What should be my next step if I have a start-up idea?

Grzegorz Papaj , 3 June 2020

meeting in the coffee shop

When it comes to a start-up idea, it can be very difficult to define the universal to-do list. But we hope that the following list may be helpful as it includes the most important steps.

Note: the list is designed for tech startups. However most of the points are universal and can be applied in any business.

  1. Start with writing down your idea. It can be a very difficult task, but if you succeed, you will see that it helped you to put your thoughts in order and to better define the product/service. Besides this, the description will be helpful in further steps.
  2. Think about the core of your idea. What will make people want to use the application and maybe even pay for it? Try to reject all of the necessary things like “integration with Instagram”. Perhaps after such decomposition there will be nothing left. But if the idea is really innovative, then there will be something that adds value.
  3. Try to determine the target group of users. If you think that it is an application for “everyone”, think it through once again. If after such an analysis you still claim that it is an application for everyone, ask yourself another question: who among the people I know would` reach for the application first? And why?
  4. Think about how you will earn money to realize your idea. Even if you think that the app does not have to earn money at the beginning (and you have funds to allow it), think about how you will earn on it in the future.
  5. For a moment assume that you have the application ready. Think about how you are going to get the first users? How to reach the other people who aren't your friends? What marketing channels can be useful? If you believe that a good idea will sell itself, you are wrong.
  6. Start to talk about your idea. Don’t be afraid that someone will steal it from your. Reach out and talk about your application with everyone. Pay attention to their reactions and comments. They are your first “users”. Although there is no product yet, you can collect valuable information. Write down everything that seems interesting and inspiring. But also what seems unpleasant and uncomfortable. You are currently building a list of threats. Once again I will emphasize - write everything down. Memory can be very unreliable.
  7. Check your first description of the idea from time to time. How did it change from the beginning? Has something new appeared? Is this still the same idea? Or maybe something completely different? Is there any added value there?
  8. If you still believe in your idea, find a partner and start a company. In the next steps, you'll have to talk to people who treat companies more seriously than people with an ideas. Think about what kind of business do you want for your company. The partner will help you not only to use common sense but also will provide support in difficult times.
  9. Find a programming company to develop your application. I wrote about my experiences with startups here. Thy to avoid these mistakes. The description of the idea is very helpful at this point.
  10. Build your product gradually. Be focus on getting the application which may be imperfect but which already provides minimal added value as soon as possible. Then (as it goes well) try to expand it by adding more elements or maybe even some breakthrough functionalities suggested by users. But firstly, you have to find users for your MVP application.
  11. Build your users' database. Find someone who will want to use your app. The best option is someone who is not your close friend or family. Don’t be discouraged too quickly, just listen to what your users are saying. If you assume that the application will be paid, first find someone who will use it for free.
  12. Start earning on the application. In the beginning, it doesn't have to be a lot of money. It is rather about checking whether users are willing to pay or not. If you assume that the app is free for users, this is the moment to check if the monetization channel you have planned works.
  13. Monitor the usage of the application. Check if users are actually using it. Study how they do it and learn from them.
  14. Try to attract new users. Conduct aware marketing. Look for ways to do it and learn from them all the time.
  15. Keep learning. Observe users, their needs, reported problems, and their expectations. Look for opportunities to increase interest. Check your original assumptions from time to time. Compare them with your current application.

What I described above is just the beginning. If you get to this point, then you have a product.

With full awareness, I skipped all "technicalities" such as obtaining financing, sales, and marketing. These are topics on separate threads or textbooks.