I previously did content marketing, SEO, and influencer marketing for Import.io, Yotpo, Inman News, and other later-stage startups. Now I'm taking these principles to teach early-stage startups how to beat their better funded competitors even faster.
Past results (pre-sales):
SaaS startup - made over $3,200 pre-selling with a Google doc.
Online education - Generated over $43,000.
Drop-shipping business - Started in October 2011, made over $217,000 in 2012.
Past results (early-stage growth):
Web hosting startup - 2.3x their annual revenue (+127%), 3.4x their monthly traffic (+241%), and 4.3x their organic traffic (+331%).
Inc, Entrepreneur (x2), Huffington Post
Forbes, American Marketing Association, US News, Yahoo, SalesForce, BigCommerce, Copyblogger, Aweber, Mention, Zirtual, Smart Blogger, Top Rank Marketing, SEMrush, among others.
Here's my top 10 list, pulled from others.
1. *Know where you are going and why.* Apple, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Wright Brothers did not start with what they were doing or how they were going to get there. They knew their purpose first and the rest followed. Watch Simon Sinek at TED: How Great Leaders Inspire Action (http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action).
Internalize your mission daily so that everything you do will get you there.
2. *Have the perseverance to keep to your mission daily.* You'll have a ton of great ideas, eventually the right one will stick (assuming you take the time to listen to experts, to your followers, to the ones paying you to do great work). But you've got to go through a lot to get there... and keep pushing. Every failure, ask yourself if the mission is worth pursuing and if you are going about it the "right" way. If so, keep going. If not, adjust and keep going. Angela Lee Duckworth: The Key to Success is Grit (http://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit#t-226166)
3. *No excuses.* Apologize for mistakes you are at fault for. Nobody has a perfect life and all of us are faced with occasional injustice and variables. Man up and deal with it. Read this excerpt of Fear vs. Anxiety from Seth Godin (http://www.sethgodin.com/bigmoo/free/fearvsAnxiety.pdf)
4. *Have a balanced life.* Successful individuals do not bury themselves in work all of the time. They set apart time for their family and themselves. They learn that they are physical, emotional, and spiritual creatures and that by neglecting one, it kills the others.
The problem most have is they think their priorities are linear. Instead, think of them as circular. There are moments when you need to sacrifice time with your family to time spent on the business. Conversely, there are moments when you need to sacrifice time spent on your business for time spent building yourself up spiritually (more on this later). For the most part, this is just learning from those who've gone before you and figuring out when you need to put your efforts on the right things.
5. *Invest in yourself* - If you are burnt out, there's no way to be able to help anyone else. Spend time educating yourself, investing in relationships (business and personal), spiritually reflect on the things of life, and take care of your physical and mental health. Check out Dan Cathy's Leadership Toolkit (especially the Oxygen mask). http://www.cathyfamily.com/resources/leadership-toolkit.aspx
6. *Money and materials isn't everything.* Jim Collins stated, "Profits and cash flow become like blood and water to a healthy body. They are absolutely essential for life, but they are not the very point of life." The really successful people in life always get to the top because they made changes in the lives of others, not their own. But at the end of the day, when we die, what then?
I understand some may give me flak for this, but this is why religion isn't just a crutch for the weak. Rather those we may view as "poor and weak" may realize that there's got to be more to life than the things of life that only satisfy for a moment. Don't believe there is a God? Tim Keller challenges Google employees on why not only is believing in God reasonable, but believing in God is more reasonable than not believing in God (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kxup3OS5ZhQ).
Figure out your true priorities and invest in them daily.
7. *Plan your day and your priorities.* Even if you are a one man show, you need to know what your values are and why (see points #1 and #2). Then you need to actually invest in those things with your time and your money. Aaron Ginn gives 6 great tips on how to focus your company values on growth (http://www.aginnt.com/post/49186721872/6-company-culture-attitudes-that-kill-growth#.VHekjTHF8ZM).
8. *Never stop asking questions.* The things I hold most dear to me are the things that I have tested and proved time and time again, whether that be my beliefs, my business strategy, or even my relationships. In order to do this, often it starts with asking probing questions to get at the answers. The prideful person assumes they have everything figured out and so they never dig deeper and they stop growing.
Quick word of caution: Not coming to conclusions about the questions you ask doesn't make you intellectually more "rational." It would be asinine to assume a wife is always cheating. Sure, ask the question from time-to-time. And when the evidence points out to her faithfulness, shelve the question. Same applies for the other areas mentioned above.
9. *Let go of past mistakes and move on.* Dwelling on past failures will restrict your openness to continue to think about future opportunities. The things in the past are great lessons with the tuition already paid. Get the most that you can and move on.
10. *Be a principled person.* We live in a society in which morals and principles are seemingly nonexistent. Part of the problem is we live in a culture that believes whatever is right in our eyes should be good (or, if it feels good, do it).
Back in the 1980's, Chuck Colson gave a speech to Harvard why they should not be teaching MBA's business ethics. The reason? They don't believe in absolutes. In order for there to be a coherent and consistent morals to live by, it cannot be something that changes. Read a transcript of Colson's speech here (http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/articles/entry/12/9649).
Identify which principles you have to guide your life by and keep to them daily. Your morals and principles should not change, no matter what.
