In my previous post (Ever think about starting an internet weather start up?) at FreshAJ.com, I introduced a space in weather that is still pretty much untouched. As I mentioned before, three to four big market players pretty much dominate the consumer-driven weather space, but there is still room for growth.
I believe the Internet weather start up space is open for innovation. Some of you meteorologists may have the next best idea…but before you jump in and develop it, there are a couple things you need to keep in mind before starting your weather start up:
1) Financial planning: In the consumer-drive Internet model, you are going to make very little money in the beginning. In fact, it could take up to 1 or 2 years before you see some decent cash flow for your weather start up. You need to plan financially (not only for your start up), but personally too.
2) Full Time commitment: In the consumer drive start up world, you pretty much eat, drink and live start up. It is definitely hard to find a work-life balance because “time is money”, especially in the early days. You’ll probably have to work 12 hours a day including weekends. It’s definitely a time hog. You may start out part time, but you will need to make this a full time commitment in order for your start up to go somewhere.
3) Vision and Passion: You’ll need to make sure your vision and passion stay intact. There will be many who will sway you away from it (sometimes it could be for the better), but bottom line you’ll need to remember stay passionate for your company or else it’ll fall apart
4) Simple is better: Many people think you have to build the next “weather.com” in the beginning by putting a lot of information on the site to attract visitors. I don’t think that is true. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and I found this out the hard way. I think people are looking for a simple solution in weather that solves a problem. No need to complicate your site with ads and too much text in the beginning.
5) Attracting Visitors: Your #1 goal in a consumer driven model is to attract visitors and keep them coming back. Feedback is extremely important and so is iterating your product. Keep this in mind when building your prototype.
So now that you have these principles in mind, let’s get into the execution part of it. You want to make sure your idea “solves a problem.” So if you have a great idea that you’re thinking about…how do you go about executing it?
First just write it down. Pitch it to your friends and see what they think. Ask them to find a fault in your idea too so you can understand both sides.
Next, you should identify your skill sets and what value you bring to the table. First, you should ask yourself the following questions: Are you a good programmer? Do you know how to build a website in PHP or Ruby on Rails? Are you a good mobile programmer for the Iphone, Ipad, or perhaps for any of the Android phones?
Software engineers are the most prized assets for any start up. Anyone can have a product idea, but the software engineers make it a reality…but what is most important is you should find high quality engineers to build your product.
My advice is if you do not understand how to write or read code, do not manage it. The biggest mistake I made was outsourcing software services to India (because it was cheaper), and then trying to manage the process (when I knew nothing about PHP code, frameworks, quality of code, etc).
Any software engineer can piece together code to make your site work…but it could end up being a disaster in the long run if there is little quality assurance on the code itself.
Bottom line, I would try and find a technical co-founder in your local area that can help you develop a prototype on the web or mobile (more to come on this). You want to find someone who can not only “code”, but who can architect the entire project and also be able to manage others.
However, finding a competent technical leader can be difficult to evaluate. Make sure you see a sample of their work, a sample of their code, and most importantly they need to share your vision and passion. In addition, you need to like being around this person. This person is going to become closer than your family, especially during the first 6 months to 1 year of the company. So make sure it’s someone you can trust and can be around for a long period of time!
If you’ve identified a technical co-founder, I would give him/her 50% of your company. Yep, that’s right…that’s how important this person is and I’ll get into distributing equity, salaries, etc in another post. There’s still a lot more to do before you actually begin “executing” and plenty more posts I will be writing on this topic. I hope I have your creative juices flowing so far! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!