Your Startup is Not a Business. Stop Treating it Like One.

“So what is it that makes some startups successful and leaves others selling off their furniture? Simply this: startups are not small versions of large companies.”

— Steve Blank

I couldn’t agree more — a small business or a large company has the goal of delivering to customers in a proven way. But startups are fundamentally different. By sheer definition a startup should be a team on a mission to deliver to customers in an UNproven way. That’s the whole point: you’re uncovering a new market. And yet how many start-ups raise money, hire and expand their team, and have yet to uncover a clear market for their product?!

Just recently I took the first steps in a new venture — testing an assumption that a specific audience would sign-up for a monthly subscription e-commerce service. And guess what — I was wrong. The idea was fraught with problems, specifically operational and sourcing, along with the challenges of competing with established services like Gilt Groupe. So we “pivoted,” and explored other audiences and customer groups that might have a need — a true NEED for a monthly subscription commerce service. My team and I found a great idea.

We tested this idea quickly (and for free) by sending out a survey to some friends and family who are our target audience. The info we’ve received from a simple eight question survey has been invaluable. In total, we’ve spent $15 — on beer for our discussions.

Cut to two weeks later. We’ve setup a landing page experience for two possible business concepts, and tested them both, running traffic to them with Google AdWords, and seeing how each idea performed. A clear winner emerged.

We’ve taken that idea and build it out through wireframes and mockups, and figuring out basic operational considerations. We plan to launch at the end of June.

The point here is though — we’re validating a business idea, at each and every step. But we DO NOT have a business yet.