We get a lot of inquiries from people with big ideas who want to transform those ideas into a startup company. I think we probably get more of these inquiries than some of our competitors because we’re still sort of in start-up mode ourselves, even after four years of grinding. People look at us and think, “Hell, if these kids can pull off bootstrapping a business, I’ll be a millionaire overnight cause my idea is amazing!”
Here’s the thing: ideas are 100% worthless without the key components I’m about to lay out. “Ouch, Jeff, that’s harsh.” Yes it is, and it is also long overdue to be said.
The idea/product/service must have an audience and meet a need, but here are the requirements for a successful startup that are talked about far less…
Money. Tenacity. Savvy.
The good news is that you only need two of those. JCM has worked with a large handful of startups. Most have failed, even with a good idea, because the founders only had one of the three.
With savvy and tenacity, you can mostly self-fund. This was the JCM route, bootstrapping, and it requires total and utter commitment, to the point where you will have no life outside work for at least five years. My business partner, Mark, currently has a day job because that’s what works best for both him and our business at this time. But we still work together on JCM stuff daily. He is still 100% involved in JCM, despite his obligations. That’s tenacity. You can’t “learn” tenacity.
With the right amount of money and tenacity, you can hire the savvy. A funded startup can bring in a CEO or CTO and some programmers step up the product game.
With money and savvy, this is probably the least ideal combo to me (the ideal startup founders are tenacious to a fault), but it can work. Tech savvy founders in a funded startup can hire sales people to bring the tenacity, but in this combo, the money has to be substantial because breakeven sales is the hardest and longest part of the process with a new product or service. And killers sales people are even harder to find than killer developers.
When I see an early stage startup where all the founders are just tech guys, I think, “Ok maybe….” When I see a startup with a tech guy and a sales guy at the helm, or even better when all of the founders are both savvy and tenacious, that’s when I start placing my bets on their success.