Here are the latest from my founder institute class. We've lost a lot of members between the first night and the third session. If you are thinking you are ready for a startup incubator you better make sure that you've thought a lot about your idea, and you know what you're made of. This program isn't for people who think they sort of kind of might want to start something someday and wow look cool the Mint guy is a mentor so I'll join. If that's you don't waste your time or your peers and mentors, there's a good chance you'll not make it.
It's also not for people with thin skin in the third session not one person who pitched their idea was told "hey that sounded great let's tweak it just a little". No you were pushed hard on the how and why of your idea? Is the market big enough? What problem are you solving and one of the main questions is always "What are you building again?" While that seems easy I think founders are "cursed with knowledge" to borrow a line from Chip and Dan Heath's Made to stick . They've thought about their idea so long it seems to them like everyone should just naturally understand it, guess what THEY DON'T. You better get to the point you can explain it in one sentence in a way your mom knows what you're talking about. Simple, Simple, Simple
Founder Institute is really a challenge and I find it stretching my abilities in a good way. It's rough traveling from Oklahoma once a week but as they say what doesn't kill you. Here are some of my takeaway's from the 3rd session.
You aren't going to be the first person with this idea and if you are it probably sucks or is too early. This goes right in line with what I remember reading from Steve Blank's blog a few weeks ago, which talks about the first to market fallacy.
While you need to be lean and flexible (see lean startup) but you can also rule out a lot of ideas with research. and lots of it. You need to know how big your market is? Who are your competitors (yes there are some) and what kind of market are you in (again you think this part is easy but it's not)
You can find a lot of this using competitor's blogs, press releases, twitter, delicious, etc, there's a good chance they've done a lot of the research for you
Figure out how to get to $100 million in revenue in 5 years if you expect to build an enduring company.
Know your value proposition as Dave McClure says "Your solution is not my problem" if it isn't a pain point for people you are going to have a tough time convincing people to use it.
In summary, Be flexible with a very simple idea with a great value prop, in a big market (greater than 1Billion) by doing a lot of research and interviews.
I'm building a startup called ServiceVines. I live far out from civilization and like it. I get really too excited over tech, economics, and food.