The Top 10 Most Tempting Categories for Startups

April 19th, 2010 in Getting Ready

Flickr Hive Mind
Creative Commons License photo credit: nosha

I came across a great post written by Dharmesh Shah recently where he described the most luring categories startup founders are attracted to. Following is the list of applications he lists as the ‘most attractive’ for startups;

1.Project Management / Time Tracking / Bug Tracing – Neat Web 2.0 application development for better organizing and tracking. Basecamp anyone?

2.Social Networking Websites – Recognize your specialization or area of interest and launch a social networking website with that theme.

3.Social Voting/Reviews – Websites to rate or review food, restaurants, wines or anything.

4.Discussion Forums

5.Aggregation/Filter Websites – Applications to bookmark/filter excess information

6.Content Management – Mashable or TechCrunch

7.Dating and Match-Making

8.Music/Events Location Application

9.Video/Photo/Bookmarking/Sharing

10.Personal Information Management

Can startups be more innovative?

For any kind of design or development for the concepts mentioned above, feel free to get in touch with us at Vinfotech.

Founders & CEOs

April 7th, 2010 in Startup Hiring

Leader of the Free World
Creative Commons License photo credit: jurvetson

There can be two cases when it comes to startups; first that the founder chooses to be the CEO and second is the case where the CEO is appointed by the founder.

In the second case, founders usually start their company and hire a CEO when things get going and handling everything by themselves becomes difficult. CEO’s do a lot of corporate navigation, formulate plans and strategies, basically with their experience they give a strategic outlook to the growth of a startup. Founders on the other hand, have a passion for their product which is a major driving force for a startup. Both are vital to the existence of any business, but when it comes to choosing between the both? What if for some reason either of them has to leave?

Of course, all businesses are different, and people may leave for different reasons. But VCs invest in founders as much as they do in ideas, so for a company to lose that passionate individual that the VCs initially trusted might send out bad signals. On the other hand a startup will lose direction if a CEO decided to quit.

If someone needs to go, who should leave? The CEO or founder?

There is an interesting read on the above topic at ReadWriteWeb

Regardless of the nature of the breakup, it got me thinking about the dichotomous relationship some startups have between founders and CEOs, and which, if either, is more expendable.

Registering your Startup

April 5th, 2010 in Getting Ready

Traveling Light #1
Creative Commons License photo credit: rintakumpu

The whole idea of registering a business sounds more obligatory than important? If your answer to the question is yes, then its time to change your outlook and here is why:

The process of registration compels you to think about the basic issues that are included in your business plan. Don’t mistake the registration process to be a formal obligation and avoid rushing into it. Matters such as trademark disputes, legal snags, costly name changes or tax problems may come up later if you don’t take registering your startup seriously. Be inquisitive, work around it and give your 100 percent when it comes to registering any business.

A few points to keep in mind;

1. Beware of trademark issues – will somebody sue you for using that name? Check availability of domain names, consult registries etc.

2. Choose your structure – you need to declare your business/startup in form of an entity (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or limited liability company)

3. Obtain Tax ids

4. File registration/Permits – The government will keep a track of businesses and tax through this. You need to pay fee and fulfill certain jurisdiction procedures.

5. Some businesses have additional requirements like planning, regulatory agencies or professional agencies.

Try adding value to the venture buy researching all around the process.

For more detail on this matter, we suggest you visit this post

 

How to Deal with Rejection

March 31st, 2010 in Startup Funding

walking out the door
Creative Commons License photo credit: woodleywonderworks

Investors and entrepreneurs may not always have the same needs and motivations, hence it’s a common phenomenon that investors might reject your startup idea because it’s not a right fit for them. It is important for both parties to know how to deal with this rejection.

One suggestion here to entrepreneurs is to never ask for referrals. When your pitch is rejected, the worst thing you can do is ask for a referral. It won’t work in a professional business context. The venture capital community is a very close-knit group that has a high amount of trust and reliability in one another, so it is quite irrelevant to ask for a referral. Entrepreneurs should be careful with this.

Just as the entrepreneurs, investors need to know how to deal with a rejection as well. Following “honesty is the best policy” approach will be the best here. Be clear, concise and honest to startups. Entrepreneurs, on the other side of the table should take rejection for what it is, and not push back for a referral.

A note to startup entrepreneurs – don’t take rejection personally ever. And don’t forget to look on the bright side of a rejection; something better is waiting for you always.

For more insight on this matter, we suggest you read this post at ReadWriteWeb

Bijan Sabet suggests. Sabet says that had he not been turned down for his first job application, he may not have found himself where he his today, both professionally with becoming an investor, and personally with meeting his wife.

5 Free Collaborative Tools for Startups

March 30th, 2010 in Startup Office


ThinkBalm Island
Creative Commons License photo credit: Torley

Following is a list of useful collaborative tools to help your startup ‘virtually’:

1.Meetup (Event organizing/Crowdsourcing)
What can be better for startups than to create some events locally or attend some – meetup is a great way to network and meet potential business partners. If you’re developing in Joomla, then organize a Joomla meetup or if you’re looking for writers for your blog then attend a blogging meetup. Meetups can be organized and attended according to the area you belong to - excellent tool for promotion and networking. 

