Editor’s Note: We’ve got a fantastic lineup of speakers on tap for GeekWire’s Startup Day, taking place Saturday, Sept. 22nd at Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. Among the entrepreneurs on the agenda are Box CEO Aaron Levie; Zulily CEO Darrell Cavens; and many others. It is going to be an informative and high-energy day for those in the midst of building their startups (or those unsure about taking the plunge).
As a warmup to the big event, we’re going to go deep into the archive to pull out some of our favorite talks from year’s past. Enjoy these pearls of wisdom from some of the best, and make sure to join us on September 22nd for even more insights.
Today, we’re starting with self-described “startup curmudgeon” Tony Wright, who talks about how to come up with a business idea when you’ve got so many problems you’d like to tackle. The co-founder of RescueTime and current CEO of TomoGuides explains the challenges of narrowing the search — referring to Steve Johnson’s book “Where Good Ideas Come From” in which the best-selling author concludes that good ideas rarely come in a “flash of inspiration” but rather over a longer period of time in what is described as “the slow hunch.”
Here’s more from Tony Wright’s talk:
On picking an idea: “If you are hunting for an idea, you need to start colliding with other ideas. Talk to people here. Wade into the polluted sea of the Internet, and start colliding…. You shouldn’t do the idea that you love right now necessarily. I think you should be very deliberate about picking the market you are going to dive into.”
Focus on things that last: “8.7 years. That is the average amount of time that it takes a venture-backed company to reach liquidity…. So, does anyone remember what their top-of-mind idea was 8.7 years ago? If you have an 8.7-year enduring idea, I encourage you to chase that idea. You clearly have an enduring passion. But, for the rest of us, I think it is important to focus on stuff that will endure for 8.7 years, and that’s a great team that you love working with, and doing the type of work that you enjoy and working in a category and a market that you love…. One more reason that you shouldn’t hold your hat on that top-of-mind idea is, because even if you chase it, it is probably not going to be that idea that makes your startup successful.”
On not pursuing the idea you love: “Don’t do the idea that you love. Instead, I think it is really important to fall in love with solving problems …. business problems and user problems. Fall in love with learning everyday instead of just repeating tasks that you are really good at. Fall in love with having no one to blame but yourself when things go wrong. Fall in love with putting a smile on customers’ face, but don’t fall in love with a specific idea right now…. Think hard about your idea, but think harder about your market and make sure it is a target-rich environment.”
On testing an idea with a ‘minimal viable product:’ “Instead of launching this feature-complete Magnum Opus that you have in your read, you launch the simplest thing that you possibly can that will prove or disprove the theories you have about the market. Collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers, with the least amount of effort…. ”
How affordable is customer acquisition? “This might piss off some of the engineering and product folks in the room. Building a product, a great product, is just a ticket to the real game of startups, which is around customer acquisition and retention…. I’d say that 99 percent of the struggling entrepreneurs who I talk to are struggling because they have a low price point and can’t find a way that they can affordably purchase a customer.”
On starting small: “You don’t have to boil the ocean if you are going to go big. Aim small, but have a good path to sort of getting into bigger markets.”
Look for more talks from the Startup Day archives in the coming weeks, and make sure to join us Sept. 22 for Startup Day 2012.