How To Start a Startup: 10 Steps to Launch

starting a startup isn’t just about opening your doors or launching your website. Long before that happens, it’s about planning to launch.

There’s a real art form in the planning, and those who have launched a lot of startups — as we have — approach launching a new idea very differently from someone who’s just taking on their first startup.

Simply put — we emphasize spending as little time as possible on chasing ideas that may not work. We’re nuts about efficiency.

We know that time is both our friend and our greatest enemy. And we do everything we can to protect our time so it’s spent in the most efficient way possible.

So what does that actually look like? Here are 10 steps to launching a startup, from someone who’s been there (a few times).

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1. IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM — NOT THE SOLUTION

We all get enamored with brilliant solutions: “Wouldn’t it be great if…” is the mantra of every new startup. But it’s much more important to articulate the problem than the solution right now.

For example, the solution might be that Netflix delivers movies on any device for $15 per month.

But the problem is far more important: Cable is too expensive. Broadcast television severely limits your choices of what you can watch.

People are now using mobile devices, as opposed to their TVs, to consume content, so multi-form factor output is important. All of these concerns should form the basis of what your solution will ultimately become.

The solution can change over time as you get more familiar with the problem, but spending some serious time articulating the core problem will help guide your efforts around everything from marketing to product development — at every step of the way.

2. CONDUCT BASIC RESEARCH

Before you lift a finger or talk to anyone about your idea, research the hell out of it online. Every minute you invest in researching online saves you 10 minutes of building your startup blindly, only to find out out that customers are flocking to a different solution to the problem you’re solving.

Don’t limit your research to “Is there another company doing the exact same thing?” There may not be.

Instead, focus on “Where can I find examples of how people are solving this problem in a different way?”

People were watching plenty of movies before Netflix. So it’s not like the problem of watching movies wasn’t already being solved in different ways.

Find out what customers spend on the problem now. Read online reviews to find out if they’re happy about it.

You’re building a picture of how the problem you’re solving is currently being solved — and where the holes are — so you can start to formulate the best possible product.

3. INTERVIEW EXPERT

Nine times out of ten, the answer you’re seeking already exists in someone’s head. Often that head belongs to someone who’s worked in some version of your industry before.

If you’re Netflix founder Reed Hastings, you’d be interviewing people who worked at the highest levels of Blockbuster, HBO, Time Warner Cable, or major studios.

You want to find out why the existing solutions don’t seem to be working as they should. You want to hear their war stories and learn from them, instead of having to learn the hard way yourself.

If you’re nervous about approaching an expert — who may be someone you’ve looked up to for years — I have a pro tip: You’d be shocked at how willing people are to help.

Nothing gets an industry expert talking like asking questions about the world they’ve lived in for so long. Reach out to strangers and ask hard questions. Go deep on interviews.

Think of every question you get answered from an expert as a shortcut to an entire lifetime of experience you don’t have to gain from scratch.

Long before you actually start working on the actual product, you need a product concept.

This is the story you would tell a prospective customer about what the product will be some day. You need to give it as much detail as possible, without actually having the product.

Reed at Netflix would say “Imagine you could open your Web browser and instantly access thousands of movies and TV shows whenever you wanted them, on any device.”

He’d go on to explain how you could watch entire seasons of shows, jump from one device to the other while watching the same show, and all the other wonderful features that Netflix boasts.

Your product concept is critical. It’s what you’ll share and refine a million times before you start spending actual cycles building the real thing.

Functionally, it can be anything from a paragraph text description to concept sketches to a PowerPoint presentation.

What’s important is that it paints a picture that potential customers can react to.

5. GET BETA USERS

Beta users are your very first customers. In some cases, they’re customers before you have “real” customers.

They’re the people who are willing to try your stuff out when anyone else wouldn’t even think about it. They are your early adopters.

You don’t have to wait until you have a product to get beta users. You can start by identifying those who would be a likely customer (not just your roommate who happens to be sitting next to you on the couch).

