How to Start a Startup is a multi-part series on the intricacies of creating, sustaining and dominating the startup sphere derived from Y Combinator’s Lecture Series. 

Welcome to Startup 101. Now that you have decided you are looking to make a difference to the world around you, keep reading to know exactly what you need to do to succeed, as well as what you do not need to do, to succeed building your own startup.

To build a viable and successful startup there are four key areas one needs to focus when one starts up:

Great Idea

One of the hardest things for an entrepreneur is to come up with a great idea. Too often we hear people around us exclaiming, “Hey! That could be a startup idea” at the drop of a hat, in the middle of conversations, dinners and meetings, much to the collective groan of budding startup entrepreneurs. To decide on what a great idea is, refer to Paul Graham’s (co-founder of Y Combinator) mantra, “The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing.”

Great Product

A foolproof product can take time, effort and funding before being ready. Do not jump into the market without a product that is fully sustainable. Many times, entrepreneurs make the mistake of entering the market with a half-baked product, hoping to winging their way to the path of success. Be moderately patient, create your complete product, before taking your leap of faith.

Great Team

Surround yourself with motivated individuals on your project – those that are willing to work for your product and not for themselves. I know it sounds like an excerpt from a page from a fairytale, but this is terribly true. A startup is as strong as its weakest player and being surrounded by motivated individuals will help you get to your goal at breakneck speed.

Great Execution

Get out of the comfort of your building! Do not expect to have people come to you to buy your product. Get out there and execute your plans. More often than not, you will not understand the problems associated with your idea, product or team unless you are receiving feedback while executing, quite like what Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, says – “great execution is at least ten times as important & a hundred times harder than a great idea”.

Now that these four pillars have been established, try questioning yourself, “Why am I building a startup?” If you hear yourself saying “to get rich”, then you should probably just shut down your startup, because there are much easier ways to become rich and anyone who has started a successful startup will always tell you how hard and painful that is going to be. Neither should you be building a startup just for the sake of doing so. The only reason you should start a startup is if you feel compelled by a particular problem and that you think starting a company is the best way to solve it. Remember: Passion first, startup second.

The next step is giving your idea and product an identity and a narrative: Try not calling it “an X for Ys” while trying to explain to others what your brand is. If you’re having to having to explain your product to others as “Facebook for employees” or an “Uber for movers and packers” then it is looked upon as a derivative product, and derivative products with very few new insights, don’t excite people enough nor do they compel the teams to work hard enough to be successful. Even if you might consider it to be a derivative product, give it your own unique twist while explaining yourself.

Another mistake often made is that founders, especially first – time founders, is that they think the first version of their creation – the first version of their idea – needs to echo really big. But it doesn’t. It needs to take over a small specific market and expand from there. That’s how most great companies get started. You want something that sounds like a bad idea, but is a good idea.

Musician 50 Cent, also a successful business person, says

Most people think first of what they want to express or make, then find the audience for their idea. You must work the opposite angle, thinking first of the public. You need to keep your focus on their changing needs, the trends that are washing through them. Beginning with their demand, you create the appropriate supply.

Checkout the complete video:

These tips and tricks help budding entrepreneurs understand the core requirements and thought processes needed to succeed in the Startup world. In Lesson 2, we will talk about how to build your team and execute your plans, in detail.

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