Getting Started on Your Startup
Our step-by-step process to help you get off the ground!
30 Steps to Success
There is no straight path to launching a startup; it's a process of discovery and iteration at every step along the way. If you have the drive and tenacity to seriously embark on the journey of venture creation, we can help you explore how to bring your idea to life through a process that takes your from concept to commercialization.
If you move forward with your venture idea, here are the steps the LaunchPad can help guide you through to get started. We have developed a roadmap, along with tools, that can help shape your journey.
Follow our 30 steps to success.
Get Connected, Get Help
- Become a LaunchPad member by using the page on our website, or e-mailing us at LaunchPad@syr.edu;
- Follow us on social media and see us in action. Our handle is LaunchPadSYR on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Follow the LaunchPad's page on LinkedIn, connecting with mentors, alumni and more;
- Work with us to guide you through worksheets in the LaunchPad’s Toolkit to help accelerate your progress and get you investment ready;
- Check out the Techstars Toolkit, an online educational resource with the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and tools to accelerate success.
See The Problem
Is this really a problem that needs to be solved? Is this a problem worth solving? Who else besides you cares? Have you jumped to creating a solution without really understanding the problem?
Does your solution make sense? Be brutally honest. Have you tested all the assumptions behind the solution you are contemplating? Do you really know there is a market for this? Do you know that customers be willing to pay for it? Could you make with this idea to pay yourself and others a salary? Can it create enough revenue to cover all the carrying costs, and also make a good living for employees and their families who will be depending on you?
Business Model Canvas
Start work on your business model canvas. Use a whiteboard, or some worksheets to sketch out your business model, and brainstorm and ideas for your idea or business innovation. Techstars has a great learning module on the lean canvas and there are plenty of other free on-line tools such as Business Models, Inc. and more. Here's a downloadable version from Canvanizer to help you scope out:
- Key partners
- Who are your key partners/suppliers?
- What are the motivations for the partnerships?
- Key activities
- What key activities does your value proposition require?
- What activities are important the most in distribution channels, customer relationships, revenue stream, etc.?
- Value proposition
- What core value do you deliver to the customer?
- Which customer needs are you satisfying?
- Customer relationship
- What relationship that the target customer expects you to establish?
- How can you integrate that into your business in terms of cost and format?
- Customer segment
- Which targeted customers or users are you creating values for?
- Who is your most important customer?
- Key resources
- What key resources does your value proposition require?
- What resources are important the most in distribution channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, etc.?
- Distribution channel
- Through which channels that your customers want to be reached?
- Which channels work best? How much do they cost? How can they be integrated into your and your customers’ routines?
- Cost structure
- What are the most cost in your business?
- Which key resources/ activities are most expensive?
- Revenue stream
- For what value are your customers willing to pay?
- What and how do they recently pay? How would they prefer to pay?
- How much does every revenue stream contribute to the overall revenues?
Write a one-page business summary. This will force you to think about the details of your business. Here's a link to the LaunchPad’s suggested template.
Protect Your Brand
Create a name and protect your brand. Conduct a trademark search, and a domain, website and URL search to be sure they are available. While a federal trademark is not necessary, it does confer. You don’t want to establish a brand, only to find out that it has been taken, or that it will be costly or impossible to buy back the domain name or URL.
Register Your Business
Consider registering a “Doing Business As” DBA Name after you have done a corporate name It signals your intent to build a business, and is simple and inexpensive. You can do this before you legally incorporate.
Start building your business model while you are doing do primary and secondary research. Do customer discovery early and often. Iterate, based on what you learn.
Build Your Team
Start building a team. Agree on goals. Discuss roles. What skills will they contribute? Will they have an ownership? How will decisions be made?
Your Advisory Board
Build an advisory group. This is not a legal board, but people with the subject matter expertise, industry skill sets, and experience you need to create your venture. Invite them to become advisors and mentors. Use them wisely.
Get professional help. Build your BAIL team (Banker, Accountant, Insurance, and Legal professional service providers). While you are student, take advantage of pro bono attorneys and CPAs who are willing to advise student startups.
Get started on research in an earnest way. Understand all of the research resources, databases and tools offered by SU Libraries. Visit the business research librarian. Make appointments to get personalized help with research by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Think about if your idea needs protection? Do you need a patent to protect your intellectual property? Do you need to copyright your work? Trademark your brand name, logo symbol, and tagline? Or to protect confidential business information which provides a competitive edge through a trade secret? Start by doing a patent search of what is out there to be sure you are not infringing on another business, and to help establish that you are unique? Make an appointment with the Innovation Law Center at SU, which hosts regular office hours at the LaunchPad. You may also want to consult independently with an attorney who specializes in IP to determine if have something worth protecting.
