Archive for the ‘IT Start Up’ Category
Startups have short launchpads and high expectations. In order to lighten the yoke, many startup founders turn to outsourcing, letting a third party provider handle some aspects of the business.
If you do it the “right way”, you can build a very successful company that way. The right way is *not* to think of your remote team members as outsourcing, but as a key part of your team.
In considering outsourcing as a potential option, you must first weigh the positive and negative impacts. Outsourcing frees up leadership to focus on the parts of the business that differentiate you from the competition, while staying assured that the basic parts are all still operating properly.
Outsourcing is a great option for some startups, but it can be confusing. There’re 5 questions you should answer to decide if outsourcing is the solution:
What is outsourcing?
Outsourcing is the farming out of a business process or service to a third-party provider. Outsourcing frees up some mental space for founders and can sometimes even save money.
What exactly are you outsourcing?
There are certain skillsets which are difficult to bring in-house. It is essential to understand what you will and what you will not be outsourcing, to understand what should rest totally in your control and what can be handled by someone else.
Is the vendor startup-oriented?
The choice of which company to outsource to is important. Vendor should be very active in implanting best practices from the software industry into the startups they work with.
Are you a good client?
Good clients should know what they want, otherwise they’re effectively wasting their own money. A highly collaborative attitude is helpful too. Clients should want to understand the development process just as developers should get a handle in the product’s business objectives. A mismatch between end-project and expectations is often the result of poor communication.
Does the reputation of the vendor matter to you?
People often rely on reputation to make outsourcing decisions. Ask for reviews and recommendations of providers to try and determine which one best fits your needs.
Outsourcing is one of the earliest crucial decisions that startups have to make after inception. Often, the decision lies not in whether to outsource, but who to outsource to and how.
Do you outsource? Please share your experience in comments bellow.
Scandinavian Startups. How to accelerate locally & internationally: STING Accelerate, Startupbootcamp, Seedcamp, Le Camping, Y Combinator, Techstars
Posted March 19, 2015on:
It’s easier to start a new business with the support of experienced mentors and investment from their funds. To get assistance here start-ups can apply for time-limited programs of support from accelerators, and if win they usually get the conditions which allow creating a project that can enter the market and obtain investment. The budding entrepreneurs are provided with office, mentors and a small investment during 3-6 months.
At Altabel Group being focused on working with the Scandinavian companies, including start-ups, we’ve noticed that recently there has been increased interest and efforts to creating efficient environment and conditions for start-ups development. Local accelerators as one of the prerequisites for this are perhaps not so much mature as global leaders like Seedcamp, Y Combinator, Techstars, etc, still are worth considering since they focus on Nordic companies. To name a few: STING Accelerate, Startupbootcamp, which are rather large and well-know, and Startup Sauna, Nestholma Accelerator, that are smaller. Let’s talk about them a little bit more.
STING Accelerate (www.stockholminnovation.com)
Where: Stockholm, Sweden
Acceptance of applications: twice a year, 7-8 startups are selected in each session
Duration: 4 months
Statistics: over 200 startups funded, 45,000,000 SEK in total exits, over 535,000,000 SEK in total funding raised
Conditions of participation: investment of 250,000 SEK (roughly 29,600 USD) comes in the form of a convertible note that can be repaid in three years with 6% interest or converted into equity when the startup can issue shares valued at least 1 million SEK to new investors.
Founded in 2002, STING coaches Stockholm startups dealing with internet, media, cleantech and life sciences. It evaluates about 150 to 200 projects annually, but accepts about 20 to participate in its programs such as STING Accelerate and STING Excelerate, which is a less intensive acceleration program. STING Excelerate provides startups with a personal business coach who visits the company at least a half a day per week for 6-18 months to help the company grow.
The received investment at STING Accelerate will help startups to focus more on developing their product and less on raising funds. The program runs in the center of Stockholm at the co-working space SUP46, and selected companies are offered free office space there throughout the program.
Before STING used to accept only Swedish startups, but now it accepts international startups and offer housing in apartments (at self-cost).
Where: Copenhagen (Denmark) and others (Istanbul (Turkey), Haifa (Israel), London (UK), Amsterdam, Eindhoven (Netherlands), Berlin (Germany))
Acceptance of applications: several times during the year, 10 startup are selected
Duration: 3 months
Statistics: 9 accelerator programs, 130 companies funded, 2 exits, 20,209,661 USD in total funding raised
Conditions of participation: 15,000 EUR in financing for 8% equity.
Founded in 2010, Startupbootcamp created an international network from eight accelerators. Accelerator selects projects from different countries; startups should be able to move to one of the cities of the program. Each startup team will receive 15,000 EUR and other benefits in the amount of 450,000 EUR. Mentors and experts will work with projects during 3 months. In the end startups will be able to present themselves to funds and business angels.
Some programs accept applications from startups of any fields, the others – just from certain areas: media, transport, energy and others. Startupbootcamp accepts applications from startup teams and individual entrepreneurs as well.
In case you didn’t manage to meet deadlines in your home country in Scandinavia, or accelerators abroad seem to be more attractive and suitable for your startup idea, you are welcome to search for international accelerators across Europe or America for funding your startup business. There are few programs, which Altabel considers to be the most interesting ones on the international scene.
Where: London (United Kingdom)
Acceptance of applications: monthly, 2-3 startups are chosen
Duration: 1 week
Statistics: 118 startups funded, 7 exits, 17,000,000 USD in total exits, 131,189,940 USD in total funding raised
Conditions of participation: 50,000 EUR in financing for 8-10% equity.
