Starting A Start-Up: Lessons Learned
by Dimitry Farberov, Contributing Writer
Very early one morning in March of ‘09, while taking a shower, an idea came to me that would change my life forever—but not in the way you might think. I had always been a dreamer, coming up with new ideas that could potentially make me millions, and ideas that enhance people’s personal lives. I really wanted to change the world. However, every time I would come up with a new concept for a business, my family and friends would tell me that my idea would not be successful. Not knowing how to take the idea from concept to execution, I began to accept their pessimism and give up on my dreams.
This time was different. In this post, I plan on taking you through the incredible two-year journey that I went through while trying to launch my start-up. What I learned about the start-up world, and about myself through this process, was far more useful than any business school could have taught me. I hope to share some of my insights with you.
“Help people make a living doing what they love,” I thought to myself while the warm water was pouring on my sleepy face. This thought had always been a passion of mine, neatly tucked away in my subconscious.
After reading Simon Sinek’s Start with Why — an incredible book that teaches people to do things that inspire them — I realized that great leaders, and innovative ideas don’t become recognized out of the blue. The leaders of today who become successful pursuing their passions, first inspire others by starting out with a “why”; that is the core of who they are and why they do what they do. This mantra—the personal why—ultimately becomes the driving force behind successful start-ups.
My why was clear; I wanted to create a platform that gave people the ability to promote their skills and talents throughout their community. This would truly help people live a more fulfilling life, by giving them the tools to make a living doing what they loved to do. My “why” was clear, but the “what” and the “how” were much more difficult to discover and implement.
As was the case previously, I ran my idea by a close friend of mine. He was a friend that I could count on to tell me when my head was in the clouds, without hesitation. Having a friend like that is very important. This time, when I approached him with my idea, he actually saw the potential in my concept and it wasn’t long before we had set out to build “our company” together. The truth was that we really did not have a clue where to start, but we had the initial momentum necessary to start. We created a Web site from scratch and set out to add the necessary features that would ultimately accomplish our why.
Coincidentally, a couple of weeks into the process, I met a digital media entrepreneur who we took on as our mentor. I cannot stress the following point enough: do not go at it alone! Before starting a new business, get as much advice as you possibly can. You can visit sites like meetup.com, which have the capability to connect you to fellow entrepreneurs. Other sites, such as score.org give you free access to mentors in your industry. Ask as many questions as you need to and never be shy. People love to help.
Once you have your momentum going and are asking the right people for advice, the next thing that you NEED for your startup is relevant market research. Momentum and market research are two of the three most important elements to any start up. Having tech savvy team members is a very important third element to have, when implementing your start-up concept.
We wanted to do so much to our Web site. The possibilities were endless. Our advisor helped us focus on developing a “minimum viable product”. All too often, hungry entrepreneurs want to build so many features into their product Web site, that they lose track of what their initial goal was in the first place. The key is to focus on the main product and to first create the most minimal viable version. Once a minimum viable product is developed, you can test it with your user-base, get feedback and go from there. Better to have one good feature that solves a problem than many bad features that do not.
Despite our advisor’s direction, it was hard to translate our goals to amateur developers around the world what it was that we needed to be built. Building a website without technical knowledge is like building a home without any knowledge of architecture. The biggest lesson here is that if you are considering a web-based start-up, make sure you have the tech skills on your team that will be required to build a website platform that provides a great user experience. If you don’t have access to the required skills, then make sure you have the necessary capital to hire some of the best programmers.
We lacked the technical savvy to develop the website, so we were forced to outsource to India, Bolivia and elsewhere. While sites such as oDesk.com and eLance.com should have been a great resource for us to find every technical resource we would need, ultimately our lack of capital led us to hire people incapable of doing the work we needed done. We spent a year building our initial platform, iknowofsomeone.com, only to realize that major competition from Web sites such as thumbtack.com and skillpages.com, among others, became a much bigger threat than we could have anticipated.
What we lacked, they had. They had a team of tech-savvy coders who were able to build their minimal products, which allowed them to raise capital to build their platform and their brand. We fought and clawed, we pivoted to a somewhat different business concept. We hired new developers and hoped to breathe new life and momentum to what was a lost cause. In the end we did not succeed in our goal of building an online marketplace for passionate local service providers.
Ultimately, despite all the time, effort and money we dedicated towards this project, the experience of creating something, despite its shelf life, was truly priceless. I spent the last four years reading books and listening to podcasts on entrepreneurship. I learned the lessons first hand and that is what taught me some of the best lessons for the future. Perhaps the most important thing I learned through from my experience was how little I knew and how much more I have yet to learn.
After the realization that skillsafari.com (the new name after iknowofsomeone) was not going to produce the results that we had hoped it would, I brushed off the frustration, picked myself up and began to work on something new. I am sure that as a result of the effort and education which I endured throughout the creation of skillsafari.com, I will be much more successful in my subsequent pursuits. I am currently working on a new business venture and look forward to writing another post about my success with you. I continue dreaming and I continue creating, because I am an entrepreneur.
Score.org–connect to 1000’s of potential mentors for free
Mixergy.com–over 700 awesome and engaging entrepreneur interviews
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank
Rework by Jason Fried
Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation by Sally Hogshead
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Dimitry is a passionate entreprenuer and investor. Dimitry is a graduate of UCLA and currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. When he’s not working on awesome start-ups, he works in finance and is involved in local community projects. In his free time, he enjoys reading, playing basketball, investing, playing the guitar and violin, and watching Chuck Norris movies and reruns of 24.
<<Link Building And SEO For The Long Haul
Warning: Use of undefined constant next_post_link - assumed 'next_post_link' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/22/d312393700/htdocs/wordpress/wp-content/themes/AvaLance/single.php on line 24
The Client Isn’t Always Right, But Clear Communication Is>>