Now that you've got your pep talk, go out there and create something worth sharing!
I by no means am an expert, but I take from the school of thought that there is no real reason to get your company registered until you start gaining revenue. In fact, I'd spend some time finding out what exactly your audience is looking for before even going any further. It's too easy to assume we know what people actually want instead of asking.
I'd check out Malcolm Bell's blog on how he used a survey and a landing page to get over 10,700 users for Mailcloud in 5 weeks before even creating the prototype (http://malcolmbell.net/2014/02/28/my-mailcloud-app-10000-users-in-first-2-weeks/). Bell will give you some great ideas on how to start your business on a dime.
As a former eBay entrepreneur, one of the biggest things that would appeal to me was someone who would be willing to hold the inventory. I had the traffic and the sales copy to make something sell, but did not want to pony up several thousands of dollars on inventory that may or may not have sold.
Here is a simple "hack" to find the top sellers selling in your product category.
1. At the ebay search, click on "advanced search." Select "Find Stores" on the left hand side (or go to http://bit.ly/ebaystores).
2. Click stores with matching items.
3. Type in the most generic, but relevant term. Results will be ordered strictly by the most matching items for that term. From there, spend time also narrowing down the list with specific terms like the item's brand. Keep in mind that not all matching items are related. For instance typing "cat" might product products for the animal or the earth-moving company.
Spend time checking out the stores using this criteria:
1. How many reviews have they had in the past year? Although I was more diligent in getting reviews, I still only received them for about 1 out of 3 buyers.
2. What is their average sale price per item? You can see the price of items sold in their reviews.
3. Are the items they sell within your price-point? If your items are too high, they may not want to take on the risk if someone returns the merchandise. If they are too low, it may not be worth their time to sell the items.
4. What is their neutral and negative feedback like? Sellers can't give negative feedback to buyers, so all of this information is relevant to their selling history. See if they responded to any of the feedback they received.
5. What are their detailed seller ratings like?
6. What is there shipping/return policy like?
7. How long have they been on eBay? This can be found by clicking on their store/username. Although not a guarantee that they have the experience to back it up, it is a good sign if they have not just started within the past month or two.
There are many other things to consider, but this is a good list to think about. Once you know the sellers you wish to contact, start reaching out to them to see if they are interested. As you do so, you also want to make sure you evaluate if they can adequately handle the inventory you have, judged by the person, the systems they have in place, and their eBay selling limits.
Personally, I believe after you start looking to sell on eBay and get things going well, I'd look to other online marketplaces like Amazon or Bonanza. The more channels you have, the more potential revenue you can make. This is why Walmart will have pop machines outside their building, in the aisles, and next to the checkout aisle.
Hope that helps! Feel free to send me a private message if you'd like more input!
While there are many ways to generate revenue, remember that the goal is to keep providing something of value to your site users and those who pay (which in your case right now, is separate).
Your target audience right now is consumers of comedy videos. Find ways to connect with comedians and get them to advertise their events on your site. Sell gag gifts. Explore similar sites and figure out how they generate revenue and do it better.
Putting aside the legal question for the moment, here's a bigger problem I think you will be facing: Of what benefit will users or advertisers have for this service?
As I current understand what you are doing, this is asking to be abused on multiple angles.
First, it only benefits advertisers if they are getting in front of relevant buyers interested in what they have to offer. So to get clicks from people not actually interested in what they have to offer will only increase advertising costs to reach the same audience.
Second, the user is just going to be deluged by offers that they really aren't interested in receiving. This means they will either de-select the company as a page they like or simply ignore the ad and get slightly irate with the irrelevant advertising.
Sorry to say, but this system is asking to be abused by click-farms. If you've got potential paying customers, figure out some other type of advertising system that will benefit both the users and advertisers, and see if it works!
Depends on what the exact purpose is. If you are simply in the idea stage, I'd spend time really figuring out if your problem is really a perceived issue with others and if it is big enough for them to pay for it. Getting your first dollar gives you something to scale with and gives you customers to interact with to make something they'd really want to get behind.
If you are doing it for a bank loan, then most templates on Google will give what you are looking for. Here are some templates from Entrepreneur.com: http://www.entrepreneur.com/formnet/businessplantemplates.html
There is no right answer to what product you should build; that will be different from person-to-person, your passion, your skills etc.
Here is a quick list of ways to generate ideas:
1. Talk to a teacher (or figure out what you can train others to do!)
2. Interview people. Ask what are the top 3 things they are facing today that they'd LOVE someone to solve.
3. Find something massively popular and sell it better.
4. Piggyback off something massively popular by selling a side-product/service.
5. Craigslist for what people are wanting.
6. Check marketplaces (eBay, Amazon, Etsy) for what is hot.
7. Ask Friends/Family for what they would want.
8. Go to a coffee shop and do some recon with the locals.
9. Check out online, newspaper, and magazine ads
10. Look at successful crowdfunding campaigns and compare to what is unsuccessful. Check who their backers are, see what those creators backed, etc.
11. Find out on Google what people hate
12. Google "Business ideas"
13. What'd you do last weekend?
14. What did you buy in last week?
As for validating it, ask your target audience to buy it from you before you build. Until you have money in hand, you have not validated anything. Though you should proceed with caution, Reddit can be very powerful in doing this.