The largest accelerator in Europe founded in 2007 in London by famous venture capitalist Reshma Sohoni with the support of the British venture capital funds. The company’s portfolio consists of more than a hundred startups from European countries.
Twenty selected startup teams undergo an extensive training during the week, and then present their ideas to investors. Two or three startups receive funding afterwards. In addition to investments in the amount of 50,000 EUR, startups receive a number of possibilities. They can attend a course Seedcamp Academy, during which they are expected to learn a successful way of bringing the project to the market. In addition, teams will be given the opportunity to work in the London office of Google Campus and visit the United States in the educational tour.
Le Camping (www.lecamping.org)
Where: Paris, France
Acceptance of applications: once a year, 12 startups are selected
Duration: 6 months
Statistics: 48 startups funded, 2 exits, 10,000,000 USD in total exits, 9,955,000 USD in total funding raised
Conditions of participation: up to 20,000 EUR in financing for 3% equity, 1,000 EUR – grant for international startups.
Le Camping is a program launched by Silicon Sentier, a well-known organization that brings together innovative companies and entrepreneurs in the web and mobility space. Open to all types of entrepreneurs: entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, non-profits; early-stage startups; international teams and exchange programs; late-stage startups. The Accelerator offers 6-month program with an acceleration phase followed by a special growth phase. 140 mentors will come together to support, advise, critique and ultimately position the startups to write their own success story.
The 12 selected startups will enter an intensive program in Numa – Parisian web entrepreneurship eco-system. 3 months of acceleration are given to go from an idea to demo, then 1 month to meet investors all around Europe. On a Demo Day, at the end of the first 3 months the startup teams will meet around 500 international investors. A financial grant offered by its partners 4,500 EUR is provided to each team participating in Le Camping, without any equity engagement in the startups.
Y Combinator (www.ycombinator.com)
Where: Mountain View, CA, USA
Acceptance of applications: twice a year, spring and autumn, 68 startups are selected in each session
Duration: 3 months: January- May, July-August
Statistics: 747 startups funded, 89 exits, 2,283,808,100 USD in total exits, 4,042,698,709 USD in total funding raised
Conditions of participation: 120,000 USD in financing for 7% equity.
The first accelerator in the USA, founded in 2005 by entrepreneur Paul Graham. During its existence Y Combinator has funded more than 700 startups. According to the founder’s comment, the average estimation of these startups is 22.4 million USD. Scribd, Dropbox and Airbnb – the largest and the most successful companies in Y Combinator’ portfolio.
Selected startup’ teams are invited to Silicon Valley for three months. The program consists of weekly lunches with experts, investors and other entrepreneurs. The course ends with Demo Day, where startups show their results.
Where: New York, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Boulder (USA), London (UK)
Acceptance of applications: once a year, 10 startups are selected in the chosen city
Duration: 3,5 months
Statistics: 19 accelerator programs, 502 companies funded, 44 exits, 176,000,000 USD in total exits, 1,148,300,000 USD in total funding raised
Conditions of participation: 18,000 USD in financing for 6% equity and also an opportunity to get a convertible loan in the amount of 51,000 – 100,000 USD.
Founded in 2007 by investors David Cohen and Brad Feld, Techstarts is considered to be the second popular after Y Combinator. Accepts applications from early-stage and late-stage startup’ teams consisting of at least two people. A team of experts works with startups for 3,5 months, and then Demo Day is arranged. The accelerator offers a space for work in each city, as well as additional services necessary for the operation of the company at the initial stage.
Choosing an accelerator depends entirely on your business needs and what you want out of the experience. Some accelerators have themes or focus on certain business sectors such as education, healthcare, or finance. Some are harder to get into as the most popular accelerators are bombarded with applications, making it difficult to get noticed in a sea of startups.
Is anybody planning to apply for one of the programs mentioned above? Have you/your company been through an accelerator? What advice would you give founders who are considering applying to one? That would be interesting to read the comments about real experience from participants, feel free to share your ideas about it.
Over the years dynamic languages such as Python and Ruby have become cherished by startups. As for .Net it is more rarely heard to be used by startups. That’s interesting indeed, because this platform is definitely bigger than most of the popular ones.
So I wonder why a platform as widely adopted and supported as .NET isn’t more visible in startup culture. Let’s try figuring out the main arguments in favor and against making .Net a startup technical choice.
1. Community culture
Some people say the main reason is the culture of the .NET community itself, not anything specific to the platform. Being centered mostly around the needs of enterprise market .NET developers’ concerns are often regarding supporting legacy systems, building enterprise architectures, large systems for supporting business processes. This implies solving problems which are not so relevant for startups at least at their initial point.
As for members of the startup community, they fuss over different issues – concurrency, experience design, supporting multiple clients and browsers, etc.
As a result the startup community and the .NET community don’t overlap as much as they do for other technologies. That’s why startup founders don’t get much exposure to .Net and don’t think of it as an applicable tool for their purposes. The same way many .Net developers who want to work for hot startups don’t have as many opportunities to do so unless they abandon the platform for a more startup-friendly one or start a company themselves.
So platform doesn’t always dictate its use – that’s people who make the choice. Enterprise and startups aren’t mutually exclusive – they’re just different stages in the evolution of software, and there’s no reason why the startup community shouldn’t look at .NET as an attractive starting point for a new business.
2. Startup tech compatibility
A startup is a risky venture with no guarantee of success. So tech startups seek advantages in order to succeed. Hence startups take what big enterprises consider risky bets on technology. This objective can be achieved by using technology that is popular in startup environment.
