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Startup checklist

  • This page is still being edited; it is still raw. Use at your own peril.
  • Stickiness. Does the business have stickiness? Will users stay there? How easy is it for them to leave? Email & social networks can be hard to leave (do more research here).
  • Cheap/free ad supported product. Find an existing business, reduce the revenue that that industry produces by offering a free service, and then claim remaining revenue for your company.
  • Google apps. Use google apps to handle your mail. Easy-peasy. No need to set up your own Outlook Server.

    once you set up your website, set up these email addresses quickly:
     admin@domain.com (has admin privileges; fwd all mail from here to joe@domain.com)
     joe@domain.com where joe is your name. account has admin privileges.
     joe.smith@domain.com (alias for joe@domain.com; anything sent to joe.smith@domain.com arrives at joe@domain.com)
     support@domain.com (separate email address, fwd all mail to joe@domain.com)
     set joe@domain.com to be the catch-all. so if someone sends an email to coolstuff@domain.com, you should get it.

    Test all of this out. Make sure that sender does not get any "Delivery Status Notification (Failure)" messages from the Mail Delivery Subsystem.
    are you using google apps (google.com/a)?

    Put a signature in ASAP, such as the one below. This should go out with every email you send out.

    Mahesh Viswanathan
    mahesh@tinymogul.com
    +1-617-401-RENT (7368) [main]
    +1-408-692-2376 [fax]
    For current listings, see:
    http://www.tinymogul.com/listings


    Convenience increases availability and usage. It increases your convenience of contacting you, thus you will contacted more often. This is why supermarkets put stuff on the shelf at eye level.

    get the other emails set up as well: admin@... (separate email address, fwds to joe), support@ (redirect), joe.smith@... (alias).
  • PC, not Mac. Unless you just bought a brand-new Mac. Macs just don't last as long as the hardware gets incompatible with new software. that's like buying a car and being told that you can't fill 'er up anymore and you need to buy a new car because the gasoline available now is super-duper-cool. BS. That's just bad, lame design, no matter how cool Steve Jobs is.

    Rebuttal. A fervent Mac person has told me the following: Macs are almost always backwards compatible except for two times in their history: once during the PowerPC migration and second, the Intel migration (recently, 2008). In addition, they're extremely easy to use, and come bundled with almost all the software you need. I might try one out for a bit if I get the change. Other than that, I'll stick to the PC for now.

