Get Set Start UP – Chapter One : The idea
The story of the idea started when god came up with his idea of creating a being who can think, who can innovate and come up with innovative ideas.
Prelude of any startup is a raw idea. The raw idea takes shape to solve real-life problems of the population, makes life easier, generates employment and creates wealth. A startup goes through various stages and takes vivid forms before reaching its salvation but the first and the most important part is the inception of the raw idea.
The story of the idea started when god came up with his idea of creating a being who can think, who can innovate and come up with innovative ideas. Nothing has changed since then, from time to time human came up with revolutionary ideas which changed the way we eat, we live or we communicate.
These ideas support each other, sometimes contemporary, others may follow one another. They act like dominos, one leading to another and the outcome is far from what the first person thought of.
Edison’s idea of distributing electricity as a source of efficient power led to an array of electrical equipment, in fact, me writing this paragraph on my laptop is also some way backed by that one idea Edison had one day. His idea was to light every household with his electric bulbs. It may seem so simple that today it’s of no surprise even to the most obscure islands. But back then it was a challenge. Edison started up with his idea, what followed is a part of written history. His dedication and thought process changed everything thereafter. One day a man saw the moon and came up with his idea of having a personal moon.
A man-made moon revolving around the earth very similar to our natural moon. Everyone thought he was nuts, but he was a man with a dream, people call you crazy when you have an idea beyond their capabilities
but when executed with passion and with courage, the world enters the satellite age.
People have GPS, they have satellite maps, TVs, phones and his ashes are preserved behind a brick in the Kremlin wall. His name was Sergey Korolev. An idea always seems out of place at the first glance but when a visionary entrepreneur lives with it day in and day out; it becomes a livelihood for many and part of life for ages to come.
An idea can originate out of any individual, how big or small everyone tries thinking out of the box, everyone tries thinking something new. It does not require a college degree or formal training, one fine moment you think that you can do it better and it strikes.
For a person to come up with new ideas requires nothing but an appetite to make improvisations, to think of ways of doing things differently and with added benefits.
Back in the late 90s and early 2000s we already had an online social network, we had chatrooms, we had messengers, we could play games online, we interacted with complete strangers over the web, and we also had friends lists. The web was flooded with websites and portals big ones like MSN, Yahoo, Orkut, AOL, etc accompanied by a plethora of yiks and yaks who no one pays homage to. But one young man with his roommates at Harvard hostel was deeply convinced that he could do it far better and could offer people a richer world wide web.
Mark Zuckerberg started what today we call facebook.com in 2004 and ripped the webspace to generate a multi-billion dollar unicorn in which employees top engineers and a huge chunk of the world population are a customer.
Sometimes ideas generate out of thin air, with no evolutionary traits, a completely virgin space, and an unprecedented product line. Such events occur rarely but are generally followed by a huge transformation in various sectors of society.
One such innovation was led by Graham Bell, which led to the foundation of one of the world’s largest telecom service provider AT&T. His idea that people can talk over an electric wire was unique unprecedented and led to the telecom revolution. People for the first time could converse without meeting each other.
Similar is the case of Oil companies of Texas, these companies once upon a time also originated as startup ideas and culminated in pillars on which the modern civilization stands. An idea must be very simple to explain
and very difficult to implement, as simple as the google search. One text box and a search button, you need to look for anything on the web just type it in the box. The algorithms which crawl the web and suggests results in a priority order may be complex even for leading engineers but the idea is simple enough for internet users of any age.
The simpler the idea seems, the more powerful it is. If your idea requires effort to understand then the general population will never use it. If you have a complicated implementation or technological breakthroughs to execute your simple idea, it can provide you with the much-needed barrier to entry. The instant messenger was also one such very simple idea that does not require much of imagination to understand.
Origin of an idea must be very simple; it will automatically get complicated on every step of execution. If you start with a complicated idea, you can only get a mess out of it, not a startup. So if you have a startup idea, scrutinize how simple it is. An idea some time is ahead of its time while some times it is so late that it suffers a premature death. Both cases lead to failure.
A classic example of startups ahead of their time is beanz, in the late 90s, it sold a digital currency which one could use to shop online. It raised a $100 million only to find that the market was not mature enough. People then were not as enthusiastic about shopping online as they are now. The company closed down and after a gap of not more than a decade, we have successful digital wallet startups and Bitcoins. The idea was perfect and it was executed well but it was a decade early of the perfect time. On the other hand, the idea of having a pager came so late that it was already obsoleted by SMS services even before it penetrated the masses. It is not only important to have an innovative and life-changing idea, but it is also important to conceive and execute that idea during the apt period of time. A few ideas are so successful that they cross borders to conquer foreign territories. Sometimes the startup goes for geographical expansion, and if they are late in expanding, people more often copy their ideas and create startups of their own. There is nothing wrong with doing this. An idea can come from anywhere, if you tweaked some startup to suit your country and implemented it perfectly to success, you are no less an entrepreneur.
Many such successful examples are present across the globe. In India we have flipkart.com, started by former amazon.com employees, spiced up to Indian conditions, only to become a technology unicorn. Similar are the cases of Ola cabs, quikr.com, etc. If you think that a particular product that you come across is also needed in your geography and nobody is providing it then you have a startup idea.
Many people keep struggling for years in search of an apt idea for their startup. They want to commit their life to an idea. They are ready to dedicate their money, their expertise but somehow that very life-changing idea is not falling in place. If you keep negotiating on every thought and try convincing yourself for various ideas, it can only waste your time.
