I have been doing a lot of reading lately about online startups and I thought I should share it with 1WD’s readers. Quite a lot of startups from two years ago have now taken off and made it into the mainstream, like Pinterest (Mar 2010), Codecademy (Aug 2011), Instagram (Oct 2010), and a lot more. You’d be surprised how many of your favorite online services started from just a tiny idea and now are million dollar ideas.
Do you have a startup idea that you think will definitely be your way to stardom?
What are the requirements? Should you spend thousands of dollars? How about looking for a partner?
In this post you will learn:
- how to find the perfect idea if you don’t have one
- the checklist before actually spending time building your startup
- skills you need to have
- tools to help your startup (from beta testers to launching)
So, are you ready? Show me your war faces!
For our self-employed readers, I bet you have asked yourself this question before. Why step into the darkness where everything’s messy and where big monsters live? The answer you probably ended up with is: “I want to be free, I want to have a steady stream of income, and I don’t want a 9-5 job!” Or you’re just adventurous!
In any case, we are at a point in time where everything is possible. Gone were the days when only the rich can start their own business! Right now, with the proper skills, you can start your own online business.
Below are some of the recurring themes of startups today.
Popular tech startup ideas:
- private communities
- social media extensions/utilities
- productivity tools (which can be a web service or a smart phone application)
- web design and web development services
- membership sites
- online store – do you have books to sell or other products? I may have a simple solution for you!
You may have noticed that the items above are what most of us are currently using. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Yammer, Basecamp, Instagram (which falls under social media extension), WordPress theme companies like Woothemes and ElegantThemes (and a hundred more), Treehouse, and a thousand others. Now, why are these successful? It’s because they solve a problem that people have, and it has become their full-time job.
But let’s take a step back and start small. Before anything else, you will need to find an idea.
Finding a Startup Idea
The problem with finding a unique idea can be summed up in five words: “It is probably not unique”. If you have thought of it, chances are there are hundreds of people who have thought of it first, and more will follow. But that shouldn’t stop you from pushing forward!
First thing you need to do is find something that people naturally flock towards.
Note: I am oversimplifying things here, but you will definitely understand what I mean!
- people love taking photos
- people love “editing” their photos
- a lot of people have mobile phones that have built-in cameras
- millions of people use social media
Add those four together and you’ll end up with Instagram.
- people tend to collect things they love
- people tend to share their collection with others
- people are born curious, so they’d want to check out others’ interests
- and again, people love photos
So why not Pin the photos in Boards and share them for the world to see? Read more about Pinterest’s co-founder Ben Silbermann.
The list of successful startups goes on, but the idea is always the same: find something that people love and offer a better way of doing it for them. Boom!
If you have been one of our avid readers, then you should have heard of LabZip by now. For those who have no idea what it is yet, here’s the basic idea behind it:
- there are people looking for solutions for their web needs, but they either lack the resources to build a website or hire a developer
- millions of people use WordPress, but not all themes and plugins are of high quality; or there isn’t enough information regarding them
Good thing there is LabZip!
- it quickly creates a solution to your web problems: do you want to create an online shop, a membership website, a social network, or just a personal/corporate site?
- it is a repository of everything you will ever need for WordPress from themes to plugins to tutorials. It also includes hosting!
- are currently hot, and LabZip will take care of that for you
LabZip is a collaboration between 1WD and LabSecrets!
Reminder: It’s not required that you create something entirely new. The trick here is that you can actually find a popular device or service that millions of people use and hop on the wagon. Just like what Instagram did with existing social media networks.
Okay, by now you should have a clearer understanding of what a good startup idea is.
In a nutshell, DO NOT:
- build on an idea that doesn’t solve a problem
- build on an idea that is too underground, because no one will notice it even if you think it’s awesome
- ignore the power of social media
- lose hope!
Is My Idea Bonkers?
If your idea is to create a Facebook killer then, yes, it is bonkers. Many have tried, and many have fallen, and those who resisted failure used Facebook to their advantage. The same is true for those services and companies that were not prepared to adapt as quickly as they needed to, or just didn’t have the cash to pivot like MySpace and Multiply and Friendster.