Many features of .NET, facilitating the productivity of big companies, are not always useful to startups. There is too much choice of implementation methods. If anything, web startups are looking to have this choice taken away – their technology choices come from the subset that is built for the web.
Also it is said that innovation is quicker with other ecosystems which have a bigger set of libraries and tools. As for .Net there are a few open source projects however most of them are pretty much an implementation of concepts that have already been implemented for a while in the Java world, for example.
3. Open source vs proprietary
Although many startups don’t mind paying for tools and services, most of them still pick things based on cost. For a long time the “enterprise” level tools, services, databases, etc were hardly affordable by startups. That’s why startups adopt so much open source.
It’s also hard to justify the use of proprietary software from a business perspective. If you want to be acquired it is wise to develop your product using an open stack rather than Microsoft’s.
However luckily for many startups Microsoft saw a huge value in giving their stuff away to startups and startups have benefited greatly. Microsoft has been running their Bizspark program for several years, which eliminates most of the startup costs normally associated with employing a .NET framework. To get into the BizSpark program you just need to get checked by BizSpark team if your startup is eligible (developing a real product). Then you’ll get free licenses to basically every product they make, including SQL Server, and a free MSDN gold subscription, for 3 years. They figure 3 years is long enough for you to get going so after that they want you to pay for new licenses. The great part is that they let you keep the licenses you’re already using. So Microsoft has basically taken the cost factor completely out of the equation for new startups.
4. Velocity vs performance
Some people say that it’s all about the velocity. If you agree with an assumption that a startup goal is to find a niche vs build a product, then the goal of a startup is to learn about the market, customers, and product needs as quickly as possible. Python, Js, Ruby, etc allow you to iterate quickly without a lot of infrastructure and boilerplate. However a company that has already has a market has a little different goal, for them the objective is to build a stable product that they can maintain.
Some people say that .Net is not suitable for quick changes. This is a pretty outdated view of C# these days, it’s actually fairly easy to write extremely terse code with. As an added bonus refactoring is so incredibly easy compared to JS, Ruby, Python, etc. that it’s ideal for rapidly switching directions in code as you can refactor so fearlessly without being slowed down by massive amounts of tests. Unfortunately what’s bad about .Net is the tooling and the supporting ecosystem.
Python is much better suited to quick prototypes that can be fleshed out into a reasonably reliable product without too many headaches. The key difference comes when you have to change features mid-stream. The lack of strict typing and interfaces means you can add, change, and remove features much quicker than C# for example. On top of that, you just write fewer actual lines of code to get the same thing done, although sometimes readability can suffer if you get too concise. There is a price to be paid with Python and Ruby though and performance is the biggest one.
5. Team and project size
The team and project size always matters. So when the solution is being built with a small team, then it is easier to use something like Python. Obviously the goal is to be fast to develop in and have a bunch of libraries to be used. On the other hand when building something with a big team, you feel like using something like C#. In this case it keeps it safe to develop in and easy to catch mistakes. Any optional documentation provided by a developer is incomplete. On the contrary the quality level of the available .Net documentation is outstanding.
However if the company is starting as very small at the initial point, it hopefully grows and builds up quite a sizeable codebase by some point. Python, JS & Ruby are fine for small programs but anything more than that and they become their own enemies because the programs they make are quite brittle.
The common opinion is that .Net scales well.So, if your startup does make it, you’ll probably have a much easier time scaling the .Net stack than you would with say Ruby or PHP.
Conclusion: it’s all about stereotyping
Eventually, I found different opinions on my question of .Net being not so popular with startups such as “platform lock-in,” “no open standards,” “licensing costs.” Sure, these are issues preventing many developers from adopting .NET in the startup space, but not enough to bar all of them from using it. Most of the arguments are just stereotypes that can be dispelled under closer examination.
All languages have strengths and weaknesses. For a startup, you need to do due-diligence and research what the right language to use for your idea will be because recoding in a different language can get costly.
So do you use .Net in your startup projects? Please share your feedback and experiences with us.
Inspiration is like fuel for founders but, at some point, the tank will inevitably run dry. Here are some ways to re-inspire your entrepreneurial spirit.
Everyone has their drug of choice. For founders, it’s inspiration. Inspiration is the high that drives entrepreneurs to put in those long days and it is what validates them as they see the different parts of their lives get folded into their businesses. The creation becomes a part of the creator.
Mental stimulation is the propellant that helps founders gain traction in the early days, but it’s easy to lose over time. The amount of work combined with the erratic lifestyle can often leave you feeling uninspired. According to Todd Krizelman, CEO of MediaRadar, this can affect your business as well.
“Almost all entrepreneurs play a central role in their company, independent of their job function. If their morale is suffering, the company will suffer significantly. The staff looks to entrepreneurs for signals (formal and informal) on company performance and forward vision,” Krizelman said.
At some point in your entrepreneurial journey you will, undoubtedly, face a crossroads where you will have to decide whether or not you want to keep going. Entrepreneurship is difficult, but it is made easier if you have the inspiration to keep moving forward.
“If you can re-inspire yourself over time, you give the highest possible odds for the company to flourish because you are going to have that authentic, passionate entrepreneur at the helm,” said Andy Dunn, CEO of Bonobos.
Here are three sets of tips on how to re-inspire yourself as a founder.
1. View rejection as opportunity
“Before you’ve started your company, you were likely a successful person in school or business. You are used to getting things done and being respected,” Krizelman said. “However, early in the experience as an entrepreneur you will be told NO frequently, by investors, interview candidates, and by prospective clients. This is actually normal, but it demoralizes many entrepreneurs who are just getting their start.”
