The Journey of a First-time Founder — Part 2

I hope y’all enjoyed my intro, I know it was short so I’ll make this one a bit longer ;)

So last time I said that it took us 2 months to validate our idea and we’re still not done.

Let me explain.
In my opinion, there is no such thing as being done validating your idea and your business because if you do it right, a business is not built on a single idea, but keeps evolving.

It took us about 2 months to validate our original idea — social media for content creators. Sounds ambitious, huh? Of course, so many businesses fall under this definition. It took us some time to understand that we need to be way more specific. And so we did.
We started to refine the idea to what we have today (and still adjusting every week) — niche and highly-moderated social media that provides a community-based home for creative content creators.
Sounds better, doesn’t it?
It will always sound pretty wide because it’s only one sentence, that is what we call ‘positioning’. You can read more about it in this great article by April Dunford.

So right now you sit at home and say “I have an idea, what do I do next?”, well that’s why we’re all here :)

First thing — share your idea! Stop thinking everyone’s trying to steal your idea, they’re not. I once heard someone say “1% of the people you shared your idea with will think about doing something with it, and only 1% of them will actually do something about it.” That means that out of 10,000 people, maybe one can steal your idea and beat you to market. That’s a lot of people to talk to, and even then, this one person won't have your vision.

We had this fear in the beginning as well, until some of our mentors set us straight. I’ll prove my point as follows:

Business = Idea + Vision + Execution.

So let’s say someone stole your idea, they will only have a 1/3 of your business. The same goes for the other two.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
  1. Talk to your friends, family and colleagues, even if they’re not your target customer. It’s always good to bounce ideas with someone other than yourself. Some of our best ideas for Communyco actually came from these types of conversations.
  2. Interviews, interviews, interviews. Talk to as many of your target customers as you can! You can never talk to too many, and this is how you will best refine your idea and understand what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t.
    Side-note: a lot of founders think they know exactly what their customers want, they don’t. EVER.
  3. Research, research and then research again. Research competitors, their vision, their business model. Find potential competitors (maybe they didn’t launch yet, but they are there) — don’t stop until you find at least 10 competitors. Research your target customers. Research your market — what are the TAM (Total Addressable Market), SAM (Serviceable Available Market) and SOM (Serviceable Obtainable Market).
  4. And actually the second most important after sharing your idea is LISTEN. None of what I said will matter if you don't listen to what people around you and your customers say, even if it’s not what you wanted to hear.

In July 2020, we decided to go and look for our tech co-founder. Neither I nor my partner had the technical skills to build an online platform at that scale.
I will emphasize something here, Take Your Time.
We thought we had to find someone as soon as possible to start building, we were wrong. If you find the wrong person, it will take you back and delay your progress more than the time it will take you to keep looking for the right person. We had to learn it the hard way. Also, you don’t have to give a co-founder title to this tech person, they can also be CTO, Director of engineering or even just a tech lead.

The tip I can give you when you’re looking for a co-founder, C-level Exec or Manager in the early-stage (when you offer equity and not salary) is: make sure you see eye-to-eye and that they share your passion and vision for the company.
If they don’t, they will not be motivated to work hard and invest any waking hour into building your (them included!) business.

Also, don’t ignore any red flags. They will most likely be proven to have a reason.

One great piece of advice I got from a 3x founder turned VC is to act fast and trust your gut. That is how successful founders work, they move fast. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t give it weeks to see if it works, get rid of it and it will open space for something new and better.
I know it’s not intuitive for first-time founders, and I had to learn it the hard way, but just trust yourself. It will take you to a completely new level.

Photo by northallertonman on Shutterstock

I think that’s it for now. Feel free to reach out to me if you are validating your idea, I will try to help.
Next time I will talk about Building — hiring, business plan and more. See you then!

Rony is the co-founder and COO of Communyco, a niche online space for content creators to build a community and share their creative skills.