Advice for your first Startup

The Reddit user Robinhood93 appears to be a student at a university. In a recent question he posted on Reddit he asks advice about the startup his university team is starting as part of their project. This makes me feel that you are a business student.

Robin, I feel you! I read through your whole post which can be found here – Your team has some interesting ideas, some of them could be really viable too.

What I noticed is that you have lots of assumptions going on. For example:

In the importing luxury goods from China idea, you assume that people and especially students would like to get their hands on these products, that they don’t really know about, or they know about but cannot find them somewhere, as there is no retailer who sells them in the UK. You go even further and you assume that personalising such products (e.g. the phone cases) to a brand, you can sell it to universities and private companies.

Now I will try to work out an advice for you. In my advice I will try to include some things that you may have not thought about yet.

My first piece of advice for you and your team before you spend more time developing business models, marketing plans, business plans and all this work that I assume you must deliver for your course, take your assumptions, figure out the problem you want to solve, and your demographic. DO NOT CONCLUDE TO A SOLUTION!

The key point here is that you are going to create a small questionnaire, maybe 3-4 questions, which yourself and your team will use to ask random people (probably students at uni) to answer your questions. For every answer to every question you get make sure that you ask as many “Whys” as possible (5 are recommended) – WHY – WHY – WHY – WHY – WHY. Don’t try to answer the questions yourselves, try to see the body language of the people you interview, try to get answers that are going to help you validate your assumptions.

After you do that, gather your team and throw ideas on the table. This is probably going to help you come up with some freaking amazing ideas, some grounded, some blue sky and some may be stratospheric! Put them down and then choose the one you as a team feel is the best, more feasible (with your resources), and more viable (people are going to actually pay for it).

The process I describe above is a very small part of what the Lean Start-up, written by Eric Ries co-founder of IMVU, suggests you to do. Your university library should probably have a copy of the book, if you want to be an entrepreneur now or at some point, Lean Start-up is a must read book. Using the techniques in this book, start-ups like Groupmates are creating products, using as little resources as possible. As you mention in your post, you are going to provide the start-up capital, so make sure you don’t spend too much.

Furthermore, the process I describe is actually a small part, of a specific part, of the Lean Start-up way of thinking, it is part of the Design Thinking, which I suggest you explore during your assignment.

The reason I suggest you follow the above process it is because you cannot know if any of your business ideas will actually work, no-one does. If you figure this out and then learn how to pivot (see the pivot video, it’ll help you), you will be able to use it as part of your business plan.

Please let me know with a comment bellow if my answer makes sense or ask me any further questions. I hope it helps you with your assignment. You can also hit me on Twitter @tdalis or hit my start-up’s Twitter @Groupmates_UK

If you are wondering what Groupmates is:

Groupmates aims to improve the communications for both students and lecturers and to enhance their experience of collaborative work at university.

Visit – if you want an invitation to create an account on Groupmates ask me for it on Twitter, or by a comment bellow and I’ll invite you to use Groupmates. You can use Groupmates to work on this project with the team of 10 you’re having guys. You can use it for free and all we ask for is some feedback 🙂



3 thoughts on “Advice for your first Startup

  1. Hi – original poster here. Thanks for the feedback, just had a quick flick through but will properly go through it with the team on Friday. I am in fact a marketing student, so research is my forte. Granted, our approach to this was very quick and not based on a whole lot of research – we still haven’t approached this yet. We aim to start researching next week, splitting of into segments – I’ll be handling the b2b side of things. As I say, we had the intention of conducting research but I can see from what you’ve written that our approach to design and development was not in the best order that it could have been. We tried to think of problems that students have, and yes, based our ideas on assumptions taken from our own experiences and applied to the rest of the market.

    I will be sharing your advice with the team, so that we can implement this approach. I’ll also be looking for the book you recommend in our Library at some point tomorrow – I think I may have also had it suggested to me in the past. I will definitely take into account your advice on qualitative research, with regard to getting in depth information.

    I’d be very glad to use groupmates, if you’d be able to provide me with an invitation. I’ll be sure to provide some feedback on our experience when we get to the end of the project, and I’ll make sure to keep you updated on the business as we progress.

    Thanks again!


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