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This post is written by Ben Martin, Startup Weekend Alum and founder of Johnny on the Spot – The Surfers Personal Diary.

Back in November 2013 I had one of the best surfs of my life. I was buzzing for a week afterwards.

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The following weekend I attended a Startup Weekend and talked about an idea I’d had after that surf session that would help me do more of what I love.

I had no business experience. No programming skills. No previous thoughts of ever owning a tech startup. What I did have was an immense amount of passion, and less than six months later, Johnny on the Spot, the Surfer’s Personal Diary, is in the App Store.

Here’s why I think turning your passion into your business is a great way to go.

You are the expert

I’d spent the last decade traveling around the world, looking for the best waves and working out what makes them happen. Without trying, I’d built up a vast knowledge that became essential as we built Johnny on the Spot.  Create something around what you love and you’ll be amazed by just how much you know, and how useful this suddenly is.

You are your target market

Whether your passion is surfing, cycling, trainspotting or playing the banjo, you have a unique knowledge of something that is very hard for an outsider to understand. There will be terminology and jargon specific to your passion. There will be a huge range of personality types, but at the end of the day they are all turned on by the same thing. As an insider, you speak their language and you understand their needs. That kind of knowledge is gold when it comes to marketing your product.

People don’t buy what you do…

They buy why you do it. I didn’t say this – it’s the motif of a TED talk that a friend sent to me towards the end of the process. It helped me realize why the Startup Weekend judges picked my idea ahead of several others which I thought more commercially viable. It helped me to understand why a 5-strong team of busy developers and designers have all worked without pay for the last six months. And why, now it’s released, the reception has been better than I could ever have imagined. My primary motivation behind Johnny on the Spot was never money – it was a desire to do more of what I love. People pick up on this, and genuine passion goes a long, long way.

You won’t give up

I thought I knew busy before I started this business. I was wrong. I could never have predicted how all-consuming this project would become. I’ve talked to enough other start-up entrepreneurs now to be confident that I’m not alone. Whatever you do as a startup, it’s almost certainly going to take up your time like nothing else, so bear this in mind when you embark on your new project. Would you rather be working late into the night on a commercially viable idea that means little to you, or grafting away to solve a problem that’s dear to your heart? Any Startup venture requires huge reserves of tenacity, and you’re far more likely to stick with it if you genuinely care about the end result.

There are people like you

Whatever your passion is, you can be sure that there are others who share it. So next time you are rock-climbing, embroidering, parasailing or searching for rare vinyl and you think… ‘Wouldn’t it be good if…?’ it’s very likely that a lot of other people will think so too. Do it, and see what happens.

Here’s what happened as a result of pitching my passion. If you know others who share my passion, please push this in their direction. I’m confident they’ll thank you for it. Now go and work on yours!



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Ben Martin