Right now I am busy helping to bootstrap a new startup that has a unique idea and niche market aimed for middle-aged women. In this article, I would like to share the process we are going though and how we are in the early stages of forming our team and approaching seed investors.
How the process of team-building starts
The first thing I usually do, once someone approaches me with a new idea, is to check how long the idea keeps me excited and inspired. Then I do some basic research and explore the domain and the potential target audience characteristics. I ask: What is already out there in the market? How far are the competitors (if they exist at all) down the road? How many people are discussing this idea online? All of these questions provide fertile ground to begin digging into the deeper work of refining the idea and trying to clarify the value proposition and the competitive advantage of the product. All of this happens at an abstract level long before we get going into creating detailed definitions and sketches.
We recently managed to a get some seed investment from one of the founders of the project and this seed investment is just enough to help us achieve the goals we initially have set ahead for ourselves.
Defining our goals
Our first mission was to define what our goals are for the next 3 months. The most important is to prioritize the more important goals from the less important ones and to come up with a plan that will be able to reach investors with a defined value proposition that is backed up with a solid business plan accompanied with a detailed requirements document and illustrated wireframes that present our initial Minimum Viable Product.
Building the Minimum Viable Product for this specific venture will require heavier than regular funding. This is why we are setting up our first goal to prepare a detailed requirements document together with a mockup, rather than to build the Minimum Viable Product first.
Because we needed to focus our idea and explore our options in more detail, we held several focus groups to collect this data. We first gathered people from our target audience and combined them together with people we trust and know from the startup industry as our base to help us brainstorm the idea.
From one side of the aisle, we had contributions by those who understand the need for the product and the pain that would be associated with developing it. From the other side, there were more experienced entrepreneurs who helped us to clarify the idea and get to a point where we were able to understand what should be included in the Minimum Viable Product and where we are to find our value. Mixing these two groups together worked out well – besides the good spirit in these meetings – we also managed to accomplish our goals and enhance the idea by contrasting one focus group with the other.
Forming the team
Besides holding focus groups, we invested a lot of time in meeting some potential candidates to staff our team. Initially, once we defined our initial goals, we were then able to define the people which we will need to help us achieve these goals, and possibly even continue with us after we raise more funds. We prepared a list of all the expertise needed to put our team together along with a budget that covered all the expenses for this person. By doing this for each position, we had a clear idea of how much money we had to spend and set goals for what we want to achieve by hiring a given particular candidate.
We then started interviewing people. Some of them were experts we already knew but had to think about how they could connect with us in this particular venture. Surprisingly, this does not always go as expected. The interesting part of staffing your team is in getting to meet new people and learn about their past experiences. This is always exciting since there are many talented people out there. For each role we searched for, we came to a point where we found the candidate whom we felt is the one we would like the most to have in our meetings and to work with on this project. We then placed a lot of weight on the kind of personality the candidate had – not just on the pure resume and set of skills. We also asked some of the candidates to join our focus groups so that we can see how they would fit in and contribute their part effectively.
What comes next?
The initial process defined by us is the one which takes us to the point where we can approach investors, we are going to invest a lot of our energy in developing our business model and proposal, and in the meantime, we will continue to run more focus groups that can provide us with the needed feedback for our plans to continue to make progress.
By approaching the initial stages in this way, we are already starting to identify some potential investors and generating some initial interest in our venture – we are not yet reviling it, but setting the ground to our next move – when we approach potential investors with detailed plans and ask them to invest their money in seeing our vision through.
The process of jumpstarting a vision is always fascinating and interesting for a CTO, simply because each venture is different from the next. Based on the unique needs and characteristics of each new idea, it is important to the set up your plans ahead of time, because once you know what your initial goals are, all that needs to be achieved, once starting your venture, is how they are going to be achieved. Building the right team with the right skills needed to achieve these goals is an important part of the process. Putting in the right amount of time and effort in your venture is the next important concern.