Depending on how you count I'm involved with my sixth startup.
Some of them, including this latest, required outside capital whereas others were the product of sweat equity.
Some failed, some succeeded, both to varying degrees, and none came easy regardless of the outcome.
Throughout all that I've learned a thing or two and thought some of that may be helpful to those of you who are or are contemplating doing your own thing. But first let me set your expectations regarding what I have to tell you.
Searching “startups” on Amazon turned up 10,872 book titles. Why so many?
Well, it’s a very popular topic, there’s much to learn, and anyone seriously interested in starting a company, particularly those who've never done so previously, should learn all they can before beginning.
But bear in mind this post is less than 800 words, which means I'm not giving you the keys to the startup kingdom. Just my take on 5 things you need to consider before starting your startup.
They're numbered but don't assume an importance rank order. They're all equally important.
1. Twice as much, twice as long.
I'm way past my first startup “rodeo” and the absolutely-written-in-stone certainty I can assure you of is this: Becoming successful will take at least twice as long plus at least twice as much money, probably much more than you assumed would be necessary.
What about failure? Well I suppose the good news is it takes much less time to fail than it does to succeed. However, don't apply that rule to how much you'll spend in the process. Failure is at least as expensive as success, often more so.
2. Nobody cares as much as you.
You have this “incredible”, “awesome” (pick your own adjective) idea for a new product/service. It can’t miss! But soon you find the world is not as insightful as you because no one seems to care.
No point in wasting too many of the 800 or so words explaining why that is. Just accept it is what it is. You can and should work to make them care more but don't expect it day one.
3. You're wrong much more than you’re right.
Startups are a house of assumptions. You know very little for certain and even that you do know is subject to change.
Every business operates on assumed "truths", exponentially so for startups. You assume a lot and know very little. It’s ok that you don’t know; the job is as much about identifying and correcting inaccuracies as it is assuming them in the first place.
Just don’t “drink” too much of your own “Kool-Aid” to the point where you repeatedly act on false perceptions.
4. You’re not alone.
There’s a lot new under the sun but not necessarily your idea. Don't assume you're the only one who’s thought of it, particularly if you need to raise investment capital.
Do your due diligence; find out who and what you're up against. Your potential investors will and want to know you have as well.
And if you don't discover competition ask yourself why? The best validation of any new idea is that it is not a new idea.
5. You may end up alone.
You might be the consummate entrepreneur, willing to toss aside a well paying career in return for the chance to run your own business. But that doesn't mean your wife/husband/significant other/children, etc. are as well.
Nor does it mean your extended family and friends will support you to the degree necessary. And make no mistake about it, you do need help and support from others beyond those directly involved in the business.
You can attempt to go it alone but at least understand the feelings and concerns of those you drag along with you. Their unwillingness to live the startup life could be the undoing of your fledgling business, and worse, your relationships with them.
So that’s it, my list of 5 things you should consider before attempting a startup.
"Are there only 5?"
Not even close, you need to know much more than this, which is, in part, why I mentioned the 10,000+ book titles on Amazon relating to the subject. And if you're only going to read one I recommend you make it Guy Kawasaki's update to his original startup handbook The Art of the Start, The Art of the Start 2.0.
But this is a start, one I sincerely hope will spare you later pain and possibly even failure in your startup.
Break a leg!
William Matthies is the CEO of Coyote Insight, a planning consultancy, the author of The 7 Keys to Change, and a frequent speaker on matters pertaining to planning and change, both personal and professional. Contact him (firstname.lastname@example.org) to speak at your next group event.
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