We’ve all been there, sitting at our desk in the office and asking ourselves if this is it. When a brilliant idea worthy of a new business crosses your mind and you start imagining where it could go - before a reminder for the next meeting pop-ups on your screen and that exciting strain of thoughts is about to vanish forever. Did you write it down?
Of course, simply having a business idea doesn’t make you a CEO yet. In fact, there are several steps to consider before registering a company - crucial steps which might help further defining your idea and making sure that you can successfully take off with it in the first place. Steps every founder should go through, just as Tim Michaelis did before quitting his job and starting up “Sportain.me”:
Please tell us a little bit about you and your startup, Tim.
My name is Tim Michaelis. I am a 27 years old Mechanical Engineer from Germany. I used to work for a midsize helicopter-company here in Switzerland before starting my own company. The project is called “Sportain.me”. We are producing vending machines for rental of sports-equipment in parks and sports-facilities and the first machine will be set-up very soon!
How did you come up with this idea?
I have always been interested in starting up and had multiple ideas over time, but none of them was a business I would want to work on for longer. One day, I was out with a friend and we wanted to go mountain biking but I had no bicycle and all (rental) shops were closed. That was the moment when I asked myself if there aren’t any automated mountain bike rentals – I would have paid good money to get me one for a couple hours back then. We ended up doing something else but the idea of a rental-machine for sports-equipment kept me busy and was an exciting opportunity to combine my passion for sports with my passion for engineering.
Once you had a concept worth pursuing, how did you go about it?
I first spent a good amount of time with research to figure out if there were any similar businesses out there and if my idea was feasible in general. At some point I realized that I would need money and probably some coaching. That’s when I started reaching out to various people and to attend startup events in the region. It was at a meetup to connect Angel Investors where I met an investor who is to this day helping me with valuable advice. Back then he recommended me to participate in one of the Startup Weekend events to further define my idea. And that’s what I did then.
How was the Startup Weekend experience?
It was great. The Startup Weekend program is fast-paced and result oriented, which helped me to make great progress with the project. Furthermore, it was a great opportunity to network and connect to startup mentors.
What do you mean by “great progress”?
First of all, I could work on and refine the idea in a team and even met my co-founder at the event. It was also at Startup Weekend, where the business model changed from renting mountain bikes to renting smaller equipment like a basketball, soccer ball, frisbee, etc. And we even created and tested a prototype with potential customers in the city. In that sense, the experience not only helped me to find a co-founder but also to re-consider and validate the idea. It formed a solid foundation for a startup – enough for me to leave my job and commit to the project full-time afterwards.
Bold move – wasn’t it scary to leave your position?
Startups are risky businesses by definition and you are never going to be 100% sure of the outcome but if you have a good idea that people like and you enjoy working on it, then it is definitely worth a shot. You don’t want to look back in 30 years and regret that you have never tried it. Of course, I prepared with some savings and the fact that I have no one is depending on me helps a bit.
Any recommendations for upcoming Startup Weekend participants?
If you already have an idea, you want to practice pitching to recruit a good team. Join the Startup Weekend pitch training pre-event if possible. People without ideas might want to look for a suiting project and team they could join. One point of the weekend valuable to everyone is the opportunity to network and meet people of various backgrounds and skills who can help you on the spot or maybe someday in the future. And in general: do what you like doing and don’t be too afraid of the consequences – it is going to work out one way or the other.
One idea can spark strong motivation. One weekend can build up the faith to venture. The Startup Weekend Zurich experience boosted Tim’s project from a vague concept to a proven business plan with a team behind it. It surprised him so much, he even decided to support the Startup Weekend Zurich Team as a volunteer, so he can enable others to get on the path of entrepreneurship.
We wish Tim and his team all the best on their journey and hope more curious minds will take a next step from trying towards making it happen: Become one of them and join Startup Weekend Zurich on May 24-26!