Dan DiGangi - Software Engineering Manager, Tech Instructor/Mentor
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I'm Starting a New Company and It's Scary


In a sort-of continuation of my last post, Leaving Behind $60k, Corporate Stability, and a Big Data Startup, I'd like to take a deeper dive into my newest venture. Shortly before taking off for Miami I had scheduled a meeting with an individual who was interested in UI/UX contract work for his new product.

I earnestly accepted the introduction and planned to meet at 1871 (startup central) in the Merchandise Mart here in Chicago. The best I could do to learn more about this person was to visit their LinkedIn. His name was Suvro Goswami. I was impressed by his career so far and he had excellent recommendations.

Upon meeting, like most formal introductions, this was clearly about learning how the other person ticked. We noticed early on that we had similar personalities and thought processes. This excited me to see what type of work he had in mind. Our meeting then turned to what type of product he intended to build. Sitting there, I clearly remember losing track of some detail because I was thinking "Wow, if I don't work on this, I will end being one of target clientele."

I'd love to drill into the details about what StarterPak does but that isn't so easy right now. It's not because I'm legally bound under an NDA or I think you might take the idea and run. The truth is that we are in a liquid state. The early days of a startup (in my opinion) revolve around planning the product and its impending execution on that plan. That means defining what "it" does, how it works, how does it generate revenue, what are potential pitfalls, what features/functionality will the MVP serve, who are competitors, what are current market trends, etc. The list goes on and on.

What I can tell you about StarterPak is this. We plan to help small to mid size businesses and entrepreneurial ventures successfully launch from the get go. This means having the most appropriate information and the resources to act accordingly. Businesses lose hundreds of hours spinning their wheels acquiring the right information and then knowing how to use it. If you're lucky, you might have the roledex and capital to hire your A team. But, I'm inclined to think there is far lesser of you out there.

After walking through some use cases, I felt like the resources out in the wild were overwhelming or plainly too simple. I ended up creating a cherry picked list of to dos and hoped it covers the spectrum of requirements. In our eyes, time can be better spent on developing the core of your product and/or services, not filing a legal entity or setting up payroll. While these things are important, in the end, these are not what put money in your pocket or provide value to consumers.

Into the Unknown

The familiar is safety. It gives you confidence. It's charted territory.

Here's why I'm scared to start this new business. You might assume it's something around failure. I'm more fearful to not risk failure than the business not succeeding. What scares me is the unknown. Thinking back to other times I've taken on a new experience, I am somewhat familiar with what I am getting into.

The familiar is safety. It gives you confidence. It's charted territory.

My role within StarterPak is that of a cofounder and chief of technology. This means that I generally interact in all forms of the business but I focus more areas like product development, information architecture, user experience design and the technology that backs it. What has become clear is that I am not yet an expert on launching a new business venture. I know pieces and parts but would not classify myself as the go-to guy on the subject.

Wow, if I don't work on this, I will end being one of target clientele.

Remember that? Looking back at the areas in which I've improved my skills, there is key element missing here. Time. I had years to hone in on my craft. With StarterPak, I have somewhere between 3 and 6 months to improve my knowledge in new business generation. What seems like a large amount of time is quickly dismantled when you factor in running the show and building the product. I'm fighting an uphill battle but there seems to be no better choice than dropping myself into the deep end yet again.

In order to prevail, I plan to execute this strategy. It may work, it may not. I'll adjust along the way.

My first step was surrounding myself with the best people. Our team currently consists of our founder and business strategist, Suvro, and our lead researcher, Shari. I'll be working closing with both of them to learn the ins and outs of what I won't be directly involved in. With their guidance and my own effort to understand the information, I'll be off to a strong start.

Second, we need to make this more manageable. The unknown is a big place. I'll steal a piece of a strategy I presented in my post My Puppy is Helping Me Break My Worst Habit. Starting at the top of the pyramid, I'll be creating "chunks" of what I need and want to learn. This is a process I will end up repeating numerous times. To arrive at the bottom of the pyramid, we keep breaking items down. The goal being feasibility of completion with manageable workloads.

My formula is usually something like level of effort + time required + wheel spin. Wheel spin being when you aren't getting it right away, dependencies that slow completion, or any general pitfall you encounter along the way.

The value of these small chunks is allowing small wins. If you wanted to learn calculus and wrote on your to do list, "Learn Calculus", how long would it be before you can check that off? It will almost never happen. But, what if it we had items like "Linear Equations", "Differentials", and "Derivatives"? Now were getting somewhere. It feels good to check things off. It's how you climb back up that pyramid. It leads to the confidence that empowers us to move further into the unknown.

I can't say that writing this or preparing a plan has diminished my fears in the slightest. But, the best any one of us can do is accept what we fear and take it head on.

- DD