The Ultimate Guide to Launching Your Startup
We all have ideas.
Some ideas might be great, some might be decent, and others are probably not that good.
Even if your idea is incredible, there’s a huge difference between having it and actually launching a successful startup.
First of all, not everyone is set out to be an entrepreneur. If you think you have what it takes, then all you need are the right steps to take.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying getting your startup up and running is easy. It takes hard work, lots of dedication, money, many sleepless nights, and even some failures along the way.
Once your startup is launched, you’ll need to work just as hard to keep it growing.
That being said, it’s always helpful to have a guide to follow and help you get started.
While, realistically, it takes hundreds of small steps, we’ve narrowed it down to 10 steps you need to take to successfully launch your startup.
Use this guide as a blueprint and come back to it as many times as necessary.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1- Make a strategic, actionable plan
Don’t get me wrong -- this is not about writing up the typical business plan. That’s outdated.
Having a legitimate plan in place is a great way to stick to your strategy, increase your chances of securing investments, and successfully growing your business.
While not the most exciting step, it’s crucial for receiving funding and scaling your startup down the road. You need to set up its foundation — strategy, budgets, and legal matters — before you can create and roll out your product or service.
Check out the infographic below — it’s a great TL;DR version and a fantastic resource to come back to.
You’ll want your strategic, actionable plan to cover the following:
Pro tip: Avoid excruciating detail -- you’ll end up setting up your business in a way that even tiny errors in assumptions can lead to catastrophic outcomes. Don’t make the mistake of making your startup business plan look more like you’re planning to launch a rocket ship rather than drive a car.
Startups are designed to confront situations of extreme uncertainty.
Be sure to have a true north, a destination in mind. To achieve that vision, employ a strategy, which includes a business model, a product road map, a point of view about partners and competitors, and ideas about who the customer will be.
2- Validate your product
Let’s say you have a great idea. Maybe it's toothpaste tablets, subscription boxes for pets, family-friendly coworking spaces … whatever it may be.
You’ve named it and outlined how it solves a problem that your customer faces. And you’re excited about it!
But that doesn’t matter … at least not as much as how excited your customers are about it. Ideally, excited enough to be willing to pay for it.
By talking to your potential customers and understanding what their wants, needs, and expectations, you can avoid investing in products or services in which your customers aren’t interested.
The same goes for competitor research.
This is how you can avoid wasting resources -- by ensuring your idea and product will be well-received before you take the time and money to create it.
Market research is a must when it comes to building a startup. It helps:
Define and engage with your target audience and learn more about how you can help solve their problems with your product or service.
Analyze your competition, research their product or service, pricing structure, messaging, and unique selling proposition, and better understand how you can set your business apart.
Formulate your positioning statement for your product and your brand.
Fuel your go-to-market strategy, which outlines how you’ll present your product or service to its intended market.
All in all, market research and product validation keep things accurate and aligned with actually proven market concepts as you launch your startup.
The way forward is to learn to see your startup as a grand experiment.
The question isn’t how to build my product? The more pertinent question is should my product be built?
3- Secure adequate funding
You’ll need the appropriate capital to launch your startup.
Obviously, startups costs vary from industry to industry, so your startup may require more or less funding depending on the situation.
Did you know that a great majority of startups are funded by the founders or by friends and family? That’s called bootstrapping -- when a business owner pays for the business expenses.
We have a wonderful free webinar titled “How to raise money for your startup” of which you can definitely benefit from.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t get funding. If done right, working with investors can give you more than money -- it can provide meaningful connections, advice, and mentorship.
Let’s circle back to our business plan for a minute.
All business plans contain a financial plan, which usually includes:
Profit and loss statement
You’ll use your financial statements to define how much funding you need to raise in order to get started.
Getting a bank loan is ancient history. There are other, more optimal, ways of securing funding for your startup, for example:
Incubators, for example, help startups accelerate their growth by providing support through training, office space, mentorship, and network connections. Incubators, however, usually demand quite a bit of equity from your company before you even get started.
Crowdfunding is the process of raising money from your future customers and/or fans. It’s a great way to increase awareness and gain equity without giving away any ownership of your company. However, crowdfunding offers no mentorship or education like an incubator or a venture capitalist might.
Venture Capital is private money that, for the most part, is given to startups that show high, long-term growth potential. Similar to incubators, VC is a give-and-take scenario -- venture capitalists give money and take equity, thus gaining a seat at the table for company decisions. You might want to consider if you appreciate the extra voice -- some do, others don’t.
Angel Investors are high net worth individuals who are frequently entrepreneurs themselves. They look to fund startups in the same industry as their own, and sometimes co-invest with other angel investors or group of investors.
Pro-tip: if you find a potential investor, make sure you know how to pitch your idea quickly and effectively. You need to have your financial numbers memorized forwards and backward.
