Over a year ago I was driving down the road when an idea hit me. I was on a long 8 hour drive to South Carolina beginning to get bored when I thought… why hasn’t anyone made driving a game yet? My mind began to race and I thought of all these achievements drivers could accomplish for real world results. How they would be tracked, who could use it, it all seemed to fall into place effortlessly.
Upon returning home I put together a Pitch Deck outlining my idea and I began to ask anyone whom I respected around town to sit down with me and listen. And oddly enough… no one told me I was crazy. While the idea never took came to fruition for a number of reasons. Primarily due to competitors who already had the software and hardware but not quite the “Aha!” moment yet there are three things taken from this experience that anyone giving their first pitch should know.
Ask Consumers If They’d Use It
One of the first and most important steps in starting a business is to validate your idea. This can be done a number of ways but you need to have a large group of people who will openly state that they would use and enjoy your product before you actually make it. This ensures that when you do finally launch an Minimum Viable Product (MVP) you have people lined up waiting to test your product and provide feedback.
One step further in this process is to actually go out and presell your idea to customers. Sadly, when you put someone on the spot and ask them if they would use your great, brand new, world changing product they are most likely going to say yet. Sadly, if you then ask them to pull their wallets out and give you the first months payment they will all of a sudden have some objections. While this is the more challenging of the paths if you have the chops for it and your idea truly does add value you’ll find people are actually willing to pay upfront.
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is essentially an agreement you make with someone stating that they cannot discuss anything you cover with anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, there are MANY MANY times that an NDA is extremely valuable and necessary. Times when you sharing sensitive marketing or financial data an NDA should be required. However at this point when your idea is in such an early stage.. not so much.
Beware of web site and services that will offer you a “basic” NDA template for $20, or for a small monthly service fee and cancel anytime. These broad strokes NDAs usually are not specific enough to be held up in court and generally do not cover anything. Investors and entrepreneurs who have been around long enough will actually take offense to this and it may hurt your relationship moving forward. Also, honestly there are very few people in this world who you could present to who would immediately stop whatever they have going in life and attempt to take your idea. I’m not saying it would never happen. But chances are slim… very slim.
When going down this road. Even before your first meeting. You must have some sort of an idea as to what your idea would cost to implement. If the idea is totally software based most of the time you can meet with coders and developers for a free consultation and get a timeline and a quote. If your idea involves a hardware element you might have to get on the phone and speak with some manufacturers. Can it be outsourced to cut costs? All of these are things you might not need hard numbers on, but you sure need a rough idea.
When you have that “Aha!” moment and an idea comes to you put it on paper. Organize it, gain all the needed information, and make it look good and start sharing. Odds are no one will take your idea, someone will offer to help, and you might learn more than you expected on the journey itself.