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The following is a repost from Startup Weekend DC participant Isamer Bilog. For more about Isamer, see his blog and original post here.

Startup Weekend DC was an unbelievable experience that taught me how to take an idea from conception to fruition. Startups are conceived by building upon an idea and giving it life. Do you want to be part of this often unclear but always exciting business sector? Do you think you might have an entrepreneurial mindset? Think your ideas can evolve to become a business? Or even, do you simply want to be part of the startup community and join a team? From first-hand experience and  a great deal of advice from startup veterans, I bring you #HowToStartup!

Pro Tip: The best ideas come from what you know! (Sounds simple enough, right?) 

Is entrepreneurship for you?

The startup world is an exciting and dynamic environment, but you’d better believe it’s scary. For the most part, you can’t predict what’s coming next. You have to know whether you are cut out not just to survive, but to thrive in an ever-changing environment. Remember, you are forging your own path and you can’t trudge on half-a**ed. It’s all about a clear vision, a plan, and having the bravery to put these into action. You need to be confident that you will succeed.

RonSwanson

What’s the problem and what’s your solution?

This is the most IMPORTANT question. It’s imperative that you have an answer or you can’t move on. You need a legitimate problem – don’t work on or propose problems that don’t exist. Unfortunately, there are way more problems in the world than can be dealt with.  With this said, go find the problem you are interested in figuring out: maybe it’s your biggest pet peeve, maybe it’s something you think everyone is doing wrong. After deciding which problem you have the capacity to solve, think up an answer but make sure that answer is clear and superior.

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Team Up!

I won’t say that a one-man startup is impossible, but how many jack-of-all-trades have you met in your day? Dependent upon what your own experience and skill sets are, you need to figure out who you need to help execute your idea. A successful startup team should be balanced with technical, creative, business and administrative individuals. (Pro Tip: Make sure that your team is just as passionate as you are about your idea. Everyone must be on the same page.) A passionate and motivated team will provide great vigor.

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MVP! Then, Find Your Target Market

What is your minimum viable product? What is it that you are going to produce that solves the problem? Your minimum viable product should have sufficient value and demonstrate potential benefit to attract and retain early adopters. MVP is a core component for your feedback loop. It’s your tool to test out if you are headed in the right direction. Once you’ve got that down, find out who your customers are and focus on having a one-sided market. Is your start up a B2B or a B2C? Who is going to use this product? Try to stay away from having two-sided market and focus on having one, or it can get complicated.

See About Customer Validation

Get out there and show your MVP to its potential market. Customer validation can help your startup determine whether or not it is viable. You have to figure out if people care about the idea or not. (Pro-tip: PIVOT! You can always pivot your business model. If potential customers don’t agree with your idea, see if you can change your angle. Just avoid doing this too many times or your entrepreneurial integrity may come into question!)

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WOW!

No, not World of Warcraft, but the reaction people should have when they use your product or service. What will make your startup unique, special, EXTRAordinary? Chances are that someone else is doing something kind of similar, quite similar or very similar. What separates your startup from the rest? Bring that X-factor to the table. If you can channel your inner Zappos and bring that WOW factor,  I’m sure you’ll acquire a huge customer base. 

Final Thoughts 

Not every startup will be an overnight success; after all AOL was an “11-year overnight success!”  Much like any personal relationship, there will be a stream of highs and lows throughout your startup’s life. But what makes this roller coaster worth it is passion, passion, passion: the key to staying motivated and focused on the path to success. If your idea alone doesn’t keep you and your team excited about working, you may want to reconsider your intentions. If I learned nothing else from Startup Weekend DC: running a startup is a long and arduous path to glory.

 Have a story to share with the Startup Weekend community? Email us at social@startupweekend.org!

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