Here’s MY checklist:
- will it compete directly with a well-established company?
- will you hire developers to create it for you because you can’t?
- do you plan on having it acquired by a competitor (or anyone for that matter) if it takes off?
- how long have you considered it?
- <30 minutes = totally bonkers
- approximately 1 day = think more about it
- are you very excited about it (but not to the point of foolish optimism)?
If your answer to most of the questions is yes, then your idea might need a bit more time to develop.
When making an important decision you should sleep on it first before making the final decision. It helps. Don’t rush things, or things will rush to you and crush you breathless. Ask your most brutally honest friend if they’d use your application or service, or ask someone in your field if they’d want to use it. Don’t ask your mother or your girlfriend/wife. This is important because most of the time you will be so excited about your idea that you’ll already think it’s great, when in fact it may not be.
It is also important that you take part in the development process. It’s your idea, you know it better than anyone else.
Try not to let your own excitement cloud your perspective about your idea. We all have ideas that we think are great until we realize they’re not. It’s ok to let an idea go if it’s not as good as you originally thought it was.
Ready to Build?
Before building your idea, you hopefully will answer yes to these questions:
- Does it solve a specific problem?
- Does it make life better?
- Do you know how to code?
- Do you swear by the old gods, and the new, that you’ll persevere and actually spend time building your startup?
If your answer is yes, then strike while the iron is hot and prepare for some sleepless nights spent building and coding.
But do not worry if your answer to number 3 is no. There are still ways to build your idea, although you will need someone to do it for you. Or you can learn how to code yourself!
Should you look for a co-founder? Well, that’s an option too, finding a co-founder who can code. However, the friction between co-founders, especially when one can code and the other can’t, might get intense as the project progresses. You don’t want to be the “idle founder”, right? So it’s better if you start learning how to code right now, or be resourceful enough to find tools that will help you build your dream service/application.
Communities and Resources
Of course you just can’t waltz in and out of your text editor and office then manage to come up with the perfect startup. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. There are communities out there, both inhabited by dreamers like you and those who have been successful (or are getting there) that you can join. There are also tools that can help you boost your startup, so you won’t have to worry about anything. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that you don’t even need to reach for your wallet!
- TechCrunch | Startups
- 500 Startups
- – if you already have your app/service, then you can use BetaPunch for your beta stage. Find beta testers here!
Having a good list of connections is important, especially when you’re betting a lot. While under development, be sure to find online communities out there to join. Ask questions, provide feedback, and read inspiring success stories. This is important to keep your fire burning!
Questions I Asked (and answered) Myself
1. Can I do it on my own?
Yes. But it will be a daunting task since you will be taking the roles of designer, developer, marketer, and everything else.
2. Do I need thousands of dollars to actually build my startup?
No, not really. In the Philippines we have this website called Sulit.com.ph, more like Craigslist. It was founded in 2008, and right now it receives over 150 million visitors monthly seeking things to buy and sell. The founder built it during his free time, from scratch, without prior knowledge of programming. His expenses through the development process to launch were less then $100 for the domain registration and hosting. Right now he is earning 7 figures monthly.
3. Should I do it?
Yes. In fact, I believe that everybody should at least try. “Do or do not, there is no try,” said Yoda. You either do it and fail or not do it and never know what the outcome could have been!
Are You Ready?
Sit for a while after reading this and think about whether or not you’re ready to make great changes in your life. Are you ready to take a risk, spend several hours a week to learn new skills, and join online and offline communities to actually steer your life the way you really want it to go?
I wrote this because I am brewing something amazing together with friends, which will hopefully launch several months from now. Yes, my partners and I are taking it slow since we still have our full-time jobs. But don’t you worry, I won’t leave 1WD! In fact, I’m pretty sure the two will integrate well! I’ll just leave it at that, without giving away too much information, since we’re still in the initial phase of things.
So, what about you? Do you have a good business idea? Or have you started with it? Post in the comments and let’s discuss!
Question for you: what if your startup failed?
Rean concurrently served as the Head of Operations and Editor-in-Chief of 1stwebdesigner from 2011 up until Aug 2014. He regularly writes about freelancing, technology, web design, and web development with a little touch of internet marketing here and there.