What are the Few Things Every Startup Needs?

Yikes. You are getting some bad answers here. In fact, some don’t even seem to know what a startup is really. Below is a link to a free video series I authored called The Entrepreneur's Journey, and it maps out almost everything a startup needs, mostly the stuff they don’t know they need.

However, let’s start with that definition of the word startup. A startup is not copying someone else's business model, freelancing or opening a dry cleaner. It is doing something new and different. Combining resources uniquely to create value for customers. In fact, if you are not doing something new and different (differentiated) you will never, ever attract either capital or quality senior people. This is called “Innovation”. And without it you have no startup. If you did not know that you are not ready to found a startup company yet and should stick to some simple service business while you learn the list of skills below.

A startup has a UNIQUE business model,...

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The 11 Elements of a Successful Vision

There is a lot of talk about creating and maintaining a vision, especially as part of a CEO's job. In my opinion, ‘vision’ is a term that is both greatly overused as well as largely misunderstood.  Many people consider vision to be an all-encompassing view of the product or service, while others expand its meaning to include the entire market and still, others believe the term encompasses far more.

What is "Vision"? Why Do You NEED One? How Do You Use it? How Do You Know It Is Complete?

Having been personally responsible for a corporation’s vision for many years, I believe it covers more than what most people think. So, what follows is my definition of vision, and I do not understate the case when I say that, with few exceptions, the lack of a strong vision puts you at a distinct competitive disadvantage.

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” So is developing a vision.

To begin with,...

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What Kind of Team Do You Need to Raise Outside Funding?

Most investors agree that the number one factor they look at in any investment opportunity is the management team.  Some even claim it is number one, number two, and number three because a good team will likely fix any problem.  However, quantifying this and getting people to understand and rate their team objectively is needed to improve, and even understand, where your team is today.  

Over ninety percent of teams are insufficient to achieve outside financing, though that is par for the course in a startup, and recognizing this with a plan for hiring can help jump that obstacle.  This article has a small sample of the principles taught in The CEO and Entrepreneur Boot Camp in the area of management team development.  It is the foundation of any company and the only way to overcome the thousands of other obstacles that will come up in the first couple of years of any venture.

Almost everyone thinks they have a “strong” team.  They are...

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Top Startup Mistake #2 - War Stories From A Seasoned CEO 

Understanding Capital Expenditures and Their Real Cost

During my first week at a company I had just joined as President, I was asked to approve the purchase of a $250,000 piece of hardware. The operations people, all from larger companies, were desensitized to the cost of capital and its accessibility. They wanted to buy this $250,000 piece of hardware to be ready for the flood of customers "coming soon."  The CFO had been convinced by the technical staff that the world would fall apart without this equipment, and we could never serve any customers "correctly."  The logic was that they needed months to install it, and we were coming out of beta test soon. So, time was running out!  The reality was they wanted the latest and greatest systems and near 0% risk for these non-existent customers and themselves personally, with little weight given to the huge cost. 

In fact, the beta test was very limited and probably needed much more time, and the capacity already...

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Top Startup Mistake #1 - War Stories From A Seasoned CEO

It always amazes me how much waste there can be in a big company because people do not consider it their own money.  I have worked in several large and many small companies, but I always tried to ask myself "would I pay this personally" before I signed a check or a P.O. for the company. 

Once I was acting as President at a small startup that was spending money at a rate of over $350K per month when I arrived and did not yet have any sales, marketing, or operations staff.  Virtually everything was going towards product development, with no expertise in the house on anything else to divert resources there.  The founders were both very bright technical people and built a huge development group, just like the one they had back at their former big company.  This proved to be the company's downfall when combined with market factors because all the money was spent assuming more would be easy to get later.  However, this was not their fault really.  The...

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Are You Cut out to Be an Entrepreneur?

This article will list the many skills that are required to launch an entrepreneurial venture that can be at least profitable, and hopefully scalable.  And it will help you decide if you are ready to take on that challenge.  Be advised that years of preparation and learning are usually necessary to be truly prepared to launch any company, even one that is not new and innovative.  And if you lack the skills listed herein, you need to plan to recruit people that bring these skills if you want a company to be successful. 

The skills required to build a company are the most valuable skills in the world.  What other skills can create potentially billions in value, jobs, and a higher standard of living for millions of people?  At least in a moral and legal way.

Building a successful company to $5 million, $20 million, or $100 million is the most fulfilling thing you can ever do.  Only about one in sixteen hundred companies will break even $10...

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Defining True Entrepreneurship

Let me first define Entrepreneurship in the way I think about it, which is not how most laymen might define it.  Entrepreneurship is creating a business that does something new and different.  It is not starting a restaurant, launching a franchise, or a dry-cleaning business.  And certainly not selling your time as a freelancer.  This is not to say these things are not valuable, or risky, they are all noble professions when done well.  However, they are not creating something new for a society that creates new value, jobs, and hopefully even helps raise the standard of living for all in time.  True entrepreneurship is more scalable because it is more unique and differentiated.  Something that creates new possibilities and alternatives for ways of living.  

The skills required to build a company are the most valuable skills in the world.  What other skills can create potentially billions in value, thousands of jobs and a higher...

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What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Raising Capital Today

Because of the low yield today in bonds and other investment classes, and competition for deals, valuations of early-stage ventures have been creeping up.

Many would say that is long overdue, but investors need compensation for the high risk of these ventures too. And frankly almost no one can pick mostly winners due to the many inherent unknowns at the early stage of any venture.

This article is an introduction to the financing of any early-stage company across the stages from seed to Series B. The financing landscape today has changed radically with many more options. Some financing is easier to get but generally, equity financing is hard to get for most companies without a revenue history.  Everything you learned about this topic in the last ten years, or that the press printed more than one or two years ago, may now be obsolete. 

Sure, there are unicorns and $10M+ investment every day, but there are about 5,000,000 new companies formed every year in the U.S. alone...

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The First 100 Days of Starting a Company

The journey from idea to launching a successful company is a long and arduous one requiring thousands of good decisions and skills very few people possess. In fact, few people even know what those skills are and could list them. Even many successful Entrepreneurs who do it by nature, gut and experience lack an understanding of the process and cannot teach it to others. Teaching it requires a whole other level of analysis and awareness to document the process.

Most people that start companies have no clue how hard it will be to climb the mountain of corporate success. Almost no one has the skills needed when they first start. They are learned along the way and always have a price. The ones that survive are the tenacious, the creative and the smart that rapidly adapt to the feedback from the market and zero in on a product-market fit that is compelling. As well as messaging that makes for successful marketing. This can take many months, or even many years. However, the way to...

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Seven Tips for Becoming a Great CEO

It takes a decade to become a great CEO and several years just to be a good one. There are "born leaders" with natural talent in leadership and the confidence required.  But there are no born "Experienced CEOs" that takes lots of effort.  Like any other art.  Being a CEO is the most complex job in the world.  Far more complex and controls than the cockpit of a B2 bomber.  The difference being that some of those controls are people, and you can never be sure what they will do.  Or even if they will be there.  Imagine landing a B2 in bad weather when you were not sure what each control would do. Yep, that is what running a company with even a dozen people is about.  

It is important to spend time "sharpening the saw".  This should be a multifaceted approach and include several regular self-improvement efforts put in your schedule:

1. Focus on doing what you are best at and delegate other things.  We never do a good job on...

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