You Have an Idea For a Startup: Now What?

Transform your idea into a successful startup with a proven 5-level approach

learn more about Ajay Batra

By Ajay Batra

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You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

You wake up on a Monday morning with a flash on how to design a more comfortable mattress.

While shopping with your friends, you are struck with a solution for finding discount deals at stores.

During a discussion with friends on poor cell phone connections, you discover a new way of boosting signals in buildings.

While studying at your table, you imagine how you could make the air conditioner work more effectively in the blistering Indian summer.

After struggling for weeks to find a solution to the perennial problem of ill-fitting ladies' shoes, a breakthrough idea dawns upon you.

While counting your savings in the piggy-bank, you have a brainwave about automating savings while spending with credit cards.

If you can picture yourself in any of these situations, or similar ones, then you know how difficult it is to contain your enthusiasm when you get brilliant ideas in your head. These inspiring ideas appear in a variety of ways: some call for thoughtful discussion and analysis; others may require observation and quiet reflection while others may be born out of serendipity.

It is hard to hide the excitement of how your rockstar idea may change the world. Your mind is racing ahead on imagination and adrenalin - making the otherwise dreary parts of your life disappear.

You know you are on to something big. Try as you much, but you cannot help dreaming of the beautiful future that your idea promises for yourself, your family, and the world at large. In your mind, the product/service has already been launched, and you have become the wealthy and successful entrepreneur whom everyone admires and talks about.

You are full of positive energy; you are a woman/man possessed!

But you know that you can't live in your dreams for too long, as all your life you have heard that ideas are nice, but their execution is supreme; discovering ideas is great but making them work is what really matters. You are compelled to translate your vision into reality so, you must act on this idea. Didn't Mark Zuckerberg, Sachin Bansal, Brian Chesky, and Ritesh Agarwal all start at the same point – with a strong idea and the desire to act on it?

But are you committed enough to act, and what really are you supposed to do?

What does "execution" even mean, and what should you do first? Quit your job? Drop out of college? Register your company? Borrow money? Write the code? Rent an office?

With all the talk about Design Thinking, Product-market fit, Business Model Canvas, and Lean Startups, one may be inclined to expect clear answers to these questions, but unfortunately, that's not the case. Hence, in the absence of a practical blueprint, many startup founders get frustrated, distracted, or pick somewhat random strategies for launching their startup. As a result, they get lost in the din of operations and drown in an avalanche of cash burn while showing little or no improvement in internal efficiencies or market effectiveness.

The need of the hour is a clear roadmap that serves as a guiding light in a startup's journey; One that serves as a starting point for founders with ideas and provides an outside-in view of the venture while keeping a sharp focus on the few issues that are critical to the startup's current stage of maturity. Fortunately, many others have traversed the same startup journey with varying degrees of results, and thanks to them, we now have a tried and tested roadmap that you can follow for your mission of converting an idea into a successful venture.

The Startup Maturity Model© (SMM) embodies the discipline of launching effective startups in a five-level Maturity framework which seamlessly integrates concepts from Design Thinking, Entrepreneurship, Strategy, Operations, and Human Capital Management, and helps balance the focus on product, markets, finance and culture for a budding venture. SMM's unique five-level architecture allows founders to take the guessing game out of the equation as they follow an iterative approach for building innovative and scalable startups.

At its highest level of abstraction, the SMM consists of five Maturity Levels, and each maturity level focuses on the most critical issues for the startup to work on as it makes progress towards its launch and beyond:

Level One creates a foundation of transparency, trust and innovation for the nascent venture. It helps the founders in identifying startup ideas that uncover opportunities in the market while aligning with the team's interests, capabilities and resources.

Level Two ensures that ideas for innovative products or services are systematically evaluated for their business potential by enabling the founding team to better understand their potential customers' context, needs and wants. A significant portion of this maturity level is devoted to developing customer empathy by "getting out of the building," immersing in customers' lives and by shifting their thinking from product/service to customer problems and the proposed benefits.

Level Three ensures that the proposed product or service will be relevant to, and will be paid for by, by various customer segments. By solving problems that potential customers care about, or by satisfying their critical needs, this level ensures that the founding team is pursuing a venture that has a reasonable chance of success.

Level Four The purpose of level four is to leverage customer and market insights for developing products or services with appropriate functionality and quality and to prepare the startup for the upcoming launch.

Level Five ensures that the new venture makes a smooth transition from a startup to an operating organization - one that continuously innovates and grows. Critical customer-centric and organizational factors are monitored to determine if the launched product or service has generated the desired impact. Close attention also is paid to the experiences of partners, employees and other stakeholders during, and after, the launch.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step", an old Chinese saying applies beautifully to startups. While there are hundreds of steps in the overall journey, the SMM framework has created five clear phases, and mini-steps, within each - so that you keep making steady progress without don't getting overwhelmed.

Have an idea for a Startup? Begin at Level 1 and keep going up and ahead. All the very best!

Ajay Batra

Founder, Uniqorn Growth Partners

Ajay Batra is an entrepreneur, author, angel investor, and active contributor to innovation and startup ecosystems. He has been recognized for his ground-breaking work in Design Thinking and Startup Maturity Models. He is the Founder Uniqorn Growth Partners, a global startup advisory and assessment company, and a Senior Advisor with

Venture Fastrack of the Wadhwani Foundation. He has recently published his book, ‘The Startup Launchbook’ with Wiley.

He was the Founding CEO of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Bennett University. He also headed Bennett Hatchery – the startup incubator. He is a Charter Member of TiE, a member of LeadAngels and a Mentor for Atal Innovation Centres, NITI Aayog. He serves on several national committees of FICCI and CII and is a sought-after jury member for national and international startup competitions like HULT Challenge, CII Startpreneur Awards, Babson Challenge, ET Power of Ideas, Innovation Launchpad, etc.

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