Where can you get some help? The most successful ideas always benefit from some!
The idea of the lone entrepreneur changing the world single handed as they start a startup is a common one, but often is a myth stemming from the too often spun tale of an individual having a bright idea in the bath, or the shed, and then relentlessly pursuing it to the point of success.
Often ideas are conceived by one person but, however rarely can one person do and know everything necessary to make success of an idea. Sooner rather than later they need the advice, input or skills of others to help turn an idea into reality. So the sooner you can start to work out what you need to add to the mix of skills and experience you already have the quicker you will be able to develop the idea successfully.
But remember to be clear about what claim to the idea they might gain as a result of their contributions: is it free advice, free time, or is the expectation that there will be a return in some kind.
Sounding Board – To start off with it can be extraordinarily useful to have a few people, whose experiences complement one another that you can work with as a sounding board to work through ideas and plans to get a second pair of eyes (or another person’s grey matter) on your idea. This will help refine your ideas, and point out any oversights or areas which require more thought. It may be that at various points in the development of your idea you sanity check how things are going, and what you might be overlooking.
The kind of people that might be useful for this are people you trust to provide helpful insights and ask difficult and challenging questions about your idea. They might be co-creators, peers, or mentors. Mentors often come in the form of a business owner, a business coach, a lawyer, university administrator, or supervisor – people who have had previous start-up experience or who work alongside start-ups. Once you have sanity checked your idea one of the first thing you need to do is to work our exactly what specific skills and expertise that will help protect, strengthen or develop your business idea.
Your mentors and sounding board may also be useful in helping to shape a clear idea of what is needed next, they may also be able to point in the direction of the help you need.
People power – You will soon realise that you probably need extra thinking power, or effort, or time to develop your idea and explore it in more detail. This means getting a team around you who believe in your idea and approach, but who also bring something additional to the team (such as skills in marketing, coding, product development, an industry or sector knowledge, or just simply friends with some spare time and enthusiasm.
Professional Advice – Your idea will soon enough get to the point where it needs some professional advice from lawyers, patent agents, regulatory experts, or marketing experts. You may think that might start to rack up the bills. It is worth reading online resources, often produced by professional advisers, or attending training and networking events. These should give you all sorts of pointers and tips, connections and questions which to explore further, or give you a sense if your idea is doomed to failure, if you are bound to fail it is best to fail fast, and limit the effort and goodwill that might be wasted on this idea. It may even mean you can find innovation-friendly professional advisers who may be willing to give a little free advice, often with the hope that if your idea takes off they might be your chosen advisers when you start to have money to pay the bills.
Dr Stuart Wilkinson is the Head of the Knowledge Exchange and Impact Team (KEIT) in Research Services, at the University of Oxford. He is a technology & knowledge transfer professional, experienced in working with world class researchers to take new ideas and innovations into a commercial setting; and in developing strategic partnerships and collaborations to enable innovation to have a greater impact.