Stage: Preparation for Your Lean Startup | Progress: 0%

Stage: Preparation for Your Lean Startup

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In this section:

1. We will ask you about the important details that will determine the success of your startup.

2. We will introduce some fundamental knowledge about the startup industry to help you get into the mindset of an awesome entrepreneur.

This stage is extremely important, because we ask all the most important questions to starting up a company. However, not having some of the elements doesn't mean you are not in good shape, as we understand every individual and team are different.

Name of your startup? 3 Minutes
Required Question

What is the name of your startup?

You might have to change the company name in the future, because you will also need to find a matching domain name (an address on the internet like Good and short domain names are very hard to register, so there's a good chance you will have to switch your startup name to something else in the future. However, this isn't a bad thing. Google wanted to be called Googol, but they couldn't get that domain name, so they "settled" with Google. 

Google to Googol
How Google became Googol

If you want to check to see if your domain is available, head over to and check it out. Don't be in a hurry to register a name, because the name you have chosen might not necessarily be ideal for your product - in the future sections you will be tweaking yor solution, which might help you think of a better company name.

Don't worry though. The name doesn't make the company, the company makes the name.

Where is your startup located at? 1 Minutes
Required Question

Where is your startup located?

This is where your company is physically located, and not the location of your target audience or customers.


Palo Alto, CA, USA

Co-founder is the key to success 3 Minutes
Required Question

Do you have a co-founder?


You may be a combination of the best programmer, the best designer, and the best businessman. However, we feel that starting a business is not only about skills, but also about execution. While we have seen many solo founders succeed, having a co-founder can really make things a lot easier. The reason why it's nice to have a co-founder is to compliment your skills, but most importantly to keep each other in check.

The 3 Musketeers
The Three Musketeers

If you answered YES: Great! move on to the next question.

If you answered NO: That's okay too!, but consider finding one! Most of us are lazy. We've all promised ourselves to start yesterday or finish the new feature this week. Your co-founder's most important job is to keep you in check.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

It's not hard to find a co-founder nowadays. Look here (Find your Steve Wozniak!): 

  1. - Go to a local Ruby on Rails meetup, or a meetup for entrepreneurs. Very likely you can find a like-minded person who's willing to discuss with you about a possible venture.
  2. - Place to find partners or co-founders
  3. - Find a co-founder from your city
  4. - Co-founder dating
  5. - A good place to meet potential co-founders in person
  6. - Online directory of technical co-founders wanting to start it up
  7. - Invite-only find a co-founder
  8. - A place to where entrepreneurs find each other.

Why developers aren't interested in your startup - A reason to learn some Ruby o Rails! - Startup Job Listing - co-founder equity calculator

Required Question

Please input the names of the founder or co-founders here, each on a separate line.

Passionate about the idea? 2 Minutes
Required Question

Is everyone on the team passionate about the idea? Is this a tool you'd like to use yourself?


One of the biggest mistakes startups make is that they start developing something they are not passionate about - because startups like to be in the build-first mindset (slow down!). The reason is that regardless of whether or not the idea will become a crazy money maker, you will be spending more time on it than you have originally planned, because there are no overnight successes. Can you imagine working on a project you are not passionate about for 1-2 years, or possibly more?

This is what happens when you have too much passion
This is what happens when you have too much passion

A lot of startups actually shut down their startups because they couldn't stand having to work on something they're not passionate about. This problem is very very realistic, and needs to be taken into serious consideration before you embark onto this long startup journey.

Problem Team 2 Minutes
Required Question

Do you have someone who has the skills to do “outside the building” activities like interviewing customers, running usability tests, and getting user validation/feedback?


It's crucial that someone on the team is assigned to be the owner of the problem team. The problem team will properly validate the problem, your solution, and then the first version of your product (MVP - minimum viable product). Validating the problem and then the solution will verify that you are building a product that people want. 

The truth is that most startups fail not because they cannot build the product that they envision, but because they've built a product and features that nobody wants.

Solution Team 2 Minutes
Required Question

Do you have someone to do “inside-the-building” stuff like writing code, testing assumptions, measuring data, fixing bugs, deploying updates frequently, etc?


It's ideal that at least one of co-founders has the technical skills to complete the project in mind. The best mix we found is the business/designer co-founder + the programmer co-founder. Having 2 tech co-founders isn't necessarily the best combo, but it's lean, and lean is good.

