STARTUP CHECKLIST THAT WORKS FOR YOUR SUCCESS

From Idea to IPO!

Startup Checklist that works for your Success
The checklist below is a universal tool
                        for turning your idea into a successful startup. Is it worth to spend 5 minutes reading
                            it?

The checklist below is a universal tool for turning your idea into a successful startup. Is it worth to spend 5 minutes reading it?

Well, these questions were asked by approximately 90% of startups that failed. Here, you can find a lot of practical information that will help you avoid mistakes and achieve your goal.

So think thoroughly, analyze and compare.

Start checking

  • Pre-Seed

    Let’s call this stage “The Era of Idea”. Why so? The thing is that the idea and a plan are almost everything you have during this period.

    Idea - First of all, you should figure out what exactly you want to create. We don’t ask you to close your eyes and imagine how you’re making your first million. However, we recommend you to check your idea with a simple and very useful tool - The Value Proposition Canvas by Peter Thomson .

    Also before startup launching, give certain answers for these questions:
    • Who is your target audience?
    • What problems of your target audience can be solved with the help of your product?

    If you can’t answer, don’t even bother taking the next step! According to cbinsights.com, “no market need” is the reason of 42% startup failures!

    After that try to define the core functions of your product. Don’t go into detail: keep something for later. Your main task now is to figure out the basic concept of your product and evaluate your capabilities to implement your plans.

    The best way to do this - is to use PoC (Proof of Concept). It’ll help you test the viability and practical value of your concept, as well as determine the overall direction of your business.

    Market research - let’s play “Dora the Explorer and Competitive Market”!

    Your mission:
    • to analyze the market deeply: type, scope, condition, dynamics;
    • to assess product market fit;
    • to find your potential competitors, and learn how they develop their products.

    The winner gets useful data and a strong background for startup launching and successful business planning. So don’t hesitate to do this task thoroughly! Define a business model - we don’t even propose you to choose a business model for your product. You MUST have one. Why is that so? At least because, according to cbinsights.com statistics, a product without a business model is the reason of 17% startup failures.

    And yes, we recommend you use a canvas once again. This time you can try the Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.

    To increase the effectiveness of the canvas, it’s recommended to create alternative business models, taking into account different business development scenarios. Only after drawing up and considering several models you need to choose one.

    Naming - Apple, Uber, Google, Tesla, Canon, Trello, Slack...All these company and product names are catchy, short and easy to remember. You should think about the name of your product in the same way. Yet, if you don't feel like creating the name of you company , you can always use one of these name generators:
    • NameMesh
    • NameRobot
    • Panabee
    • Namelix
    • Wordoid
    • Oberlo
    • Naminum
    • Anadea
    • Namechk
    • Getsocio

    IT-consulting - pay attention to your business strategy and technological aspects. Of course, you can take care of all these things by yourself.

    But if you aren't tech expert and you want to save your time and avoid mistakes, it’s better to invite professionals. There are many software development companies that can provide you with accurate consultations on your startup. IT-consultants can help you:
    • test technical feasibility of your business model;
    • find the best technological solution for your business needs;
    • prevent possible errors before the project starts.

    It’s up to you to decide how to deal with all this: by yourself or with the help of experts.

    Professional IT-consulting helps your startup to evolve properly from the very first step and move to the next stages faster. (read How IT Consulting Can Help Your Tech Startup)

    May the force of marketing be with you! - We want to emphasize that without a strong marketing plan (even if your product is cool) you are always one step behind your competitors. So take a deep breath … and here is one more checklist, of course:):
    • set your end GOAL;
    • define your target audience;
    • conduct market research;
    • analyze your competitors;
    • determine your competitive advantages;
    • develop key performance indicators (KPI);
    • market positioning;
    • set a budget for marketing needs;
    • create channels for distribution (website, social networks, email, etc.);
    • think of of content you want to share with your customers;
    • create a content plan;
    • choose the metrics;
    • analyze the effectiveness of your ad campaigns.

    Of course, it’s just a draft list. Don’t forget to develop a more complex marketing plan for your business needs.

    Surround yourself with like-minded people - you know, it’s much easier to start and maintain a business if you have somebody to rely on. Support at this stage is very important. Who knows, it’s your chance to find a good business partner!

    Choose a task management system - the more people are involved in your startup, the harder it becomes to manage tasks. To be more productive, you can easily automate this process with the help of specific software, like:
    • Jira
    • Redmine
    • Microsoft Project
    • Assembla
    • Trello, etc.