As an entrepreneur, you must realize that no one cares about your business or idea as much as you do, and that’s okay. So often, founders can feel so connected with their company that they begin to equate approval of the company with approval of self, and this is a dangerous connection. You must always strive to think of your business as an entity that exists outside of yourself. Criticism of your business is not a critique of your character.
Think of someone saying “no” as a sort of inspiration in and of itself. Consider the possibility that maybe you aren’t explaining your value proposition clearly enough, or maybe your passion isn’t coming through in your pitch. Whether or not you are comfortable hearing someone say “no,” Polaris Partners entrepreneur-in-residence, Pat Kinsel, said they are bound to come.
“Through the processes of raising capital, hiring employees, and selling your product, you’ll surely hear ‘no’ 1,000s of times,” Kinsel said. “The best founders learn from ‘no’ and are driven to persevere; but the grueling process takes it’s toll on everyone. Some founders lose inspiration — it’s incredibly important to surround yourself with people who can help you remember the vision and remind you why you started in the first place.”
2. Don’t forget your roots
One of the inevitable, sad facts of the startup community is that people will begin to see you as what you do instead of who you are. Being the founder of a company is only one role that you play. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very important role, but it exists alongside other roles to compose your identity. You are not your product.
“I went to Brazil last June. For the first time, I got out of the country and off Wi-Fi access for a few days,” Dunn said. “I was on a trip looking for Jaguars in the Pantanal region of Brazil with a couple of other scientists. And, there was three days where we had no access to, not just Wi-Fi, but any data, any cell phone signal. And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, there was a me before I was digitally connected to what I am building.'”
Think about who you were before you started your company. How did the people you surround yourself with define you before you became known as the founder of your startup. Take some time to unplug, not just from technology, but from the culture surrounding startups. The startup scene praises the startup martyr, but it is important to spend time away from that.
It may sound trite, but find a few strategic moments to spend time for your friends and your family. These tend to be the people that have supported you because they believe in you, not your business ideas. Surround yourself with the kind of people who make you feel like you have nothing to prove.
It’s freeing to absolve yourself of an obligation to bring something to the table and to add value, but it is also encouraging to look back and see how far you have come. Because, at the end of the day, your business should inspire you too.
3. Focus on the business
I know this seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes in stepping back to catch your breath, you need to step forward to invigorate your sense of involvement with your company. According to Dunn, this begins with understanding your timeframe.
“One of the primary forces here is that when you start a company, mentally your time horizon is oriented to a few years. And yet, the paradox is that, if you’re successful with what you’re building, that timeline just keeps extending,” Dunn said. “So, if your startup doesn’t work, you might be done in two years. But, if it does work, you know, I’m in my seventh year, and there’s a very viable scenario where I’m gonna be in my fifteenth year. I think that a sense for what the actual time horizon could be, paradoxically, in the event that you’re successful, versus not, is important.”
The startup game is a game of sprints, and understanding the timing and implications of those sprints is paramount. Dunn refers to these moments as the “digestible chunks” of the overall experience. He noted that the experience will be radically different at each milestone, and you have to prepare yourself to learn and change.
As you meet these milestones and move past them, there are specific ways you can engage your business in order to re-inspire yourself. The first is to consider taking on new challenges.
“You need to make sure you’re meeting your own professional and life goals. You can, however, pursue new challenges inside the company as it grows. For a company with a lot of momentum, there are almost always options,” Krizelman said.
For example, Bonobos opened their Guide Shops to help customers better understand the way their products fit and, most recently, they set out to start a women’s clothing line. It can be very valuable to do things in your company that make the business more exciting for you.
“Pushing the frontier of innovation, and doing so in a way that makes sense for the company and makes sense for the founder, that’s the ultimate source of inspiration — it is the creativity that got you going to begin with,” Dunn said.
As you take on new challenges with your company, make sure you don’t alienate your customers. Talking to people who use your products or service on a daily basis can help remind you of the greater mission that your startup has taken on.
“While I devote 60% of my time to managing the company overall, the balance I spend talking to customers directly. Hearing the client declare that their business is improving, because of what we do, is a major motivator,” Krizelman said.
If you try these steps (and others) and still don’t feel re-inspired, don’t be afraid to admit that running your startup isn’t fun anymore or you’re no longer fulfilled. Founders wear many hats and, at some point, you might need to hire someone to wear one of them for you. Don’t be ashamed to appoint a new CEO if it will help you focus on the aspects of the business where you add the most value.
Also, it isn’t a bad thing to want to have fun.
“Independent of whatever outcome a team may achieve, pausing and reflecting on your accomplishments can help you to enjoy your day to day work,” Kinsel said. “At the end of the day, there’s no reason why a startup founder shouldn’t enjoy the ride.”
Every business starts from the question: ”Which direction to take, how to choose the right niche…”. Most start-ups choose software development as the direction to start with because of quite low launching costs, easiness to start the business, high popularity of IT and the well-known postulate “software will eat the world”. But when choosing IT sphere it is quite important to understand this market and find new perspective areas in it. As investors and business angels are much more eager to invest not in what is popular today, but what will be the future of tomorrow.
In my article I would like to draw your attention to some trends that seem promising in my opinion
The Internet of things
The Internet of Things is likely to have a staggering impact on our daily life and become an inherent part of such areas as electricity, transportation, industrial control, retail, utilities management, healthcare, petroleum etc. For example, GE predicts that the oil and gas industry will be able to save more than $90 billion a year thanks to the reduced operating costs and fuel consumption that smart components will deliver. The health care sector may save more than $63 billion because of improved resource usage and modern equipment.
