How to Start a Startup
A Step-by-Step Guide for 2021

Entrepreneurs working at a startup office.

Startups are businesses created with rapid growth in mind that shake up their industry and challenge the status quo. If you’re a self-motivated, passionate, creative, and adaptable person with a great idea; you might be made for startup entrepreneurship.

Learn more about how to launch your own business with this guide on how to start a startup. You can also use the drop-down below to learn how to start a startup in your state!

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How to Create a Startup

1. Determine if You Have What It Takes to Found a Startup

Launching a startup is not for the weak at heart.

Starting and growing any business takes dedication. Launching a startup takes even more.

Creating a startup is not just coming up with a great idea. It also involves building your entrepreneurial network, planning your startup, funding your startup, registering your startup, setting up an accounting system, marketing your startup, and growing your startup. If this sounds like a lot, it’s because it is.

Launching a startup is probably going to involve you doing a lot of learning. But, don’t worry. There are a lot of resources to help you along your entrepreneurial journey.

What Is an Entrepreneur?

What exactly is an entrepreneur? Merriam-Webster defines an entrepreneur as someone “who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” Similarly, the Oxford definition is “a person who makes money by starting or running businesses, especially when this involves taking financial risks.”

However, while these describe many people who start a business, when we think about startup entrepreneurs, there are a number of characteristics that stand out.

Know the Entrepreneurship Characteristics Required

Although there are numerous types of entrepreneurs, there are a number of common characteristics often attributed to startup founders. Some of the most important entrepreneur characteristics are passion, creativity, motivation, and self-discipline. Entrepreneurs also have to be adaptable, observant, and willing to take risks.

Other common characteristics often attributed to entrepreneurs include:

  • Driven
  • Energetic
  • Innovative
  • Enthusiastic
  • Independent
  • Autonomous
  • Need for Achievement
  • Thinks Outside of the Box
  • Networkers
  • Organizers
  • Curious
  • Open-Minded

A keen sense of the industry’s problems and challenges acquired through industry experience can give you and your startup a competitive edge. However, not every startup CEO has a technical background or experience to pull from. Many successful entrepreneurs simply have the vision and foundational skills to run a company, and they hire qualified employees to fill the gaps in their skillset.

Recommended: Are you ready to create a startup and become an entrepreneur? Take the Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out! You can also visit our startup founder series to gain insights and advice from founders themselves.

Watch our latest founder interview to learn more about what it takes to launch your own startup!

2. Choose, Develop, and Refine Your Startup Idea

If you are looking for startup ideas, one of the first places to begin your search is by looking at what you already know. This includes your capabilities, skills, interests, and passions. The most common sources of business ideas draw from people’s work experience, education and expertise, hobbies and personal interests, and technological knowledge and skills. Keep in mind, however, you are not limited to your current skill set. For example, there are many tech startup founders that are non-technical. 

You should also consider how close the startup idea is to your sweet spot. What is your sweet spot? Think of it as the place where your capabilities and skills and your interests and passions all align with an attractive opportunity. When brainstorming or searching for ideas for startups, look for those within this sweet spot.

Startup Ideas diagram.

Attractive new business opportunities, those created with rapid growth in mind, are desirable, feasible, sustainable, and timely. Feasibility indicates that you have, or can acquire, the skills and resources needed for the project. Desirability means you want to do it — the risk vs. the reward is worth it to you. Sustainability means that it will last and is economically viable, socially responsible, and environmentally friendly. Timeliness means that now is the right time for the market, the idea, and also for you.

Analyze the Industry Landscape and Develop Your Idea

Before you launch a startup, analyzing the state of the industry landscape, including the funding environment, the market size, and the competitive landscape, is vital to launching a successful startup. The goal of doing this is to establish whether there is ample opportunity within the industry to support your entrepreneurial goals.

