Just Start – Go small, quick, iteratively and cheaply

“Just start” is a mantra by all startup gurus. This post uses the example of the Tuts + network to show how working with what you have is crucial to starting quickly.

Of all the entrepreneurial mantras out there, probably the most famous is possibly “Just Start”. It sounds reasonable and even motivational mantra, and gels with our ideas of entrepreneurs as creatures who throw caution to the wind. Yet, when one looks carefully at successful entrepreneurs they are neither risk takers, nor running around aimlessly doing stuff. The risks are smaller, and there is a process of learning.
I have been a customer on Envato for four years. Envato runs a network of sites selling digital files and a set of educational sites, and a couple of other things. It is the biggest marketplace for WordPress themes in the world. It is however a very successful business. From a customer perspective I have some issues with the business, but still regularly purchase from them. In 2010, the CEO/ Founder of Envato gave a five minute talk that helps us understand the “Just Start” philosophy using the Tuts + network as an example.

Three features of the presentation are worth noting:

  1. Start small – In the presentation notice how they started with literally a basic static website, and overtime invested in the development of the
  2. Start quickly –  Everything does not need to be perfect, but having a product or service available provides a
  3. Make changes – These days the concept of a pivot is popular in the startup community. In building the Tuts Plus network the changes the important feature is that they were making changes as they better understood there customers.
  4. Cash flow – In this presentation, Collis Ta’eed notes that it took them 18 months to become profitable. Managing costs and keeping costs down are crucial.

Means in Hand

The story told in the video resonates with one of the principles of effectuation. The principle is called “Bird-In-Hand”, which focusses on the means that are available to entrepreneurs. It is drawn from the idiom “a bird in hand, is worth two in the bush”. The presentation shows this principle. Ta’eed has at his disposal the following:

  • Photoshop skills: Knowing how to use Photoshop is a fairly common skill
  • HTML skills: Again, a resource available to most people, and fairly easy to learn
  • 3 Tutorials: Again, developing a couple of tutorials is not that difficult.

The important lesson is that using these available resources, they were able to get started really quickly and test an idea – with available means.