Startups can be financially and personally rewarding. They are also a lot of work and may not pay off in the end. Most entrepreneurs, get so many good ideas regularly. So how do you know if a startup idea is worth pursuing? Here we will give a sort of checklist that you can run through. If your idea checks out in these areas, it might well be worth the work to pursue. If it doesn’t check out, it may just need some tweaking, or it may not be worth the effort. Your Startup Should Address A Pain Point Your startup idea should address a pain point. That is to say; it should help people to do something that people want to do. You heard this before – you want to build a startup selling painkiller, not the vitamin. Most people like the idea of vitamins, but there is no urgency. Many people think that this means that their startup needs to solve a problem that no one else has solved before. This isn’t necessarily the case. Sometimes there are already solutions to a problem, but those solutions have their drawbacks. These drawbacks can be the pain points that your idea addresses. Your Startup Should Have A Specific Audience Your startup idea should also have a fairly specific audience in mind. Naturally, this audience will be people dealing with the pain point that your idea addresses. The pain point that your idea addresses and the audience may be closely linked. Perhaps your audience is a subset of the audience of another tool or industry that has a unique problem that existing solutions don’t consider. Maybe there’s a way to solve the problem that your idea solves, but your idea does something better or includes more people. Maybe your idea would approach things in another way, or offer different affordances. Maybe your idea helps to solve a problem that people experience with the current solution because they are disabled, or from a specific background or ethnic group, &c. Identifying this group can help you define your audience for research and marketing purposes. It can also help to keep this group in mind as you set up your company and design your product or services. We’ll talk more about the importance of this group again later.
App development isn’t a one-person job. To make a quality product, you will need to work with partners who can help to fund the project and guide it through all of the steps between idea conception and market success. You will also need developers who can help to make your idea into a functioning and practical reality. The problem that keeps many people up at night is how to get potential partners and developers on board without telling them all of the information that they would need to steal your idea and take it to market without you. This is a sticky problem with lots of room for doubt and lots of potential legal solutions that many people spend. This article will discuss some of the protections that you probably don’t need to spend time and energy chasing, as well as a few key things that you can and should be doing to protect your idea. The Problem with NDAs We don’t want to say that your idea isn’t special, but it can be very difficult to prove that someone stole your idea, even if they turn out the same product, as long as they do simple things like changing the name. Legally, having an idea that is very similar to someone else’s even if you haven’t met, is called “independent invention” and it’s hard to disprove. To win a legal battle, you’d have to prove that the other individual intended to take your idea. This can mean a lot of holding onto emails, recording conversations, and other paranoid behavior that is difficult to maintain, especially if you want other people to sign onto your project. A lot of people opt for an NDA, or “Non-disclosure Agreement” to protect their ideas. It can be hard to word these documents in a way that protects your content, and hard to have them filled out in a way that makes them binding. As you get further along in the development process, and NDA might be a good idea, but while you’re in the early phases of putting a team together, it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth. Finally, there’s the pesky fact that you can’t protect your idea forever. Even if you have a unique idea, you only work with people you trust, and you cover all of the bases to protect your idea legally, it will eventually go public. After an idea has gone public, it becomes even more difficult to prevent competitors from using your idea against you to try to make money for themselves. If you truly feel your invention is unique and it needs legal protection, apply for a patent or even a provisional patent. Provisional patents are an inexpensive way to reserve the option to file a patent within one year. I am not suggesting you file for a provisional patent before sharing your idea. If you are paranoid and is preventing you from proceeding with developing it, it is an option. Your Spirit should be Crucial The fact that nothing stays private forever and that it can be expensive and challenging to protect your idea anyway doesn’t mean that there aren’t aspects of your project that you should try to keep safe. Your idea might be unique or it might not be, but the fact that you are pursuing it and are dedicated to its protection means that your idea must have some special element that would make your app the best of its kind. Whatever element this is is the thing that you most need to protect. Of course, you will still need to share some information on your product with your potential teammates for them to be interested in helping you make your idea a marketable tool. There still should be some element of uniqueness such that the project will not succeed without you. If there is such an element, no one will be able to compete with your product even if they do try to steal your idea. If there is no element of your project that requires you to work, you should be rethinking whether or not your idea would really be a worthy addition to the market in the first place. Protect your Codes and Data In addition to your own experiences and entrepreneurial spirit, there is some hard-copy content that you should keep safe to protect your idea. If there are any