Funding Environment

In order to launch a startup, you will need some amount of funding, whether you choose to save your own money (“bootstrap”) or seek investment from venture capitalists. Answering these questions should help you establish what you need to know about the funding environment of your chosen industry. It could also potentially lead to more industry-specific questions that will provide you with the answers you need to get started, such as:

  • What are the common sources for startup capital for this industry?
  • What type of funding will my startup need?
  • What startup stage does my company need to be at in order to acquire adequate funding?
  • Is funding highly competitive in this industry?
Competitive Landscape

Analyzing the competitive landscape gives you a better idea of your startup’s unique value proposition (UVP), allowing you to focus on pivoting the business model to make your startup stand out. There are two ways to conduct a competitive landscape analysis — researching your competitors and identifying the market structure.

Start by identifying who your competitors are, the impact they have on your startup (are they primary competitors or secondary competitors), as well as their content, marketing strategy, and social media.

Then, evaluate the data you’ve collected to establish their strengths and weaknesses, target markets, and the threat they could pose to your startup’s success. Pay attention, additionally, to the challenges startups in the industry are currently facing and how you could approach the problem from a different angle to set your startup apart. It can also be helpful to look at innovations from different industries to identify ideas you could apply to your industry and startup.

Market Structure

Next, you need to establish the industry’s market structure. There are three distinct market structures: winner takes all (WTA), winner takes most (WTM), and fragmented.

A winner-takes-all market (you can think of this as an oligopoly or duopoly) is when one or two companies dominate the industry or at least 80% of industry market shares, such as Google or Amazon. A WTA market is categorized as such by a few factors: scalability, global distribution capabilities, and network size that allows them to offer extremely competitive pricing smaller companies can’t offer. In addition to this, the cost to switch from a top company to a smaller competitor is high.

A winner-takes-most market, comparatively, is defined by the top ten companies in the industry taking the largest percentage of market shares. An example is the ride-share industry, which is defined by companies like Uber, Grab, Bolt, and Lyft. This is an ideal market for venture capital-focused startups because it offers high scalability and more opportunity. A WTM market is categorized as such by a few factors: multiple services or products are able to operate simultaneously (such as Facebook and Twitter), the network is more localized and less global, and there are antitrust regulations in place.

A fragmented market means no company owns a majority share of the market, and therefore, no company has market influence. Typically, these businesses will not grow to venture scale. A few of the common industries of this type are creative businesses, retail, and distribution. Industries that are part of fragmented markets tend to have low entry barriers and scalability isn’t a focus as it's not necessarily beneficial to these startups.

Market Size and Demographics

Market size varies greatly by industry. It is critical to understand the market your startup has available to it, including the market size as well as consumer locations and demographics such as age, gender, and average income.

An effective analysis of a startup’s potential market makes it easier to assess the opportunity available (or lack of opportunity) and plan more effective marketing and product development strategies. Consider industry trends and where there may be creating new pain points, new sources of demand, or new/underserved market segments.

Projected Growth

The value of your industry today is essential information to understand the state of the market and the industry’s impact. But, what does research show about the industry’s projected growth? If the industry is growing fast, do some research to identify the factors that are driving that growth.

Additionally, try to recognize a segment of the industry where existing products or services aren’t meeting the needs of the market. Pain points in the industry that aren’t being addressed (or addressed well) offer an opportunity for you to make your stamp on the industry.

Research and Refine Your Idea

Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of your industry, competitors, and the industry’s projected growth, your next step is to research and refine your startup idea and solidify your minimum viable product. There are two common rules of thumb you should keep in mind when refining your startup idea:

  • The product or service should be 10 times better than the existing solution.
  • The product or service should solve the problem, not simply supplement it. (i.e. a painkiller instead of a vitamin)

If your product or service will cost more than existing solutions, you are going to need to work harder to get customers to adopt the new product or service you’ve created. It can be difficult and expensive to gain traction with an “evolutionary” innovation; however, it isn’t impossible. And, while this is especially true for higher-cost products, it can still apply to cheaper products that aren’t necessarily easy for consumers to adopt.

Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for pitching your product or service to potential customers:

  • Conduct interviews with customers you think might buy this product. Ideally, you will be able to use this insight to refine your value proposition or target audience, if necessary.
  • Use tools and software available to discover, organize, and learn from industry and market data. Some popular tools are Statistica, Think With Google, KNIME, and Pickfu.
  • Utilize startup incubators or startup accelerators in your area to network with other entrepreneurs that can help with brainstorming and fine-tuning startup ideas.
  • Establish the product market fit and, in turn, market validation.

3. Create Your Startup Roadmap

Create a Business Model Canvas

Once you have zeroed in on a startup idea and name, you will then need to develop your idea into a viable startup. This is the process of business planning. And, one of the first steps in business planning is writing it down.

Whether you begin with an informal or formal business plan, the process of writing your business plans down requires you to think through all of the key elements of your business. It allows you to take an in-depth look at your industry, market, and competitive position. It helps you set goals, determine your keys to success, and plan your strategies. It requires you to explore your financial projections and manage cash.

There are many different types of business plans, depending on the stage of your venture and the purpose of your business plan. In the earliest stages of your business idea, you may want to start with an informal business plan such as the business model canvas.

Once you are ready to begin seeking investments, you will most likely be required to provide a formal business plan to lenders and potential investors.

Informal business plans can include anything from writing an idea down in an idea journal to jotting down a quick three-sentence business plan or sketching out a lean canvas or business model canvas.

The business model canvas, created by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup, helps map out the nine key areas of a startup. These nine areas include:

  • Customer Segments — describes your target market(s)
  • Value Proposition — depicts the value that your product or service provides
  • Channels — summarizes how you will communicate with and reach each customer segment
  • Customer Relationships — describes the types of relationships (and how) that you will establish with each customer segment
  • Revenue Streams — reports on how you plan to generate income from each customer segment
  • Key Resources — describes the assets required to make your business model work
  • Key Activities — describes the most important activities your business must do to make your business model work
  • Key Partnerships — identifies who you will be forming relationships with in order to maintain customer relationships, reach customers, acquire resources, and completing key activities
  • Cost Structure — provides an overview of the cost structure to operate your business model

Create a Pitch Deck

Before you secure funding as an early stage startup, there are a few things you need to have in place to increase the likelihood that your pitch is successful, whether you’re reaching out to angel investors or attempting to acquire a small business loan. The most important being your pitch deck.

Crafting a compelling story is essential not only to the success of your startup but also to creating an impactful pitch deck. This is one of the most important differences between a pitch deck and a business plan. The latter is more of a business execution plan than a depiction of the company’s vision. Additionally, you should also think about your elevator pitch, a 30-second pitch that includes the pertinent information about your company that will appeal to an investor.

A startup’s pitch deck should include the following;

  • An introduction to your startup
  • Examples of problems or issues your startup aims to solve
  • Examples of the solutions your product or service provides
  • The size of the market and opportunity
  • A clear description of your startup’s product or service
  • An outline of the projected growth, major goals, and future steps
  • An introduction to your core team members
  • Define your competitors and establish your competitive advantage
  • Prove your financial planning and management ability
  • A description of how investment funds will be used and why you need them

4. Build Your Founding Team and Entrepreneurial Network

Find Co-Founders

Startups with two founders are 19% less likely to scale prematurely than startups with a solo founder. Research shows that aspiring entrepreneurs launching a startup without a cofounder take 3.6 times longer to see significant growth — enough to outgrow the startup stage.

Despite these statistics, not all startup owners need a co-founder to be successful in their startup journey. Bringing on co-founders is all about filling important gaps to ensure all of the company’s needs are met, such as:

  • Skills gaps
  • Leadership experience
  • Industry Knowledge gaps
  • Startup experience
  • Fundraising experience
  • Personality gaps

If you do choose to bring on a co-founder, you need to have a founders’ agreement. This document outlines all expectations now and in the future. Including roles and responsibilities, vesting, anticipated roles (i.e., CEO), expected capital contribution, equity or compensation, and time commitment. For example, if you are going to utilize venture capital, you will most likely want founders to agree to a full-time commitment.

