How To Make It as a
First-Time Entrepreneur

How to Make it as a First-Time Entrepreneur

Vinicius Vacanti is co-founder and CEO of Yipit. Next posts on how to acquire users for free and how to raise a Series A. Don’t miss them by subscribing via email or via twitter.

How do you know if your startup idea is the next next big thing?

It’s easy. It isn’t.

Most Great Companies Started With Bad Ideas

Most great companies started off with very different ideas that were either not very good or impractical. Very rarely does a startup actually start with the idea that makes them the next big thing.

Here are just a few examples of successful companies that had very different and troubled initial ideas:

  • Initial idea: Allow groups of people to band together to accomplish a goal called ThePoint
    • Eventually: Groupon
  • Initial idea: HTML5 supported location-based service
    • Eventually: Instagram
  • Initial idea: Web-based massively multiplayer online game called Game Neverending
    • Eventually: Flickr
  • Initial idea: Compare two people’s pictures and rate which one was more attractive
    • Eventually: Facebook
  • Initial idea: People to share photos and get grouped based on locations in an app called Color
    • Eventually: To be determined

At Yipit, our initial idea was a local search site focused on furniture in New York. Today, we are the leading aggregator of daily deals like Groupon, LivingSocial and the 485 others.

What Does This Mean For You?

When you stop expecting that your startup idea has to be the next big thing, you can draw some valuable conclusions:

  • Stop waiting for the perfect idea. The perfect idea isn’t coming. You just have to pick a problem you are passionate about and start working on it. Over time, you will evolve your startup into the next big thing
  • Your idea isn’t the real value, it’s you. The value lies in your ability to learn from potential customers, iterate based on those learnings. Those iterations will determine whether or not your startup will be successful, not the initial idea
  • Don’t worry that your first idea will fall flat. It falls flat for almost everyone. Your idea is based on so many assumptions, it’s bound to be full of issues. Figure out what’s wrong and fix it.
  • Get your prototype out there as soon as you can. Don’t spend six months releasing your first prototype. It’s going to fall flat. Instead, get a prototype into the hands of your potential customers as soon as you can. You need to learn as quickly as possible what’s wrong with the idea so you can fix it.
  • Don’t write a business plan. Within a month, your business plan will be irrelevant. Instead of spending that time writing a business plan, spend it getting your prototype into customers hands.

Your initial startup idea isn’t the next big thing and that’s okay. Just get out there and start working on a big problem that you’re passionate about and you may eventually turn it into the next big thing.

Vinicius Vacanti is co-founder and CEO of Yipit. Next posts on how to acquire users for free and how to raise a Series A. Don’t miss them by subscribing via email or via twitter.

  • http://www.frankdenbow.com Frank Denbow

    Great stuff as always Vin. It is amazing how many companies have turned from their original ideas.

    Can you always put a prototype out as soon as you can, though? I hear this piece of advice a lot but I am not always sure I buy it. In some areas (like mine with music licensing for Songsicle.com) its a bit more complicated, and I am unsure if I should really just put something out before I fully understand the landscape and have agreements in place. Thoughts?

    • http://twitter.com/JoeLallouz Joe Lallouz

      Music is a very tricky place Frank, but regardless, could you see potential pitfalls of getting a prototype out? Even if it serves as a first iteration that you learn from?

      • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

        Thanks Joe and definitely agree.

      • http://www.frankdenbow.com Frank Denbow

        Yea, I can try it out with a limited catalog and see how people react to it. Possibly centered around a certain holiday/event. Thanks for the perspective.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I’m a big believer in “ask for forgiveness, not for permission”. Now, every startup is different but I really believe in getting something out there as soon as you can because, most of the time, it won’t work and I don’t like the idea of spending 6 months lining up agreements for something that won’t work in the end. In this case, I would line up a few agreements, to test out the model.

      • http://www.frankdenbow.com Frank Denbow

        Thanks for the advice. Will take it all in.

  • http://www.frankdenbow.com Frank Denbow

    Great stuff as always Vin. It is amazing how many companies have turned from their original ideas.

