Spontaneous Startups are a special class of new enterprise.
They are the ones that just happen.
One or two people. No business plan, no MBA, no VC money, no whatever else, just that sudden "Hey, why don't we do XYZ?!" And they go do it. Often very well.
I've recently realized there are a lot of amazing entrepreneurs out there who "didn't have a clue" about what they were getting into. Something triggered in their brain one day and presto! Out came a clever idea that became a clever new enteprise.
They are so fresh and different from the classical venture capital backed startup to IPO model that I had to pause and dwell upon them. Like a breath of fresh Spring air, I found them stimulating and inspiring.
My research has revealed so many of these Spontaneous Startups that I decided today to reflect on them for you and supply a real example to think about.
SPONTANEOUS STARTUP IS
Here is what makes a Spontaneous Startup so special:
- Sudden. There is no gradual effort leading up to the formation of The Idea for the new enterprise. It springs up with a loud "Surprise!"
- Wherever. The Idea can occur anywhere. On a plane, in a classroom or shower, watching television, during a sporting event, even on the job as you work.
- Instantly compelling. The Idea is immediately appealing to the founders who sense it is will also be appealing to many paying customers.
- Personal Product/Service. Sports clothing, baby seats, racing bicycle parts, casual digital games and other ideas resonate naturally with the founders.
- Mostly consumer. Industrial startups can be born as Spontaneous Startups, but most are ideas about selling something to ordinary people (or they are about supplying a product/service free to end users and making money via the classical Internet advertising business model).
- Clever. Something is triggered that jumps out as at least novel, or very new, if not extraordinary.
- No Special Education. While founders of this kind of startup range from high school dropouts to PhDs, the founders appear to include relatively high portion of people with no college education.
- Venture Capital Missing. Founders got started with their own savings, typically in the form of going without salary. They begin work in their homes and rented apartments. Cash is precious.
- Quick Time to Launch First Product. Months rather than years are consumed to get from start to first sales.
- Quick to Profit, Mostly. Most are profitable after a few months of first sales. Exceptions are in Internet centric businesses (e.g. mobile photo sharing: Instagram) which race to be first to get the gorilla share of end users in the new market category.
- Hyper Growth, Mostly. The first product/service catches on and spreads like wildfire, with sales following with the same remarkable growth. Exceptions like Linkedin do seem to require decades to get established before the hyper growth occurs, and thus have to get additional funding from wealthy angels.
- Friends Do It. The founders and early core of employees are friends. They may have worked together, but more are simply social friends, often very close friends.
EXAMPLE OF A REAL SPONTANEOUS STARTUP
I have a real Spontaneous Startup for you to think about. It was born in Norway and is thriving. It is Onepiece.
Here is their story, from the startup's spontaneous beginning.
Early one Sunday morning in 2007, Henrik, Knut and Thomas, three Norwegians in their twenties, fantasized about the ultimate chill-out wear that would be perfect for a lazy day at home.
They all agreed on the merits of the sweatsuit for recovering from a night on the town. "But without the tight waistband and the pressure to go jogging," Thomas said. Knut had been staring at a light bulb when, eureka, it all became clear:
"Why not sew together a hooded sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants? Let's make it so big that no one in their right mind would think of working out."
"If we can skip the waistband, I'm all for it," said Thomas. "But how are we going to get into it?"
"No sweat," replied Henrik, "we'll just put in a big zipper."
And with that the OnePiece Jump In was born. The three friends dropped everything and invested all their savings to realize an idea they believed was unique and brilliant. They made the loose-fitting, all-in-one hooded sweatsuits in soft, thick cotton fleece in a wide variety of colours and patterns.
For two years they sold the OnePiece to friends and marketed it to high-school seniors in Norway. Then, in autumn 2009, some bloggers wrote about how much they loved the OnePiece, which triggered other bloggers to rant about how much they hated it. Fuelled by massive debate in social media, the OnePiece Jump in became a huge trend in Scandinavia in 2010, and is now catching on in England and other European countries.
"We were as surprised as anyone when people started wearing the OnePiece at clubs and it became a fashion and lifestyle statement," says Thomas, who has left university to devote all his time and energy to the OnePiece. "I think that the versatility of our jumpsuit and the fact that it is extremely comfortable are the main reasons for its success."
Even as the OnePiece wave hits country after country, gaining a foothold, Knut, Thomas and Henrik are busy developing new ideas and concepts. To be sure, the OnePiece won't be their last innovative fashion item.
BOTTOM LINE: The class of new enterprise known as Spontaneous Startup is large and filled with exciting fresh business ideas. This kind of startup is able to be created by nearly anyone. The specialness of a Spontaneous Startup opens doors for many budding entrepreneurs looking for a way to do a real startup. The ones that succeed seem to be intuitively able to build unfair competitive advantages (which says a lot about the intuitive brains of the founders of this class of startup). Think about a Spontaneous Startup for your own new enterprise. It may be just what you are looking for.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!