“It’s all about coming up with crazily simple business ideas.”

This is what I sent to a friend last week after reading about a startup called YourGrind.

My friend is in that exciting and terrifying phase before escaping his job and before knowing which of his many ideas he should pursue. He feels like he’s going mad.

One moment he’s starting a one-man-band selling products online and the next he’s planning to raise £500,000 to start a fast food chain.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to come up with world-beating startup ideas. There’s nothing wrong with world-beating… but, one thing I’ve noticed from most peoples’ entrepreneurial brainstorms is that in trying to come up with something unique that we think will really work, we overcomplicate.

My message to my friend was inspired by looking at YourGrind’s page on Angel.co. YourGrind’s idea couldn’t be simpler. They’ve defined it in six words: Never run out of incredible coffee.

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Stephen, the founder, previously built Crashpadder (and sold it to AirBnB). I’ve never met him but no doubt – one way or another – he has learnt that simplicity is king when it comes to building, marketing, and selling a successful product.

I was really inspired by those six words: Never run out of incredible coffee. They encapsulate a few different recent thoughts and conversations that I’ve been having recently.

1. You don’t have to invent something completely new

YourGrind aren’t inventing coffee, they’re not inventing web-driven mail subscriptions. They’re simply getting a well-loved product, making the customer experience awesome, and keeping quality really high (in a massive market).

You don’t have to invent the next post-it note to be onto a good idea. What do people need? What do you think you can provide to them in a ridiculously simple way that will make you a profit?

2. Make every detail perfect, limit the number of details

YourGrind are trying to do one thing well. Having worked on Escape the City for over three years I’ve got first-hand experience of how easy it is to slide towards complexity (“we could do this, and this, and ahhhh”). Doing one thing extremely well is so much better than over-reaching and under-delivering.

Our personal realisation has been that although Escape the City could be many things (and perhaps eventually will be), we should aim to do one thing ridiculously well to start with. That thing, for us, is to connect talented people with exciting organisations. Everything else can wait. Do that well and we’ll survive and prosper as a business.

This 4 min video from Jack Dorsey also encapsulates this second sentiment perfectly: “There are a thousand things that we could be doing, but there are only one or two that are important. All these stories are going to constantly flood what we should be doing… and we need to choose the one or two that are really going to drive and sustain the network and the service and the product.”

What ridiculously simple business idea can you think of that meets a genuine need or problem in the world? Can you strip your model down to something as simple as: 1) never. 2) run. 3) out. 4) of. 5) incredible. 6) coffee?


Rob Symington (@escroberto) is Escape the City’s co-founder. He lives on a boat, owns a double decker bus called Esmerelda and a motorbike that breaks down a lot. He passionately believes that ‘just because’ things are the way they are is no justification for accepting them. The Escape team are hard at work over on the main site building Escape Profiles that help people make big career changes.

If you want to receive Escape the City blog posts directly into your inbox just click here. We write about leaving big corporates, pursuing alternative careers, building businesses, and going on big adventures. Because life is too short to do work that doesn’t matter to you.

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