How to start a startup (unorthodox version) – Part 7

7. Figure out what you are trying to do

Yes, it’s really up to this point you will have a clearer picture of what you are really trying to achieve.

A lot of people get confused and believe by building an app, they are in the technology business. No! Building an app is getting simpler by the seconds. So unless you are building the latest cutting edge codes or building a product with proprietary technologies, (e.g. building a secure payment system using email like Paypal did back in the late 90s), you are not really a technology startup.

Also these days, many people who are new to the startup world immediately want to build a ‘platform’ business – based on the success of Facebook, AirBnB, Uber or closer to home, Taobao. Yes, when your business grows as big as these guys are, you are automatically a ‘technology’ company because your technologies have to be so slick such that a gigantic community can use it without the slightest errors or performance issue. But if you are starting it fresh, the technology to build a ‘basic’ Facebook or Taobao website is much simpler than you think. Yes, I am simplifying the importance of UX and design, etc. but at the same time, these can be outsourced fairly effectively. There are so many tools, technology and resources to help you build it out right away.

So assuming you are not a technology startup, what are you trying to do? More importantly, what is your edge? Because it is the edge that makes you money.

Simple. Most business exists because someone is willing to pay for the edge that is being offered – be it a product or service. So focus on this and go DEEP. You need to be an expert (or at least slowly growing yourself into one) in whatever you are trying to build your business around. If you want to build a ‘platform’ business, learn community building. If you want to work on fintech, learn the regulations. Remember, being an expert doesn’t mean you are crazy good at one thing. Being an expert means you have a collection of deep know-hows, it can be something as big as obtaining the latest industry inside information, signing huge contracts or it can be as small as knowing Google analytics. The key is to grow this collection of deep know-hows. Because this collection of deep know-hows will give you the edge.

Part 8: Sell, sell, sell


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