Startup Tips for the Early, Early Days

Written By: Dharmesh Shah March 13, 2008

My favorite stage of a startup is the early, early days. This is when things are the most chaotic, resources are limited and the team is small enough to fit into a single car.

I've been thinking about the early days of the startups I've been involved in and put together some quick (and practical) tips on these early days.

Tips For Startups:  The Early, Early Days

1.  You don't need office space:  Plenty of startups do just fine working out of a basement or spare bedroom.

2.  Don't Bargain Shop For Small Things:  Resist the temptation to find the best deal on cheap things (like computers).  It may be personally satisfying to save $50 on a printer, but you're wasting valuable time.

3.  Think Of A Good Name:  Spend at least a few hours thinking about a name for your business.  Read a couple of practical articles on the topic.  Talk to other people to test your names.  Most entrepreneurs spend too little time (as in almost none) on a company name.  A good name won't make your startup successful, and a bad one won't make it fail, but some simple guidelines help.  And, a name is hard to change later.

Reference 1 (Guy Kawasaki): The Name Game 

Reference 2 (Dharmesh Shah):  The Startup Name Game

Note:  Unsurprisingly, Guy's article is better, but I wrote mine first (did not copy his "Name Game" title).

4.  No Fancy Titles: Don't waste time coming up with fancy titles for the founders.  Simply use "founder" for your title and get back to real work. 

5.  Forget Business Plans:  Instead of laboring over your business plan, labor over your business.  If you do work intensely on your business plan, assume that you are the only person that will ever read it.  Even your mom and your spouse won't read it.  Potential investors will definitely not read it.

6.  Avoid Pontificators:  Early team members all need to do something.  Don't recruit pontificators.  Beware the pure "idea people".  You want "get things done" people.  There will always be more ideas in your startup than there are people to execute them. 

7.  Venture Funding Is Hard:  Raising venture funding is actually harder than bootstrapping -- especially if it's your first startup.  Try and figure out a way to get going without funding.  Take the hundreds of hours you'll save and go help customers solve problems.

8.  Allocate Most Time To Customer Value:  Act as if someone is paying you $1,000/hour for every hour you spend making life measurably better for your customers -- and $10/hour for everything else.  In the long-run, the ratio will be about right. 

9.  Part-Time Is Sub-Optimal (but OK):  Many people will tell you that you are unlikely to succeed with a startup if you're working on it just nights and weekends.  They're probably right.  But, better nights and weekends than waiting forever to get things kicked off.

10.  Get Started!  I have yet to meet someone that took the leap, quit their job, started a company and regretted their decision (regardless of outcome).  Most people that have great jobs over-estimate the risk of leaving them.  Great people can almost always find another job if things go really, really poorly with their startup.

What are your thoughts?  Any tips for those early, early days of a startup?

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