I’m now working on startup numero 3. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process but I’ve not really enjoyed the process, yet. As in, I’ve not made it. I’ve yet to create anything that was sell-able, sustainable, or strong enough to go full time on. So, I decided to make a list for myself of the first 25 things that I should do before really diving into the next one. Each step or tip has a link to resources on making that step happen. Follow these steps (not necessarily in order) so that you don’t have to use tip #26.
Here’s what you’ll first need to do in order to really start on the right foot.
- Get Your Head Right
- Build The Right Foundation
- Put Your Lipstick On and Pucker Up
- Getting Attention
- Oh Yea, You May Need Money
Get Your Head Right
There are so many great blogs out there with experienced advice on starting businesses that it’s foolish not to read them. Spend some time learning from the experience and mistakes of others.
“Smart men learn from their own mistakes, Genius’s learn from the mistakes of others.” -Unknown
- Start a Business with Passion – Loic Lemeur is one of the most passionate entrepreneurs I’ve watched. He talks about how to start with passion.
- Read Getting Started - This book by 37 Signals is one of the best books for starting a technology business. How to develop with style, speed, adn efficiency using Agile. Learn from the great companies especially when the provide such a valuable & insightful resource.
- Treat Competitors with respect – Again, Loic is experiences and has learned to benefit from competitors. Learn how to work competition to your advantage.
- Learn from The Top 10 Startup Mistakes – Not knowing what mistakes you could potentially make is your first mistake. Know what to avoid when starting up.
- Learn from Millionaires (if you want to be one) - Who better to learn from than the folks who’ve already made the cash.
- Solve problems before they exist - Preventing problems is the most valuable action you can take. Learn how to solve before they start.
- Get inspired from Mixergy interviews – Andrew Warner provides personal insight and detailed, challenging interviews of enterpreneurs who’ve gone through what you’re about to take on, and have succeeded. Also check out ActionsTalk.com for tacticle startup spotlights.
Build The Right Foundation
Legal structure and accounting are not fun, the suck, but they are very important so take the time to setup the right foundation and structure to avoid future drama. Here are four steps with resources to setup the right foundation.
- Choose between Inc. vs. LLC - Legal structure is important and you’ll need to decide what the goals of your company are. If you plan to one day go public LLC may not be your best option, however if you plan to privately own LLC may be much simpler to get launched.
- Accounting Sucks but someone’s gotta do it - Accountings goal is your “score”, but it’s task is your records. Here’s the basics to accurate record keeping. Learn how to record these transactions that change the balance between your startups assets (code?), liabilities (debt?), and equity (your shares!).
- Save money using Docstoc templates – Save tons on legal documents and templates using Docstoc’s resources, this doesn’t mean you won’t need a lawyer but rather will cut your legal fees.
- Open a Business Bank Account &/or Accpet CC’s and Online Payments– A great first step to setting up the feeling of ownership is for each partner to put in their determined share (in cash) into a bank account. This will be the building block for determining allocation of shares and equity.
Put On Your Lipstick and Pucker Up
Having a polished web presence is NOW absolutely critical for your company. Whether you’re a web based startup or a offline consultancy it’s critical that your customers can find you easily and find out about you easily. Put on your make-up.
- Set up a blog with WordPress.org – Get a SEO friendly blog up so that the Google Bugs can scan it and share it. Having a .html file up with one page just won’t cut it anymore. Hosting is cheap, WordPress is free, and your excuses are dying fast. Get on it!
- Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design – The ten most egregious offenses against users. Web design disasters and HTML horrors are legion, though many usability atrocities are less common than they used to be.
- Google Website Optimizer – A free tool that will help you maximize your conversions. The web is a metrics driven industry to know how people are interacting with your website.
- Signal vs Noise is a blog with amazing design tips from amazing designers (37 Signals) - A design and usability blog by 37signals.
- Find out who is clicking where - Use CrazyEgg, a simple tool that shows you how website visitors interact with your website. Knowledge is power!
You can have a great product or service, but if no one sees it you will never make any money. Now this doesn’t mean you have to hire a marketing firm to help you out, but you could learn some basic things about Internet marketing.
- Get on the blogs - Mike Arrington of TechCrunch wrote this post on how to get your company blogged. Tim Ferriss used blogs to get his book to a NYTimes Best Seller, do the same thing!
- Yes you have to worry about SEO - Niel Patel wrote this article on how to optimize your blog to be found by search engines. With the right content 50% of your traffic may come from search engines so make sure to understand these basics.
- Web businesses are Metrics based so use Analytics - An Hour A Day – Avinash Kaushik, a Google’s analytics guru, simplifies web analytics and what/why you need to understand your analytics.
- MailChimp – Collecting email addresses to build your audience and leads is super valuable. MailChimp is the easiest system I’ve found. Sending mass emails can be difficult to impossible without using a 3rd party service so this is a inexpensive and valuable option.
Oh Yea, You May Need Money
Without experience, raising capital is a pain in the ass. If you want to do it you’ll need to understand the minds of the folks your asking. Learn how to give the right kind of pitch, know the terms, and understand what they’re hoping to get from you so you don’t get screwed.
- The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint – Save yourself the embarrassment and understand what type of pitch investors want to see before you give’m your ‘dog and pony show’.
- Venture Hacks – I’ve learned so much about the VC industry from this site, it’s an incredible resource.
- Building the budget and revenue model -Ross Kimbarovsky of crowdSPRING breaks down his tips for building a budget and rev model. Investors really won’t talk to you without it.
- Understanding Angel Investing - Understand what an Angel Investor is looking to get out of the deal is important before dealing with one. If you can understand their goals and tailor the deal to those goals, you’re much more likely to raise funds.
- How To Raise Angel Dollars - Learn how to raise money without giving everything away. At the end of the day you want to own your company not just work there so read how to raise Angel funding.
That’s 25 Steps, with resources to get going on your startup… also, here’s a bonus source if you don’t follow the above resources well enough. I’ve done it twice :) so don’t worry if you have to scrap it and start over, you’ll learn everytime then you can build your own list of must do’s.
- Closing Down :( a startup - If things don’t go as planned, make sure you shut things down the right way.
Let me know if I missed anything critical or if you have steps and resources that should be shared!