Wayra start-up diary: the beauty of an original idea

We have been in the Wayra academy for nearly four months and it's time for another update. The decisions we now face as a business are very different to those when we first joined but the realities of startup life are still very much the same.

This week I was sent a great article by Tim Grimsditch of Six3, one of our fellow Wayra companies. It was written by Andrew Montalenti and called 'Why Startups Die'.  It's full of valuable insights and the fact that Tim shared it, reflects the sense of common purpose that the teams here in Wayra have developed. There really is a feeling that "we're all in it together" which is incredibly valuable.

My main take away from Andrew's post is that you and your team have to love what you do and this got me thinking…

About a year ago I was sitting on a bus with a housemate having a 'Joke Inventing Contest'. It was a half an hour bus trip from central London to our place in north London. This would probably have been a fun game for a couple of professional comedians to play but since neither of us was even amateur comedians, it had turned into a game of attrition; as bad joke followed nonsensical sentence. As our bus reached the Angel station inspiration finally struck me. I turned to my friend, excited to be able to share something of value at last.

"Ready?" I said

"Ready!" he replied, generously enthusiastic. I took a deep breath.

"Two sheep…. walk into… a BARRRR"

Oh, how we laughed. Well, I did anyway. He basically just smiled, but it was clearly a solid effort.

We arrived back at the house, made a cup of tea and I settled back to watch the football scores roll in, safe in the knowledge that I had invented a joke.

It was after my 60,342nd retelling of that joke that I was suddenly inspired to see if it existed online… I wanted so badly for it to be original. For one thing, I had spent the last twenty-four hours telling everyone that I had invented it.

Google was, of course, the bearer of bad news.  Someone had posted the joke on a forum already. However, I realised that it didn't really matter and I still tell people I invented the joke because you know what, I did.

A different search about seven years before brought forward no results. It was for Night Zookeeper and I must admit I felt great, but in the time that it has since taken me to start the business, I have seen the appearance of Night at the Museum, In the Night Garden, Zookeeper the movie and many, many others. I know that I invented Night Zookeeper though and I take a strange comfort from that knowledge.

As creators, entrepreneurs must love their idea. It's one of the core elements that drive us forward. We are like Dr Frankenstein's working all those late nights on our very own monster!

When we started Night Zookeeper, one of our mentors gave us a survey with questions designed to analyse our motivations for starting the company. Later, analysing the results, it was clear that we were all aligned and pulling for the same things. This knowledge gives me huge comfort as an MD. So it could be a good activity to do with your co-founders?

One factor that doesn't make the danger list in Andrew's article is competitors. It's very rare that an abundance of competition would kill a startup, but a large player or well-funded competitor isn't ideal. However what is more likely to kill your business is the mentally draining impact of feeling like a competitor is stealing YOUR idea. This can reduce the motivation of a startup entrepreneur who is in it for the love of their idea. But it really shouldn't because if you focus on why you love the idea, what company philosophy you are trying to instil and how the product/s you make are unique then you will always find more differences than similarities with your potential competitor.

This 'competitor effect' isn't specific to existing startups; it also can stop someone from taking their idea forward into a business. But, although doing a thorough competitor analysis is crucial to help you understand your market, discovering competitors in the space isn't the end of the road. Like my joke, your business idea may still be worth spreading, especially if you can tell it well and/or to a new audience of people.

One more thing, on Sunday we received the very exciting news that we had been selected as part of the Smarta 100! Night Zookeeper would certainly appear to be the underdogs in this fantastic competition. However, I hope that some of you like what we are trying to achieve with our business. 

For more information about Night Zoo Keeper, click here

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