    Can you always put a prototype out as soon as you can, though? I hear this piece of advice a lot but I am not always sure I buy it. In some areas (like mine with music licensing for Songsicle.com) its a bit more complicated, and I am unsure if I should really just put something out before I fully understand the landscape and have agreements in place. Thoughts?

    • http://twitter.com/JoeLallouz Joe Lallouz

      Great post Vin.

      Music is a very tricky place Frank, but regardless, could you see potential pitfalls of getting a prototype out? Even if it serves as a first iteration that you learn from?

      • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

        Thanks Joe and definitely agree.

      • http://www.frankdenbow.com Frank Denbow

        Yea, I can try it out with a limited catalog and see how people react to it. Possibly centered around a certain holiday/event. Thanks for the perspective.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I’m a big believer in “ask for forgiveness, not for permission”. Now, every startup is different but I really believe in getting something out there as soon as you can because, most of the time, it won’t work and I don’t like the idea of spending 6 months lining up agreements for something that won’t work in the end. In this case, I would line up a few agreements, to test out the model.

      • http://www.frankdenbow.com Frank Denbow

        Thanks for the advice. Will take it all in.

  • http://twitter.com/aacolman aaron colman

    Stop waiting for the perfect product – agreed. Just make sure the problem is an actual problem for other people as well as yourself.

    Don’t worry that your first idea will fall flat – “Figure out what’s wrong and fix it” – with both the product and yourself. And i would add to make sure that you understand the true meaning of execution.

    Get your prototype out there as soon as you can – Well said!

    Don’t write a business plan – I agree that a business plan is irrelevant but not having anything is no better. There needs to be an hypothesis and quick and simple pitch. I believe that a method of how feedback will be evaluated is key as well as an entry point plan. But, i aree with the overall point that you are making – your business plan will change almost daily.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks for the comment. You definitely need a simple pitch / hypothesis but, the 60-page business plan, is a waste of time.

  • http://twitter.com/aacolman Aaron Colman

    Stop waiting for the perfect product – agreed. Just make sure the problem is an actual problem for other people as well as yourself.

    Don’t worry that your first idea will fall flat – “Figure out what’s wrong and fix it” – with both the product and yourself. And i would add to make sure that you understand the true meaning of execution.

    Get your prototype out there as soon as you can – Well said!

    Don’t write a business plan – I agree that a business plan is irrelevant but not having anything is no better. There needs to be an hypothesis and quick and simple pitch. I believe that a method of how feedback will be evaluated is key as well as an entry point plan. But, i aree with the overall point that you are making – your business plan will change almost daily.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks for the comment. You definitely need a simple pitch / hypothesis but, the 60-page business plan, is a waste of time.

  • http://www.marketing.fm Anonymous

    Teams over ideas. Execution seems to win every time. I think you can safely use the previous experience and execution of a person or team in the past to make an educated guess about the future but not necessarily. Great post.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I feel like every week, I lean farther and farther towards teams and away from ideas.

  • http://www.marketing.fm Anonymous

    Teams over ideas. Execution seems to win every time. I think you can safely use the previous experience and execution of a person or team in the past to make an educated guess about the future but not necessarily. Great post.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I feel like every week, I lean farther and farther towards teams and away from ideas.

  • http://reecepacheco.com reecepacheco

    great post Vin and i agree entirely, however, it’s worth noting that i still think you need to be excited about your idea.

    your first idea is the one that gets you off the couch (or out of your Wall St. job ;) to get started, but when that changes, you still need to be totally amped about the new idea otherwise it could easily become a drag…

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Yeah, that’s why I always recommend people start with problem they are passionate about. But, I do think people should also be passionate about starting a company in general or else they will get dragged down by all the other things you need to do.

      • http://reecepacheco.com reecepacheco

        exactly… the founding ceo needs to be excited about building a team.
        practically a requirement of the job, i think.
        *
        *
        *
        *
        *::* @reecepacheco
        *:: like cool video? sign up for our alpha! shelby.tv*

  • http://reecepacheco.com reecepacheco

    great post Vin and i agree entirely, however, it’s worth noting that i still think you need to be excited about your idea.

    your first idea is the one that gets you off the couch (or out of your Wall St. job ;) to get started, but when that changes, you still need to be totally amped about the new idea otherwise it could easily become a drag…

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Yeah, that’s why I always recommend people start with problem they are passionate about. But, I do think people should also be passionate about starting a company in general or else they will get dragged down by all the other things you need to do.

