Juan Uys

Startup Day #6 — Doubts and hamsters


Last week I put my Turk to work and started ticking some things off of the to-do list. Some “allowed” distractions set in, since I wanted to see how I felt after a whole weekend away from my startup

Distractions and doubts


One idle moment was filled scanning the Marketing section at Foyles. All this new information is daunting, and can be demotivating. In keeping with the “Learn things relevant to your venture, where it matters” from Day #1, I wondered if it was really necessary to become the next Seth Godin overnight.

The answer is No. 80/20 came to mind: do (or, in my case, learn) the 20% that delivers 80% effect. On the other hand, if I was to sell a product geared toward marketers, it would be a whole different ballgame.


Chapter 2 of Rob’s book discusses niches. Finding your niche is the first step. I already had an idea which the Turk was validating for me, but I took the chapter onboard. Niche ideas are really cheap and in abundance, and it would be dead easy to start a business every week for the next few months.

I’m easily distracted, and a good idea can occupy my brain for hours, but I run the risk of doing either of the following:

  • Confuse matters. Solve a problem and solve it simply, but solve it well: Coat hangers was a good idea, and so was Monopoly™. Monopoly™-themed coat hangers? A hanger for your game once you’re done playing? I don’t think so. Developers: Don’t add any unnecessary features just because it’s cool.

Hamsters are fragile. Trust me; I know.

  • Doing something you’re not an expert at. OK, so “hamster burial kits”, right? Genius! Every kid has a hamster, and all hamsters eventually… have accidents. You can get little willow urns in bulk from Alibaba, bundle it with a softly worded eulogy and even throw in a little bio-degradable gravestone. Actually, I’m supposed to play devil’s advocate on this one and say something like “but, I’m no hamster expert”. I can’t. This idea reigns supreme.

Doubts and distractions, to mention only a few. Serial bootstrappers everywhere says it gets easier: “Just keep at it. Fail fast, learn the lesson, and recover quickly”. I have my goals on a poster on my wall. Also some small inspirational tidbits. And you know what? This IS actually fun :-)

What did the Turk say?

It turns out my idea is not a good one. So says a small sample of my fellow Brits and our friends from across the pond. Surprisingly, my idea was also implemented by a handful of hackers at a “Startup Weekend” in The Valley a few months ago.

However, their site is down and I can only guess that they put product before market – a no-no in the startup world. Besides, I think “geo” and “social” has been done, and the market is too big and competitive. I established early on that I want this venture to be small and self-funded, and whipping up the next FourSquare is not the way forward.

Now what?

I repeat the cycle: find a niche, test the market, etc. I’ve also decided that I’d rather sell hosted software than a physical product. With “hamster burial kits”, you need to deal with returns; you need to buy stock; you need to compile the bundles and dispatch it.

Centrally hosted software can easily be upgraded and fixed. If a feature is troublesome, just remove it. More importantly: software is my forté. And after years of writing it, I know when a software product is “good enough”.

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