I mean, if you want to, go nuts… but you don’t have to build the next Facebook/Twitter/Flickr to really succeed as an entrepreneur or developer.
For those who are looking for an idea for their startup, the temptation is to think big. Often too big. The success stories around websites like Facebook, Twitter, or even Google lead developers and entrepreneurs to believe that if they can just come up with the Next Big Thing, they will strike it rich. Its all downhill as long as their idea totally rocks.
The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that you can be a very successful entrepreneur and business owner without ever building something for the masses. Although you are much more likely to make it big one day if your product does appeal to everyone, the likelihood of ever reaching that point is very very low. For every Facebook, Reddit, Digg, or Twitter, there are thousands of other similar sites that have failed.
Its ok to build something that only some people care about. Just make sure that enough people care about it to support your goals.
If you simply want to be able to support yourself (by working for yourself instead of some big corporation), then you don’t need a gigantic market that consists of everyone and their mum. It may be that all you need to focus on is building something that appeals to Boy Scout leaders or perhaps just Scuba Divers. It is easier to build passion and loyalty among a small tight-knit community than the world as a whole.
A perfect example of this is Patrick McKenzie of Bingo Card Creator. He’s not out to conquer the world (yet), but he is insanely focused on building the world’s best bingo card teaching tools on the planet. His laser focus on a niche market is reaping rewards because he built something that a small percentage of people actually need, and he built it so well that people are willing to pay for it.
So what should you focus on?
What are you passionate about? If you could spend all day doing something, what would that be? For me, one of those things is scuba diving. Build something related to what you are passionate about, because sooner or later you are going to hit a rocky patch and its going to suck (for a while at least) to be running your startup. Sales will be down or non-existent, your conversion rate will take a dive, or you’ll just hit a slump when you don’t want to think about it for a while, but you need to keep going. No successful startup will be roses all the way to the end. You will hit a point where you’re just plain tired, so it better be doing something you love.
So instead of spending time trying to come up with an idea for the Next Big Thing, think about what you love the most and build something useful that people are willing to pay for. You are much more likely to succeed that way, particularly as a first-time entrepreneur. The worst case scenario if you even moderately succeed is that you will end up with a Cash Cow that can support you while you spend time thinking about the Next Big Thing.
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