If I Started A Company Today

Startup Weekend Athens

Down economy?  Perfect time to start it up.

Chris Brogan posted a great post on if he started in social media today, what he would do.

It got me thinking of if I started a company today, what I would do:

Since I’ve done my homework, it should be a bit easier, but here are the steps I would take.

First Step: Listen

What are you passionate about?  Really, passionate about?  What needs are not being met by the marketplace?  This could be obvious, it could be niche.  What do you hear your friends complaining about?  What do you see users using a service for (that the service might not be intended for).

Niel Robertson says you never have to have an original idea in your life, you just have to listen to others.  Some questions to ask:

  • Do you see others making money in the space (hint, avoid starting a newspaper)?
  • Do you know what problem you are solving?
  • Where do you have expert knowledge?

You need to listen to others more than yourself, but both are mission critical.

Second Step: Form the Team

I would say to put your team together before your general idea, because it is that important, but you need to know the general area of business you are starting before putting the team together.  You can work on your ideas with a team, but someone that wants to start a cafe isn’t going to be a good cofounder with someone that wants to do online retail.  Decide on an equity split, as even as possible.

Having a cofounder is a sign of longevity.  Get one.  Seriously.

Third Step: Create A Schedule / Structure

Your idea is going to change dramatically over the first few months.  I would meet with the team on a regular schedule, like Monday nights for four hours, with the goal of having a prototype after a month.

Create a six month plan with milestones to meet.  Keep yourself and your team honest.

Finalize your name, and register it with every service you can think of (twitter, wordpress, myspace, etc).

Fourth Step: Get Feedback

Tell as many smart people as you can about the idea.  Learn how to listen.  Take notes.  Take everyone’s advice into consideration.  Ask people if they have heard any whispers about your team / company / field.  Ask about opportunities they see as a fit for you, such as TechStars, Knight News Challenge or a local SBA loan.

Tell as many smart people as you can about the idea.  Learn how to listen.  Take notes.  Take everyone’s advice into consideration.  Tell your friends to hold you accountable.  If you are looking for funding in the future, you might want to start a relationship with a couple select investors (know raising money is a long, and sometimes painful process) .

Fifth Step: Participate

I would find my first customers, and engage them as much as I could.  I could call this section building your product, but if you build your product without your customers in mind or involved, you are missing a huge point in building a company with today’s tools.  I love the thought of companies not building products, but engaging their real customers (not just early adopters) as the driving force behind their product roadmap.

I wrote this thinking about it applying to a Startup Weekend like project, which tends to be a Web2.0 ish consumer based web application.  Looking at it, it would work just as well with creating a physical store or a product line.

Your Turn

What has worked for you?  What did I leave out?  Are you going to start something up?

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