2.CrunchBase (Startup Promotion) 
This is a great way to gather information on what everyone else (other startups to be specific) is doing. CrunchBase is a great source to tap into the startup market and check what is happening out there – who’s getting funding from who, how much of funding, new launches etc. If your application by chance gets attention from TechCrunch staff, it can have a massive effect. I know of a case where someone who had their startup featured once on TechCrunch and generated 300 leads from TechCrunch itself.

3.Yammer
Yammer is the Twitter of your startup. It resembles Twitter, but is totally private, so that only your employees can see what you are working on, what coffee you are having or what you thought of the latest episode of Friends – a  dead-simple collaboration tool that all startups should use.

4.GoPlan (Task Management)
It is a simple and effective task management application (or a to-do list application) that allows you to quickly organize a project, share it and see its progress. Features such as tasks, milestones, discussions, and calendar make this application more interactive.

5.Zoho CRM
It is a free Customer Relationship Management System that you can use to manage customers, sales and opportunities. It is a free application for anywhere up to 3 users and has a lot of nice features including an API, dashboard and inventory management.

Let us know what you think of these applications and also suggest others. We at Vinfotech use these apps quite extensively. We also help building such applications. Get in touch with us for your development and design needs.

Common Startup Myths

March 26th, 2010 in Getting Ready

Come Together
Creative Commons License photo credit: h.koppdelaney

Here is a list of a few myths all startup founders and entrepreneurs are blinded by (and which certainly aren’t close to being true);

1.You NEED to fail before you succeed

It is true that many startup face failures before they actually taste success but that isn’t the case always. And instead of saying “you need to fail before you succeed”, something like “learn from your mistakes” will fit in better, and there is a huge difference between the two. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’re bound to fail and repeat them but every startup doesn’t have to fail before you succeed. If you start believing that you have to fail before you succeed, you will have a very negative mindset which can be dangerous for optimistic and passionate entrepreneurs.

2.You Need Millions in Funding to Startup

You need millions of dollars in funding to scale and grow, not to start a new venture. Kevin Rose (Founder of Digg) spent only $2000 to start Digg. He took is first round of funding almost a year and a half later. The cost of starting/running a small business is lower than it has ever been. Bootstrap for as long as you can, and seek funding when you need it and work hard.

3.Only concentrating on “Profit Margins”

Startups make a huge mistake by concentrating on profit margin and percentages as an indicator of how well they are doing. These aren’t correct barometers to measure the health of a startup at an early age. Indicators such as conversion, retention, referral and Revenue should be used at this stage. Keep your revenue high, costs low and track them separately.

4.Branding isn’t important

“Brand building isn’t important at this stage” – Wrong. Branding is fundamental and many startups take this issue for granted expecting it to develop on its own, but sadly it doesn’t. The market is extremely competitive and it’s these small branding efforts that will make you stand out. Branding isn’t just about your name and logo, it’s about the overall experience, the overall tone of voice by every single user you have. Initiate branding activities when starting up, and watch it grow and develop.

5.Location determines success

No, you don’t need to be in the valley to be successful. It’s true that being in a ‘conducive environment’ might help but location should never handicap you. Many tech companies are now flourishing from EU, UK, India and China etc. and there have been huge successes in the last 2 years or so. If you have the infrastructure, talent, passion and audience – then location shouldn’t hamper you in anyway.

For more insight on the topic, we suggest you read this post at Carsonified

Some of the most successful seed-stage companies like YCombinator put very little money into a business (around $20,000) initially because you don’t NEED any more than that

Startups and Ethics

March 23rd, 2010 in Startup Tips

summer reading
Creative Commons License photo credit: Robert S. Donovan

“Ethics” or “Business Ethics” can be defined as written and unwritten codes of principles and values that should govern decisions and actions within a company. In the most basic terms, I would like to describe business ethics as to knowing the difference between right and wrong and choosing to do what is ‘right’. The phrase “business ethics” applies to actions of individuals within the company, as well as the company on the whole.

I believe not only in business, but in life in general, you only win by doing what is right. When I say “win”, it’s not all about money. It also includes being able to sleep at night by knowing you did the right thing. I am sure many of us know people who are just rich but aren’t happy.

Ethics should be integrated in a startup as soon as it starts its operations. You cannot start worrying about ethics when your company reaches a certain size; they need to be sewn into the fabric of a startup. This lesson is the same for tech businesses, as for investment banks, developed economies or third-world countries.

Ideally, all of the above sounds absolutely righteous, but does it hold well in real life? Things can’t be perfect to be honest, but at least we can try doing the right thing. Your company should have a strong sense of perfect. Companies are like people, they can’t be perfect, but when the moral is high, they achieve long-term success (think of Google).

Here are a few tips to build ethics in your startups;

1. Lead by example – Ethics should flow from the top to the bottom of an organization. The authencity of the leader’s actions and character is essential.

2. Create a culture of openness – Internal criticism (constructive) and dissent should be welcomed. People just agreeing with you all the time without any feedback are not good for a startup.

