You’re taking your first critical steps down the startup road. It’s going to be a challenge, and the odds are against you. You will step far outside of your comfort zone. It won’t be easy or glamorous for several months or years. All overnight successes took a year or more to develop.
You’ll have periods of self-doubt, and you’ll question why you ever wanted to do this. You’ll wonder why you traded a paying 8-5, 5-day-per-week job for a 24/7 high-risk, low or no pay gamble. Your decision will impact every part of your personal life. Your relationships with family and friends will be strained. If you aren’t clear on why you’re doing this, you will fail before you even start.
Answer each of these questions in writing and refer to them often. Share them with a future partner, mentor, or advisor. It’s critical that your support network clearly understand each of these elements. When you get hit with the unexpected or start to doubt your decision, you’ll return to this for comfort and confirmation that you are on the right track. Your answers will be used to refine your business model, SWOT analysis, and business plan.
What was the Eureka moment?
Did you spot a problem or need you can solve or see an exciting technology looking for a problem? If it’s a technology looking for a problem to solve, ask yourself why you don’t own a flying car. If you’re not filling a need or solving a large enough problem, you’re wasting your time.
Describe the problem.
Is the problem big enough to make money and warrant execution risks? Is there an immediate market for your solution? How is the problem solved currently?
List your market and business assumptions.
Are they based on facts, prior experience, or bias? Facts and assumptions are very different. Be honest with yourself and know the difference. Have you or someone else actually tested the assumptions?
Why are you doing this?
Do you want to make the world a better place, or build personal wealth? Do you have something to prove to a former employer, a parent, or an ex-spouse? No matter what your reasons – be clear and write them down.
What is your end game?
Is your primary interest in product development, or do you want to build a stand-alone operating company? How long do you want to stay involved? Do you want to go public? Your end game objective will impact your planning process from day one.
Why do you think you’ll succeed?
Do you possess specialized technical expertise or in-depth industry sector knowledge? Are you a great salesperson or an experienced executive? Are you betting on your network of potential customers or friends with deep pockets to help you succeed?
What are you willing to sacrifice?
How long can you go without a reliable income stream? Is your family on board, and do they know what they are in for? Do they understand the increased demands that you will have and how they will affect them? Sleep deprivation – get used to it.
Are you all in?
Having a great idea is only the start. Your idea is worth nothing unless you execute successfully. Do you have the discipline to stay on course, or are you tempted to change directions based on your last conversation with someone or the latest business article you read? Are you willing to burn through personal cash and assets for the next year or two before seeing positive cash flow or investment funding?
Moving forward, you will soon need a good advisor and startup team. Investors know it takes more than an idea and a founder to develop and execute a plan successfully. Without talent in place, they won’t invest. If engaged, a Cayenne Consultant can act as your interim co-founder and strategy expert. You will remain the expert on your program and ultimately call all the shots.
In the next three installments, I’ll discuss how you’ll build your Preliminary Business Model, Initial SWOT Analysis, and Founder’s Action Plan. The items addressed here are critical factors needed to develop each of the next steps.