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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Execution is Everything

Execution is everything seems like a cliche I heard from many VC many times during the funding rounds. I learnt what it meant as soon as I got the Series A money.

Earlier in my 15 years of corporate life, we had management offsites to brainstorm strategy. Strategy was cool and execution seemed tactical. I didn't understand then as I loved the operational side of getting results.

Once you have a startup, execution means getting the job done. Delivering on what you promise your investors, employees, partners, the promise of what your vision is all about. Vision sounds again beautiful when you paint a dream. Execution seems like hard word.

I went to the bank to open a bank account with checks for $1million. Then I had the urgency to find office space and get our team into productive mode. We already had a core team in place, we used to meet at Tufts university in the cafeteria and designed the basic Coola system. Thanks for ASP servers, we even had basic tech infrastructure in place to start work.

I found that those people who rolled up their sleeves and were ready to do all the dirty work were the real startup people. They were the ones who learnt and grew. They were ready to adapt to change, but were execution people.

As founder/CEO (I use this term interchangablly as it all means the main work horse in the early days), I found I had to do more dirty work that I could not find the people to do or wasn't able to delegate.

So, thats what the VCs meant by execution is everything. They were using years of experience to spot the team capable of surviving the startup ephuohoria to hire, build a good team who could break the job to what needs to be done and do it happily because they really believed in the vision they were pitching.

I digress for a minute as I have to share with you my set of jokers who showed up to help with all sorts of consulting jobs that seems trivial, boring or just not-fun to do.

One was offering to get the office space and all logistics and get up up and running.
We all have moved in America. We know its not fun to call the phone company, electric company, Internet Access provider (even if its one the same companies), research options and get the best one and not to mention the office furniture, computers etc. He wanted a chunk of the company. No joke!

This was 1999 end, with all office space taken. Internet access took 3 months to get. I have intervied people for jobs with looming deadlines at work, but not for one like this. Well, I found he was not making any promise of delivery on time.

I got a sub-leased space from a company who had sold to a mid-west company and got the lease transferred to us and made that company leave behind the deposit to pickup later after we moved out so all was well within days.

I think if you plan ahead its good thing, but planning for hiring your team and technology and your first customer will be more important before you raise money.
So, if you work on this logistics remembering its your first exercise in managing your cash flow and remember how hard you worked to raise the money, it will get you into proper execution mode. And remember execution is everything.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I love Product Development Startup Style

My career has been shaped by my at-sight love of the Web and its potential. I have introduced the first Web applications at several firms I worked at. Each time it has been a new product development effort along with an evangelist role getting buy-in from several constituencies.

At Harcourt, I built out the product catalog integrating 27 divisional products of a $2billion company into harcourt.com, with a great team of people.

So, I came into my own startup thinking I know the tactical steps to make it all happen!

At Coola, we started with building a server software (ASP hosted server) and a client piece sitting on a Palm pilot. We launched this with a Press release saying "World's fastest way to Palm enable your web-site" and signed up 500 sites to put a button, which we called "Coolets" which encoded the information that the site owner wanted their users to take mobile, like an address, event, recepies, maps, documents etc. A user could click on any coolet from a site and the information will wait for them on Coola's site. Then when the user synched their Palm from anywhere (home or work or wirelessly), Coola would put the information onto the Palm into the right application for the type of information. For example, a Comdex Coolet will goto a calendar entry, while a map will go into an image reader on the palm and a document would go into one of 21 Doc readers on the Palm.

It was a chicken and Egg game to get people to put Coolets on their sites and users to download Coola clients to their Palms.

The fun and unexpected part of this ride for me was that the Product Development cycle was full of options to innovate. We signed Palm User Groups all around the country. Then we formed a product advisory of key Palm user group leaders to beta test each release of Coola, and give us feedback and new product requirements and iteratively built Coola and released each feature with a positive review from the Palm User Groups. They helped communicate product features and were a market extension of Coola team. I had a stellar team at Coola who worked with so much energy and synced with the market feedback.

I am so thankful to the Palm User Groups for Competitive analysis and helping us communicate our positioning to the world.

We started with a core server and client and added so many new products like "Send to a Friend" where one could click on a Coolet on a site and sent the information to the Palm of a trusted list of friends.

