The primary title of this collection of articles is “Easy to Start, Hard to Run”. As discussed in Chapter One of this collection, virtually anyone who has never actually tried to start a company probably accepts this title at face value. On the other hand, anyone who has ever actually tried to start a company will, at first, totally disagree with the title. Getting the business up and running and securing funding can be a long and frustrating process. Entrepreneurs typically feel and say “If only others saw what I see” as they encounter one obstacle after the other that hinders their progress. However, once funding is behind them and they start on the road to fulfill their dream, they will then look fondly back at the “easy early days”.
Although there are many linguistic discussions about the similarities, differences, and proper usage of the terms “start” and “begin”, for the new entrepreneur, there is a significant difference. Essentially, one can start a company and then later begin operations. Once the entrepreneur begins, they will encounter a host of startup problems, most of which they never anticipated. Most of those issues involve one theme: Deciding what to do and when to do it with what resources they have available to them.
During the Dotcom era, the primary title of this collection and the notion of "easy to start, hard to run" first occurred. There are only a few ingredients necessary to “start” a company that needs to be completed before the actual “beginning” of fulfilling the company’s envisioned mission. These startup activities may take many years of planning or may be able to be completed in very short order. In fact, there is a “game” in Silicon Valley in which a group of entrepreneurs will come together for a marathon twenty-four session and jointly think up an idea and “create” a company. How effective that game really is remains to be seen. In any event, “all” that has to be done to “start” a company is to complete seven easy steps.
- Have an idea, hopefully, which addresses a problem that others feel is worth solving and paying for.
- Purchase or have access to a PC or Mac with presentation creation software such as PowerPoint™.
- Create an executive summary, some slideware, a revenue forecast, and a budget.
- Develop a somewhat plausible explanation of how and why customers will embrace your solution.
- Decide on and purchase a website URL domain name and hosting service.
- Develop a website.
- Form a corporation or legal business entity through one of the many online services.
After these seven easy steps are completed, you will then be ready to “begin”.
Of course, the plan described above is, at best, naive, even though the entrepreneur may be well-intentioned or following the folklore they have heard about or read about on the Internet. Actually, during the frenzied Dotcom bubble, some entrepreneurs did receive investments and began operations following this overnight, seven-step process. In fact, a small percentage of them were successful. Those days are long past. Today, a new “get rich quick” startup model is upon us. It involves the creation of smartphone apps. There are over 3.5 million apps available through the Apple Store, Google Play, Amazon, and a few other sites. Most of those apps are free and many are available for less than one dollar, while some are more expensive. Only a tiny fraction of the creators have monetized their app success and moved on to form successful companies.
To be fair, today there are many streamlined methods and available resources that can help an entrepreneur move from starting to beginning. They include low-cost website design companies, part-time or shared resources that provide sales, marketing, and financial support from seasoned veterans. Highly efficient and reasonably priced, project specific, outside hardware design firms and for-hire software development firms are also available. All of these resources can be of tremendous value and help entrepreneurs avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes. However, the path to success is still not easy and, in fact, will contain many twists and turns that are not at all visible until one begins the journey. A good thought to keep in mind when “beginning” the journey is that there are no guard rails but there are many sharp curves and lots of oncoming traffic. These conditions will not be obvious from your Google Maps™ trip plan. Start the drive with your eyes wide open!