Your great idea for a web start-up

I get pitched a ton of ideas and most of them are pretty good. No doubt, it’s a GREAT idea! Odds are that it might not be truly unique, as is typical in web entrepreneurship. However, the winner in the space is the first to properly execute. No experience founding a company before, don’t have a lot of money, need engineering expertise? Have no fear. My advice for you is to go out and buy “Founders at Work”– which has interviews with a dozen web entrepreneurs who went on to found Yahoo!, PayPal, and other ventures. Find out what it’s really like in taking something from concept to a multi-billion dollar reality– it’s probably not what you think.

Already have in mind an agency you want to pay to develop your concept? Don’t do it. That agency likely has solid experts in PHP, Facebook development, WordPress, or whatever,— but if you look at the stats, rarely does a tech startup succeed by having agency development resources. Unless you have a TON of cash and don’t need inspired engineering, the odds are not in your favor going this route. The catch-22 of agency work is that if these folks were so great, why aren’t they building their own ideas? Analogously, if you’re such a great stockbroker, then why aren’t you building your own portfolio? Great tech startups need a technical co-founder. If you’re paying a contractor or worse– an agency– you’re not getting someone who is sleeping, dreaming, and eating your idea, 24×7.

Ideas are a dime a dozen– the execution is everything. And rarely can one person summon the energy needed to pull it off, even if you have all the skills needed. You might also read “Hackers and Painters” which goes into detail on how great builders, innovators, and engineers in the web space are the same thing.

So the first order of business, before you’re looking at hiring other people or spending money on marketing is to find others who will join you in the cause. Let those other guys spend a year chasing those VC dollars, while you focus on execution, are absolutely frugal with every dollar, and have a lean, hungry team looking for results.

Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to meet Dharmesh Shah, founder of HubSpot. His tips, while seemingly anti-VC, are right on target. Fail quickly by releasing early– then you can suck less fast. Don’t release your product for free– charge for it. Start demoing on real customers, not your friends who will say what you want to hear. Focus on results, not on PowerPoint presentations. Don’t go pitch everyone you know– you’ll end up spinning your wheels. And ignore those naysayers (often friends and family) who mean well, but serve only to pull you down.

Good luck on your idea!

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