Due Diligence Checklist

Start-up and emerging companies should be prepared for the significant amount of due diligence that a venture capital investor and its counsel may require before consummating a venture capital financing. Even angels are requiring many of these things to be under control today at earlier development stages. The following is a sample Due Diligence Checklist, which acts as a compliance request to the Company of all relevant documents and information. In appropriate circumstances, some listed items can be scaled back.

Corporate Documents of the Company and Subsidiaries

Articles of Incorporation and all amendments thereto.
Bylaws and all amendments thereto.
Minutes of all Board of Directors, committee, and shareholders meetings and all consents to actions without meeting.
List of states and jurisdictions in which qualified to do business and in which the Company has offices, holds property or conducts business.
Material information or documents furnished to shareholders and to directors...

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Top 10 Hiring Tips

By Greta Kauffman
President and Founder, Target-Teams

Nothing is more important or can have a greater impact than the people you hire. A hiring mistake can literally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and be magnified over the entire organization, or it can be the beginning of massive success. A bad hire at a senior level in critical areas, at critical times, can even ruin a company. Yet done right a good hire can make up for a lot of other issues and drive success.

The Tips:

1. Spend sufficient time thinking and planning before starting the hiring process. Recruit only after you know exactly the skills, values, background, and education you need for your open position.

2. Track your annual cost of turnover. This will help you understand the cost of losing excellent employees at your firm. It can help you to justify the use of hiring tools to help you reduce the incidence of hiring mistakes.

3. Maximize your referral network. People you know and trust can yield...

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68 CEO Responsibilities

This is a great list for both taking on a new CEO position and getting up to speed, as well as to develop a proactive development and learning program for any CEO or senior executive wishing to improve their executive management skills. It lays out well all the things you need to juggle when you have both the privilege and responsibilities of the top spot in any organization.

General Operations

1. Establish primary goals of the Board -- maintenance of status quo, evaluation, and recommendations or take charge through the implementation of the new game plan.
2. Meet all first-reports, introduce the game plan and initiate implementation of action items on this list.
3. Have all first-reports complete the Agenda for the Future.
4. Discuss the dozen biggest problems and opportunities from the perspective of all first-reports.
5. If survival mode is required, cut costs immediately where necessary and prudent and in accordance with the Board's short and intermediate-term goals.
6. Identify and...

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How To Get 11X Average Productivity In Product Development

Here are Some Simple Ideas That Can Greatly Improve Productivity and at the Same Time Help Ensure Success of Every New Product or Release

Product management is more art than science and because I have run many product development groups simultaneously, with a very high launch success rate, I have been asked many times what are the key elements for success. This is not easy to answer, as there are hundreds of small things that make success, not just a few large ones. Although most examples are about software, the ideas apply to almost all product development efforts.

Due to my previous technical background as an engineer, software architect, and CTO, prior to becoming CEO, I have always been deeply involved in product development, no matter what title I held. As CEO, VP, or just software engineer, product development is often where the rubber hits the road and ultimately a company is made or broken by the amount of value the product delivers to its customers. In one position at a...

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The Disney Approach To Human Capital An Interview Article From Line Zine

I have always been an admirer of Disney's customer service and their systems to ensure "customer delight", as opposed to just customer service. This means going far beyond the customer's expectations to deliver something extra, or above and beyond the call of duty every time. It means training, understanding by employees, and empowerment that goes straight through the organization to back all this up with consistent management rewards and signals. This means praise and reward for employees who actually execute these principles and values, setting examples, and sending a consistent message to employees and customers about your brand and values. Some companies talk about "quality" customer service but then punish people when their "minutes per customer" allocation or other measures are exceeded, or when asked for something that is not standard just say "no" with no effort to handle exceptions. This is not a consistent message to employees and negates the training they received,...

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How do I effectively connect to VC or angel investors?

Cold email is basically useless, LinkedIn is better. What are some better ways?

There are many good techniques, but it depends on your situation and status. Most try to do this far too early, before building real value (that skyrockets potential valuation).

Here are a few techniques:

  1. Networking at events
  2. Researching CEOs that have been funded for referrals
  3. “Warm emails” which have an into embedded saying “Joe CEO said you may be appropriate to talks to about our company which is: XXX” - short status report showing product, market and size., etc. A 1-minute video link can help here, but needs to be obvious not phishing by being hosted at a well-known site like YouTube or Vimeo (private link).
  4. Leverage AngelList and other sites where angels gather
  5. Connect with angel syndicates. Some are paid and some are free.
  6. Leverage your friends, family and advisers for contact. Some angels are first time investors who know and trust you. Ideally “Accredited...
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What would be the minimum I can invest in startups and how can I find the quality ones?

There is no minimum unless set by the company. Traditionally in angel deals it is about $25K, but some are as low as $10K. Frankly, it is not worth dealing with a huge number of people under that amount for the CEO. The less they invest, the more trouble they are to deal with, usually. Likely not “Accredited investors” and a pain in the butt because they are investing more than they should as a percentage of their portfolio.

Of course, at crowdfunding sites, which are growing at 100%+ per year now, the minimums are often $100 to $1,000. This would allow people with a small amount to invest to diversify better and own a small piece of 5–10 companies. So, a better route if you have only $20K or less to invest. Diversification is very important because many startups will fail, typically through no fault of their own.

Finding quality ones is the tougher question and more art than science. You need to look at the team as maybe 50% to 75% of the success, as they can...

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How Do You Run A Start-Up Differently Than Other Companies?

A Perfect Metaphor For A Startup

I use many airplane and military metaphors, not because I was ever in the military, though I am a pilot, but because there are so many special-purpose planes that can be used to show an exact point or purpose just like a market niche. One of the best models I have seen on how to run a start-up was the development of the SR-71 spy plane by Lockheed’s skunkworks. The SR-71 spy plane was so far ahead of its time, that 30 years after its initial design and development, it was still the fastest plane on the planet. The development of the plane is a great metaphor for a startup company, and the management methods used should be examined by every startup executive as an example of product design and development on minimum resources that yield maximum results. The plane itself is also a great metaphor for a startup company, as you will see below.

The Skunkworks group’s methods and results are a classic example of what can be done...

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The 16 Best and Most Revealing Interview Questions Ever

These questions are in no particular order, as they should be customized to the particular position and person.  You want to mix up the tougher ones with more social, calming questions, so people do not feel they are getting the first degree. 

Always do your questions first and theirs second, by saying upfront you have some questions first and then will answer any questions they have later. This way they cannot sell specifically to your needs. You are in charge and should control the first interview completely. Only after they have proven that they are a viable candidate should you start revealing potentially sensitive company information.  If this person is not a good candidate, you can terminate the interview early and save everyone time.  Real candidates will need and deserve this sensitive information, but you would not want this to be generally available.  Good candidates will often try to control the flow of the interview and learn more early. You...

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The Risk Assessment Landscape Map

A Method For Evaluating And Managing the Risks of A Business

Too often, managers focus solely on the probability of a risk or problem happening and ignore far more important factors such as the cost of failure and the ability to actively manage each risk as more is learned. To properly manage, business risks must be evaluated and monitored constantly. Steps can usually be taken to adjust the three main risk factors before and during any project.

The three main factors that should be evaluated and tracked are

1) The cost of a failure,

2) The probability of a failure, and most importantly

3) The controllability, or ability to manage, the risk.

Each of these factors must be taken into account to properly manage any risk at the beginning of any project and each time major new pieces of information become available that impact those risks. Because human beings tend to be able to think in only three physical dimensions in addition to time, it is significant to clearly communicate to...

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