This is a very personalized story, and it is based on my first startup failure. Even it is very specific and some or most of the circumstances does not apply to you or your startup, I’m sure you will come up smarter than me at the time, after reading this, because at least, I hope you won’t repeat my mistakes.
I was a Co-Founder at startup for energy trading http://balanciq.com. We tried to build a software for big energy trading companies which can possibly save them some time and reduce errors by automating their manual data entries. But as you continue to read you’ll find out that it failed, and here are the main links in the chain of events and circumstances which caused a crash.
I was not lucky enough to get startup idea while I grew up in some of the famous startup cities like Berlin, Dublin or NY. Instead, I grew up in eastern Europe in the territory known as Balkans. If this geographic name does not mean anything to you anything, don’t worry, I’ll try to explain in short which obstacles I had there. At Balkans, most people are not used to the concept of paying for digital goods, that’s why you can’t come up there with an idea such as Spotify, Netflix, etc. Simply this sort of ideas would never come across your mind because you’re not exposed to the concept. That was exactly the problem I had, I started to develop my platform, with features and specifications I found out at my surrounding. I was briefly aware of broad regulations in Europe but for example, North America, Asia, and other possible markets were huge unknown to me.
That’s why it is very important to go out and see how things work outside of the borders of your world. That’s the only way you can come up with a solution for some problem people in distant places have.
I don’t like to do everything “by book” and generally I believe that we should experiment. But what happened to me was completely avoidable, because I wasn’t the first one. There are people who already experienced failure and explained that in their publications, such as The Lean Startup from Eric Reis
What I did wrong? First, I built a product, then asked a customer what they need. That was so terribly wrong, that it cost me so much time spent on developing something nobody gonna uses. Off course you can’t really have a startup with a sketch of your idea on a piece of paper for years and start to build once you get a critical mass of customers, but you definitely have to build your product with your customer.
No matter what it costs, try to engage some customer immediately during development and ask them for feedback as often as possible. Also, offer them a product for free. We started nicely with customer acquisition. We had a couple of companies on our side, and we had frequent feedback from them, but then we started to travel here and there, pitch our business idea, and that moves us away from our actual clients. That’s sad :(
There is no success if you’re not engaged 100%. If someone tells you opposite, don’t believe. You need to put all your effort and strength on your startup if you want to test it fast. Otherwise, it could take much longer, and if fail you lose much more time and energy if you had your regular job in parallel. I made exactly that mistake, I took some freelance projects on the side, which just postponed my progress.
This is fear present at most of the startups. But don’t worry, does not matter how good your idea is, if you already work on it, feel free to share it with others. Paranoia does not help but sharing might helps because of your friend, business contacts or family will give you their opinion or idea which may impact way how you will develop your product. I personally kept my idea for some time in secret, but only when I uncovered it to my family and friends, I started to get some cool advice and got some great contacts which helped me at the time.
I really don’t need to explain this one. If you already tried startup idea, there is a high chance that you will try another one soon, because you simply enjoy that.