So you have a brilliant business idea that will be very successful. My congratulations to you. Now read all ideas are brilliant and nobody is going to pay you for your ideas. Are you still sure? All right then, let’s continue. And – this is important – do not even think about getting investors yet. Do a lean business plan.
1. Gather a team
Can you execute on the brilliant business idea yourself? That does happen. I’m aware of several ventures built by one very smart hard-working person, on her or his own. They use their own money and paid the providers they needed, to get going. If you can do that yourself, without help, then I applaud you. Go for it. Forget investors; just do it. You don’t need them.
For the rest of us, your next step is to gather a team of people who have the skills and experience you need to get going. Look for people different from you who can do what you can’t and who know what you don’t. If you don’t know anybody, or don’t know the right people, that’s a damn shame; but it’s your problem to solve. If you can’t solve it, then keep your day job. Other people have solved that problem millions of time.
If you can afford to pay them…
If you can find suitable people, then you have to convince them to join you. If you can afford to pay for their services with your own money, then maybe you don’t have to convince them of the idea. Just pay them. This puts you in the category of the smart person on your own. Just do it. You’re special, the sole entrepreneur with a great idea and the means to execute. Skip to the next section.
However, if you can’t afford to pay people, then you need to convince them to join you as co-founders and work on this idea for free. Don’t feel bad about that; that’s what most successful entrepreneurs had to do. And if you can’t convince the right people to join you, then get a clue. Your idea was one of the many ideas that seem brilliant but won’t work. Keep your day job. Revise your plan. Focus on a subset you can do yourself. Or give up.
Get your people together and revise that early plan. Bring it up to date with what you’ve learned while gathering the team, and what your team members were able to contribute to the plan. Remember that plans are made to be reviewed and revised and kept live and up to date.
2. Execute. Get traction. Prove it.
You have a team and you have a plan. Execute on it. Follow your plan. Go as far as your team can take you towards early website, product prototype, discussions with potential buyers or distributors, so-called minimum viable product. Maybe you go on Kickstarter or one of the other sites for pre-launch selling. Get traction. Prove to yourself and future investors that you idea will work. You’ll have to know what that means in your specific case. It’s different for every business.
3. Seek investment if and only if…
Don’t go for investment unless you really need it. Never bring in investors unless you need them to address an huge opportunity that makes sharing your business ownership with outside investors good for you and them. Read the startup sweet spot.
Furthermore, don’t go for investment if you’re not going to get it. Only a few businesses are good investments. Read this self assessment will you get angel investment, 10 things angel investors ask about your plan. And be aware that the advice in those two posts applies to the U.S. market only. The realities of angel investment are vastly different in other markets.