I'm about to say something that's bound to sound a bit controversial and radical, now I know from experience that it isn't easy, BUT....
Creating a successful startup is not "rocket surgery" !
The most important thing is to ensure that you have the fundamental elements in order.
Create something that you (and others) want or NEED. Is your idea "cool" OR is it "useful"? If your answer is that your idea is "really" cool rather than having a purpose, or even better fill a need, then there may have a problem. The best and most successful ideas tend to come from people's desire to create something that they want, but it doesn't exist (yet), rather than trying to come up with something "awesome". Over the last while since I have been working in the "startup" space I have been approached by a number of people with "great" ideas and i'll be honest at least 80%-90% of them were to a greater or lesser extent "rubbish". In fact I have even asked a couple of the creators what was the "need" or "gap" in the market that they are seeking to fill and the answer in one particular case was"well I was trying to get a system that provided me with XX but it wouldn't work, but it did give me YY instead, so I went with that." Rather than pick on any specific idea here and to protect the guilty I will give you another common example of what I mean:- If you have "created something that's like Facebook ONLY BETTER", ask yourself "is Facebook genuinely letting you down?" "is this new platform actually fulfilling a need that Facebook has been neglecting, or is it just cosmetic?" AND "is the improvement significant enough to warrant over 1.5 billion people to close their Facebook accounts and move across to your Platform?"
Make Profit your Goal The days of creating a great product or website and then assuming that you can make it pay through selling advertising are behind us. As too is the assumption that if you build an awesome product and gain some traffic then Microsoft or Google will come knocking on your door brandishing a BIG cheque. The aim (if you want to maximise your chance of success ) is to work out and build-in from the outset a mechanism that ensures an income stream from your creation. Remember in this competitive world Venture Capitalists and investors are looking for those investments that will realise them a return, and thus will reward those business that have developed a plan for earning income and being profitable.
Take a team approach. Very few successful startups were founded by just one person, its just too hard to do it alone, you need people to bounce ideas around with, as well as provide alternate points of view. In fact the best startups would appear to require the following 3 skills of their founders: (i) Technical / programming ability (obviously) (ii) Business and corporate skills (to deal with the financial and administrative issues as well as handle external matters such as capital raising) (iii) Marketing Skills - (to ensure that finished product obtains cut through in the market)
Whist it is certainly not unusual for these three skill sets to sit between two founders, it is extremely unlikely that they will reside within the one individual.
Listen to your customers AND keep developing. It is extremely unlikely that you will get your offering 100% spot on the first time. Let your users tell you what they like (and what they don't) with your product, as well as what additional functionality they would like to see. Remember that Apple started off as a circuit board without a case, and on the PC front how many iterations of Windows AND "patches" have we seen over the last quarter of a century!
Design for today and the future There is little point developing something that is built around old technology, either as the basis of your system, or the focus of the improvement that you are seeking to make.
Listen to advice NOT doubters! Always be prepared to listen to and accept good suggestions, but stay away from the petty nay-sayers who just want to tell you it can't be done, just because they lack vision doesn't mean that you shouldn't follow yours.
David Prestney Founding Director - CFO CORP.
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