The IKEA Model of Startups

This past week I found myself at IKEA. Shopping at IKEA requires a special type of mentality. You must enter with a mission and stick to it; if you don’t, it’ll consume you! And by consume, I mean end up walking out with a floor lamp, anchored wall shelf, and plastic plant that you 1) can’t pronounce and 2) didn’t need. As you enter the big open entryway and walk up the escalators to the main floor, it’s like walking into a meeting filled with eagerly waiting managers ready to hear your pitch about how you can reduce company costs by 20%. It’s not too unlike starting a company. There are 4 important steps when creating a company, as there are with shopping at IKEA.

Step 1: Cultivating an idea (walking through the store); 

95% of shoppers who walk into IKEA are there with an agenda, a mission, whether it’s a special sofa they need to brighten up their living room or in my case, a daybed to put in my office. If IKEA is on your to-do list, then you’ve most likely committed to needing something. If you’ve thought about starting a company or becoming an entrepreneur, you’ve fished around for ideas. Maybe you’ve walked around the house thinking of ways to improve your daily routine or you’ve attended social and tech meetups to gather inspiration. Either way, you’ve established that you NEED to do something. Coming up with this idea could seem like navigating a labyrinth of moving obstacles – just as you would navigate the showroom of IKEA. The best way to vet your idea is to tackle it head-on, get out into the world and begin discussing the idea with complete strangers. What do they think about it? Does it seem like a good idea? Does it seem like something worth spending your time developing? Think about your shopping experience, there are tons of pieces of furniture you can buy and take home but WHICH one, in particular, is going to give you the most value?

Step 2: Brainstorming and expanding on that idea (buying the piece and bringing it home) 

In my case of the daybed, there were so many options. One had 3 draws, one had a twin sofa, one had 2 draws and full sofa but I was committed to a specific daybed. Once I found it, it was easy. The former being the operative phrase here. If you don’t have a clear direction, you may fall victim to distractions and get caught up in all the possibilities! Once you find your idea and have done your research, it’s now time to commit. This is the easy part because it’s totally up to you and the amount of work you put in. From here on out you’ll need to work on a simple business plan, some financials, maybe what the product will look like. Is it a tangible product that people will buy or is it some kind of software that people will download? This is the stage in which you are going to expand on your idea. Your initial mission to IKEA is complete, you are on the way to check out, and ready to head back home for the tough part!

Step 3 – Find a cofounder (partner helping build the furniture)

It’s now time to build it (tools and patience sold separately)! If you’ve ever bought anything from IKEA that requires assembly, you know exactly what I mean. Just like in the instructions, anything worth building requires assistance – colloquially speaking, someone to hold the pieces upright while someone else puts in the screws and tiny wooden dowels. This could be the most difficult part of your ideation journey. At this point, you’re now committed to developing this idea into a successful business and finding a trustworthy partner can make or break your company. You need someone who supplements your skillset, someone you can trust, but most importantly, someone who wants to take this long, ambiguous journey with you. Building a company doesn’t come with a set of instructions, so imagine putting together any piece of IKEA furniture without instructions, as difficult as that sounds, it would be much easier with trusted help.

Step 4 – Execution (enjoying the furniture)

You’re now on your way to building your soon-to-be successful company! You vetted your idea, committed to it, and found your partner in crime; now it’s time to execute. This is the point where you get to enjoy the furniture and decorate the space around it. Push out that product, grind it out, and show the world what you’re made of!

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