Young Entreprenuer Series: Metroseeker
Ysmay Gray’s post about Pinterest last month received so much positive feedback (even on Pinterest) that I’ve invited her back to VoxpopNJ. This month, she discusses the process she went through before founding Metroseeker, and online resource for people moving to a new city. I teach eCommerce this time of year, and her post arrived just as my students are exploring ideas for their own ventures. I shared Ysmay’s words with them this morning; now my readers can learn not just what Ysmay went through but how they too can find a unmet need and turn it into an opportunity!
A New Website Service is Born
Throughout my life I have had the pleasure to live in a number of places from New York to New Mexico; California to Texas. Like many people in my generation, I see moving as fun, exciting, and exhilarating. But it is definitely not an experience without its challenges. When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2008 I was excited, but when I got there, something just didn’t jive. The Bay is a nice enough place, sure, but it just didn’t jive with who I am. I didn’t know how to articulate the problem, but something just didn’t fit. I felt alien.
In Santa Fe in November 2010, I went out to dinner with an old friend who was living in Chicago. As fate would have it, we were seated next to some friends of his from Chicago. Over the next half hour I discovered these three people who had been living in Chicago for six months knew very little about what it was like to live there.
And that’s not uncommon. When I moved to the Bay Area, I didn’t understand what it was like to actually live there until I lived there for 18 months.
What an absurd notion! It’s only after living somewhere for a year and a half that we finally feel at home?
I quickly found out the reason for this was because the information available about cities was focused on something else. It was focused on tourism. Tourism is where the money is, and how many cities stay afloat. Unfortunately, residents, or prospective residents, end up being neglected. Like many people who end up moving, I spent weeks online looking for information on what it is like to live in the Bay Area. I never did find that information online.
Throughout history technology has been used to make it easier to share information and bring our society closer together. Yet somehow, in 2010, the information needed to help us integrate into a new city was nowhere to be found.
All too often we are bound in the mire of our current ways of gathering and perceiving information, and this is a classic example of being held hostage by our own shortsightedness. Throughout the centuries, human migration, and particularly urbanization, generally happened out of a need for food and for employment. Thanks to grocery stores, we have solved the food problem. Thanks to the internet, more and more people are able to telecommute, and unlike previous generations, the need to live close to work is less important.
MetroSeeker was born from the realisation that I cannot possibly be the only person who gets irritated at spending hours looking for the information I need before moving to a new city.
As a general rule, good companies – successful companies – do not make money because they were built on the concept of making money. They make money because they were built to solve a problem. They were built to serve a greater good.
But having a good idea and having the ability to make a viable business out of it are two different things. Once you get an idea, there are a few tasks you need to undertake before you can jump into your new project with both feet.
The first thing I did was market research. I needed to answer the question “Does something like MetroSeeker exist?”
Often times, your idea will be similar to something that’s already out there. When that happens, you need to determine what would be so different about yours. If the answer to this “not much”, then you have an even more challenging question to answer: can the market support you and your competitors?
If you have an idea for a company and nothing like it currently exists, then you’re stuck with the equally challenging question of: why not?
This is an age in which almost everything that can be done, has been done. There is nothing that will waste more of your time than reinventing the wheel. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel; you just need to attach a new wagon to it. What is already being done that you can do better? How is a current service being underutilized?
If you have an idea that nobody else has done, then you need to determine why. Is the market just not there? Perhaps the world isn’t ready for it. Did others try and fail? If so, how did they fail? How can you learn from their mistakes?
What innovation type are you?
There are two primary types of innovations. Evolutionary innovations that improve existing markets, and disruptive innovations that create new markets. You need to determine which type your idea is. By knowing if you’re evolutionary or disruptive you will be able to forecast different challenges that will arise with getting your company up and running.
You might get writer’s cramp.
Get yourself a notebook and write down everything that pops into your head regarding your business and other businesses. Did you see someone do something awesome? Write it down. Did you see someone do something awful? Can you improve on something? Write it down.
In this notebook you should be writing down the steps you would need to take to get a business up and running. A few things to consider:
- Do you need a business license?
- Will you need an office?
- How will you make money? – You don’t need to be rich; you just need to sustain yourself and your company.
- How will you pay your employees?
- Will employees be regular employees or contract workers?
- What form of corporation will you file as? LLC? S-Corp? C-Corp?
- What about your brand? Your brand is an extension of you and your company. What will your brand represent?
Starting a company is not easy, but with preparation and research, it can be done.
About the Author: Ysmay is the founder and CEO of MetroSeeker.com.