“Your billion dollar company starts with a million dollar product, and your million dollar product starts with a hundred dollar prototype.” – Spark.io Team (http://bit.ly/1e1xkuk)
I think there’s alot of great ideas out there in the world that never get off the drawing board because X gets in the way of Y. Whether it’s finances getting in the way of the prototype, or work commitments getting in the way of reading that book you need to research the topic you want to improve, there’s a world of things getting in the way.
I encourage you to take these 4 steps in mind, and accept that in the time it takes you to read this note, you have the time to take your idea and get it to the next step which you can then justify putting some time and effort behind. For what you’re already paying for (a computer, internet connection, chair) you have all the tools you need to create something great.
Step 1. Open up a word document and describe in 3-500 words write down the problem you think needs to get fixed, and potentially your idea to fixing it.
Step 2. Post that idea online, on a social network, and get people’s feedback on what they think of the idea.
Step 3. Accept your idea in it’s present form isn’t A) the last idea you’ll come up with and B) not the final form it needs to be in.
Step 4. Take that feedback, noodle on it, refine it, and write 500-1000 words on the idea
Step 5. Do research online to see what exists out there already to solve this problem, and how your product might be different
Step 6. Figure out what it takes to bring this product / service to market for as little money as possible. You’d be surprised how much is already out there for little to no money to help bring your product to market.
Step 7. Build a support team that’ll encourage and keep you accountable to bringing this to life. Keep in mind it’ll change 100 times, and ideas are plentiful so don’t worry if you feel like you need a new one.
Step 8. Take the first step in your research plan, fail, learn from that failure, try and try again.
Step 9. Get encouragement, get feedback, get more encouragement
Step 10. Never, never, never give up and keep trying to solve the problem without holding the solution too closely. That solution can look 100’s of different ways, but you only need one solution for the problem.
The risk you’ll face is falling too much in love with a single solution, and spend too much money trying to make it work. If it’ll solve the problem, the product / service will sell to people that need help, so it’s about awareness and feedback to keep making it better – both can be cheap, but will take time so get encouragement to keep working on the right combination of solutions and awareness.
You need money to scale, and help grow exposure, but prototypes and trials are cheap and t-shirts are a nice to have, not a need to have so don’t worry about the thickness of your business cards when you haven’t yet sold your answer to the problem.
An important note on Patents – They are great in theory, but once that idea goes public then it’s an easy step for a larger company to change the idea just slightly and avoid infringement, so make sure you can quickly get funding for the legal support you’ll need to enforce that patent, or keep it un-patented until you’re getting enough exposure and success that you know you’re on the right track with the idea as is. It can take 7+ years to get the patent filed, so focus first on getting the concept to market so you can prove the interest, get the investment, and grow the company while getting advice on when to pull the patent trigger.
A note on Advisors – it’s important to find 3-5 people that have been where you’ve been at before, can help you get to where you want to go, or help steer your idea in the right direction. Start by meeting with professors or community college teachers, that are teaching classes on the subject you’re researching. You can reach out to professionals as well, such as lawyers or financial advisors, and get some simple advise for free but consider bringing them on as advisors in exchange for a small piece of ownership if they’re on board for that. Don’t get too many advisors though, and don’t give away too much of your company or you’ll run into real problems when you have investors getting involved.