![[The Tech Startup Guide.jpg]] --- # Introduction For over 40 years, I have founded, grown, and sold businesses. Here are some things I have learned: **Table of Contents** - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode|Secret -- Stealth Mode]] - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode#Ideation|Ideation]] - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode#Product Description|Product Description]] - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode#Low Fidelity Prototype|Low Fidelity Prototype]] - [[#Low Fidelity Prototype#Low Fidelity Tools|Low Fidelity Tools]] - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode#The Hardest Part|The Hardest Part]] - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode#Back of Napkin Market Analysis|Back of Napkin Market Analysis]] - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode#Rough Path to Profitability|Rough Path to Profitability]] - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode#High Level Business Structure|High Level Business Structure]] - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode#Do You Need Partners?|Do You Need Partners?]] - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode#Outside Resources|Outside Resources]] - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode#Obtain Low Fidelity Prototype Feedback|Obtain Low Fidelity Prototype Feedback]] - [[#Secret -- Stealth Mode#Pre-MVP Go/No Go Analysis|Pre-MVP Go/No Go Analysis]] - [[#Minimal Viable Product|Minimal Viable Product]] - [[#Minimal Viable Product#MVP Process is more than Code|MVP Process is more than Code]] - [[#Minimal Viable Product#Brand Your Business|Brand Your Business]] - [[#Minimal Viable Product#Make it Legal|Make it Legal]] - [[#Minimal Viable Product#Initial Team|Initial Team]] - [[#Minimal Viable Product#Design your Funnel|Design your Funnel]] - [[#Minimal Viable Product#Product Support Plan|Product Support Plan]] - [[#MVP Launch|MVP Launch]] - [[#MVP Launch#Execute the MVP Launch Plan|Execute the MVP Launch Plan]] - [[#MVP Launch#Collect MVP Feedback|Collect MVP Feedback]] - [[#MVP Launch#Go/No Go Analysis|Go/No Go Analysis]] - [[#V1 Release|V1 Release]] - [[#V1 Release#Full Business Plan|Full Business Plan]] - [[#V1 Release#Revised Value Proposition|Revised Value Proposition]] - [[#V1 Release#Financial Projections (Accrual Accounting)|Financial Projections (Accrual Accounting)]] - [[#V1 Release#Expanding Your Team|Expanding Your Team]] - [[#V1 Release#Distribution Economic|Distribution Economic]] - [[#V1 Release#V1 Support Plans|V1 Support Plans]] - [[#V1 Release#Product Marketing|Product Marketing]] - [[#V1 Release#Funding Alternative|Funding Alternative]] - [[#Conclusion|Conclusion]] --- ## Secret -- Stealth Mode ### Ideation >[!tip] Most ideas are not great ideas. Most successful companies do not start with a great idea. They start with a good, fluid idea that evolves, taking its course toward maturity. The key to success is fifty percent innovation and fifty percent execution. Ideation is generating and developing new ideas. It involves brainstorming, creative thinking, and exploring distinct possibilities to create innovative solutions or concepts. Ideation can be done individually or in a group setting, and it often serves as the initial stage of problem-solving or innovation processes. The goal of ideation is to generate a wide range of ideas without judgment or constraints, allowing for exploring various perspectives and potential solutions. When it comes to developing new products, it's crucial to focus on generating ideas for the product itself rather than just individual features. >[!Tip] >Understanding the distinction between a product and its features is crucial when evaluating and developing ideas. You must ensure your idea is a product and not a feature. Here's a breakdown of the two concepts: 1. Product: A product refers to a complete, tangible item or service that is offered to customers. It encompasses the overall solution or offering that addresses a specific need or problem. For example, a smartphone, a software application, or a consulting service can all be considered products. 2. Features: Features are specific characteristics or functionalities that are part of a product. They are the individual components or attributes that enhance the value or usefulness of the product. Features can include things like speed, design, compatibility, security, ease of use, or any other specific capability that sets the product apart. To differentiate between a product and its features, think of the product as the entire package or solution, while features are the individual building blocks that make it up. A product can have multiple features, and these features collectively contribute to the overall value proposition of the product. When considering an idea, it's important to outline both the product concept and the features that would be included. This helps assess the idea's feasibility, market appeal, and potential value. >[! Case Study] >Let me tell you a story about my most recent company, DialogTech. When we started in 2006, mobile phones were becoming more affordable, and Bluetooth headsets were making their mark. It was an exciting time filled with possibilities. > >Our initial concept was to create a unique telephone number that people could call to obtain information through an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) or voice interface. Imagine having access to Alexa-like capabilities through a simple phone call. It was a groundbreaking idea in 2006. > >But we didn't stop there. To add fun and engagement, we incorporated games based on those original interactive fiction games. Players would type instructions into the computer, like "walk forward three steps," "turn right," or "pickup axe," to solve intriguing puzzles. It was a unique and exciting way to interact with our service. > >As we delved deeper into evaluating the market, we discovered that the disabled community could be early adopters of this technology. Our solution addressed a genuine need instead of being just a luxury for them. However, we