When Should You Tell People About Your Startup Idea?
By Brett Fox
You can’t be afraid to socialize your idea with the right people at the right time. If you socialize your idea to the wrong people at the wrong time, then you will not get the desired effect you want.
So, let’s say you have a great idea for a new business. What should your approach be?
You need to be able to tell a compelling story.
Story? Why am I talking about telling a story when the issue is should you keep your idea a secret?
Let’s say you came up with a great idea today, and you decided to immediately approach investors. How do you think that would go?
Timing is everything when it comes to sharing ideas. That’s why you need to have a great story to tell the respective audiences you will approach.
When you tell a story, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end to the story. You typically will have an outline of some sort if your story is complex.
The audience for your idea, your “story” has a beginning audience, a middle audience, and an ending audience. If you tell the story out of sequence, then everything falls flat.
The beginning audience: You and your closest confidant(s).
So, you’ve come up with a great idea. Congratulations. No what? I would do some quick research to see how big the market for the idea is, who the competitors are, and who the customers are.
I’d write everything down, so I had a file of notes if the idea gets past this first checkpoint. You should be looking for:
A. An idea that has a big enough market for your financial goals, and…
B. An idea where there are competitors, but you can have a clear competitive advantage, and…
C. An idea where you have a reasonable chance of selling to customer base.
Now I would likely socialize (share) the idea with a close confidant or two. You should be looking for someone that will give you constructive feedback, and, this is key, not just look for all the negatives.
Hopefully, this process of sharing the idea helps flesh the idea out some more. Now you have more meat on the bone, and your outline becomes more detailed.
This leads you to…
The middle phase: Your potential team and potential customers
I’m used to building products that rely on a team, so I have to know if I have the capability of building the team I need to build the product I want. This was Stan’s key point.
So, I’m looking for Fanatics (Stan’s True Believers) that are going to want to jump on the bandwagon. And I’m not just looking for any Fanatics, I’m looking for top-notch, A+ Fanatics.
These A+ Fanatics, the best of the best, are your cofounders and founding team. If you can’t recruit A+ cofounders to join you, the you seriously think about looking for another idea because this idea isn’t getting people excited.
In parallel, you should be testing your idea with some friendly customers. Hopefully, there’s a way you can share your idea in this early stage.
For me, this usually requires I have a simple pitch ready. Regardless of whether you use a pitch or not, there are two things you need to explain to your friendly customers:
A. What does your business do?
B. Why are 10X-100X better than the competition? Or How are you unique in a meaningful way to your customers?
In other words, you have to share your idea.
You’re looking for the response from customers here. Is it a, “Wow!” Or is it a, “That sounds interesting.”
Obviously you want the wow answer.
Depending upon what you’re selling and the timing of your product or service launch, you may have the chance to get customers to actually sign up and pay you at this point. That’s great because there’s no better validation than paying customers.
If you get through this gate, then you’re ready for…
The final phase: Your potential investors
Now you’ve gotten a reasonable amount of feedback. You know you can build a team. You know that customers are excited about your product. And you know that the market is big enough to support your product.
You have a good idea, and you need to find out if you can finance the idea. So it’s time to share the idea with potential investors.
Everyone has investors. If you’re self funding, then you are the investor. If your parents are going to help, then they are the investors. You get the idea.
Regardless of the investor type, you need to sell them on what you are doing. That’s your pitch.
And you have to share your idea if you’re going to get funding.
If you keep your idea a secret, or try to, then you will not build a team, you will not get customers, and you will not get funding. So you need to put yourself, and your idea, out there if you want to achieve success.
For more, read:
For another view, read Stan Hanks great answer here.
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