Tuesday, April 16, 2019

How To Start A Startup Even If You Have No Clue What To Build - Forbes

How To Start A Startup Even If You Have No Clue What To Build - Forbes

How To Start A Startup Even If You Have No Clue What To Build - Forbes

Posted: 16 Apr 2019 02:38 PM PDT



Why do most startup ideas fail?

"Because they [entrepreneurs] begin by trying to think of startup ideas. That m.o. is doubly dangerous: it doesn't merely yield few good ideas; it yields bad ideas that sound plausible enough to fool you into working on them," says investor and co-founder of Y Combinator, Paul Graham.

If you want to find a startup idea people need and will pay for, spend less time searching for ideas and more time getting your hands dirty. "Chance favors the prepared mind," says Louis Pasteur. Getting hands dirty simply means, instead of spending your time brainstorming ideas, find an unsolved problem you personally care to solve and then speak with over one hundred people that may be experiencing the same challenge and who have hacked a solution to solve it temporarily. Better yet, follow the approach I am about to share with you.

Talk to potential users while building an audience. The founders of the social media management tool Buffer invested close to a year blogging before launching the first version of their app. Writing articles not only helped them gain traffic and sign-ups to their upcoming product site but also get an opportunity to speak with their subscribers and learn about their needs. When the team was ready to launch, they had users lined up to buy and those users knew exactly what's coming out because they helped build it.

If you are searching for a problem to solve and even if you have found a problem worth solving, spend the early stages of your startup interacting with potential users, better yet, while building an audience. In his Startup Circle session, best-selling author James Clear said that he spent the first two years prior to his book launch learning more about his future readers and building trust while growing an audience.

Follow these four steps to start a startup even if you have no clue what to build.

  1. Publish Useful Content

People tend to overcomplicate a piece of advice just because its most basic version is "old school." In this case, there is no simpler way to say that the best way to identify an unmet need and an ideal customer is by doing. In startups, online research barely qualifies as a subcategory of "doing." Talking to customers is what you need to be doing to move the needle.

The goal of these four steps is to gain customer insights while building an audience. The best way to accomplish this goal by publishing useful content in the form of articles, videos, audio and/or video. The Buffer team started by writing about different business topics. This phase taught them what topics their audience is most interested in. Article comments, emails they received, calls to action clicked, people they met and metrics like repeat visitors, bounce rate and top articles read provided them with insights about the areas they needed to focus on.

Similarly, my venture, Startup Circle, started by addressing entrepreneurs building different business models in different verticals. The first 100 live sessions taught us for whom and how Startup Circle should be personalized and enhanced. Only when we met hundreds of founders and gathered enough data did we learn what to do next.  Sharing valuable content will give you the answers you need instead of building based on guesses and gut feelings.

  1. Test Ideas Through Content

As noted above, publishing content is the best way to start testing ideas. As simple as asking a question at the end of a guide seeking people's interest in a new tool that solves a specific problem uniquely is an easy first step to test new ideas. If readers care to share their answers in the comments section, answer a long survey, join to the waitlist or personally email you with further comments, you are likely onto something.

While your readers may not be as engaged in the beginning, sometimes for obvious reasons like not having an audience, the chances of gaining deep insights while growing an audience increase the more content you publish.

To attract more people to your content, prioritize leveraging the audience of people who have it. For articles, quote them or cite their work and then send them a personalized email telling them about it and ask if they would be inclined to share. Follow the same strategy for videos and podcasts especially if you make expert guests a core of your content value.

  1. Invite Subscribers To A Call

By now, chances are you have a much clearer direction and understanding of underserved segments and potential solutions. To make your direction even clearer, as the Buffer team did, every time someone joins your list, send them an email asking for a little bit of their time to hear their feedback on the solution you plan on creating. Once again, this is an opportunity to test readers' interest in the problem. Taking the time to spend a few minutes with you is another green signal.

  1. Presell An Idea

You know you should move to the next stage when a high percentage of your readers and interviewees talk about the same problem and express the same need. When you reach this stage, your priorities change to focus exclusively on testing the riskiest assumptions. The quickest way to test users' real intentions is by preselling the idea.

There is another key benefit from investing time in the first three stages as they allow you to not only gain insights and find an idea worth solving while building an audience but also build trust with the group. In preselling a product, your audience will invest in you because they trust you will deliver the promise. Without investing in relationship and trust building, your chances of getting strangers to pre-commit are very slim unless you leverage the audience of someone who's taken the time to build trust.

No one has all the answers. Even those who seem confident about the value proposition of their solution and their ideal customer end up itera

ting and sometimes pivoting their product and direction multiple times before finding what sticks. If you wonder how to start a startup without a clue what to build, follow these four steps and let the customers answer those questions for you. They may even pay you to build what they ask!