Conscious thinking will make you try different ideas which at the end cost you time and money in return of a realization that the idea was not worth going for a startup. Instead of deliberate thinking, train your mind to become an entrepreneur, train it to go through various ideas subconsciously. An entrepreneur’s mind analyses ideas without even knowing that they can be startup ideas. To turn your brain into an entrepreneur you need to know the world around you. You need to understand bits and pieces of every startup that interest you. You will appreciate their achievements, the problems they face and the solutions they came up with. Your expertise may be in a particular domain of the startups that interests you inherently but you need to know every corner of how people work. There are two ways of doing it, I prefer doing both together.
The first is reading a lot. Subscribe to every possible channel of knowledge and read articles that interest you. Look for the core idea of every startup you are reading about. The core idea of every startup can be summed up in a line or two, look for those lines. With time you will start understanding the difference between an idea and a startup idea.
The second way is to work for a startup, best in a sector which appeals you the most. When you work for a startup, you sit with people who already have an entrepreneur in their brain and you can trust me that entrepreneurship is a very communicable disease. One day you will be surprised to know that while you are still a startup employee, your brain has already turned into an entrepreneur. It can see through ideas. It can troubleshoot like never before. And most important, it is more inclined to take a risk and it is fearless. When you reach this state of mind, where you have the know-how of the startup ecosystem and an ability to take the risk, one fine moment you will have your idea.
When you are face to face with your idea, ask yourself who wants it now and will he use it even in the rawest form. If your answer is yes, then you have your startup idea. The next problem that most first-time entrepreneur faces is, what to do with this once in a lifetime idea?
“Should I discuss it?”
“Is he trustworthy?”
“Will he does not steal my idea?”
To answer them all always remember, no one in this world is more qualified than you to live your dream. The idea and the entrepreneur are inseparable. The amount of trust you need to build a startup out of your idea can only be with you. It is similar to me having the idea of writing this book. If I share with you this idea that I am going to write this book and discuss the content I am going to put in it. You will not start writing this book. It requires a lot of conviction accompanied by a lot of experience I had in my last startups to really generate the content for this book. Brief discussions with even the best writers will only facilitate me to present my content well and help me write a good book. He will not start writing my book because he has better things which he can write about.
In fact, you are not the first one to ponder upon the idea that you have now. A countable number of people already had made a failed attempts on the same idea and a good lot is simultaneously thinking and innovating on the same.
Facebook, eBay or even Google are not the maiden attempts to respective ideas. Many people had the same idea and few tried executing them but one succeeded. You want to be that one. Let’s talk about a very less known startup, mapquest.com. Mapquest came up with the same idea far before google maps. The idea was simple; they could have reached the zenith and become a part of our lives as google maps are, but it was not about the idea it was about execution. Don’t shy away from discussing your idea, it will help you to refine and perfect your thoughts before taking the leap of faith.
What will happen when you start discussing? When you discuss with your friends, family or seniors, you will get three kinds of responses.
The first one is “apathy”, this kind of person is not interested, on what so ever you are talking about. They are very happy with their lives and are not going to try anything new.
You will get an answer – “So What?”,
You will feel reluctant talking to these people, but they are very significant. Remember no idea sells like hot cake, you need to convince these people. It is your idea. People will certainly not connect to it on their first go, but if you can convince them to your side of the line then you know that the idea is worthy enough and you are committed enough. This is the true magic of discussing your idea.
Second, are those people who are classified as – “skeptics”.
These people will give you answers like – “Who will ever use this?”, “It is more of a hassle than a convenience!”.
These are the most hated by entrepreneurs, but they are the most important lot of people. They are the ones who will never get convinced but will acquaint you with gaps in your own idea. The doubts that they create will make you think about your ideal day in and day out. They will haunt you, not let you sleep. They will sometimes successfully convince you that your idea is not worthy enough to work for, actually, they are unconsciously preparing you for the days to come, for the thorny questions angels and VCs will ask. Later you will be thanking these people for the free training sessions they provided you. One thing you should be careful of is, don’t get demotivated. Don’t give up to the winds of opposition. Also don’t try to convince these people, remember you need to hear more from them.
The third herd of people is loved the most by entrepreneurs; they are the true – “appreciators”.
They give a standing ovation to any idea that crosses them. They will say – “This is the next Uber.”,
“This is Facebook in making.”
They will contribute by boosting your spirit to levels where your creativity quadruples. When you face lows they help you climb the valley of death. They are your fans when you play on your home ground. They multiply your performance and divide your stress. Don’t change your startup story every week. There are people you will find discussing a different startup idea week on week. These are not startup ideas, they are superficial thoughts popping up without any basis.
A startup idea is deep inside you, it is not just a conversation you do to impress people in your circle. It’s a bug for which, you leave your job, your cosy lifestyle, rebel your family, just to execute that one idea. You believe in that idea. If you are just hopping from one idea to other
daily, then you haven’t got your startup idea yet.
Lastly, every startup idea should have a vision. This vision statement redresses you when you go wayward. You should always have a vision statement. It must be a broad one.
It may be as big as Elon Musks’ vision of “saving humanity from extinction by enabling interplanetary manned space flights”.
The broader your vision is more diversified your startup can become. If you want to start with a cab company, you should not start with a vision of providing cheap cabs to users. It should be at least be – revolutionizing how people commute intracity. This broader vision will help you make short term and long term goals.
\Your broader vision will have the potential to accommodate various ideas and thus add flavor to your startup. If you have an idea you believe in, and you can define a vision around it. You are ready to take that leap of faith, lets Get Set StartUP!