Oh boy, this is probably the scrappiest post I have ever written. Yet, it came more natural than anything.
A friend, who is just about to start out with his venture, asked me these 5 questions, and these are the answers I gave:
1.) What are a few things you would differently if you could start over?
Starting up can be hard, the most important thing I would try to remember is that a lot of the first hits, first calls, first emails, won’t yield anything. So I would try harder to grow everything faster, because I knew this is what is needed. (I say this, because I am the hustler, not the hacker, if you need a hacker answer, be sure to check in with Joel on this.)
Having this in mind, I think you almost never get discouraged, here is a great article about which ratio for success and failure one should expect: http://blog.summation.net/2011/11/fail-to-succeed.html
2.) Are business plans really that important?
Screw business plans – we never even thought about having one.
3.) What is the top tip you would pass along to someone in my position?
Don’t get discouraged – ever. Starting a business is like learning an instrument or playing soccer. You suck a lot at the start, and that’s awesome! Your learning curve is steep and you will pick up so many things along the way.
Also, look for like-minds, people that do the same thing, this was one of the most important things for me.
4.) Should I worry about forming a real business up front or can it wait?
Wait with forming a business. Keep everything as lean as you can, no legal stuff, no accounting, no nothing. All that is important to focus on is whether your product/service is wanted from customers. If it is, you can do all the rest.
To get an idea of how you can really stay focused on what your customer wants, here is an amazing article from Joel on the topic and how he did it: http://blog.bufferapp.com/idea-to-paying-customers-in-7-weeks-how-we-did-it
A few points from the article to emphasise this:
- the paid feature was built as soon as the first person tried to upgrade
- payments went into his personal paypal account
- there was no business,
- a lot of features didn’t exist,
Calculate out as little as you can, and if you do, be as conservative as possible. Especially calculating revenues from your business might be tough at the start, if possible, try to live off money without it. I found that in general planning is hard and it distracts from focusing on what matters – do customers come and like what you have to offer.
What do you think? Which answers would you have given him?