I have worked with/around tons of smart people over the years, and one thing that eventually happens is they see opportunities for business everywhere. The tough job of picking one idea aside, they are then faced with the reality (read as “almost impossible task”) of getting from the idea stage to the business dynasty they imagined it will become.
Most times they don’t.
Ideas typically start out as something that you stumble on, then it begins to nag you, and comes back to you even when you ignore or discard it. Sometimes, even others close to you will realize that you are the best person to solve a particular problem. Some other people might have even attempted to run with it, but you will feel personally insulted at the way they attempt to solve the problem.
Google’s I/O 2017 video below is very visual about how ideas can work.
You once had an idea, right?
That’s why you’re reading — but that’s all it was, an idea. The process of transforming an idea to a business can seem daunting if you don’t start.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is now! — Chinese Proverb
The All our lives we have been taught about business this way;
– get a brilliant idea
– work out a perfect 20+ page business plan
– find investors
– build business
– get rich (or die trying)
But building a business is hard — so hard that often, passion and talent are not enough, you have to be sure that there is a business in the first place before sinking your savings and your inheritance in a non-starter.
Here’s a more practical way to go about it;
– get a brilliant idea (to be done by you, typically in the shower)
– think of whose problem you’re solving — i.e. customers* (to be done by you alone or with a smart friend)
– talk to these people to confirm that you are solving the problem right (to be done outside your house with said people — never done alone)
– create an MVP — a small version** of what your solution will look like, offer customers and ask them to use and possibly pay (to be done alongside prayers and fasting)
– apply learnings and build product when you are certain your product fits the market (to be done by you and smart friend(s))
– please don’t die trying, accept failure, learn from it, and move on (to be done by you)
I like to think of an MVP like the "tasting" that suya men give – while it's not the meal, you can judge if you want to buy or not from it!
— Fola Olatunji-David (@folasanwo) July 19, 2017
Do I imply that you throw caution to the wind and not plan? No. Please plan, but do not spend all month, or year, planning — there is no point writing a business plan that is unusable, or written on the premise of things your customers don’t need. So rather than write, act. Rather than postulate theories of what customers want, go out and interact with them.
PS: Not sure how to approach customers? Read this.
Notice that there is no direct mention of investors in this approach I suggest. That’s because investors are not there to help you start a business, they are there to help you grow it.
You once had an idea, now go build the business!
*Customers used very loosely here — is typically 1 or more different customer segments
**small version is relative — read about MVP’s here
Drop a line in the comments or reach me @folasanwo on twitter