Starting with sales.

I have a friend who emailed me the following the other day:

I often try to sell things that don’t exist. No biz plan, no team, no drawings… Nothing but an idea for something that the world has never seen before. Is that a good way to start a biz? I don’t think so. But it sure does help with crossing ideas off my potential biz list!!!
How about yourself have you ever tried selling what doesn’t exist?
Early in my programming career I did a lot of freelance work and *all* of it was based on selling something before it exists.
I would also argue that the paid writing I have done has also always been pitched and ‘sold’ before it really existed.
That being said, I’ve also built a number of things to a more complete or usable state before I started trying to sell them.
So overall, I think both ways can work for starting/building a business (the most important thing is just to get to *something* that sells – because you don’t really have a business until you have sales).
I think most of the time, and especially if you’re bootstrapping and just fighting to stay alive for another week, your best bet is to sell before you build.
In fact, I think the only time it makes sense to build first is when you’ve got some way (other than sales) to fund the building phase, have a network effects driven business (scale adds serious value), and have a reasonable belief that your sales/revenue chart is going to rapidly shoot up and to the right at some realistic point in the (not too distant) future.
…and even then…if you can figure out a way to sell so as to subsidize building it’s definitely the way to go.
The saying shouldn’t be “if you build it, they will come”…it really should be “if you sell it, they will come”.

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at

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