I’ve been home from AppCademy for a week now. All week I’ve been thinking about what I learned there and how to make the best use out of it. My next few posts will try to describe the most important things that I learned.

One of the biggest things I learned was how to analyze my idea – and any future ideas I have – in an objective manner. My career goal is to become really good at starting really successful businesses, so this skill is really important to me.

When I sat down to write this post I thought about different ways of communicating what I learned in an easy way. So, here it goes. I hope it has the impact that I intend it to have.

So imagine yourself back in medieval times with castles and stuff… (wavy fade in thingy)

Money on top of the castle

Money on top of the castle

So the king’s sworn enemy has stolen money from the people of the county and put it in a large glass jar on top of his castle. The king has assigned you the task of breaking the glass jar and capturing as much money as you can before they open the gates and unleash the hounds on you.

You arrive at the castle and asses the situation. Your idea is to quickly set up a see-saw type device and launch a rock up to break the jar. Using this method you can quickly sneak out of the woods, set it up, and maybe get a few tries at it before you need to high tail it out of there. (wavy fade out thing)

Ok, so this is a completely unrealistic scenario. But you can draw a lot of parallels to technology start ups. For one, you have a limited amount of time to try your idea before it loses its luster and the public forgets about you. It has to be pretty spot on from the get go.

Comparing the scenario to tech startups

Comparing the scenario to tech startups

So in this comparison you can think of the rock as being your idea, the board you’ll use the launch the rock as your assets, the hinge as the leverage you will get out of your assets, and you as the human resources you can use to accomplish the task. Lets look at each. I’ll look at the idea itself last.

Assets

So what do I mean by assets. Well in the fake scenario above the strength and size of the board are critical to your success. If the board is too short or if the board snaps under strain you will fail. The rock will go no where and you won’t even have a chance of accomplishing your objective.

In business your assets  are all of the physical (and digital) things you can use to launch your product. Your network of contacts. Your online presence. And let’s not forget the money that you invest. Lots of money can get you the perfect board. But you need to know that the cost is worth it.

Leverage

Leverage is directly related to your ability to use your assets. If you have that perfect board, but your hinge is just a small log you won’t be able to use the board to its potential.

This is directly relatable to business. And we see it all the time. People blow a bunch of money on marketing that doesn’t work or on the wrong target market. The way you leverage your assets is to be smart! Proper research about exactly what your money will return, what your contacts can and will do for you, and who your real target market is will help you leverage your assets properly. To really leverage your assets you need to know how to get the most out of everything you do.

Human Resources

Human resources are probably the most underestimated part of the whole thing – at least to the entrepreneur. Why? Because they think they ARE the human resources. They are, but its pretty unrealistic for someone to think they can be an expert at technology, business, marketing, and everything else you need to run a successful business. In the scenario above think about how much more effective your mission would be if you brought one of the king’s engineers with you. He could help you quickly analyze how far and how high you need to go with this rock and he’d probably be able to tell you exactly where to place your equipment for the best chance at success.

In business surrounding yourself with people that are smarter than you is just as critical. Understand your strengths and weaknesses. And by weaknesses, I don’t mean where you are weak. Rather – where you could and should be stronger.

Idea

Ok, so let’s get back to the idea. Imagine if you showed up to the castle with a rock already in hand. You don’t have any idea how high the thing is, how far away you’ll be, what board are nearby or what you can use as a hinge. But you’ve found the perfect rock!

The BIG idea

The BIG idea

In business we often hear people talk about their ideas and how passionate they are about them. And why not? Without an idea you have nothing. Right? Well that may not be true.

How many times have I heard someone with the next big social media service? Wow – people can connect online to other people they know! Like Facebook! Well, that is all well and good. And you may be able to be a way better Facebook than Facebook can. But its like showing up to the castle with a boulder. The work it is going to take to get the thing off the ground is enormous. Look at the huge failure of Google+. A big company like Google and even they can’t compete with Facebook. But yet lots of little startups think they can do it.

Someday someone will. Maybe they know a giant with a giant board!

On the other end of the spectrum are people who just want to build a quick app and expect to make a bunch of money at it. Lots of people do it. Why can’t they?

A stones throw

A stones throw

 

Well actually a lot of people don’t do it. The small stone is like the fart apps of the world. Easy to pick up and throw. But they don’t have the impact to break the jar. Sure maybe if you throw it 100 times you might chip the jar and get a few coins. But the chances are better that the stone will bounce off the jar, hit you in the head, and you’ll forever be known as the far app dude.

The right idea

So here is the thing. The right idea is different for everyone. And the right idea is usually not the first one. Everyone has to assess their own assets, how much they can leverage them, and whether they have the right human resources. Then, knowing all of that information, choose the right rock.

So imagine you are hiding in the woods looking at the castle with your engineer and a guy that can help with the heavy lifting. You’ve got your board and something that looks like a good lever. You find an area out in the woods to set up a few tests. You go looking for the perfect rock based on the size, shape, and weight you think you need. You try out a few of them to see how far you can launch them. You test their strength by smashing some branches. You test how many launches you can do in ten minutes – the amount of time you expect to have before the hounds get released on you.

Conclusions

  1. Choose your ideas based on your own personal assets and leverage. If you have bigger ideas spend time building up your assets and leverage before pursuing the idea.
  2. Test your ideas so to minimize risk. Start with small little tests and build up to a test that is as close to market conditions as you can replicate.
  3. If at first you don’t succeed… you are normal. Plan to make at least three significant attempts to try your idea before retreating.

The last thing I’d like to say is that this sounds like a lot more work that just throwing something out there and hoping for the best. It is only if you are lucky. If you’re  lucky go to the casino, it’s faster.

 

Please feel free to comment!

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