You can begin with your product concept and eventually transition to your actual product later on.

What’s important now is that you identify these users and keep learning from them as you refine the product.

It doesn’t have to be a massive group — it could be five to 10 people — but you have to keep presenting your idea to them until it clicks.

6. LAUNCH A MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT (MVP)

MVPs are usually associated with tech startups, but they aren’t limited to tech startups. The idea is to create the simplest version of your product and let your beta users play with it.

Almost every startup can create an MVP. It just requires some creativity.

For example, if you’re opening a restaurant, your MVP could be cooking the exact menu you have in mind for dinner parties in your neighborhood or catered events.

If you were going to create a fashion brand, it would be creating a handful of samples that you convince your beta users to wear.

If you were starting a services business (like accounting), you’d bring on a handful of clients free of charge in order to show them how your service works.

The MVP isn’t just about making early money. It’s about knowing for a fact that your first attempt at a product will be flawed — probably many times over — and about using this iteration as a way to learn how to improve the product until it’s awesome.

7. ACQUIRE UNKNOWN CUSTOMERS

You’ll often find your beta users from people you know. They’re basically the “low hanging fruit” of people who clearly have an interest in your product.

That’s super helpful, but the real test is getting strangers to use your product. That’s where early customer acquisition becomes important.

There are essentially three parts to early customer acquisition:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Milk

Chance are you’ll refine these three elements hundreds of times before you get them right. What’s important now though is just starting the testing process.

In the online world, that often means running ads on Google and Facebook, sending customers to a landing page to sign up, and then trying to figure out how to convert that signup into a paid customer.

But that’s just one way to acquire unknown customers. Your version could involve sourcing new clients, how to convert them into a sale (during a sales call for instance) and then how to maximize their value by keeping them as a client.

In every case, it’s just another version of learning how you’re going to acquire customers.

8. COMMIT TO A BRAND PROMISE

As you talk to more and more customers, you’re going to start to see a pattern emerge around what they really want and expect out of your product.

They are essentially asking for your “brand promise” — what can your brand promise to deliver if people use your product.

If you’re running a yoga studio, can your brand promise an incredibly uplifting experience? How?

Every great brand (and some shitty ones) are built on a brand promise that keeps customers coming back. You need to refine your brand promise and move that to the top of all of your communications.

It’s not just a tagline on the bottle of your craft beer. It’s an implicit feeling that you can constantly deliver every time someone interacts with your company or your product.

9. MAXIMIZE CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

As startups grow, they often look at customer service as a necessary evil to keep selling more product. That’s definitely the wrong approach.

A formative startup wants as much customer feedback as possible, no matter how awful it may sound at the time.

At Startups.co we have over a million companies on our platform and every single one of them gets an email from the Founder + CEO Wil Schroter. (Hit Reply and see how quickly I respond!)

Instead of looking at it as a million potential complaints, we look at it as a million potential points of feedback. And all of our customers are founders themselves, so they provide amazing feedback!

Maximizing customer feedback is the lifeblood of a new startups product roadmap. Every single data point helps shape the highly formative nature of the product.

That includes every possible channel from in-person customer interactions to back and forth tweets to voicemails left after hours.

Every data point matters because every customer interaction tells a story of where the product is supposed to be going.

10. REEXAMINE

And the last step of the cycle of launching a startup is reassessment. It’s time to take a look at what you’ve done and honestly decide whether or not it’s a good idea to keep going — or if it’s time for a pivot.

What are you hearing from your customers? Do you have a clear path forward? Or does it seem like your initial idea isn’t going to cut it, after all? Is someone else doing it much better than you ever could?

Be honest with yourself, because continuing on with a startup that’s not working is a great way to go bankrupt.

You might have to go through this cycle a few times before you find the idea that truly fits both your market and your passions.

But when you get there — when you finally nail that perfect idea and product/market fit — there’s nothing better.

