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How To Build A $30M Startup Without Spending Any Of Your Money, In Your Spare Time April 23, 2013

by Kelly Clay

Have you ever wanted to create a successful startup? Maybe you have the design chops, the cool sense of style and the ability to get others excited about trends in technology, but can't find that perfect idea. Something you could execute on quickly. Something you knew there was a buyer for.

Summarization. It is the next big thing. Google bought Wavii and Yahoo bought Summly. But what about Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook? That's 3 big companies that will need summarizations in the next 6 months. This is your chance to be THAT company. The one that gets bought by one of them for $30M.

This plan was inspired by the real life actions of Nick D'Aloisio, CEO and Founder of Summly.

  • Step 1. License a summarization technology. I recommend this one from Stremor. It's simple to use, does a great job, and is priced per summary so you need only pay for what you use. It even has a free tier so you can do development without raising any money.
  • Step 2. Build a beautiful app that displays your summaries. I would suggest writing a quick server side script that reads an RSS feed, fetches the Stremor summary, and feeds that to a simple Conduit app. They also have a free developer license so you can build your app before going to a VC.
  • Step 3. Get a celebrity or two on board. This may be a little tough. I would probably approach it this way: Find B list celebrities by going to their book signings or their small concerts. Introduce yourself, say some nice things about them, and give them shares in your company right on the spot. Once they have them, you can honestly say, "The former drummer from Indigo Girls is a stakeholder." This will open the doors to VCs.
  • Step 4. Find an Angel or VC. You don't need much, just an angel with $100k that you can use for marketing. There are some great business plan templates. Fill one of those out. But mostly find all the news clippings about Summly being bought and show them that if Yahoo thinks this is worth $30m, so does Google. Stress that you have celebrity relationships, and that your app was built by a team that has several hundred successful apps in Google Play and IOS App Store. It doesn't matter that those aren't your team members, it is still true.
  • Step 5. Get press. With your funding, buy off a few reporters to talk about your app. (Actually, just kidding. This is unethical to most journalists.) Get on TV if you can. Do what is necessary to get your name out. Don't worry about user installs. Don't worry if your app is down most of the time. It just needs to work well enough to demo and take screenshots of.
  • Step 6. Get bought. Having done all of this, people should be banging on your door to buy you. If not, just take the last $30k from your investment and think of something else to try. If at first you don't succeed, try again.

Here are a few other tips you should take to heart from quotes from Nick D'Aloisio:

Lie. Well, not flat out. Just enough that other people feel bad for you. "I try to maintain a level of humbleness" – the Guardian

This is important – but he said it after he sold the company. Before that, you need to be super egotistical. This is all about the hype.

Also, don't go to the Apple store. They won't be able to help you get an app in to the store, nor will they be able to help you build an app. They aren't that kind of genius, no matter what the "bars" name implies.

"I went into an Apple store with my dad and we asked one of the assistants how we did this [make an app], and they didn't know what we were talking about. So I had to wait another few months before it was released publicly." – the Guardian

Of course, this plan so far has only worked for Nick D'Aloisio – but if you use the right technology, you may find yourself with $30m overnight, too.

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