Sunday 2 September 2012

4 Essentials to Avoiding Startup Disaster

Image by Mike Dierken under Creative Commons license.

Your Business Idea Rocks! Now What?

Innovating new ways of doing things, inventing new products, discovering ways to make the world a better place gets the adrenalin pumping. Such passion fuels entrepreneurs to power through the various stages of “shipping” or getting to market.

The initial discovery excitement can wither a little as the complexity of getting to Beta and shipping mode can be down right scary. The journey, while exhilarating, requires curiosity, courage and tenacity as you face hundreds of first time decisions, obstacles and Neigh Sayers (you know those people who think everything is a bad idea and see only the pitfalls)

If you have conviction & vision and have done your homework, you are likely on top of your game. In the area of starting a Small - Medium Enterprise, however, you may feel out of your depth. Fortunately there have never been so many resources available to support entrepreneurs.

Serious Considerations to Set up a Healthy Business


Entering a co-founder relationship is much like a marriage. Expectations and communication are key to any successful relationship so think pre-nup. A solid shareholder's agreement will help guide you though this maze. 

From the outset you must identify what you are looking for in a co-founder. Here are a few actions to help get you there.
  • Identify skills required to get the business started and skills required to operate the business once you have shipped
  • Get to know yourself well; strengths, weaknesses, expectations of the business. (If you want a local lifestyle business, a co-founder with global aspirations may not be a good match)
  • Identify the skill gaps. What skills are missing and needed to complement your strengths and offset your weaknesses
  •  Cultural expectations. Will you vision of how to relate with customers and your team be compatable? Are your values on par? 
 Tip: Local Startup networking events are a great place to start your search for a co-founder  

Mentors and Advisers

Seeking advice from experienced entrepreneurs enriches and simplifies the planning process. Mentors are full of valuable advice on shortcuts, potential down falls, resources, and tax tips and usually have a wealth of connections from government officials to investors to potential talent. 

Tip: mentors and advisers are busy people. Maximize your time with them by preparing your encounters with them.  Keep in mind they are also potential investors for your business.

Legal Structure & Finance

Your business may be small right now, but when you plan your legal and shareholder structure, you need to consider the future. Few of us are equipped with the legal and finance knowledge for the best future set up. Many cities have local entrepreneurial organizations that can provide preliminary advice and help you find legal and accounting services appropriate for a start up. If you are planning an international business you will likely want to consider firms with international startup experience.

Recommended Reference: Reference resources are limited in this area. The Founders Dilemma is informative and a must read. Book Review:

Location Location Location

Countries, cities, provinces and states have their own advantages and pitfalls for set up. Depending on what kind of business you are starting, especially if it’s international, you will want to explore the options well.  Look at limitations and opportunities in free zones, tax environment, ease and expense of setting up and operating. Business environments vary in their offerings and limitations such as preferred tax, shipping & distribution, grants and finance, incubation, local restrictions, reporting, strategic access to markets.   

Locations can vary wildly and provide real competitive advantage. Advice from Chambers of Commerce, Boards of Trade, government export organizations and embassies is a great place to start. 

Tip: once you are narrowing down your location search get references from other entrepreneurs about the real, on the ground, experience compared with the advertised opportunity. 

Recommended Reference: The World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index is a good reference:

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