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How To Create A Startup In A Space You Aren’t An Expert In

Leadership & Inspiration

Isadora Teich wrote this article


Building an idea into a massively successful company is no easy task. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for startup success, and the eventual success can look quite different depending on your industry.

We have all heard the axiom “the journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step.”

However, creating a startup from scratch is a bit like taking that first step in complete darkness on ground that will only materialize as you choose where to set down each foot.

So, what do you do when you don’t know exactly what to do? Here are some helpful tips!

Remember That All Startup Founders Are Different, But All Have Taken A Big Leap

The big thing that makes the startup space so interesting is that you have such a wide variety of founders with diverse experiences.

Sure, some people are lifers in an industry, see a hole in it, and seek to innovate to solve that problem. One great example of this is Pair Team co-founder Cassie Choi.

Choi was a working nurse in California who got tired of seeing vulnerable communities slip through the cracks in the deeply flawed US Healthcare system. As a result, she co-founded the startup Pair Team to try and utilize tech to reach more people with life-saving health care.

According to Choi:

“I didn’t want to be a cog in the wheel. So I decided to move to startups as a way to make the impact that I felt was necessary.”

While she had experience in nursing, she had none in tech.

However, she did experience a problem firsthand and was passionate about solving it. Some of the best startup ideas and execution come as a result of direct industry experience behind the founder.

But with effort and lots of learning, you can still achieve success even if you’re a newbie to the space your app is going to occupy.

Big Ideas, Big Results

On the other end of the spectrum, you have founders like Whitney Wolfe Herd, who worked for the dating app Tinder before becoming one of the richest people in the world by creating Tinder competitor Bumble.

Bumble puts a unique twist on the dating app by only letting women initiate conversation.

As it is the first app of its kind, there is no way that Herd could have known what a big success it would be.

Here is what she says about the founding of her own company:

When I founded Bumble, it was because I saw a problem I wanted to help solve. It was 2014, but so many of the smart, wonderful women in my life were still waiting around for men to ask them out, to take their numbers, or to start up a conversation on a dating app. For all the advances women had been making in workplaces and corridors of power, the gender dynamics of dating and romance still seemed so outdated. I thought, what if I could flip that on its head? What if women made the first move, and sent the first message?

Be Excited By What You Don’t Know, Instead Of Afraid

Neither of these founders, nor any founders on a new venture for that matter, know exactly what will happen.

You can start with almost nothing and become a massive success, like Doordash founder Stanley Tang did.

Tang even did his company’s first Thai food delivery himself while he was a student.

Today, Doordash is a publically traded company that connects over 450,000 merchants with 20 million consumers.

On the flip side, a company can start with money pouring in and still flop spectacularly, like the now infamous WeWork.

Focus On Opportunity

Not knowing is not a limitation.

It just means that you have the space to learn. Plus, as you are not limited by preconceived notions, you can build a new paradigm and an idea that truly works; rather than constantly worrying if you are doing things “right.”

This is what Sara Blakely did with Spanx. A fax machine salesperson who was frustrated with options on the market for pantyhose, she just decided to solve the problem herself. Imagine the amount of learning along the way that involved until she was able to scale into the successful company that it is today.

Richard Branson hinted at the same in a blog post on how he started Virgin Airlines:

“Think about changes you’d like to see as a customer – even if you’ve just noticed little details that need tweaking. Those little changes may add up to a big idea that leads to a new and truly disruptive product or service.”

Though he had no experience in the airline industry, he knew he could create a great product from his own perspective and determination.

So, don’t worry about all the experience you don’t have. Your unique perspective is a valuable tool. You want to develop your idea because there’s nothing else like it.

Remember, if you are solving a problem in a smart and new way, then you are doing it right.

So, try things out and talk to everyone you can. If you are new in a space, pay attention to those in it who are already the leaders and innovators.

Learn from them, both the successes and the failures. Make it your business to get to know others in your entrepreneurial space whom you can bounce ideas off of, or seek to emulate.

Don’t Fall Victim To Confirmation Bias

For any new business venture to succeed, finding people to believe in it is critical. If you want to scale it, you need to build a team.

You also need clients and customers. You may even need to court investors.

Many startups even join incubators. This means that a lot of people need to believe in your mission.

However, the last thing you want to do is only talk to people who already agree with you. You also want to talk to people who are skeptical of what you are doing and find out why.

Ultimately, this helps to lay down the ground work for winning over future users.

Be Flexible and Prepared

There are a few reasons to get a wide range of credible opinions. For one, someone may point out pitfalls and problems with your plans that you have not considered.

If you agree with them, you can work on solving these issues. This may bring something important to your attention in the early days, which is far better than getting blindsided by major issues down the road.

Also, by talking to skeptics, you can better understand their arguments and know how to address them. Of course, no matter what you pursue in life, not everyone will support or agree with you.

However, if you exist in an echo chamber of “yes people,” you may find leaving it to be an unpleasant shock. This is also not a smart way to run a business. The sooner you know something could go wrong, the sooner you have the opportunity to fix it.

Whether someone tells you yes or no, you have to be ready to approach the situation with a cool head.

Often, the ‘no’ people in your team or your audience can turn out to be some of the most passionate about your idea, and contrary to popular belief, dissenting opinions working together to come to a consensus can truly help to make a business venture great.

The Bowery Farming Approach

One excellent example of a founder who took this approach is Irving Fain, founder and CEO of indoor agtech startup Bowery Farming.

He told Firstround:

“One of the stories that I remember fondly is meeting with a Columbia professor named Dickson Despommier who is thought of as is one of the really early evangelists and believers in indoor agriculture and in vertical farming specifically. I had reached out to him and said, ‘Hey, I’d love to come to talk to you and just pick your brain.’ We ended up eating Buffalo wings at an Irish pub in the Upper West Side, talking for an hour and a half about how inevitably vertical farming was going to be enormously successful and the next biggest and greatest thing.”

However, he also took the time to talk to credible people who did not believe in his mission and find out why they came to that conclusion.

“I paired that with a set of professors up at Cornell who had done a lot of research and felt that it was impossible, and I spent an equal amount of time talking with them to understand why they believed what they believed. There should be hundreds of reasons why this can’t work — that’s fine. It doesn’t mean you don’t do it. But it’s better to know them ahead of time.”

Knowing the potential sticking points within your industry and beyond will only serve to make your product or service offering better in the long run. It will also help you to hone in on your business pitch and how you ultimately decide to market.

Final Thoughts

You do not have to be an expert in every facet of a business to have a successful startup or business. In fact, you might find much of your time is spent learning how to do tasks as they arise on the fly.

You do, however, need to be passionate about solving a real problem and open to learning and collaboration.

Remember, if you have an idea for an amazing app, Chop Dawg can help you bring it to life!

Reach out to us today. We look forward to partnering with you!


About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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