Don’t go for billion dollar ideas

The average person wants to win the lottery. The average entrepreneur wants a “billion dollar idea” (and to win the lottery.) But Rueben Skipper, a serial entrepreneur in Dunedin, doesn’t believe in billion dollar ideas. He believes in the billion dollar execution of ideas.

Rueben is a busy man. He has one active startup, Swift Social, and two pre-incorporation startups. Swift Social provides him with regular income while he works on GetDealFlow, which Rueben described to me as a fitness app for sales. It sends you alerts and helps you track deals that are still in the pipeline. His third startup is a franchise idea which the proactive businessman admits is not very innovative but could be a profitable opportunity.

Rueben is developing all of these businesses while serving as a part time Investment Analyst to Otago’s technology business incubator, Powerhouse Ventures. It’s an understatement to say that Rueben Skipper is a man of many hats, but judging by his Instagram feed, snapbacks are his favourite.

Although it seems somewhat contradictory, Rueben says that he prefers to focus on one startup at a time.

SwiftSocial, a local social media marketing company helps small local businesses come to terms with social media. It came to fruition when Rueben asked business owners and investors what they struggled with the most. Most of them said the social sphere was an area they found difficult to work in, and SwiftSocial has been bootstrapping with sales since.

GetDealFlow is Rueben’s homerun swing. GetDealFlow is a tool that helps sales eople to manage and drive their sales pipeline.

“This is still very early and we are only just developing our first release,” Rueben told me. “I have been wanting to build a cloud-based SaaS for a while because I love the scalability , and the world is now really ‘getting’ the cloud.”

Rueben says his goal is to get GetDealFlow to sell to SAP for $1 billion within 10 years, and he hopes it will be his major exit that will sustain his family for a few generations. In the meantime, he’ll use SwiftSocial to provide himself with a steady paycheck week after week.

When it comes to creating a business, Rueben says that he doesn’t place much value on the idea behind it.

“My experience has taught me that an idea is worth nothing and the execution is worth everything,” he said. “This means I am not idea-driven but market focused when I’m starting a business.”

“What I do is target a big market that I know well and can easily access, for example, small businesses.

“Then I take any idea I have and start talking to them about it.  This idea acts as a reason to speak with them but really what I’m trying to find out is what problems they have that they would pay me to solve.  If you do that long enough you find an edge which gets you in the market.  Once you’re in the market then you can make changes to increase revenue and profitability looking to reach the optimal size and shape.

“This is where we are right now with SwiftSocial.”

Building businesses is a learning curve and Rueben says that first-time startups should expect to make a lot of mistakes. If they’re not making mistakes, they’re doing something wrong. However, it’s also important to be able to recognise the downward spiral.

“If your business is failing, make the tough decision to quit fast and move on to the next thing with no regrets,” Rueben warns. “Persistence is essential but consistently bashing your head against a wall is just stupidity.  After a few headaches, I have learnt this lesson.”

Most first-time entrepreneurs validate business ideas with a Google search, a landing page, and an MVP (minimum viable product.) Rueben puts his ideas to the ultimate test: he walks into a business and sells it to them. If they buy it, he knows that when he creates the product or service, there will be demand for it.

“You don’t need to spend any money to walk in and sell someone an idea,” Rueben says.

After potential customers have bought the idea, Rueben often bootstraps the company, using his own funds to produce the concept or service.

“In saying that, I have taken a different approach with DealFlow,” the Otago entrepreneur said. ” I have a problem which really affects me, that I am passionate about and want to solve. If I create a solution which is really great and does everything that I want, then I’m assuming that there are other people in the world that are similar to me and willing to pay for it.”

Rueben finds it important to take time off because not doing so can mean getting burnt out.

“I tend to go through obsessive patches where I sleep 5-6 hours per night and work all hours of the night and 7 days per week,” he said. “Then I might have 3 months off and go on a holiday somewhere.

“I try to surf regularly too, and that’s one of the main reasons I live in Dunedin.”

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