Matching Technology With Your Business Growth: Mentors, Crowdsourcing & Crowdfunding
It all starts from an idea. Every human endeavour begins with a simple idea, and starting a business is no different. Today’s entrepreneurs follow through with their ideas by testing them in the marketplace and taking calculated risks along the way. The journey from an idea to successful business is a long, hard and (potentially) rewarding experience. Technology can help you achieve business success, and by matching the right technology with your business needs throughout that journey, you’re giving yourself a much better chance at achieving success.
There are many paths you can take to get from an idea stage to a viable business model, but here are a couple of steps to consider taking that will help you get there:
1) Get a mentor
During the early months of a startup, entrepreneurs may find themselves operating based on gut instinct. Their passion for the product or service they’re offering often clouds their judgment and they are unable to predict if a substantial amount of real customers will purchase their products.
Mentors can play a valuable support role for entrepreneurs by teaching them how to test and validate their assumptions by breaking down complex ideas into simple steps and by coming at problems from different angles. They can also provide introductions to customers, suppliers and investors throughout the development of a business idea.
If you don’t have an appropriate mentor, you can check with your alumni database, attend business and social events, use social media, or ask family and friends for introductions to potential mentors. For example, in university, while operating a small home-based recording studio, I actively solicited opinions on my audio recordings and mixes from an audio engineer from Cincinnati that I met online. His input was invaluable, and he helped my personal development as a music producer. E-mail, texting and social media are great ways to stay connected with your mentors if they live in another city or if you can’t schedule face-to-face meetings.
2) Crowdsource & crowdfund your business idea
One of the most helpful online trends among entrepreneurs is crowdsourcing – or reaching out to a large group of people to tap into knowledge, ideas, and creative work. Crowdsourcing initiatives are a popular medium for new idea generation. Online communities can help contribute new product ideas and vote on other’s ideas, and this can help you decide which ideas to implement. You can also turn to the crowd to bankroll your startup – crowdfunding is a funding method where an online crowd or community funds projects posted online.
Having this type of intimate market research with potential customers by just suggesting a product idea has traditionally been beyond the reach of most businesses. Technology has opened up this great opportunity for entrepreneurs in recent years, and many Canadian entrepreneurs have successfully used online crowds to develop and fund their business ideas. For example, technology has enabled entrepreneurs to quickly and easily build websites that detail their ideas and utilize services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to get started with crowdfunding and crowdsourcing.
The bottom line
Following an idea through is the essence of every entrepreneurial experience, but sometimes it’s best to reach out for help. Finding the right mentor can help founders test their assumptions, break down complex issues and provide introductions to key contacts. Crowdsourcing can provide early research on the marketability of a product to potential customers and gain online influence, recognition and press well before a product is developed.
As an entrepreneur, what kinds of online services have you found useful to build and test the marketability of your business ideas? Let us know via the comments section below.