faced a roadblock. In the United States, the disabled community primarily relied on government funding, which was only available for hardware-based technologies. Unfortunately, online or phone-based services like ours didn't fit into the funding criteria. > >Next, we pivoted to the small business marketplace, then to call tracking technologies, and finally to call tracking and analytics. > >We continued to refine our concept, adapt to market demands, and eventually transform into a "Conversation Intelligence" company. Our dedication paid off when we were acquired for $100 million by Invoca. This journey taught us the importance of understanding our target audience, recognizing potential market opportunities, and adapting to challenges. It's a testament to perseverance and the ability to evolve an idea into something remarkable. ### Product Description I understand; maybe you're a salesperson, an engineer, or a visual designer. You hate writing. But you need to do it. If you cannot write a description in complete sentences, at least create a presentation deck. >[!Tip] >The ability to craft a compelling written description about your product or company is not just optional but essential. Effective communication is a fundamental skill for any successful CEO. It showcases your ability to articulate your vision, attract investors, engage customers, and inspire your team. If you lack the communication skills required to create this description, consider bringing on someone with strong communication abilities to complement your leadership. By doing so, you can ensure that your company's messaging resonates with stakeholders, paving the way for long-term success. Here are some advantages of writing things down: 1. Externalizing thoughts: Writing down thoughts, ideas, or tasks helps externalize them from the mind onto paper or a digital medium. This process frees up mental space and allows for better focus on the immediate task at hand. 2. Increased clarity: When you write things down, you are forced to articulate your thoughts more clearly and concisely. This process helps organize and structure your ideas, making them easier to understand and act upon. 3. Enhanced memory retention: Research suggests that the act of writing helps improve memory retention. When you write something down, you engage multiple senses, such as visual and kinesthetic, which reinforce the memory of the information. 4. Prioritization and goal setting: Writing down tasks or goals helps prioritize and establish a clear focus. By creating to-do lists or setting specific objectives, you can better allocate your time and energy towards what truly matters. 5. Mental offloading: Writing things down allows you to offload mental clutter and concerns. By capturing thoughts, worries, or ideas on paper, you can release them from your mind, reducing cognitive load and improving mental clarity. 6. Reflection and problem-solving: Writing provides reflection and problem-solving opportunities. It allows you to explore different perspectives, brainstorm solutions, and gain insights that may only have been apparent with the act of writing. Whether note-taking, journaling, or making lists, writing things down helps bring focus, organization, and clarity to your thoughts and actions. It can be a powerful tool for improving productivity, creativity, and overall mental well-being. ### Low-Fidelity Prototype Now, you need a way to "try" the product without building it. To simulate the user experience and to show it to potential customers and advisors. Ideally, this is something you can build yourself without technical assistance. A low-fidelity prototype is a simplified, basic, and rough simulation of a product or interface. It is typically created early in the design process to explore ideas, gather feedback, and test the overall concept without investing significant time or resources. >[!Tip] >A low-fidelity prototype or simulation is not a product. It is an artifact of the ideation process. Now, imagine you're at a stage where you want to showcase your product to potential customers and advisors without actually building the entire thing. You need a way to simulate the user experience effectively, and it would be ideal if you could do it independently without technical assistance. This simulated experience will allow you to demonstrate the value and functionality of your product, giving people a taste of what it would be like to use it. It's a powerful tool for gathering feedback, gaining insights, and refining your concept. By creating a well-thought-out simulation, you can provide a realistic demonstration of your product's features and benefits. This could involve creating interactive prototypes, designing user flows, or even developing mock-ups that mimic the user interface. The key here is to focus on clarity and simplicity. You want your simulation to be easy to understand and navigate, ensuring that potential customers and advisors can fully grasp your product's value. By building this simulation yourself, you have the flexibility to iterate and make improvements based on feedback without needing technical assistance. Remember, the goal is to create an engaging and immersive experience that effectively communicates the essence of your product. With a well-crafted simulation, you'll be well-equipped to showcase your idea, gather valuable insights, and make informed decisions as you move forward. Here are some key characteristics and benefits of low-fidelity prototypes: 1. Basic visual representation: Low-fidelity prototypes are often hand-drawn or created using simple tools like paper, sketches, or wireframe software. They focus on conveying the core functionality and structure of the product rather than detailed visual design. I have seen very successful low-fidelity prototypes produced in PowerPoint. 2. Limited interactivity: They usually lack complex interactions or functionality. Instead, they may rely on manual interactions, such as flipping pages in a paper prototype or clicking through static screens in a digital wireframe. 