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Master Checklist for a Startup Venture

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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)

Operations

  • 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 Funding and the J-Curve
  • 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.

Growth

  • 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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