There are seemingly countless stories of tech innovators who simply woke up with a brilliant idea, got investments to build it out, and ended up becoming billionaires. Of course, these stories are extremely rare, but they are exciting to think about—especially when you wake up with a brilliant tech idea of your own.
You don’t need much experience in the tech field to have a good tech idea. For example, you could have come up with the idea for Uber without an in-depth knowledge of how to build it out, or you could have come up with the idea for eBay with just a passing knowledge of how auctions work.
So let’s say you do come up with a great tech idea and you want to share it with the world. Should you let it go, assuming it’s either already been done or isn’t possible to do, or should you take some steps to see that idea to fruition?
The High-Level View
First, there are a few points you’ll need to address:
- You don’t need a tech background to come up with a solid idea. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t know how to code, or if you’re unfamiliar with hardware and software basics. If your idea is strong enough and you have sufficient funding, you can always pay a team of tech experts to build the product on your behalf. In fact, this might be necessary even if you do have the technical expertise.
- A solid idea isn’t enough to build a good business. You should also be prepared for the reality that merely having a good idea, or even a great product, isn’t enough to have a successful business. For example, if you make a free app that everyone loves to use, but you’re not able to host advertising or charge money for downloading it, you might not be able to make a sustainable profit.
- Businesses are hard to start. Starting a business is a complicated process and one that could take you months from start to finish. On top of that, it takes countless working hours to grow a business from its infancy to its final form. Reviewing a checklist of the steps necessary to start a business can help you set realistic expectations here.
- Most businesses fail. More than half of businesses fail within the first five years of development, and you need to be prepared for that. Even with a great idea, a great product, and a solid business model and team to back you, it’s possible that your business will still fail.
If you accept the realities of business creation and development, you can start tinkering with your idea to see if it’s truly feasible as a startup.
Your first job is to run a competitive analysis. There are already thousands, if not millions of apps and programs in circulation, many of which aren’t heavily publicized. You may find that your brilliant idea was already considered by someone with more time and resources than you had. It’s not a pleasant thing to find out, but at least you won’t waste your time developing something that already exists.
If you do find that your idea has already been taken, all hope is not lost. You can still create a business if you’re able to develop a variation of that idea that distinguishes your work in some way. For example, you may be able to offer it better, cheaper, faster, or in a way that caters to different demographics. If you take this angle, you’ll need to delve even deeper into the competitive analysis. Look for other apps in the same industry to get a feel for how they operate, how profitable they are, and whether they could be improved.
At this point, your tech idea is less of an innovation and more of a competitive business model.
If your idea already exists in some way, you’ll already have evidence that the technology can be built. If your idea seems to be new, your next job will be to determine the technical feasibility of your idea. Your app might sound good on paper, but can it be created in a cost-efficient or reasonable way?
This may be a hard question to answer if you don’t have much firsthand experience in the tech field. Fortunately, there are a few approaches you can use to make this determination. If you have the time and inclination, you could research the possible development options yourself, learning about different technologies and potential limitations for development. However, it may be more efficient to talk to someone in the field. A software developer or engineer would be able to say with confidence how feasible your idea is to develop, and may be able to point out the biggest challenges.
Let’s assume your tech idea can be feasibly developed. Does it have a chance to make you money?
Depending on what kind of tech you’re developing, there are several potential options here. If you create something for enterprises, you can charge businesses to use your tech either on a per-product or in a subscription model. If you’re creating consumer-facing software, you can sell individual licenses for that software, or offer it for free while partnering with other businesses for advertisements or affiliate links.
Consider the possibilities, but make sure to ground your expectations with real data. Would your target demographics be willing to pay these prices?
The Business Plan (and Lots of Research)
After you have sufficient information to feel confident in the feasibility of your idea, you can start creating a business plan. Your business plan will cover several areas, including the unique value proposition of your business, your vision and mission, your market analysis, your competitive analysis, and of course, a financial forecast. Try to be as objective and research-focused as possible while drafting this document.
Your business plan will serve many purposes, giving you a chance to identify key areas of weakness or threats that you’ll need to proactively plan for. It will also serve as a blueprint to guide your business development in the early stages, and will serve as valuable pitching material when it comes time to attract funding.
No matter how much you’re willing to do the work by yourself, it’s nearly impossible to start a tech company as a solo entrepreneur. After you have a business plan, consider shopping around for talent. You may wish to partner with someone who has significant tech experience, or hire team members one on one to form your development team. The options are practically limitless, but the bottom-line goal is always the same: gather the right partners and employees to build your tech as efficiently as possible. You may not be able to hire these people right away, but you can at least build a network of contacts and interested parties so you can start moving quicker when the funding comes in.
If you’re going to pay people to develop your product or hit the ground running with your marketing campaign, you’ll need to have significant initial funding. How you get that funding depends on your goals; angel investors and venture capitalists are typical options, but you could also pursue crowdfunding if you’re creating something tangible, or self-fund if you’re willing to take out a loan.
If you’re going to attract funding, you’ll need to have a solid pitch, but hopefully, after following all these steps, you’ll have a strong business plan backed with research to prove your idea’s worth investing in.
It’s incredibly challenging to take an idea from mere brainstorming to become a feasible startup—even if that idea is amazing. Even good ideas can make for bad businesses, and even good businesses fail.
That said, if you truly believe in your idea, if you’re willing to improve it, and if you’re willing to put in the effort to create a strong startup from scratch, you may be able to run your own business in the tech world.