Starting a new company doesn’t have to take a lot of money, and you don’t have to make the big splash on your first day of operations.
Instead, you can apply these tips from the world of lean business to start small and grow fast.
1: Identify a market need
This may seem obvious, but a large number of grids start up because the founders are looking for something to do, and they simply copy an existing, established model.
You’re not going to find successful by doing something that someone else is already doing, but doing it on a smaller scale. This is especially true of social grids, where the popularity of a grid is a point of attractiveness to new users.
Find a need that isn’t yet being met by the market, or that isn’t being met successfully. If ten other groups have tried and failed to start a lizard breeding grid, it could mean that the demand isn’t there – or it could mean that they simply didn’t do it right.
Don’t waste your time creating a business plan. If you want to get something down on paper, try a lean blueprint as well, such as one you can create using this free tool.
2: Create a minimum viable product
You don’t have to have all the bells and whistles ready to go on day one, as long as you have the key functionality that your users want and can’t get elsewhere.
Kitely, for example, launched its cloud-based grid with only Facebook logins, no currency, no voice, no marketplace, and no hypergrid. But there was a use case for the platform from the first day, and the company steadily added in feature after feature, based on customer demand.
For companies offering other types of products – software, virtual goods, or OpenSim-related services such as hosting – there are even more possibilities when it comes to creating a minimum viable product.
3: Market an offer
It’s not enough to build a grid or software product and then sit back and wait for customers to arrive. You have to package it up in an attractive way, and then market that package.
You might offer discounts to beta customers in return for their feedback and public testimonials, for example. Or a free trial period to the first set of customers. Or unique content.
Then market this offer in as many channels as you can afford. Don’t forget to make maximum use of low-cost and free channels, such as social media, blogs, and hypergate exchanges with other grids.
4: Stop and evaluate
You will have to go out and talk to your customers at this point to find out why they did – or didn’t – decide to buy. The old saying that a military plan never survives first contact with the enemy applies to business as well.
If you’re a technologist who’s scared to talk to customers, find a partner, employee, or volunteer who can do this for you. And you should definitely consider delegation if you’re the kind of person who argues with the customers, trying to prove them wrong.
You’re not going to convince a customer that they should buy a high-end server so that they have maximum uptime if they don’t care about uptime, and do care about saving money.
Take this customer feedback and use it to adjust your offer, or even to rethink your basic product.
The more times you can iterate this process – offer, evaluate, adjust – the faster your company will get to the point where it’s successful.
It will help you move the company into profitable directions, and will help you avoid time-consuming and costly dead ends.
For more information, check out this book, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses or sign up for their free newsletter.