Also the Industrial Internet will make transport more economical, and safer too. Jumbo jets, loaded with sensors that record every detail of their flights, will help engineers to design safer aero-planes and know which parts need to be replaced. On the road, fleets of trucks and even ordinary drivers will be able to tap into the web, monitoring traffic in real time, with automated programs suggesting alternative routes in case of accidents/traffic congestion.
Of course, all of these benefits mean plenty of business opportunities for those who are brave enough to make the first step. Profits will grow exponentially as the Internet of Things itself matures. Today, there’s around 1.3 billion connected devices in the world, but by 2020 this could well exceed 12.5 billion devices. Similarly, the M2M (machine-2-machine) industry is said to be worth around $121 billion a year today. By 2020, that value will grow to almost $950 billion, according to the Carbon War Room. Don’t lose your chance!
Computer Science health
This sphere suit startups that plan to develop software to diagnose and treat diseases (i’m not taking about Biotech, but about Information Technology). As a rule it is a noninvasive methodology. The technology will help to avoid costly and dangerous procedures: instead of an operation it will be enough to use a specialized device Different kinds of fitness applications have already filled the market. Apps that evaluate sleep state and help to wake up at the most opportune moment, that evaluate quality, caloric value and allergenicity of food are not a rarity anymore. More and more people keep track of their daily activity: number of steps made, calories burned, heart rate etc by using bracelets and kardiosensors. But the real revolution will produce a system that will combine sensor data and sensor condition of the body with genetic information. The Apps will give an opportunity to influence the physical state, recommending an appropriate lifestyle and a specific diet, supplements and medicines.
In 2012 and 2013 we saw significant data breaches across multiple industries and governments impacting millions of users. For instance, according to a recent study conducted by Ponemon Institute, nearly 1.5 million Americans have been victims of medical identity theft. Individuals whose medical information has been stolen often deal with erroneous medical expenses, insurance issues and incorrect data on medical records that can lead to fatal medical errors. And data security issues compromise more than patient privacy and personal data.
Is this an uncertain future we will have to live with? Can we accept degraded privacy and security and billions of dollars in lost revenue, damage, reduction in brand value and remediation costs?
Such issues will become the concern of more and more enterprise leaders. Thus, Data Security could be the biggest challenge for startups.
“Green Energy” field
We live in the world of limited subsoil resources. We may experience and in fact we do already experience their shortage. The time of “users” is close to the end and the era of “creators” is coming instead. The “creators” are sure, that the potential of the “Green Energy” is huge… and they are right. Every fifth kWh is got from renewable energy sources in the developed countries. Let’s see what is happening in the world:
Elon Musk, the creator of PayPal, has opened a company that produces electric cars Tesla. For three years they have produced quite expansive super-cars and rectified technologies …btw the technologies are still being improved ( hope you understand what I’m driving at…). Also the super-cars require refueling …with the help of solar batteries, which are quite widespread in the USA and Western Europe. By the way it is predicted that America, South Canada and most of Europe will be covered with solar stations by the end of 2015 year (another niche ;) ) and the solar batteries will be used not only for the refueling).
What I’m driving at …want to say that there will be need in different applications (including mobile apps as well) for its ordering, managing etc.
In conclusion I would like to wish you to find your niche and not be afraid of putting your ideas out and trying them. Good luck and thanks for the reading :)
The most important aspect of launching a startup is the team behind the idea. Here are best practices and helpful tips for identifying your ideal co-founder.
Entrepreneurship is a journey, and is often shared with other people. Choosing who you surround yourself with as an entrepreneur is critical, but choosing who you will found your business with is paramount. In fact, some VCs consider the business idea secondary to the team itself.
Whether you’re a first-time founder or a seasoned entrepreneur, choosing who you’ll go to battle with is, quite possibly, the most important decision you will make in the process. The co-founder relationship is like a marriage based on a large pool of shared resources. If you’ve had spats with your significant other over money, imagine you’re fighting over millions of dollars that have the potential to make you millions more.
“Behind the glamorous facade of founding and working in startups, being a founder (and especially a CEO founder) is one of the most stressful and LONELIEST jobs in the world. Having co-founders means you have people who are going through the same struggle and challenges as you are every single day with you,” said Tim Chae, entrepreneur-in-residence at 500 Startups.
There is no standard formula to help you find your startup soul mate, but here are a few things to consider when choosing a co-founder—or multiple co-founders.
Go with who you know
“The most successful true co-founder situations are ones where the people have known each other in other contexts, prior to the company at hand,” said Andreas Stavropoulos, a managing director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson.
This isn’t a license to go out and found a company with your childhood friend, it’s more of a charge to connect with someone on the interpersonal level beforehand. Spending time socially is not enough, you should spend time together working on a project—spending time together for the business. According to Dane Atkinson, CEO of SumAll.com, this can make or break a company.
“Co-founders are the foundation block that rocks most failed companies and strengthens winning ones. You MUST have a lengthy relationship with a co-founder PRIOR to founding. The ideal is a being part of another fox hole work environment where you can learn about each other through trials. As counterintuitive as it sounds, friends are your second best bet. In both cases you want to have common ground at the moral ideology level with a serious dosage of respect.”
The goal is to learn to work with someone before you learn to start and run a business. Relationships are hard, and it is best to work out the kinks before you decide to put it on the line starting a company. There is a honeymoon period for founders, when you feel like your ambition to disrupt will carry you to exit; but that period will end. According to Stavropoulos, investors are looking for a team that can weather the storm together. They want founders to “get through their first couple of fights before the money is in.” Stavropoulos said he is looking for a track record of getting things done, not just an impressive idea or rock star résumés.
