Launching Your Own Startup – Women Who Tech – #wwt

  • Moderated by Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving) – Zoetica
  • Rashmi Sinha (@rashmi) – Slideshare
  • Amra Tareen – All Voices

Taking Risks

  • Amra – You need to believe in the opportunity; you know there is a market disruption; “Can I make a business”; “Believe you can start with a brilliant idea.” “A big market is key in taking a risk.”
  • Rashmi – Start with your startup idea while still doing your day job. Helps mitigate the financial risk. You have to care enough about the idea that things like career path structure (going up the corporate ladder) don’t matter. Play around with a bunch of ideas and follow the one that has the greatest potential.
  • Amra – If you’re in a very corporate environment, make sure you delineate what is work for your company and what you’re doing as a startup.
  • Geoff – Endurance of the first year is critical. Have to be prepared for the long haul. Dig your heels in, insist on succeeding no matter what.
  • Rashmi – When building a software project, build it in small steps. Even if you’re embarrassed by it, make sure you’re putting in front of people and get their feedback. Will help keep you from wasting money by going down a  path that’s not wanted.
  • Rashmi – Outsource as much as you can — email management, Amazon S3, Google Adsense on the site right away. Use services instead of going out and renting a bunch of servers. Costs are month-to-month instead of huge upfront costs.
  • Amra – Never sign a yearly contract, even if you get discounts, because you never know when things might need to change.
  • Geoff – Outsource everything they can, including labor. View hiring as a huge risk.

Instilling credibility in the minds of your customers.

  • Geoff – Credibility comes from your past. Make sure you have references ready.
  • Rashmi – “Build something that’s so compelling and easy to use that right in the first minute you get a benefit.”

How can someone work through fear and be brave enough to build a startup.

  • Rashmi – Have to be able to able to enjoy the challenge. If you are naturally fearful, find a business partner who is more aggressive and balances you out.
  • Amra – You need persistence. Make sure you have milestones that you can measure yourself against. “Believe in the idea.” On days when it gets really hard, you need to have an idea you believe in.
  • Geoff – Cherish success. When you win a client, go out to dinner with your spouse or friends. When you get a good press mention, etc. go take care of yourself. Make sure you’re enjoying life.

How do you outsource your development but still protect your intellectual development?

  • Amra – Core team needs to be within the company.
  • Rashmi – Need to worry more about creating network effects vs. protecting intellectual property. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s more about execution.
  • Amra – If you’re the only person that has an idea, it’s probably not going to be successful. Vision does not produce product by itself, it’s the execution.

When do you patent an idea?

  • Amra – Can file

Saying no to bad opportunities

  • Amra – You have to believe in your core and know what’s right. Market traction means a lot, but you have to know if it’s the right partnership.
  • Rashmi – You have to be willing to say no. Even though partnerships from big companies may seem attractive, the big companies have a lot of time to waste, but you don’t. The opportunities might be great, but they may take you in the direction that you’re not ready to go. Make sure you know your vision. People wanted to license Slideshare for inside the firewall, but Rashmi really wanted the presentations uploaded to be shared with the widest audience possible.

Valuing time and services

  • Geoff – Zoetica says no to a lot of RFPs. They see RFPs as cattle calls. Instead, they are focusing on opportunities where people are coming directly to them. RFPs are risky from a sales perspective. Need to have a relationship.
  • Amra – Focus is key in a startup.
  • Rashmi – Articulate what people are supposed to be doing at any given time. Don’t try to do too many things at a time.

How do you get the first 100 users?

  • Rashmi – Largest challenge for a startup.
  • Amra – Share the product with your friends via email. Leave things open – even in alpha stage. Keep iterating, iterating, iterating. Encourage feedback as much as possible. Do not be embarrassed about an alpha product – put it out there anyway.
  • Geoff – Word of mouth is critical. Getting people talking about what you’re doing – launch event at SxSW; blogging on Mashable for free just to get SEO.

Hiring / HR

  • Rashmi – Really look for a personality fit and whether people will fit in the speed of work; pace of a startup. Look for a lot of initiative and self-driven examples. Hardest thing in the startup is bringing on the right people. Start people as contractors and then bring them on if they are the right fit.

How good does something have to be for Beta or Alpha?

  • Amra – If you’re thinking about launching it, you’re already a little late.
  • Rashmi – It’s never to early to launch. You really want it to have light of day and get feedback from people around the web. Applies to products as well as features.
  • Amra – If people aren’t using it, you know that there is a problem.

How do you know if a client isn’t worth it?

  • Rashmi – Depends on what you’re trying to achieve. It goes back to your goals.
  • BOOK IDEA – Four Steps to Epiphany