Have A Startup Idea That Already Exists? This Investor Has Some Advice - Forbes

Posted: 16 Apr 2019 11:58 AM PDT

What if my idea is something similar with the existing product but have fundamental differences? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Adora Cheung, Partner at Y Combinator, on Quora:

Many startup ideas at first glance look the same. Below are some of the most common ones I've been pitched recently:

  • AI recruiter, hiring platform
  • Product recommendations
  • Travel planning, discovery
  • Bill splitting, expense sharing
  • Logistics, delivery
  • Influencer tools, marketplace
  • Photo, experience sharing
  • Retail analytics
  • Apartment rentals
  • Github for data science/ML
  • Financial mgmt for millennials
  • Dating app
  • Talent, expert marketplace
  • Learning platform
  • Diet, fitness management
  • Neobank

If you're working on a common idea, by definition, many other people also think it's a good idea. It's super-competitive. And the road already has been paved and littered with tons of dead startups attempting to do it.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't work on it. It just means that you need to work super hard to stand out. In particular, you need to really articulate why you're the exception to the rule. Why is your version going to work where so many others have failed?

And the answer need not be complex. In fact, the simpler the better.

Here are some questions that I often ask founders when they ask for advice on their common startup idea:

  1. What is new about your version?
  2. What is your unique insight? Teach me something I don't know.
  3. Why will you and your team succeed when others have failed?
  4. Have you built anything yet, what has the feedback been?

Remember, common startup ideas are not necessarily bad ideas. For example, when Google started, there were so many other search engines, many questioned why we needed yet another one. What you need to do is figure out why your common startup idea is not so common after all.

This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

YC alum Keeper raises $1.6M to help gig workers pay taxes - TechCrunch

Posted: 15 Apr 2019 11:07 AM PDT

Every year around this time, Uber drivers, Wag dog walkers, Bird scooter chargers, social media influencers and other gig economy workers face the unsightly challenge of paying their taxes.

Companies like Uber and Lyft classify their drivers as independent contractors, which means you aren't given any benefits and the company doesn't withhold any of your taxes. This puts gig workers in a tough position come tax day, especially if they aren't prepared to shell out big sums to the IRS.

Keeper, a startup that's just graduated from the Y Combinator startup accelerator, is here to make taxes a lot easier for that demographic and to save them as much money as possible.

Founded by childhood buddies and former debate partners Paul Koullick and David Kang, the San Francisco-based company has raised $1.65 million on a $10 million valuation in a round led by Jake Jolis of Matrix Partners.

Keeper co-founders Paul Koullick (left) and David Kang

The pair entered YC this winter with a big idea and little to show for it. Come March, they had developed a full-fledged product and accumulated 200 paying customers. With their first round of funding, they plan to add to their small but growing team and acquire 10,000 customers in the next 18 months.

"There are some companies that are trying to go very broad and trying to cover the whole spectrum of benefits; we're just trying to go really deep on taxes," Kang told TechCrunch. "This is a pain point. This is where people are definitely leaving the most money on the table."

Keeper guesses the average gig worker in the U.S. is overpaying their taxes by more than 20 percent, or about $1,550 for those making more than $25,000 per year. Why? Because these independent contractors aren't claiming the tax write-offs available to them, like phone bills, car maintenance fees and even a Spotify subscription for drivers.

"If you're a dog walker, there are so many things you need to be writing off, like your poop bags, your extra leashes, your parking," Koullick told TechCrunch. "This population needs the guidance of an accountant, but they can't afford one and we're trying to create this third option."

Like a personal accountant, Keeper monitors gig workers' expenses all year in search of possible tax deductions, saving each user $173 per month on average, it estimates. The startup uses Plaid to follow its customers' transaction history, and once per day sends a text message asking if there are any tax write-offs to note. Over time, it gets smarter and smarter, keeping the SMS questions to a minimum.

Keeper doesn't fully file taxes for 1099 workers yet, but will begin offering a quarterly tax filing service in June. Next year, it plans to offer a full-year tax-filing service.

Koullick, Keeper's chief executive officer, worked in product at Square before joining another startup, called Stride, where he built and scaled Stride Tax, a mileage and expense-tracking app. Kang, for his part, has spent most of his post-graduate career at a trading firm in Chicago, focused on quantitative modeling. The two toyed with a few startup ideas before landing on Keeper's tax business.

"We wanted to build something that actually mattered to real people," Koullick explained. "And we wanted to do it in the financial space where we were happy to wade through ugly details and systems on their behalf."

Keeper isn't the only recent YC alum focused on the growing gig economy. Another, Catch, sells health insurance, retirement savings plans and tax-withholding services directly to freelancers, contractors or anyone uncovered. Given the rapid rise of Uber and other gig platforms, it's no wonder YC startups are tapping into the various business opportunities available there.

"We're willing to tackle some of these topics that are kind of boring and mundane and really intensive," Kang added. "Like the average person doesn't want to think about taxes or filling out forms. We saw that as an opportunity for us to step in and be like, hey, we'll take it."

7 crazy startup ideas that were so wild they almost had us fooled - YourStory

Posted: 01 Apr 2019 12:00 AM PDT

Revenge, they say, is best served cold.

