80. How To Start A Startup: The Importance of Finding Your Idea & Product

22 important takeaways from this video:

00:02:13 There is no guarantee of success, however to be successful the four areas you need to concentrate on are a great idea, product, team & execution.

00:03:00 Being poor and unknown can actually be a huge advantage when it comes to starting a startup.

00:03:10 If your startup works out, you’ll be working on your startup for 10 years, so it’s worth some time to think though the long-term value and defensibility of the business. You should never start a startup just for the sake of doing so. There are much easier ways to get rich. You should only start a startup if you feel compelled by a particular problem, and that you think starting a company is the best way to solve it. This specific passion should come first, and the startup second. The best startups are almost always mission-oriented.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on defensibility, refer to Defending Your Brand by Tim Calkins.]

00:03:30 There’s a limit to what you can figure out without actually getting your product into the hands of users, and it’s become popular to just start a startup, through stuff against the wall and see what sticks, and then pivot as often as you need to, but a bad idea is still bad. Great execution towards a terrible idea will get you nowhere. Yes, there are exceptions, but must great companies start with a great idea; not with a pivot.

00:06.09 Eventually you need to build a business that is difficult to replicate.

00:07:00 The benefits of mission-oriented companies are that:

  1. You are passionate about it to see it through in the long-term
  2. Your employees can concentrate their productivity around your mission
  3. It’s easier for people outside your startup to want to get involved and support your projects.

00:07:70 Derivative companies (companies that merely copy existing ideas) aren’t very exciting and they don’t compel their teams to work hard enough to be successful.

00:08:20 The best ideas often look terrible at the beginning.

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00:08:50 You want an idea that will turn into a monopoly, but you can’t get a monopoly in a big market right away: too much competition for that. Instead, you have to find a small market in which you can get a monopoly, and then quickly expand. This is why some great startup ideas look really bad at the beginning. The first version of your product doesn’t need to sound big, it needs to take over a small niche of your market and expand from there.

00:09:40 Most startup ideas walk the line between right and crazy, and if you do come up with a great idea, most people are going to think it’s bad. This means that they won’t compete with you. This is also a reason why it’s not usually dangerous to tell people about your idea. Sound crazy, but actually be right.

00:10:31 Take the time to think about how the market’s going to evolve. Most investors are obsessed with the market size today; you need a market that’s going to be big in ten years. Think about the growth of the market before you think about the growth of your startup itself.

00:10:30 Many investors prefer to invest in a company that’s going after a small but rapidly growing market than a big but slow growing one. One of the advantages of a small market is that it’s customers are usually pretty desperate for a solution, and they’ll put up with an imperfect but rapidly improving product.

00:11:32 You cannot create a market that doesn’t want to exist. Basically everything can be changed in a startup but the market. Be sure that the market you’re going after is going to grow and be there.

00:12:49 In general, it’s best if you’re building something that you yourself need because you’ll understand it much better than if you have to understand it by talking to a customer to build the very first version. If you’re building something that you don’t need but that other people need, realize that you’re at a disadvantage and get very, very close to your customers. Work in their offices if you can.

00:13:20 If it takes more than a sentence to explain, then this is almost always a sign that it’s too complicated. You want a clearly articulated vision with a small number of words.

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00:15:20 Product includes everything from product support to the copy you write explaining your product – anything involved in your customer’s interaction with what you built for them. Until you’ve built a great product, almost nothing else matters.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For great ideas on building streamlined and unique ideas and businesses, read the book Best Practices by Arthur Andersen.]

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00:16:43 Your job is to build something users love. A lot of good-on-paper startups fail because they make something that users merely like. Giving something that people merely want is a great way to fail while not understanding why you’r failing. It’s better to build something that a small number of users love than something a large number of users like. It’s much easier to expand from what a small number of people love to something that a lot of people love than something that what a lot of people like into what a lot of people love.

00:19:15 One way you know this is working is when you get growth by word-of-mouth. Make something people love and they will tell their friends about it an you’ll see organic growth. If your company’s future growth is dependent upon a ‘partnership’ that’s going to save you, that is almost always a sign of trouble. If you don’t have at least some early organic growth, then your product probably isn’t good enough yet.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more interesting thoughts on user interface and creating organic growth through a kick ass product, check out my interviews with Timoni West, User-Experience Designer and Joshua Waldman, Owner of CareerEnlightenment.]

00:21:10 Simple is good because it forces you to do one thing extremely well. A good entrepreneur is fanatical:

  • They care about the quality of the small details.
  • They care about getting the copy that they use to explain their product just right.
  • They take customer support very seriously.
  • They respond to problems as quickly as possible – within the hour if possible.
  • They feel physical pain with their product sucks and they want to wake up and fix it.
  • They don’t ship crap, and if they do they fix it very quickly.

It definitely takes some level of fanaticism to build a great product.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on copywriting, refer to the excellent book Copywriting: Successful Writing for Design, Advertising, and Marketing (2nd Edition) by Mark Shaw.]

00:22:15 To get users to help with your feedback cycle, go and find them and pick them manually. Don’t buy Google ads during your early stages to find users, you just need a handful of users that will give you feedback everyday.

Pinterest found it’s first users because the owner Ben Silverman walking up to people in coffee shops and asking them to use his product, and pre-setting all the browser settings at the Apple store products to have Pinterest as it’s homepage.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on Consumer testing and managing focus groups, refer to my interview with Peter Spear. For more on user feedback and examining customer loyalty, read my interview with Benjamin Descazal.]

00:23:15 Even if you’re building a product for yourself, listen to outside users and they’ll tell you how to make a product that they’ll pay for. They will help you create your business and will be the advocates that help you get your next users.

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00:25:06 Growth is the indicator of a great product.