Wrote a business plan, won a prize, now what?

AsiaOrBustAsiaOrBust Posts: 3subscriber
edited October 2007 in New Member Welcome
So I`m new to the community here..  Hi!  At the beginning of the year, I wrote a business plan for an intercollegiate competition that won second place in its category.  The business catered to the English language education market, primarily in Asia.  It utilized a  modified social-networking model, as well as webcam and VOiP software to connect students with personal conversational tutors.  Additionally, it involved a creative payment structure that allows it to drastically cut costs of service in comparison to competitors.
I have a Korean business partner who can organize anything overseas that needs to be organized, and I have planned damn near every aspect of its implementation.  However, we lack funds and technological expertise, and the truth is...  I think that I`m a very good planner and creative problem solver, but a terrible executor.  I want to be better but, as I`ve never managed a startup, I`m terrified to take the helm when the livelihood or investment of others is at stake.
Maybe I`m in need of a pep-talk... maybe I`m in need of somebody with some technical experience.  In any case, I want to know if this problem is natural..  Why am I so terrified to take the plunge, even though I am completely confident it will be successful??
-DarienAsiaOrBust10/21/2007 2:23 AM

Comments

  • NuevolutionNuevolution Posts: 30subscriber Bronze Level Member
    Darien,The business plan might have won you 2nd place in college but that doesn`t mean it`s going to be a slam dunk to investors or if it`s going to be a success in the real world. Before, turning your school project into a real business plan or a start up I would join the SBA and get free counseling and a mentor to help you polish up your idea. I am not trying to discourage you in any way shape or form, this is honest advise from someone that wrote many [fictitious] business plans in college "they were all homework assignments"... Let me ask you? Do you have any knowledge of VOIP? or Web Cam Services? If not you should talk to Ltreselle here in start up nation... she has a web cam business. It`s actually web email messages... you should talk to her...
  • CookieMonsterCookieMonster Posts: 0subscriber
    Some degree of fear is healthy - some degree of confidence is healthy. Extremes of either are rarely helpful. Execution is a specific skill - and like anything - it requires practice. If you haven`t had much practice perhaps you could step back and instead say "I don`t know how well I execute but I would like to find out".
    Execution isn`t rocket science or smoke and mirrors; it`s simply moving toward a measurable objective. Sometimes execution is very easy and sometimes it`s exceedingly difficult and irritating and stressful. In that sense, execution requires context. Maybe you don`t have the experience or skills to execute a huge, complex software product. With that in mind, what can you execute? Can you execute a demo of your product? Can you execute a start up web site?
    Why not invest an afternoon and run a pen and paper simulation of how you might execute your business plan. This won`t risk anyone`s investment and you might uncover some important wrinkles.