4 Ways Small Businesses Can Maximize Productivity With Limited Resources

There are many advantages that only small businesses have, but leaders need to be gutsy enough to squeeze those advantages for all they’re worth rather than try to be miniature versions of larger companies.

PRODUCTIVITY AND TECHNOLOGY ARE THE KEYS TO CLOSING THE RESOURCE GAP

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There are many advantages that only small businesses have, but leaders need to be gutsy enough to squeeze those advantages for all they’re worth rather than try to be miniature versions of larger companies.

According to Jan Lehman, vice president of CTC Productivity, leaders need guts to make changes to their team’s productivity. “To create a culture of productivity requires a strong leader who is willing to push forward when resistance happens,” she explains. Leaders need the confidence to leverage tools and technology, push through productivity initiatives, and trust that their employees will be able to rise to the challenge.

One company that has managed to do just that is Organize and Stage Your Home, a small business that helps its clients make space in their homes. By leveraging productivity techniques and taking advantage of the software-as-a-service tools that don’t make sense for larger companies, Organize and Stage Your Home has kept costs down and enabled growth.

“Because our small business has stayed under 10 people since its inception, we have been able to leverage many freemium-based tools that are out of reach for larger companies,” says Certified Professional Organizer Teresa James.

The freemium model is rocket fuel for small businesses. It’s a symbol of how the commercial world is becoming more focused on scrappy startups rather than the corporate giants that overshadow them.

4 WAYS TO MAXIMIZE PRODUCTIVITY

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Here are some strategies you can use to maximize productivity and close the resource gap as an entrepreneur:

1. Make selective, specialized hires.

In a small business, you have to be strategic about who you hire. One of the first hires that will give you a solid grounding is a great administrative assistant. Find a remote, part-time, or virtual assistant you can hire on an as-needed basis so you can test out how much help you need with those little tasks that are sucking your time.

Hiring expert part-time subcontractors is the next smart strategy. Subcontractors who are specialists in their fields will be able to bring all their insight, training, and equipment to your door. Plus, you can adjust their workload based on the current profitability of the company.

2. Become a highly flexible, creative employer.

Small businesses have a unique opportunity to offer a blank canvas to employees. Many brilliant people are actively searching for flexibility in their job and are happy to work part-time or remotely. Providing flexibility, both in time and geography, will lead to happier, more productive employees who work hard for you.

Try asking friends and neighbors whether they know anyone who proofreads, knows Photoshop, writes grant proposals, or anything else your business needs. Create a community of people who are passionate about what they do and don’t need a full-time job to show it.

3. Take advantage of affordable technology.

The advent of SaaS technology has made it possible for small businesses to get access to powerful tools without paying beyond their means. Now, software companies charge per seat, so small businesses that could never afford an IT department can now leverage the same technology at a fraction of the cost.

There are countless SaaS tools around now that specifically aid small businesses. Google’s free suite of tools, for example, provides an alternative to costly tools like the Microsoft Suite and allows users to grow before they invest.

Other free tools like Grammarly, Calendly, and Todoist enable companies to polish, schedule, and organize their work expertly — without having to hire proofreaders and secretaries.

When you put these tools together and create a stack that works for you, you could shave valuable funds and time off your processes.

4. Turn your company culture into your differentiator.

Culture is one major advantage that small companies have over big ones. You have the capability to shift and shape your culture according to your values, your users, and your team.

In this day and age, a “cultural fit” is equally important to pay. This is hugely attractive to talented, creative people who want to have an impact in their place of work.

This ability to craft culture gives small businesses a hiring advantage in the current tight job market. So promote your culture during your recruiting efforts, and explain how new hires can change the cultural life of your business.

Startups and small businesses have the odds stacked against them in today’s ultra-competitive environment. But by making the most of their unique advantages, the little guys can become a big threat.

How To Conduct A Market Analysis For Your Business

market analysis is an assessment of any given market that includes both qualitative and quantitative research. Conducting a thorough market analysis as a key piece of your business plan ensures that you know everything there is to know aboutyour market.Coincidentally, it reassures any current or future investors that you know what you’re doing, that you’ve done you’re homework and that you’re the right entrepreneur to address the gap in this particular market.

