Tuesday, February 24, 2009

13 point checklist for startups

Paul Graham at Ycombinator recently published a great essay entitled Startups in 13 Sentences. The essay stands out for its elegant simplicity - clearly a lot of experience and data are neatly reduced to these thirteen tips about starting a company. Like all aphorisms, the tips don't apply to all companies and all situations, but they are surprisingly robust in my opionion.

The tips are great advice for someone thinking about starting a startup. I think it's quite useful as a diagnostic tool for all startup founders as well. Go through each of the 13 points and rate yourself on a A-F scale. Based on the the results, what would you do differently? What are you you doing well and where can you improve?

I went through the excercise for Personforce and found it illuminating. I'll spare you the results, but it definitely highlighted areas where we can improve.

Here's an abbreviated version of Paul's startup tips that you can use are a scoring sheet:

1. Pick good cofounders: ___

2. Launch fast: ___

3. Let your idea evolve: ___

4. Understand your users: ___

5. Better to make a few users love you than a lot ambivalent: ___

6. Offer surprisingly good customer service: ___

7. You make what you measure: ___

8. Spend little: ___

9. Get ramen profitable: ___

10. Avoid distractions: ___

11. Don't get demoralized: ___

12. Don't give up: ___

13. Deals fall through: ___

Definitely read the full version with Paul's explanations here before taking the test.

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