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The Developer's Guide to Launching Your Startup: Getting Started

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Starting your own company is exciting. Creative juices flow. Major progress is made on a daily basis. Your mornings start with a quick browse through tech, start-up and entrepreneurship related pages- what a great way to get yourself pumped for the day.

The Internet is full of exciting stories, tips on how simple and easy it is to start your own company. The equation is simple:

Hard work + “lean start-up” ideology (or insert any other style of inspirational thinking)= a successful MVP shipped

Test it, get feedback on it, and based on that data, work on the 2.0 version of your product. Rinse and repeat until the next Unicorn has been born.

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Hard work equals results, right? Unfortunately, startups don’t always work that way.

###Headaches start-up gurus don’t like to talk about

A couple of quick questions:

  • Do you know how much time, money and effort it takes to draft a bulletproof User Agreement for your shiny new SaaS platform?
  • Does your insurance coverage include a baby choking on one of your device’s cables inside your customer’s home?
  • Do you know exactly whether or not the new US tax regulations or the UK’s VAT MOSS scheme will affect you in any way?

Many “start-up gurus” make huge profits from sharing tons of vague advice that gets you nowhere. It’s incredibly sad to see so many entrepreneurs getting frustrated and giving up before they even got started.

I have jumped through an unthinkable amount of hoops myself. I worked with start-ups in Silicon Valley and in Europe. My teams and I wasted days and weeks at a time weeding out useless bits of advice. Only R-rated dictionaries could express the amount of frustration we experienced. I hope that this series of posts will save you a couple of headaches (and a doctor’s visit due to high blood pressure ;) ).

What can you expect from this series of 4 posts focusing on various aspects of the start-up reality:

  • Part 1 - How to create a plan of action and register a company
  • Part 2- How to protect yourself and your company from the legal mess
  • Part 3 - Sales- because your product just won’t sell itself, regardless of how amazing it is
  • Part 4 - The black magic and voodoo of marketing

It all begins with an idea….

Taking the first step is the most essential but at the same time one of the most difficult times in the life of a start-up. After all, the idea is the make-it or break-it of the entire plan that follows. The good news is that as long as you have at least a vague idea of what you would like to do, you are half way there! With the help of a few handy tools you can zero-in on the nitty gritty of it with ease.

Find your idea:

If you already know what problem would you like to solve exactly, congrats! But if you don’t have one of your own just yet, it doesn’t mean you can’t be an entrepreneur. That said, you do have some solid thinking to do.

If you need some inspiration, here is a great read with practical steps you could take to proactively find a “good itch to scratch” by Alex Turnbull (GrooveHQ)- How Can I Find Problems to Solve (To Come Up With Business Ideas)?

Bring your idea to life (in HD quality):

One of the best tools that helps one zero-in on the idea I ever came across is a platform called “Edison Plan”. (www.edisonplan.com).

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Edison Plan advertises itself as “the best startup tool to make and market your product”. Edison walks you through every step of creating your start-up. It forces you to think through hundreds of questions you haven’t even considered yet. You will dig deeper into your own idea, and in return Edison will map out the next steps of your journey for you.

It’s worth mentioning that Edison Plan also rewards your hard work by putting together a basic investors deck for you. If you are looking to raise some extra capital, it will come handy as a great canvas to build upon.

Edison Plan applies to enterprise software and consumer apps, as well as to hardware and electronics start-ups.

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  • What is your target market?
  • Who are the decision makers in the buying process?
  • Who holds a “veto” in the buying process?
  • Who are the competitors in the market and how do you differentiate yourself?

Those sample questions by themselves seem rather manageable, but by the time somebody asks you a third “why”, they tend to leave most of the entrepreneurs at loss for an explanation.

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As you’re progressing through the process of analyzing and validating your idea, at any time you can add tasks to your task list. Task list allows you to set up deadlines and reminders for each action, which keeps you accountable (even if nobody else is watching). No more excuses!

