I have worked for 20 years in early stage businesses in a variety of roles from engineer to CTO and over the past five years have founded or co-founded four businesses and raised investment for them.
Highlights of my career include:
- Being early staffer at Lastminute.com
- Being CTO of Virgin.com
- Co-founded a bank
I'm currently co-founder of two startups, I also write on the subject, mentor less experienced founders and am a trustee of two charities.
There are new successful subscription businesses being launched all the time. The question should be is there a market for a Cigar club? You would need to do your own research on that.
One trend I have noticed is that many (but certainly not all) of the subscription businesses seem to hit a plateau fairly quickly and then try to find alternative distribution for their products such as via retail.
Given subscription businesses require little upfront investment, you should be able to validate the idea without spending a huge amount of money.
Have a look at http://www.subbly.co/ and similar platforms that can help you go live and test quickly.
The conventional wisdom is to create a minimum viable product (MVP), release it, get customer feedback, use that feedback to improve the product, release again, get more feedback and so on.
In terms of releasing to a closed user group, that is fine but when you launch a new website you're probably doing that anyway in that no one will have heard of it unless you through lots of money at online marketing or get lots of PR.
In other words, usually it will take a while for your website/web app to get lots of traffic so a public MVP should not be an issue for reputation etc.
On the subject of MVP, it should be the minimal amount of time, effort and money needed to develop the product to a working point, the most basic version of the site. Of course if s/he is just re-skinning something else, I'm not sure that is an issue.
It's a tough ask because there are so many people looking for developers to work for free and not enough developers around to fill the paid jobs.
However, there are some people who if they love the idea might come on board, more likely as a side project.
To find tech co-founders have a look at the following sites:
There are also meetups and networking events for founders to find tech co-founders try looking through www.meetup.com for ones local to you.
1. Check angel.co and other sites for investors who align with your values, type of business, sector etc.
2. See if you have mutual friends on LinkedIn and if so ask for introductions
3. If not then send a brief email with a one page pitch (I can help you formulate these)
4. Follow up with a phone call if you can get hold of their number
Start of by using a site like udemy (https://www.udemy.com), they are a platform for creating online courses and handle payments for you. They may have some users who are in your sector.
It sounds like finding 'customers' is your main issue. There is no panacea here, the approach you've taken so far is largely correct, here are some more ideas:
1. How about going direct to large construction companies (an industry you know) and offering them discounts for training their staff?
2. Reaching out to your own contacts to try and find more
3. Start a mailing list giving tips to these people and up-sell
4. The things you are already doing are good, blogging, social media etc. I would add creating meetup groups for engineers (and other target market).
5. Starting local is good idea, at least once you validate a customer acquisition model in the local area, you have something you can role out more widely.
Firstly, you don't need a co-founder but it's highly recommended, investors on the whole will trust a team of co-founders more than a single founder. The reason is that statistically co-founding teams are much more successful than single founder teams. Why bet on a company, even with a great idea, that has less chance of being successful.
Having said that you can find investors who will bet on you, it's just a case of kissing lots of frogs.
If you have an MVP, you need to use it to validate your assumptions. That does not mean that you need to get 100,000 users on board. You need enough users to show average usage. I'm not a statistician but depending on your customer base your sample of users could be 10 (B2B - enterprise) to 10k B2C mass market.
Proof points would be:
* stickiness - how often the come back and use it
* conversion to sales
* NPS - would they recommend the product / service to a friend?
* there will be lots of other specific qualitative and quantitate proofs that will be specific to your product
It should not take you long to put this together in a presentable form and take it to investors.
Happy to help you further on a call, including working out specific KPIs or proof points.
There are two views here:
1. take the money whilst you can get it because it's not easy to get
2. only take what you need because you're likely to spend it even if you don't need it
There is no 'right' answer. It comes down to how much you trust yourself to make use of the money, it's likely you will always need more than you think.
Some questions to ask yourself:
1. Could I raise the money later when I need it?
2. Will taking the extra money now give me a significant advantage? What extra edge will it give? Is that worth it?
3. is the size of the extra cash so much that it would add extra burden to repayment?
4. Would the extra loan mark you down if/when you go for investment?
Hope that helps. Happy to discuss on a call.
That really depends on the product. If the aim of your product is to work in third world countries with poor access to technology and internet then you should build something as basic and all supporting as possible. If you're building something without a social edge and it's about monetising from 'richer' consumers then wherever they are they probably have relatively recent browsers.
My last startup was focused on high value customers and we only built it to support latest chrome, last two versions of i.e. (which at the time was 9/10) and safari 8/9.
This site provides a good set of stats:
If you're going for the high end customer make sure you have good support for safari because mac users may be a minority but they spend the most money :)
PS. You should also consider a mobile / responsive version.
I have used PR agencies and other third party services for my startups in the past. In my experience there is nothing like the founder getting in touch with a journalist directly and 'selling' their product/service with their own passion.
PRWeb has done little for me in the past Pitch Pigeon is nothing more than a quick way of emailing a wide variety of blogs, who may be wrong for your product and the email might not get to the right person. It's to scatter gun.
This is what I would do:
1. make sure you have a story people can write about, a launch is usually not enough, some types of sites are interested in close fundraising (like tech crunch).
2. ensure you have the story down as easy to digest bullet points, as well as a standard press release (in case they ask for it) and a press pack.
3. make a list of all the publications / websites you want to feature in
4. find out the names and email addresses, twitter handles of each of the relevant journalists (look for people who have written about competitors or similar products)
5. If possible get the phone number of the journalist.
6. In my experience NOTHING beats calling up the journalist yourself, they're far more likely to listen to you if you call them than if you email/tweet them
7. See if you have any mutual contacts on LinkedIn or other networks, if so get introductions.
8. Otherwise, call if you can't call, email and tweet.
Happy to give you more specific help, ideas and support on a call.
BTW, I recently got coverage in two national newspapers for my own startup.
It would be helpful to know the sector.
I would try and start hyper local. That way you can easily and quickly get deals with small local businesses. You can then grow to small chains and then larger chains for a wider coverage.
Small local business are in my experience very up for these kinds of programmes which might drive more sales or footfall.
If you're looking at bigger corps or online brands then you should start with reselling an existing affiliate programme e.g affilinet in Europe.
Happy to give more specific advice on a call.