These are my notes from the book by Dan Norris, The 7 Day Startup: You Don't Learn Until You Launch.
Check out wpcurve.com/the-7-day-startup for many of the worksheets and exercises.
You Don’t Learn Until You Launch
Hustle for an early stage startup is generally about spending your time on the things that are most likely to bring you customers.
Once you launch, you need to get more people paying you. You have to relentlessly pursue your best method of getting customers, and not the stuff you naturally gravitate to. Anti-hustle is what wantrepreneurs do. They do everything other than what needs to be done. They keep coding. They design new features. They optimize their site. They think up new, world-changing ideas. They hang out at startup events discussing their idea. They go to startup weekend and launch a new idea. They do everything other than what they need to do—which, more often than not, is getting more customers.
Entrepreneurs are rarely the inventors who came up with breakthrough technologies. Instead, they are people who took a small problem and worked it to death until they found a solution that gained traction.
If you have a conversation with a friend about your business idea this month, and next month you are having the same conversation, you are a wantrepreneur.
The 7 Pre-Launch Tasks
- Day One - You need to have an idea. I’ll explain how to generate ideas and tell a good one from a bad one (as best we can without having real customers).
- Day Two - You need to have something to launch at the end of the seven days. I’ll explain what a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is and you can start thinking about what you will launch.
- Day Three - You need a business name. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but I’ll look at a few ways you can create a simple, useful name.
- Day Four - You need a landing page or some sort of online presence. I’ll show you how to build a website in less than a day.
- Day Five - In this chapter I will give you a look at free methods for getting your business in front of enough people to help you decide whether or not to continue.
- Day Six - You need to measure what success means to you. The last thing you want is to launch and then not know whether you have a hit a few weeks later. I’ll help you set some goals and plan to make changes if you don’t reach those goals.
- Day Seven - You have to launch.
Day 1 - The 9 Elements of a Great Bootstrapped Business Idea
There are a lot of things that matter in making a successful business:
- The Idea Matters - A bad idea, executed well, will not make a good business.
- Execution Matters - A good idea, executed poorly, will not make a good business.
- A Founder’s Ability to Get Customers (To Hustle) Matters - A great idea, executed well, will fail without customers.
- Timing Matters - Speaking hypothetically about an idea is pointless if the timing is wrong.
- Luck Matters - In fact, it matters much more than most entrepreneurs would care to admit.
The 9 Elements of a Bootstrapped Business Idea:
- Enjoyable daily tasks
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to be passionate about growing a business.
It makes no sense to start a business that is going to have you doing work you don’t enjoy.
- Product/founder fit
- Scalable business model
Startup founders should have the ambition to grow their business into a larger company. If you don’t have that ambition, what you are creating is not a startup.
- Operates profitably without the founder
You need to be able to see a point where you can hire in staff or systems to replace you, and still continue to generate a profit. At that point it becomes a real business.
- An asset you can sell
A list of customers that pay you every month is an asset. If you focus on short-term projects you’ll make more money initially. But if you turn down projects and focus on providing recurring value, you build a valuable asset.
- Large market potential
- Tap into pain or pleasure differentiators
- Unique lead generation advantage
How you are going to generate leads for your business? What will make you, and your company, unique?
- Ability to launch quickly
For your first startup, there is a much easier way: Solve problems where people are already paying for solutions.
Everyone might be saying that your idea is great, but look at whether or not they are currently paying for a solution to the same problem. This will tell you how hard it will be to convince them to pay you for your product.
Day 1 Task - Brainstorm a bunch of ideas and evaluate them against the checklist. Choose the idea that stands out as being the best option for you. You can use the template provided at wpcurve.com/the-7-day-startup if that helps.
Day 2 - WTF is an MVP?
MVP, or “Minimum Viable Product.” The concept of the MVP is (in Eric Ries’ words):
The first step is to enter the Build phase as quickly as possible with a minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP is that version of the product that enables a full turn of the Build-Measure-Learn loop with a minimum amount of effort and the least amount of development time.