3. Quick and inexpensive: Low-fidelity prototypes can be created rapidly and with minimal resources, allowing designers to iterate and explore multiple design ideas without significant time or financial investment. Low-fidelity prototypes serve as a starting point for design exploration, collaboration, and user testing. They provide a cost-effective and efficient way to gather insights, iterate, and refine the design before moving into higher-fidelity prototypes or development stages. #### Low Fidelity Tools Since the world of technology tools changes rapidly, I recommend just "googling," low fidelity prototyping tools. Select a tool that feels comfortable to you that you understand, as this should not be a complex technical exercise. Too many mock-up or prototyping tools attempt to support building complex applications that "feel real." This is different from the point of the exercise. Your goal is to do the minimum amount of work necessary to communicate your concept to someone else. If a set of PowerPoint slides does the job, that is all you need. >[!Tip] >Popular low-fidelity tools include: >- Balsamic >- Wondershare Mockit >- Invision Invision >- Sketch and other ... > > These differ greatly from high-fidelity design tools such as Figma and Adobe XD. These high-fidelity tools have steep learning curves and are designed for use by UI/UX professionals. > > If you are intimidated by all software tools, draw out your ideas on paper and hire a designer to create your low-fidelity simulation. ### Get Hand On >[!TIP] >It is important that you get hands-on with the low-fidelity simulation. In my experience, successful technology companies are founded by people who are comfortable with technology. They are hands-on. You may not be a programmer and do not need to be a programmer, but you must be a product person to succeed. You have to dive into the product details. By getting hands-on with the simulation, you can better understand how a user will see your product. ### The Hardest Part The most difficult task at this stage of any company I started was finding appropriate reviewers, a focus group, for the prototype. Here are some more detailed thoughts about identifying your focus group. Finding a focus group for your prototype involves identifying and recruiting individuals who match your target audience or user demographics. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you find a focus group: 1. Define your target audience: Clearly identify the characteristics, demographics, and preferences of the individuals you want to include in your focus group. Consider factors such as age, gender, occupation, interests, or any other relevant criteria. 2. Tap into your network: Start by reaching out to your personal and professional network. Share your prototype concept and ask if anyone knows individuals who fit your target audience description. Referrals from trusted sources can be valuable for recruiting participants. 3. Use online platforms: Utilize online platforms and communities that cater to your target audience. Look for relevant forums, social media groups, or online communities where you can post a recruitment message seeking participants for your focus group. Be clear about the purpose, requirements, and any incentives you may offer. 4. Leverage professional networks: If your prototype is industry-specific, consider reaching out to professional networks or associations related to that field. These networks often have members who can provide valuable insights and feedback. 5. Collaborate with user research agencies: User research agencies specialize in recruiting participants for focus groups and usability testing. These agencies maintain databases of individuals who have expressed interest in participating in research studies. Partnering with a user research agency can help you find a diverse range of participants efficiently. 6. Offer incentives: To incentivize participation, consider offering compensation, such as gift cards, cash, or other rewards. Incentives can increase the willingness of individuals to take part in your focus group. 7. Conduct screening interviews: Once you have potential participants, conduct brief screening interviews to ensure they meet your target audience criteria. Ask questions to ascertain their background, experiences, or any specific attributes that align with your prototype's intended user base. 8. Confirm participation and logistics: Once you have selected suitable participants, confirm their participation and provide them with details about the focus group session. Share the date, time, location (physical or virtual), and any necessary preparations they need to make. Remember to obtain informed consent from participants and ensure their privacy and confidentiality throughout the process. By following these steps, you can find a diverse and representative focus group that can provide valuable feedback on your prototype. Social media is an excellent channel to use as a starting point for recruiting prototype reviewers. ### Back of Napkin Market Analysis A back-of-napkin market analysis refers to a quick, simplified assessment of a market's potential or viability using limited information and rough estimations. It is often done as an initial step to evaluate the basic feasibility of an idea or to gain a general understanding of the market landscape. Here's a simple framework to conduct a back-of-napkin market analysis: 1. Define the target market: Clearly identify the specific market segment or audience you plan to target. Consider factors such as demographics, geographic location, psychographics, or any other relevant criteria. 2. Estimate market size: Estimate the potential size of the target market. You can start by researching industry reports, government data, or relevant market research. Consider factors such as population size, market trends, or comparable products/services. 3. Assess market growth: Determine the growth rate or potential of the market. Look for information on market trends, emerging technologies, regulatory changes, or other factors that may impact the market's growth trajectory. 