Find Advisors if Needed

Startup advisors can be especially helpful during the beginning stages of startup ownership if you aren’t fully confident in a specific aspect of business ownership, such as legal and compliance requirements, marketing, or manufacturing. Additionally, startup advisors are helpful in making key introductions to help your startup grow as well as helping develop ideas and concepts for the company.

Depending on the type of startup you’re launching, there are two common methods for finding a startup advisor. For high-scale startups, investors (venture capitalists or angel investors, typically) are often great startup advisors. However, if you’re launching a business that doesn’t have high growth in mind, you can find startup advisors through resources such as SCORE or the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in your area.

Keep in mind that it’s important for all parties involved that you create an advisor agreement. This document solidifies the terms of your relationship, whether that means solidifying that the advisor is compensated with equity or simply outlining the time commitment and method of communication.

Hire a Lawyer if Needed

The next step is learning how to find a great lawyer for your startup. What makes a good startup lawyer, essentially, is understanding the nuances of startups, such as establishing deal terms with venture capital firms and applicable business taxes.

Every company should build a relationship with a lawyer to help with all of the legal requirements associated with forming and operating a business. Not only will your lawyer be essential in ensuring that your startup is legally formed without a hitch, they can help ensure that your business stays compliant if you plan to implement customized vesting schedules or share allocations.

Network Network Network

Networking is one of the most impactful tools for startup entrepreneurs to grow and support their businesses. There are many different networking resources available to entrepreneurs, such as startup incubators, networking events, and local entrepreneur communities to make connections. To develop the most impactful networking strategy, you need to connect with a wide range of people, such as:

  • Fellow entrepreneurs or founders
  • Advisors or mentors
  • Potential customers
  • Industry Leaders
  • Investors
  • Members of your local startup community
  • Training programs
  • Hackerspaces and makerspaces
  • Connections to investors
  • Online communities

5. Formally Establish Your Startup

Name Your Startup

Naming your startup is a very important consideration. Choosing an optimal name depends on the type of business, industry, and target audience. 

Once you have chosen a name, you will need to ensure that the name you choose is not already in use and that the domain name is available. You can do this by searching the web, Federal Trademark Records, and your state’s Secretary of State website (or equivalent state department).

If the name you were hoping to use is already in use, you will have to come up with another. If you end up having trouble coming up with a name, here are a few tools that might help:

  • How to Name a Startup: TRUiC’s How to Name a Startup guide discusses how to choose a name for your startup, register your startup’s name, and find a domain name for your business.
  • Business Name Generator: TRUiC’s free business name generator allows you to search for available startup names by keyword, location, and industry.
  • Business Name Generator by Industry: TRUiC’s business name generator provides names for a variety of industries so you can find an available startup name that aligns with your business goals.
  • Business Name Generator for Local SEO: TRUiC’s business name generator for local SEO fine tunes your startup name options to optimize your site traffic locally using your city, state, and keywords.

Prior to opening for business, you will need to register your startup. Registering your startup begins with choosing how you will structure your startup and may include registering your business with the IRS and registering for sales tax.

Choose a Business Structure

One of the first things you will need to do to establish your startup as an actual business is to choose your business structure (i.e., the legal form of your startup).

There are four main types of legal structures for startup ventures:

Choosing the legal structure of your startup, in part, depends on (1) whether you are launching your startup alone or with co-founders and (2) the stage and growth plans of the venture.

Many startups begin as sole proprietorships and general partnerships. They begin as an idea, or a hobby, or as a low risk way to test and validate an idea.

Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are informal business structures. In informal legal structures, the startup is considered an extension of the owners, and the owners bear the tax and liability burdens of the business.

However, as the idea evolves and launching a startup begins to look more likely, the need for a formal structure emerges.

LLCs and corporations are the two primary types of formal business structures. These forms of legal structures require registering your venture with the state as an independent entity. Because the venture is an independent entity from its owners, formal legal structures provide liability protection for the owners and unique tax benefits for the business.