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HOW TO CONDUCT A MARKET ANALYSIS

But — in order to conduct a thorough market analysis — you need to cover a wide range of topics. Before diving into the specifics, remember that at its core, a market analysis is about learning the most you can about your market.

You’ll discover who your customers will be — and how many are out there! You’ll poke around and learn where they’re spending their money and how much they’re willing to dish out for a product just like yours. Oh, and you’ll also do some major sleuthing on your competitors.

TOP 10 TOPICS TO COVER IN YOUR MARKET ANALYSIS

Industry Description and Outlook

What does the industry in which your startup or small business exists look like? Be sure to include size, trends, life cycle, and any projected growth. It’s good to start with an industry description and outlook because it gives the rest of your market analysis solid, broad view to start from.

Demographics and Segmentation

If your startup or small business targets more than one market segment, you need to outline that in the demographics and segmentation section. Start with demographics and then examine other possible segments. Some to consider include geographic segmentation (where do people live) and behavioral segmentation (what are specific, relevant actions people take).

Target Market

If the industry description is the broad view a market analysis starts from, then target market is the view from a microscope. This is where you’ll determine and lay out exactly who your product is for. Be specific. A target market description should include the market size as well as a specific user persona.

When developing a user persona, create an actual person. What’s their name? How old are they? What do they do for work? Do they have a family? The specifics will help you narrow down exactly who you’re targeting and will help you outline more general demographics for your target market.

Total Addressable Market (TAM)

The total addressable market (TAM) explains just how much potential for growth your startup has. Investors want to know you’re solving a painful problem in a giant market. They want to invest in good companies that can have huge outcomes to make up for all the bad investments they might have made. They’re thinking to themselves, “If this startup isn’t going after a big enough market, it won’t be able to create an exponential outcome for me.”

TAM addresses the question “How many people could potentially use this product?” It doesn’t mean how many people will use your product. This is the question you’ll get asked the most, and the answers are often the most wrong. We’ll get to that later.

The problem starts when people don’t realize they are using different terms interchangeably. Are you being asked how many people could potentially use your product or how many people will use your product? Nearly every person on the planet may have the ability to watch Netflix, but that doesn’t mean the TAM for Netflix is the entire population of Earth!

Market Need

Market need is about determining the drivers of demand for your product? Why do your potential customers need your product? What will drive them to spend their money on it? In this section, you’re going to look at the current behaviors of your target market and outline how those behaviors prove that they’ll be interested in spending money on your product.

Market need is not your competitive analysis, but it does help to look at your competition in order to determine how people are already behaving. It also helps because you can find gaps in the market — need that aren’t currently being filled that your company can fulfill.

Market Test Results

If you’ve been able to conduct market tests — or if you have access to market test results that have been conducted by someone else — you should write them up in the market test results section. What conclusions did you come to after running your tests or doing your research? How did you get to those conclusions? Do you have any experts who can back you up?

Competition

An important part of a market analysis is determining who’s already on the field. Who are your competitors? Outline their strengths and weaknesses. Once you’ve determined those, you’ll be able to use them to determine your own startup’s advantage and marketing position.

How much will customers pay

You need to be able to give an estimate of how much customers will pay for your project. Imagine if you were an investor and you got a pitch for a product that was essentially a ballpoint pen and the founder was trying to claim that people would be willing to pay $4,000 for it. You’d throw that pitch away, right?

So, be realistic. Do your research. Examine the market. See what people are already paying for similar products and peg your price in the same range. You don’t want to undervalue your product — but you don’t want to over value it either.

Barriers To Entry

The barriers to entry section on your market analysis is all about what prevents a competitor from taking over your position in the market and what makes you the best person and your company the best company to do what you do. You need to be able to answer the question of what prevents a competitor from opening up and taking a large portion — or the entirety — of your market away from you. You also need to be able to explain why you’ll be successful in this market.

