Devs are most likely to participate in Startups as early employees since they need to be there to develop the product. They often get hired by "business people" who have learned how to pitch, handle financial projection and build Powerpoint presentations. The world goes like this and it's often good to keep expertise separated. But, how many times did you think you had a great idea for a new product that could change the game? And how many times did you thought you couldn't raise enough to push it through to market without living on pasta for a few months?
In this short article I will share my personal story, one of a guy who managed to raise some funds to get through early stages while being a dev.
I will structure my experience into four steps: ideation, communication, development.
I do not think this is applicable to everybody, I do not think I own the truth and that you should also act the way I did. I am sharing a method that worked for me on several occasions and that I think provides a good basis framework. I also work mostly on B2B products, which are imo easier to sell to market.
Most of us who have a tie with high tech projects will be confronted with new and bright (or dumb) ideas everyday that raised capital and that develop products and companies. For some of you bright ideas will also pop-up in your head. That's great, first step cleared... Wrong.
Having an idea (dumb or good) is just the start. You need to refine and sharpen it, include some market insights and find a potential niche in which you could apply it. Then you have an idea that you can work with.
When I started to dream about entrepreneurship and market changing products, I would often have what seemed to be unique and bright ideas. What will I do? I would shut up about it and bury it in my mind by fear of people stealing it from me. Let me tell you something straight away that you have to avoid at all costs: Do not keep your ideas for yourself!
Keeping something just for you brings too many risks in your startup career. As soon as you have an idea, talk about it, share it and do so with your brightest friends. They might laugh, they might steal it, they will also criticize and be skeptical. But at least you will have some initial feedback, example of companies doing the same, thoughts on challenges, clients etc...
A great idea is an idea that survived the fire of criticism. You need to get out of your head and share. Once you think you have enough insights and refined sufficiently, you can go ahead with the next phase.
Great now you have your idea, it is time to dev this product and get it to market ASAP... Wrong again (in my humble opinion).
Now it is time to build market traction and early interest. Yes even before you have a product.
Two times in a few months have I experienced this successfully: if your idea has a chance to get any money at all, it will get it before you even have a product. You need to get out there with your idea that just survived your friends and colleagues and get it out to market. Talk to a few companies or individual you think will be in your target market, and do it fast. If you have an idea that they will pay for, they will ask you how much it costs and how they can have it, if not, you might want to reconsider.
Anyway, you now have a couple of potential clients. In a B2B setting this is great, because they have large resources. After the first approach and when I got their interest, I would issue them a proposal to partner in developing the product they want so much. This is where the communication is most important. You need to build trust and build long lasting relationships with those potential clients. They will be your everything for a few months (pay your bills, give feedback and basically make or break your company). So be transparent, trustworthy and passionate.
That's a best case scenario and of course you will have many rejections and people not interested.
If one partner is not enough for you to build a product, wait and propose to more than one partner. You will lose shares in the process but don't be greedy. Having one third of a cake is better than 100% of a dream.
Assuming you successfully managed to raise some seed and onboarded great partners with you, you can now start product development.
You have people and resources behind you and an idea that survived your closest and most ardent critics but most important, you have now courage because you toughen your idea and skin from the criticism, failures and setbacks during the first two phases.
It's time for you now to start your company and probably fail, but you at least went further than 99% of people that stay with their ideas in their heads and never experiment, living on and for ideas of others while you went out there trying to influence the world. Bravo!
To sum up my method: toughen your ideas, communicate with your target market, and start development. Do not rush on step three because you are a dev and you can do it.
Feel free to discuss my ideas in the comment section, feedback is key to many things in life and my writing could definitely use some.