This story was featured in the March 2015 issue of Octane magazine.
At a recent entrepreneurship summit, a group of speakers were discussing the perfect time to launch a company. The consensus surprised me a little— start before you’re ready. Like many entrepreneurs, I tend to be a perfectionist. I talk ideas out with peers, gather feedback and then methodically move forward. Start before you’re ready? Not me! The conversation did, however, get me thinking about my own entrepreneurial efforts.
Some have been successful, others not so much. How would things have been different if I had jumped into entrepreneurship a little quicker? After mulling it over, I found four areas in business development that can benefit from a quick start:
Idea development: Waiting for product or service perfection wastes valuable time and money. Failing is scary, so many entrepreneurs spend precious time and money perfecting a product or service before they launch it to the market. I’m no different. I delayed launching one company by focusing on creating the best user experience possible. In hindsight, I should have launched the idea and then let users guide my product development. Perhaps if I had spent half the time and money on my MVP (minimum viable product), my early adopters would have worked through challenges with me and provided helpful feedback.
Audiences: Entrepreneurs want everyone to love their idea, which can delay the launch and result in high development costs. In my case, I listened to suggestions that caused me to invest valuable resources that broadened the usage base, instead of focusing on usage cases that I understood. Instead of trying to please everyone, I’ve learned it’s better to focus on a few great uses that can help you refine your idea and gain traction. Trying to appeal to a broad audience may end up watering down the user experience. There’s always the opportunity to expand the idea out to more users later.
Investors: Even if you’re not yet looking for funding, it’s important to begin conversations early with the right investors … with the emphasis on “right.” When launching my idea, I followed the path of most entrepreneurs: I went to my network of investors, who were experienced and familiar with my work in the businessto-business market. Unfortunately, they lacked experience in the business-to-consumer market, which was the focus of my new venture. Rather than waste time, I should have used my contacts to find the right investors who had a track record for investing in similar ideas to my own.
Vision: When talking with investors and other advisors, it’s easy to get pulled off task by following advice that’s not right for your idea. When meeting with advisors, ask yourself what you want to get out of the meeting, and then stay true to your idea. Not surprisingly, the business-to-business investors that were interested in supporting my solution wanted to add functionality that would appeal to a business-to-business audience. They knew this market and could visualize the return on their investment. While my vision was for a consumer tool, I ended up following their advice, which caused me to lose focus on my vision.
When looking at today’s great entrepreneurial companies, it’s clear that they had the right idea hitting the right market at the right time. There’s a little luck involved in the success of every entrepreneur, of course, and luck is impossible to replicate. However, that’s all the more reason to get out there early and let market feedback be your guide.
Jenny Vance (pictured) is an EO At Large – U.S. member, served as president of EO Indiana and is president of LeadJen, a business-to-business lead generation company. Contact Jenny at [email protected]
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