Ed: This week we will be featuring a number of guest posts from undergraduate students from University of New South Wales who are building real businesses while still studying.
Today’s post is from Nikita Nagesh, one of the founders of Shopping in a Hurry.
As Marc Andreeson said, “software is eating the world”. Tech startups are disrupting almost every industry and if you are a creative person, you will have heaps of cool ideas for startups.
With so many ideas, it can be daunting to know where to start (especially if you don’t have programming skills). Here are 8 tips on how to take your startup ideas and turn them into reality.
Write down every single idea you have
Ideas can strike at the most unexpected times. I think of startup ideas at random times during the day – when I’m waiting in line for a coffee, when I’m writing an email or at 2am if I can’t get to sleep. It is vital to write down every single idea before you forget. I use the Google Docs app on my phone, but an old school notepad will do the trick.
Pick the idea that you keep thinking about
After you have a list of ideas, you will notice that there are a few ideas you can’t stop thinking about. I have a long list of ideas, but I know an idea is worth pursuing when I keep returning to it (often brainstorming during the day without intending to).
Guy Kawasaki says that startups should “make meaning” and this is a useful guide when thinking about your idea. Will your startup solve a real problem for customers and make a difference in the world?
My favourite startup at the moment is Samasource as I think it is creating amazing meaning by giving digital work to people in the world’s poorest countries.
Share your idea
Share your idea with as many people as possible and ask them for feedback. It can be tempting to keep your idea secret in the fear that someone will steal it, but it is highly unlikely that someone will drop everything they are doing to spend at least the next 2 years executing your idea.
According to the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, a benefit of sharing your idea with smart people is you will be critiqued from a position of intelligence and you will have to think about whether there is something you know that they don’t know that will actually play out to be true.
Start with a small market and expand to larger markets over time
When thinking about how to implement your idea, start with a very small market. PayPal founder Peter Thiel argues that as a startup you should aim to get to monopoly (as monopolies have a large share of the market). In order to do this, you should start with a really small market and take over the whole market. Over time you should expand the market in concentric circles.
Facebook’s initial market was 10 000 people at Harvard, and Amazon started by focusing solely on selling books.
Test your idea inexpensively
As Steve Blank says, “get out of the building” and talk to your target customers! Ask potential customers about their lives and the pain points they encounter. The best way to validate your idea is to show customers a prototype and ask them for a monetary commitment (Kickstarter campaigns are a great example of this).
The second step is to set up a landing page for your idea including a call to action (e.g. buy now, sign up) and pay for Google AdWords to see if your target market is visiting your landing page and clicking on the call to action button.
Join startup communities near you
According to many startup experts including Paul Graham, startups are more likely to succeed with more than one founder. If you are looking for a co-founder, attending startup Meetups and events is a good place to start. Social media is also a rich resource to find out about events near you. I keep track of the “Sydney Startups” Facebook group and #startupaus on Twitter.
I am also part of a community of entrepreneurial students supported by the Student Entrepreneur Development team at UNSW. Talking to like-minded people who are kicking startup goals is extremely motivating and I have learnt a great deal from our conversations.
Learn as much as you can about startups
There are fantastic resources widely available so anybody with an Internet connection can immerse themselves in the world of startups.
Currently, Sam Altman from Y Combinator is running a free online course on “How to Start A Startup” with lectures from some of the most successful startup entrepreneurs.
Some of my favourite books on startups are: “The Lean Startup” by Eric Reiss, “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” by Steve Blank, “Running Lean” by Ash Maurya, “The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki, “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick and “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel.
Acknowledge you are scared, but do it anyway
Founding a startup is scary business. The chance of a startup succeeding is very slim, and this fear of failure is one of my biggest worries. I was once told that when successful people face a challenge, they acknowledge that they are scared, but do it anyway and find confidence after they have tackled the challenge.
Even if you fail, you will have learnt so much along the way and can apply these skills to your next venture!
Do you have any tips on taking a startup idea to reality? Let me know in the comments section below, or find me on Twitter (I’m @Nikita_Nagesh).