Be careful of what you disclose too much, soon, before figuring out if you need to protect your idea. When you start pitching it, be judicious about how you disclose. Ask your attorney for a mutual NDA agreement so you’ll have it, if needed. Be aware that many people you speak with may not be willing to sign an NDA. Before you have your idea protected, use common sense and caution about what you share, and with whom, and in what context. Talk about “what” you are doing, but the not the details or “secret sauce” of “how” are doing it.
Pitching for Early Funding
Start pitching your idea to raise some early non-dilutive funding. Work with the LaunchPad to learn how to identify your real value proposition, and how to craft a compelling pitch. There is an art and science to this. Practice it. Then, start pitching. Iterate with feedback.
Which Legal Entity Are You?
When you are ready to start raising capital, or closing first sales, think about forming a legal entity and what kind is right for you. Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, LLC, LLP, C-Corp, or S-Corp. B-Corp or Nonprofit? Engage a paid attorney and accountant. Do not make this decision yourself, and do not engage in DIY legal by downloading boilerplate templates and filing on line. Work with professionals.
Draft internal documents for the business. Founders agreements. Operating agreements. Policies. Confidentiality agreements.
Banking and EIN
Know when to open a bank account and obtain a, EIN. You will need an EIN for payments and tax filings. It will also be required for opening business checking accounts and establishing accounts with vendors. Consult with an accountant to do this correctly, and how to set up bookkeeping, accounting, and mandatory tax reporting.
Taxes and TIN
Register for state and local taxes and get a TIN (tax identification number). Know when you need to buy workers compensation, unemployment and disability insurance, and when you need to buy a general business/commercial liability policy. Plan ahead for what you will owe in taxes, and know when they are due so you avoid penalties. Consult with an accountant, insurance broker, and HR subject matter expert.
Your Bank Account
Open a bank account. Establish proper accounting procedures. Learn what GAAP is. Get a business credit card. Hire someone to set up bookkeeping, payroll, and other back-end office functions. Many accounting firms will do this for startups. Consider a fractional CFO relationship with a professional bookkeeping or accounting firm.
If you are operating in a regulatory environment, understand potential business licensing and permit requirements. If you are in a highly regulated health or safety sector, understand what is required for FDA compliance, independent third-party testing and certification (UL or ETL, etc.) or other consumer product safety regulations. If you are developing software, understand privacy and cyber-security requirements. Hire a consultant, if needed, to help you navigate these complex landscapes.
A risk management strategy helps you to create frameworks and actionable strategies to find potential risks across all sectors: business, strategy, economic, political, security, financial, compliance, and reputation. You've already assessed potential competitors and regulatory compliance factors, but continue to list the impact of other risks, such as cybersecurity, that are in, or outside of, your control. Creating a risk mitigation plan is key for helping you avoid potentially costly problems.
Focus on what you will need for startup capital. Plan it out of the first two or three years. Understand when you will expect to hit sales, at what you will break even, and what your cash “burn” rate looks like so you stay solvent. Create a funding roadmap, with sources and uses – all tied to key product development and sales milestones. Review this frequently.
Business Price Structure
Know your cost structure. Get real price quotes. Don’t guess. Build a trusted supply chain and work with reputable partners.
Get ready to sell by developing your brand identity. Create a web and social media presence. Create social media profiles. Create a landing page. Develop some simple business collateral. Write blog posts. Establish yourself as a presence in the space you are looking to enter. Build interest that will lead to customer demand.
Your IT Platform
Develop and secure your IT platform. If you are selling directly on line to consumers, investigate the best platforms to utilize to assure efficiency, reliability and security. Think about how you will handle logistics and customer service.
How Are You Selling?
Understand how you customers make purchase decisions. If you are selling wholesale or retail, learn who makes decisions and what factors into those decisions. What are margins for each channel? If you are selling through a dealer or distributor, understand how that pricing structure typically works in your industry.
Marketing and Sales Plans
Many people believe they only need a plan for either marketing or sales, but the two work together to further your company's success. Develop detailed marketing and sales plans. You and “what army” will bring this to market? Where? How? Through what channels? Identify a few first beta users, and get your first MVP out. Iterate from customer feedback.
With those first key customers, get serious about attracting investors to help you launch and scale. Understand what you need to be considered “investment ready.”
Chase sales. Sales are always the most capital efficient way to grow. Sell and scale. Be ready to grow your team and add capacity if your idea blows up, and there is consumer demand.
Be ready to re-trench and re-think when you discover something isn’t working. It’s a journey. You will take detours and wrong turns. Sometimes you’ll need to take a short rest stop. You will hit road bumps. It’s okay. Keep your hands on the wheel, and keep focused on the road ahead.