Written by Michelle Caers
The start-up world has evolved a lot over the past 20 years but there are a few themes that come up again and again. One of these themes is the notion that the idea counts for 90% of the business success and the rest will take care of itself. In reality nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the inverse is almost universally true. The sooner new entrepreneurs come to grips with this reality, the more likely they are to succeed. Your earth shattering grounding breaking idea just isn't all that!
First of all your idea is probably not new. And even if it is a new take on an old problem chances are that it has been tried before. The first step on your entrepreneurial journey is to find this out. This means floating the idea to anyone who will listen and actually listening to what they have to tell you. If the idea resonates with others, you can take the next step to do some more formal research and identify any competitors. Then decide if what you offer is enough of a differentiator to make a difference.
The next really key step that's often overlooked is Customer Discovery. This step has gained much needed recognition in recent years following the success of The Lean Start-up by Eric Ries, a disciple of Steve Blank. But surprisingly few start-up folks actually invest enough time and effort in this step. Maybe because talking to strangers is really out of your comfort zone or maybe because it's hard work. Either way ignore it at your own peril.
Say that you have been able to validate your idea with prospective customers and you have built your MVP (minimum viable product). You are still just at the beginning of the beginning. Getting from a working prototype to paying customers can be likened to tightrope walking across the Grand Canyon in level of difficulty. It is this critical stage of the business that is the most commonly misunderstood and dramatically underestimated. I've worked with more than one Founder/CEO who exclaimed, "The product sells itself". Well my friends, no product, technology product or otherwise, has ever sold itself, at any time, anywhere, in all of time.
If you can establish a repeatable, scaleable business model then you are well on your way to the middle of the beginning. Investors, employees, lawyers, offices and everything else comes after. And that is why the idea is just that, an idea.