How do you get started on your startup without a cofounder, a team, or funding?

So during this whole pandemic thing, people are starting new things. And I’ve talked to quite a few folks who have been inspired to start new startups. But given that finding cofounders, team members, funding, and practically anything that doesn’t involve just you is exceptionally difficult while we’re all in isolation, starting a startup can be even more difficult than it used to be.

Personally, I’ve started a few things too. I’ve tried to take the time that I would usually be sitting in coffee meetings with folks and turn that into content creation time. Most of this effort has been focused on community content centered on PIE. But I’ve also run a couple of Q&A sessions about the Portland startup community and startups in general that I’ve really enjoyed. Because the questions have been awesome.

Problem is that they’re long. Really really long. And so I had an idea.

What if I took those really long segments and chopped them up into bite sized pieces of content? So that you didn’t have to sit through the entire session to get to the question you wanted answered. Or so you could more easily find the actual content you needed. So I’m mucking around with that.

And it seemed to be best to start with one of the questions that I get all of the time…

I have an idea for a SaaS product, but I have no idea how to get team members on board without a business plan or funding. But I need a team to work out a business plan and get funding. I don’t know what to do. How do you take an idea and start to get the ball rolling? What are the infancy steps?

So this is a classic place where a lot of founders get stuck. You have a vision for where you want to go and what you want the company to be. You understand how the world is a better place once your product actually exists. But it’s really hard to figure out what that first step is.

What I always encourage founders to do when they’re kind of stuck at this point is to think about things they can do that don’t require them to build any technology right now. Or do any production or or any of that kind of stuff. So think about ways that you can effectively attract and engage with the community or market you’re seeking. But that doesn’t require a product to exist or a production facility or code or any of that kind of stuff. So use things that have already been developed.

So what do I mean by that? I know all kinds of SaaS companies that started as a successful newsletter. You don’t need to build anything to get people signed up for a newsletter. You can pretty much use an out of the box solution, start attracting your market, start creating content, and and start that conversation with your market.

So something like that. Or a Google group. Or a Slack instance. Or a Twitter account. Or an Instagram account.

Think of something that you enjoy doing — that helps you communicate to the market, the way you you enjoy communicating — and that is somewhere where your market exists. And just start there because that’s a really good way to a demonstrate traction.

If I’m an accelerator or investor, and you demonstrate to me that you’ve been able to, you know, create a newsletter that has 10,000 subscribers over a very short period of time, then I believe that you understand the market. And you understand the offering that could be beneficial to that market.

So that’s traction.

To me, if you develop a following on Instagram or YouTube or something like that, that is demonstrating traction. Not only does that demonstrate traction for the potential of funding, but there’s a very high likelihood that those other people that you want or need to be participants in your business will also be attracted to that entity you’ve created or that account that you’ve created.

I can think of any number of PIE companies that have done very well on YouTube or Instagram or those kind of things. And folks have then approached them saying, “How can I help you with your business?” or “How can I contribute?”

I think specifically of Sylvia Salazar of Tono Latino. She did a really good job with that building the Tono Latino following, just hit 10,000 Instagram followers. People would reach out to her and say, “I like what you’re doing. How can I participate? How can I be part of the team?”

So do something that says that you can do without needing a product. Obviously you’re eventually going to want to build the product. But most important is is having the community or the market that’s ready.

Hopefully that helps. If you’d like to see more of this experiment, please feel free to subscribe to my personal channel on YouTube.