Advising · Advisors

What is some general advice in starting a technology company?

Robbe Nagel Interested and Motivated Teenage Entrepreneur

January 17th, 2017

As a beginning teenage entrepreneur, I lack the knowledge and experience in running a company. Of course besides learning as much as possible about the field you will be working on, what is some good advice to start with?

How do I go from idea to reality? From design to actual product? Also, do you have some book recommendations?

Freeland Shaw Part time wantrepreneur and lean startup champion.

January 18th, 2017

Robbe, first congratulations on wanting to be an entrepreneur and start your own thing. To recognize at an early age that you want to create something of your own is very admirable. I'm happy to share a few thoughts from my perspective, hopefully you will find some value in them.

First, a couple disclaimers:

1. This is advice for starting a company in general. You specified starting a technology company. It is great that you have an idea of the field that you'd like to go into. My feedback is coming from the perspective that the general principles are good for any business, not just a tech company.

2. Learn as much about people as possible. This is in relation to your comment, " Of course besides learning as much as possible about the field you will be working on ..." It is great to learn as much about your potential field as possible. I would argue the most important thing to learn about that field are the people in it. More specifically, the potential customers who will be using the products and services within that field. At the end of the day, business is about providing value to people by alleviating their pains. If you do that well enough, people will pay you for it. In order to truly meet people's needs you must understand them. What makes them tick? What ticks them off? What language do they use in describing things?

Often when people speak of "market research" they are referring to the landscape and potential in a market. How many competitors, how big is the addressable market, what are the regulations, etc. The most important thing about a market is the people in it (without people the market does not exist).

Ok, now that I've said that, here's a brief overview of going from idea to almost reality. To be honest, it is easy to design and build a product. Tools, products and services exist to help you build anything you want. The key is designing and building a product that people actually need. The process I briefly discuss below is the process from idea to "ready for design".

1. Develop your idea in a way you can quickly articulate it

2. Talk to people

3. Validate your idea

1. Develop your idea in a way you can quickly articulate it. The first thing you want to do is get a clear picture of what problem your idea solves and for who? This is referred to as your value proposition. This should be the basis for the conversations you have with people about your idea. You should be able to clearly state your idea and how it benefits a group of people in 1 (maybe 2) sentence. There are some good exercises to help get you thinking through this portion of things.

I put together a quick Value Proposition exercise to help people think through a draft of their value proposition.

2. Talk to people. In my opinion this is the most important step. Without talking to people (your potential customers in particular) about your idea you make success a lot harder to achieve. This is referred to as customer discovery. Your initial value proposition will really be based on assumptions you are making about your target market. In talking to people you can validate (or invalidate, either way is good) these assumptions. You want to learn about the problems people face and their major pain points. You want to learn the language of your potential customer so you can speak in a way that connects with them. A few words on customer discovery:

  1. Stay away from "yes" or "no" questions. You want your questions to be as open ended as possible. Yes or no questions don't allow as much room for people to talk and tell what's fully on their mind. You will also find that people tend to agree with whatever you say, often saying what they think is the right answer rather than what they think.
  2. You want a story, not an answer. This is perhaps one of the most important pieces. You will really want someone to tell you a story of an exact experience they have. For instance instead of saying, "Do you think delegating is useful in a startup?" (which everyone will say yes to) you could ask, "Can you take me back to the last time you had trouble delegating a task to someone?" Or, "Can you tell me the moment you began to realize the importance of delegation? What were some of the factors that lead you to that point?" If you could get your target customer to give you a story in their own words you'll be able to get some priceless information.
  3. Dig deeper. You may be familiar with the principle of the "5 Why's." Basically, you keep asking "why" until you get to the root cause of the issue. If you have toddlers one day, you will really understand. This is not meant to annoy the other person, rather to really dig up what they are thinking and feeling. Sometimes people may not really know how they feel about something until they think about it and talk it out. You don't necessarily have to say "why" 5 times after every one of their answers but don't be afraid to dig deeper. You could say things like, "tell me more" or "that's interesting, what other thoughts do you have." Sometimes just being quiet and allowing there to be a little silence works as well.

3. Validate your idea. Once you talk to people and get a real sense of what is needed in the market, it's time to put something tangible in front of people. This initial prototype is called a minimum viable product (MVP) and is meant to give people a chance to interact with your product/service to see if it's something they would be willing to buy. This is also time for you to listen for feedback. They may say, "I like the way it does A, it would be great if it could do B." They may just say they wish it would be different colors. Whatever the case may be you want to have a prototype to again get real feedback. Depending on the circle you run in, this may not technically be referred to as validation (as validation generally means people have pretty much given you money). Given that this is a long-winded brief overview, I'll just call it validation.