    Discuss the features and design of your future product with a dedicated software development team. You have to set the things straight if you want to avoid misunderstandings and mistakes in the future. In the ideal situation, you should define certain requirements for your future product and its feature set.

    Qualified and responsible IT companies always suggest to start with MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

    MVP creation - A Minimum Viable Product is a product, the development of which takes minimum time and money. Such product has only key functions, the relevance of which should be checked. The main goal of MVP is to get reasonable feedback from your customers, better understand your target audience needs.

    MVP helps to:
    • save money and prevent from investment in failing project;
    • check if your customers are interested in your product;
    • choose the right direction of your product development;
    • make changes that help improve your product;
    • find potential customers and first “fans” of your product.
    Test your MVP - figure out what exactly you want to test with MVP. After that choose the way to test your MVP, for example:
    • A/B testing;
    • Users interviews (you can use such services as Surveymonkey or Qualaroo);
    • Fundraising platforms (like Kickstarter or Indiegogo);
    • Ad campaigns (Google AdWords/ Bing/ social networks);
    • Video tutorials explaining the features and benefits of your product;

    Collecting & analyzing of customers feedback - working with feedbacks is always unpredictable. You can think that the product is cool, but sometimes customers have the opposite opinion. So be ready to receive critics - it will help you to improve your product.

    Correct mistakes + add something new = improve your product - do we really have to explain something here? Repeat two previous steps as many times as you need to be sure that MVP is good enough.

    Report analysis - when launching a startup, you set yourself a set of tasks, the implementation of which must be carefully monitored and analyzed. That’s why you need a specific tool that will help you arrange task performance reporting.

    For example, JIRA can help you create and manage different types of reports within the project.
    You can track and analyze such variables as Progress, Issues, Timeliness, Showstoppers, etc. Moreover, you can control resource utilization.

    Be ready to invest a lot of money from your pocket. That’s why a Pre-Seed funding stage is also known as bootstrapping. Short (and a little bit mercantile) piece of advice: maintain good relationships with your friends and family - they are your first potential investors.

    Also, you can start your searching for your first serious investors, like business angels or business incubators.

    Make sure that source, where you’re going to search info about investors, is reliable. We recommend you to pay attention to:

    • 20 Most Active Angel Investors
    • 10 Best Startup Incubators in the World
    • Angel Investment Network
    • Fundrera
    • Business Incubator Lists by State
  • Seed

    Yippee, you startup kicks into high gear!

    IT-consulting - at the previous stage we spoke about IT consulting in a broader sense. Now you need more detailed consulting, which can be divided into:
    • strategic - PoC, Thomson’s Canvas, Business Model Canvas;
    • tactical - development of project architecture, prototypes creation, tasks and story estimation.
    Find your dream team - successful business stories have nothing in common with a one-man show. The thing is that the real leader always has a team that helps them to deal with those parts of work in which they have no expertise. Nowadays, the majority of startup teams consist of at least three members:
    • SUPER SALESMAN - who is responsible for for finding investors and maintaining negotiations with them;
    • MARKETING GURU - thinks about “product for customer” and knows how to promote it;
    • TECH MASTER - creates a finished product.

    This is the core team. Of course, after some time, your startup will need more people for different tasks.

    Remember just one thing: hire people that you NEED. Choose those people who are dedicated to your startup idea and are ready to overcome difficulties.

    Find IT-experts - if your team still doesn’t have someone who can provide your startup with appropriate innovative technologies, you can trust this responsible task to the dedicated team of experts. Hiring a local software development company or outsourcing is an option here.

    Yes, we know that are thousands of different software development companies. So how can you find the best one for your business? There the easiest way is to search for companies in Google. But there are so many pages with searching results! Save your time (and nerves)! Here you can find information about TOP software development companies:
    • Clutch
    • Appfutura
    • Upwork
    • Extract.co
    • Goodfirms.co

    BY THE WAY, have you already signed a contract with a software development company? - if not, you should do this. The core value of your startup is your software or finished app. So take care of its development and protection. You can sign a contract with your software team after MVP creation or before it (in this case you sign a contract on a whole product, including MVP). The main thing is to consider whether this team is the one that understands your business needs and is ready to create something innovative.

    We don’t want to get into different legal details - such important issues should be discussed with qualified experts.

    Nevertheless, remember that the contract must include all the aspects discussed and agreed before:
    • project architecture;
    • technologies;
    • estimates etc.

    Make sure that the contract is compliant with international standards!

    Now you have a chance to engage more types of investors:
    • A/B testing;
    • Friends & Family;
    • Business Angels;
    • Crowdfunding;
    • Micro VCs.
  • Series-A

    This is the first stage of venture financing. The main goal is to make your product get to the new phase of development, attract new investors and talents.

