OK so you are fed-up with your day job and are thinking about leaving to join a startup or starting your own startup. Good for you.
Of course, it’s scary. In fact, its freaking you out. How will you know if it will be successful? How will you know if its right for you? How will you know that you can make a living from it?
Well, luckily, I’ve already done some of that thinking for you. While the main reason why startups fail is because of the product, there are plenty of other factors out there which will make the difference between life and death – but if you ask me – these are the 3 key ways to reach Startup Nirvana:
- Passion: you must love what you are doing. You will likely be doing this for very long hours, hopefully for a very long time, so you need to really love it, live it and breathe it. For most people, this isn’t a problem. Most people leave their day job to pursue a passion project – being sick and tired of the grunt work that they do day in and day out. Passion is the first thing people think of when they think about doing a startup: finally I’ll be doing what I love to do. This is great, as it helps drive you forward if and when times are tough.
- Skill: it has to be something you know how to do. Typically, this will go hand-in-hand with your passion, but I’ve seen people start startups without the skills that they need in order to make it successful. Not having the skill is fine, as long as you have someone on the team which is very good at what you need to do in order to make the startup work. For example, don’t call yourself a CTO if you have never coded. Don’t call yourself sales if you have never done business development. If you don’t have the skills, either learn them before you jump (do not learn on the job at your startup, this will seriously reduce your runway – if at all possible learn what you need to – and get very good at it – before you even think about starting.) or please, get someone who has those skills.
- Demand: without demand, you’ve got nothing. This is why most startups fail: no one really wants or needs what you are selling. You have to have a defined market to go after – it doesn’t really matter who that market is, as long as they are willing to pay for the product that you are building. You need to test. The best way to do this is to spend a little time trying to figure out if anyone really wants what you are going to be selling: set up a little site to capture demand. Create a splash page which describes your product, get people to sign up for it (use LaunchRock or Strikingly, there are even some WordPress templates which will do the trick). Set it up and drive traffic to it, either via Adwords or Facebook or something. Get people to sign up for it. If no one does, and no one spreads the word, then you have to wonder – is now not the time?
Without all three you don’t have a minimum viable startup. Without passion, you won’t care about what you are doing, so you may as well go and get a job (if you can). Without skill, you’ll spend a ton of time building it, and even then you may not be able to do what needs to be done in order to launch. Without demand, you won’t last long, your business will be a hobby at best.
Examine your startup – or your prospective startup. Do you have the passion, the skill and the demand? If so, go for it. If not, rethink, retool and pivot. Plenty of successful startups didn’t end up they way they started, but ended up unicorns in the end anyway.