Businessperson with an idea for a web startup? Looking to get a tech partner? Read this first!

On the nextNY listserv, there are a lot of businesspeople who think they're just a developer away from a great web startup.  It's certainly possible, but I often find that they haven't really fleshed out their product idea too much.

I'd very very strongly suggest that, before you start paying someone to build anything, you do some extensive product spec work...   talking to as many people as possible about what you're building. 

Hold a few feedback sessions, too...   ask a few knowledgeable people to sit in a room to hear your idea and give feedback on its current state and where it might go.  Be open to their suggestions...and give them pizza!

Here's a checklist of things I would do before paying dollar one to start building:

1) Narrow down your market vertical...   Weddings or adventure sports?  Feature creep is a killer at an early stage and companies often try to do too much.  Your end product, if it comes to market, will be so much smaller than you imagine.

2) Outline 2-3 things you things you want to focus on within that niche..   You'll prob narrow down to one, but keep an open mind about possibilities, because feedback is going to make you alter your idea.

3) Find 5 sites that do at least some aspects of what your site does and use them extensively... like everyday for a week or two at least (ideally longer!)... know all the ins and outs of the service.   Group all their features into a) things they do well b) things I can do better/different c) things we can work together on and d) make a list of things you wish they did.

4) Take all the features and rank them in terms of importance...     This way, you'll realize whether you're building a new mousetrap, because all your top features are category D or a better mousetrap, b/c they're all category B or C) more of a mashup.

5) Take your list and imagine what ties this all together in one site if you can do 1 feature, 3 features, 10 features, etc...  Where are the natural grouping points... and what is the minimum amount of things that gives you a viable site.

6) Talk to 5 high level people in the industry about the smallest versions of your idea and get feedback.   After their feedback, go through this whole process over again.

6a) (Optional)  Blog this whole process openly and solicit even more feedback.

7) Then, MAYBE I'd talk to a contract developer... but only then....    Of course, if you can get someone more technical working on this process with you at no cost.... just to help shape the idea.. that's ideal.


In addition to this, you need to create a plan to be executed everyday that makes you exactly the right person to do this idea.  It will be incredibly difficult to get backing and support for your project unless people feel like you are THE person to do this startup, you understand those industries much more than almost anyone, and have publicly associated your name with those industries.  Starting out by blogging about those industries, maybe running some learning annex courses, a meetup group, etc. is a good start.... because it will sharpen your thinking on the space and attract others with similar or better yet, contrary ideas.

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