Skill, style, and ego
Human beings tend to gravitate towards people that are similar to them. According to research on twins published in the journal Psychological Science, even our genes play a role in who we seek relationships with. With founders, the goal is to find the right amount of similarity.
“You’re looking for complementarity of skills, but similarity of styles,” said Stavropoulos.
In complementarity of skills, he means skills that enhance one another and help to fill in the gaps that may be lacking in your skill set. In addition to filling out your repertoire of skills, founders need to be looking for someone who can help complement other aspects of their business mindset. But, according to Scott Friend, a managing director at Bain Capital Ventures, it goes beyond just complementary skills.
“The crux of my opinion is to focus on complementary skills, capabilities, AND egos,” Friend said. “While the first part probably sounds obvious, it really comes together with the last (ego). It’s critical that co-founders not only have complementary skills—the classic ‘inside-outside’ split is common where one co-founder is the lead on sales, marketing, fundraising, business development and the other focuses on engineering, operations, product, etc.—but that their egos are wrapped up in different areas too.”
What Friend is getting at here is the concept of partnering yourself with someone whose sense of identity or victory is tied up in a different aspect of the business than yours is. That concept of “ego” has to do with where your pride in the business comes from. Does it come from giving presentations about your business or from building a team and meeting a deadline. Typically, the spotlight is only big enough for one person, and you need to establish who that person will be early on. The tech industry’s archetypal examples of this are Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak at Apple and Bill Gates and Paul Allen at Microsoft.
Up to this point we have talked a lot about complementarity, but similarity of style is just as important, especially in the early days. Most startups employ just their founders for quite some time, so you need someone whose style or work is similar to your own. You can diversify as you grow, but when you’re first starting out it is important that your rhythms are in sync. A morning person needs a morning person, an extrovert needs another extrovert, and so on. The way you work together needs to be compatible because you will probably be the only two people working.
Once you have an idea, you need to be able to pursue it, even in the face of adversity, if you want your startup to succeed. Although it is a great idea to support your pitch with data, investors want to know that you are going to follow through even when it is difficult. With that being said, there is a difference between being courageous and being reckless.
When investors like Stavropoulos are evaluating a team, they want to see people that can push to accomplish the ultimate goal of a company. With that in mind, they also want to see founders that are wise enough to know when one approach is not working and nimble enough to be able to change direction.
This is where a co-founder comes in handy. Founders will typically arrive at conclusions like this at different times, so it helps to have someone who is willing to point out flaws in an idea early so the course of action can be corrected.
Aside from these things there is one more trait a founder can have that VCs look for, according to Stavropoulos: “The ability to inspire others.” This is going to look different for different founders, but you want someone who will inspire people in their domain; whether that is finance, technology, business, or something else.
In evaluating your founding team, you must ask yourself: If you two are leading the charge, will others follow you into battle?
Every discipline has its own vocabulary, and project management is no exception. Part of the process of successfully deploying project management in your organization is to standardize the terminology. That way, when one person talks about risks, scope, issues, requirements, and other project management concerns, everyone else knows what he or she is referring to. This glossary contains common terms used in project management and can help start the standardization process in your organization.
There may be external circumstances or events that must occur for the project to be successful (or that should happen to increase your chances of success). If you believe that the probability of the event occurring is acceptable, you could list it as an assumption. An assumption has a probability between 0 and 100%; that is, it is not impossible that the event will occur (0%), and it is not a fact (100%) — it is somewhere in between. Assumptions are important because they set the context in which the entire remainder of the project is defined. If an assumption doesn’t come through, the estimate and the rest of the project definition may no longer be valid.
Client / customers
The person or group that is the direct beneficiary of a project or service is the client / customer. These are the people for whom the project is being undertaken (indirect beneficiaries are stakeholders). In many organizations, internal beneficiaries are called “clients” and external beneficiaries are called “customers,” but this is not a hard and fast rule.
Constraints are limitations that are outside the control of the project team and need to be managed around. They are not necessarily problems. However, the project manager should be aware of constraints because they represent limitations that the project must execute within. Date constraints, for instance, imply that certain events (perhaps the end of the project) must occur by certain dates. Resources are almost always a constraint, since they are not available in an unlimited supply.
The cost variance (CV) is used to measure the cost difference between a project’s earned value (EV) and the actual cost (AC) to deliver progress to date (CV = EV – AC). In application, positive CVs indicate the project is under budget, since it is delivering more value than incurring cost. If the project has a negative CV, it is over budget. Even positive CVs should be examined for root cause.
The critical path is the sequence of activities that must be completed on schedule for the entire project to be completed on schedule. It is the longest duration path through the workplan. If an activity on the critical path is delayed by one day, the entire project will be delayed by one day (unless another activity on the critical path can be accelerated by one day).
A deliverable is any tangible outcome that is produced by the project. All projects create deliverables, which can be documents, plans, computer systems, buildings, aircraft, etc. Internal deliverables are produced as a consequence of executing the project and are usually needed only by the project team. External deliverables are created for clients and stakeholders. Your project may create one or many deliverables.
Earned value (EV) is an EV management term used to determine the total work completed at a specific point in time. A project’s EV is determined by adding up all the budgeted costs for every task in the project schedule. The actual EV calculation can use a variety of calculation methods, including 0-100%, 50-50%, or an actual percentage to determine a task’s credited value.
The functional manager is the person you report to within your functional organization. Typically, this is the person who does your performance review. The project manager may also be a functional manager, but he or she does not have to be. If your project manager is different from your functional manager, your organization is probably utilizing matrix management.
