Talking with my friend Mark recently about all things entrepreneurial, he asked an interesting question:
"If you’ve got a great business idea, how do you go about making it happen?"
Simple question, but there’s actually a lot behind it. The answer, of course, depends on the nature of your idea, your skills and financial situation, and a host of other factors. But it may be helpful to consider 3 basic options:
Alternative paths for startups:
1. Backyard prototype
Don’t bother trying to convince others about your idea. You believe in it, so get on with it. Build something quickly and cheaply, prove that it works, and see what happens.
2. Team up with a partner
Two heads (and wallets) are better than one. Find someone who shares your values and has valuable skills. Jointly refine the concept, agree on how you will work together, chip in some initial capital, and get started.
3. Go big or go home
Don’t build anything just yet – write a killer business plan and work your rolodex. Find people to form the management team. Pitch the concept to investors, make some big promises, and raise enough money to grow the business quickly.
Which path works best?
Any of these approaches can work and big successes have come from each alternative.
The first version of eBay was built over a long weekend by its sole founder Pierre Omidyar (see The Perfect Store). Google , with its two founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, is in the second category (see The Google Story). And Intel took the third path, with venture capitalist Arthur Rock raising the capital needed for co-founders Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce to start their business.
Which option is right for you?
Hmm, without a time machine and 20/20 hindsight, there are no definitive answers about what is right for you. But here are a few things to consider about each option:
Backyard prototype generally requires some tech savvy, and works best in industries with low barriers to entry. Web startups often fall into this category.
Team up with a partner is probably the most common option. Small teams can be effective for reasons that are both practical (skills, money, contacts, perspective) and emotional (confidence, someone else on the journey).
Go big or go home is tough. You’ll need a strong reputation, well-stocked rolodex, and preferably a track record of entrepreneurial success. Without that, it’s probably best to try one of the other options first.