop right at the idea stage. Fortunately, resolving this problem is not as difficult as many people think.
It comes down to collaboration.
Working with others on a project is one of the most effective ways to move an idea forward. Many entrepreneurs and inventors, however, often cite the fear of someone stealing their idea as their primary reason for avoiding collaboration. This is a completely valid concern, but these days, keeping an idea to yourself could very well do more damage than good.
Finding ways to collaborate on your idea is easier than ever these days. Here are just a few resources to consider:
1. Coworking spaces
Coworking spaces are popping up all over the country. Often, these spaces are wide-open common areas where entrepreneurs and business people meet, meander, work, talk and share ideas. While having a comfortable and energetic place to work is a definite benefit, more so is the opportunity to meet and collaborate on ideas with a hosts of other working professionals, some of whom may actually fill a need you have. If you cannot find a cowork space in your area, consider starting one of your own. All you need is a meeting place and shared interests.
2. Incubators and accelerators
Organizations that assist startup and early-stage companies are called business incubators and accelerators. These programs often provide entrepreneurs a host of resources, from development of investor pitches to raising money to finding specific talent. Some groups are focused on tech startups, while others focus on manufacturing and other specialty industries.
Make sure you understand what is required from you to get involved, as many programs have a fee or an equity-share agreement. While that may be intimidating, the benefits in most cases far outweigh that cost.
3. Crowdfunding and crowd investing
Early-stage companies can also consider launching a fundraising campaign on a crowdfunding platform such as Kickstarter, Indigogo or any of the other crowdfunding platforms. In its most simplest form, crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to raise money while essentially pre-selling a service or product. In addition to raising money, a successful crowdfunding campaign creates visibility and provides proof of concept. Using crowdfunding does not mean you will be successful, as there is a great deal of work and planning that goes into properly launching a campaign.
Another avenue to consider is crowd investing, which are platforms that allow you to promote your company to accredited investors, who can then make equity investments in your company. Some popular sites include Fundable, AngelList and OneVest. This option is much more complicated and requires a solid legal understanding of the process before you even start.
4. Startup events
Startup events have grown tremendously in popularity over the past few years. One program, Startup Weekend, has participants who develop an entire business idea, from idea to pitch to working models or minimum viable products (MVP), all over a 54-hour weekend. Many events involve competitions with cash prizes. Like everything else, be sure you understand what you are getting into prior to participating.
Going about a startup business is hard work, which is why so many great companies have co-founders. In addition to helping with the workload, co-founders often bring complementary skills and experience. Do not be quick to engage family and friends, as bad business deals often lead to bad situations in your personal life. Instead, considering looking for other entrepreneurs who may just be looking to get involved with an exciting new business. Websites such as Founder Dating can pair you up with other aspiring entrepreneurs.
6. The Internet
If all of these tips are a little overwhelming, at the very least just get on the Internet and do research. There might be existing companies that have already developed your idea or some very close iteration thereof. You can always inquire and work with them. You can also find reputable websites to help you find development partners, licensing partners and other resource to get you going. At the very least, get your website and social-media platforms reserved.
All of these options require you announce your idea to the world. With no patent or other intellectual-property rights secured, this can be stressful. Of course, you should always seek legal advice if it makes you more comfortable.
Keeping it to yourself, however, will get you nowhere, and as fast as business and innovation move these days, if your idea is worthy of consideration, someone else will think of it eventually.
What do you think? What other resources have you used to collaborate on a new business idea? Please share your thoughts with others below.
Editor's Note: Entrepreneur Media is an investor in and partner with AlleyNYC, a co-working space in New York City.