algorithms or codes that you have written or any data that you have collected, that is the kind of content that you should pursue legal protection for and keep to yourself for as long as possible. It helps that not all content of this kind should need to go to the same place. While data that you have collected may be an important talking point to get partners to sign up, the partners shouldn’t need to see any code or algorithms that you have written. Similarly, while developers will inevitably have access to codes or algorithms at some point, they shouldn’t need access to any data that you have collected. In this way, you can ensure yourself as necessary to the survival of the product because you will be the only one with all of the necessary pieces to make it competitive on the open market. That doesn’t mean that you have to take any secrets with you to your grave, however. The farther along your project is, the easier it becomes to prove that any proprietary content is yours and the less likely any competitors will be to try to steal anything directly from you. In the end, if you’re losing sleep over your intellectual property rights and how you need to keep them safe from your partners and developers, you’ve probably been watching too many movies. There are always fantastic ways that people could conceivably get at your content and steal your idea and there will always be one more thing that you can do to try to prevent that from happening. In the end, however, sweating over whether your content is secure enough from partners who may betray you or developers who may run off in the night with your information is only going to prevent you from getting people to work with you. What’s more important than having faith in the security of your idea is having confidence in yourself as the only person who is capable of pulling it off. If you have a winning idea that you are truly passionate about and if you bring something unique to the table that can turn that idea into something that will become popular and make a difference in the world, no one will be able to take that away from you.
Recently, Inc magazine published an article predicting the best industry opportunities for entrepreneurs in the coming year. The recommended suggestions are as follows: Biometric Scanning Software, Fraud Detection Software, Corporate Wellness, Sustainable Building Materials, Drone Manufacturing, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Food Analytics and Tech. This means that out of the 9 industries believed to be the perfect place for entrepreneurs to invest in for the near future, 6 of them were directly tied to software development. It seems that the author was onto something. After all, the tech industry certainly isn’t going away anytime soon. According to Forbe’s 2016 Global 2000 list of the world’s “largest and most powerful public companies”, 9 of the top 50 were tech companies. No wonder entrepreneurs are scrambling to build startups in the tech field. It is statistics like those shown above that attracts many budding entrepreneurs to choose the tech industry as a career path. However, most business school graduates spent their formative years studying how to build a startup or manage a company, not how to program code. The entrepreneur may have an incredible talent for marketing, managing and maintaining a business, but know next to nothing about how to create the technologies that their new company will rely on. This leaves many potentially successful startups becoming entirely dependent on the ability of the developers they hire, without knowing much about the process. How can someone with an MBA, and minimal knowledge of computers, monitor the progress of software development if they can’t recognize the code? All you can rely on is the result of the final product, which usually isn’t ready to test until after a lot of investments have been made in the individual hired for the project. A lot of entrepreneurs find themselves crossing their fingers and hoping that the months of time and truckloads of investor’s cash won’t be wasted. When a nontechnical entrepreneur ventures into building an app, website or software program, the main challenge can be hiring a good programmer. Hiring the Wrong Programmer Can Have Disastrous Consequences for Startups Most startup founders put a lot on the line when developing software products. There’s usually tens of thousands (and sometimes millions) of dollars on the table. That can add up to a lot of pressure to succeed right away. In today’s fast-paced, highly competitive world, it can feel like all new companies are judged on the grand opening. If it falters during that time, it can be very difficult to pick up the pieces. Imagine having everything on the line, mere weeks from launching the product, only to discover that though the UI looks great, there are numerous issues with the code. At that point, you’ve got zero time and often, no more money left to invest in paying another programmer to fix the problem in time. With such fierce competitors vying for the attention of technology users worldwide, there’s likely to be several companies attempting to create a product like yours. One wrong move, and the other startups will quickly swoop in to take your place. A good example of this is failed startup Wesabe. The online personal finance tool launched in 2007 with almost $5 million in funding. Unfortunately, the startup Mint also launched soon after, with software that was easier to use and better designed. Wesabe didn’t get very far after that and officially closed its doors in 2010. Meanwhile, rival Mint sold their company to Intuit for $170 million. While the reason for Wesabe’s demise is still hotly debated, and likely the result of multiple factors, it’s hard to deny that if Wesabe’s programming and design had been better, there might have been a different outcome. Some Try to Test Out a Programmer’s Skills or Ask Friends for Advice Non-technical entrepreneurs often use many different techniques to avoid hiring bad programmers. Some people will hire other programmers and developers to recruit good candidates for them and may even temporarily employ them for