The most popular corporate structure for startups with aspirations of high growth is the c corporation. This is because most investors prefer C corporations. A C corporation (C corp) has investor-friendly taxation rules, simple transfers of ownership, and natural exit strategies, and many angel investors and venture capitalists will not invest in ventures that are not incorporated.

For more information on structuring your startup, read our guide on How to Choose a Business Structure. Once you've chosen a structure, consider hiring a professional service to help you form your business or read our guide on how to incorporate a startup.

Choose a Location

While some locations such as Silicon Valley have become synonymous with startup culture, generally the best location to start your startup is the state you’re already located in. Starting a business in a state other than the one you’re located in requires more complicated paperwork and complex tax requirements. However, if you’re thinking of starting your startup in another state, some states are more business-friendly than others.

For example, many founders choose to incorporate their startups in Delaware due to their immense business-friendly policies. Startups that form in Delaware are able to do business in other states and therefore bypass the state income tax — a huge tax advantage for any business. However, this isn’t the case in every state. We recommend consulting with a tax professional or attorney before deciding to do business in another state.

Create a Founder Employment Agreement and Vesting Agreement

Startup owners aren’t typically bound by severance agreements that would be applicable to other employees. Instead, founder employment agreements represent the legal agreement between the founder and company.

A vesting agreement is an agreement between the company and a shareholder (typically an employee) that provides restrictions for the shareholder’s ownership of the company. In short, the employee will not be granted their share until the vesting requirements are satisfied.

Formalize Advisory Agreement

If your startup chooses to involve advisors and equity is involved in the relationship, you will need to also formalize an advisory agreement. Essentially, this means that all the requirements and stipulations of the relationship between your company and the advisor are outlined including terms of equity and confidentiality.

Create Cap Table and Issue Shares/Certificates

A capitalization table, otherwise known as a cap table, is a document (such as a spreadsheet) that outlines the equity capitalization of your startup company. The cap table outlines your startup company’s securities (e.g., stocks, warrants, certificates, etc.), who owns each security, and the percentage of ownership they have.

Next, you will want to issue shares or certificates of your company to each party based on the cap table you’ve created.

Establish Corporate Governance

Corporate governance is essentially the rules, regulations, and guiding principles that govern a company. Not only does the corporate governance provide much-needed structure to help the startup obtain its goals and objectives, it balances the needs of each company participant. From shareholders to employees and the community, corporate governance ensures every need is balanced and met.

Register Your Business with the IRS

It is recommended that one of the first things you should do is register your business with the IRS by obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN). An EIN is the IRS’ way to identify a business.

There are several reasons you may need an EIN for your business:

  • EINs are required for many business structures such as corporations, partnerships, and multi-member LLCs.
  • EINs are also required if you have any employees.
  • Most banks require you to have an EIN to open a business bank account.

You can apply for an EIN for free on the IRS website or by mail, by fax, or by phone. For more information on how to apply, read our guide on How to Get an EIN (For Free).

Register Your Business for Sales Tax

Depending on the nature of your product or service and the state you live in, you may need to collect a sales tax.

Sales tax, or "Sales and Use Tax," is a tax charged by states, counties, and municipalities on the sale of certain taxable goods or services. Each state, and certain counties and municipalities, has its own set of rules and rates on what is taxable within that jurisdiction.

Check with your state’s Department of Revenue (or equivalent state department) as well as your local tax office to find out what you are required to collect sales tax on in your state.

If your state or local government has a sales tax imposed that applies to products or services you provide, you will need to obtain a Sales Tax Permit or a Sales Tax Certificate of Authority so that the state can track sales tax revenue. You will also be required to collect sales tax from customers and submit tax payments to the appropriate agency.

Obtain Licenses and Permits

In addition to registering your business, you will likely need to obtain a number of licenses and permits from your local, state, and federal government.

Federal Permits and Licenses

If your business falls under the regulation of any federal agency, you will likely need to obtain the appropriate permits from that agency. These include commercial activities in:

  • Agriculture
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Aviation
  • Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives
  • Fish and Wildlife
  • Commercial Fisheries
  • Maritime Transportation
  • Mining and Drilling
  • Nuclear Energy
  • Radio and TV Broadcasting
  • Transportation and Logistics

For more information on federal licensing, visit the Federal Licenses and Permits page on the website.

