The startup world is a place of rapid change and learning, and trying to understand it all in one goes can be daunting says Peter Decaprio. Hopefully, this guide will help you get started.
Startup ideas are the foundation of any business, but when you’re just starting out, it’s hard to know what idea to focus on. Why would anyone want your product? How much money can you expect to make? What do investors look for in a pitch? You ask yourself these questions every day when you start working on your startup idea. It’s easy to become quickly overwhelmed with uncertainty and confusion. The good news: there is an abundance of free information available about how startups work — but unfortunately not everyone knows where find all the right resources (and there’s a lot of wrong information out there, too).
To help you get started, this guide is here to point out the best first steps you can take on your startup journey. We’ll give you articles and books to read, explain essential concepts you’ll need to know, and show where some of the best tools for entrepreneurs are hiding. You don’t have to learn everything at once — just go through the guide in order, or bookmark it for later. Let’s get started!
The Startup World: An Overview
- A quick background on the world we’re trying to understand we live in an age of rapid change brought about by technology’s exponential progress; an age that breeds innovation; age where small teams with big ideas can accomplish things that were otherwise impossible; an age of startups. It’s become a common meme to say “I’m not a real [whatever], I’m just doing this as a startup” — and who can blame them? We’re all biased to think our ideas and perspectives are great and worthy of investment — we imagine that everyone else is too, which leads us to thinking we should be able to get lucky more often than others, or that we’ve simply got something no one else has thought of yet says Peter Decaprio. And while it’s true there is room for the unexpected in the startup world (like how Twitter remained mostly unknown for years before suddenly becoming popular), on average getting your idea funded takes more than having a good idea:
- Businesses succeed because of the people behind them, not because of their ideas alone. Good ideas are simply a multiplier of how great you are as your business’s founder. If building a successful business were only about having good ideas, then anyone could do it with enough effort. So why is it that some people can make businesses successful while others fail? What does it take to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs? Is there really anything special about them, or did they just happen to get lucky?
- The answer is no—there’s nothing special about startup founders besides their attitude and willingness to work hard. You might think someone like Mark Zuckerberg was always destined for greatness — he had an idea and ran with it! But actually, Facebook started out in his dorm room, a humble beginning if there ever was one. But he worked hard and experimented with different methods. To attract users until he found something that seemed to work (after all, not everyone has viral content on their hands). And even Zuckerberg isn’t infallible — remember when Facebook tried to make their own phone?
- That’s the key: founders need an idea they can turn into action. You might have heard of people saying “ideas are worth nothing” — while this is overstated. It does only take 1 person to implement any given idea for it become valuable explains Peter Decaprio. To be able to successfully execute your idea into a business you must know how to do two things well:
- Get people excited about your product or service Figure out, or at least make educated guesses, about how your business should operate
- The first point is all about marketing (and Justin Jackson wrote a great guide to marketing for startups that will be coming soon to rt). You need people excited about what you’re doing or no one’s going to care. As the saying goes: “Build things people want” — it sounds simple enough. But it can actually take years of hard work and effort (like Uber). Before having the right product at the right time on the market works in your favor.
In other words, if you’re going to play the long game then you need to live in the grey area. “In a startup, everything is an experiment” — be comfortable with this fact. And spend some time thinking about all the ways your product could fail on a fundamental level says Peter Decaprio. Try not to jump too far ahead on developing each feature before it’s been properly validated by users. It might also help to think of this dynamic as a never-ending process: every step brings you closer. To seeing what works and doesn’t, so don’t expect things to magically fall in place overnight.