But the folks at DRF believe that "revenge is a dish best-served florally"! A Los Angeles-based company, DRF, short for Dirt Rotten Flowers, does exactly what the name suggests – send an elegantly packed box of dead, stinking flowers. Now whether the gift is sent to an ex-boyfriend or meant to be an April Fool's prank for your friend, that call is yours.

As crazy as it might sound, Dirty Rotten Flowers is an actual, real business (at least the testimonials on their website suggest so), making money off what many would call an absolutely whimsical idea. And guess what, they are not alone. There are several others like them in the market, thriving and making big bucks – some as high as a six-figure salary – all while shopping a crazy idea, solving an unusual problem, and catering to a unique audience. ­­

Potato Parcel couple gift, Source: Potato Parcel website

After all, "the day before something is a breakthrough, it's a crazy idea". And we, at YourStory, are a strict believer in this theory. That's why we have gone through all the rabbit holes online to find this bunch of startups that started out with a weird and whacky idea. 

Potato Parcel

When founders Riad Bekhit and Alex Craig appeared with their Potato Parcel idea before the panel on ABC's Shark Tank, little did the investors know that they meant business. But the truth is they were dead serious. In fact, even before the two had Kevin O'Leary's backing, they had sold more than 12,000 potatoes. Their business is simple: they send potatoes with customised messages to people. From heartwarming notes to sassy puns, like "if only you knew how MASH you mean to me", just spell it out and they will get it done for you.

What the best part is that for every potato sold, Potato Parcel donates one to those in need. Wonderful, right?

Also Read: Miss book clubs? Vowelor brings readers and authors together in a virtual community

Startup Chauffeur

It's all in the name!

When one window closes, the door to a swanky-a** car opens. At least that's what happened with Ivan Cardoso, Founder of Startup Chauffeur, who pivoted towards this idea after his travel startup failed to take off. Having realised that they were not "the right team" to execute the travel idea, Cardoso came up with Startup Chauffeur.

"I am the Startup Chauffeur and I pick up inspiring startup founders who will answer your questions," their Facebook page explains. The Luxembourg native literally chauffeurs a car around, asking all your questions to a new entrepreneur in each new episode.

Ivan Cardoso (R) with Pierre Beck, founder of Fox Drinks Luxembourg


Surprises and happiness are at the heart of this startup. Can it get any better? Hyderabad-based Oyehappy plans, stages, and executes surprises for your loved ones. Whether you want to go all out and pop the question to your SO in a movie theatre or hide inside a giant box and shock the daylights out of your friend, Oyehappy has got your back. They also customise gifts for special occasions and events. As Varun Todi and his cousin Harshvardhan Khemani, say, "We started Oyehappy as an experiment, and later shut down our ad agency as we were doing pretty good business." 

Also Read: Hyderabad-based Oyehappy helps you surprise loved ones

My Fake Relationship

Before the name gets your tongue wagging, let's set the record straight. The idea is all platonic and there's no funny business behind the scenes. My Fake Relationship, as the name suggests, lets you hire a plus-one for dates and events. Now these events could be anything, from a wedding (where you would probably not want to go alone) to a work function. "Just select the person of choice, the number of hours your event will be, and provide us with your details so we can organise it with you," MFR's website explains.

Thought up by Sydney-based Hanisa Mohamed, this idea might sound bizarre, but we all can do with some (platonic) company at times. Isn't it?


How fabulous would it be if you get paid to tweet? Well, don't squint your eyes at us; we know it's all a part of influencer marketing. But then how many companies actually think this through to provide a platform where people with huge social media following can connect with brands, and shop their service? Blogmint, founded in 2015, is the answer to all your prayers. It helps brands identify a desired number of niche bloggers and engage them to create relevant content around the brand to meet their marketing objectives.

In short, if you are a social media star, this is something you would want to check out.

Also Read: Blogmint aims to help brands gain more ROI and influencers mint more money

Cuddle Up To Me

A startup that offers professional cuddling? Many of you might think, "That's not a thing." Just like the people who told Samantha Hess that Cuddle Up to Me was a crazy idea. Started by Hess from an office in Portland, Oregon, the startup lets you book a session with a certified cuddler.

"We chit-chat, get to know them, we make sure we understand their consent and their boundaries, and they know ours," says Hess, explaining the core idea of Cuddle Up to Me.

Cuddle Up To Me

Source: Cuddle Up To Me website

Reserve A Spot In Heaven

"Even angels need a reservation." No, we are not saying this but Greg who has availed the services of ReserveASpotInHeaven.com will testify to this.

For people who want to secure their heavenly afterlife, this Seattle-based company is nothing less than a miracle. It offers a complete package with travel kit, a heaven 101 booklet, boarding passes, and a reservation certificate to help you navigate your way with ease, post-death. Just in case your reservation is not accepted, they guarantee 100 percent money back.  

Also Read: Wanna play laser tag in office? This Mumbai-based startup is here to help

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