Also, if you don't have someone who can do the coding early on, it's okay too. We will introduce a bunch of different tools you can use to easily come up with a demo. We will also give you great ideas that will help you vaildate your product in 1 day. You can just look for someone after you have a demo and have already validated your idea.

Solution Team
Catch a technical co-founder!

When you do have a team though, the tech team should be able to fix bugs and iterate quickly. Some startups fail not because they have faulty features or a bad product, but because they are not able to fix them or roll out new features in time. Early adopters will keep supporting you unless if they see that your business is stagnant and their requests or needs are not met.

Note: Outsourcing is not ideal, because startups are based on building/measuring/learning and then iterating. Outsourced teams are usually not agile enough for that. However, if you still want to get someone else to build it for you (outsourcing), what could work is that you could use one of the services below to build your MVP but not launch it, get some feedback and traction so that you can attract a rock star co-founder. You could probably even apply for an incubator or get funding to move things forward.

Summly didn't build their own technology and sold it for 30M to Yahoo in 2013

Some great platforms to find awesome developers:

  1. oDesk - One of the most popular platforms
  2. Elance - Another huge freelancer platform
  3. Freelancer
  4. Guru - A very good one for startups
  5. vWorker
  6. Amazon Mechanical Turk - set up any task and get answers
  7. SkillsHive – become a/hire freelancer online
  8. GroupTalent – developers and designers on demand
  9. Or you could partner with Pivotal Labs, an incubator that helps you build your software.

Wireframing Tools - A way to create mockups of your product

  1. Read this UX tutorial first - Alan Wells
  2. Great list of rapid prototyping tools here - dan harrelson
  3. POP – Prototyping on paper for the iPhone
  4. Keynotopia – use PowerPoint/Keynote to create web/mobile apps – Cool!
  5. JustinMind– define web and mobile apps with interactive prototypes​
  6. Lean Design - design using HTML5-editor and automatically convert it to XHTML/CSS
  7. Balsamiq– rapid wireframing tool. software mockups in minutes
    • Napkee - export Balsamiq Mockups to HTML/CSS/JS and Adobe Flex 3 at a click of a button
  8. FluidU/I - mobile prototypes for IOS
  9. – draw diagrams online
  10. Moqups - HTML5 App used to create wireframes, mockups or UI concepts
  11. MxGraph – client side JavaScript diagramming library
  12. Pencil- Firefox add-on to do GUI prototyping and simple sketching
  13. Lumzy – quick mockup creation and prototyping
  14. CSS Hat – Turn Photoshop layers into CSS3
  15. Mockflow – online/offline, extensible wireframing tool w/design library
  16. OmniGraffle – it’s been around before the web even existed
  17. Wirify – turn any webpage into a wireframe
  18. LucidChart – Cloud-based drawing tool
  19. InVision – UX Prototyping from jpg, .png or .gif files
  20. Cacoo – free online drawing tool
  21. Axure – Wireframing, prototypes: buil-in widgets and shapes
  22. HotGloo – Online Wireframing Tool
  23. Mocksup – Share your web site mockups
  24. Mockingbird - Mock it up and share web site wireframes
  25. Protoshare – website wireframing
  26. Gliffy – Online Diagraming
  27. Keynotopia - wireframing + high fidelity (pixel perfect) prototyping tool
  28. Free Wireframe templates for iPhone, iPad and Web
  29. Jotleaf - Create a beautiful website without any tech background
  30. Wireframing Tutorial
Problem Team + Solution Team = Success 1 Minutes

We find that it's important for a startup to have both of these components, as this is the base to building a solution that people want. Most businesses struggle because they are missing one or the other. If a solo-founder can do both, that's fine too!

Some tools to help your team collaborate

  1. Dropbox – free store, sync, and, share files online.
  2. Box – online file sharing
  3. Google Apps – free Email, Chat, Docs
  4. LibreOffice – free wordprocessor, spreadsheet, drawing, presentation, pdf maker and database office suite
  5. Skype- free voice and video communication tool
  6. Typewithme – document collaboration tool
  7. Google Hangouts – Googles uber Skyoe
  8. Evernote - remember everything
  9. Campfire – team collaboration
  10. Wikispaces – wikis for everyone
  11. Slideshare – share Powerpoints and docs with customers
  12. – free screen sharing
  13. Ning – Create your own social network
  14. Yammer – free enterprise social network
  15. Doodle – online group scheduling
  16. – Free conference calls – awesome!
  17. Speek – easy to setup conference calls, file sharing
  18. Syncpad – collaborative whiteboard
  19. Piktochart – make infographics
Team availability 1 Minutes
Required Question

Can everyone on your team devote enough time for this project?


