Starting a startup challenge: from zero to $4000/month in 5 months by@bramkrommenhoek

Starting a startup challenge: from zero to $4000/month in 5 months

May 1st 2017 1,042 reads
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Bram Krommenhoek

What if you just finished university and want to start your own startup? And what if you only have a few months to get it off the ground? I’ve gone through so many articles and podcasts about “how to start your business” and “10 things each entrepreneur should do”, but only few of them (Buffer’s blog, GimLet’s StartUp Podcast) actually document the progress they’re making while working on their startup. On top of that, no one was in a similar situation as I am right now, just coming out of university, with a so-so network, with a so-so bank account (to put it mildly), without too much professional experience. So, what if the odds are really not in your favor and you still decide to start a startup?

Chutzpah is the confidence to do the impossible, daring to want what others can’t dream of, or going after “impossible goals” — Gil Kerbs

This is my first in a series of posts called The Chutzpah Series, in which I will share the methods and learnings of the journey of starting a startup, all with the aim to help more entrepreneurs and learn from others.

Looking back at this, I’ve learned a lot. Want to know what I learned? I can tell you how not to start a startup :)

Eager to get a better sense of what was going on, I started to work with over 20 startups to help them understand what to do and how to do it. The people I’ve met and experience I’ve gained have made an enormous difference to my personal growth as well as my professional development. And now I’m at this critical decision point in my life where I just finished university and have to decide: work for someone else or start something myself.

“Just do it”

I’ve read pretty much all the startup books, listened to almost all of YC’s startup lectures, spoken to a lot of successful entrepreneurs, and yet have never walked the talk. I’ve been consulting entrepreneurs to help them understand what to do and how to do it, but haven’t started myself. When I ask serial entrepreneurs what their best advice is to start your business, they say it’s “to just do it”. Even though I want to be independent and build something great, I’m young, so I don’t have a lot of experience, I don’t have capital, my network isn’t huge yet, and I don’t even have an idea yet. Summed up, the odds are not really in my favor, and while I know and preach that the best way to become a good entrepreneur is to just start, I didn’t dare yet to put my money where my mouth is. The biggest downside? I’m keeping myself from the biggest learning, because of my fear to fail.

When planning for my final months of financial independence and my return back to Holland, I knew that my next project would involve actually starting a startup, because what better way to learn whether you’re fit to be an entrepreneur than “to just do it”? Insert the Chutzpah mentality: I don’t care that the odds are small, and that the potential for success is small. I’m just going to do it.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda

So here I am, feeling like this Storm Trooper: I know that I want to start a business, but I haven’t decided what yet. So that’s where this challenge comes in.

The Startup Challenge.

One possibility would be to just start working on a new startup quietly for a year before launching, but where would the fun be in that? Plus, there are many experienced entrepreneurs saying that accountability is key in launching and growing a successful business. So here is the challenge:

Within five months build a startup to $4,000 in revenue each month. Something is (and most people are) telling me this is quite bold, so let’s add some more restrictions:

  • There is no idea yet. So I don’t know what it’ll look like, who it’ll help, what it’ll do.
  • I can only spend $500 of my own money in this entire process. Hence, if I want to build some sort of software or hardware, it will have to come from paying customers.

I wish someone in my position (just graduated, no technical skills, little designing skills) would have written a post about this, but I haven’t found one so far. So, I guess one of the best things about this is that I’m going to be completely honest and straightforward about every single step, so that others can see what might work, and what they definitely should not try at home. Follow the blog if you want to stay up to date about how it’s going and what I’m learning. The deadline is October 1st, 2017 to have $4,000 a month worth of paying customers. Either that’s 80 people paying me $50 a month, or 4 paying me $1,000. I told you, I seriously have no idea yet.

Ok cool, but how?

I know right, it sounds cool but how is this actually going to work?

You don’t have an idea? Huh?

Yeah not yet, but I believe more starting from the customers’s problem. Justin Wilcox has been my source of inspiration for this, explaining that once you know the problem of a potential customer, there are many solutions to this. The idea is that you talk to the market, say Angel investors, and try to figure out what important and painful challenge they have that you can solve for them.

Want to find out more? I’ll be sure to explain this further in coming posts.

But who are you going to sell it to?

So I don’t really know that yet either. I do know that it’s going to be a targeted niche, such as funded entrepreneurs, innovation managers, developers, real estate agents, CEOs of pharmaceutical companies, etc. As long as they have some money to pay me, it’ll go. I’m just going to speak to people until I find an important and painful challenge that I can solve.

You don’t have the skills nor budget to develop a solution?

Well, no. I’m not a developer, so I’ll need to find someone to work with me on the project. I’ll be doing all the initial research, wireframes, start of the design, and leave the development to someone who knows this stuff. The goal is to get customers to fund the development of the product/service.

And that all in five months?

I know right, but by zooming in on a really specific problem, you can build a solution rapidly if you solve it in the simplest way possible. So the goal won’t be an all-in-one solution, but rather a single, really important and painful challenge.

So what happens if you fail?

I think complete failure is unlikely. It’s more probable that I’ll only reach a part of the revenue, but that’s still sort of a success. But say that I fail completely, at least it’ll be public, and you (and I) will have learned something for the future.

It’s kind of weird that you’re having some sort of a conversation with yourself here.

Yup, true. So that might mean it’s time to finish this. If you have any questions or want to help (yes!!!!!!), feel free to comment below, add me on LinkedIn or shoot me a mail at bram [at] 02traction [dot] com.

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