Next stop- Paperwork-ville

Now that you analyzed your idea thoroughly, it’s time to start executing! But with 100 thousand tasks to complete, where do you start?

Product development aside, the first thing you should do is register your company.

Paperwork is founder’s nightmare. Figuring out the logistics makes for the foundation of the company and it’s not to be taken lightly. That said it doesn’t have to be all THAT scary.

I won’t spend time writing about how to register a company in the US if you are a US Resident. A lot of great resources on this subject are already available online so if you want to read up more on the subject, the following links make a good starting point:

What if you don’t live in the US?

Geographical location used to be a significant obstacle for many entrepreneurs. Luckily, over the last couple of years legislation has changed significantly and foreigners can now register a company in the United States without selling their souls. To streamline this process, Stripe is rolling out a brand new tool called Atlas (https://stripe.com/atlas).

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With Stripe Atlas, entrepreneurs can incorporate a U.S. company and set up a U.S. bank account with ease. They can also start accepting payments in multiple currencies with Stripe virtually overnight.

In a nutshell, Atlas will:

  • Incorporate your company. Atlas helps you incorporate a U.S. Delaware company in a couple of days. You just fill out a simple form and they will generate the necessary paperwork and handle the rest.
  • Open up a bank account for you. Stripe Atlas opens a business bank account for you with Silicon Valley Bank, the world’s leading bank for tech companies- no need to visit a bank branch in person to get set up.
  • Provide Tax and Legal guidance. Stripe Atlas entrepreneurs will have access to guidance on U.S. law and taxes from Orrick, the international tech law firm, and Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), the global accounting firm. Every Atlas entrepreneur will be able to chat for free with a professional from PwC.

At this time it’s invitation only (you can request one on their website) and costs a flat fee of $500 as of today. Atlas claims that most businesses will be ready to go in less than a week- not bad, isn’t it?

And what if you want to set up a company outside of the US?

Some consider London “the second most tech friendly city in the world”. More and more entrepreneurs from around the world choose UK to start their business. Given the amount of hype surrounding the tech community in London (Silicon roundabout, anyone?) it’s rather shocking how little resources are available online on the subject.

I was forced to figure things out in UK twice before, and the reality actually isn’t half as bad as it might seem- let me share with you what I learned in the process.

The most common choice for entrepreneurs in the UK is to register a their start-up as a Private Limited Company. To get your company registered you have two choices:

  1. Do it all by yourself by visiting a UK Government website
    and following the instructions.

  2. Have a team of pros take care of everything for you in just a day or two.

I highly recommend a service called Crunch (www.crunch.co.uk). Crunch’s team will not only take care of setting up your company, but it will also set up your accounting, guide you through European taxes and provide you with personalized advice whenever you need it.

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In my personal experience, everything was taken care of in less than 24 hours.

Keep in mind though that you will still have to visit a branch of the bank of your choice in person to set up your company account.

With your company registered, we are now ready to move on to the next topic:

The Legal Nightmare

The next post will focus on legal documents and insurance coverage- two frequently overlooked, yet essential parts of starting your own company.

Are there any other cool tools that helped you get started? If so, please share with the community in the comments!

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Mary Goldspink
Mary Goldspink
Startups Coach //Software Engineer
Startups coach, a passionate optimist and an engineer. Enterprenuer, a former COO at Unbits ( iOT start-up, acquired by Wearable World).
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Josh David Miller
Josh David Miller
startup advisor, speaker, CEO. More than mildly obsessed in seeing founders succeed. I only use my powers for good.
Every day, I get to work with startup founders as passionate as I am about building great products. I'm the CEO of Mindbox Studios, a custom...
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Chris Tsongas
Chris Tsongas
Expert full-stack web developer with 17 years of agency, startup, and freelance experience.
I've taught for several code schools including Code Fellows, Portland Code School, and Thinkful. I recently published an online course about...
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