Start Up Blog

7 simple concepts

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 12, 2013

Had a few ideas in my mind for blog posts. But thought I’ll just soundbite them now and go deep later:

1. Selling Potatoes: Startup ideas are often far too clever. Often they represent what is technically possible, rather than what is technically needed. I keep coming back to the idea of selling potatoes. That is, selling something demand already exists for. If we do this, we can stop wasting resources trying to creating demand. Instead we can just do a better job connecting and serving the existential market. Buy for price X and sell for X2. I’m wondering why a ‘potato’ business is rarely considered by aspiring entrepreneurs. We ought resist the temptation to 3D print ceramic fur balls for imaginary cats.

2. Market Validation: Real market validation must be with strangers, not colleagues. If it’s an online business, then validation can’t be done in person. If it’s a physical business then validation can’t be done on line. We ought match the real world. Real market validation should involve money, and avoid surveys.

3. Size & Attitude: The bigger the company the harder it is to maintain a cool attitude. When companies go public, their DNA changes. It’s just a fact we ought accept. At this point founders don’t care, they’ve already made bank. When our favourite companies get big it is inevitable we will suffer from a little bit of startup nostalgia.

4. Business Model & Problem Solution: I often get pitched startups that have a great business model with no real human problem. Or a solution to a human problem which struggles to find a business model. Our chances of success increase dramatically when we have both. We should work hard on having both of these elements when conceiving our next startup.

5. Quiet Self Esteem: It is what we are doing when no one is actually looking that matters. The actions we take that only we will ever know about. This is what we should focus on.

6. Half Baked Ideas: These are the best ideas to play with in the short term. It means we are in the kitchen experimenting. It doesn’t mean we should try and sell these cookies at the market, but we should always throw a few new recipes in the oven.

7. What VC’s Really Invest In: Justifiable failure. They don’t aim to fail, but before they invest a dime they know they will get it wrong more than 9 times out of ten. They’ll never admit this, but they are only ever investing in what will sound like a good bet to their partners. So that when it does fail (and it will more than 90% of the time) it is justifiable to those who stumped up the money. Hence, when seeking capital all we need be is justifiably worth the risk.

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4 Responses

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  1. Martyne Tolbert said, on December 12, 2013 at 9:47 am

    I appreciate you list of topic and I look forward to your future posts! As a new entrepreneur I would be interested in gaining some perspective from your take on these subject matters. I agree with you in regard to the need for bringing back the human element in market consciousness.

  2. Dave(e/id) Payne said, on December 21, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Aren’t public companies, at least in some parts of the USA, LEGALLY REQUIRED to have only one priority, maximising shareholder value. That was not, for example, a top priority for Bill & Dave (HP.com) or Ben & Jerry ! http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/the_truth_about_ben_and_jerrys

    • Dave(e/id) Payne said, on December 21, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      In case it isn’t obvious, I was responding to concept 3.

      As I’ve written elsewhere, (LinkedIn I think), why have laws like that, and now invent other organisation types like benefit corporations? Why not just require a clear standardised statement of aims & purposes, then enforce adherence to them?

      (I suspect the answer is, because this way there’s more work for lawyers. I hope I am too cynical but I fear not!)

  3. Dave(e/id) Payne said, on December 21, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    On point 1.
    Maybe people try to come up with a new idea because they figure they’ll have a head start on any competitors.

    While walking into unmapped territory, be careful while looking over your shoulder that you don’t step into disaster. But you should be less worried if you spot someone following you than if NO-ONE is following you. Competition is validation that someone else suspects you’re onto something worth competing for.


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