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This is going to be rough, but here are some scattered thoughts in a Q/A format:

I want to get into a startup, where do I start?

Find a problem and sell a solution. Not rocket science.

But I can't find a problem!

Try getting outside of the hedges of your university and talking with normal people, business owners, and civil servants. I will give you a hundred bucks if you can't find anyone with something to bitch about.

But I don't have a solution. How can I build a solution without being technical/having money/knowing a programmer?

Where did I say anything about building solutions? Customers don't care about tech, they care about results. Find something somebody else has already done, maybe several somethings, and string them together, and sell them. Charge arbitrage--think of it as a laziness tax for the customer.

I'm a programmer, and I have this neat idea to solve a problem I have.

That's not a question, and besides, nobody gives a shit anyways.

Well, what I mean is, how can I turn this into a business?

You probably can't. You probably don't have the business/people skills yet--find somebody that does, and try to sell them on the idea. If that doesn't work, find somebody else. Once you've got one, get them to do the sales stuff.

But my solution to this problem is awesome/elegant/clear/in Ruby!

Again, nobody gives a shit. Go Tell HN or /r/peoplewhogiveafuck.

~

It's not some magical process making a startup/breaking into the ecosystem: find people who know more than you, and ask them questions--or even better, try to find a problem people will pay you to solve.

Being a successful startup, now, that's a whole 'nother problem entirely.




Elaborating with some direct personal experience:

If you find a customer, and find a solution, and make a tentative sale, don't go wander off and do something else. An otherwise bright young lady I worked with last year has all three things: problem, solution, and customers. She's going off this summer to intern at Deloitte instead of building her business, because she "wants to learn more about business".

You know what else teaches you about business? Running a fucking business.

Presented with this fact, she said she wanted to learn more about the "strategic side of things...mergers, acquisitions, aquihires, etc.". Those are all issues that are pretty far off if you're just starting out as a business, and you won't likely worry about them until you are big enough to care. And if you're expecting to worry about them at another company, you are going to be hired in as a junior employee anyways so you won't even have anything useful to say on the topic.

The tech guy on that team is trying to find tech jobs at other startups--again, despite having a problem, a solution, and customers.

It's baffling.


How many customers, how quickly was she growing? If you can't turn 10 customers into 1,000, then 100,000 quickly, you're wasting your precious time and are probably better off at Deloitte.

I've sold apps and had customers, but not at the scale that would let me quit my day job.


Great advice, thanks.

Also I just want to point out that /r/peoplewhogiveafuck is a real subreddit but it is empty. Which is telling, I guess.


I think your post is mostly on point but I think a lot of people underestimate the importance of picking the right problem. Is the pain point big enough that someone will pay for a better alternative? Is the addressable market size large enough? How you can reach these people? I think these three questions are very important.


Great advice. i'd like to add that sometimes it's not just finding problems, but developing solutions.. but also finding out what makes them look good to their boss.




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