State Permits and Licenses

Most businesses are required to file for a permit or license to operate legally within their state. The permits and licenses you may need vary widely by state and type of business.

To find out more about the permits and licenses in your state, use TRUiC’s Business License guide to find business license resources for your state.

Local Permits and Licenses

Most businesses will need some kind of local license or permit to legally conduct business within their town, city, or county. These may include anything from occupancy permits and food and beverage permits to special permits and licenses for signage, lighting, and noise.

You will need to check with your local county clerk’s office about the types of licenses and permits required.

Get Insurance for Your Startup

Most startups will need insurance in one form or another. Some forms of insurance, such as worker’s compensation or unemployment insurance, may be required by your state. Other forms of insurance may be optional but are important to protect you and your company from disaster.

You may choose to carry several types of additional insurance, such as general liability, professional liability, property, or auto, among many others. Or, you may choose to bundle several types of insurance together in what is known as a business owner’s policy.

To learn more about the types of insurance you may need, or search for our specific guides on startup insurance recommendations in over 650 types of small businesses, make sure to read our Small Business Insurance guide.

If you’re ready to start shopping for startup insurance, we recommend CoverWallet startup insurance.

Protect Intellectual Property (IP)

Protecting your startup’s competitive advantage means you need to obtain the proper patents, copyrights, and trademarks to ensure your intellectual property (IP) is protected. By registering ownership of intellectual property, you mitigate the risk of competitors utilizing the ideas, designs, or concepts that are protected.

Furthermore, developing a Founder Intellectual Property Assignment Agreement essentially transfers the founder’s IP rights to the company, allowing the startup to utilize the IP while still maintaining its protection. Since founders are typically also shareholders in the company, they still benefit financially from their IP.

6. Get Startup Funding

Startups require funding for a number of reasons. Startups often need capital to cover their initial expenses until they become profitable, and they need money again to expand, grow, build inventory, and even get through slow seasons.

When planning your business, you should determine what types of business funding options your company will need and when. You need to be completely aware of startup costs and your financials and financial projections before seeking outside funding. Knowing exactly what you need and when is the best way to choose the right kind of funding.

The most common types of business funding are:

Recommended: Establish financial credibility for your startup with a business bank account and a business credit card.

Keep in mind, your startup will require different funding sources during different stages of development. For example, during the seed stage, bootstrapping or friends and family loans may be the best funding choice. However, as your startup becomes more established and reaches the growth stage, a venture capitalist or angel investor are more likely to want to invest.

That isn’t the only factor you need to consider, however. The type of startup you’re operating also plays an important role in determining the right funding source.

Finding Investors

Before you get to know potential investors, you need a pitch deck or similar material in place that details who you are, what your startup is about, and why it is a good investment.

Then, you need to put yourself out there. Networking is the best way to generate startup capital — a warm introduction goes a long way with potential investors. But, keep in mind that you probably won’t be successful right away. The road to starting a successful business isn’t easy, and securing funding is no exception. Prepare yourself for potential pitfalls, rejection, and be ready to combat demoralization to keep your momentum going.

The goal early on in this process is to learn to sell yourself and your startup and to leverage each meeting for new connections.

7. Set Up Accounting for Your Startup

Business accounting is an important (and required) aspect of operating a startup. Accounting allows you to know how you are performing financially, track benchmarks and goals, and lets you know how much your startup is worth. In addition to serving legal and tax-related purposes, you also need an accounting system in place to accept payments, pay your employees, and manage your startup’s finances.

There are a number of options for handling your business accounting, including hiring an in-house accountant, hiring a bookkeeper, using a payroll service, or using small business accounting software. However, no matter how you handle your startup’s accounting, you will need to have an accounting system in place.

Recommended: Schedule a consultation with a business accountant today to find out how much time and money your business could save on tax, payroll, and bookkeeping services.

