Here we are, part 3. Last time I rambled about the two key questions you need to answer in order to make a good idea for a business.
So you’ve got your idea and its a stormer, you’re ready to change the world, but… now what?
Like your coursework, talking to pretty girls and adult life in general – starting is the hardest part.
This is critical. I was naive and did a google search and found that no body in the whole wide world had ever thought of a student peer mentoring platform and I was just that clever that my super brain had changed the game.
Then the real world hit me like a tonne of bricks last week when I found that, actually, there’s a software that has been used in the past to build different peer mentoring structures to mine, commonly used in Corporate environments. I had a little breakdown like an overgrown man-baby and it took the combined help of my girlfriend, mother, father, close-friend-and-Blog-Manager, and Marketing Intern to get me to stop running around as though the sky was falling.
The thing is this: it’s 2019, you are not going to have a ‘new’ idea. It’s just not going to happen. The idea for Facebook existed in Friendster, MySpace, and Bebo before Zuckerberg ever created FaceMash on a bit of a mad one.
The ‘Market’ and being Different.
The internet is huge, the marketplace is cluttered, so you need to do something different.
So up until last week I still thought I was alone in the market; I now realise I’m not. But that’s alright, because although a platform does exist, it’s different to ours. They focus on companies and massive organisations in the US, we focus on UK Universities. What they do is a technological solution which organisations can build their own system with, our’s is a social movement which, for a licence fee, Universities can buy in to. Their’s requires set up, our’s requires one excel spreadsheet sent to me.
Your job as the entrepreneur is to set yourself aside from the rest – don’t try to do what someone else is doing. Also, don’t panic, that massive internet market is big enough for the two of us.
I’ll let you in on a secret – the ‘self made man’ is a myth. Nobody does this on their own. Rags to riches stories are real, I’m not debating that, but everybody needs help setting up and running a company. People need mentors who’ve been through the mill a bit.
The good news is nowadays institutions exist to help you, the one I stumbled across is the Ingenuity Lab.
Avid readers may remember the story of the Lab and how it helped me put a prototype together. So aside from that lets talk about what support I received, totally for free:
- I got to pitch my idea daily to other entrepreneurs who all want to help.
- A place to go, and amazing facilities.
- Friends that still help and support me today, two years on.
- I got my very first client.
- I got my very second client.
Lets look at each of them:
1. Daily elevator pitches
In and around the Lab, there are hundreds of other entrepreneurs who all buy into the philosophy of helping one another, so when you meet them, “what’s your idea” tends to be a more common question than “what’s your name”.
In this, I found a friendly environment for getting used to convincing people my idea could work. It’s different to convincing your mates, mum or girlfriend, but people who understand how hard it is.
By the end of the first month I had it down to a fine art, so when I got my big break to impress the Head of Nottingham Business School, I didn’t stutter and stumble – I just told her the same thing I’d said 50 times already that day.
2. A place to go, and amazing facilities.
For generations before ours, an entrepreneur was a lonely person. No offices, just you against the world.
Well now, you can have a place to work, the cool white rooms to scribble your ideas all over and a coffee machine. This all ties in to the whole ‘atmosphere’ argument I made above. Look at the following pictures to get what I mean:
3, 4 & 5. Contacts, Clients and Friends
Okay so I’m rolling the last three all into one.
My first interaction with the Ingenuity Lab was with Dr Terri Holloway, who I pitched the idea to and she said, to my utter astonishment at the time, “Well, why don’t we try it at the Lab?”. After about 20 minutes of my ears ringing I decided that was a good first start.
Tyfy didn’t take off in the Ingenuity Lab though – the website wasn’t good enough, marketing was non-existent, and I hadn’t clearly defined what it did.
But to use the millennial vernacular, this was a “safe space” to make these mistakes, and now, they’ve been fixed.
This is far from the end of the amount of favours Terri has done for me. The next came with a Lab event where members could go and talk to experts about their ideas. Think like if the Apprentice met Speed Dating and you’re pretty much there. Anyway, I went along and wouldn’t you guess who I’d magically happened to be put with but Dr Hannah Noke, the Deputy Director. What a result huh? Guess what happened next?
That’s right, she heard my idea and was supportive and encouraging. However, not much happened after that. It happens, people are busy and unless your product is ready you can’t expect them to buy an idea, like I was. The important part is we’d met and she’d remember me and the idea if the opportunity to presented itself.
Had I blown it? Probably, but for, again, Terri swooping from on high to save her naive little friend. A few months later, Hannah was running a project where students would conduct market research as part of their course for start-up companies and, wouldn’t you guess it, Terri thought of my name to recommend. This was the break, I was ready this time.
The students were really helpful, their marketing plan is still something I refer to, but the important thing is the final presentation was done in front of Hannah and Professor Martin Binks, the Former Dean of the Business School. I managed to get 5 minutes of their time afterwards and suddenly I was having meetings with Martin, he was telling me what I was doing wrong (I didn’t even have a pitch put together). Once suitably impressed, Martin put me in touch with the Skills and Development Manager at the Business School. I had a pitch this time, I did it well, and she bought the licence for a trial year for the business school.
Ladies and gentlemen, I finally had lift off.
The point of all of this abnormally long article with two very different sections can be explained with four words;
You are not alone.
Do your research, utilise the facilities available to you and stop making excuses.