Once you've validated your product/idea you can work on designing and such. That's the easy part :). Here's some resources I'd recommend:

1. Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder: I touched mainly on value propositions and customer segments in the beginning. These two aspects are only part of a business model. This handbook walks you through the full list of 9 key aspects

1. Value proposition
2. Customer segments
3. Key partners
4. Key activities
5. Key resources
6. Customer relationships
7. Channels
8. Revenue streams
9. Cost structure

2. Will it Fly by Pat Flynn: This is a book that goes into more detail about how to formulate your idea as well as how to validate it. It is really another spin on the lean startup model but I consider Pat to be a big influencer these days.

3. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries: This is one of the first books walking through the lean startup philosophy. The big focus in this one is providing an MVP for people, accepting feedback and redesigning as necessary. If you continue to go through this process, you may eventually come out with a product or service widely accepted in the market.

There's my $0.02. Hopefully you can find some value in it and good luck on your future ventures!

sakshi sharma Shaping the future of sartups

January 25th, 2017

Starting a new venture is not an easy task. Research shows that nearly 50 percent of businesses fail in the first year, so what are the causes that makes them stop.

1)Not Enough Research: Entering into a new marketplace is a challenging task. Entering into an area without making proper research can be daunting. Ensure to make proper research before investing into a new ventures.

2)Knowledge: Before diving into a marketplace, make sure you have thorough knowledge about the market trends and statistics. Acquiring technical knowledge in addition to it, can prove to be a plus point for your venture.

3)Lack of adequate capital: Most of the time, entrepreneur have unique plans, but they don’t have adequate capital to make them functional. Always consider a fact that business take time to grow and develop. Incubator centers are meant to help new entrepreneurs. So, stratups can leverage the advantages of incubation centers, which will help them to stay in the market for long run.

4)Marketing: Making a product or running the services are not enough till people are not knowing about that. So in addition to the other factors, keep growing your business through good marketing strategies. These strategies will help you in selling your product or services.

5)Dynamics: No matter, how good or bad your plan is, be ready to adapt the new dynamics of market. Don’t stick with a single strategy only, market is quite dynamic. So, always be ready to adapt the new technologies and work as per the current market trends.

6)Business Idea: Being a new player in the market, try to come up with a unique business plan. A unique business can help in boosting business revenue. Your business could face tremendous challenge if the idea is not strong enough.

David Feng Co-Founder at Reamaze, Clearalias, and Roninapp.

Last updated on January 25th, 2017

1. Learn to code

2. Talk to other entrepreneurs

3. Don't go at it full time and continue to focus on your dailies

4. Do research and build your MVP

5. Polish your technical and social/leadership skills at a day job

Marc Clifton Innovator in software architecture & applications

January 25th, 2017

In addition to the excellent answers already provided, I'd suggest, based on your statement about being a teenage entrepreneur, that first, don't get emotionally involved with the process and potential failure. Always remember that your first idea is just going to be one of many. That said, I think the best way to start is to network with your friends, and particularly their parents who are working in the same or similar field as your idea. Ask for interviews, suggestions, in other words "press the flesh" with people that might be able to connect you with influential people. Who knows, you might find a company interested in hiring / contracting you to develop your idea. Even if your idea becomes their product, it's incredibly valuable experience to work with people in marketing, advertising, finance, administration, etc. Also, keep in mind that being an entrepreneur and running a company are two very different things, and not necessarily compatible depending on your temperament. If you're an idea person, consider finding someone you trust to take care of the daily chores of running a company. But above all, network!

Craig Lillard Serial Founder/Bootstrapper of Video Related Startups. Currently Growing

January 25th, 2017

If you are even SOMEWHAT technically inclined, I would start learning to code now. One of your biggest assets will be the ability to create something from nothing. You are young and have many years ahead of you. Most investors won't consider an idea. They need to see a product or at least a prototype. You can have almost zero capital and create something that could turn into a business without needing any employees or any money. This is what I tell ever teenager (including my own son.) Plus, you will have a skill you can always fall back on if you need to make some extra cash.

Lise Ragan Author and English learner advocate, Course Crafters, Inc.

January 25th, 2017

Impressive that as a teenager you have a passion and the drive to start a company! Do you have a one-page executive summary outlining your target market, your product/service and your vision?