Picking your startup idea

There’s plenty of advice out there about how to do it, but based on my own experience, it all comes down to two fundamental things: how much you love it and how are you going to make money with it.

The idea—the product you are going to build—is going to stay with you for years to come so you better feel passionate about it and be ready to think about it every day for years.

In my case, it felt natural to start a telecommunications startup because that’s what I have been doing for the past 6 years at that point. I liked it, I felt passionate about it and learning new things on the subject became like a hobby of mine.

Obsession is a strong adjective but it pretty much describes my feelings towards this industry and how much I like it.

Toky’s first office in 2014 was the kitchen in my apartment. We were enjoying ourselves just as much as we do it today—it never felt like work.

My point is that your likelihood of succeeding with your startup increases significantly if you are building on top of something you truly love, being in an industry you find interesting and when working on your product doesn’t feel like a burden. You have to love doing it.

Then, there’s the ability of your idea to generate money. You must think about this early on even if you are living with your parents today or have no responsibilities with other people like significant others for example.

Doing it for the money as motivator is debatable and I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that the discussion about how you are going to turn your time and expertise invested in your idea into tangible wealth must be addressed since the very beginning with yourself and with everyone else involved in the risks you are going to take.

The thrill of starting something new and those days of working tirelessly with an excitement expression on your face are going to, undoubtedly, dry out some day and when that day comes you will want to have the assurance you can pay your rent, health and food while you rest and recharge energies.

In the perfect world, your skills, your idea and the industry where your product is going to exist all intersect at a point where making a sustainable stream of income is possible.

When we started Toky we were completely ignorant of how to run a business and we barely talked about how the product was going to make money. It seems like I didn’t follow my own advice and you are absolutely right to think that.

What saved us was that we picked the right idea where our combined skills made it possible to actually build something useful inside an industry that was growing at an accelerating pace. We basically jumped on top of a wave that carried us with it and that ended up compensating for the many things we disregarded during our early days as a company.

It wasn’t luck how we chose the idea, product and the industry—that we did well because it was an informed decision—but it was definitely luck how the industry was growing so fast that admitted so many products to coexist without saturating the customers and allowing us to make money in the process.

So don’t be us and don’t rely on luck so much. Have the idea, product, industry and money conversation early and as often as necessary.