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Master Checklist for a Startup Venture

Master Checklist for Starting A Venture

Entrepreneurship is more of a winding path than a stairwell.  Nonetheless, the overall process tends to hold true between entrepreneurial ventures.  Please use the checklist below to help guide you through the maze that is entrepreneurship. (Note: Some of the elements in the list are outside the scope of this book; however, there are numerous resources generally available to cover these topics.)

Idea, Concept, Product, or Service
⁃    Develop a new concept
⁃    Acquire and utilize an existing concept
⁃    Improve an existing concept

Market Research (Qualitative and Quantitative Metrics)
⁃    Known as “Market Analysis” and “Feasibility Study”
⁃    Market Size (Quantitative Data – Secondary Research)
⁃    Market Segments (Quantitative & Qualitative Data – Secondary & Primary Research)
⁃    Target Market(s) (Qualitative Data – Primary Research)
⁃    Market Demand (Qualitative Data – Primary Research)
⁃    Pricing Model (Quantitative Data – Primary & Secondary Research)
⁃    Projected Costs of Production and Logistics (Primary Research)

Seed Capital
⁃    Personal Funds, Personal Credit
⁃    Business Loans – Establish credit relationship or line of credit.
⁃    Friends, Family, and Fools as Investors or Lenders.

Product or Service Development (Or Acquisition)
⁃    Personal or Team Member development
⁃    Employee; Work for Hire development
⁃    Alpha & Beta Tests

Strategic Analysis & Business Model
⁃    SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
⁃    Determine Sustainable Competitive Advantage (E.g., Intellectual Property)
⁃    How will with business operations effectuate a swapping of value between your business and clients/customer?

Preliminary Business Plan
⁃    Explain market need or want
⁃    Give business concept (Raison d’être)
⁃    Include Basic Financials – based on Market Research
⁃    Incorporate Business Model (Manner and method you will deliver value)

Protect Intellectual Property
⁃    Design or Utility patent for any technology or product.
⁃    Protect any trade secrets for product or services.
⁃    Register with State and Federal Trademark your name, logo, or representative symbol.
⁃    Copyright any original expression (Music, Video, Written work)

Form a Team
⁃    Establish preliminary roles for founding team members.
⁃    Look for complimentary, not duplicative skills.
⁃    Look for personal fit of members, as much as talent.
⁃    Make certain there is a common goal (ex. 3-7 year exit plan).

Form Business Entity
⁃    Pick and Register Your Business Name, (Perhaps Trademark Name at USPTO)
⁃    EINs, Registered Agent and Articles of Organization
⁃    Initial Board or Management Meeting; Ratifications; Equity Provisions; Appointments.

Entity Structure & Ownership Agreements
⁃    Operating Agreement (LLC); Bylaws (Corporation)
⁃    Determine Owners’ Role (Title, Responsibility, Compensation)
⁃    Determine Equity (Dilution issues, Type(s) of Equity Instrument)
⁃    Determine Control and Decision-making Authority of each member

Preliminary Administrative Setup
⁃    Open Business Bank Account(s) (Establish Credit)
⁃    Bookkeeping System (Tax, Payroll, Operations)
⁃    Business Insurance (Umbrella Policy)
⁃    Research Professional Help (Accountant, Attorney)

Fund Business 
⁃    Transfer Assets to Business Ownership
⁃    Capitalize Business with Seed Capital and Form Business Accounts
⁃    Issue Ownership Interest (Equity Shares)

Startup Funds or Bridge Capital
⁃    Business Loans
⁃    Angel Investors
⁃    Business Debt (Typically Convertible Notes)

Secondary Administrative Setup
⁃    Business Licenses (Local Regulations)
⁃    Local Registration (“Fictitious Name Filing”)
⁃    Business Location
⁃    Commercial Lease vs. Purchase Property
⁃    Alternative Arrangements (Home-Office, Coffee Shops, Group Workspace, etc.)
⁃    Utilities, Internet, Phones, Fax, Copy/Print, Mail (P.O. Box); Servers or Cloud Storage, Intranet.
⁃    Office Build Out; Office Design; Furniture, Office Supplies, Technology (Computers); Storage
⁃    Insurance Business Plan; Umbrella Business Policy

