The buzz of Friday night is in full flow as you arrive at the startup weekend. Ideas are pitched and you are gravitating towards the idea you are most passionate about.
The next 72 hours hours are going to be short on sleep, and heavy on ideas, action and caffeine.
It's time to start a startup!
Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. (Warren Buffet)
Defining your value proposition is vital and it is often the most difficult step for a startup. Ideas are important - they are the seeds out of which your startup will grow - problem is, you need to plant a lot of seeds before you get a harvest and you need to be aware that sometimes a great idea does not equal a great product.
Your value proposition makes you filter through the ideas and identify the product you want to build for the people you want to become your customers. A solution that someone, another human being, would be willing to part with their hard earned cash for.
If you want to spend some time building something you like because you want to be your own boss or work with your best friend that’s fine - but don't expect to make any money and don't expect the startup to make it through the first weekend.
To do this you need a value proposition.
Agree clear answers for the following questions:
This is the essence of your value proposition.
If you can't answer these questions, then you need to step back and give it more thought. You can't pass this point before you nail this part of the process. You may be interested in some of the thought processes that go into selecting a winning startup idea.
Oh, and Yes.
Things will change and you could easily pivot six months down the road. But, that does not give you the leeway to fly for those six months without a clear and valid value proposition.
Are names really that important? Won’t people just get it and remember it? You know, like Hoover.
Yes, names are important. And, no it is very unlikely that you will be lucky enough to have your brand name become synonymous with a product type. That takes a lot of work first.
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ - Shakespeare
Have you ever searched for rose on Google? There are a lot of roses out there and finding the one you are looking for even if you know what you are looking for is virtually impossible. But, search for a specific name like Golden Celebration that is unique to a particular type of rose and you will find it in seconds.
That's the type of brand you can own, and soon, the type of domain you can acquire for cheap.
When thinking about your name, you should consider:
You also need a tagline and a few lines of text which captures your brand, value proposition and the emotion you would like to associate with your product.
Buying the right domain is the next step. Get your technical founder on the case, or if you don't have one, First Site Guide covers all the bases when it comes to setting up, running and growing your online presence.
Wordpress, Squarespace, Wix, using Themeforest etc are all good places to start.
You need to get the basics up and running: Facebook, Twitter to start. Depending on your potential customers (if your product has a strong visual aspect for example) others networks like Instagram, Flicker, Snapchat will also be a big plus at this stage.
You have a name, you have a domain. Now, you need to tell people about it. Create some buzz and excitement. There are huge communities and networks out there and you can leverage that power with the help of a savvy social media strategy.
There are a few simple rules.
Don't talk endlessly about yourself and your idea. Join conversations in the area that you want to get into. Get your friends to share. See what others are talking about and add value to those conversations. Make sure to use the hashtag of the event and leverage this to get more people to see you (you’d be surprised at how often startups just ignore this).
You’ve done a lot of work to make it to this stage. You have a name and an idea and a value proposition. Everything is looking good. But, the next stage is perhaps the most difficult. You can get all of the above correct and still stumble at stage 3. Stage 3 gives you a real reflection on how good your idea is, or how good your name is or even how good your product is or promises to be. If building a great startup was as simple as stages 1 and 2, we’d have a lot more Elon Musk’s running around.
No matter how much effort you have put in so far, you now need to validate your idea.
Just like a standup comedian, you've been working away on some great lines and stories and chuckling constantly at how clever they are. The moment you step onto the stage, in front of a real live audience - that's when you find out how funny your material is.
The problem is not always the joke. Sometimes, you have done everything right, you just have the wrong audience. If you believe this then you need to find the audience who are going to laugh at your jokes. If you don't find them then it is back to the drawing board.
Prototype? Why would I need a prototype? I know exactly what I want to build! Yep, I am sure you do. And I suppose user testing is out the window too?
Create a prototype is the first step in validating your idea. For non technical entrepreneurs, start here.
You can create a prototype in as little as 15 minutes and you can have that in the hands of potential users almost immediately. These are the people you need to be talking to.
At this stage you needn't worry about details, what colour background, logo, things like that. Think about the big picture and leave the details for later. Start with blockframe or a wireframe prototype and take it from there.
So you have got your mockup/wireframe/prototype up and running. Now, is the big moment. You need to get some feedback. You need to give it to someone who has never seen it or heard about it and see how they get on. It's time to get out on the streets.
If you are working on a music app, for example, then you need to know what sort of person would use your app? Your parents, your friends, men, women? You need to have answers to this question for a lot of reasons. There is no point building an app for someone who can't or won't use it.
You need to identify the audience for your product and then you need to test it with this audience.
Iteration is the path to success and prototyping is the way in. Don't expect everything to be perfect and don't expect people to love everything about it. You need honest feedback that from the correct audience which will enable you to make your product even better.
This could be a little painful but try to resist the urge to strangle the first user who does not behave exactly as you expected every user to behave. This is the whole point of testing. This is gold dust and you need to treat users as the one of the most important parts to a successful startup.
Check out any meetups near you which are aimed at your potential users or at startups. It will be a great chance to network and collect more information and, most importantly, learn from the successes and, even more importantly, from the mistakes of others.
Find out if there are any startup hubs in your area which organises events for early stage startups. You're well on your way to joining an accelerator and learning more about how to be a startup founder.