8. Establish Your Brand and Business Presence

Just because you build an awesome product, service, or experience does not mean that customers are going to show up at your door. You are most likely going to need to find them first and let them know about your startup and what you have created. To generate startup success, you will need to build your brand identity.

Design a Logo

One of the first things you will need to do is to design a logo for your brand to begin building awareness and recognition. A well-designed logo helps people to identify and remember your brand and builds trust.

Try our free logo maker to generate thousands of professional, high-resolution, downloadable logo options for no charge. You can also find alternatives by reading our review of the Best Logo Makers.

Build a Business Website

Every legitimate business needs a website. And sooner than later, your startup is going to need its own website too.

If you have never built a website before, don’t worry. It is easier than ever, and TRUiC’s How to Build a Business Website guide walks you through it.

When choosing a website builder, there are many to choose from depending on your needs. Website builders like GoDaddy offer a multitude of features, functions, abilities, and applications based on your company’s needs.

One thing to keep in mind when designing and writing content for your website is your search engine optimization strategy. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing your website traffic (and your brand) by designing your site and content to rank higher in search engine results.

Recommended: To learn more about how to implement SEO on your startup’s website, check out our beginner’s guide to SEO: How Do People Find Your Website - SEO 101.

Establish a Social Media Presence

In addition to building a website, you will also likely need a social media presence to establish your brand identity and grow your startup. Social media provides a way to reach, connect, and engage with customers and potential clients.

The most popular social media platforms include Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. However, additional platforms such as Yelp, Reddit, and Quora all have large followings of niche users. The social media platforms and strategy you choose to establish your startup will depend on the nature of your product or service and your target consumers.

To learn more about establishing your startup’s presence on social media, feel free to read our Social Media Guide for Small Business.

Distribute Press Releases

Another way to let people know about your startup is by creating your own publicity by writing press releases. Press releases create visibility and help you establish your brand.

So what is a press release? A press release is an official statement by your company written by you and distributed to the press to provide public knowledge and promote your business and brand.

Of course, you can hire professional press release writers or press releases distribution services such as Sitetrail, but if you choose to write your own press releases, here are some things you should know:

  • Press releases have six major parts:
    • The date, location, and logo
    • A headline
    • An introduction
    • The content
    • Your company’s boilerplate (i.e., an “about us” section)
    • Information to reach your press contact
  • To distribute press releases yourself, you will need to assemble a list of outlets that might be interested in publishing the information. A good place to begin is with local business outlets that are more apt to publish information on your business.

To learn more about writing press releases, read our guide on How to Write a Press Release.

9. Hire a Team

A company is only as strong as its team. Building a team that is passionate about what your company does, skilled at their jobs, and trustworthy is vital to the success of your startup.

To begin, startups typically need to fill the following roles:

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  • Chief Operating Officer (COO)
  • Marketing Director
  • Product Developer or Engineer
  • Head of Sales
  • Customer Service Representative

But, before you can hire for these essential roles, you need to solidify your startup mission statement to accurately describe your company’s purpose and values. Additionally, learning to write effective job descriptions helps parse out candidates that may not be a great fit for the role by providing them with accurate information about the job and your company.

Finding Talent

Once you’ve established the roles you need filled, the next step is to work towards finding the right candidates to make up your team. A few common methods for finding talented candidates to choose from are:

  • Word-of-Mouth Recruiting
  • Online Job Boards
  • Recruitment Agencies
  • Internal Hiring

Additionally, it can be beneficial during the hiring process to amplify your job offer by offering incentives such as stock options to employees. This is most common for venture capital-funded startups and has the potential to not only build brand loyalty but also provide the team with an incentive to work actively to propel the company forward.

Employer Legal Requirements

The next step is to register for employment taxes. On the federal level, you will need to register for FICA Tax, commonly known as payroll taxes or withholding tax.

Additionally, every state has different tax requirements for employers, but many states require employers to pay some version of unemployment insurance (UI) tax as well as workers’ compensation insurance.