What are the specific barriers to entry for your competitors? Consider things like technology required, any regulations in your market, investment needed, access to resources, brand visibility, and location, depending on your business and your market.

Regulation

What regulations are required for your market? Explain what they are and the steps you’ll be taking to remain compliant with them.

RESOURCES FOR CONDUCTING MARKET ANALYSIS

While there are online tools that can help you with your market analysis (and we’ll highlight some below), a great market analysis can’t be done solely with online tools. Instead, you’re going to have to put in the work to really dig deep, sometimes using old fashioned research methods.

HERE ARE A FEW RESOURCES FOR CONDUCTING MARKET ANALYSIS:

The Census Bureau

When you’re looking for demographic info, look no further than the US Census Bureau. You can find great information ranging from locations to age to race (to name just a few) on their site.

Online tools

If you’re looking to gather information about your competition and your company is primarily online, check out SimilarWeb for extensive data. It’s a great resource for boosting up the credibility of your numbers.

The Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce is a good option for companies that are locally based. So if your small business or startup is focusing specifically on the local market, head to the Chamber of Commerce to learn more about the business climate in your area, as well as who’s already out there in your field.

Surveys

When you’re trying to learn more about your market, why not ask them yourself? A well-designed survey can give you information about your users that you never would have expected. You can design and conduct surveys yourself, if that’s in your skill set, or you can hire a professional firm to conduct them for you.

Market Analysis Companies

Another option is to hire a market analysis or market research company or consultant to help you complete this essential task. Startup founders often think that they have to do everything — and they try to save money by “wearing all the hats” — but it’s fine to admit that you just don’t have the skills for certain things. If market analysis feels way to far out of your wheel house, do a little research and find a company that can take care of it for you.

Your market analysis should be thorough, clear, and comprehensive.

Remember:

You’re learning about your market to help you convince investors, but you’re also doing it to ensure you truly know the market your startup is in. Both are essential for success, so don’t skip steps on this one.

Top 4 Business Plan Examples | entropylabs.in

Founders have to learn so many new skills when they’re launching a startup, and writing a business plan is a big one. When you’re writing your business plan for the first time, things can get… intimidating.

What do you include? What kind of wording should you use? What do make sure not to include?

It’s enough to make even a stalwart startup founder throw in the towel before they’ve even begun.

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Lucky for you — we’ve created a complete guide to writing your business plan. Check it out if you haven’t already. (And if a link from there brought you here, just keep reading!)

But, while it’s nice to be guided step-by-step, it can also really help to have concrete examples when you’re approaching creating something for the first time.

So, with that in mind, here are four sample business plans from the Startups community that we think really stand out from the crowd.

Click on the below links to see fully formatted versions or continue reading for the text-only version of Culina’s.

CULINA Executive Summary

Fast Facts:

Headquarters: 2013

Founder: Kent McClure

Market Size: $12.5 billion

Target Audience: Homeowners; property managers; insurance providers.

Quick Description:

Culina is a San Francisco-based IoT and home automation company. We design an advanced smart hub technology that enables users to interconnect and remotely monitor all of their cooking devices and kitchen appliances through a single user-friendly platform.

Our Mission:

To make homes smarter, more connected, and safer for families while helping them save money and conserve energy through the power of affordable, automated technology.

Our Vision:

To become the leading provider of IoT technology for kitchen appliances on a global scale with application across both residential and commercial properties.

Company Synopsis:

Culina Tech is the next leading name in home automation and IoT. We’re committed to leading the charge in creating the ultimate smart kitchen for homeowners all around the world. Our revolutionary Smart Plugs enable users to make any kitchen appliance or cooking device intelligent. Compatible with all existing brands that plug into standard two or three-prong wall outlets, Culina creates an entire network of Wi-Fi-connected kitchen devices. The Culina App allows users to remotely monitor the status of and control all devices connected to our Smart Plugs. Whether it’s remotely turning on the coffee pot after getting out of bed, turning off the stove if it was accidentally left on via smartphone, or switching on the crockpot before getting home from work, Culina is purpose-built to deliver unrivaled convenience and peace of mind.