3.  Learn from people or distant models – May be your technological mission or business is truly unique but the leadership values aren’t unique. Steve jobs of Apple portrays himself after the founder of Polaroid Ed Land and tries to learn from both his strengths and weaknesses. It is important to learn from everyone.

4. Remember that character of your startup once lost is not only hard but impossible to regain

5. Don’t be scared of leadership succession. Founders of all great firms have known that they can’t forever be the leaders and one day they will need to find successors.

In business you have to make tough choices every now and then. Every decision has clear consequences and outcomes but ethical decisions are always hard. Probably making the right choice won’t always bring success, but ethical lapses always lead to failure.

To get more insight to this matter, we suggest you read this absolutely wonderful post written by Vivek Wadhwa in TechCrunch

The silencing of employees who sought to challenge strategy and risk-management practices likely also undermined the banks’ moral authority and emboldened those who already felt inclined to do the wrong thing. With a muted internal voice, these organizations lacked a moral compass

Both Sides of the Table

March 19th, 2010 in Startup Blogs to Read

still have feelings for books !
Creative Commons License photo credit: zedamnabil

This blog is my personal favorite. Mark Suster, the owner and writer of the blog, is a 2x entrepreneur turned Venture Capitalist, so all the articles reflect his experience and expertise on various topics.

The website covers a number of topics ranging from simple startup advice to raising venture capital. All the posts are very informative and a great resource for startup founders, aspiring entrepreneurs and even VC’s. What I enjoy most about the website is the simplicity, both in terms of writing and the appearance of the website – definitely encouraging.

Active discussions on the blog (in form of comments) are another key source of relevant information. I can’t really site a favorite post on this website; all the posts are a must-read. I have subscribed to the RSS feed and highly recommend everyone to do the same.
 

TechCrunch

March 18th, 2010 in Startup Blogs to Read

IMG_6438
Creative Commons License photo credit: michaelarrington

TechCrunch has been profiling information about startup websites, companies and products since 2005. It is a great resource to get the latest news about web startups and established tech companies. What companies have been started, acquired and funded as well as information about larger tech companies – all of this in one blog.

I have subscribed to the RSS feed and follow the blog religiously; it’s my favorite Technology blog. With a Technorati rank of 3 and a huge following, TechCrunch is a must read for anyone looking for information around startups. What I like about TechCrunch is the fact that it takes an ‘opinion’ on the news (which is generally an informed one).

Although I like all their posts and writers but my personal favorite writers are Erick Schonfeld (Co-editor of TechCrunch), Michael Arrington (Founder and co-editor), Robin Wauters, Leena Rao and Vivek Wadhwa (guest writer for TechCrunch). Posts like Startups 101 – The Complete Mint Presentation, Everything you Wanted to Know About Startup Building but were afraid to ask, PR Secrets for Startups are a few examples of some valuable information TechCrunch shares.

Another interesting point is the comments section of the any post on TechCrunch – the discussions, opinions and views of various tech geeks around the world is highly informative. Do go through them to get a better insight to the post.

With the blog authority and readership TechCrunch it has, it has become the dream of any startup to get featured on their website. I wouldn’t be surprised if a startups first PR strategy would be “how to feature on TechCrunch”. TechCrunch has also been surrounded by various criticisms but that is all in the game.

According to me, TechCrunch is a must-read blog for any web geek to gather information on startups, high tech giants, industry news, motivational tips and personal experiences.

The Startup Visa Act

March 15th, 2010 in Startup Tips

Unshaven Melancholy
Creative Commons License photo credit: Hong Kong dear Edward

A bill* was introduced in the Senate (USA) on the 24th February 2010 proposing a new type of visa for immigrants who create startups and jobs in the U.S.

*The Startup Visa Act of 2010 will crate a two year visa for immigrant entrepreneurs who are able to raise a minimum of $250,000 (with $100,000 coming from a qualified venture investor or U.S. angel). After the two years, if the immigrant entrepreneur is able to create five or more jobs (not including spouse or children), attract $1 million more in investment, or produce $1 million in revenue, he or she will become a legal resident of the United States of America.

The introduction of this bill is the result of a blog post written by Paul Graham in April 2009 (one of the partners at Y Combinator). In the post, titled “The Founder Visa,” Paul explained that foreign-born students who graduate from a U.S. university can’t stay back in the U.S. to start a company. This post was passed around by bloggers, entrepreneurs and venture industry veterans until it was turned into a savvy social media campaign (including twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc). And the result is in front of us today, the campaign was a success and the bill was introduced a few days ago.

The message associated with the bill is quite straightforward – create jobs and get a green card. Even if the bill passed it isn’t going to attract a herd of entrepreneurs’ right way. It will eventually gain momentum. U.S. is welcoming entrepreneurs from outside the United States, and is promoting ideas and startups.

An interesting discussion is going on in this forum regarding the pros and cons of the bill.

Personally, I believe it’s a strategically well thought decision that would ease out rules and allow entrepreneurs all over the world to harvest their ideas in the technological hub of the world, and besides beneficial for the U.S. as well in terms of employment, innovation and growth.

For more information on this, we suggest you visit TechCrunch