There are four common ways to start an Internet business:
- The dot-com method: Come up with a revolutionary idea, write up a business plan, get VC money, hire a team of 50 people, burn through your millions in funding, and launch your fully developed website a year later. Lately, there is typically an intermediate step of getting angel money first.
- The bootstrapping / MVP method: Build an MVP — minimum viable product — first. Something that barely does what a customer may need and no more. Launch early and often. Fail as soon as possible. Strongly encouraged by startup icons such as Paul Graham (do read his essays if you haven’t already!).
- The consulting method: Maybe the name of this method is misleading because most consulting will not turn into a startup. But you may be able to get a gig where you need to build a product for a customer and then turn it into something you can sell to other people as well. I’d like to think that one can even find that one customer by oneself first (in which case, however, money is most likely not paid up front to develop the product).
- The 4-Hour Workweek method: This one was made popular to hackers by Timothy Ferriss with his book “The 4-Hour Workweek”: Don’t start with coding, start selling first. Put up a landing page which promotes your product as if it was already done and get some AdWords to drive traffic to that page. If you get people to click that “Sign up” or “Purchase now” button, you know there is demand. Then start developing it.
I don’t believe that any one of these methods is the only right one. It all depends on many factors. Therefore, I’d like to play in all four categories if possible and see how it turns out before settling on one.
Which one is your method? What other startup methods can you think of? Which ones have worked for you or for founders you know?