We added "1-Click"to add an entire site content to a Palm document reader.
We added "Coola's right-click" to scrape pieces of content from a site when a coolet was no present. We added "Doc Coolets" to sync Web content into 7 Document Reader softwares on the Palm and signed partnerships with all the Doc reader companies.

With each review and fan page giving direct market feedback, it was so easy for Engineering to work in the Product Developmentt Cycle with Extreme Programming, which usually takes tact on the part of Product Managers.

Of course, we kept our goals on getting market support to sign paying customers in Publishing sites like Boston.com (or New York Times), CIO.com, Coldwell Bankers etc.

The market feedback and support of earlier partnerships with Palm Software players helped us as we moved out to Enterprise market packaging Coola Server as a Mobile EAI Server for companies to integrate their corporate databases to sync into their own Applications into the Palm for clients including NIH, GE Medical, Wharton and Albany Medical. This was a new product, but a brand extension of Coola with a published APIs on both the server (J2EE) and client(on Palm OS. The Palm software players integrated Coola's Palm APIs into their Apps making it easy to establish credibility into the new Enterprise market.

Now, I cannot go back to old style Product development. I have such a hunger for listening to the market and executing in an interative style, which I believe suits any new company well, and oh! its soo much fun!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Inspiring Leaders and Great Advices

I have written about Advisors and my experience with them and the great people who helped me find the enterprenuer in me.

The more I think about it, I find humble leaders more inspiring. These are amazingly successful people who have achieved amazing feats but are very modest and well grounded.

My advisor Piyush Patel, sold his first startup Yago to Cabletron, became its CEO and scaled it and spun it into 4 public companies. He has taught me many business basics like focusing on your core team, setting goals for yourself and staying focused.

Desh Deshpande, serial enteprenuer, tech visionary and great startup metor is one such person. When I got started with my startup Coola ready to leave 10 years of Corporate management job, he helped me see where I stand in the middle of my career and my startup zeal. The best advice he gave is very useful for all enterprenuers getting started. Set a time limit and jump into raising money knowing you can go back to your job if you do not succeed. That way you are not dragging on in the early stages without getting started, also it will help you get out your best and get started in a timely fashion. I owe it to Desh's advice that I raised my first $1million Venture money on 40 days. As his advice, I set a 3 months limit to raise money and the first VC I contacted said, "you are so naive, even I want to signup today, the paperwork will take 3 months". That made me run like crazy to find a fast paced VC, meet 120 people, build my own draft Series A document and close in 40 days.


Jay Sidhu, currently CEO of Sovereign Bank is another such humble leader I admire. No, he was not my advisor at Coola but is someone I would like to meet.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Funding - Terminologies

A friend of mine was building a cap table for his first startup without knowing the term, so I thought its a good idea to link this glossory of terms from VC experts.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Company Valuations

There are some standard valuation method like discounted cash flow valuation, projected future valuation, or relative valuation against a company's history or against its competitors.
Please refer to Sterns University Prof. Damadaran's site, its an amazing collection of the lessons and spreadsheets to try it out too. Especially don't miss his Google Valuation spreadsheet.

I love the aritcle by Motley Fool on valuation. Here goes.

Also look at my startup valuation from last week

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Startup Advisor

I serve as an advisor to couple startups and get calls asking about advisors -who should be one, how to compensate them, what to expect of them, how to go about finding an advisor etc etc etc.

My advisors:
First, I had an amazing set of advisors for my first startup Coola, without whom I could not have taken off. They helped me find the enterprenuer in me. I am so thankful for them.
I cannot even list all of them here. Three people who helped me from start to finish were Paul English(then GM of Intuit Boston), Piyush Patel (CEO of Cabletron) and Ashish Gupta(VP of Amazon).
All of them were enterprenuers who built companies and sold to a large company.
All of them were very busy people who cared and found the time for me, who did not intimidate me for my dumb questions and set a high threshold for me to strive for, most important they have set role models for being an enterprenuer and a startup advisor.
Who were not my advisors:
I had my share of people who were patronizing. I met 120 people within 40 days when I raised my first $1MM venture money, when I met all kinds of people. There were people who asked me to pay a chunk of my company to come raise money for me and do all kinds of jobs they thought I could not do.

