The Internet has helped entrepreneurs build new businesses, but not everyone has the skills or experience to create a business on a digital platform. Author Tal Raviv addresses the skills gap in a post, “How to launch a startup without writing code“, that offers five core pieces of advice:
- Focus on serving customers instead of building a product
- Replace technology with people
- Use off-the-shelf solutions (e-commerce services, widgets, online forms and the like)
- Try WordPress
- Put it all together as quickly and cost-effectively as possible
Build new businesses: Serve customers
Raviv argues that building new businesses depends on solving “a real problem for a customer.” He quotes Ben Yoskovitz, who said “Customers don’t care how you get things done, just that you get it done and solve their pain.”
Interestingly, Yoskovitz is co-author, with Alistair Croll, of Lean Analytics, one of the first books to take a look at the metrics behind the movement toward agile startups. Their work builds on the principles behind lean consumption, ideas pioneered by Daniel Jones and James Womack. Their core principles include:
- Don’t waste the customer’s time.
- Provide exactly what the customer wants.
- Provide what’s wanted exactly where it’s wanted.
- Provide what’s wanted where it’s wanted exactly when it’s wanted.
- Continually aggregate solutions to reduce the customer’s time and hassle.
These aren’t coding principles. They represent opportunities to build new businesses by focusing on solutions for problems consumers have.
People before technology
A simple idea: Before spending months (or more) trying to code a solution, ask yourself if there’s a lower-tech way to prove demand. In the short term, putting a person in the middle might be more expensive, but it can help you quickly prove (or disprove) assumptions about market demand.
If it proves the world is looking for what you want to offer, you’ll have gained valuable insight processing things manually. And if you can’t find a market, you have saved the time and investment that a technology-driven solution would have required.
The Internet is home to a wide range of services that offer ‘best-in-class’ solutions for the functions entrepreneurs need to build new businesses. In his post, Raviv points to companies that offer e-commerce services, online and other form-based interfaces, community forums and website platforms.
On Skillshare, Raviv has assembled a robust list of resources you can review (free registration required). The list amplifies his point: don’t invent what has already been created and shared.
In the landscape of “off-the-shelf solutions” that let entrepreneurs build new businesses, WordPress is a significant player. It is an increasingly sophisticated content management system, even when it is implemented as a website alone.
But WordPress is easily customized, often at little or no cost to those working to build new businesses. As Raviv explains:
WordPress itself is free, and you can purchase inexpensive plugins that automatically transform your website into a membership site, ecommerce portal, social network, and even daily deals site.
As an example, this site uses Wordpress and freely or commercially available templates to manage a variety of blog and website functions. The days of rudimentary blog software are well behind us.
Build new businesses: Move quickly
Consistent with the first point, to start with the customer, Raviv closes with a call to test assumptions and gain customers as quickly as possible. The timelines he uses call on entrepreneurs to build new businesses in a matter of weeks or perhaps months. Sketch out the business model, figure out a way to offer it to potential customers and refine as you go.
In his post, Raviv goes on to address, briefly, how investors might respond. He also covers the challenge of scaling from a tech-light base, but the core of his post is this: start with the need, not the technology. As some of the comments captured, Raviv provides really useful reminders for those of us looking to build new businesses.