Assume the story of Facebook in The Social Network is as much as you know about startups. What’s next?
1. Spend 3 months learning the basics
It takes a lot more than 3 months to connect the dots about a subject you’ve never been exposed to before, however, an educational startup foundation can certainly be built around this time. Picking the right sources is key. I suggest starting with 1) The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (here’s a good review), 2) Seth Godin’s Startup School podcast, and 3) reading 5-10 articles/guides a day about marketing, finance, leadership, success stories, sales and strategy. All within a startup development context since methods and approaches can differ greatly from building a small business.
2. Do a Practice Startup
Knowledge has no value if not used to build startup value. If you finished college, you should have realized that most of the knowledge you acquired to pass the exams and eventually graduate is not put to use. At school we learn the concepts, at work we learn how to apply those concepts and that’s what matters. Execution is the second half of education. In other words, only when we dive into reality, make mistakes, learn what works and what doesn’t that we truly enhance knowledge and acquire useful and marketable skills.
For this, start with as little as a practice startup. For instance, the on-demand model can be executed fairly quickly with as little as $50 in initial investment and working capital. For example, to start a food on demand venture stick some flyers on your neighbor’s doors with your phone number on them, deliver yourself or with friends and take it from there with a Facebook page, a landing page, a web app, mobile apps, etc. It takes an afternoon to execute on such idea and many others like it. Doing a practice startup will reinforce the acquired knowledge from step one and help you better understand what you are truly passionate about.
3. Reach out to existing entrepreneurs and mentors
The people we interact with have a major impact on who we become. Although things are changing rapidly, unfortunately, not every country and city in the world reached a level of technological, entrepreneurial and more specifically, startup enthusiasm that communities of likeminded entrepreneurs can be reached and interacted with easily. That’s not the end of the world. Build relationships through Slack communities, on Linkedin, direct emails and comment on fellow entrepreneur or mentor content, etc.
This is a continuous process from the day you embark on your entrepreneurial journey. The effect of mentors on entrepreneurial success is non-negotiable. According to MicroMentors, mentored founders are 49% more likely to execute on their ideas and 70% of their companies survive more than 5 years as compared to 33% for non-mentored founders.
4. Apply to incubators/accelerators
Such programs are limited in time (3 months is somewhat standard) and serve to support entrepreneurs through education, mentoring, guidance, financing and networking. Most incubators and accelerators focus on early stage ventures by providing founders with the needed resources to execute on compelling value propositions by identifying problems/needs and solutions, product development, customer acquisition and investor pitch skills during the demo day.
Above all, overnight success cannot be hacked. In the business world, it takes on average 5 to 7 years for a company to get acquired and over 7 years to go public. Whether the goal is to live independently, take a company public, get an acquisition, feel good for doing the things we like, everything starts with an acknowledgement about the bumpy road ahead which, with persistence and commitment, ends with a success story.