You’ll also need to create an employment contract, a legal document that outlines the agreement you are making with your new employee. Inside your employment contract, you will include agreements that are applicable to your company as well as applicable policies surrounding the termination of the agreement, reimbursement of expenses, disputes, company clients, and anything else that pertains to your startup.

Here are a few agreements that you may want to consider including in your employment contract:

  • Confidentiality Agreements
  • Services Agreements
  • Compensation Agreements
  • Non-Compete Agreements

Set Up Payroll

How will you pay your employees? Setting up an effective payroll system or service for your company ensures that employees are paid on time and that the appropriate taxes are paid and documented for tax season.

Generally, we recommend startups utilize payroll software to streamline this process and get their employees paid worry-free.

Company Culture

Startup companies are known for their emphasis on company culture. Before you build a team, you need to ask yourself, “what kind of company ethos do I want to create?” This should be the basis for the personality types and values you look for in potential employees.

A strong set of company values sets the tone for the startup’s success by providing a foundation for the team’s purpose, motivation, and attitude. It can also contribute to better employee morale and retention.

10. Launch and Scale Your Startup

The work doesn’t end at launch or after your first sale. You will then need to focus on carrying out your plan and growing your business. This will require dedication, perseverance, and the willingness to seize opportunities to grow.

These opportunities might include expanding to new regions, seeking additional target consumers, or expanding your product or service offerings.

Opportunities for growth also might come along in the form of innovation, quality improvement, customer-focused development, and streamlining your business model.

Or, opportunities for growth might include internal growth factors such as building your entrepreneurial network, growing your team, and building a strong company culture.

Create a Strategy to Motivate Growth

While growth can happen organically, you are more likely to reach your startup’s desired objectives if you create a strategy for growth. This means, once you’ve captured initial customers, expand your reach beyond early adopters and existing customers to establish a sustainable growth trajectory that includes tactics for both profitable and sustainable growth.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • If you plan to raise more funds in the future, what milestones will you need to hit in order to justify a new round of funding?
  • How long will it take to get to the stage wherein you will need another funding round?
  • What kind of “burn rate” is rational for your startup's expected growth and current operation needs?

Additionally, you will need to work toward not only understanding but improving unit economics such as your payback period, customer retention rate, lifetime customer value (LCV), and customer acquisition cost (CAC). These unit economics can be measured by channel, customer segment, and product line. By developing strong measurements to better track and understand this data, you’ll be able to more easily develop strategies to grow your customer base and product line as needed.

Recommended: Read our guide on How to Grow Your Business for tips on seeking and finding opportunities for growth.

Startup FAQ

How do you define a startup?

A startup is a young company born out of a desire to solve a problem, fulfill a demand, or bring a unique product or service to the market. Typically, startup companies are funded solely by their founders or with the help of friends and family.

What are the types of startups?

There are six types of startups:

  • Scalable startups that are built for rapid growth
  • Large company startups that are built to innovate
  • Social startups that work to positively impact the world
  • Buyable startups that are built to be acquired
  • Lifestyle startups that are centered around the founder’s passions
  • Small business startups that are created to fulfill the needs of its founders

Startup vs. small business: What is the difference?

The fundamental difference between a startup and a small business is longevity. Generally, while small businesses are focused on sustained growth, startups tend to focus on gross revenue and rapid growth since this is a temporary business model. Learn how to start a small business by reading our guide.

What is a lean startup?

A lean startup is a methodology that tests the viability of a startup company or product through experimentation and hypothesis testing. This method is based on gauging the interest of customers to produce a product or service with a built-in market.

What makes a startup successful?

There are a multitude of ways to make a successful startup, but the foundational reasons startups succeed are because they offer a usable and unique product or service, have sufficient financial backing, and have an unrelenting dedication to making their business succeed.

What makes a good startup founder?

Starting a business takes a great idea and an even greater entrepreneur to make it all happen. Great startup founders are passionate, adaptable, confident, and have an eye for detail.

Recommended: Want to learn more about starting a startup from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit our startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.

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