You just had your first startup idea. What next?
Giving up a stable career to follow one’s dreams is no longer taboo in India—thanks to a series of successful startups that have now become household names. And the floodgates are just about opening. Nasscom estimates that India will have more than 11,500 startups employing 250,000 people by 2020. Over 800 startups launch every year in India and, by virtue of Darwinian selection, not all of them will be the $1 billion unicorn, which venture capitalists love to brag about. Having said that, if you’re thinking about throwing your hat into the ring, now is still the best time to startup.
Starting your own company isn’t easy. It matters little if you are an engineering student or a 30-year-oldworking for an MNC; the excitement of starting something new is a rush that no amount of intoxicant can beat. Before you drop out of college or hand in that cocky resignation letter, do read this:
1. Your idea isn’t worth much. No matter how brilliant.
Every year, countless first-time entrepreneurs fall in love with their latest coffee-shop idea and quit their happy and stable lives (!) to start their journey toward greatness. Many of them will be swept away by the uniqueness of their idea. However, to translate a great idea into a great company, you need to answer the following questions honestly:
- What problem are you solving? And, is it important to solve it in the first place? Make sure that you are solving a difficult problem for many, many people; or—at the very least—a very difficult problem for a small(er) group of people.
- How big is your (paying) market? New-age entrepreneurs often ignore that your business has to make money to survive without venture capital. Identify who your target customer is, and estimate the market size and potential.
- Is anyone solving the same problem? Are you unique? Identify other companies or solutions that might be solving the same problem. These may not be simply direct competitors, so you may have to look at unusual places.
Remember, a lot of stuff that makes sense on your Excel sheets may still not work out in real life. But if your plan doesn’t work out on Excel, it most definitely won’t work out in real life.
2. Your idea will change multiple times before you get it right
The final avatar of your company will look nothing like the original idea you started with. Successful companies constantly look for innovative ways to solve problems—and if your problem is complex enough to solve, you will have to try many approaches before it works well enough. So, don’t fall in love with the uniqueness of your idea. Focus on solving the problem.
3. Share your ideas.
The chances of someone “stealing” your idea are significantly lower than someone improving it. Share your idea with people from the industry you’re targeting, other entrepreneurs, and—most importantly—someone you believe will be using your product or service. If you’re feeling possessive about your idea, keep in mind that there are 7.3 billion people in the world: what are the chances that no one in the world has thought of it before?
4. Get a good team on the idea. And set them free.
If you’re just starting out, the team you put together will determine how successful you are. As a founder, you will never be able to execute on everything that needs to get done. Reach out to colleagues whose work you admire, friends from college who may have skills you don’t, and business partners that know the space. Then, nudge them in the right direction and let them do their thing.
5. Great execution on a poor idea is better than poor execution on a great idea.
No one cares about your idea as much as you do. But everyone does care about solving the problem. Use that to your advantage. Learn from your mistakes, but also learn from the mistakes of others: this will help you speed up your execution. If a well-respected competitor has executed well on a solution and failed, there’s an 80 per cent chance that if you do the same thing, you will fail too. On the other hand, if you execute well on an initial idea, you will soon find out how to tweak your idea to solve the problem. In the end, solving the problem is all that matters.
Remember you just have to love what you’re doing—and that’s vastly different from loving your idea. If executing on your idea makes your daily life a nightmare, that love won’t last long. So, just fine-tune your idea, put together a group of fun people to work with and start executing away.