Starting a new project is always fun, but sometimes the barriers to starting seem too high to make anything realistically achievable. It’s too easy to get caught up in the details and fail to make progress, no matter how good your idea is. And this applies to anything, whether it be a new blog, publication, or something else.
Recently, I’ve been involved in building a new live blogging software, Ocqur. We’ve built a basic product, and have just finished testing it with around 50 people. Rather than talking about Ocqur I’m going to focus on the practical things I’ve picked up along the way as I’ve tried to get the project off the ground.
1) Pick the right people
I work in a team of three on Ocqur, and sometimes you already know the right people to get involved. However, if you think there might be someone better for the job, why not approach them and see if they’d be interested? I met Joseph Stashko in Manchester one day having sent him a list of ideas about what I wanted to make, and we just chatted about it all. He got behind the idea, added so much value, and has been perfect for the project.
I’d advise against roping in too many people to start off with. A core team is important and starting small makes it easier to manage the team’s progress, even if progress is slower to begin with.
2) Start now
I’d strongly recommend reading this write-up by Martin Belam from a talk about the formation of Wannabe Hacks itself. When the idea was first conceived, the original wannabes fired an email over to him, to which he replied:
My biggest piece of advice to you would be just get started. Tomorrow. Start getting content up on a free WordPress install whilst you look for someone who can help you buy a domain name and set up your own WordPress on it.
Obviously this advice becomes content specific, but the essence is brilliant. Seize your idea and start it moving straight away.
3) Meetings and communication
Being in constant email contact is essential for coordination, especially when the entire team is spread out over the country, as with both Wannabe Hacks and Ocqur. Having said that it’s important to recognise the value of face-to-face meetings; spending a day in a coffee shop or co-working space can be invaluable in clearing large amounts of work and cementing new ideas.
On the topic of co-working space, I’d recommend trying a day at Campus London. There’s desks, good cheap food, and a great vibe. Plus it’s free to go and work in the cafe for the day.
4) Let the details work themselves out
Details, details, details. As I said initially, it’s so easy to get caught up in the intricacies of an early idea. Looking back, I think we were completely guilty of this in the initial planning stage of Ocqur. Don’t get me wrong – brainstorming is great, but you should focus on identifying the essence of your idea and pursue that. For a blog, that might mean identifying your early niche content, and seeing if the demand exists. For Ocqur, it was building a really simple version of the product we initially conceived, and seeing what people thought of it.
A must read: The Lean Startup, by Eric Reis.
5) Be prepared to try new things
If you’re going to attempt something new you’re going to come up against challenges that lie outside of your comfort zone. But don’t worry about this. Go to people for advice, and leverage any contacts you might have for help, but ultimately get stuck in and you will learn so much. For me personally, in setting up Ocqur, I’ve had to deal with dividing up equity, employment contracts, and tax law. I’m in the constant process of working it all out, but it’s been a really worthwhile experience, even if it does feel hellish at times.
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