The key to being a successful enterprenuer is to learn to differentiate good people from not just bad, but mediocre people - for advisors, investors and employees.

Why do you need advisors:
They are like your sounding board, the can guide you, they can give you different point of views. This is needed when you try new things which is always in a startup and you want direction, help, validation. Then you decide and make decisions on the right course and execute on it.
From my experience of advisors, I find you need them for different purposes:
1. Advisors as your mentors
2. Advisors as industry experts
3.Advisors as sounding boards
4.Advisors as future potential team.
This is particularly important if you have a huge potential and want to scale your management team and someone you respect can come as an advisor and can get the confidence and synergy and come on board as your management team or future CEO.

How not to select advisors:
I have made my mistakes too. Here we go!
1. Don't go after someone just because they have a brand name in your industry. You can try someone with a brand name, but the variable should always be trust, respect and compatability.
2.Don't go after someone for his or her network
This always fails. My advisors all had great networks and made great intros, but that was not the reason to ask them to be your adviosr in the first place.
I found someone as my advisor for his association with a potential customer (large one) and wasted a lot of time as the underlying trust and respect was not built and he did not understand my company nor share my passion.

Advisor compensation:
I never paid my advisors. I do feel bad about it. They would not take any percentage of the company, which would have been trivial for them anyways. Writing this blog and helping other enterprenuers is my way of givig back what I got from my advisors.
The industry norm is 1/4 of 1 percent for advisor. Don't start by offering it. See if the relationship works both sides and then make the offer.
I offered all my advisors a choice to invest in my company early on and many took it. This way they get to participate in the upside of your growth when you exit.


Getting started with advisors:
This is the most common dilemma startup founders have. Do I just go ask someone to be my advisor? What would they say?
I would suggest that you make sure you like, trust and respect this person first. Then you can approach them and see if they get excited about you and your company.
Please start with a compensation plan. Advisors who start with asking for one and a startup founder starting offering one are not focusing on the trust in the relationship.
Some people are very structured and may ask the demands on their time and what you expect. Have an open honest discussion and it will help build the relationship or to decide if this person will not workout as your advisor.

Interesting Advisor Attempts of mine that failed to make by Advisory:
In the initial Coola days, since we were building out a horizontal software platform, we had no focus. I thought of it as a standard setting game. So I went to W3C and tried to get an advisor to help me out. Obviously, I found a great person, but there are no synergy in our passion towards mobile technology and Coola and it did not work out. The lesson was to wait before declaring some one as your advisors.

Similarly, I had a VC who was a great advisor. I decided to keep him as a friend and informal advisor than pitch to him for money as our styles were different, but he was a great sceptic and sounding board. I did not get an advisor, but got a friend.

Interesting Advisors and Rare Sources:

One of my investors wanted to get someone on my board when I was not quite ready instead that person became a friend and advisor and eventually invested his money too.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Startup Valuation - For an Enterprenuer raising venture money

This is a huge topic. My experience comes from couple areas - raising money for Coola and my work from Harcourt evaluating tech companies for aquisition during the dot com boom.

Most important point I learnt about Startup Valuation is that its different based on perception of who you are, what is in it for you and of course changing market around the startup.

We'll revisit this topic again, for now lets focus on the basics.

Here I am going to focus on the Enterprenuer raising money!

Your startup valuation depends on
a) primarily on you and your core team. Its your word about the promise of how you will build what your promise to the projects your list in your bplan. So, if this is your second or third startup, your previous history talks for you. In my personal experience, I think a first time Enterprenuer can display a higher degree of passion and dream higher (in my case it was because of the ignorance of several difficulties of the business world).

b)Your product (or service). VCs may ask to see a prototype and send you to work on technology, which may take time away from company building and raising money. In all fairness it helps them to understand your product better and if you do it right, you can use this to build your core team and scope your product right.

My only advice is not to build a scaled down version of the product without real customer input.
During my early Coola days, I went to several prospective customers to validate the market and their input helped.

So, if yours if a complex tech product that needs money to build you can build a prototype that shows some functionality visually for the investors to see what the customer will potentially see.

c) Customer and Revenues Yeah, right! How do we get them before the product and team for which we need the money in the first place.
Didn't I tell you in the beginning this is a chicken and egg game :-))
You can take your idea (in powerpoint or GUI of product screen as prototype) and show to potential customers and see if you can get some interest.

