A few essential ideas for aspiring entrepreneurs

Startups, entrepreneurship and building new products has been a big interest area for me. I might have been sucked into it not by native interest, but by sheer survival instinct of wondering if my job would be available next morning or not. After all,  I have spent 5.5 years in dynamic and exciting world of startups.

I came across the startup specialists from the bay area – Steve Blank, Eric Ries, Sean Ellis, Ash Mourya etc while digging for information on how to get the new product fit the market needs adequately to realize the dream of startup success and have been reading their posts regularly. They have pioneered the concept of “customer development” and “lean startup” which are worth reflecting on. For the benefit of uninitiated, thought of collecting a few random ideas in this post. Would strongly suggest future entrepreneurs and would-be top execs in startups to read the full theory on Steve’s Blog, Steve’s videos and Eric Ries Blog.

Wikipedia defines “customer development” as:

Customer Development is a risk reduction methodology for early stage startups. Its premise is that startups are not smaller versions of large companies. Instead these early stage ventures require new tools and techniques. Key tenets are: constant contact with potential customers, continual product iteration by shipping as early as possible for product refinement based on customer feedback.

This short story by Steve exposes the oft-repeated story at high-tech startups:

http://steveblank.com/2010/02/11/it-must-be-a-marketing-problem/

There are many posts by Steve which turn the conventional wisdom on its head. Take competitive analysis for example. Do you think it is a great idea? It can backfire if you let tour focus move away from customer problems to the competitors and their (existing) products. In words of Steve:

Instead of optimizing for a minimum feature set (that had been defined by customers) a competitive analysis drives a maximum feature set.

Most marketers are happy to build feature comparisons. But customers don’t buy features, they usually buy something that solves a real or perceived need.

Ash Mourya has adapted Steve’s customer development model for web-startups and  http://www.ashmaurya.com/2010/02/customer-development-checklist-for-my-web-startup-part-2/

Eric Ries, leanstartup is a movement in itself with frequent idea-sharing sessions organized at many locations in the US. The idea is simple but profound and marries perfectly with Steve’s idea of customer development.  Here is the idea of lean startups:

I also stumbled on to some interesting links recently:

1. A host of innovative inbound marketing tools : http://www.hubspot.com/

2 . If you are into SaaS model, then getting the economics right is important. David Skok spells out what metrics one could/should use here:

http://www.forentrepreneurs.com/saas-metrics/

3. And if you do get to the point of launching a new business, with butterflies in your stomach and bugs in your offering, you may want to read up this while presenting yourself to the outside world:

http://blog.asmartbear.com/youre-a-little-company-now-act-like-one.html

The author makes a point that one shouldn’t try to impersonate a big company when you are a new kid on the block. The chances are much better with just that image – fresh blood, novel thinking and a cool solution. Or in words of the author:

Be human. Stop hiding. Be yourself.

So true!

New year laundry list..

HNY 2009 to all of you!

For me this is slated to be an important year. This is what I wish to accomplish in this year:

1. Hit the gym. The tyre needs to lose some air..:)
2. Look at the entrepreneurial stuff seriously. Been fantasizing about a few ideas off late, but not doing anything serious with them. Time to take the plunge!
3. Learn a new language. French. Why is French so popular?
4. Marriage? :)
5. Read some more books. More of Ayn Rand?

I am pretty enthusiastic about this new year. Let me know if anyone wants something to be added in this list. This is your dream chance to get me changed(for the good)!