4. Identify competitors: Identify existing competitors or alternative solutions that cater to the target market. Research their market share, pricing, product features, customer reviews, and any unique selling propositions. 5. Determine pricing and revenue potential: Estimate the pricing range of your product or service based on the value it provides and the pricing strategies of competitors. Calculate the potential revenue by multiplying the estimated market size by the assumed market share and the estimated average price. 6. Consider market barriers and opportunities: Identify any significant barriers to entry, such as high capital requirements, regulatory hurdles, or strong competition. Also, look for potential opportunities, such as untapped market segments, emerging trends, or gaps in the market that your product or service can address. 7. Evaluate customer needs and pain points: Understand the needs, desires, and pain points of your target market. This can be done through surveys, interviews, or online research. Identify the key problems your product or service can solve and how it aligns with customer preferences. 8. Assess feasibility and risks: Consider the feasibility of entering the market based on available resources, capabilities, and potential risks. Evaluate factors such as production costs, distribution channels, marketing requirements, and any legal or regulatory challenges. While a back-of-napkin market analysis provides a quick snapshot, it is important to note that it may not capture all the complexities and nuances of a comprehensive market analysis. It should be followed by more in-depth research and analysis to make informed business decisions. ### Rough Path to Profitability Creating a rough path to profitability involves outlining the steps and strategies you plan to take to generate revenue and achieve profitability in your business. While the specific path will vary depending on your industry and business model, here are some general steps to consider: 1. Define your revenue streams: Identify the various ways your business can generate revenue. This could include product sales, service fees, subscriptions, licensing, advertising, or any other sources specific to your business. 2. Estimate pricing and sales volume: Determine the pricing strategy for your products or services based on market research, competitor analysis, and cost considerations. Estimate the sales volume you expect to achieve based on market demand, target audience size, and growth projections. 3. Calculate costs and expenses: Identify all the costs and expenses associated with running your business. This includes production costs, raw materials, overhead expenses, marketing and advertising costs, employee salaries, and other operational expenses. 4. Develop a sales and marketing plan: Outline your sales and marketing strategies to attract customers and generate revenue. This could include online marketing, partnerships, social media campaigns, content marketing, advertising, or any other tactics relevant to your target audience. 5. Monitor and optimize key metrics: Identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you track your progress towards profitability. This may include metrics such as customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer lifetime value (CLTV), conversion rates, churn rate, and gross margins. Regularly monitor these metrics and make adjustments to your strategies as needed. 6. Focus on customer retention and upselling: Acquiring new customers can be costly, so it's important to prioritize customer retention and upselling. Develop strategies to build customer loyalty, provide exceptional customer service, and encourage repeat purchases or upgrades. 7. Control and manage expenses: Continuously assess and control your expenses to ensure they align with your revenue-generating activities. Look for opportunities to optimize costs, negotiate better deals with suppliers, or streamline operations to improve profitability. 8. Plan for scalability and growth: As you start generating revenue and achieve profitability, plan for scalability and growth. Consider expanding into new markets, diversifying product offerings, investing in technology or infrastructure upgrades, or exploring strategic partnerships to drive further revenue growth. Remember, this is a simplified framework, and the specific steps may vary based on your industry, business model, and goals. It's important to regularly review and adapt your path to profitability as you gain more insights and market feedback. ### High Level Business Structure While I describe below a range of issues you should begin to think about, at this stage it may be sufficient to focus on the following simple questions: - Is the business virtual or office based? - Is it possible to use all cloud based tools to maximize flexibility? - Do you need partners? ### Do You Need Partners? Deciding whether to add a partner or partners to your technology-based startup is a significant decision that depends on various factors. Here are a few considerations to help you evaluate whether bringing on a partner is the right choice for your startup: 1. Complementary skills and expertise: Assess whether a potential partner possesses skills, knowledge, or experience that complements your own. A partner with complementary abilities can bring valuable expertise to areas where you may be lacking. 2. Shared vision and values: Ensure that a potential partner shares your startup's vision, mission, and values. A partner who aligns with your goals and values can contribute to a cohesive and productive working relationship. 3. Increased resources: Evaluate whether a partner can bring additional resources to the table, such as funding, industry connections, or access to a wider network. This can help accelerate the growth and success of your startup. 4. Division of responsibilities: Consider whether a partner can help alleviate your workload by sharing responsibilities. This can enable you to focus on your core strengths while your partner handles other aspects of the business. 