Before I ask my question let me place it in context of where I am right now. About 2 weeks ago, I was driving home from work and was listening to the radio when something the announcer said sparked a though in my mind about a great business opportunity in the mobile application arena.
Some background on myself: I'm 30 years old, married, and my wife and I are enroute to having a child (well, not pregnant yet, but you get the idea!). I'm a full-time project manager for a technology company. I've got an MBA and currently own three part-time businesses; a web design company (www.guidinglightproductions.com), a short sale software company (www.shortsaleartisan.com), and I'm about to be the owner of a profitable Internet forum in the next few days as well (just signing the final papers).
I've historically always been nervous about launching "game changing" businesses - and I'm not really sure why. I suppose the scope of them just seemed really intimidating to me. All my businesses now are niche business in established markets that can be profitable, but never would really (without fundamentally changing the business plan) be insanely profitable or be in a position to be bought out, for example.
However, this new mobile idea I had the other day, fits into that "game changing" category. In my opinion, it's a great candidate for funding and rapid growth and can really change the way people in the country interact with merchants at physical locations.
Now, I'm not the most technical person. I know the fundamentals of coding, but my real skill set is more business-end related... meeting with people, striking deals, coming up with concepts, etc. So, I brought the idea up to a friend of mine who is a very talented .NET developer. He is very enthusiastic about the idea as well.
For the last two weeks, we have been meeting 3x per week and working almost daily on this idea. He has started coding the initial prototype of it and I hope to have it ready for demo purposes in the next couple of weeks. I've been working on business planning, pitch planning, etc. I literally can barely sleep at night this idea has consumed me so much. But, it's also a new type of business for me in that, like I said, it's huge and I need to get the confidence to inspire others along with me.
Where do I go from here? I'm not sure I'm ready to start talking about my idea just yet (at least not on the Internet, I have been talking non stop with friends, family, and local businesses), at least until I have a prototype I can show. I'd really like to start meeting and building contacts so that when the time comes I am ready to approach investors. How do you actually go about meeting investors and building contacts? Is it just reaching out randomly? And, WHEN should I start approaching angel investors or venture funding? I'm assuming after we have a prototype completed and ready to demonstrate.
I just want to make sure that I'm not the log jam when the time comes to move forward after our prototype is done!
I'm sure it's never to early to start meeting people, so where to start is my question!
Thx - I really truly enjoy OnStartups. This is a fantastic site, and I can see myself spending a LOT of time here with all of you inspiring folks!
BTW: I'm in central Massachusetts area.
One more thing along these lines - doing some research this afternoon I'm tempted to enter the Mass Challenge (http://www.masschallenge.org/). My only concern is that the idea is too much vapor right now and not enough substance.
They also ask that you try to get endorsed... and they provide a list of endorsing companies and people here: http://www.masschallenge.org/endorsements/orgs. How would I best approach them? Find a few that relate to my business idea and just walk in the door? I'm assuming phone calls and emails are not appropriate.
It's certainly not too early to start working on a simple business plan.
Start thinking about what it will take to fully develop and market the idea. How many people will you have to hire. How much do you think you'll have to pay them, how much equity will you give them, and so on. Also consider what you think the app would cost, and subtract out any overhead or profit-share with whatever your go-to-market approach is.
Once you have a solid, well-thought out idea for what the actual financial side of the business looks like, I don't think it's too early to start pitching the idea to the right Angels. In many cases it can be helpful to solicit early, as you may get some useful feedback you can incorporate before you go too far down a specific development path.
One thing that might help is identifying and pitching within a "mentor pool" of sorts, practicing with people who might, in fact, have direct dealings with the angels you want to reach. Lawyers or accountants you have worked with, for example.
Great that you have draft financials already in place. That's a big piece of telling the story. Definitely get your go to market plan in order.
Be careful of who you listen to, though. It's one thing for friends and contacts to say "that's really cool" and "that sounds revolutionary" and having an investor pony up real cash to fund it and the customer to put up money to buy it. (lesson I learned, the hard way).
Most of all, good luck!
You may want to take a look at some of the seed fund accelerators in the Boston area.
Check out FoundersInstitute which runs a structured program of taking a novice entrepreneur through all the steps of starting a business. One of the advantages of this program is that it's structured as a 10-12 week night course (meets once a week). You get access to their mentor pool. Almost all of the mentors are seasoned entrepreneurs and angels.
One of the mentors for FoundersInstitute, Sean Lindsay ( http://www.linkedin.com/in/seanlindsay ) also runs a newly formed group called Founders Mentors.
You should also check out TechStars Boston. The TechStars program which is very much oriented to "code the frigg'n prototype and screw the business plan." This years program is run by Katie Rae who is a seasoned entrepreneur and also runs a seed fund called Project11. TechStars has had a number of mobile oriented startups run through the program in the last two years.... notably AccelGolf.
Since you're in Central Mass., you may want to check out another seed fund accelerator called BetaSpring. Once again, this is oriented towards coding a prototype and then hooking you up with their angel pool.
As you might have guessed, I'm not really excited about business plan competitions. You end up with a beautiful bound business plan and maybe a little cash but no functioning prototype.
You also should get involved with MoMo Boston http://www.momoboston.com/about-2/ which is a large networking group in Boston focused on all things mobile. It's run by Matt Gross the founder of Where. This is a great source for finding mobile developers, entrepreneurs and investors.