Refer to your business plan -- make certain it’s attractive so you can hand them a copy, but also be sure to nail down your verbal explanation of your startup strategy.
Once you secure the adequate funding, you can proceed to the next steps in launching your startup.
4- Surround yourself with the right talent
You’re probably going to need some help in launching your startup. It’s critical to find the right, motivated, talent with the appropriate skill sets.
Sure, you may recognize that you’ll need some staff and maybe a manager to help run your startup. But, is that it?
Where do you start? How many people do you need?
Truth is, it often depends on the industry.
In the tech industry, for example, research shows that the great majority of startups are small teams -- often no more than 5, built off of around $1 million in funding!
Other, less scalable industries, might require much more staff.
Imagine if your business is in the restaurant industry. You would at least need wait staff, cooks, and managers.
It’s worth mentioning that it is essential to provide your team with a platform where they can communicate, collaborate and get involved in the growth and innovation process. Be sure to install transparent feedback loops for your team so they can openly give feedback on ideas, your business, strategies, etc. -- further driving the innovation process.
Pro-tip: Always, no matter your industry, make sure your overall strategy is lean, agile, and flexible. Keep your utility costs down. Be open to hiring remote workers, going global, and eliminating country borders.
5- Seek out the right consultants
It’s always wise to consult with lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors.
Unless, for some reason, you’re an expert in law, finance, and accounting, these three individuals can help save your startup some significant money in the long run.
Like we mentioned before, venture capitalists and angel investors usually have a ton of experience and a great source for mentorship, guidance, and consultancy.
The right legal team, in particular, can help protect and monetize your idea with patents.
You’ll get your first valuable business asset and establish a rock-solid defense so no one -- especially your competitors -- can copy or steal your idea, process, methodology, or technology.
Patents can help you make money with your idea as a startup. They facilitate venture capital investment, guarantee your freedom to operate, help secure joint ventures and partnerships, allow you to increase your market share, and increase the chances your startup will be acquired.
Pro-tip: Venture capitalists love patents -- patents can increase your startup’s valuation by $1 million! Get the right guidance, work out your numbers, and don’t miss out on all the benefits!
6- Establish a strong IP strategy
There is absolutely no doubt -- intellectual property is one of the most worthwhile investments for your startup.
Your ability to protect and assert these rights can determine your success or failure.
Unfortunately, in the midst of numerous factors that go into launching a startup, the word “Intellectual Property” is often not considered a priority. And sometimes, when it is considered, there’s a misconception that IP is simply too expensive.
It’s true. Some patent agencies can end up being pricey, but that’s not always the case. For example, at KISSPatent, we have transparent, reasonable, and fixed-price processes that are well-suited for all sorts of different needs and budgets.
In today’s competitive and dynamic environment, IP can be a unique selling proposition (USP) of the product or service, and it certainly helps create a sustainable and defensible differentiator for your startup.
By owning IP, a high entry barrier is established, thereby helping you grow your venture faster with respect to your competitors’ offerings.
IP is always given high valuation by investors. They want to see what IP a startup has, how it was developed and what rights the company has towards their use.
IP is, in fact, an asset for its owner and has a commercial value attached to it.
It’s important to spend some time and budgeting, at an early stage, to formulate an IP strategy for your startup to provide a strong foundation for future growth, investment, and potentially even an IPO or sale.
Pro-tip: Get ahead of the curve and avoid the most common patent mistakes. There are specific steps and a specific order you must stick to or you may risk not being able to protect your startup at all!
7- Make yourself available online
Not every startup needs a physical address, but we could argue that most, if not all, need a website.
Don’t wait until the day that your startup is officially launched to get your website up and running. It’s never too early to start promoting your business.
If customers are searching online for a service or product in your industry, you want them to know that you exist, even if you’re not quite open for business just yet.
You want them to have a resource to get to know you, what you’re working on, how you add value, etc.
You can even start generating some income through your website. Think about it. If it’s applicable, you can start taking some pre-orders, taking calls, and scheduling appointments.
Not convinced on pre-orders?
Back in 2016, Tesla received 350,000 pre-orders of its Model 3 -- the biggest one-week launch of any product, ever!
Needless to say, companies today can’t survive without an online presence.
Once your website is up, you should broaden your digital presence with social media with platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
Your prospective customers are using these platforms, so you need to be on them as well.
8- Become a marketing master
If you’re not a marketing expert, you should work on becoming one.
It doesn’t matter if you have the best product or service in the world, but if no one knows about it, then how will you succeed?
Get comfortable with using digital marketing techniques like:
Search engine marketing (SEM)
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Social media marketing (SMM)
Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)
If your startup is a small business in a local community, you could take advantage of some old-school conventional methods like:
But beware, these methods can be productive, but they’re not as effective as they once were. Avoid getting stuck in this old mindset and adapt to new trends from the marketing world, or you might find yourself struggling to launch your startup.