It's okay if one of you can't. Just make sure the team has communicated specifically how much time and resources each team member can spend. Setting expectations is the first step to preventing a co-founder breakup (1 out of 4 startup co-founders end up breaking up).

So this is more important than you think. Also this is helpful because the amount of time and skills/resources a co-founder can put into the company will also determine the amount of ownership the co-founder has in the startup as well.

Practicalities 3 Minutes
Required Question

If your team is doing this full-time, can every team member be able to bootstrap this for another 3-6 months?


Considering each iteration and testing takes 1-3 months, most teams can probably go through at least 2-4 cycles before having to start flipping burgers at McDonald's. This is important.

You need to to be able to support your project for at least 3-6 months because after you launch your product, you will need time to get some traction or validation. Fund raising will often require a lot of time. Believe it or not, funding typically take more than 3 months to close.

Things you need to plan are: rent, utilities, mobile service, internet, food, transportation, and hosting.


Ownership 3 Minutes
Required Question

How much of the company does each of the founders own? Each on its own line.

Please write a new owner and his/her ownership on a new line with the format:
Name - Percentage of Ownership

The best way to do this is just calculating how much value/resources/time each co-founder can contribute. However, splitting up a company is more art than science. Don't be against giving away your company. A shareholder who owns a lot of the company will feel a lot more responsible for the work. It's better to own 30% of 1M than 0% of nothing.

Tool to calculate startup ownership:​
Industry will make or break you 2 Minutes
Required Question

What industry is your project/idea in? Please enter each on its own line.







There are many industries that are more difficult to crack than others. Segments like dating, social networks, etc. are much harder than others because such platforms depend on having a lot of content to attract users, and to eventually achieving critical mass - you don't have users until you have content, and you don't have content before you have users. So it's kind of like a chicken or egg situation.

Therefore, these platforms require considerable amount of marketing budget to grow because it's difficult to get early traction with these services. Therefore, if you plan to build such platforms, it's crucial to have a solid go-to-market strategy.

Local Market or Global Market? 2 Minutes

Is your startup for the local market or the global market?

Having the right startup in the right market is incredibly important. Every market is unique in their own ways, and while 1 product might work in one doesn't mean it'll work in the other. Also, being in a local market means that your marketing strategy might be very different from being in a global market where the channels where you acquire your users might be very different.

This is a good time to consider whether you want to start with a local or a global or national market. While it sounds glorious to be targeting a global market, often times if your startup requires a lot of user created content, then it might make sense to start with local first, because the "denser" your community is (in terms of location), the easier it is for them to connect and relate. Going global will spread your content too thin, and while you could get a lot of information in total, at any given location, the content might be very diluted.

A way to look at this is that if your service requires user created content to have value, and users are location sensitive, then it's best to start locally. If your service does not require user created content, and can create value immediately, then you can consider launching globally or nationally, but you still need to focus on marketing to 1 specific demographics.

PS. This guide's marketing channels are mostly for the global market. If you are targeting a local market where the marketing channels are different, then you can use our suggestions as reference to find equivalent ones for your own market or location.

Related experience and skills 2 Minutes
Required Question

Has any of the co-founder had experience in this industry?


Team Skills: Are there any experience or skills of the team that make it an unfair advantage against your competitors? Please enter them each on their own line.

Mark Zuckerberg didn't have any experience in the social network business, because it didn't really exist until the likes of Friendster, Myspace showed up. You don't need to be an industry expert, but you do need to have passion about the business.

Of course, having insight into the business DOES help you, but it could also make you biased. The takeaway here is that you might not have experience, but you should know the insights of the industry. Also, that's where Steve Blank's customer development and Ash Maurya's Problem/Solution and Product/Market fit come from - you can interview your customers to understand exactly what you need to build.
Do you have Programmer-Fu? 5 Minutes
Required Question

Write down all the skills or technologies that you will need for this startup.