A common MVP mistake is over-emphasizing the “minimum” and under-emphasizing the “viable.”
The key is to forget about automation and figure out what you can do manually.
- Build what you need, not what you think others need (i.e. don’t act on assumptions)
- Charge from day one
- Stop trying to build the perfect product
- Ship fast, ship frequently
- Price for the customers you want
Today you need to think about what your MVP will look like and how you can build it in 7 Days. Here are some questions that you need to answer:
- How can you perform a service or offer a product to real customers?
- How will you get them to pay you after seven days?
- How close will your MVP be to the final vision of your product?
- What can you do manually (hint: probably everything)?
- What can you do yourself instead of delegating?
- How can you make your offer as real as possible for the end customer?
Day 2 Task - Write down exactly what you will launch on Day 7. What will your customers get, what is included, and what is excluded? If necessary, write down what is automated and what will be done manually in the short term.
Day 3 - Choose a Business Name
Google started out as “BackRub.” Creepy.
Yahoo started as “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” and then became an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”
A Framework for Choosing an Acceptable Business Name
- Is it taken?
- Is it simple?
- Is it easy to say out loud?
- Do you like it?
- Does it make sense for your idea?
- Broader is better.
Day 3 Task - Come up with a bunch of potential business names and evaluate them against the criteria above. Choose whichever one makes the most sense to you and run with it. Grab the best domain you can for that name. I have this chart and other resources at wpcurve.com/the-7-day-startup.
Day 4 - Build a Website in One Day for under $100
Day 4 Task - Build yourself a website! If you need help setting things up, check out wpcurve.com/the-7-day-startup for many of the worksheets and exercises. Also get a Google doc copy of this plan there.
Day 5 - 10 Ways to Market Your Business
- Create Content on Your Site
- Start Sending Emails
Everyone I know who has started a podcast lists the networking as the number one benefit. If you are like me, and you don’t love the idea of calling an influencer just to talk, then a podcast interview is an awesome alternative. You are creating free content for them and helping to spread their message, so you don’t feel bad asking for the interview.
- Forums and Online Groups
- Guest Blogging
- Listing Sites
- Doing Free Work
- Media Coverage
Day 5 Task - Build a list of what marketing methods you are going to choose. Put together a rough plan for the first week or two of your launch. To make it easier, I’ve created a template for you to use at wpcurve.com/the-7-day-startup.
Day 6 - Set Targets
Save your excitement until you land people you don’t know as customers.
Day 6 Task -Create a spreadsheet that covers the first few months in business, the number of signups, revenue, estimated costs, and monthly growth. You can use the template provided at wpcurve.com/the-7-day-startup to get started.
Day 7 - Launch
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Reid Hoffman
Day 7 Task - Launch and start executing your marketing plan.
Refine Your Business Model
A business is like a house. You can never imagine yourself leaving, but you do. Every single time.
What are you working on today that will make you indestructible tomorrow?
14 Business Rules to Live By
- Test Every Assumption
- Solve Problems as They Arise
- Do What You Say You Will Do
- Benchmark Against the Best
- Learn From Others and Yourself
- Outlearn Your Competition
- Always Consider How Your Business Looks Without You
It’s far better to under-promise and over-deliver, or at the very least deliver exactly what you promise every time.
- Look for Sources of Momentum
- Manage Motivation
If you are struggling with motivation, join a forum, start a mastermind, find a co-founder, hire people to do the hard work, and get back to what you’re good at.
You should be more excited about Monday than you are about Friday. If that’s not the case, there’s a good chance things aren’t going to work out.
- Cull Difficult Customers
- Focus on Retention
If someone does leave, don’t send them a long and detailed survey, send them this—it’s a Jay Abraham trick.
Subject: Did we do something wrong?
Body: Hey [first name] I noticed you canceled your subscription, did we do something wrong?
Most people will reply to this and you’ll find out the real reason people are leaving.
- Avoid Short-Term Thinking
- Focus on Product
- Love Your Work
I’m not talking about a business that has you “working for yourself.” I’m talking about a business that serves as a vehicle for creation of something real and valuable.