How can you know if a startup concept is sound?

alex beller ‏@bellsaucy: how can you know if a startup concept is sound?


All startups are bad. I’m banning the word “startup” from the English language. This is not a criticism. I know why people use the word. But what is a “startup”? It’s somehow a shortened version of a “business that is starting”. But nobody would call a new gas station a startup. They only call technology companies startups. There’s something sexy about the word “startup”. Like if you meet a girl on a plane and you want conversation you say, “I’m doing a startup”. As opposed to “I just opened up a laundromat with a piano in the middle of the room that all the people doing laundry can play.”

Why don’t people call startups the same thing they’ve called it for the past 5000 years. A business. What does a business do? Believe it or not, every business helps people achieve some goal or some vision of happiness. Even if they have to create (like Coca-Cola is so successful at) what that vision is.

WHAT? Aren’t businesses evil? Unless they figure out a way to hang up photos on a web page from your phone and geo-tag them and collaboratively filter and recommend other photos from people of the opposite sex that might be in a half mile radius of you?

I’ll give you just my experience from some successes and failures. I started Reset, Inc. in 1995 to build websites for companies. Nobody had websites then. I knew I was helping people fulfill a great need. I started in 2007 because I knew people wanted bulk investing ideas without all the lying BS that comes with traditional financial media (the headlines: GREECE WORRIES! OIL PLUNGES!, etc).

I started because I thought people on twitter wanted to love each other and that if they can see each other’s tweets it would help them. Was I wrong! When people want to be in love there’s an instinctive shyness that kicks in first and the lack of anonymity ruined my site. After spending $40,000 of my own hard-earned money, why didn’t I realize this first?

So how do you know it a new business idea is good? Ask yourself: would I use this? Ask others, would you use it? Create an image of it. Do people want to click on it even if the buttons are still rendered useless or unsanitary (and yes, buttons on the virtual web can be unsanitary).

Always start off the day saying “I’m going to save a life”. Can your business really save a life or make someone’s life better. If so, then it’s good. If you build it and users come and say “this is great!” almost from day one, then the idea is good. If they don’t say that, then the idea is bad. You have to have the guts and the courage to shut it down.

Starting a business is easy. Shutting it down requires courage. But shutting it down gets you down to the business of life once again: saving yourself, saving others. Start doing it. Again.