That is the big question. Do you need a unique idea? Can you take an existing idea and do it better? How will people know you are there? How much money does it take? Will it work?
There are no right or wrong answers. Starting up a business is a uniquely odd challenge. There are lots of resources out there that provide advice on what not to do. But, when it comes down to it, no one really knows about your particular situation. You just have to get on and do it. There is also a ‘sub-culture’ of people who will charge fees to help you with skills to run your business, find investors or access magic government funds. These advisors offer conferences, courses and tutorials. They may well be worth it, but we decided not to shell out money that should be spent on building WitNit. I feel that these professional helpers are out to earn crust and have no vested interest in your business. Instead, we have found a lot of support from former colleagues, other entrepreneurs and genuinely free helpers, all of whom want to see WitNit work.
So, I intend to blog about our experiences with setting up WitNit (http://www.witnit.co.uk). WitNit is the world’s first online stock exchange for stuff like video games, TVs, computers etc. It is pretty unique in that it offers live and immediate market prices and the ability to pay directly on the site, regardless of the retailer. It will bring a high level of transparency to any market sector in which it operates. At any given moment, it will enable shoppers to buy at the right price and, vice-versa, retailers to sell at the right price. It will bring certainty. It will improve everyone’s experience of buying or selling online.
This all sounds great, then. It is a unique, revenue-generating idea that will appeal to an existing user base (e.g. those who use price comparison sites, Google Products etc) and is very scalable. It has two dedicated and passionate individuals in charge. It is the best thing since sliced bread.
But, SO WHAT?
An idea is not worth much in reality unless it is implemented correctly and is commercially viable. Saying that, ideas represent future potential and without them, well, nothing happens. Crucially, a tech start-up should really be underpinned by an idea that ‘has legs’. In other words, the business has the potential to scale up without radically altering its modus operandi. This is something that founders and investors should be really keen on. Otherwise is it purely a vanity on the part of the founders.
WitNit began life in June 2008 when I came up with idea of transposing the principles of a financial stock exchange over to the world of online shopping. I found the process of buying online frustrating in terms of the time it took to research products, knowing where to buy from and, importantly, what price to pay. A financial stock exchange, however, has no such problems. I discussed the idea with my former flatmate, David. Over the next few months, the idea for WitNit developed and we started to think just how it could be done, technologically-speaking. Roll forward two years and we both spend 100% of our time on building WitNit as brand and platform. No more bosses, watercoolers or ties for us. Then again, no pension, holiday or salary either :).
Next time – business plans, investors and focus…