5. Decision-making dynamics: Think about how adding a partner might impact decision-making processes within the startup. Ensure that you have compatible decision-making styles and that you can work effectively together in making critical choices. 6. Potential conflicts and risks: Anticipate and address any potential conflicts or risks that may arise from adding a partner. It's essential to have open and honest discussions about roles, expectations, and potential challenges before making a decision. 7. Discuss the level of effort you expect to contribute to the business, and ensure any potential partner is willing and able to contribute similarly. 8. Discuss your capacity for learning new skills necessary for scaling the business. 9. Ensue you have shared goals about a potential future exit. >[! Case Study] >Very early in my career, I started a small business with my brother-in-law selling early micro-computers made by Alpha Micro to small businesses. I handled the custom software development, my brother in law handled the sales, and a third partner with a background in electronics repair joined us to handle the hardware. > >Unfortunately our third partner, a great guy and hard worker had learned specific hardware repair skills in the military and did not have the desire to learn about computers a very different set of skills. When we discovered this disconnect we had to part ways. Ultimately, the decision to add a partner to your technology startup depends on your specific circumstances and the unique dynamics of your venture. It's important to thoroughly evaluate the potential benefits, risks, and compatibility before making a commitment. ### Outside Resources You should begin to identify resource outside of your initial team in the following areas: - Legal - Accounting - Marketing (could be inside or outside) - Technology (could be inside or outside) - Domain Expertise (could be inside or outside) ### Obtain Low Fidelity Prototype Feedback ### Pre-MVP Go/No Go Analysis A Go/No-Go analysis is a decision-making process used to evaluate whether a project, initiative, or action should proceed or be halted. It helps in assessing the feasibility, risks, benefits, and alignment with organizational goals before making a decision. Here are the key steps to perform a Go/No-Go analysis: 1. Define the criteria: Identify the specific criteria that need to be met for the project to proceed. This may include financial viability, market demand, technical feasibility, resource availability, legal/regulatory compliance, etc. 2. Gather information: Collect and analyze relevant data, market research, financial projections, technical assessments, customer feedback, etc. This information will help in evaluating the project against the defined criteria. 3. Assess risks and benefits: Evaluate the potential risks and benefits associated with the project. Consider the probability and impact of risks, as well as the potential returns, strategic fit, and competitive advantages. 4. Evaluate alternatives: Explore alternative options or approaches to achieve the desired outcome. Compare the feasibility, risks, benefits, and costs of each alternative against the defined criteria. 5. Make a decision: Based on the analysis, make a Go/No-Go decision. If the project meets the criteria and the benefits outweigh the risks, then it can proceed (Go). If the project does not meet the criteria or the risks outweigh the benefits, then it should be halted (No-Go). 6. Communicate the decision: Clearly communicate the decision and the rationale behind it to stakeholders involved. Document the decision and ensure that everyone understands the implications. Remember, a Go/No-Go analysis is a dynamic process and should be revisited periodically as circumstances change. ## Minimal Viable Product MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. It is a development strategy commonly used in software and product development. An MVP is a version of a product that includes only the core features necessary to validate the concept or idea and gather feedback from early adopters or users. The primary goal of an MVP is to test the viability and market potential of a product with minimal resources and effort. By releasing an MVP, developers can quickly gather user feedback and data to better understand user needs, preferences, and potential improvements. This feedback helps to refine and iterate on the product, ensuring that subsequent versions align more closely with user expectations and deliver value. The concept of an MVP allows for early validation, reducing the risk of investing significant time and resources into a product that may not meet user needs or find market success. It also enables a more iterative and customer-centric approach to product development. ### MVP Process is more than Code - Minimal Product Specification extending the "paper" prototype - Value Proposition - Market Analysis - Competition - Path to Profitability - Funnel Analysts - Lead (Cost per Lead) - Demos - Close Rate - Recuring Revenue Estimates - Estimated Churn Rate / Retention Rates - Startup Costs - Recurring Costs - Financial Analysis (Cash Basis) ### Brand Your Business Branding your business involves creating a unique and compelling identity that sets you apart from competitors and resonates with your target audience. Here are some steps to help you brand your business effectively: 1. Define your brand identity: Determine the core values, mission, and vision of your business. Understand your target audience, their needs, and how your product or service solves their problems or fulfills their desires. 2. Develop a brand personality: Define the personality traits and tone of voice that align with your brand. Consider how you want your audience to perceive your business (e.g., professional, friendly, innovative, etc.) and ensure consistency across all communication channels. 3. Create a memorable logo and visual identity: Design a visually appealing logo and establish a consistent color palette, typography, and visual elements that reflect your brand's personality. These elements should be used consistently in all marketing materials and touchpoints. 