How to try your Startup idea with $0

A couple years ago I was teaching a small course at Stanford about Entrepreneurship and I remember the number one question was how to raise money.

To tell you the truth, I was surprised because the most important question someone that wants to start a business should ask is how to make a product that people want. Anything else is details. Short of.

One of the exercises we had, was to think of a product that could generate $1 per month. If you think that is easy, I challenge you to try it out. It requires a pretty good amount of thinking and planning.

The limitations we had were:

1/ You have one day to prepare. That means no overthinking.

2/ You cannot spend any money (no ads). You have to use your existing network (friend, family, social networks)

3/ You cannot use any external resources. Getting creative or learning some basic building (and selling) skills is something you need to do if you want to run a business.

After you had all this in place, you had to pitch your idea to the whole class. Who knows, you might get some subscribers for your idea on the spot (hint: no one did but it is a good exercise treating everyone as a potential customer).

I saw at least 30 different ideas that managed to make $1 to $250 recurring monthly revenue and to tell you the truth, it blew my mind. But more importantly it blew THEIR mind.

We proved that you don’t need a lot of money, huge infrastructure and 10 people to try out an idea.


For those who are wondering, the next step was to “build a company” that makes $1,000 per month then $10,000 and finally $1,000,000 per month. That way we could talk about finding a co-founder, talk about funding and how and when to scale.

If you are interested in learning more, I plan to post on a weekly basis my “how to Startup” so just follow along at https://jonv.substack.com/.

Now back to making money from zero money. My favorite subject. 👇


Let’s start by picking up an idea. We want something that might generate at least $1 per month. Write that idea down and place it as background in your phone. Like that.

I used Instagram to make this, so no judge.

Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

1/ Instagram retouch service. Retouch all photos that someone posts on social media. I know a friend that makes $1500 per month just for light retouching. I even paid $10 on reddit to have this:

2/ Personal Websites. Do you know how to setup Squarespace? Or Wix? Or Wordpress? If not, you should. It is very easy. Charge for management fees.

3/ Online talent company. It will sound silly but there many influencers on YouTube/Instagram/TikTok that have decent traffic and no idea how to monetize it. They will LOVE a manager to handle this. Leave a comment below if you want to learn more about this.

The goal of this exercise is not to make money and retire in a Greek Island. It is to understand how sales and marketing works and making something that people want.

Now that you found your idea, time to get some customers and validate it.

You start with your friends, family and expand to your social media. After that you go on Reddit, Craigslist, your local newspaper and Nextdoor.

If you fantasize that you could do it, stop right now and actually do it. And then send me your a screenshot of your hustle and I’ll be the first person to send you $1 via Venmo. No bullshit.


Leave comments below and kick ass!

Jon “We are all Awesome” V.