If you feel you don’t have the knowledge or find yourself bending over backward with your marketing efforts, there’s no shame in hiring a marketing manager or a marketing team.
Your marketing strategy will be one of the most important, if not the most important, element in launching your startup business.
Make sure to allocate an adequate budget and pin down how you’re going to distribute this money across your different channels.
Have a plan and make every effort to try to maximize your return on investment (ROI) for each campaign.
Before launching your startup, marketing is fundamental in conducting research. It’s invaluable for multiple reasons:
Market research helps define and engage with your target audience
Learn more about how your product or service can help solve their problems
Market research helps you examine your competition
Evaluate their product or service, pricing structure, USP, and better understand how you can set yourself apart
Market research helps develop your positioning statement
For your brand, product, or service
Market research helps fuel your overall marketing strategy
Outlines precisely how you’ll present your product or service to the intended market
All in all, market research keeps things precise and in-line with proven market concepts as you validate and launch your startup.
The bottom line? Marketing needs to be a top priority for your startup.
9- Build and grow your customer base
The good news is, if you’re following this plan in order, you’re already on the right track towards building a strong customer base.
Everything from starting your website, growing your digital presence, and becoming an efficient marketer are all steps in the right direction.
Startups scale fast because they target the right customers and continually work to grow their customer base.
It’s time to put your efforts to the test.
Getting a customer to make a purchase is the first step, but it isn’t nearly enough. The key is to keep your customers coming back.
Repeat customers are 9 times more likely to convert and spend more on each purchase and at key times (Cyber Monday, Christmas, etc.).
Most times, the key to getting repeat customers is customer service. The customer needs to be your main priority. They are the lifelines of your business, and they need to be treated proportionately.
The key takeaway is that establishing, building, and maintaining a customer base will help you get your startup off the ground.
Pro-tip: The key is not to find the average customer, but to find early adopters: customers who feel the need for the product most acutely. Those customers tend to be more forgiving of mistakes and are especially eager to give feedback.
10- Prepare for the unexpected
Startups operate with uncertainty. Expect the unexpected.
Launching your startup won’t be easy, and it’s wise to plan for the hurdles along the way. Speed bumps shouldn’t become roadblocks.
If a road is blocked on your commute to work, you don’t just quit and go home, you take a detour and maybe a few more turns. You remain thoroughly focused on getting to your destination.
Don’t be discouraged when something goes wrong. Remember, if you can’t fail, you can’t learn.
Entrepreneurs need to face their fears and be willing to fail, often in a public way. Persevere, adapt, and push through.
Jeff Bezos, Founder and Amazon CEO, made some colossal mistakes getting his company off the ground (and even more after the company launched). Buying too much, growing to quickly, not thinking things through, you name it. But Bezos successfully pushed through numerous setbacks and went on to grow one of the most successful companies of the modern era.
Nick Woodman, co-founder of GoPro, developed a gaming and marketing platform called FunBug. The concept ended up being a complete miss and is now categorized as one of Silicon Valley’s biggest failures! However, Woodman used the experience as fuel for his next project. He was so afraid GoPro was going to go away like FunBug, his commitment to success meant working 18-hour days as the startup’s truck driver, salesman, product engineer, and customer service rep.
There is a silver lining -- the difficulties you’ll face when launching your startup will help you prepare for the tough road ahead.
Even after your business is up and running, it won’t necessarily be smooth sailing for the entire lifecycle of your startup.
Mistakes and setbacks happen -- it’s normal. Some of these things will simply be out of your hands, like a natural disaster or a national economic crisis.
Employees will come and go.
You’ll face tough decisions and crossroads. Sometimes, you’ll even make the wrong decision, and that’s ok. A great part of being an entrepreneur is learning from your mistakes.
Every setback is an opportunity for learning how to get where you want to go.
Make your learning, validated learning -- the process of demonstrating empirically that your team has discovered valuable truths about your startup’s present and future business prospects.
Learn from your mistakes. Validated learning is more concrete, more accurate, and faster than any market forecasting or classical business planning!
Over to you
If you’ve followed these steps, you’ll successfully launch your startup and will surely be able to overcome any obstacle your startup faces in the future.
Having a proper guideline to follow will help simplify the process for you. Remember all of the cherished value an IP strategy can add to your startup. It can help your startup punch above its weight. It can even help boost your startup into a billion-dollar empire!
Based on what we’ve discussed, you can launch your startup in just 10 steps.
So now, over to you -- what does startup success mean to you? Do you feel we’ve overlooked an important step? Contact us and let us know!
Consider us your partner on your startup journey. Regardless of what stage you’re in, we know it’s an emotional, risky, difficult, scary, exciting, and rewarding journey. We’d be honored if you make KISSPatent a partner on your path towards growth and victory.
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