This can help immensely with scoping the product, especially not going down the road of adding features without considering usability from the customer perspective. More important is that it will help tryout diffferent ideas for your real business model.
If its a software product, what kind of lisencing arrangement may work for your market?
Its easy to start as an ASP instead of a lisenced software for a startup, but enterprise customers won't like it.

Did I tell this is was one of the advices I got in the early Coola days and since Web businesses were booming, I chose the ASP route and went to Web businesses to put Coola Buttons to get their site content to Palm Pilots via Coola. We had 500 sites signup ad go live, including Boston.com, CIO.com, Wharton, even Palm.com, but very few very revenue customers. Then 1 year later we moved to enterprise market with a lisence of Cool Servers, then we got real customers and money!
d) Your market What market are you operating in? There are some valuation range for businesses operating in Financial markets vs Manufacturing market. This can be arrived a logically by looking at your market size, and potential estimates of how big your company can grow.

So, its common for enterprenuers to go about describing their business as "Google of blah blah space". It has an additional advantage. It helps the investor understand your business model and dream of how big you want to be.

Thats the basic list for first round investor perceptions of valuation.

e) Competition This is more applicable for second and further rounds of funding. The valuation of your competition in public markets or in their rounds of funding helps set the range for yours for the same reason of market size. It also serves as a comparable metric for what your company can achieve.
The trick in the early stages is to try and position yourself uniquely so such comparisons are not easy. Of course all Enterpreneurs would swear that their idea is very unqiue and as no competition. I did too :-)) I still do ;-))

f) Geography I don't know how much logical reasoning is behind this one. I heard repeatedly from investors that I would get a higher valuation from West coast than east coast. I had my lead investor from east coast and closed my Series A at $5Million pre money and was happy with it.

ok, See you next time, I'll write about valuation from the corporate buyer perspective then.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Start of a Startup - How to focus and move ahead in the early days

I have a new passion called Moomli (http://www.moomli.com) meaning "My Only One Moment to Liberate India". Its a social enterpreneurship venture to help grassroot charities in India.

Moomli (http://www.moomli.com/) helps Indians abroad send charity greeting cards to their family in India and gives the proceeds to the charities. The cards are all real cards with a real story behind it.

Today I want to share a dilemma every enterpreneur faces everytime with a new startup.

It is "Where to start and what to focus on?".

The beauty of a startup is that you can run very very fast and work beyond your known limits and its so much fun. I have written many times about Team Building . So, assuming you have a great team, there are going to be lots of ideas, real good ones.

So, every startup team faces this sooner or later - what to focus on.

I believe, the same idea given to different teams with the same initial resources can lead to totally different companies because its the team that executes that is going to run faster and set directions based on the team culture.

So, it would be a good idea early on to start a process by which you decide to focus your energies collectively. It could be a discussion forum or friday get togethers whatever works for your team.

During my startup, Coola, thanks to the advice of Piyush Patel, I had a working plan with some target dates even before I raised venture capital. We kept updating this and it gave us a sense of accomlishment as we reached some goals, made us look back laugh at our own naiveté for some others. We updated them as we had major direction changes. I also got a similar plan from my different teams - CTO, Marketing, Sales etc as we grew, and this helped sync up their efforts towards a common goal.

Please note, this does not have to be a beauracratic process, but putting a plan in writing helps.

The problem is in the very early days when team boundaries are not set and everyone is full of ideas. I could't find any other way around this, you the founder have to be the bad cop and hear it out and make decisions so that in the short term you can go after the low hanging fruits and have some synergy towards where the company is headed long term.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Accounting Software and CPA

Keeping your books clean saves a lot of time during the year end tax period. It is a good habit to keep your books uptodate and check on your cash flows so you can see how you are growing and pla your capital needs.

Yeah, I agree its not the fun part of startup.

It makes sense to invest in an accounting software right away.
Here is a comparison of the different accounting softwares and their costs.
http://www.entrepreneur.com/features/softguide/detail/1,5804,,00.htmlsCat=Accounting/Financial

I do my banking online, so I find it easier to pay all my bills online. That way I can get a report of the months activity. So I prefer my bank to sync into my accounting software. That may not be everyone's needs.

