How to Start a Startup

Katlynn Sverko

Startups are characterized by their potential for exponential growth. This growth is the difference between a startup and any other new business. The word startup has gained a lot of traction over the past few years, but its true definition has been lost in the shuffle. As Paul Graham (2012) in his article Startup = Growth states, “Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of "exit". Take some time to consider if you are actually a startup, or simply a new business.

If you have decided you are undoubtedly a startup, congratulations on beginning your journey as an entrepreneur! Let’s dive into what it takes to start a startup:

  1. Business Name
  2. Problem to Solve
  3. Unique Value Proposition
  4. Team
  5. Pitch Deck
  6. Minimum Viable Product


Business Name

Registering a business name is the first step in legitimizing your company. It is used in formal documentation and when applying to grants. Decide on a memorable business name that clients and investors alike will be comfortable using.

For more details, visit our article on how to name and register your business in Ontario here.

Problem to Solve

Every business is based on the premise that someone will pay for a solution to a problem he or she is experiencing. The larger the problem, the more they will pay. Without a problem, there is little to no value in starting your business. Businesses are driven by customers, and customers are far more willing to spend their hard-earned money on something that solves hardships or difficulties they are experiencing.


Unique Value Proposition

Your unique value proposition (UVP) is a clear and concise statement that demonstrates the exclusive advantage your customers will get from using your solution over the competition. Your UVP distinguishes you from every other solution on the market and gives potential investors a reason to believe.


Team

You have an idea, you are solving a problem, and you can distinguish yourself from your competitors, now it is time to bring on team members. It should be mentioned, this can happen at any point, it does not necessarily happen after defining your UVP, but it definitely helps when you are describing your business to potential team members. Make sure to take time to evaluate your current situation and establish what skills are necessary, on a permanent or temporary basis, to make your business goals happen.

To learn more about hiring your first team members, visit our article on hiring here.


Pitch Deck

Perhaps the most famous element in the entrepreneurial toolkit, the pitch deck is a must have that is expected of any budding entrepreneur.  A pitch deck generally consists of 10 slides or less. Slides that are featured in every pitch deck include:

  1. Title
  2. Problem
  3. UVP
  4. Business model/ How you make money
  5. Competition
  6. Team
  7. Key financials and milestones met to date

The remaining three slides are generally a selection of competitive advantage, proprietary information and techniques, market size, marketing plan, product, testimonials, traction, and press coverage.

Get started on your pitch deck with some free pitch deck templates on Slidebean.

Of course, a great pitch deck is nothing without the pitch to accompany it. You won’t just be standing in front of potential investors watching them read from your slides, so be sure to have one prepared. Be confident, communicate clearly, and be ready to answer any questions the investors might have.


Minimum Viable Product

Entering the startup world, the term MVP will take on a completely new meaning. Your minimum viable product (MVP) is the most basic working version of your solution. Depending on your startup, your MVP can take various forms from software prototype to a mock-up of a new purse. The purpose of your MVP is to validate the need for your business and specific functions before sinking more money and resources into an idea that does not have any data backing it.


Wrap Up

Getting your startup started may seem daunting at first, but once you identify your business name, the problem to solve, unique value proposition, and team, your pitch deck and minimum viable product will fall into place. Check out tools like Dr. Sean Wise’s 100 Steps 2 Startup and the Entrepreneur Opportunity Network’s (EON) Knowledge and Opportunities Portal for tangible instructions, videos, and advice on how to get your startup off the ground. EON also offers three programs for Ontarian entrepreneurs. Learn more about our Training, Incubator, and Accelerator programs.


Resources: Paul Graham: Startup = Growth, Slidebean, 100 Steps 2 Startup