MVP Development · Prototyping

Can you help me write an ultimate universal road map for tech startups?

Jeremy Graham can build your MVP to get funded or scale into a profitable organization

November 6th, 2018

I want to have an article out there that covers the basic formula for starting a startup in a point form manner so that later on I can expand on each idea with help from the community.

Could you take a look at this and add any comments that you think could help others navigate their startup to profitability?

Thank you!

Steven Forth Co-Founder at TeamFit

November 6th, 2018

I question the premise. There is no such basic roadmap and if there were the paths it showed would be so well trodden that they would become rutted and impossible to travel. Creating a new company is above all an act of imagination and courage. Steven

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

November 6th, 2018

I agree with Steven. If business were a formula, everyone would operate one and be financially successful. You will not succeed in simplifying the process to a bullet pointed list. There are literally hundreds of books that walk through the things that a business owner must consider, however, every enterprise requires its own set of research and testing, and has variables unique to its timing, idea, talent, location, and contributors.

Business does not occur in a vacuum, meaning you can't push xy + xy and expect it to always equal 2xy. There are no identical resources (x), no identical conditions (y), so you will not get formulaic results.

That said, every business must master the six basic business skills to succeed long-term. But these are skills, not static things, and the degree of mastery varies widely among the collection of employees you assemble to run the business.

Matthew Maier, personal & community health experiments

November 8th, 2018

If you're trying to advise people on how to start a "tech startup" you should point them to the Lean Startup material and only write your own if you think you can improve on Lean Startup.

That's not impossible. While Four Steps to the Epiphany and Startup Owner's Manual (and all the spinoffs going into more breadth or depth) are the gold standard for "tech startups" they aren't perfect and they can't cover everything.

For example, Lean Startup doesn't do a good job of contrasting its Venture Capital focused strategy against slower growth, bootstrapping by revenue strategies, nor against a portfolio of small projects strategies. Lean Startup also does a relatively poor job of helping solo entrepreneurs even if they want to try the VC strategy.

The book Start Small Stay Small is a good resource for technical solo entrepreneurs.

Another way you can improve on Lean Startup is to explain it in a unique voice that resonates with your audience when they don't connect with the source material.

You can also improve on Lean Startup by providing more and stronger tools, such as metaphors, templates, and litmus tests. Most people don't struggle to find advice, they struggle to apply advice.

Some stuff that I would like to see highlighted by newbie founder advice in no particular order

  • there is nothing fundamentally different about "tech startups" they're just an extreme case of entrepreneurship
  • your customer is the person who pays your business because you solve their problem. without the customer your business dies. sometimes you have multiple different customers. sometimes it's the investors who are your real customer
  • in many cases an entrepreneur should be steered away from the Silicon Valley, venture capital, unicorn chasing model of startups. most people should be directed towards more common business cases because they are much less uncertain and much less dependent on a few specific networks of people
  • if they don't already have people ready to buy they don't have enough market knowledge. researching the market usually kills the original idea.
  • the correct order is 1) identify a market 2) understand a problem 3) have an insight into a solution 4) validate the insight by asking people in the market from (1) about their biggest problems without mentioning (2) or (3). Use your insight from (3) to interpret their answers (a car is not a faster horse). the closer they get to bringing up the problem (2) themselves, describing how big a pain it is, and complaining that their own attempts to solve it aren't working, the closer you are to market fit. Ideally you would already have this knowledge because you already live in the market. If you don't already live in the market you have to do formal research which usually reveals that you're an outsider who misunderstood the market.
  • never do anything you aren't being paid for, preferably up front. this is how you ensure a business is not default dead.
  • business runs on on a compromise between value creation and value extraction. startups are the poor shlubs who have to find a new pie to split. a new entrepreneur needs to figure out if they are more motivated by extrinsic reward (money, status) or intrinsic reward (pride, fulfillment). If they're an artist, who wants to create, and doesn't care about ever making any money, they need to find someone else who will ensure they get paid. If they're a shark, who wants to extract, and doesn't care about ever building anything of their own, they need to find someone else who will make new stuff. if they want to go it alone, or at least not split control, they need to develop both of those skills. The uncomfortable reality is that the extraction skills are more useful than the creation skills.
  • you can literally run a business doing nothing except meeting tons of people. Just talk to them, understand what they want and what they offer, then match up people who can help each other and take a cut. You cannot run a business doing nothing except making useful new products. they will sit on the shelf unused and you will remain unpaid. business is commerce which means it's a team sport.
  • In nearly all cases, the "tech" is not the risky part. Pretty much any solution can be built if you have buyers ready to go. focusing on the tech first is a bad idea because it's the "buyers ready to go" that is the risky part. that's why "tech startups" are specific corner case. They have to focus on tech because it's the only thing that can scale from $1 to $1B in a few years, which is the only way VCs can return their fund. "tech startups" have to start from the assumption they are based on technology, then they have to go find "buyers ready to go", then they have to actually build the tech. Everyone else can just start from "buyers" and only worry about tech if it's necessary later.

Matthew Mansour Technical CoFounder

Last updated on November 10th, 2018

The map is unique for many start ups. That's part of the adventure.

However, the wrong execution is exasperating.

A founder can ask these two questions at every stage to help guide the way:

  1. What is my current most risky assumption?
  2. What is the cheapest way to test that assumption?