4. Craft a compelling brand story: Develop a narrative that communicates your brand's history, values, and unique selling points. This story should resonate with your target audience and help create an emotional connection with your brand. 5. Design consistent brand assets: Create templates and guidelines for all brand assets, including business cards, letterheads, website design, social media posts, and other marketing materials. Consistency in design reinforces your brand identity and helps build recognition. 6. Establish brand messaging: Develop clear and concise messaging that communicates your brand's value proposition, benefits, and unique selling points. Use this messaging consistently across all channels to ensure a cohesive brand voice. 7. Build an online presence: Create a professional website that reflects your brand identity and showcases your products or services. Utilize social media platforms that align with your target audience and engage with them regularly to build brand awareness and establish authority. 8. Deliver exceptional customer experiences: Ensure that every interaction with your customers reflects your brand values and exceeds their expectations. Consistently delivering on your brand promise will help build trust, loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth. Remember, building a strong brand takes time and effort. Continuously monitor and adapt your brand strategy based on customer feedback, market trends, and business goals. ### Make it Legal Legal requirements for a new business can vary depending on the country, state, and industry in which you operate. Here are some common legal considerations for starting a business: 1. Business structure: Choose the legal structure for your business, such as sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation. Each structure has different legal and tax implications. 2. Business name registration: Register your business name with the appropriate government agency to ensure it is unique and does not infringe on any existing trademarks. 3. Business licenses and permits: Research and obtain the necessary licenses and permits required to operate your specific type of business. This may include general business licenses, professional licenses, health permits, environmental permits, and more. 4. Employer identification number (EIN): Apply for an EIN from the tax authorities if you plan to hire employees, operate as a corporation, or have a partnership structure. 5. Tax obligations: Understand your tax obligations at the local, state, and federal levels. This includes sales tax, income tax, payroll tax, and any other applicable taxes. Consult with a tax professional to ensure compliance. 6. Intellectual property protection: Consider protecting your business's intellectual property, such as trademarks, copyrights, or patents, to safeguard your brand, products, or inventions. 7. Contracts and legal agreements: Create legally binding contracts and agreements, including client contracts, employment agreements, partnership agreements, and non-disclosure agreements, to establish clear expectations and protect your business interests. 8. Data protection and privacy: Familiarize yourself with data protection and privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States, depending on your jurisdiction and customer base. 9. Health and safety regulations: Comply with health and safety regulations relevant to your industry to create a safe working environment for your employees and customers. 10. Insurance coverage: Evaluate the insurance needs of your business, such as general liability insurance, professional liability insurance, workers' compensation insurance, and property insurance, to protect against potential risks and liabilities. It is crucial to consult with legal and accounting professionals who specialize in business law to ensure that you meet all the necessary legal requirements for your specific situation and location. ### Initial Team When selecting an initial team for your startup, it's important to consider individuals who bring diverse skills, expertise, and a shared vision for the business. Here are some key roles to consider: 1. Co-founder/CEO: Find a co-founder who shares your passion and vision for the startup. Ideally, they should complement your skills and bring a strong understanding of the industry or market you're targeting. The co-founder may take on the role of CEO to provide strategic direction and overall leadership. 2. Technology/Development Lead: If your startup relies heavily on technology or software development, having a technology lead is crucial. This person should have expertise in the relevant programming languages, frameworks, and technologies required to build and maintain your product or platform. 3. Marketing/Sales Lead: A marketing or sales lead will help create and execute strategies to promote your product or service, generate leads, and drive sales. This person should have a good understanding of your target market, consumer behavior, and effective marketing and sales techniques. 4. Operations/Finance Lead: An operations or finance lead will handle the day-to-day operations, financial management, and administrative tasks of the startup. This individual should have good organizational and financial management skills, including budgeting, accounting, and resource allocation. 5. Product Designer/User Experience (UX) Specialist: A product designer or UX specialist will focus on creating a user-friendly and visually appealing product. They should have expertise in user research, wireframing, prototyping, and designing intuitive user interfaces. 