  • Use Dropbox to backup your data. Set it and forget it. www.getdropbox.com
  • Use GTD.  MLO on PC, iGTD on Mac. I haven't found a great solution yet. Let me know if you find one. Requirements: must work offline, must be available online on other computers, must be lightweight, must work the way you do, not force you to spend time doing lots of unnecessary things. Easy way: just use an electronic  notepad. I have one big notepad (only 20,000 lines!) that has been used for about 7 years. I dump everything into it. It's a bit of a mess, but the top part has the TO DO section, and the other parts have various other things. Getting information out of it is as easy as searching for a word. Furthermore, text editors are very lightweight and not big and clunky.  Travelling? Just mail yoruself a copy of this big notepad, and access it anywhere. That simple. There is always a trade-off! In this case it is between simplicity and ease of use (and availability).
  • Computers won't organize you. Remember, computers magnify what you do. If you're organized, they help you stay organized better. If you're disorganized, they will help you make a bigger mess of things. The work starts with you. There is no magic bullet. In fact, I found most GTD systems to be far below my user experience expectations. They simply got in the way of making quick task additions in various categories.
  • Software to use/install. xp, sp3, GTD (MLO on PC, iGTD on Mac), dropbox (online backup upto 2GB, free), winzip, office, Ultra Edit 32, PDF995 (free PDF conversion), VLC media player (free media player; plays almost anything you throw at it. Apart from wine, the other great French product), VNC remote control.
  • Backup strategy. Use Dropbox to backup the most used 2GB of files that you have. This will be most of the text, financial and other files that you use for your business. For media (images, sounds, video), save what you can with dropbox. The advantage is that when your hard disk on your computer dies, you will be able to access your data again in about 5 minutes, online. Large backups. For larger files and folders, use an external hard disk and back up everything once a week (Saturday night?), and just the changes everyday, until next Saturday. Once a month, swap out the external drive and use this new one for backups. Store the other external drive off-site. Now you're protected against fire and theft as well. If you're paranoid, backup your backup itself every month or so, so that if the data on your computer and your backup go missing  (e.g. power surge damage,  theft) and you damage the backup of the backup while you bring it to your site to restore your data, then you'll have yet another backup available, should you fry your backup's backup. If you fry your backup's backup's backup, you're toast. You shouldn't be let near a computer anyway.
  • Press. Save your press clippings. print them to PDFs and store them before they disappear off the websites where they're published.
  • Core. What is your core business?
  • Why? Why is this better than having a job in that business?
  • Entrepreneur, manager or technician? Are you an entrepreneur, manager or technician? Can you scale up to entrepreneur? Can you give up being a technician?
  • Buy-in test. Who believes in you and your product? Let's start with you? Do you really? Can you sink some money into this? Great. Who else? Mom? Dad? Both? Siblings? Friends? Friends' friends? How many people will give you money for what you do? Test whether you really have something that others want before you sink in a lot of time in creating your business. Do incremental testing. Test, test test. See if it works. Blind faith works sometimes. Testing works at all times. There are companies like YCombinator that won't even consider seeding if you don't have a partner. Their rationale: if you can't convince at least one person to join you, why should they fund you?
  • Read (& Watch) materials about starting businesses. Reading list:
    • Dragon's Den. Watch as much of Dragons' Den as you can. Seriously. It is about people pitching their ideas to investors. You can get many parts of it on Youtube. This is one great TV show. This started in Japan and then spread to several other countries except the US, where it is supposed to go on air in a show called "The Shark's Tank" or somesuch.
    • Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Robert Kiyosaki). The starting point for starting your gig, for many. Inspirational, even if the verity of some of the facts in it are debatable.
    • Paul Graham's essays. Techie guru and entrepreneur. Founder of Ycombinator. Good insightful essays on starting up a company.
    • Guide to Management Ideas (Hindle, Tim; "The Economist" publication). Get up to speed quickly on what management is all about. Think of this book as a 200 page MBA. Everything you wanted to know about business but didn't know to ask.
    • Wake Up and Change Your Life (Duncan Bannatyne). Good practical advice from one of the members of Dragon's Den, a BBC TV show that's required viewing for a new entrepreneur. Don't worry about the specifics geared to UK businesses. Take home the general lessons.
    • The Four Hour Workweek (Timothy Ferriss). Focus on what's important. Forget about the rest.
    • Naked Economics (Charles Wheelan). Great book on economics for smart people who don't know much about it. A plus for many: no math, no graphs. Just talk.
    • The Alchemist (Paolo Coelho).
    • E-myth Revisited (Michael E. Gerber). Loads of blah, blah and blather, but some good pearls in the swill. Separate out the entrepreneur, manager and technician within yourself and understand that they will be in conflict with each other. Which one are you true to this minute?
    • 10-10-10: A Life-Transforming Idea (Suzy Welch). Haven't read it myself. The idea is good (and the reviews say that that's all there is). How important is a decision you're going to make or an action you're going to take? For the next 10 minutes, next 10 hours, 10 days, 10 months, 10 years? You get the idea. Skip the book.
