A common misconception from first-time startup founders is that the most important aspect of their “startup idea” is that it should be original and novel. The large majority of successful startups are not created with an original idea; most often there are several companies that start more or less concurrently in a given space. For example, Google was not the first search engine; Facebook was not the first social network.
Investors like to categorize startups in problem spaces they have decided have high growth potential; if a startup idea is truly original, it will have difficulty attracting funding as the founder(s) will have to go the extra mile in educating the investment community on the problem domain and opportunity.
Not to say that ideas do not matter; they do. The most important aspect of a startup idea is the question “what problem is it solving”, followed by “to whom”. Technically inclined founders (such as myself) tend to make the mistake of putting the “how” first. Often, technological changes and solutions are important, as they create the potential for disruption in a specific space. But first and foremost, the most important aspect of a startup idea is the “problem statement”. What value are you and your team creating for your customers?
Startups are about execution. The first and most important step in executing an idea is to create a crisp answer to the question “What problem are we solving to whom?”; the second most important question is “How?” followed by “How do we get there?”.
Often founders believe they need to find the answers to these questions by themselves and within the resources of their team. This is actually the inverse of what I would recommend. One of the aspects that makes Silicon Valley the most attractive place to start a company is the deep network of expertise that one can draw from. Governments that want to encourage the creation of startups often create organizations that provide coaching and advice to emergent companies. For instance, Switzerland created InnoSuisse which provides coaching and guidance to local startups.
I would encourage founders to try to reach out to experienced people in both their target space and in companies that currently sell into that space. Reach out to a current or former CMO, Product Lead, CTO. Interview them and learn from their feedback how they view your description of the problem domain. The most important part of your startup idea is how passionate you and your team are about understanding the problem space.
Extending on the concept of getting expert advice is the ability to temporarily complement your team with experts that have built business before. This is what makes me excited to collaborate with KAPSLY, a startup itself, that is trying to create a marketplace where companies and experts can meet; along with a model that recognizes that beyond a small time investment expertise deserves compensation and that startups are typically cash-poor.
As a former CTO and Tech Lead for Software Engineering projects, I enjoy helping entrepreneurs think through how technology changes influence their problem space and how to set up the right technology and engineering foundation to execute a plan. I’m happy to serve as an Interim CTO, full or part-time, according to the needs of the project, and help companies that want to build a software engineering organization, a SaaS platform, or machine learning processes. If that sounds like a skill that can help move your project forward, reach out to me via KAPSLY.