How are you making yourself known? When you are starting out as an entrepreneur, sharing your name and idea with the world can be a good thing. There are advantages to marketing yourself, but there are some disadvantages as well. If you need help figuring out if making yourself known is a good idea for you, here are some of the things I’ve learned from building a startup.
Why Should You Make Yourself Known?
Telling people about your ideas does more than simply get your name out there. As you talk with others and introduce yourself, you will have the opportunity to make connections. Maybe the person you just met will know someone you should pitch your idea to next. They might know a network of people who could offer you advice and support or they could become your mentor or partner. If your venture doesn’t work out, you will still have accumulated relationships and established trust that can carry on to your next venture, even after a failure.
An early venture of mine was an app where users could post temporary tags on a shared map to discuss what was going on in their area. Before I even had a product, I openly shared my thoughts with a favorite professor of mine. The app I wanted to make had attributes, but a weak use case or purpose at the time. My philosophy professor realized the alignment my idea had with resources for refugees. Refugees were always spread out and could move or disappear at a moment’s notice, so we started thinking about how Kricket could be used to give refugees useful, real-time information.
Through my discussions with my professor, I was connected with the Nobel Summit for Peace Laureates. Although my product was not finished or ready to be used, my sharing it led to many more doors being opened for me in the humanitarian space and I made a lot of great connections with people I’m still in touch with today. None of this would have happened if I had kept my startup to myself until I felt it was the “right time” to share it with the world.
When Should You Make Yourself Known?
Although it would be nice to know the “right time” to start putting yourself out there, the reality is that there is no right time. Everyone wants to do things when they feel ready, but we are always thinking of what is happening in the future. It’s a lot like skydiving. You get up in the plane, you think about the drop, you become afraid and you don’t want to jump anymore. You forget that you have a parachute until the instructor jumps out with you and pulls the cord or you want to pull it before you’ve even jumped.
Although there is no right time (or even a wrong time) to start making yourself known, the best time is when you are just as ready to see your idea fail as you are to see it succeed. If you are too early, you risk appearing as if you are not committed to the idea. If you are too late, then you’ll likely have wasted time and missed valuable customer feedback. The “Goldilocks Zone” is when you have a sense of momentum in your endeavors. Even though failure is an option, the desire to try and the action to go through with your idea is further than most people go.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Aside from building up a network, there’s the opportunity to go to conferences or events related to your venture. You could find like-minded people who are just as passionate about your idea as you are or, most importantly, learn things that you didn’t know that you didn’t know.
That said, it may still be tempting to operate as a stealth startup, especially if you’re concerned that someone you share it with will steal it. However, the positives of getting your idea out there likely outweigh the risks. Aaron Patzer, founder of Mint and other ventures, promotes the idea of being as open as possible with your business. “Tell anyone and everyone your idea without fear they’re going to steal it,” Patzer said at a 2010 Future of Web Apps conference in Miami, pointing out that the chance of someone stealing your idea is very small while the benefits of receiving a lot of feedback early on are invaluable. This early feedback will let you address your market’s pain points before you start building your product, and you will be able to refine it to be more in line with your market’s needs as you build.
If you are still afraid of someone trying to take your idea for themselves, explore some provisional patents or use NDAs, or better yet, mutual NDAs. Doing so will give you some peace of mind while also giving you the freedom to discuss your idea with people who can help.
Getting your name out there is one way to build a startup, but it is not the only way. If you think it is a good idea for you, go to events, accelerators, maker spaces, etc., and introduce yourself to others. Start making connections, because you never know the potential of the person sitting next to you on a train, plane or at an event. The people who you meet will be the ones helping you along, and they will be the ones to decide if your idea is good enough to thrive. Yet it is on you, and only you, to take that first step out of the plane.
About the Author
Tom Nassr is CEO at Connecticut-based Checkmate Digital, which architects, designs, and engineers custom software products with startups. He is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of entrepreneurs aged 40 and younger. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.
Interested in learning more about Tom and his entrepreneurial endeavors?
Read our interview: Connecticut Startup Helps Future Startups
Get more entrepreneurial tips from Tom in his Innovation Destination Hartford blog: Successfully Failing: What I Learned from Failing My First Startup