    You have a plan.
    Write a strategy if needed.
    Write measurable objectives if needed.
    Assemble the resources.
    Write weekly execution documents for three months of execution.
    When you review the execution documents you might find out that the water is very deep. You might find certain tasks distasteful or scary. But there are undoubtedly people who would look at that task with a gigantic smile on their face. As a potential business person you have to learn how to assemble resources and manage tradeoffs. That`s why the simulator is so useful. If at the end of the simulator you think "you know, I just don`t want to do this" then move on.
    If you can manage your life well enough to complete college and so forth, you probably have the skills required to execute something. 
  • AsiaOrBustAsiaOrBust Posts: 3subscriber
    Thanks for the replies Nuevolution and CookieMonster!  First, I just want to say that the project wasn`t really for school.  I actually studied history in college and I lack any formal education in business.  I`ve just been learning everything from books.  The business plan was put together with the intention of running with it from the beginning.Nuevolution:  I`ll certainly look into the SBA.  I didn`t realize it was an organization I could join.  I think I have a sufficient understanding of VOIP, considering that I only plan on piggybacking on other people`s software platforms, not developing anything proprietary.  But I`d be interested in talking to the person you suggested I contact.  Just as soon as I figure this whole community out...  I`m still learning the ropes.CookieMonster:  What do you mean by execution documents?  I`ve developed a plan and a strategy... I`ve even largely mapped out the website and database that need to be constructed for the prototype, in an attempt to make its construction as inexpensive as possible.  Assembling resources is tricky, since I pretty much lack all resources.  I`m pretty fresh out of college, and I`m burdened by all the typical debt.
    I`ve had a number of opportunities fall into my lap that I never made good on.  I met a number of individuals through a business plan competition at the University of Washington who seemed very eager to offer me help and advice and, if I could get a proper prototype together, money and development teams.  Five months later, no prototype yet exists.  I`m very frustrated.
    What do you think my options are, in terms of getting the prototype together?  $10,000 - $20,000 might as well be a million to me.  I would consider a loan, but I can`t imagine I`d qualify for one, given my nearly complete lack of credit history.  I would love to be able to connect with somebody with the correct web and database-development skills who would be able to partner with me on the project, but I don`t even know where to begin in that search.  At this point, I`m almost seriously considering maxing out credit cards to get it paid for.  The prototype will pay for itself over the course of a year with as few as 25 customers.
    Initially, I had wanted to take on student customers before the prototype infrastructure even existed.  My Korean partner rounded up three people who wanted to pay $25 per session within fifteen minutes.  They opted out, however, when we couldn`t agree on a form of payment that they would be comfortable with.  (They didn`t trust PayPal.)  Even though the market is bursting at the seams, customers aren`t comfortable with the service without a legitimate web presence and a fully integrated payment system that doesn`t require them to redirect to another site where they have to pay in a foreign currency.
    Anyway... advice?
  • NuevolutionNuevolution Posts: 30subscriber Bronze Level Member
    Darien,My advice to you would be to get a temp job or full time job to help you with the funding of your project. Althought, it looks tempted to use your credit card to pay for the development, it would be a bad idea. First of all because, if your business does take off, you might need good credit to fund your company and take it to the next level. Secondly, don`t use your personal credit to fund your company. Although, most entrepreneurs do so, don`t do it.. I am still recovering from that mistake [4 years later].One other suggestion is to talk to your family and friends that know you and have faith and strong connection to you "usually grand-ma or grand-pa" and pitch your idea to them, and offer them a percentage of the earning. As for your payment gateway problem?  you should have both  processors in place "stand-alone processor and pay pal".Although, most people prefer using a regular payment processor, there`s a few that like to use pay pal. Don`t feel discouraged by pay pal. Learn how to use it to your benefit. Using pay pal is not a bad thing, you can use your credit card or pay pal account to pay for items. Think of convenience to your customers
  • CookieMonsterCookieMonster Posts: 0subscriber
    1. Nikole gave a great answer about execution documents. A business plan is great but it won`t tell you how to actually execute. Your first post indicated a potential lack of experience with respect to execution so I suggested assembling execution documents. These uncover the wrinkles that a business plan alway misses and help you evaluate the side effects of hits and misses in execution. Assume:
    Action A -> Action B -> Action C
    Solve for failure of Action A, Action B, and Action C.
    2. I can`t offer you any counsel on whether or not it`s a good idea to max out your credit cards to build a prototype because I don`t know much you. Some people deal with debt-related stress and risk much better than others. There is a lot to be said for the level of commitment required to get any business off the ground and in most cases, the amount of commitment in every sense of the word is vastly greater than the amount of commitment you think you need. But that said, there`s also the right way, the wrong way, and the best way to execute something. I don`t know if accumulating credit card debt amounts to the right way - but it is definitely a way - and definitely a time-honored tradition. But think about it very carefully first. I can assure you that $10,000 to $20,000 is not a million dollars even if your perception tells you that $10,000 is just as out of reach as $1,000,000.
    3. You seem to like the idea of finding a programmer and DBA to assist you with development. Where would you find these people? Do you have access to a computer lab? Ask around. Use Google. There are lots of programmers looking for opportunities - just make sure you find one in your area if you`re going to work with someone you don`t know very well. That is very important. Face time makes the world go around. Make double/triple sure you have a written agreement about the partnership and the rights/obligations thereto.
    4. Frustration. Welcome to business! Execution is often very frustrating, irritating, and so forth. Being responsible for execution is the difference between an owner and employee. Execution involves great responsibility.
  • AsiaOrBustAsiaOrBust Posts: 3subscriber
    Thanks again for all of the great advice!
    I`ve recently begun an active search for a web and database developer to join my team.  I`ve been using Craigslist to conduct my search, and I`ve been getting some interested replies.  What I want to know is, how should I be screening applicants?  Obviously I`m asking to review examples of their work as well as resumes, and I`m looking for somebody local who I can get face-time with, at the recommendation of CookieMonster.
    I have an idea of about how much equity I`m willing to give up for this stage of the project, but I`m willing to be flexible.  But what is important to do/look for when trying to find a good developer or partner in general?
  • CookieMonsterCookieMonster Posts: 0subscriber
    The co-founder dilemma... Someone who you would marry - trusthworthy, intelligent, honest, dedicated. Someone who has passion for your startup and not the just potential payoff - although dollars are a great motivator for some. The right co-founders are different for each person. You might try the website foundread.com. It`s run by Om Malik ( who also runs GigaOm ) and I`ve found a lot of useful information on this site. 
  • NuevolutionNuevolution Posts: 30subscriber Bronze Level Member
    Thanks again for all of the great advice!
    I`ve recently begun an active search for a web and database developer to join my team.  I`ve been using Craigslist to conduct my search, and I`ve been getting some interested replies.  What I want to know is, how should I be screening applicants?  Obviously I`m asking to review examples of their work as well as resumes, and I`m looking for somebody local who I can get face-time with, at the recommendation of CookieMonster.
    I have an idea of about how much equity I`m willing to give up for this stage of the project, but I`m willing to be flexible.  But what is important to do/look for when trying to find a good developer or partner in general?Darien,Whatever you decide to do, stay away from craigslist. If you use it, use it to find out a ball park figure of how much your  project might cost you. But don`t use it as your main source of finding the "right coder" or developer... Use it as a reference, and that`s about it... most developers on craigslist are flakes, and don`t ever come through. They always ask for a deposit up front, and don`t deliver on time... you know what designers and developers think of craigs list? "Its a Joke"... CookieMonster... good web sites you referenced....
  • AsiaOrBustAsiaOrBust Posts: 3subscriber

