I recently read Zero to One by Peter Thiel. In one of the chapters, he lists down seven questions that every business must satisfactorily answer –
- The Engineering Question – Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements? A 10x improvement over existing solutions.
- The Timing Question – Is now the right time to start your particular business?
- The Monopoly Question – Are you starting with a big share of a small market? Figure out the appropriate market and it’s size – whether it’s local, national or global.
- The People Question – Do you have the right team?
- The Distribution Question – Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product? Building a kick-ass product is one thing, getting your target market to buy/install/use it is another.
- The Durability Question – Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future? What sequence of events in the future can kill your business?
- The Secret Question – Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see? Basically, a perspective that only you and your startup team share which others don’t know of.
The Chapters I enjoyed were – #11 If you build it, will they come and #5 Last mover advantage.
Posted this presentation a few days ago –
If you’re either a “startup enthusiast” who hasn’t taken the plunge into the entrepreneurial waters yet, or are a first timer who’s just started up with a super cool idea and unlimited passion, below is a list of mandatory posts you should read to know what you’re going to get into. These will help shape your thinking on the dos and don’ts which either make or break a startup. Please read and re-read until you fully grasp the essence –
Also once you’re done with the reading bit, try answering the below questions in the context of your startup. While answering them make sure (a) you don’t use any hyperbole, (b) be as clear and concise of possible and (c) each sentence should take the reader forward towards the understanding your idea. Each answer cannot be more than 120 words.
- What is your company going to make?
- Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you’re making?
- What’s new about what you’re making? What substitutes do people resort to because it doesn’t exist yet (or they don’t know about it)?
- Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?
- What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don’t get?
- How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize you can’t know precisely, but give your best estimate.)
- If you’re launched, what is your monthly growth rate (in users or revenue or both)?
- How will you get users? If your idea is the type that faces a chicken-and-egg problem in the sense that it won’t be attractive to users till it has a lot of users (e.g. a marketplace, a dating site, an ad network), how will you overcome that?
- How far along are you? Do you have an MVP yet? If not, when will you? Are you launched? If so, how many users do you have? Do you have revenue? If so, how much? If you’re launched, what is your monthly growth rate (in users or revenue or both)?
I’ll be happy to review your answers to the above questions and tell you how you fared. I’m reachable on – helloanand at gmail. Shoot across your answers within in the body of the email itself (no docs and pdfs please).
Bonus reading (thanks to Annkur, Pravin and Kulin) –
So read up plenty and prepare for the journey ahead.
It was a hot summer day. The sun shone unforgivingly. We were standing at the edge of a massive landscape. A hilly terrain with a few plains scattered in between. We were not the only ones here. The place was swarming with people in groups – big and small. The air was dusty making it difficult to breathe.
Why were we all here? You see, a few explorers before us had discovered gold here. There was rumor that lots more was buried underneath. There was only one problem – no one knew exactly where.
Lining the edge of the landscape were an assorted bunch of shops. Some were selling shovels, some offering a truck ride to spots they knew had gold. A few offered to teach exploration and survival skills, while some others said tell us your plan and we’ll give you money to make it happen. The people running the shops were selectively choosing whom to work with. They said their time was to be used sparingly and hence they where being choosy.
If you glanced across the landspace you could notice several groups hard at work. Some digging with enthusiasm, some going at it methodically with an occasional planning session, some just happy to be away from the city
The city was a place of planned perfection. You went about your life mechanically. Boring to a fault. It was the perfect place to be for a majority of folks, but for some adventuresome stupid people the wilderness was a lot more exciting. A new challenge every now and then. Everyday different. Each group digging about with the belief that they’re going to hit gold soon.
It’s this fuel of adventure and challenge that keeps us entrepreneurs going. Some hitch rides, some chose to tread alone. It doesn’t matter whether you hit gold or not, it’s the journey that’s the most rewarding – only if those shopkeepers could understand this.
Recently, our startup got invited to interview at Y-Combinator. Whether we get selected for the W2014 batch or not, I’m actually quite happy to have just made it to the interview. We’re hoping we’ll get a chance to meet Paul Graham (PG) even if for 10 mins which is the duration of the interview.
At my previous startup we hired our second employee who applied right after he had read PG’s book – Hackers and Painters*. He was so inspired by the book that he came all the way from Bangalore to work for a 3 people startup in Mumbai. I had not heard of PG or the book before that. Now, like many other entrepreneurs I read and re-read PGs essays on startups, fund-raising etc. He distills down the topics to the core and almost walks you through to topic.
This post is about relishing the moment. Many times in life we don’t fully enjoy a milestone or achievement since we get busy chasing the next one, and soon the past achievements seem like a blur. You have to learn to enjoy the moment – for it will pass.
Even super successful people like Bill Gates find a reason to go to work everyday. Not that they’re still chasing their original goals – just that the goals have moved further ahead. Success is a moving target.
Enjoy every battle you’ve won even if you don’t yet know the outcome of the war. Don’t wait till the end.
*I’ve just begun reading it again.