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Startup Advice

Read This Before You Start Anything

Guest Author
8th Jun 2012
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Have you ever been in that situation where you suddenly had the most amazing idea for a product or company and it kept you up all night? I certainly have many times and it’s what led me to get started with Eduora (more on that in a bit) and do everything I have done so far. This article isn’t about pitching that idea or raising money for it. There are a lot of other, more authoritative articles on those subjects around the web. This one however, is about how to get started the right way.


getting_started

Get Started the Right Way

One would argue that the most amazing part of starting your own company is to make mistakes and learn from them. Fair enough and in some cases, do it by all means. In many other situations, this will only lead you to delayed product launches, code that doesn’t work as intended, servers that didn’t anticipate traffic and if you’re reading this inIndia(brace yourself for this one) - lots of Government related processes that make you want to actually consider politics as a career to bring about change by any means!

Seasoned entrepreneurs know this and know how to keep things on the right track. If you are a first time entrepreneur like me, read this article all the way through. A lot of these steps may apply to technology startups but, some do apply to others as well.

Evaluate Your Idea

The best way to get started is to put down some basic thoughts around the idea. You really do want to write this down somewhere and my best bet for this looking back would be to use The Business Model Canvas. Don’t worry about detailed plans just yet. Try to answer all the parts on the canvas realistically.

You can always make multiple versions of this document as you refine your idea. If you’ve answered everything on this canvas in less than a few hours, you’re doing something wrong. Keep coming back to it. The Business Model Canvas is a lot more powerful as you keep using it.

Incorporate When Necessary

Ready to turn your idea into a company? Incorporating your company inIndiacan be quite the task. While filling up a few papers and signing them is no big deal, what follows later will take its toll on you. Constant filings, paperwork, delays, going to Government offices etc.

It’s important not to incorporate very early on. You only need to do this when you are either raising money or making that first sale. Until then, save yourself of all the processes and work on your product. When it’s time to incorporate, choose the right kind of entity you want to incorporate and hand over all the remaining tasks to an agent. Talking to your lawyer and accountant about this should help. Pay for it if you must, it will give you time to work on what’s more important - your product and your company.

Automate Your Workflow

This one needs special mention. The beauty of starting a new company is you have complete control of what your workflow will look like. Changing this later on is a monstrous task and you really don’t want to do it. If you’re starting fresh, make sure to take a few days to automate your workflow as much as possible.

Everything needs to be automated as much as possible. It will save you time and as you scale your product and business, you’ll find that doing this was one of the most important decision you made. The most important one however, are the architectural decisions you make to build your product.

Put a lot of thought into the groundwork of your product. The goal is to pretend like you are a big company so you can put a lot of effort into building quality products. The architectural decisions you make will either come back to haunt you or put a smile on your face if you get it right. Most of us haven’t built real products. Production environments are notoriously difficult to maintain. We initially didn’t have a good process defined and quickly ran into trouble. We later fixed it with a couple of simple steps. Make sure you follow these even if you are the only developer in your startup.

  • Select your programming language carefully. If you know PHP, stick to it. Don’t waste your time learning Ruby because Hacker News said so.
  • Wherever possible, use frameworks and open source libraries. We personally used CodeIgniter and also use jQuery. Your goal is to get something out quickly, these should help you do that.
  • Version control EVERYTHING! Marry GitHub. Pay for a Pro account if you must. Keep your code clean and commit all the time.
  • Keep your development and production environments identical.
  • Apply Agile practices. Continuous Integration can help you in the long run. Put simply, the flow should be something like this:Write your code
  • Run it through a codesniffer
  • Run unit tests
  • Compress your files for best performance
  • If everything works well, push to server.

Setting up this environment very early in your product development phase will keep you sane. A little Googling will tell you how to get started.

Soak Yourself in Information

Follow. Follow. Follow. I can’t stress this point any more. Make it a habit to look around and see what’s happening in the industry. Many would argue that you should keep your Twitter account open. My personal recommendation - RSS. Nothing comes close to the power RSS can bring you. Follow lots of blogs (this one included) in your industry and some general ones as well. This thread should get you started. You should continue to do this all along, not just when you start your company. It’s immensely powerful.

If you still have lots of time to consume more information, follow all the relevant topics and people related to your idea on Quora.

Constantly Meet People & Seek Advice

Talking to people about your idea is the best way to learn their perceptions about it. Meet authoritative people in the industry. Build a personal network for yourself. I guarantee that you’ll learn something new every time. If you have access to great advisors, grab a hold of them and never let them go. Compensate them appropriately with stock if needed. Keep coming back to them every time you refine your idea.

Successful people are what they are because of they know. If they tell you something, it’s purely because they have better experience. Also remember not to listen to everything they say. Balance it out. Think about it and apply where they may be right. Also remember to contribute back when someone asks you for advice.

To put simply, the steps you take early in your company and product will define what you do for a while. Put a lot of thought into it and you’ll definitely find yourself a lot more comfortable while taking important decisions later on. Most importantly, it will give you a lot of room for flexibility.

Nagarjun Palavalli, Founder, Eduora (His story here)

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