The Art of Start(up)

March 12th, 2008

For the last several months I’ve been hunkering down on trying to create a compelling, empowering and engaging product. I have tossed numerous ideas out, getting feedback from friends, and then filing the ideas away. One suggestion that received traction was creating a website that would sell a home test kit for STIs. The idea of being able to test for an STI in the privacy of the home with the results available in 15 minutes and with a test accuracy between 95%-99%, depending on the type of test, it seemed like a winner. No initial doctor’s visit unless the result is positive or the symptoms persist. No medical records if the test is negative. The tests for the most common STI’s such as Chlamydia, Chlamydia, Syphilis, Gonorrhea. and Hepatitis B. However, upon further research, even though such kits are available outside the use, there are restrictions on selling them in the US. I realized the kits would have to be shipped from China or HongKong to a middle person located outside the US. Bank accounts would have to be set up outside the US as well. All doable, but I wanted something a little less controversial and maybe a bit more scaleable. Next idea????

While I have much more to learn, here are some things I’ve learned in being a part of a Silicon Valley Startup. Finding the right niche is critical to success for a new online business. I looked at opening a jewelry shop and then narrowed it down to a specific kind of jewelry. Looked at sterling silver to start because I’m really a fan of this precious metal myself. Then narrowing down further we looked at specific products in this niche. My favorite is sterling silver rings, but that seemed too broad and when we looked at online stores the competition seemed to be pretty hefty. My sister suggested cubic zirconia combined with sterling silver, as in cz rings. She has a really great example of a web store that is doing it right. Other considerations include sourcing the product. Possibly even manufacturing the product. Here too, the actual choice of the product is key since you don’t want to offer products that everyone else is offering. We’re still looking into this, but these are some of the considerations that need to be addressed before committing to a business.

– It’s not just a product, it’s a culture
. In the midst of trying to create a product that will be successful, a culture is also being created within your organization. The decisions that are made regarding the product and the vision, the approach, and the way of thinking will be carried all the way through to how people interact with each other within your organization. For instance, showing appreciation for innovation and hard work is always a win win situation. Consider showing your thanks by sending gift baskets to the entire team who made a difference. You can easily personalize gift baskets by including engraved items. If you decide upon wine gift baskets, the wine glasses can have the logo of the company engraved on the glasses. Or if your team solved a particularly difficult problem, adding some brain teaser puzzles in the gift basket would be a clever gesture. Or perhaps your team members put in long hours for the “startup” company. Gift baskets filled with both sweet and savory yummies or loads of delicious fresh fruit would be very much enjoyed. Gift baskets with the myriad options they present are the perfect way to say “Thanks!” They can make a big difference in team morale.

– Hire slowly, fire quickly
. Since it takes a lot of time and resources hiring and finding the right person, once you find out they are not a good fit you should quickly get rid of them. The longer you take to get rid of them, the more time you have wasted before finding the right person. Also, if the person has an abrasive/bitter attitude, it can spread quickly to the rest of the team. One of the highest priorities should be protecting your team. Without your team, your organization and product are nothing.
When you find the right person for the job, . Thoughtful presents brings happiness which encourages productivity.

– Do the things that only you can do, and outsource the rest
. I’m guilty of wanting to do everything and feeling terrible asking people to do things. However, there are just so many things that need your attention that you really can’t spend your time wasting it on chores that can easily be outsourced. While you can never see any task as beneath you, you are on the team for a certain skillset that no one on that team has. Make sure you are doing the thing you were brought on to do first and give up the rest.

However, since the startup is small and aims to mature, certain person will need to take on leadership roles, perhaps growing out of the initial role he/she was hired to do. This means that roles need to be rigid enough so that flawless execution can happen, but flexible enough so that the person can develop a visionary mindset.

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