When you do start off, you most certainly want to make sure that you start off on the right foot. So here’s a list of things you definitely don’t want to cut corners on, or make compromises on:
There are times when I just an amazed at the identity of a corporation. A corporation, essentially is an entity which even without the people has a life and identity on its own. As far as a corporation, or if you prefer the term “company”, is concerned, everybody is working to raise its valuation in one way or another. If the company benefits, eventually and in some cases quite directly the employees benefit.
Individuals cannot grow and make a large impact. It is said that the power of the chair that you sit on is always much more than the person who sits on it. I’d even dare say that the brand of apple, is bigger than steve jobs – though that’s probably the one example in technology history where we’d have a second guess about it.
The point. An identity unites people towards a cause. Start with the name, and a name that means something to you.
The Website, Logo and blog.
You need a website, to ensure that you get the domain name that your name goes with. You can come up with a very basic site that doesnt say much, but says enough or very little to catch people’s curiosity. You’d also require a logo that goes with the name to put together the site.
During your development period the one most crucial aspect that you need is your blog. And get your developers and yourself to religiously blog atleast one a week with an update and something that you guys are fascinated with. Brands are built over time, and building a brand takes more time than building rome. It all starts with one brick at a time, and a blog is a spring board in that direction.
The Gmail enterprise account.
You wouldnt believe how easy it is these days to not delete mails and quickly search by a person’s name to pull out all the conversations i’ve had with that person. And all that for free.
If a startup needs to pinch money, this is the golden pinch. Apply for one of those accounts and get it setup.
Setup a Central Server.
The code has to be in one place. I’d say that it should run a well maintained version of linux or some server-grade OS, and patched with the latest releases to ensure that there are no security issues. Get SVN or a revisioning tool running on it, at the earliest. You could also create a smaller partition to dump all your music collection to share from.
VPN your server.
Set up a VPN account so that you could connect to your server from outside. it will help to check out and check in code wherever you are working from.
Use Skype and Gtalk for Calls.
Every dollar counts. The popularity of skype is slowly weaning, or atleast their marketing efforts have slowed down, but last I checked, the number of skype users have gone up to close to 12 million online, compared to the 7 million, about an year ago. So yep, trust skype and get an account on it.
Visit a Barcamp or two.
The best place to learn how to pitch is in a barcamp. People will throw all sorts of questions at you, but its the place where you can learn to evade the questions you dont want to answer and answer what you want people to hear. You gotta love the brutality of the barcamp audience. It’s the best place to get some validation, and if you are two cool founders, you’d even manage to attract a talent or two to come work for you when you are ready for it.
If you can afford it, get a desktop, and two monitors.
Jason Calacanis says that an extra monitor can significantly improve your work productivity. The one thing you cannot afford to deprive yourself of, is the ability to dream and get those creative juices flowing. Productivity and “feeling good” are inherently connected.
Go with Airtel Broadband, and keep an aircard handy.
For the days when you would travelling, or even maybe walk into a coffee shop, find a corner and start working an aircard comes in handy to be online and perhaps pull out the latest production release code from your server to show off to someone.
Print some visiting cards.
Nothing snazzy, but anything different would be great. I’ll let your creative juices flowing on that one. Don’t print more than a 100 cards. Use them sparingly, and make it last till your beta is out. Imagine every card is a INR 50 currency. It makes giving away cards a little tougher. Hold on to them as sacred identities of someone’s affiliation with you. Be miserly about giving it to everyone.
Chuck out your titles.
In an organization there are three levels of people. There are the top level management, the middle level and the implementing level folks. In a startup, the top level does not exist. There is a rule said and unsaid about working your way up by finding a replacement. When you can eventually afford to – economically and in terms of time and energy – hire someone to manage the team internally, you can move up to the top level. But I can bet ya that it wont be anytime before five years. So Until then, I dont want to hear you calling yourself CEO, CTO, etc. Chuck those titles and get back to work.
Make time to go play, socially.
We know that half the world doesnt accept your lifestyle, but why are you adding more to their ammunition by denying your social life? I’d say you need to set apart time for family and for yourself on a regular basis. It goes without saying that you need to eat well, and take care of yourself. Honor it, at whatever cost.
Stop wasting time and energy on too many tech conferences.
You need all these meets and barcamps and etc, till you figure out what you are doing. After that, you need to get out of the play pen and start racing in the real world, where bigger mammoths are eyeing for the same market that you are aiming for. Cut loose your distractions and focus. Focus or die. It’s quite as simple as that.
Stop reading blogs that are coming out of the Valley.
Most of the stuff that are spoken about day-to-day operations dont work here in India. Even the post by Jason, apart from the second monitor, everything else seemed pretty pointless and unworkable here in India. The key is to read, but also know what to take and what not and keep context at the back of your mind.