If you’ve been tinkering with an idea that is a solution to a problem, or occupies a commercial space that is presently vacant, maybe you should think about starting up. Here’s a practical step-by-step guide to starting up, inspired by an article by Paul Graham, Co-founder of Y-Combinator.
Let’s go back to the future: Yes. The future is where it begins. All the great inventions of today, all the great ideas we celebrate as the pinnacle of human achievement were products of great imagination. There was no precedent – it was pure unadulterated futuristic thinking.
Fill up the blanks: If you’re having difficulty visualising the future, think of the present. What’s missing? Where are the gaps – where things are done inefficiently, where people are inconvenienced, where we can bring about great change, where we can empower and transform people?
From thought to word: You might get a lot of ideas, but even the best mind will not be able to recollect after a heavy dinner and a good night’s sleep. So pen them down, or key them in to your smartphone. Keep a journal of ideas.
And the word was made prototype: As much as words can be a powerful tool to convey ideas, nothing beats the prototype. A visual medium can add credibility to your message, ensures that customers or investors will recall your idea for a longer period of time.
It’s show-time: With a decent working prototype, you’re ready to get out in to this big-bad world, knocking on the doors of users, customers, investors, CEOs, showcasing your prototype. Be ready to take the brickbats as well as the plaudits. The criticism you receive might be your first formal education into Entrepreneurship.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat: A little bit of shampoo wisdom can stage a timely intervention, if you feel your idea didn’t make the cut. It’s time to iterate. Tweak, pivot or swivel. Do what you need to do to make your idea relevant.
Get hitched: While this marriage may not be made in heaven, it surely will be a union of souls. It’s time to look for a co-founder. Someone to share the burden and inject new ideas. It may be someone who was already involved with your idea or someone from your friends circle, or someone you’ve never met before.
Sweat ‘Equity’: As the countdown to launching your start-up, it’s important to consider the vehicle that will carry you the distance. When registering your start-up consult a reliable person what kind of entity you need to form. While most start-ups register a Private Limited company, there are other options like LLPs and Partnerships which may be better suited for your situation. Depending on the type of entity you register, you can decide how you want to fund your start-up. While VC and Angel funding are options, do not forget the benefits of bootstrapping your start-up.
Take-off! Launch time. Design your first viable product. You don’t have to embellish it with a lot of features. As long as it serves some useful purpose, take it to the crowd and see how they respond to your little baby.
Take-off… Again? Follow up or fail is the watch word in this phase. You need to get the feedback from your users and improve upon your product. And re-launch it again, and again … and again. As long as it takes to get you on top.
Growing pains: Now you need to increase your user base. Aim for the first 1000. You might need to meet them physically, call them or even stalk them. After that, there needs to be a steady increase among your user base. If at any time, it stagnates, check why people are not using it. Re-assess and re-launch your product.
Success, or maybe not: The story usually ends with an IPO or a sell-off or a wash-out. Whatever happened in the end is just the beginning. You can take your now grown start-up to higher levels or pursue other ideas with the benefit of having gained valuable experience and knowledge.
Your start-up journey will be worth every moment and will repay you ten-fold.