It's okay if you don't know what you will need or have all the skills right now. The good news is, we will recommend you great tools to help you build even if you don't know how to program. Or, you can pick up how to program in 1 month. See how Mattan Griffel did it in a month.

Ruby on Rails

Programmer-Fu HAII YAAAA!

Of course you will still need other skills, like logo design, or what not. But that's not that hard, because, again, there are readil available tools and material you can find on the internet that we will share with you in a later section. So don't worry!

Note: We will ask you again in a future task, because by the time you're there, you might have a better idea just exactly what you will be using.

What's the awesome idea I've been hearing about? 5 Minutes
Required Question

So, what is the idea (what are you building)?


(Optional) Please come up with 3 more ideas that your team wouldn't mind building. Each on its own line.

Rovio was Angry Bird's 52nd game. This means that you might not hit jack pot with your first idea. The point of being an entrepreneur is not only to build, but also to scrap and move on when needed. These 3 ideas that you have come up are ideas that you can pursue if in case if you can't pick up traction, or you've hit an untangible blockade that'll stop your startup from moving forward. 

Angry Birds 52nd Game

It took Rovio 53 tries to finally get the theme right. Star Wars.

However, don't mistake the lack of traction as an evidence that your product doesn't work. Very often traction comes with time. You need to spend enough time to measure every part of your website, and talk to your customers to know what you are doing right and wrong. Usually the only time you will need to give up is when you're solving a problem that nobody has. If the solution is bad, then you can still pivot or tweak it to make it work.

Read about startup metrics in a future stage to understand where your product is breaking.

(MUST READ) There is no overnight success.

How to find ideas?

We always talk about the idea being the solution to someone's #1 problem (that's big enough to a sizable population).

And the truth is that, you are the person who you know best, and usually people think of ideas that solve their own problems, or problems of people close to them.

That's precisely what most people do. The best way to come up with a great idea, is every time you come across something that you can't do, or it's something difficult to do - that's a potential problem that is worth your time to solve.

When you come across a problem like that, then that's where you start asking people about it and get feedback (which is our Problem Interview).
Complete MVP in 1-2 months 2 Minutes
Required Question

Can you finish this a MVP (minimum viable product) within 1-2 months?


An MVP is the first version of your product that only has the key features that will solve the #1 problem of your customers. It should not include any feature that has nothing to do with solving a user's problem. This is a core concept of the whole Lean Startup Methodology.

If you can't, is it because you don't have the technical resources to complete it, or maybe you just have too many unnecessary launch features? But don't worry, we'll recommend some tools for you to use to quickly deploy a simple version of your idea with little to none technical skills. In the later stages we'll also help you find out what features you need and don't need.

The reason why we mention 1-2 months because as an entrepreneur, you'll realize that it takes many trials and tweaks to actually create a successful business. A successful business is the result of repeated testing, and each test takes time.

Therefore, if you don't have the ability to build something quick, you probably also can't iterate quickly enough, then you will soon be lagging behind customer demand, which equals to customers leaving your service.

Alternatively, you can try to provide the services manually without a product.

Is it the right time to do this? 2 Minutes

How is it with the timing. Is it the right time to do what you want to do?

I don't know

Be honest with yourself. Is this a right time to launch this product? Often times the timing is actually more important than the product itself.

Case Study: Before Skype came, there was Dialpad. Dialpad was popular but because there was an issue of bandwidth problem, it slowly died down due to the bad quality of conversations.

Zynga wouldn't have been possible without the rise of Facebook as well.

Introspect carefully and see if there are any timing advantages now that makes sense for your startup. This is not crucial, but has been a key factor for the failure or success of many startups.

Zynga and Facebook

Last words on co-founder and your team 2 Minutes

Co-founder gives you periodic reality tests - Ash Maurya

The 3 important roles: development, design, and marketing - Ash Maurya

Development – “You need a strong product development skills on your team. Having prior experience building stuff is key.”

Design – Think aesthetics and usability – User Interface + User Experience. Design was overlooked in the past, but since Steve Job’s obsession with design, people have understood that people interact with design, and not functions.

Marketing – This is the most crucial. Marketing is the art of not only learning what people think about your product, but how to let people know your solution is the solution they need. We’re talking about good copywriting, communication, pricing, key metrics, and growth hacking. 

Stage: Competitor Res...