This is what we’re looking for in a startup, and these are the big questions we want them to think about. Once this is done, and we’re working with a startup, we’re accelerating them, and maybe also investing in them, what do we need to know? What are we going to spend the first few weeks on, working with them to clarify, define and prioritize?
1. Everything about the team
Who are the co-founders? What are their percentages? Who’s the CEO? What are the other roles? Who has how much time for this?
At this stage, the team is made up from the owners. Other collaborators that are not owners are not part of the team. They are at best the “extended team” and they are both an asset, and a risk: their motivation unsure, their responsiveness untested and the quality of their work depending on factors out of our control.
The startup is very unlikely to have employees (that are not also owners) at this stage and we will strongly recommend that startups refrain from hiring before a clear value proposition is tested, clients start paying and we know what it is the growth we need.
2. Product milestones
What’s the MVP, as a clearly defined feature set? When can it be achieved?
We’ll aim for an MVP in the first 2 max 3 months, get validation, and have time for a second iteration of the MVP to be validated before September. Any plan that requires a very long incubation period without any kind of validation by June is likely to see serious challenge from us.
3. Sales milestones
What are the sales activities that we will perform? What are the sales objectives?
They should be organized around the MVP, preparing the launch, supporting the launch and getting the largest amount of validation as quickly as possible.
What do we want to get? Usage? Pilots? Actual sales? At full or discounted price? How does success look like?
4. Things we won’t do
After the product and the sales milestones are clear, we can now focus on cutting all the fat. We will analyze the backlog and challenge every action, technical, organizational or sales, that does not directly contribute to our stated goals. We will minimize all effort, identify all overwork and over-engineering and cut all unnecessary effort.
5. The rhythm
We will establish a three leveled rhythm:
a) weekly, around 1 week Scrum sprints (or similar methodologies); well decide exact methodology and approach on a case by case basis
b) monthly, around monthly product and sales goals
c) milestone, around the key milestones (MVP, validation)
5. Key dependencies
Does the team depend on key skill they don’t have and if yes, where they can be sourced from, at what cost, and at what risk of them not being available or delivering quality? How can this be de-risked?
What are all the expenses and what will the investment be used for? Sales costs, marketing costs, salary costs, equipment costs, space costs etc, split by month, analyzed by need.
This is the roadmap each startup needs and this is the first thing we’ll work to establish with each.