the interviewing and hiring process. Other times, startups will hunt for talented programmers by searching through open source communities to find the “experts” who have already proven their ability to write outstanding code. These are all excellent strategies that can yield good results. Unfortunately, there’s one big piece of the puzzle that many entrepreneurs miss when trying to find a programmer to bring on board. Creating Great Software Takes a Team of Professionals As with most large endeavors, one person can’t do it all. When a single individual takes on too much responsibility, they can become overwhelmed, which creates a lack of focus and helps to develop an environment that isn’t conducive to a high level of achievement. Not to say that a freelance programmer can’t do an incredible job at an assignment or task, but to expect for one person to be responsible for the creation of an entire development project is a dangerous gamble. In normal technology companies, you have product managers, system architects, systems engineers, UI developers, designers, software engineers, project managers and more. In my ten-year tenure at Motorola, I had the chance to work in two of these functions. If you had hired me at that time, I could successfully perform two of these roles. My point is that very few single engineers can do these jobs. To qualify as a full stack developer, you often need to be experienced in only 2-3 of these important functions. Once they begin to develop more skills than that, they are likely to either be very expensive to hire or they will have created their own startup. Often, if a startup fails due to technical incompetence, it isn’t because they hired a bad programmer, it’s because they didn’t hire enough people to cover all the aspects needed to develop a successful product. Therefore, the best way to avoid hiring a bad programmer for your startup is by hiring a development agency. A professional organization will likely employ several individual architects, engineers, designers and developers who are experts in their respective specialties. Rather than relying on one person to wear ten different hats, you can invest in a team that will work collectively to produce a product that your startup can be proud to launch.
We live in a world of rapid growth and continuous innovation. Depending on what side of the fence you stand on – this can be a good or bad thing. However, for today’s entrepreneurs, there’s one indisputable fact. Self-education and lifelong learning are absolutely essential to success in the new economy. Abraham Lincoln once famously declared, “All I have learned, I learned from books.” If you want to stay ahead of the curve and grow in mind and in practice – do it the old-fashioned way and download these ebooks onto your Kindle cloud as soon as possible. Here are some of the books I found useful from both tactical and strategic perspective as an entrepreneur. In your startup journey, you will have tough days when you question everything. I hope these can help you traverse them. The Lean Startup by Eric Reis If you are starting without external funding you should read this book before you start recruiting developers and finding cofounders for building your product. Starting a business in a world that is constantly shifting takes creativity and innovation. The old model of production makes it difficult to keep up. New entrepreneurs need to pivot, adapt and execute with efficiency in order to thrive in the modern marketplace. This is the playbook for doing exactly that. The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss Most people wouldn’t mind being millionaires. However, is it the money that people really want, or the lifestyle? This book will show you ways to be part of the New Rich, and help you design a life of true freedom. One primary tool you get from this book is testing and iterating. Without mastering that concept, please don’t waste your time. Good to Great by James Collins There are a lot of good companies that exist in the world, but few can be called great. Many settle into the comfort of goodness and never make the leap forward to true excellence. In Good to Great, James Collins analyses how successful businesses have risen from the dredges of mediocrity and became remarkable. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz There are many aspects of owning a company that business school usually skims over. Running day to day operations as a founder, CEO or manager involves many unpleasantries that don’t get talked about in many lecture halls. The Hard Thing About Hard Things is the textbook for the real-life hurdles you might come across along the way. The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen Henry Ford once declared, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Success in business depends on satisfying consumers. In most industries, advancements are happening at breakneck speed. Failing to incorporate new technologies can mean the death of your company. Clayton M. Christensen has great advice on when to stay committed to popular models, systems, and technologies – and when to move forward. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman Countless successful startups have ended in failure. Noam Wasserman explains how common missteps in the creation of a new venture can lead to its eventual demise. The Founder’s Dilemmas will help you make wiser choices at the very beginning so your business can flourish for the long haul. This is not exactly a book for entrepreneurs. But if you are going to disrupt the Trillion dollar market and wondering why nobody else is doing it, you might see some pearls in it. Slicing Pie: Fund Your Company Without Funds by Mike Moyer Startup equity division among founders is a difficult decision. Slicing Pie gives you a framework to use to address this uncomfortable task. Mike Moyer gives advice on how to get cash flow for your business by leveraging equity and how to divide that equity among business partners and investors at various stages of a company’s lifecycle. Founders at Work: Stories of Startup’s Early Days by Jessica Livingston Jessica Livingston tells the stories of legendary founders. Find out what it was like to create a company like Apple and Paypal in the earliest stages, from the people who made it happen. The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank The Startup Owner’s Manual has been used by ivy league schools and international organizations to help create successful businesses. Steve Blank takes you step by step through the process of building a profitable company. Startup CEO by Matt Blumberg Matt Blumberg has been a CEO for over a decade. He wrote this book to help other first time CEO’s run their businesses successfully. The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki One of the most trusted names in entrepreneurship wrote The Art of the Start to help anyone put big ideas into practical action. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell What makes a business or idea leap from the sea of obscurity and into the public spotlight? Malcolm Gladwell explains the phenomenon of the tipping point, and how small actions can push a message in front of the masses. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh Tony Hsieh is the founder of Zappos. In Delivering Happiness he shares how he built his billion dollar business around the concept of creating a great “Company Culture”. Generating money is important to a company’s prosperity – but making a positive impact on the lives of millions is the truest definition of success. Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition by Guy Kawasaki A lot of entrepreneurs get wrapped up in industry fads and build businesses on principles that won’t last long. This book tells founders how to avoid the bandwagons and gravy trains of passing trends and build an innovative business on solid ground. This book list will help entrepreneurs at any stage in their career. Whether you’re just beginning or have started several businesses, it’s important to keep reading and learning to stay ahead and continue to grow. If you feel there should be other books in this list, let me know.
When Bill Gross created Idealabin 1996, during the early days of the internet boom, startup incubators were a fairly unique concept. Incubators differ from research and tech parks. Incubators are strictly dedicated to startups. Most tech parks do not offer any business assistance services. Business incubation has jump started our economy in many cases. Now accelerators and incubators have multiplied and are found all over the world. In the most recent count,it was determined that there are more than 6000 accelerators and incubators out there. In theory, they do a great job. In our local market, 1871 is a thriving incubator. It is the pride of Chicago city government and the startup ecosystem. It helped to convert the fly over county into a startup destination. Incubators advise entrepreneurs on how to build a startup. In most cases, they need help in planning and very specific items. Advice is useful, but more importantly, a helping hand goes a long way. So we decided to start an incubator which actually build startups instead of advising. All of these incubators are accelerators who target startups with an existing team. Recruiting the right team is the biggest challenge for a first time entrepreneur. So the main question becomes, how do you recruit a tech co-founder when you have only an idea? If you are able to find funding or paying customers, you might be able to recruit a quality tech co-founder. But,thisis a catch 22. You have a couple of options. You can try to hire a developer from a local development company or find a freelance employee or search on Craigslist. In most cases, these donot fare well. This is primarily because your developer builds exactly what you architect. Unless you spend years building apps, not sure how qualified you are for the architecture and if you have the high level skillset necessary. We created CodeVentures as mix of a development agency and an incubator.It is our mission to build startup companies, not just apps or products. It is our goal to help you build a lasting business. We would like you to think ahead and not only come up with an application or product, but determine if you can build a business. Are there multiple products that you will be able to launch? I, personally, will act as the tech co-founder for the startups we choose.I will also work closely with our developers to create your vision of the startup and turn it into reality. Of course, we will use the best technology stack available. We do this for a minority equity stake in the startup. How do I choose which startups to partner with? Since we are an equity partner in the startups, we want to select the companies with significant potential.Your success is our success. One question we ask ourselves is if we build a great product and are able to gain some traction in 6-12 months, what is the likelihood of receiving VC funding? Or at least large angel funding in order to scale the business? We are located in the Chicago area and prefer to work with team members who we can meet with face to face, at least occasionally. Here are some of the questions I would like to be answered when upon our initial point of contact: -Have you validated the customer need? If not, how can we validate it without spending an entire year building the product? -How much research you have done so far on the pain points?Also, how are existing solutions addressing it, if there are any existing solutions? -Once we build the product or MVP, what is your exact plan to acquire customers? Who will call the potential customers and sit down with them? With over 10 years of business experience, over 60 engineers, over 2000 projects delivered, and greater than 10000 successful clients, my team have become a leading hybrid agency. We normally deal with web applications, marketplaces, social applications, SaaS, mobile apps, wearable tech, enterprise applications, and IoT. We might not be the most optimal fit for mobile or web games including animation. So, if you have a startup concept to make this world a better place and all you are missing is a solid tech partner, CodeVentures may be the solution that you are searching for. Let’s talk.