Monday, March 5, 2018

#7 Get Input from the Cloud

Build a landing page and see if anyone shows any interest (e.g. as Buffer, Dropbox did). Check out KickoffLabs, The account you create is a trial one that will expire. The cheapest upgrade is to premium (apparent grade inflation has come to business value promotion) $663 per year, $79 month to month. You should have your answer within a month.
I don't recommend UnBounce unless you are serious. They grab your credit card and automatically bill it after the 30 day "free" trial at the rate of $79/month ($764 if you pay for the whole year). In my world if you give out your credit card to someone you are no longer being given something for free. You are given something in exchange for the default choice that you become a paying customer.

Within a day you should have a clue if you indeed have identified a problem that a potential customer needs and wants to solve.

The above is step #1. If step #1 fails, STOP!

Entrepreneurs are an inspired and stubborn lot. They tend to toward reaffirming their assumptions and ideas They desperately attempt to confirm their brilliance and potential. The purpose of the above strategy is to address that flaw.

So be ready to dump your idea and come up with a better one. Or perhaps come up with 10 ideas and pick the best. But don't get stuck on the one "perfect" solution especially if early on you can see that there is no problem that your "solution" is addressing.

If a month tells you that you are on track, then consider creating a WordPress site with your $663/$764 since you need much more than a one-page promotion site and there are plenty of tools to create forms and collect data with WordPress. Plus this is a skill you need to obtain and with your next idea you can simply modify what you did the last time.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

#6 Rip your startup solution apart

Remember, The Rapid Startup Design Strategy to Create a Viable Company overall guidance is:
    • Go stepwise,
    • Don’t dawdle,
    • Constantly always ask yourself Is this a dead end?
    • Allow yourself to rethink, backtrack to an earlier step or restart
You want to be the first person to say "this is dumb idea." It'll be a lot less embarrasing. So stand back and look at the problem, solution and competition.

First, take the text you have written, copy it into a document, and rewrite every word and sentence as a question starting with
  • "Is it really.." 
  • "How do I know..." 
  • "Can I support the claim" 
  • "Am I qualified to ..."
Don't allow anything vague or absolute. Words like "everyone" are clues that you are are overstating. Excessive emotion like "absolutely" and "essential" are clues that you may be biased.

The Problem: Is this really such a huge problem that people will pay for your solution. Are people really this desperate, unhappy, frustrated, or irritated? Probably not.

The Solution: Admit your weaknesses. Do you really have the resources to do this?

The Competition: Take a good long look at the competition. It's doubtful that they are weak and incapable as you made them out to be.

Sure this is depressing. Your great idea has probably been ripped up.

Inertia will ask you to pick up the pieces and try to put them back together. Don't. This is why you are being rapid. You haven't invested that much time yet. Why waste money and years of effort on a solution that will likely fail?

If there are problems first write down the lesson you learned. This will help you avoid making the same mistake. Were you too vague? Then outline a strategy for creating a new Startup Design.

For example, if the problem isn't substantial or competition is too strong, go back to Step #1 and find a different problem to solve or a problem with fewer competitors.

Or if the problem is ok and the competition is weak but the solution is lacking, go back to step #2 and see if there is a better solution. But don't skip past step #6 the next time... Your next solution may also be poorly conceived or potentially flooded with competitors with similar capability.

Perhaps you lucked out and you have indeed found a solution to a serious problem in a market with few competitors. Onward to Step #7!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

#5 Create a Logo

A mixture of the first
 two logos below
A logo?

Yes, a logo helps you pull together your idea to something that conveys the message to the world in the most efficient way. Pictures do indeed buy you a 100 words.

There are excellent sites to create logos for free. Note: I don't get any kickback for those links or any others

My Top Choices

Free Logo Services - My favorite
  • Process: Enter name (two lines) - Industry - Style - Font- Layout - 
  • Easily change color or manipulate layout. You can create everything you need without an account. 
  • With an account (free) you can save it and go back and edit it later. Highly recommended.
  • A white background is the default (a time saver).
  • Perfect for this purpose.  
  • Process: Enter name - pick 5 logos you like - add color
  • Requires login to save. Worth the trouble and no cost.
  • Icons are pretty dull. 
  • Layout and use of color are more impressive. Customizable. Great with text variations. 
  • Easy to change colors, font spacing and supports gradients.
  • It is easy to get excited about design since the tools are so well done. Hold back and go with something simple at first. You can come back later
DesignMantic -
  • Process: Choose Abstract/Symbol/Lettermark - Font - Color - Business 
  • You can't see your edit without logging in 
  • Only supports one line of text per image to the right
  • Logos are pretty small on the website. Only useful for quick visualization. 
  • Advanced work requires you activate the full editor which is powerful but takes a lot of time. Remember, a real logo will need to be created by a graphic designer. 
Not recommended for this purpose
  • LogoMakr - Icon search engine is more generic. A build your own solution. Too complicate for this purpose
  • Design EVO - Choose an image BEFORE putting in your name. Not useful since images aren't tailored and you can't see how it looks
  • Canva’s Online Logo Maker - first question Sign up. No thanks
  • Free Logo Design - Name & Industry only. Too simple
  • VistaPrint Logo Maker - Not quick. Has a way to start from scratch. Not useful for this purpose
  • ... there are many many others....
Pick the one you like. Some have better clipart. Some are easy. Some are complicated but have more functionality. They all do the same thing - they quickly create a logo for you. Use the snipping tool to get a copy. If you spend more than 5 minutes getting a logo you are wasting your time.

Don't pay for it. I'm not being cheap. Once you start buying things you get attached to them and are unwilling to let them go. Keep your credit card in your wallet. That advice follows through all of the strategies. As soon as you start spending money you lose the willingness to dump a bad idea. And there is a 99% chance that your first idea is a bad one. Most sites will try to make you pay for a "high quality" version. You don't need it.
A mixture of the second two logos
  1. Don't get hung up on your poor graphics skills. If you haven't identified 5 decent logos in a half hour you are taking too long. This logo will not be the real logo for your company. You'll need a graphic designer for that task.
  2. Don't worry about the color now. The logo designers are excellent as changing colors. With Paint and XnView you can also change the color and mix and match elements. 
  3. Grab a screen capture via the snipping tool and save the low-resolution version. That's all you need now. 
  4. Sit back and think about what you like or dislike. What is it missing? Is it compelling? Does it fit? How does the name look?
  5. Go back and create a few more. 
  6. Choose the best
  7. Show it to someone. Folks should be able to look at your logo and think, "That sounds like a neat idea, tell me more". If they don't love it show them the others and ask why one is better than another.
  8. If everything bombs then dump them all and create another logo
  9. Later, you may need to edit to make the background transparent if your background isn't white (XnView Image/Convert to Color choose 256, Image/Edit Palette select background, check "enable transparency" save
Confirm with others that you have a logo that accurately describes a company that you want to create and meets your objectives. If you can't accomplish that, then perhaps this idea is already dead. Think up another.

If you have a compelling logo then move on...