    Whatever you decide to do, stay away from craigslist.

    If Craigslist is full of flakes, where would you suggest I start networking?
  • LtresselLtressel Posts: 3subscriber
    Hi AsiaorBust,I actually know a Korean businesswoman who has the business you are trying to propel. I got to talking to her and she`s looking to use Webex for her web conferencing platform which is very very expensive. Therefore, she is hesitant. I am currently in the talks with her to see if our systems can be easily integrated with her school.I am wondering as to why you are getting tangled into making your own platforms when you can be concentrating on the actual context of the online education. Utilize the platforms that exists now and worry with the inner core of your idea which is what I assume is ESL learning online.Creating the technology from scratch will bankrupt you way before you open your doors.  It will be 100k minimum just for your programmers to study and research the technology. You can be half a million in by the time you can compose a webconferencing/ video email/ virtual classroom.  Simplify the task at hand.  Research an existent web conferencing company, a VOIPcompany, and whatever else you need.  Test them, study their fees, go with the best one that will suit your business. Hope this helps.LT
  • NuevolutionNuevolution Posts: 30subscriber Bronze Level Member
    I don`t think this is true ... I hired my artist through Craigslist and he`s been wonderful for nearly a year now.
    You just have to go through a LOT of resumes to find your shining star!Nikole, you must be an exception... but everyone I`ve met or received resumes from are flakes... they don`t come through or are too busy trying to pass off as big companies... especially the over sea people... like India, Russia and so forth. yeah it might be cheaper but I want to be able to see someone face 2 face at least once a week for follow ups.
  • AsiaOrBustAsiaOrBust Posts: 3subscriber
    Hi AsiaorBust,...I am wondering as to why you are getting tangled into making your own platforms when you can be concentrating on the actual context of the online education. Utilize the platforms that exists now and worry with the inner core of your idea which is what I assume is ESL learning online.Creating the technology from scratch will bankrupt you way before you open your doors...
    Thanks Ltressel, but I actually am not developing any proprietary VoIP software.  The development I`m talking about is simply the web interface and database that allows students to be matched with tutors via their schedules and social criteria.  After that, the tutors and students converse through Skype or actually any other VoIP medium of their choosing.  It`s all one-on-one, and students and tutors incorporate or don`t incorporate study materials as they see fit.  It`s quite decentralized and peer-to-peer.  It`s not my intention to compete in the web-classroom market; with some 9 million subscribing customers, Englishtown.com has that just about pinned down.AsiaOrBust2007-10-23 17:25:3
  • AsiaOrBustAsiaOrBust Posts: 3subscriber

    Whatever you decide to do, stay away from craigslist. If you use it, use it to find out a ball park figure of how much your  project might cost you. But don`t use it as your main source of finding the "right coder" or developer... Use it as a reference, and that`s about it... most developers on craigslist are flakes, and don`t ever come through. They always ask for a deposit up front, and don`t deliver on time... you know what designers and developers think of craigs list? "Its a Joke"...

    Nuevolution:  I know it`s been a while since I`ve posted on here, but I just wanted to let you know that I actually found a very good partner on Craigslist.  Not only is he a highly qualified developer, but he actually served as Development Lead and Group Manager for the Encarta Interactive Language Learning line of software products, which places his experience squarely in my market.  His equity share is also going to fit nicely into my budget.
    I`m sure this doesn`t mean anything about Craigslist as a whole; probably just an advantage inherent to living in the Seattle area.
Sign In or Register to comment.