A Gantt chart is a bar chart that depicts activities as blocks over time. The beginning and end of the block correspond to the beginning and end-date of the activity.
An issue is a major problem that will impede the project’s progress and that can’t be resolved by the project manager and project team without outside help. Project managers should proactively deal with issues through a defined issues management process.
Lifecycle refers to the process used to build the deliverables produced by the project. There are many models for a project lifecycle. For software development, the entire lifecycle might consist of planning, analysis, design, construct/test, implementation, and support; this is an example of a “waterfall” lifecycle. Other lifecycles include iterative development, package implementation, and research and development. Each of these lifecycle models represents an approach to building on your project’s deliverables.
A milestone is a scheduling event that signifies the completion of a major deliverable or a set of related deliverables. A milestone, by definition, has duration of zero and no effort. There is no work associated with a milestone. It is a flag in the workplan to signify that some other work has completed. Usually, a milestone is used as a project checkpoint to validate how the project is progressing. In many cases there is a decision, such as validating that the project is ready to proceed, that needs to be made at a milestone.
An objective is a concrete statement that describes what the project is trying to achieve. The objective should be written at a low level, so that it can be evaluated at the conclusion of a project to see whether it was achieved. Project success is determined based on whether the project objectives were achieved. A technique for writing an objective is to make sure it is Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound (SMART).
A program is the umbrella structure established to manage a series of related projects. The program does not produce any project deliverables — the project teams produce them all. The purpose of the program is to provide overall direction and guidance, to make sure the related projects are communicating effectively, to provide a central point of contact and focus for the client and the project teams, and to determine how individual projects should be defined to ensure that all the work gets completed successfully.
A program manager is the person with the authority to manage a program. (Note that this is a role. The program manager may also be responsible for one or more of the projects within the program.) The program manager leads the overall planning and management of the program. All project managers within the program report to the program manager.
A project is a temporary structure to organize and manage work and ultimately to build a specific defined deliverable or set of deliverables. By definition, all projects are unique, which is one reason it is difficult to compare different projects to one another.
The project baseline is used to establish the original set of budget and schedule estimates based on the approved project scope prior to project execution. Effective project managers compare the project baseline to the current project status to determine specific cost or schedule variances.
Project definition (charter)
Before you start a project, it is important to know the overall objectives of the project, as well as the scope, deliverables, risks, assumptions, project organization chart, etc. The project definition (or charter) is the document that holds this relevant information. The project manager is responsible for creating the project definition. The document should be approved by the sponsor to signify that the project manager and the sponsor are in agreement on these important aspects of the project.
Project Management Office
The Project Management Office (PMO) is an organization within a company that develops and enforces project management processes, tools, and techniques. A PMO may form at a program level, a department level, or at an enterprise level. A PMO typically provides support for program or portfolio governance, project portfolio management, resource management, and issue and risk management.
The project manager is the person with the authority to manage a project. The project manager is 100% responsible for the processes used to manage the project. He or she also has people management responsibilities for team members, although this is shared with the team member’s functional manager. The processes used to manage the project include defining the work, building the workplan and budget, managing the workplan and budget, scope management, issues management, risk management, etc.
A phase is a major logical grouping of work on a project. It also represents the completion of a major deliverable or set of related deliverables. On an IT development project, logical phases might be planning, analysis, design, construct (including testing), and implementation.
The project plan (not to be confused with the project schedule) is the document that describes the processes, tools, and techniques used to manage and control the project. Common processes include specific project level processes such as change management, issue management, risk management, document management, and time management for project schedule updates.
Project schedule / work schedule
The project schedule is commonly associated with Microsoft Project or a similar scheduling tool. The project schedule is the series of tasks with durations, resources, and specific dependencies that forecasts the project end date.
The project team consists of the full-time and part-time resources assigned to work on the deliverables of the project. They are responsible for understanding the work to be completed; completing assigned work within the budget, timeline, and quality expectations; informing the project manager of issues, scope changes, and risk and quality concerns; and proactively communicating status and managing expectations.
Request for proposal
The request for proposal (RFP) is a formal request used by organizations to identify potential solutions and services from a list of vendors. Based on the RFP, the organization will identify a smaller list of vendors to issue a request for quotation.
Request for quotation
A request for quotation is a formal request for a vendor to provide actual costs for a specific service or scope of work. The client typically provides a vendor with a set of requirements and instructions on how to respond to the request. The vendor provides its response, including details about the solution, assumptions, and pricing.
Requirements are descriptions of how a product or service should act, appear, or perform. Requirements generally refer to the features and functions of the deliverables you are building on your project. Requirements are considered to be a part of project scope. High-level scope is defined in your project definition (charter). The requirements form the detailed scope. After your requirements are approved, they can be changed through the scope change management process.
There may be potential external events that will have a negative impact on your project if they occur. Risk refers to the combination of the probability the event will occur and the impact on the project if the event occurs. If the combination of the probability of the occurrence and the impact to the project is too high, you should identify the potential event as a risk and put a proactive plan in place to manage the risk.
The schedule variance (SV) is an EV management term used to measure the project’s schedule performance by comparing the project’s EV to the project baselined planned value (PV). The formula is SV = EV – PV. A positive SV indicates the project is ahead of schedule, while a negative SV indicates the project is behind schedule.
Scope is the way you describe the boundaries of the project; it defines what the project will deliver and what it will not deliver. High-level scope is set in your project definition (charter) and includes all of your deliverables and the boundaries of your project. The detailed scope is identified through your business requirements. Any changes to your project deliverables, boundaries, or requirements would require approval through scope change management.