    • Enter the Dragon (Theo Paphitis). Yet another book by a guy on Dragon's Den. Different from Bannatyne's, but this one is also good. I preferred Bannatyne's. This one is chattier, but delivers other points. Could be compressed down to 2-4 pages. (Just about) worth a read. Again, a bit UK specific, but loads to learn from here.
    • others...
  • Domain name basic requirements
    • Do you already have a website? Does it have a domain name that does not suck?
    • Don't spend too much time selecting a domain. If you're really successful, you'll get an opportunity to revamp your domain name later. The core of your business makes it successful, not the domain name. A bad domain name can, at best, be a minor hindrance, never the main problem. Whereas, a business with a bad core is just bad. Period. Good domain or not. Think Napster V 1.0.
    • The name
      • must be be easy to remember, easy to pronounce; make it phonetic i.e. what you hear is what you write. makes it easier for people who are not native english speakers.  Think of users of your site who are French, German, Spanish, Russian/Slavic, Nordic/Swedish, and even Indian (Hindi) and Chinese.  Thus, for words, Latin, Slavic and Anglo-Saxon roots might be good, Germanic, not so good. All depends on your target audience.
      • must be as small as possible; brevity matters, both for remembering the name and for typing it without making msitakes. did you catch that?
      • might use simple English words, or combinations or words (e.g. fatapple.com). On the other hand, everyone is doing that now.
      • Use words that sound like what they mean. Sound to meaning correspondences facilitate word learning.
      • You might want to use words that have no real meaning, but evoke meanings in our heads. 
      • might have a cool concept that you then explain to people to hook them.
      • might encapsulate all of what you do or might do in the future (don't be too general)
      • might hide what you do (don't be too specific)
      • use alliteration and plosives (e.g. cocacola, kelloggs). k sounds are good in branding. People apparently remember them better.
    • Searching for domain names
      • Carry a notepad with you at all times. Whenever a name strikes you write it down. You will forget it in about 5 minutes.
      • Keep track of all names that you like in a spreadsheet.
      • When you've got a whole bunch of them, try them out at koredomains.com or https://www.securepaynet.net//domains/searchbulk.aspx?ci=14515&prog_id=cheapdomainregistration. They let you look up 500 domain names at a time to see what's available. www.domainit.com will offer interesting domain name suggestions based on the domain name you try. GoDaddy.com is usually the cheapest of them all for domain registration. As a plus, if you want to host your website on Google sites (highly recommended when starting out), you can get your domain directly via google (who contract it out to GoDaddy).
      • Another option: make a huge list of words by category, e.g. numbers, events, amount, metric, concepts, places, titles, seasons, planets, people, adjectives, location, royalty, animals, colors, jobs, objects, other, fruit/veggie, places, verbs, time, directions. Put them in a spreadsheet and pick 500 random combinations. Try them out at koredomains. See what you like after you find out whether it is available or not.
      • Don't waste your money buying a domain that you've just gotta have. Make some money with your company and then buy that dang domain. Why waste cash? You're going to need it. All of it.
      • Does your websites or company's name meet the basic requirements? Easy to pronounce across cultures, plosive sounds (k's, p's, c's, etc.), doesn't look like crap, doesn't mean something gross that you hadn't thought of, etc.?
      • Is the domain name available?
  • Building your website.
    • Don't spend a lot of time with your website. Get it up and running, quick and focus on the content of what you're going to deliver.
    • Seriously consider Google sites. It has a wiki-like builder and you can have your website online in a day or less. Focus on the content and not messing around with things that are just not that important. Your job is to build the website quickly and walk away from it. Think of it like this: how much time should you spend on your store or workshop? How much time should you spend on the stuff you sell? Am I getting through to you?
  • Company structure. Don't worry about incorporating and all that jazz just yet. See if you are financially viable. No point throwing your money away to set up a Delaware corporation if you're not going to break even.
  • Cashflow; how soon? How soon can you start making money?
  • Cash and Time requirements. What will you need in terms of time and money? Why? Can you explain? Can you provide a realistic budget and realistic timeframe? No pie-in-the-sky, now!
  • Goals. What are your short-term and long-term goals? Think what you want to achieve in the next week, the next 2 weeks, the next month, the next 3 months, the next year and the next 3 years. Phew.
  • Test marketing. If you're selling something, have you test marketed it yet? Convince me that it will sell. "I just know" isn't good enough, it's crap. How much actual money (dollars, pounds, yen, euros, rupees) have you been paid for your work or product until now? Over how much time?
  • Find someone you'll be accountable to. If you can't manage yourself or find your deadlines slipping, find a friend someone such as, ahem, yours truly, to keep you focussed. Deadlines will slip. Are you using a calendar (google calendar is great) to keep track of your goals and deadlines? Well, you should. You've gotta be a good boss to yourself. Keep you toeing the line.
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