Finding an idea. Choosing from a gazillion seemingly good ideas. Finally settling on a reasonable idea, becoming very enthusiastic, then having all that enthusiasm blown away again by a little market research. Rediscovering the enthusiasm after realizing there's an area of the market where our product would fit. Getting started on the technical bits and realizing that the problem was way, way more difficult than you initially imagined. Thinking you don't need an office because you can work from the library, then discovering that there's wifi interference and a terrible 3G signal making it impossible. Bunking up with your startup-partner-in-crime for two weeks in a very tiny room with a worse-than-average internet connection. This is my life.
Or rather, this has been my life for the past two weeks. I'm still feeling uncomfortable while in the 'idea' phase of the whatever-it-is-that-we're-going-to-do, but I guess that's to be expected. A lot of startup articles talk about how talk is cheap, ideas are cheaper and what really matters is that you build stuff. I can't help but think it's the opposite. I've seen and read about dozens of startups, either successful or not, and I'm fascinated by how startups decide on their idea. Paul Graham talks a lot about how Y-combinator invests in people, not ideas, and I can totally see that. In our case though, we're doing this on our own, and we're in charge of our idea.
It's a tricky business, deciding on an idea, but that did not surprise me. What did surprise me is how much time we're spending on homing on an implementation of an idea. Icky questions such as what audience do you target come to mind. Targeting a large audience sounds existing from a development point of view as you get to make something big and generic, which is usually fun to program. But from a business point of view it means competing with tons of existing companies, meaning you'll have to be a lot more competitive. On the other end of the spectrum you could have a product that's targeted towards a very small audience (eg. one-legged midgets from Lithuania) but that won't get you a lot of customers. Balance is the key, as always.
One thing I don't like about the online startup cult is how it always tells you to 'fail fast'. Some people seem to take this as an absolute rule, but I think there's exceptions. Sure, if you've got five ideas you're all reasonably (but not massively) excited about, it makes sense to get your minimum viable product out there for the first one, give up as soon as you get the first indication that it wouldn't work and then move on to the next idea. Do this a couple of times and you'll be called a 'serial entrepreneur' as if it was a title of importance. I'd much rather have an idea I believe in so strongly that I would try variation upon variation of it until I succeeded. I do realize that not all ideas lend themselves to this though. It will be interesting to find out what kind of idea ours will turn out to be. (I'll save the reveal of the actual idea for a post that is a bit less meta about startups).
We've arranged for office space. The skeleton of our app is set up, but completely empty. We have a plan to monetize our idea and test our assumptions of why it's a good idea. We're all set. The fun begins tomorrow!