6. Advisors/Mentors: Seek out experienced professionals or industry experts who can provide guidance, connections, and valuable insights. Advisors can help you navigate challenges, make strategic decisions, and provide mentorship as you grow your startup. Remember that the size and composition of your team will depend on the nature, scope, and funding of your startup. As you progress and gain traction, you can expand your team to include additional roles based on your evolving needs. Product Rollout/Announcement Plan Product Marketing vs Brand Marketing - In a startup everyone needs to be involved in marketing ### Design your Funnel Building a marketing funnel involves creating a systematic process to attract, engage, and convert potential customers into paying customers. Here are the key steps to build a marketing funnel: 1. Awareness: Attract potential customers by creating awareness of your brand, product, or service. Utilize various marketing channels such as social media, content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), advertising, and public relations. The goal is to generate interest and capture the attention of your target audience. 2. Interest: Once you have captured the attention of potential customers, provide valuable and relevant content to generate interest and engage them further. This can include blog posts, videos, webinars, podcasts, or downloadable resources. The goal is to establish your expertise, build trust, and keep them engaged with your brand. 3. Consideration: At this stage, potential customers are considering whether your product or service is the right fit for their needs. Provide detailed information, case studies, testimonials, and comparisons to help them make an informed decision. Offer free trials, demos, or consultations to give them a firsthand experience of your offering. 4. Conversion: When potential customers are ready to make a purchase or take the desired action, make it easy for them to convert. This can involve creating compelling calls-to-action, optimizing landing pages, simplifying the checkout process, and offering incentives or discounts. Ensure a smooth user experience to minimize any friction or barriers to conversion. 5. Retention: The marketing funnel doesn't end with the conversion. Focus on retaining customers and building long-term relationships. Implement strategies such as personalized email marketing, loyalty programs, customer support, and ongoing engagement to encourage repeat purchases and create brand loyalty. 6. Advocacy: Satisfied customers can become your brand advocates and help drive referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. Encourage and incentivize customers to share their positive experiences with others through reviews, testimonials, social media sharing, or referral programs. Regularly monitor and analyze the performance of your marketing funnel using analytics tools to identify areas for improvement, optimize conversion rates, and refine your marketing strategies. Remember that the marketing funnel is not a linear process, and customers can enter or exit at any stage. Therefore, it's important to create a seamless and personalized experience across all stages of the funnel. ### Product Support Plan Developing a product support plan is essential to ensure that your customers receive the assistance they need when using your product. Here are the key steps to develop a comprehensive product support plan: 1. Identify support channels: Determine the channels through which customers can seek support. This can include email, phone, live chat, self-service resources (knowledge base, FAQs), social media, or a dedicated support portal. Consider the preferences of your target audience and the resources available to provide support via each channel. 2. Define support levels and response times: Establish different levels of support based on the urgency and complexity of customer inquiries. For example, you might offer different response times for critical issues versus general inquiries. Clearly communicate these response time expectations to customers. 3. Build a knowledge base: Create a comprehensive knowledge base that includes frequently asked questions, troubleshooting guides, product documentation, and tutorials. Make sure the knowledge base is easily accessible and searchable, enabling customers to find answers to common questions or issues on their own. 4. Train support staff: Provide thorough training to your support team to ensure they have the necessary product knowledge and customer service skills. This includes understanding common issues, troubleshooting techniques, and effective communication practices. Regularly update their training to keep them up to date with product changes or enhancements. 5. Implement ticketing and tracking system: Utilize a ticketing system or customer relationship management (CRM) software to efficiently manage and track customer inquiries. This helps ensure that no inquiries are missed, allows for proper prioritization, and enables tracking of response times and issue resolution. 6. Establish escalation procedures: Define clear escalation procedures for handling complex or critical issues that require additional expertise or attention. This ensures that customer issues are appropriately escalated to the relevant teams or management for timely resolution. 7. Gather customer feedback: Regularly collect feedback from customers about their support experience. This can be done through surveys, feedback forms, or follow-up emails. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments to your support processes. 8. Continuously improve support processes: Review support metrics, identify common issues or pain points, and continuously refine your support processes. This includes updating your knowledge base, streamlining response times, implementing automation where appropriate, and optimizing the customer support experience. Remember, providing excellent product support is crucial for customer satisfaction, retention, and building a positive brand reputation. Continuously monitor and adapt your support plan based on customer feedback, emerging trends, and evolving customer needs to ensure a seamless support experience. ## MVP Launch ### Execute the MVP Launch Plan ### Collect MVP Feedback ### Go/No Go Analysis A Go/No-Go analysis is a decision-making process used to evaluate whether a project, initiative, or action should proceed or be halted. It helps in assessing the feasibility, risks, benefits, and alignment with organizational goals before making a decision. Here are the key steps to perform a Go/No-Go analysis: 1. Define the criteria: Identify the specific criteria that need to be met for the project to proceed. This may include financial viability, market demand, technical feasibility, resource availability, legal/regulatory compliance, etc. 2. Gather information: Collect and analyze relevant data, market research, financial projections, technical assessments, customer feedback, etc. This information will help in evaluating the project against the defined criteria. 