Get a cofounder, build something, sell something
This week I received a random phone call from a startup founder down in Virginia - a young woman planning a fashion startup. In hindsight, I could have given her better advice, but having been in the middle of coding at the time, the business logic side of my brain was mushy.
Here's some better advice, based on her situation - she's an individual founder of a retail e-commerce fashion startup, just getting going and looking for some direction.
Get A Cofounder
This woman's experience was in marketing, which is awesome because marketing is such a need for startups. The buzz around "growth hacking" attests to this need, and in my experience, marketing is the one thing aside from fixing bugs and upgrading software that is a constant demand.
That said, as somebody starting a fashion brand, I advised her strongly to get a designer cofounder and to launch a beautiful brand before pitching investors. In my mind, getting a cofounder and building something is top priority to any startup.
Rolling from my last point - it's absolutely key in my opinion to build something. You're just an idea until you create something and put it live into the world. You need to have a brand, a product, and some interaction with customers so they can help you determine which direction to head.
Investors always want to know what you've done, and if you haven't launched something yet, it's likely they're going to look at startups with a product and probably some traction too.
What's better than having a live beta product in the world? Having a live beta product that's making money. In my opinion, your top priority should be to close a few sales. This shows potential investors that you have a repeatable business model.
You need to close the gap between an idea (in your head) and a business (cash in your pocket) as soon as possible. The sooner you figure this out and the better you document the process, the more likely investors are to want to throw money at you. It's like the old adage about how the bank only loans money to people who don't need it.
I like to think of outside money as rocket fuel - you need a functioning rocket first. You can tweet that :) Raise Money
Once you've got a functioning rocket, a repeatable business model, and a brand you can stand behind, then by all means get out there and raise some money. The best way in my opinion is to make yourself visible by going to events and meeting people in person.
Our journey into raising capital started at #startupriot in Seattle. We just wanted to get in front of a crowd and talk about QuoteRobot. We didn't expect to place in the top 5, and we certainly didn't expect to get investment offers, but that's what happened.
I hope this has been helpful to some of you - feel free to let me know in the comments and to tweet or share this if you enjoyed it.