Mar 20, 2015 ~ by Michael Dorrance

Minimize Your Startup Risk

My friend Mike and I just finished hosting our first Meetup, the Chicago Swift Meetup and it could not have gone better. A great group of people took time out of their own personal time to come to the very first Meetup to learn more about what we were going to offer them. The beauty of adult learners is that time is a precious commodity and they want to maximize the value that they can extract.

Minimize Your Startup Risk

We lead an open discussion as research to see how we could offer the Value that they are seeking as well as were we. Our goal is to create a safe place for beginners and experienced developers to collaborate, share and learn. We had a diverse set of levels so we took great feedback and but together the topics for the next 2 Meetups. An Intro to Swift walk through followed by a code challenge and then an all day Hackathon to build out an idea with a team. 

The open discussion was fun and interactive but I personally enjoyed the mingling after the discussion, some might call it “networking”. I was able to meet some very interesting people with a diverse set of skills and experiences. One in particular stood out to me. He drove from his work over an hour to come to the Meetup because he has an idea that he wants to build and is looking for a way to learn what he needs to make it a reality. Deja vu!

As a business owner in multiple industries now, I have had the good fortune to win some and lose some as they say. Business is a risk vs reward proposition. Most people can fathom this concept because it is logical. The question that comes into play for me is when the business idea is to turn “tech” into a business. As someone pointed out at the Meetup, the real world is not the movie “The Social Network.” 3 years ago already I took the leap to transition out of one industry into another. 

So how did I minimize my risk of failure?


1.The Internet

Search the web for blogs, articles, how-to’s, videos, tutorials that are inline or similar to your idea. Then repeat the same style of searching for the technology that went into building the products that you liked. Bookmark them. Use curating tools like Flipbook to build a feed that you read daily. One helpful tip is that you will find a few “favorite” sources and explore the links that they reference in their posts. You will gain an understanding of where your internet mentors go for inspiration and/or guidance.


2. Meetups

Expand your mind by attending Meetups on topics that you know nothing about. Go to different types of Meetups that focus on Business, Investing, Technology, and Marketing because you will need all of those skills at a minimum to make the leap. The key component of a Meetup is the discussions afterwards, when you can really meet new people, pick experts brains and ask the questions that you could learn from. You will find that people are very open about what they did wrong so that others could learn from it. No one should have to repeat history. Talking to strangers is a critical skill that you need to develop in order to build a business no matter what, it is foundational. Get use to it. Embrace it. Love it!


3. Workshops

As you participate in Meetups you will become aware of the ecosystem that exists to help people launch businesses. Travelling for an hour or so may be required but the commitment of time is a test of your commitment to succeed. EventBrite is another website that provides opportunities for people to promote events. You will find national speakers, networking events and great workshops to gain a particular skillset. Using the world of tech as an example, there are workshops on new languages, frameworks, hackathons and growth strategies. You might find some on digital marketing, how to write a business plan or even how should you structure your new business. The cost are generally minimal but the lessons, resources and connections are exponential.


4. Tinker

Try to build your idea by yourself. Dive deep into the process of trying to make it real. You will soon realize the details and nuances that will need to be overcome. You will identify your personal skill gaps. The fun part of tinkering is seeing your Frankenstein come to life. Not too pretty, might not work well, but “It is ALIVE!” Great! Job well done. Now for the really hard part of tinkering, the business. Tinker with the financials. How are your going to pay your bills with your ‘Franken-idea”? This is literally the million dollar question. You may not have the answer yet but must have a Plan A, Plan B and possibly Plan C of revenue opportunities. Remember, without any customers, there is no business.


5. Education

Your access to education has never been easier or more prevalent. Traditional, online, non-accredited, paid-mentoring, MOOC. You can literally learn for free with internet access. Many of the free classes are from elite schools like Harvard, Stanford and MIT. Understanding your skill gaps allows you the opportunity to gain the knowledge to overcome. Learn more about accounting, marketing and of course coding. I like in person training personally because I am a “People Person” and accountability is a motivator for me. I loathe disappointing others. I learned web dev at The Starter League and was able to gain the skills and network to build out MVPs. I knew my skill gap and committed 3 months full time to gain the skills to provide the path to my new future.


6. Nothing

So what is the easiest way to limit your risk, DO NOTHING AT ALL! 

Is that how you want to live? 

Wondering?

Thinking about what could be? 

What did it take for me to make the change? A client told me that I told him, “Everyday that I go to work, a little piece of me dies.”

What more can I say?