If you have an ecommerce business, it may save costs to find a merchant account who may also serve as your bank for writing checks so you have one less account to manage. Of course, you have to weigh this with the additional costs involved.

At the end of the year, I always hire a CPA who helps close my books, audit and help pay my franchise taxes and submit my annual report for state and federal. My favorite CPA is Theresa Dave in Boston area.

Team - finding partners

I have written about the core team couple times, still I learn something new everyday, so here I am! My advisor Paul English used to have such emphasis on the team that I recall everyday

Your team is important because it defines the success of your company. Since a typical startup does not work 9 to 5, you are likely to see/interact with your team mates a lot, so your overall happiness about your startup depends on your trust and comfort level with your team partners.

When you start with a core team, you all have the excitement about the promise of the product/company. For a set of people to work successfully as a team, you need

(a) a common vision.
This sounds mighty, but you cannot dream and stick together when things pick up speed and offer several options to go in all directions (good or bad) unless you all share the same dream. So you need to have the same vision about your product/service and the joy of solving a customer problem. You may even want to think of a similar timeline and exit.

(b) respect for the team
The whole team should have respect for each other in what the other person brings. This helps the team in the early forming stages to settle down productively with areas of responsibilities, but it may not always be possible to find people with complimentary skills and who know and understand what the next person brings. More important is the appreciation for the team that together you can achieve more than each person alone.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Comparing Incorporating Costs Charts - My shortlist Finalists Detailed Comparison





Company/Sitewww.amerilawyer.comwww.bizfilings.comwww.thedelawarecompany.comwww.corporate.com
Basic Package$118.95$229$299$199
DE State Feesincluded$89included$89
Registered Agent 1st yr$90 every year6 months inc then $1291st yr included then $991st yr included then $199
Fed Tax Payer ID Help basic$35includedincluded$49
My Total$294$318 $299$337


One more item we need is Certified Copy of State Filed Documents (for open bank acct etc) for which bizfilings.com charges $65, I am waiting to find out if others in my list include it in their basic package.

Another item to consider is the number of shares issued on startup.

Amerilaywers gives a default of 20,000 shares at $.001 par value while bizfilings.com gives 1500 shares at $0 par value. This will affect your Franchise taxes as the min in $35 upto 3000 shares unless you have no assets and use the Assumed Gross Assets method when you pay the franchise fees.

Comparing Incorporating Costs Charts - My shortlist Finalists

bizfilings.com
amerilawyer.com
thedelawarecompany.com
corporate.com

What is the best eCommerce Credit Card Processing System

Understanding the Basics:

First you need to understand how it works

Option1: A merchant account
It comes with several fees. Lot of people don't list all the fees involved so we had to search a lot to compare apples to apples.

Here is a good FAQ about the various merchant fees involved. http://www.merchantseek.com/introguideprint.htm

(i) Setup Fees and Monthly Fees: My goal was to stay away from upfront setup fees and fixed monthly fees as we didn't know what our volume will be so we didn't want to pay $100+ for setup and $20/month without knowing what we'll make per month.

(ii)The second fee is transaction % fee and transaction fee in $/cents. Even 20cents per transaction becomes big if your average customer sale is small. Otherwise this doesn't matter much.

This site is a good search toot to find a merchant acount that works for your business http://www.merchantseek.com/index.shtml

Option 2: Paypal account

I was under the impression that a paypal merchant account will offer only paypal method of payment. They have several options that offers paypal plus standard credit card processing for ecommerce sites.

I like the paypal standard account https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_wp-standard-overview-outside
Here is a good comparision of all the options at paypalhttps://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_feature-and-pricing-comparison

Software Integration Time and Costs
One factor you should consider apart from the fees is the effort (tech resources, time) involved in integrating any of these credit card processing options to your site.

Authorize.net is the most famous merchant gateway software and integrated with Mambo, the coolest Content Management System ever. You'll find many of the options on the net are Authorize.net dealers.

A good referal I've got from a friend was for:

npc.net - However, I haven't been able to get any response back from them to find out about the prices. They just don't want to email or call me back.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Coola Closing - Lessons Learnt Summary

The lessons I learnt from my first startup Coola are lots.

