The other day, I posted a poll on what post I should write next, and 57.1% voted for a “founders resource guide.” And because I’m working on a first-time founders course, I thought I’d focus the guide on first-time founders. Here we go…
In this post, you’ll find:
- Founder Basics
- A Note for Underestimated Founders
And although the concepts that I share in the Founder Basics are simple, in the +1,000 startups I’ve reviewed for investment, I’ve seen first-time founders skip these foundational blocks, spend a lot of time and money, and then end up creating a business that ends up a zombie or flat out fails.
So, keep it simple, check-box the basics and your gut, stay scrappy, gritty, and dig in.
Disclaimer: Businesses are both art and science. No one has all the answers. No one has one plan that will guarantee your or your startup’s success.
Before you start creating a business, explore what it means to be an entrepreneur, get to know the range of entrepreneurs, the difference between a small versus a venture capital backable business, evaluate whether taking the risk (since most startups fail) is something that you and your family can tolerate, and review your personal goals. Assuming being an entrepreneur is still something you want to do…
Keep in mind that there are bad reasons to become an entrepreneur, such as telling yourself “everyone is doing it” or you want to become a millionaire quickly. Also, know you will feel lonely at times and the process of building a business will be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing.
Spend a lot of time on problems and identify the one you’ll work on solving. Consider what problems you care about solving most and assess what problems you are the best suited to address. Are you an expert in the problem? Have you encountered the problem and solved it for yourself? You get the point.
Once you identify the problem you will solve, do your research on the market and people or companies who will benefit from your solution (AKA your future customers). Get to know 1) the market size and growth and 2) how your future customers see the problem (e.g., is it a priority for them, will they pay for someone to solve it), what they’ve used/tried to solve the problem, and what’s missing in existing solutions. Ask yourself, is the problem you are solving in a market that is large and growing? Do you have a unique perspective/advantage and the background/team needed to solve the said problem? Assuming the answer is yes, yes, and yes…
Continue researching. Get help from those who are in and around your problem path. Who else is working on a business that is complimentary, competing, similar, or adjacent to solving the problem you are solving? Meet with those who have been on and are working in the same arena (e.g., industry, market). Learn what they have learned so that you can avoid mistakes. You’ll inevitably make your own mistakes but it’ll be nice to avoid those others have made. Learning from others will help you save time, money, and worry.
V1 Plan Doc
Put all the work you’ve done in one place in a doc. Having spent plenty of time on the problem, understanding the space, and having listened in to those who have gone before you, your solution (AKA the product/service) will start taking shape. So, write your exec summary of the problem and solution; draft v1 of your business concept; the story of how you got started (and the founding team, if applicable), summarize your market and industry research; draft v1 of your product/service development plan; a financial model that describes v1 of costs and how you’ll make money (it doesn’t have to be complicated); and a timeline plan to launch. Note: the plan will continue to evolve, as you learn more.
Test + Iterate
Start testing your solution. You will want to develop your v1 product/service and see if you can garner traction. The goal of v1 should be to validate customer demand, not to build a perfect (or even automated) solution. Take your v1 product/service to the people or companies who will benefit from it, try to sell it to them, get their feedback, and then go back to the drawing board. Reassess next steps.
Using the content in your v1 plan and what you’ve learned in testing your solution, create a v1 pitch deck. It will help you keep a forest level view when you get too much in the weeds, and help you quickly communicate to others what you’re working on. Here’s what to consider including in your v1 deck: 1) problem; 2) market size/growth; 3) current solutions; 4) your solution and differentiator(s) (that no one else can easily replicate); 5) how your solution works; 6) the traction you’ve had; 7) how you’re making money (AKA business model/financials); 8) metrics that will make your company succeed/fail (and how you’re improving on those); 9) business roadmap (what you’re working towards); 10) team (highlight how your team is the right one for the business). Note: the deck will continue to evolve, as you learn more.
And then continue improving your product/solution. Build muscle memory in the cycle of design, test, learn, and iterate. This will help you pivot or decide to close your business or get to a minimal viable product/service and help grow your business.
Stay Scrappy, Gritty, and Trust Your Gut
For v1 of your startup, keep things as simple as possible, spend the least amount of capital possible, and leverage the power of Google and community. Building companies always takes more time and money than originally thought, and you don’t want to run out of either. So, stay scrappy and gritty. Remember that the goal is to build a business that provides products/services that help address problems people or organizations are willing to pay for. And trust your gut.
