“Startup 101” is a serialized book about the thrills and spills of starting a Web technology venture. It will be a regular feature in our new channel ReadWriteStart, dedicated to profiling startups and entrepreneurs. Startup 101 is for first-time entrepreneurs who want to go through the whole startup life cycle – including raising money, building a valuable business, and making a lot of money by selling the venture or taking it public.
The founding entrepreneur is the hero and primary reader of this how-to guide. Most of what we say will be well known to investors and advisers who support entrepreneurs, but we hope they also find some value here.
We really hope this will be helpful to the early employees who believe in the dream and do the actual hard work of making it real. They are often the apprentice entrepreneurs, learning the game before starting their own ventures. Or they may just want to understand the overall context faced by the owners, so that they can be more effective at their jobs. Not everybody wants to be an entrepreneur or has the characteristics of an entrepreneur, a subject we’ll explore in the second chapter/post, “Are You an Entrepreneur?”
This series is designed for Web technology startups. But if you are building a clean tech, bio tech, outsourcing, hardware, or other type of technology venture, we hope some of Startup 101 will be useful to you, too.
We do assume that you want to build a large and valuable business in a relatively short amount of time. That normally involves raising money. In which case, you’ll need to exit — by either selling or doing an IPO — within a few years. Startup 101 is designed for those “shoot for the moon,” high-trajectory ventures. Some of the early posts/chapters will help you decide whether this really is what you want to do. It is certainly not for everyone.
We will also explore options for building smaller, slower-growth ventures, using less money and with less of a need to seek an early exit. Our aim is to help you think through what is right for you and your venture and then to build and execute a plan that is appropriate for that decision. The third chapter/post, “What Kind of Startup Do You Want to Be?,” focuses on that decision.
This won’t be a dry, academic tome. Nor will it give you all the details on every subject, which you can get from specialists. We will publish links to the most valuable resources of specialists. We also hope ReadWriteStart will become a forum for specialists to publish such detailed how-to guides themselves.
Startup 101 won’t give you up-to-the-minute information about trends you can use at a tactical level, either. We hope you’ll get those from our regular ReadWriteStart posts.
Our aim with Startup 101, rather, is to put this all in context for the very busy entrepreneur.
This is a serialized reference book. The posts and their comments will always live here at ReadWriteStart, and we hope entrepreneurs find them via search engines when they need specific advice. It is designed as a reference work that you can dip into at the right time. Advice is only useful when it is “just in time,” so treat this as a reference. Sometimes seeing the whole journey laid out is useful, and that is why we are creating a book.
We’ll try as much as possible to follow the chronology of a typical venture. So, the first chapter/post is “10 Things to Be Clear About Before You Start,” and the final chapter/post is “Congratulations! What’s Next?” (for when you’ve received the wire transfer and have started celebrating the sale of your venture). But we recognize that not every venture follows the same trajectory and that yours will follow its own order.
At the end, we will publish this as a book. We aim to publish both an online and print version. We will improve the chapters based on the comments we get. We also plan to be diligent in giving thanks to all who contribute to the book. You know the ritual in printed books where the author always apologizes to those he or she has neglected to thank? In the serialized web version, those people are never forgotten; they are immortalized in our comments.
The chapters/posts we have planned are as follows. In line with the iterative/agile model of the Web, we reserve the right to change the order and to add, delete, and alter chapters as we progress on this journey.
- 10 things to be clear about before you start
- Are you really an entrepreneur?
- How first-time entrepreneurs can work well with investors
- Creating your vision, mission, strategy, and plan
- Finding the right wave to ride (secular trends)
- Working booms and busts to your advantage (cyclical trends)
- Building your team pre-financing
- Building an advisory board
- Finding a URL and company name
- Company registration choices
- The Capital-Raising Ladder
- How to pitch to a VC or angel
- How not to get screwed by VCs
- Understand the scale vs. profitability trade-off
- Build an insanely great Web service
- Learn to negotiate and close
- How to be an effective CEO
- How to hire an A-Team
- How to fire non-performers
- How to hit your numbers
- How to build age-appropriate processes
- Three steps to building an online brand
- How to scale without losing your shirt
- Maintaining focus, health, and passion during the grind-it-out phase
- Planning your exit
- When and how founders should hire a professional CEO
- Congratulations! What’s next?
Finally, the name. “Startup 101” is temporary… and hardly inspired. If you can think of a better name, please tell us in the comments. If we choose your suggestion, your name will go in the Forward in the published book.