Over the past 5 months I have been building a startup called Baja In. I wanted to throw out a few different things I have learned over the past 5 months. Some of the tips can be useful for others thinking of running their own start-up and perhaps someone reading will have some additional advice to add.
1. Solve a real problem or create something that doesn’t exist
I am not a big fan of building a better widget. I tried that method before and realized it goes nowhere. This time around I am building something that does not exist yet. This is a little different than solving a real problem like world hunger or more efficient power lines. I am building something new that fits with people’s need to be social and play games.
2. Find a good partner
My partner and I are completely different in a lot of ways and in some ways very similar. Startups are hit and miss to begin with so it is very important to find a partner who balances the relationship and brings additional value to the partnership. My partner brings decades of business experience to the table that has not only saved us from common pitfalls but saves a fortune in legal and other services usually required for a start-up.
3. Lack of money forces innovation
As with most start-ups we did not begin with a million dollar budget on day 1. Most first-time entrepreneurs get hung up on needing a lot of capital at the beginning to get the ball rolling. This isn’t the case. Where you lack in finances, you can be sure to find innovative ways of finding a solution. For example: spending a few hours researching 3rd party solutions to your problem can save you thousands of customized development. Of course, 3rd party solutions aren’t usually the end-all-be-all down the road but they can sure help you get your prototype working.
4. Beg, borrow and trade
Starting a business usually involves using the services of lawyers, accountants, developers and so on. You’d be surprised how many different services you have that they might need. See if you can get a discount for swapping some services or perhaps an across the board swap if you can. Although this form of trade can take more of your precious time away, it can save a bundle. Most start-ups have more human resources than financial resources. Think back to #2.
5. Find true believers
It is important to weed out the people who don’t believe in your idea vs. those who do. I had to find a partner, developers, investors and so on. A lot of people will hear out your idea and some will see the potential money in it, but if they are not a true believer they can add hindrance. You can find yourself wasting your time trying to convince the non-believers when you could be spending that time actually talking to those who are interested.
6. Things usually take longer than you think
One of my biggest problems is thinking that development can happen overnight and in reality I am usually wrong. If you think it will take a week to develop, it will probably take 2. It is important to clearly define the next phase of development and make sure the people doing the development sign it off as being doable. It is an important rule to never plan out more than 2 weeks of development at a time.
7. Work with self-starters
Not everyone is cut out for working at a start-up. Apart from the possibility of complete failure, people requiring constant supervision can drain you. I am fortunate enough to be working with one of the most talented developers I know. He brings his own great ideas to the table, he’s passionate about the idea and the project, and he doesn’t need any of my supervision.
This is a short and simple list with a ton of room to grow, and it probably will over the next few months. I will be sharing much more about this journey as it moves forward. If you are part of a startup I’d love to hear more about what you are involved in. Send me some links and let me know what useful tips you have discovered yourself.