A NOTE FOR UNDERESTIMATED FOUNDERS
As a woman of color at the cross-section of startups, venture capital and tech, and a woman who has worked with many underestimated founders, I want to acknowledge that the world usually requires us to work 10xs harder than anyone else. On your journey, there will likely be people who want to convince you that we live in a meritocracy and may “unintentionally” gaslight you. The thing is that there is no such thing as a meritocracy and the journey is uphill. That’s reality. And yet, there is a silver lining. There are those of us in the community who know and get the underestimated founder experience. And this community wants to support and increase the number of underestimated founders and funders. Look for us. We’re out here and we want to see you succeed.
This is a live list of resources. Which others should be added? Share the link with me here.
- Having what it takes
- Founder-Market Fit
- Why Strong Vision is so Important
- Why Founder-Market-Fit is so Important
- 7 Things That Define Great Founding Teams
- Are You a Resilient Founder?
- How to create a Hiring Plan for your startup
- Search for all things startup and vc
- Read articles to help build your company
- Must-read book: Venture Deals
- Your Roadmap to Success
- Culture, Vision and Mission
Doing the nitty-gritty
- Market research and competitive analysis
- Figure out expenses
- Your MVP is Minimal, but is it Viable?
- You Need a Marketing Plan
- Go to market strategies
- Build a compelling value proposition
- From product to business development
- 5 Building Blocks for YOUR Customer Acquisition Machine
- Hiring talent
- Business models
Leverage tools and resources to build your business
Get pitch deck inspiration
Find a program to take your business to the next level
- +500 Accelerators + Incubators
- Top 10 Reason to Join or NOT to Join Accelerator
- 7 Things to Make Your Accelerator Application Standout
- How to Get the Most out of an Accelerator
- 12 Tips to get the most out of Mentor Meetings
Set yourself up for fundraising activities
What All Founders Should Do Before Fundraising
If you’re thinking about raising venture capital money, you will want to do some pre-funding research activities.
Here Are the Top Corporate Venture Capital Funds Every Founder Should Know About
When founders go out to raise venture capital, they come across a variety of fund sizes and shapes and come from…
What All Founders Should do Before and When Asking for Investor Intros
It’s hard to get intros in general, but as with anything, it can be easier if we prep for success. Below is a 5 step…
- Fundraising + CRM Database
- Figure out how other founders are rating investors
- What you should know about valuations
What Every Early-Stage Founder Should Know About Valuations
By Backstage Principal Lolita M. Taub
First-Time Founder Guide to Fundraising Amid COVID
In this post, Lolita Taub answers frequently asked fundraising questions amid COVID. Bonus: all answers are linked to…
What All Founders Should Know About M&A
M&A stands for mergers and acquisitions. Mergers are when a company buys another company and integrates it into its…
Underestimated founder resources
- Grants for Black women to start their businesses
- Where Black female founders can find funding, resources and more
- Resources for underestimated female founders
Where Black Female Founders Can Find Funding, Resources, and More
The number of Black Female Founders in the U.S. is growing, but they remain underinvested by VCs and angels
Investors and funds to follow for their content and vibe
Liked what you read and want to read more VC + startup posts? Clap 👏👏👏, share with a friend and look at my other posts.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like
- First-Time Founder Guide to Fundraising Amid COVID
- First-Time Founders Resource Guide
- The Top Corporate Venture Capital Funds Every Founder Should Know About
- Enabling Founder-Access to Investors + Capital Through Our Startup-Investor Matching Tool
- Where Black Female Founders Can Find Funding, Resources, and More
If you’d like to learn more, you can take my course on
I’m also available for 1:1 consults. You can book me here.
About Author: Lolita Taub is the Co-Founder and General Partner at The Community Fund and acting interim Head of Sales at Catalyte. She is a first-generation Latinx operator and investor pushing for diversity in tech. With 15 years working within the Silicon Valley ecosystem, she has accomplished +$50 million in sales and made 38 investments as an angel investor and VC at Backstage Capital. Lolita is also a Co-Founder of the Startup-Investor Matching Tool, a scout at Indie.vc, Venture Partner at NextGen Venture Partners, and an LP at Operators Collective. Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur have featured her as a women in tech promoting diversity. She has a BA from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the IE Business School. Most importantly, she is a dog mom to the cutest Dachshund mix, Choco.