Startup Checklist — Do We Have These Materials?

Working with a really interesting new startup in the social media management category, we came up with a number of materials that the startup should be developing over the next weeks and months. This may or may not be complete and it may or may not be relevant for all companies. But take a look and see if you have all bases covered.

1. A pitch deck, containing

  • Team and Where the Idea Come From
  • Customer Problem and Market Size
  • Solution
  • Customer Benefits and Business Model
  • Product slides:
    • Feature set
    • Architecture
    • Screen shots
    • Roadmap
  • Product Roadmap
  • Typical customer implementation: How long, how many people, networks, etc.
  • Competition
  • 3-year financials rough and 18 month financials in detail
  • Funding round sought (incl. cap table before and after) and use of funds (for what, for how long, to deliver which milestones)
Not necessarily in that order, but covering at least these items.
 
Why? Because this is what financiers expect. You’re not in fundraising mode if you don’t have it.
 
2. More evidence for the existence of a product and our competency to manage and develop and deliver one:
  • All the product slides defined above.
  • A Camtasia movie, if applicable.
  • A nicely formatted two-page datasheet that prospects can download and print out and pass around in their organization (this may not be priority #1, but I wouldn’t underestimate it).
  • Possibly a FAQ — which will probably be populated as the first wave of customer pitches take place.
  • A product-centric website: With a prominent “Products” section, offering screenshots, a big “Request Demo” button, pricing information on the different plans (Small vs.Professional vs. Enterprise) but w/o specific prices, etc. This here is a pretty good role model: http://www.hubspot.com/products/
Why? Because IMHO we need to proactively put stuff out there so that people don’t mistake us for “product poseurs” (i.e. custom development shops that pretend that they have a product and they really don’t).
 
3. A document or PPT slide outlining my complete Solution Set for my VIP customers:
  • Pre-deployment workshops to establish baseline and to determine objectives and priorities for the customer. How many workshops, which participants, what outcome, what price.
  • Deployment roadmap: Which features will they get first (MVP), which 90 days later, etc.
  • Integration offer: How do we integrate into their publishing systems and how long does that take and what do they pay.
  • Training offer: How do we run training for users (classroom? CBT? webinar?) and what do they pay. 
  • Support offer: What level of support is standard. What options do we offer for gold-standard-VIP support and what does that cost extra?
  • Health check and monitoring: What services (by people and/or by machines) do we offer to ensure optimal service quality for our customer and for their media properties?
  • How do we ensure success and remove objections? (90-days free or, preferably, a money-back offer with a defined milestone that we have to reach).
Why? Because ONLY customers for whom this is mission-critical and career-defining will buy our solution before it becomes an industry standard. And precisely these customers want to get the maximum support and attention from us to ensure success. So we a. have to offer a complete package and b. we can charge for it and thereby maximize our revenue extraction.
 
4. Evidence for Thought Leadership
  • A whitepaper, explaining in high-level language, the customer problem, first from the business angle and then from the operational execution angle. And how this problem will not go away but get bigger all the time. And how it can be solved with technology. And what kind of technology to look for (easily integrated, real-time, console, etc.) — describing the requirements for the ideal solution. Outlining the immediate benefits (time and money and not wasting expensive resources on manual labor etc.). And the more long-term and more strategic benefits (highly engaged community, shifting business models, harnessing UGC, etc. etc.).
  • The same content, re-edited for publication in some kind of online or print publication.
  • A corporate blog, if appropriate. 
Why? So we stand out from the crowd, so that we’re more than a tool vendor, so that our claims re roadmap and solutions competency and workshop competency become credible.
 
5. MVP Outline and Corresponding Hypotheses
  • Feature set for MVP
  • List of hypotheses about customer problem that underly the MVP definition
  • Some discussion re how we can validate these assumptions quickly and efficiently (e.g. customer survey, focus group interviews, hiring a market researcher, posing as a market researcher, etc.)
Why? Because we need to figure out what our customers really want. Which is very likely different from what we think. If this sounds flaky you may need to re-read http://www.amazon.de/The-Lean-Startup-Innovation-Successful/dp/0670921602
 

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