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8 Essentials For Starting Your Own Startup

It all starts with a 'big idea'...
by KC Calpo | Sep 22, 2015
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You're tired of following orders, living by time-in and time-out, and being a mere employee in a cubicle. You want to call the shots, and make your own career decisions. You've heard of this new thing called startups, and want to get in on it, but don't know where to start.

Don't hand in your resignation letter just yet! Make sure you have these eight essentials before making your move:


THE BIG IDEA

It all starts with a "big idea," that much we know. But even at this earliest stage, the startup-building experts have conflicting ideas on where to get ideas. Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham advises to "look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself," while others have different suggestions: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggests exploring several ideas at once, and Peter Thiel espouses the "10x rule" (your target products has to be at least 10 times better than what's currently on the market).

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If you're not in the mood to brainstorm, we found some good reads from Business Insider, Y Combinator, and Inc., on possible startup ideas. Tech in Asia also lists five "brave but crazy” business ideas that were worth the risk.

Here's possible big idea: an app that automatically blocks SMS and calls from spammers, marketers, and random assholes—or at least makes a database or black list containing all those unwanted numbers. We'd definitely pay for such a product!


KNOWLEDGE AND CLARITY

Once you've answered the previous question, conduct as much research as possible on everything: your target market, the costs of producing your product or offering your service, the necessary permits and paperwork. Knowledge really is power, friends.

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Also, study other startups and see how their founders and partners went from idea to success story. Make it a habit to watch or read the news daily, particularly the business section of the dailies and news programs. Check out online sources like Tech in Asia for in-depth looks at the regional startup scene, or the posts in WebGeek to see what's going on locally. We also suggest reading our sister publications, Entrepreneur Philippines and Forbes Philippines, to see how the pros do it here—and how to make the business grow.

Take it from Y Combinator: "Probably the biggest thing people don’t understand about the process is the importance of expressing yourself clearly. Every year we get some apps that are obviously good, some that are obviously bad, and in the middle a huge number of "unknowns" (read: we don't really know what to think of them). The idea seems kind of promising, but it’s not explained well enough for us to understand it. The founders seem like they might be good, but we don’t get a clear enough picture of them to say for sure."

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In short: say it as is, and in as little time as possible—think "elevator pitch." No flowery words and hipster prose; no side stories or anecdotes.


TIMING AND VERSATILITY

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Unfortunately, some factors like timing will be beyond our control. You could have the best startup idea ever, but you may be too far ahead of everyone else, and your prospective customers won't get what you're talking about. So now you have the added responsibility of creating demand and attracting an entire customer base. Or you could push through with your idea at a later time, only to find that others have beaten you to it, to the point that it's utterly pointless to enter the fray.

This leads us to another important startup founder trait: versatility. You must be ready to pivot when needed, or ditch your initial idea altogether and pursue a new one. This is so not the right time to be stubborn or hard-headed; if you have to change directions, do it, and don't waste any time.


MONEY

Of course, you can bootstrap your startup. No problem. Or ask the Bank of Mom and Dad for a loan, or go to an actual bank for one. 

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But if you don't have enough money, and require capital and/or additional advisors, there are angel investors and venture capitalists (VCs) here. Check out Kickstart Ventures, IdeaSpace Foundation, and the Philippine Venture Capital Investment Groupand look at their portfolios and guidelines to see if you'd fit the bill.


PARTNERS

As tempting as it is to keep everything to yourself, it would be better to work with one or a few business partner— in this case, startup co-founders. Can't do everything on your own, bud.

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In his 2005 essay How to Start a Startup, Graham advises having a minimum of two to a maximum of four; and that the co-founder roster must include a person with technical knowledge, and someone good in business and understanding user needs. We'll add that you should have a partner or co-founder who's great with money and operating within strict budgets. You don't want to blow through all your money before you even get the startup started, right?


#SQUAD

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You already have your startup partners and co-founders. Now it's time to fill up your roster and designate specific tasks and functions to specific folks. Depending on what your business idea is and how much you have in the war chest, you'll need to focus on hiring employees and outside firms for product development, accounting, legal tasks, marketing, public relations, customer service, and back-end operations. Yep, you'll have to do a bit of HR work, too.

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SOCIAL SKILLS

The worst thing a budding entrepreneur can do is to go into lockdown mode. Get out there, meet the people behind other startups, make new friends, and learn from them! There are startup-focused talks and events like those held by TechTalks.ph (the community behind Geeks on a Beach, Geeks on a Plane, and Startup Weekend), as well as regular meetups in several key Philippine cities. Meetup.com provides listings of groups you can join for business or for fun.

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The Founder Institute also offers training programs for startup founders; the most recent public event was "How to Start a Startup in Manila," held last September 17. Go to the FI website to see and register for their public events, or apply for the Manila Autumn 2015 program.

Not into attending events and workshops? You can meet fellow startup founders in co-working facilities, which have also experienced their own boom in recent years. From the two earliest places in Manila (co.lab in Pasig and A Space in Makati), you can now visit newer co-working hubs like Honeycomb Manila, 47 EastO2 Space Solutions, and BITSPACE Makati.


DISCIPLINE, COMMITMENT, AND LONG-TERM VIEW

It's so easy to get sidetracked, especially if you're just starting out in business. We've mentioned the importance of versatility, but you'll also need to be disciplined enough to see your startup through from idea to growth, and beyond.

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Yes, this isn't just good for a few years—you have to be sure that you're fully committed, able to do this type of work for a long time (as in decades, if possible), and stick with it through any challenge. We say it would be better to act and decide on things based on your long-term goals and prospects instead of taking an easier way out.

Got all that? Now go on, brave one! (And don't forget to give us a call if you make it big. *wink*)