In his new book, Smart People Should Build Things (HarperBusiness, 2014), the "recovering lawyer" and founder of Venture for America Andrew Yang offers up his opinion on how our country can rectify our current economic problems – have smart people build things. His book delves into an innovative model on how entrepreneurs and our youth can launch small businesses and revolutionize industries. Yang also touches on what policy makers and individuals looking for jobs should do to ensure entrepreneurship is both attainable and realistic.
In this edited excerpt, Yang explains why entrepreneurs spend too much time focusing on creativity and not enough on organizing and implementing a strategy to achieve their dreams.
People focus too much on the inspiration, but, like conception, having a good idea isn’t much of an accomplishment. You need the action and follow through, which involves the right people, know-how, money, resources, and years of hard work.
While you're still working a full-time job, here is a list of things you can do on the side to explore an idea for a great new business:
1. Research your idea. Figure out the market, talk to prospective customers about what they would like, see who your competitors are, and so forth.
2. Undertake legal incorporation and trademark protection.
3. Claim a web URL, build a website (or have it built) and get company email accounts.
4. Get a bank account and credit card (most likely you'll have to use personal credit at first).
5. If appropriate, initiate a Facebook page, a blog and a Twitter account.
6. Develop branding.
7. Talk it up to your network. Try to find interested parties as co-founders, staff, investors and advisers.
8. If necessary, build financial projections and draft a business plan.
9. Engage in personal financial planning, including cutting back on expenses and budgeting for startup costs.
10. Create a mock prototype and presentation for potential investors or customers.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. Getting this done while holding down a job is a significant commitment. Yet, you’re just getting started. There’s a big jump in difficulty when it comes to the next things.
1. Raise money. In my experience, fledgling entrepreneurs focus way too much on the money -- you can get most things done and figure out a lot without spending much. That said, most businesses require money to launch and get off the ground. Finding initial funds is the primary barrier most entrepreneurs face, as many people don’t have three or six months’ worth of savings to free themselves up to do months of unpaid legwork.
2. Develop the product. Product development is a significant endeavor. Even if you’re hiring someone to build your product, managing them to specifications is a huge task in itself. You can expect vendors to take twice as long and cost twice as much as you planned. This phase might require raising additional money as well.
3. Build a team. Most people don’t build a business alone and finding quality partners or employees can be time consuming and unpredictable. Your first employee is going to look to you for guidance and her productivity is going to depend on your ability to manage. With partners, you’ll need to make sure you can work well with them, since they’re going to be with you from the ground up and for years afterward.
4. Get customers. Going to trade shows or trying to get your first handful of paying customers is typically a major time investment. This can involve web marketing, producing content and search engine optimization -- all of which take significant energy and resources to generate a return.
Andrew Yang is the founder and CEO of Venture for America, a New York City-based nonprofit organization focused on placeing top-college graduates in startups for two years in emerging U.S. cities to generate job growth and train the next generation of entrepreneurs. He is also the author of Smart People Should Build Things.