    Planning of long-term investments - now when you have a working MVP and MMP it’s easier to “catch” long-term investors. Don’t miss this opportunity!

    Find long-term investors - have you ever heard the 30-10-2 rule? You have to find 30 investors who are ready to give money for startups like yours. According to the rule, 10 of them might be interested in your product. 2 out of these 10 will certainly invest in your business.

    Make sure that the key team members are already on board - what is the main part of each successful startup? You may answer “A product”. And that’s right, but keep in mind a very important thing:

    Your investors understand that your product is not ideal now and it will evolve at each startup stage.

    Also, they understand that the right and quick development of the product depends on the professionalism and responsibility of the team.

    Loosely speaking, at the early stages of the startup they invest in your team. So investors may ask you a lot of questions about your team, like:
    • Who are your team members? Why did you hire them?
    • Do they have experience in working with startups? Have your team members worked together before?
    • How are you going to scale your team?
    • Are all team members already on-board?
    • Who else should be hired to to achieve your goals?

    First of all, try to give frank answers to these questions. If you need more experts to execute business plan, hire them. Try to show your investor, that your team is almost fully formed and is ready to work on a project.

    Correct mistakes + add something new = improve your product

    This step is crucial at every startup stage. Evolve your product, adding new interesting features. Your startup may get stuck in a certain stage if you stop to develop your product.

    Evaluate the results and scale your business - you have come long way and can evaluate the work results now. You have to decide if the business is ready for growth.

    The statistics show that over 74% of startup fail at the stage of scaling. Do you want your startup to be the one out of this 74%? Of course, you don’t! So remember once and forever:

    A BAD SCALING IS A PREMATURE SCALING!

    To avoid mistakes, make sure that you didn’t miss something at previous stages and you covered the following aspects:
    • product reached the “market fit” (it’s a very interesting phenomenon, we strongly recommend to read more about this);
    • you know who are your core customers;
    • you found marketing channels with the high-level ROI (Return of Investment coefficient, you may also learn more about it);
    • you have the right people on board;

    YOU HAVE ENOUGH RESOURCES TO SCALE!

    Your “Trinity of Investors”:
    • Accelerators;
    • Super Angel Investors;
    • Venture Capitalists.
  • Series-B

    Well done, fellow! Your startup grows rapidly. Now your product can cover various customer needs! At this stage, you are able to engage Late-stage VCs.

    Increase the expertise of your team - professional growth of the team always helps to reach a new startup stage successfully. Take care of this aspect at least for two reasons:
    • your business and product quality may grow faster;
    • your employees need to feel that they are appreciated and you’re interested in their personal and professional development to achieve common success.
    It’s not an easy task, so be ready to go an extra mile and search for reliable resources for team training. You can choose:
    • Free educational resources;
    • Online courses;
    • Courses provided by software vendors;
    • Conferences, meetups, forums or other events;
    • Books and magazines (create a small library in your office).

    According to a Statistic Brain study, incompetence is the reason of 46% startup failure.

    Correct mistakes + add something new = improve your product

    This step is crucial at every startup stage. Make your product evolve, adding new interesting features. Your startup may get stuck in a certain stage if you stop developing your product.

    Hire new high-level experts - your startup grows constantly. So it’s normal that your team sometimes can’t cover all the tasks to execute the plan. It’s the first signal for you to spread your team again.

    Analyze your competitors and try to be better - this step is relevant for all startup stages. But at Series B the investments raises, so your investors have more serious expectations. Show them that you fully understand not only the weaknesses and strengths of your startup (by the way, you can define them with the help of SWOT analysis) but your competitor’s as well.

    You should analyze the competitive market thoroughly, find out the weak points of your competitors and transform them into your advantages.

    Evaluate your business results and increase market share - at this stage, your investors are ready to help you to open new market possibilities and give you funds for further development of your product competitive advantages.

    SO HOW CAN YOU SCALE YOUR BUSINESS?

    Well, it’s a digital era now. So you will always win by investin money in automatization and innovative technologies! For example, you can try SaaS (Software as a Service) solution. It’s a model of software distribution by a third-party provider. What does it mean? Instead of buying and installing software locally on your computer, the service is available through the World Wide Web or, as it’s common to call it, from the Cloud.

    To scale up your startup, it will be nice to use:
    • CRM system (Customer Relationship Management)

    The relationships with your customers are always of crucial importance. To manage the interactions with customers effectively, you need to have a reliable tool for organizing and storing information about your targets. The ideal solution is a CRM system.