Scope change management
The purpose of scope change management is to manage change that occurs to previously approved scope statements and requirements. Scope is defined and approved in the scope section of the project definition (charter) and the more detailed business requirements. If the scope or the business requirements change during the project (and usually this means the client wants additional items), the estimates for cost, effort, and duration may no longer be valid. If the sponsor agrees to include the new work in the project scope, the project manager has the right to expect that the current budget and deadline will be modified (usually increased) to reflect this additional work. This new estimated cost, effort, and duration become the approved target.
Sometimes the project manager thinks that scope management means having to tell the client “no.” That makes the project manager nervous and uncomfortable. However, the good news is that managing scope is all about getting the sponsor to make the decisions that will result in changes to project scope.
Sponsor (executive sponsor and project sponsor)
The sponsor is the person who has ultimate authority over the project. The executive sponsor provides project funding, resolves issues and scope changes, approves major deliverables, and provides high-level direction. He or she also champions the project within the organization. Depending on the project and the organizational level of the executive sponsor, he or she may delegate day-to-day tactical management to a project sponsor. If assigned, the project sponsor represents the executive sponsor on a day-to-day basis and makes most of the decisions requiring sponsor approval. If the decision is large enough, the project sponsor will take it to the executive sponsor.
Specific people or groups who have a stake in the outcome of the project are stakeholders. Normally stakeholders are from within the company and may include internal clients, management, employees, administrators, etc. A project can also have external stakeholders, including suppliers, investors, community groups, and government organizations.
A steering committee is usually a group of high-level stakeholders who are responsible for providing guidance on overall strategic direction. They don’t take the place of a sponsor but help spread the strategic input and buy-in to a larger portion of the organization. The steering committee is especially valuable if your project has an impact in multiple organizations because it allows input from those organizations into decisions that affect them.
A waterfall methodology is a predictive life cycle methodology with sequential phases, which include Analysis, Design, Development, Testing, and Deployment. Predictive methodologies work well when the requirements and design are well defined, as found in the construction or manufacturing processes. For software projects, an agile methodology is recommended despite the abundance of waterfall methodologies found across industries.
Work breakdown structure
The work breakdown structure (WBS) is a list of major deliverables that the project team will complete during the project. The WBS is organized in a hierarchy and is typically decomposed into several sub-levels. A WBS can be used to visually define the project into smaller chunks, so the team can better understand and plan the activities needed to complete the deliverables. Diagramming tools such as Microsoft Visio or mind mapping tools such as Mindjet or MindGeniuscan be used to build a visual WBS.
The project workplan tells you how you will complete the project. It describes the activities required, the sequence of the work, who is assigned to the work, an estimate of how much effort is required, when the work is due, and other information of interest to the project manager. The workplan allows the project manager to identify the work required to complete the project and also allows the project manager to monitor the work to determine whether the project is on schedule.
Agile project management terminology
An agile methodology is an adaptive systems development lifecycle methodology that delivers software in incremental chunks known as iterations or sprints. In agile development, time is fixed, and scope is allowed to float from one iteration to another based on the team’s user story progress. An agile methodology is best used when requirements are not well defined.
Burn down chart
A burn down chart is a graphical view of the remaining work left versus the time in an iteration. A project backlog or hours can be expressed on the vertical axis, while time is indicated on the horizontal axis. A burn down chart is often used to determine when work will be completed on a project or an iteration.
An epic is a set of related user stories. They are also considered a “really big user story.”
An iteration is an iterative development concept that establishes a short time frame to deliver a set of software features or user stories. Each iteration includes typical waterfall activities such as analysis, design, development, and testing, yet they are time boxed within a one to four week window. At the end of an iteration, the progress is reviewed with the business customer, and recommended changes can be incorporated into future iterations.
Planning Poker is an estimation game created by Mike Cohn of Mountain Goat Software. Planning Poker is used to estimate individual user stories as a team activity. The team gathers and reviews user stories one at a time. As stories are presented, the team discusses the user story and provides an estimate of the work from their own deck of cards. All estimates are presented and discussed until the team arrives at a consensus.
A release is a set of working software delivered to the business customer resulting from a set of iterations. During release planning, teams will review a product backlog to organize user stories into the specific releases and iterations that deliver a functional product to the business customer.
Scrum is an iterative development methodology used to manage software projects. In scrum-based projects, there isn’t a specific project manager directing project team tasks; the team is self-directed, with co-located team members relying on communication over documentation for effective project delivery.
A sprint is a scrum-based agile methodology concept that is similar to an iteration. A sprint is time boxed to deliver a specific set of user stories and produce working features within a set time period. During sprint planning, the business customer or product owner specifies the user story priority, and the development team commits to the scope for a given sprint. During a sprint, user stories can be removed from the sprint scope, but new stories cannot be added; this allows project teams to focus on the goals of the sprint and deliver rapidly.
A story point is a relative estimation method used to determine the size of user stories so teams can determine how much work can be done during an iteration. Story points can be expressed in a simple Fibonacci sequence, t-shirt sizes, or a relative number. By adding up the number of user stories and associated story points, the project team can establish its velocity for future iteration planning.
A user story is an agile version of a project requirement. A user story is comprised of a couple of sentences that defines who, what, and why for a given requirement and can be documented on index cards or sticky notes. User stories are written by the business user to communicate the software need or want. User stories are intended to be concise, as communication between the business and development team is used to elaborate the user story and develop working software.
Hope this glossary will help your IT project teams standardize on frequently used project management terms, from critical path to work breakdown structure to scrum.