“Innovation distinguishes between being a leader and a follower.” ~ Steve Jobs
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All great things in this world started with a simple thought. The “idea” is the start of all entrepreneurship, but hardly the culmination. The idea itself is worthless without the action to follow. Implementation of an idea is a far bigger challenge than coming up with the idea.
First of all, everyone thinks his or her idea is a great idea and some are (most are not). When I came up with the idea for Texting Base on Christmas Day a few years ago, I truly hoped someone else had the product together. I needed it…wanted it…and searched everywhere for a product that would allow me to efficiently send personalized messages to all of my contacts. I could not believe it had not been done. From that first exasperating Christmas (where it took me 8 hours to send messages out to friends using 40 person group texts), it was over 7 years later before I started pulling the pieces together to work on Texting Base.
One of the best exercises any budding entrepreneur can go through is to start by writing a business plan. The business plan sounds cliché, and can and will be changed as the idea takes shape, but it’s a must. The business plan forces people to evaluate and think through the business applications of any idea. Most of all, the business plan is crucial so the potential entrepreneurs can take a hard look within and identify weaknesses in both the idea and themselves. All of the following questions, and more come into play:
How will I make it?
What are my requirements?
How long will it take?
Is anything proprietary/patentable?
What resources will I need?
Will I need partners?
What technology platform will I use?
What skills do I not have that I need?
What will be the equity breakdown?
How will I market it?
How much money will this take?
What is my break even?
How long will development take?
What is the upside?
What is the value for raising capital?
What is the exit strategy?
If your plan is to raise money to avoid suffering, scrapping and clawing than the business plan is a must. If you are raising money, the last three questions are for the investors. The beauty of technology is that it is possible to get a company up and running for about 100K…try to do that in any other business with multi-billion dollar upsides!
The “app” world has brought a gold rush like excitement for people rushing into a realm they may only partially understand. Much like the original gold rush, most people who have rushed in have lost it all. It is estimated less than 1% of apps are financially successful. This means statistically if you are creating an app, your odds of failure are around 99%. If you were in Vegas and you saw these odds, would you play? Even the free drinks wouldn’t do the trick…it would be insanity.
It takes a certain kind of mind to have an idea and bring it to fruition. The journey is a long one, and the pitfalls are many. You will lose friends…your family will likely doubt you at times…your health may suffer and your social life will be way more talking with business partners and way less “hanging out.” Why would anyone do that?
The first two issues all entrepreneurs have to overcome are finances and resources. Even if you are skilled enough as a programmer to develop your own idea, it will take tremendous amounts of time. Do you have to work a full time job? That means you are giving up a significant portion of your life/fun/friends/family to pursue your “idea.” In the meantime how do you know there isn’t a much bigger entity going after your exact same idea? Technology is developed in a world of shadows, with secrecy prominent all over the world. There is always the possibility you give up two years of your life and someone puts out a far superior product before you can launch, essentially making your idea completely obsolete.
If you are reading this and saying, “I have no money and no resources,” one thing that may be helpful to know is that when I started working on Texting Base I had no money. None. I had sold my ownership position in a banking organization and burned through that cash on a video game project and a few other ventures. I met a programmer when I was living in a closet to save money who said he would put the then unnamed product together.
That programmer said a lot of things over the next few years…the problem is he never did any of the things he said he was doing. My extra money went to him, and he used the money on fun. None of the information I was receiving was accurate.
That dead-end experience was a blessing, as it led me to a very talented front-end designer (who is a lot more than a “designer”). That designer came on for an equity stake and led me to a very talented back-end programmer. Those two people are Alex Shaffer and Corey Fisher, my two business partners in Texting Base.
You make your own luck to an extent, but we have needed our share of miracles to get Texting Base where it is today. I wouldn’t have it any other way…anyone who had it easy is at a significant disadvantage. Our team knows how to suffer and fight to get ahead…that perspective cannot be bought.
Once Alex and Corey bought into the idea, the real work began.
The planning, documentation and front-end/back-end work to get a project done is intense. Before we launched, we went through 3-4 redesigns. It also takes A LOT more than coding to run a business. If you are a programmer reading this article then ask yourself a few of these questions:
Do I understand business setup and taxes?
Do I understand writing copy and conversion ratios?
Do I understand legal issues, contacts, risk mitigation and Human Resources?
Do I understand business credit, payroll, affiliate programs, marketing strategies, customer support, billing, credit card processing, pro forma creation, investors, social media and blogging?
Do I understand intellectual property, equity agreements, policies and procedures, terms and conditions, networking, branding, time management, server management and scalability?
Do I know payroll, accounting, analytics, sales, sales management, financials and how to monetize the application (including data)?
Do you know what it is to represent a company, give speeches, travel and to sacrifice yourself for every customer and person but yourself?
In the above questions, identify the areas you don’t know and either learn them or find a viable solution. Great programming alone won't take a product very far.
All of these things (and more) come into play. Most of these items involve multiple sub items. So you have an idea? The real question on the table is: “are you really prepared to do what it takes to make it work?” The idea is the easy part. Implementation of the idea takes sacrifice over time…can you handle it?
For those of you who are ready to run through the wall, I can tell you all the hardships to bring an idea to life are worth it. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eric Beans is CEO of Texting Base, Inc., out of Orlando, Florida. Texting Base is a cloud-based software that adds efficiency and power to business texting communications. Combining the efficiency of a “mass text” and the effectiveness of a personal text message, Texting Base uses patent pending software to allow businesses to build relationships with their customers like never before. Prior to Texting Base, Eric Beans owned Premier Mortgage Capital, Inc., a nationwide state charted mortgage company and helped to start TechSpan, a global IT consulting company.