I was over excited with my first startup. I resigned from my job in Dec 2013 for my first startup SchoolGennie. I did a lot of mistakes and my startup failed in a couple of months.
I learned some valuable lessons that are extremely helpful for anyone building his first startup.
If I had to go back in time, I would do the following things right.
#1 Talk directly to Customers
Don’t assume anything. Talk to your customers what they want unless you are innovating something like Apple iPhone. Most of the times people hide what they are building. The worst part is that they hide their product from their customers until it is complete.
Shame on me, I did this mistake. I waited for six months to talk to my first potential customer because my product was under development and I did not want to embarrass myself with the incomplete and ugly version of my software.
The truth is that I was afraid of losing a customer. Anyways I never won that customer. Rather had I spoken to him before building my software, I could have built a better product. A product with less features but more useful for customers like him.
#2 Validate your market
It happens sometimes that you talk to few customers and start building a product based on their requirements. You must check whether the same things is required by everyone in the market or your product is useful for very few people.
We built school ERP on the assumption that school management softwares are required by each and every school. But we were wrong. Most of the schools are operating well on excel sheets or with freely available management softwares. Different schools need different features and customization for each school is not possible for a cloud-based software (like our)
#3 Build relationships with startup community
I received so much love from fellow entrepreneurs when I started interacting with them. If you are planning to start a company, it will be good to participate in startup events. There are so many awesome people (but beware of junk entrepreneurs) who are willing to help you out in building your business. You have to go outside and find who can help you.
You can attend events like Startup Weekend, Startup Saturday, in50Hours in your nearby city. You should also read startup media like YourStory, Inc42, NextBigWhat and iamwire.
#4 Follow Blogs in your niche
I was so stupid that I started reading blogs after leaving my job. There is so much free information available on the internet and you must learn as much as possible while doing your full-time job. If you are going to do sales and marketing for your startup then read marketing and sales blogs. If you are building a mobile app then you must check out blogs for learning mobile app development.
#5 Read books
I have not met any successful entrepreneur who hates reading books, everyone reads books in the startup community. I started reading books very late, my first book being The Art of Startup by Guy Kawasaki. It changed the way I was looking at my startup. In fact this book helped me in saving me a lot of money that I was wasting on unnecessary things in my startup.
After that I read more books like Good to Great, The lean startup and my real startup journey started.
#6 Find a Mentor
Feel yourself extremely lucky if you can find a mentor before leaving your job. I found my mentor after failing at my startup and I can not quantify how much value mentors add into your startup and personal life.
You should not spam people asking for mentorship but take a conscious decision who can help you out in your startup. You can just send them a mail explaining your idea, the area where you need his help, why you chose him as mentor and what you have to offer in exchange of mentorship (money, equity or something else you think is valuable for your mentor)
#7 Network with influential people
Create a list of influential people in your industry. Reach out to each of them for help without spamming. If they are influencing you industry then they must be receiving tons of emails on daily basis. Make sure your email is outstanding, crip & clear and must have a value for the receiver.
Most of the people love to help, you must prove that you are worthy of their love.