I am surprised that I learn even today from some advices that I did not follow then, but they come back to me with their full meaning now as I am working on my next startup. My advisor Paul English helped me focus on team building from a startup perspective and pushed me towards being aggressive to find any all players evolvng in the Palm space to hire smart individuals or co-opt with other startups closer to Coola. I understand the value of that more today as I advice some startups more though I followed the advice and built the smart Palm technology team possible at that times.

I'll tell you more on this with specifics as they apply to you, the emerging enterprenuer later.

I learned a lot from just the closing experience. Here's an article sumamrizing my Coola lessons learnt.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Accounting basics

Accounting - Yeah, its important.

Its important to keep your books clean right from the start, so you don't spend too much time during year end tax periods.

Here is a good siteto learn the basic terminologies.

My personal preference is to get a reliable accountant to maintian your books monthly. We had a good accountant who came in few hours every month at $30/hour in Boston. She saves us all the money we paid us by getting us the best tax savings during the year end.

We'll visit taxes separately again.

Team is ready, now get a Shareholder Agreement

We had an amazingly good law firm, Bingham and Dana from Boston with my previous firm Coola. That has set a basic standard for me as to what all a company should have when we get started.

I am also a believer of keeping our books clean and maintaining all neccessary documents and complaince. It will make a big difference for a potential buyer if your exit option is to sell your firm.

I find this article by Mike Volker giving the basics about shreholder agreements, so beautifully that it doesn't make sense me repeating it all over again. I also like the fact that he gives a basic shareholder agreement to use as a basis.

Another resource I like is Busines power law site , though they sell legal documents (I am not affiliated with them nor have I used their services) offer three set of shareholder agreements simple, moderate and complex.

You can use this to get an idea and decide what your team needs and then approach a lawyer instead of gettin educated (and scared) by paying an hourly rate to a lawyer. An estimate I have got for a shareholder agreement is basic one for $250 from amerilawyer and 15 hours at whatever rate from a lawyer.

Hope this helps.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Starting an Ecommerce Business

I shall cover several aspects of an ecommerce business here.

First comes cost estimates.

There are so many options for Merchant Accounts and Credit Card Processing companies.
I like Andy Quick's article about Choosing and Internet Merchant Account. for understanding all the hidden costs involved. I'd recommend using this to project the costs to evaluate whether the big idea that you see is really as big you think. Finally, cash flow will decide if you continue in business or make compromises to exit or take VC terms that you don't like later on.

Another article that gives all the hidden costs is here

You have to find the best option based on your projected sales volumes because what makes sense for you may be different from what works best for another site with different business peaks.

Another note from my personal experience is about being able to retreive the monies out.
In Coola, we setup credit card processing right when a customer was ready to pay. It worked out fine as customers charged and paid online. The difficulty came when we wanted to take the money out to manage our own cash flow. Different companies have different rules for taking the monies(that you have rightfully earned) out based on their own payment cycles which may be once a month.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Comparing Incorporating Costs

I am talking about a C Corp DE options and pricing here, though the same companies do incorporation for all states or S Corp etc.

Going to a law firm costs around $1500 from my recent estimates.

You can find a lot of cheap options on the Internet. I decided to ask for reference from fellow enterprenuers and short-listed to 4 ptions. What was amazing that everyone thought that theirs was the cheapest and it appeared so as soon as I looked at it. Then I found that each company buried 1 item's cost in their price.

So, here I list the key items I think you need to get on a C Corp DE incorporation and who offers it in their basic package vs charges separately, so you can compare and decide whats best for you.

Items Required and Best Price I found by references

Basic Package
Articles of Incorporation
Corporate Charter
Corporate minutes
Corporate by-laws
Corporate kit
Stock certificate
Corporate seal
Preliminary name search.

Additional items you need unless you are located in Delaware:
You need a registered agent at Deleware if you are a business located outside Delaware. We used CSC Corporation from my previous company Coola and they were very responsive and good. I started comparing options as I wanted one offered by the same company who did my incorporation.

Registered Agent (fees are different for first year vs. subsequent years), so ask for costs involved.

