Startup or Not to Startup? Top 5 Tips to Get Your Start-up Off the Ground

As a start-up entrepreneur, I’m usually the first one to tell people to go for it, to make the decision to join a startup. I’ve learned more in the past year doing a startup than I did in four years getting an Economics degree. I’ve learned things that the academic world or the 9-5 cubicle world just can’t teach you.This quote pretty much sums the experience up for me: “Live like no one else now, so you can live like no one else later.”

But starting a new business is tough. Startups aren’t for everyone. Sometimes super successful companies blow up overnight, but most people don’t begin to comprehend the years of grinding, building, fundraising, and failing that these companies have gone through to get their seemingly “overnight” taste of success.

For example, did you know it took Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds, 8 years to hit their huge break? That takes some serious dedication and persistence. Frankly, most people just couldn’t last.

So before you quit your day job and embark on your entrepreneurial journey, you should really take the time to ask yourself if you can weather the storm. Can you risk it all knowing there’s a good chance of failure? Will you be able to handle the emotional roller coaster of highs and lows? Do you have what it takes to succeed no matter what?

So here are some things I’ve found helpful and motivating on our journey at Leap that can help you decide if it’s time to burn the boats:

1. Share your idea with as many people as possible. It’s essential for entrepreneurs to bounce their ideas around. From day one, you should be talking to potential customers, mentors, other successful entrepreneurs, and critics. Not only will this help you determine the idea’s viability, but it will also help you hone your pitch and communication skills. (Pro tip: Sign up for your city’s StartupDigest to find great startup events where you can connect with these kinds of folks).

2. Read these books.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Do More Faster by David Cohen & Brad Feld
The Art of The Start by Guy Kawasaki

3. Build a great team. Don’t try to go it alone. You won’t make it. A startup needs co-founders - there’s a reason Y-Combinator doesn’t accept solo founders. If you’re building a web-based product you need a hustler, a hacker, and a designer. Early stage investors should focus on your team first. Surround yourself with great co-founders and you’ll not only have the ability to build a great product (hopefully), but you’ll also have moral support when times get tough. (Pro tip: Attend a StartupWeekend)

4. Launch early and often.

“If you aren’t ashamed of your product, you’ve shipped too late.”
-Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn

When we first started a year ago, we had a completely different product. It was called Wellthy. We launched it as soon as we had a working prototype and guess what? We learned this product wasn’t going to solve the problem we intended it to. We got users and businesses on as soon as possible and didn’t waste time and money trying to make the product perfect. We launched, learned, and iterated. Your overall vision can stay the same, but don’t get too attached to your idea, as your product will inevitably change.

5. Fun, persistence, and perspective. Startups are fun too. You get to work on something that you’re hell bent on solving or extremely passionate about all the time. Forget doing meaningless tasks for your boss, your performance in a startup depends truly on your effort. I’m a firm believer that persistence is the key to success. You will fail at times, but if you have the ability to learn from those failures and keep on going, you’ll taste what might look like “overnight success” someday too (even if it takes 8 years). And lastly, I always try to put it all in perspective by remembering that what I’m working on could be used by millions of people one day and could have a big impact on many lives.

To your success!

James Dickerson is the Co-founder of Leap, the first mobile app that lets you create challenges with your Facebook friends and compete by snapping pictures. Feel free to e-mail him at james@leapfor.it, follow him @leap, and sign up to be the first to get their new app at http://leapfor.it.