Once I thought I had a potentially viable idea I needed to find out how to bring it to life. I wanted to make sure that I was able to solve the problem that I originally was having and create a better product. I knew I wanted to make the product from wood initially and branch out to other materials later. Being a weekend woodworker gave me some knowledge of how this could be created by hand. But ultimately I wanted to be able to make in it on a C&C machine to get the level of precision I was hoping for.
I started drawing feverishly. Different views, angles, site lines. I made the item bigger and smaller. I quickly filled up a Field Notes notebook with ideas. But it still was not obvious enough when someone looked at it what it was (that may still be the case). This has to be done in a 3D rendered form. I needed this in a CAD format to show others and and get better feedback. I have not used AutoCad in sometime, nor did I have a current license to upgrade. I looked around and found that I could probably use Google SketchUp to create a detailed enough drawing.
Setting aside a weekend I started playing with SketchUp. It was pretty easy to learn and there were a lot of sophisticated demo drawings out there to encourage me that this could be done. A few hours later I had my drawing prototype. I emailed it off to a few more friends to get their thoughts and any recommendations for changes. The feedback was very positive but there were some recommendations for changes as well. I updated my drawing and went to meet with my friend who had some bigger machine equipment. He liked the design and we tweaked it yet again.
What I was trying to do is create a version 1 of a product. What I did not think about at the time was what was I doing? What I later realized at the time was I was trying to create myMVP or Minimum Viable Product. An MVP is the process used to get something started in many books like the Lean Startup approach.
Next up refinement and feedback.
Step1: Ideas are Easy
Step 1: The idea
Ideas are easy. Executing on an idea and turning into reality is much harder. I have been trying to come up with a side project that will allow me to create a side business for many years. In this series of posts I am going to try and document the process I am going through in the hope that it will help someone else in the same situation.
The first question I get is why create a side business? Why bother ? Why add on the extra work? You have a good job and like it a lot. This will vary from person to person. Some people will want extra income, others will want to use it as a launch pad to be independent but in my case it is to prove that I can do it. Anything else that comes after that is a bonus.
Everyone assumes creating a business is easy. Generally it is. Todays technology and services allow you to do an amazing amount of things with a laptop that you may not have been able to do 5 years ago. I am starting and creating this business on an 11″ MacBook Air. Purely to allow me to be mobile and work on the project where ever I am.
The hard part is the Idea. I come up with lots of ideas. Just because you have an idea does not mean it will work or is good. My typical process is write the idea down and think about it. Research the topic, look at the market, see if anyone else is doing it already (just because someone is already doing it does not mean you can’t make it better) and decide is there is an opportunity. Most of the time I am able to quickly kill the idea or decide that it is not the right one for me. If I had $1 for every idea I killed off I would not need to create a side business, I would be retired ! Sometimes I felt like I was trying to force an idea and I found that frustrating.
I found that many great products have been developed by people who have a problem and then solve it. I have heard it many call it the scratch your own itch syndrome. This is fairly typical in the software development world.
What I started doing is looking at things in my everyday life and started to ask myself questions:
- What could be done better?
- What bothers me about X?
- Could it be improved on?
- Why does this annoy me so much?
After I started asking myself these type of questions I was able to see a wide range of problems right before me that were not being addressed. Look at things in this manor instead of trying to find the force and idea was liberating.
I followed my same process and after a short period of time I had an idea. Next step to see if I could design it. More to come.
If you didn’t see this post from Seth Godin check it out here. Below are Seth’s 21 steps for making money online. So many good points here but #5 and #6 are so important.
- The first step is to stop Googling things like, “how to make money online.” Not because you shouldn’t want to make money online, but because the stuff you’re going to find by doing that is going to help you lose money online. Sort of like asking a casino owner how to make money in Vegas…
- Don’t pay anyone for simple and proven instructions on how to achieve this goal. In particular, don’t pay anyone to teach you how to write or sell manuals or ebooks about how to make money online.
- Get rich slow.
- Focus on the scarce resource online: attention. If you try to invent a way to take cheap attention and turn it into cash, you will fail. The attention you want isn’t cheap, it’s difficult to get via SEO and it rarely scales. Instead, figure out how to earn expensive attention.
- In addition to attention, focus on trust. Trust is even more scarce than attention.
- Don’t worry so much about the ‘online’ part. Instead, figure out how to create value. The online part will take care of itself.
- Don’t quit your day job. Start evenings and weekends and figure it out with small failures.
- Build a public reputation. A good one, and be sure that you deserve it, and that it will hold up to scrutiny.
- Obsessively specialize. No niche is too small if it’s yours.
- Connect the disconnected.
- Build an online legacy that increases in value daily.
- Make money offline. If you can figure out how to create value face to face, it’s a lot easier to figure out how to do the same digitally. The web isn’t magic, it’s merely efficient.
- Become the best in the world at something that people value. Easier said than done, worth more than you might think.
- Hang out with people who aren’t looking for shortcuts. Learn from them.
- Fail. Fail often and fail cheaply. This is the very best gift the web has given to people who want to bootstrap their way into a new business.
- Make money in the small and then relentlessly scale.
- Don’t chase yesterday’s online fad.
- Think big, act with intention and don’t get bogged down in personalities. If it’s not on your agenda, why are you wasting time on it?
- Learn. Ceaselessly. Learn to code, to write persuasively, to understand new technologies, to bring out the best in your team, to find underused resources and to spot patterns.
- This is not a zero sum game. The more you add to your community, the bigger your piece gets.
A few years ago I put my book The Bootstrapper’s Bible online for free. You can find it here.
(Via Seth’s Blog)