      • http://reecepacheco.com reecepacheco

        exactly… the founding ceo needs to be excited about building a team.
        practically a requirement of the job, i think.
        *
        *
        *
        *
        *::* @reecepacheco
        *:: like cool video? sign up for our alpha! shelby.tv*

  • jack

    this is really just anecdotal evidence; do you have any data to support this?

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      no

    • John

      haha… good luck Jack! Have fun waiting for your big idea to come while the lean startup believers are out building companies.

  • jack

    this is really just anecdotal evidence; do you have any data to support this?

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      no

    • John

      haha… good luck Jack! Have fun waiting for your big idea to come while the lean startup believers are out building companies.

  • Beth Ferreira

    Great post, Vin. I think its key that you need to be able to scrap what is not working, despite time/money investment as quickly as possible and move forward. That is the tough part for most people/companies.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Hardest decision.

  • Beth Ferreira

    Great post, Vin. I think its key that you need to be able to scrap what is not working, despite time/money investment as quickly as possible and move forward. That is the tough part for most people/companies.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Hardest decision.

  • http://twitter.com/ManuelRdgz Manuel

    Absolutely great and motivating article…in other words….stop thinking and just get out there and do it! Love it!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      That’e exactly right.

  • http://twitter.com/ManuelRdgz Manuel

    Absolutely great and motivating article…in other words….stop thinking and just get out there and do it! Love it!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      That’e exactly right.

  • Anonymous

    Dude this makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Wow.

    http://www.how-to-be-anon.at.tc

  • http://twitter.com/JoelValdez Joel Valdez

    The problem comes when you don’t really get any idea. None, cero, finito.

    • http://twitter.com/Jose_GD José González DAmico

       Or you have the idea but you’re not convinced of its feasibility

  • http://twitter.com/JoelValdez Joel Valdez

    The problem comes when you don’t really get any idea. None, cero, finito.

    • http://twitter.com/Jose_GD José González DAmico

       Or you have the idea but you’re not convinced of its feasibility

  • http://twitter.com/dealshelve Dealshelve

    Thanks for the sharing, Vin. I am glad you mentioned how important it is to get the prototype quickly to users. We are working exactly in that direction to “fall flat”!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      The faster the better. We released Yipit in 3 days.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the sharing, Vin. I am glad you mentioned how important it is to get the prototype quickly to users. We are working exactly in that direction to “fall flat”!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      The faster the better. We released Yipit in 3 days.

  • Jason Wallace

    I art and creating the “first idea” is the warm UP. I was taught that the “first idea” is what everyone would come up with. Working past the “first idea” is essential to getting to somewhere unique. The process is where you develop your own style, interest and passion. Solve a problem in the most original way.

    Great piece Vin. Working past Good and getting to Great!

  • Jason Wallace

    I art and creating the “first idea” is the warm UP. I was taught that the “first idea” is what everyone would come up with. Working past the “first idea” is essential to getting to somewhere unique. The process is where you develop your own style, interest and passion. Solve a problem in the most original way.

    Great piece Vin. Working past Good and getting to Great!

  • http://technbiz.blogspot.com paramendra

    Congrats on being “the leading aggregator of daily deals.” I remember the furniture business. :-)

  • http://technbiz.blogspot.com paramendra

    Congrats on being “the leading aggregator of daily deals.” I remember the furniture business. :-)

  • Scott

    Vinny, I just sent you an e-mail!!  I hope you take the time to read and digest it!!  I know several members of your extended family, your dad, and half sister, and I think you will be interested in what I have written!! Again, congratulations, and best of luck!!  Regards, Scott Harrison 

  • Mário Ferreira

    Great!

  • Daddyt

    love your article but it has one  ”small” problem…dropbox. they had a good idea from day one, they built it and it works. there are always exceptions..

  • http://kiranatama.com/ Agus H@kiranatama

    Great creative idea builder. Finding ideas to fuel your motivation to
    build a business is definitely fundamental. No better place to start
    than in your own house! Cant find ideas there? Then broaden your
    perimiter