Registered Agent Address on Incorporation docs. This is an add-on to get your company incorporated with the DE Agent address instead of your home address if you are starting small. Doesn't mean anything if all goes well. I found that people wake me up at my home asking questions about why I closed Coola and whether I can help them start the same idea as they thought there was still a market for it. All because Coola was incorporated with my home address and contact and we forgot to move it our offices once we setup offices.

Registered Agent as a corporate office address and forwards mail

Add-Ons needed:
Federal Tax Payer ID Form Filling Help:
(I've listed the basic form price here, most sites offer a service to get the actual Fed Tax payer ID itself for an additional $35 to $50)

General Counsel: I found this nice add-on at http://www.amerilawyer.com for $89.00 if you select it during incorporation or its available at $139 per annum after that. I spoke to the lawyers there and believe they are very responsive and this might be a worthy add-on when u need a lawyer consult dring your first few years before you retain a law firm.

Once you scale and have employees you need the following. You don't need it if you are couple shareholdes working off your homes andhave no payroll or hires yet. (Check with a lawyer on specifics of DE Labor laws)

Department of Labor Registration $35
Delaware New Hire Reporting $35

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Team Building - Your singlemost important driver for success.

Your team defines your survival and success of your company and dreams!

So, your first goal should be to motivate and hire your core team.

The early startup days process:

U need to think execution, and build out your team. Assign responsibilities so that u can focus outwards on investors, partners and customers who will buy into your vision. Think what all skills u need. U can do many things, most are not as exciting as some others u'd like to do, many are waste of your time if u can find the rest person to do it. So make a list of what skills your company needs and what all u have in your team/people involved. Then, u can look for more people and bring them in as a parallel process.
But most important is to expand your core team with people who can grow your company and offer alternative skills and perspective t yours. Its likely this is a person who has worked with you or knows you well and your styles complement each other.

Difference from traditional team-building in a company:

If u are like me and have worked in a large company, u are pretty spoilt.
The main difference is the motivation style in a startup. You want people who take ownership in their jobs and are proud to be part of the vision. Its amazing when u have the right team, the enery flow is so intoxicating!

Your experience level and hiring your team as startup Founder/CEO:

I thought I was in management in my corporate jobs till I really moved to senior management roles in 1999.
The key difference is this. You are in middle management if u think of your team as people u can delegate work and u manage them. In companies you have lots of perks and jargons to keep this game alive.
When u are in senior management, your butt is on fire for delivering something that you have to figure out a way to get done and keep finding such projects and results with a big picture as your goal, mostly your bottomline, unless you are in too cosy a job that doesn't track it and lets you get away from it.

As a startup CEO, founder, you are in senior management even before you start. Your bottomline is survival and success. So you need to expand your core team to complementt your skillset and grow your company leaving you to do well, what you are good at.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Getting Started - terminologies and incorporation

Here is a nice site that will help you learn VC Terminologies.

I am a big fan of starting out a straight C Corp. Here is a checklist of all that needs to be done as part of incorporation. Read this before you look for pricing from any of the incorporation sites which offer you cheap packages.

It is important to incorporate and stay in compliance with all the neccessary paperwork now than to worry about surprises when you try to exit.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Why hear it from me?

I met 120 people and raised $1Million in 40 days (in Feb 2000) , built a wonderful team of 20 people and a great Mobile product with a little short of million users and several corporate and web business customers, hired and fired employes, built a developers network of 50 Palm OS companies, raised a Series B of 5MM (got term sheet didn't close) and decided to scale down operations, changed direction from a consumer ASP business to a Server product company, signed new corporate customers revenues and finally closed the company after 3 years.

I am working on my second startup moomli.com an ecommerce and scheduling system to help Charities in India by selling greeting cards made by kids and women in Indian charity organization to be scheduled to be sent to friends families or orphans in India.

I have danced on the shoulder of giants
I struggled at every stage to get neccessary documents, learn the nesscessary terminologies, validate every risk I was taking with hep from several well-wishers and always got help. I owe it to several modest, successful, busy people who found the time and interest to stop and listen to me and help me.

Here, I plan to share my experience and learnings to help starting a startup and finding the enteprenuer in you and to let you know its worth it just for the ride not to mention , I want to make a place to share those advice and templates people have been locating me on linkedin :-))