3. Assess risks and benefits: Evaluate the potential risks and benefits associated with the project. Consider the probability and impact of risks, as well as the potential returns, strategic fit, and competitive advantages. 4. Evaluate alternatives: Explore alternative options or approaches to achieve the desired outcome. Compare the feasibility, risks, benefits, and costs of each alternative against the defined criteria. 5. Make a decision: Based on the analysis, make a Go/No-Go decision. If the project meets the criteria and the benefits outweigh the risks, then it can proceed (Go). If the project does not meet the criteria or the risks outweigh the benefits, then it should be halted (No-Go). 6. Communicate the decision: Clearly communicate the decision and the rationale behind it to stakeholders involved. Document the decision and ensure that everyone understands the implications. Remember, a Go/No-Go analysis is a dynamic process and should be revisited periodically as circumstances change. ## V1 Release As your company transitions from early stage startup to a revenue generating entity you will need to expand your planning to the following areas. This section is just a summary of the areas requiring attention and could become the next e-book in the series. ### Full Business Plan Now it is time to get serious. This doesn't mean you have to write thousands of words, it does mean you have to think about and document at least briefly how you are doing to address each of the following areas. ### Revised Value Proposition This is your first pivot. Based on feedback from the MVP refine your value proposition. ### Financial Projections (Accrual Accounting) Any future financial partners, banks, private investors and venture capital firms will require a set of accrual based financial statements with a minimum of 3 years of projections and ideally 5. Everyone reviewing these documents understands that years 2+ are just educated guesses however you and your team will be held accountable for meeting or exceeding these projects. Numbers too small will not be interesting to potential investors, numbers too big will set you up for failure. ### Expanding Your Team As part of your planning give some thought to a hiring plan. Hiring good people takes time. In my experience one A player is often worth 2 or 3 B or C players. As a pre-revenue company hiring A players is difficult but worth the effort. Never settle for C players to fill a seat. Plan for the costs of expanding your team. At past companies I ran with hundreds of employees we purchased expensive computers for every employee. In todays world that may not be necessary if all of your software is cloud based. An exception to this new dynamic is developers. While it is possible do use cloud based resources, virtual machines, for development they impose limitations that physical machines do not. ### Distribution Economic It is time to revisit the marketing and sales funnel in detail and create a detailed plan to cost effectively achieve your revenue goals. ### V1 Support Plans Paying customers require more extensive onboard and support resources for success. Customer churn is expensive, you will be better served by investing in customer support that in marketing dollars to replace churned customers. ### Product Marketing Product marketing teams produce the documents used by your sales and support teams to ensure sales close and customers onboard successfully. This differs from fancy trade show booths, expensive and elaborate websites, and brand marketing. A related worthwhile investment is the development of excellent and up-to-date product documentation. ### Funding Alternative While cash is king it is also expensive. Raise as little money as possible. At my last company, I raised $60 million in venture capital over multiple rounds. This was a terrible mistake. When this company was sold for $100 million I was left with a loss on my initial investment. This is a key topic for another e-book :-) ## Conclusion Now is the perfect time to launch a new technology business. Unlike in the past decades, where tech startups had to invest significant amounts of money in hardware and server rental fees just to create a minimum viable product (MVP), today's startups can use free tools and host their products on trial cloud accounts. This eliminates the capital constraints that startups used to face. A notable example of a successful technology startup in the current landscape is Obsidian. This note-taking and data organization application, featured in a Fast Company article, was launched in 2020 by Erica Xu and Shida Li as a Covid project. Despite having no outside funding and only a few employees, Obsidian has amassed over one million users. In a market dominated by well-established and well-funded competitors like Evernote and Notion, Obsidian sets itself apart by understanding the needs of tech-focused users. Unlike the trend towards cloud-based solutions with proprietary formats, Obsidian offers an open format that allows users to maintain ownership of their notes and easily integrate them with other tools. Obsidian also fosters a strong sense of community by supporting a robust plugin architecture, which encourages users to collaborate and contribute to the platform's growth. While Obsidian may not conform to the traditional rules imposed on startups by the venture capital community, they have demonstrated that building a great product that resonates with the community can lead to substantial growth and success. As the next step feel free to reach out to me for one-on-one coaching. Irv Shapiro Cogitations, LLC [email protected]