Hiring Personnel
⁃    Employees (Full & Part-time) vs. Independent Contractors
⁃    Posting positions, Employee Referral, Interviews, Checking References
⁃    E-Verify Employee Status (Immigration Law)
⁃    Employee Compensation and Benefits; Contracts; Handbooks

Tertiary Administrative Setup
⁃    Tax Accounting (Withholding; Reporting System; Auto-Deposit State and Federal)
⁃    Worker’s Compensation Coverage
⁃    Employee Benefit Management (401K, IRA, Health Plans, Life Insurance, etc.)

Sales Strategy
⁃    Personal Sales vs. Distributor
⁃    Internal Sales Force vs. Outside Sales Team
⁃    Physical location, internet, catalog, outsource fulfillment.

\Marketing & Advertising Plan
⁃    Logo, Trademarks.
⁃    Traditional Plan (Print, Television, Radio, Mail, Signage)
⁃    Website (Hosting, Template Design, Content Development (blog), Maintenance; Backup.)
⁃    Pay-Per-Click, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Plan
⁃    Personal Relationship Marketing (Business Cards, Join Professional Organizations, Networking)

Business Plan
⁃    Purposes: Investors, Lenders, Planning (internal).
⁃    Business Concept, Model, & Description
⁃    Business Team & Roles
⁃    Market Breakdown and Competitive Advantage (IP)
⁃    Capital Demands and Proposed Use of Capital
⁃    Include 3-year financials (Payback, IRR, Exit Valuation)
⁃    Develop the Investor Pitch (Unified theme & goals)

⁃    Production
⁃    Outsourcing, Local Sourcing, In-house Production
⁃    Equipment, Raw Material, Suppliers,
⁃    Ordering & Customer Service
⁃    Order fulfillment; Manage Customer Service
⁃    Logistics
⁃    Manage Shipping – Supplies and Customers
⁃    Management Plan
⁃    Personnel & Reporting
⁃    Human Resources (Employee Benefit Management)

Business Governance
⁃    Educate yourself of Business Entity Governance Requirements
⁃    Have competent legal counsel and guidance.
⁃    Governance issues pertaining to business setup
⁃    Article of Formation, Ratification, Appointments, Equity Issuance, Bylaws, Shareholder Agreements.
⁃    Routine Governance
⁃    Board Meetings; Annual Filings
⁃    Reporting Requirements
⁃    Record Retention and Certification
⁃    Major Decisions
⁃    Director Decisions
⁃    Shareholder/Owner Voting Rights

Growth Funds (Angel Investment & Venture Capital)
⁃    Network and use any connections to meet and become known to angels and venture capital firms.
⁃    Even if you are early stage, become known early.
⁃    Always have updated financials handy.
⁃    Practiced your elevator pitch (concept, model, growth expectations, and possible exit scenario)
⁃    Educate yourself on Series A, B, C
⁃    Typical terms and expectations given your industry, operations, and business model.
⁃    Securities Regulation and Compliance
⁃    Avoid State and Federal Securities Registration; Understand the exemptions & comply.
⁃    NOTE: Identify a competent legal firm
⁃    Working Financial Documents:
⁃    Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Cash Flow Statement.
⁃    Have ratios memorized.
⁃    Accounting and financial disclosure becomes more important.

⁃    Improve Operational Efficiency
⁃    Acquire Higher % of Existing Market Share
⁃    Expand into New Markets
⁃    Expand Product or Service Line

Exit Event
⁃    Liquidation
⁃    Options and obligations for shutting down operations.
⁃    Bankruptcy
⁃    Options available: Ch. 7, Ch. 11, Ch. 13
⁃    Strategic Purchaser
⁃    Evaluating potential transactions
⁃    Advertising business for sale
⁃    Private Equity
⁃    The Process & Options
⁃    Adequate financial positioning
⁃    IPO
⁃    The Process & Options
⁃    Hire an Investment Bank
⁃    Obtain Legal Assistance

Note: This list of steps in the process is by-no-means exhaustive.  Hopefully is will provide a baseline of the entrepreneurial (Startup Venture) process.

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