    Advantages:
    • it helps to organize and store your data in an easy-to-use way;
    • it gives startup team quick access to all important information about your customers;
    • it helps to control every interaction with the customers;
    • it provides with appropriate analytics for cross-selling and up-selling;
    • it automates your interactions with the customers via alerts, notifications, calls, chats, email, etc.
    YOUR INVESTORS WILL SURELY LIKE IT (well-managed sales process in the company is always highly appreciated by investors)
    • ERP system (Enterprise Resource Planning)
    Your business scales up and your team constantly grows. So it becomes almost impossible to control the working process and resources without proper automatization. Why you may need an ERP system?
    • it helps store and organize all business data, working reports and plans;
    • you have access to all the information you need anytime and anywhere;
    • facilitates collaborations inside the company. (learn more about the advantages of SaaS services for your startup in our article).

    Your potential investors are:

    • Venture capitalists
    • Late stage VCs.
  • Series C and beyond

    Not every startup can stay viable until these stages. But if you did everything right previously, you have a good chance to broaden your business horizons: now you can spend the investments on the creation of the new products and reaching the new markets. Moreover, you can raise money for special occasions (for example, merger).

    Prepare your business for IPO - your business has already proven yourself to be profitable and successful. The investors are more likely to give their money because your company has good (and proven by previous investors!) reputation. Moreover, in most cases, it turns out that they get more money than they invested.

    You are on the top....almost:) The last step is to make your business public. It’s a very serious task, so you have to make some preparations. First of all, make sure to meet financial requirements set by the stock exchanges. Find out, what amount of pre-tax earnings (in latest/recent fiscal years) you should have.

    Then evaluate the public’s “appetite” to Initial Public Offerings. It means that you have to analyze the level of the general attractiveness of the IPO market.

    Evaluate the level of economic development. Are the current market conditions appropriate to make your business public?

    Harder, better, faster, stronger: make your product SUPER nice - at this stage you have a lot of money and talent pool to make your product even better than you expected when you started your business. Don’t stop evolving!

    Evaluate your business results and increase your market share - make sure that your startup:
    • has a strong user base;
    • is well-found;
    • has stable revenue streams and proven histories of their growth;
    • is maintained by a reliable IT system;
    • has a good team of professionals;
    • has already achieved the previously set goals.

    If everything is OK about these aspects, your business is ready to expand once again. Let’s face it, the process of market share growth can be almost never-ending. The thing is, that you will always strive to win new customers. And it’s OK. However, it’s worth to keep in mind, that your competitors are trying to win your customers RIGHT NOW. According to this logic, one of the best ways to win new customers is to draw them away from your competitors, isn’t it?

    So how to do this?
    • always think about new technologies and involve them faster than your competitors (you can do this with the help of highly professional IT experts, who are always ready for new challenges);
    • fast response - you have to learn by heart: customers want to solve their problems RIGHT NOW. Sopay more attention to your customer support and try to keep in touch with clients 24/7. Moreover, try to find out how fast your competitors respond and… be faster:)
    • invite customers to product development - make your users feel important and appreciated by your company. Create a channel with the help of which you can receive your customers’ ideas and use it to make your product better. Such a step will surely increase the loyalty to your product!
    Your investors are:
    • Late-stage VCs
    • Private Equity Firms
    • Hedge Funds
    • Banks
  • IPO (Initial Public Offering)

    It’s your big break! Now your company is ready to offer corporate shares to the general public.

    Prepare for shares issue - Initial Public Offering is a process of selling corporate shares to the general public for the first time. Do we need to emphasize that it’s a crucial step for your business once again?

    So you should consider everything carefully. To start with, make a thorough analysis of your business documentation. Prepare detail information about your startup.Gather all the appropriate financial and operational data. Alongside the company evaluation, analyze the sphere of current activities of your potential buyers. Try to figure out the decisive factors that can influence the deal.

    Form an external public offering team - you will need external experts to make everything in the right way. You need professional:
    • lawyers;
    • underwriters;
    • public accountants;
    • SEC experts.

    Take care of “due diligence” - entering an IPO requires significant financial resources for consultants and auditors. They have to confirm that from the very beginning the company’s leaders conducted a transparent business with appropriate control and accounting system.

    Deliver your startup prospectus to the SEC and set a certain date for going public.

    CONGRATULATIONS WITH YOUR STOCKS SELLING!

Of course, we understand that this checklist isn’t ideal and complex enough.

That’s because each startup is unique and has specific needs. To develop a detailed individual plan and implement it, you need

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