With the ability to set energy usage caps on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, Culina helps homeowners stay within their monthly utility budget and save energy in the kitchen through more efficient use of the dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, stove, and other common appliances.

When a device reaches its energy limit, Culina alerts users through their smartphone and is built with the ability to power down the device automatically if the user chooses. The App measures key usage metrics in real time, allowing users to get an instant dashboard view of energy consumption as it occurs.

Our team has already finished the product development and design phase, with 3 prototype iterations completed, and we are now ready to begin mass manufacturing. We’ve also gained major traction among consumers and investors alike, with 10,000 pre-ordered units sold and $5 million in capital secured to date.

With this round of funding, our objective is to ramp up hardware manufacturing, improve software UX and UI, expand our sales and marketing efforts, and fulfill pre-orders in time for the 2017 holiday season. We are currently seeking a $15M Series B capital investment that will give us the financial flexibility to achieve these goals. On behalf the entire Culina Tech team, we’d like to thank you for your time and interest in our company and this investment opportunity.

Funding Allocation:

⇾ 30% Manufacturing

⇾ 25% Sales & Marketing

⇾ 25% Key Hires

⇾ 20% Operational

Team Overview:

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s a quintessential gathering place where families and friends come together to break bread, be merry, and make memories. But the kitchen is also where tragedy often strikes due to misuse of appliances. Kent McClure and his team set out to make the kitchen a safer and more energy-efficient place for the family after a tragic fire struck his own kitchen in late 2012. Thankfully, no lives were lost and everyone in his family made it out safe and sound, but Kent couldn’t help but wonder “what if.”

With decades in the industrial design space, Kent knew he had the knowledge and the industry contacts to set out to improve upon home automation devices for the kitchen with a solution that not only made homes safer, but also cut down on energy consumption and the associated costs. In early 2013, Culina was born. Since that time, Kent and the Culina team have made it their mission to completely revolutionize the home automation and IoT space with innovative, AI-powered technology.

Kent McClure | Founder & CEO

Kent is a Carnegie Mellon graduate with over 10 years of executive leadership experience in industrial design and engineering. He has a successful entrepreneurial history, founding a prior tech-based startup which he grew to $100 million in revenue, followed by acquisition in 2010 and then IPO shortly after.

Sherri Carlson | COO

Sherri earned her MBA from Harvard Business School. She oversees all of Culina’s ongoing operations and procedures and is responsible for driving Culina to achieve and surpass sales, profitability, cash flow, and business goals and objectives.

Martin Frink | CTO

Martin is a Stanford University alumnus with extensive technical expertise and over a decade of experience at venture-backed tech companies. He is responsible for Culina’s technical vision, heading up all aspects of our technological development, strategic direction, development, and future growth.

Margaret Burns | CFO

Margaret earned her degree in Financial Management from NYU. Prior to joining Culina, Margaret spent seven years as CFO for a publicly-traded mobile tech company headquartered in Silicon Valley. She currently manages Culina’s financial risks and handles all financial planning, record-keeping, and reporting.

COMPANY OVERVIEW

MARKET OPPORTUNITY

An enormous need exists for dramatic reductions in energy consumption. Businesses alone consume 12-20% of the total US energy supply on food production, processing, manufacturing, distribution, and preparation.

On the residential side, the Energy Information Administration estimates that the average US household uses 11,280 kWh peryear. Many homeowners are simply unaware of the large amount of energy consumed by many small household kitchen appliances:

Dishwasher: 133 watts

Television: 1,200 to 2,400 watts

Coffee Maker: 900 to 1,200 watts

Washing Machine: 350 to 500 watts

Toaster: 55 to 250 watts

Window Fan: 800 to 1,400 watts

The majority of US households now spend roughly 35 percent of their energy consumption on appliances, electronics, and lighting.

Most homeowners don’t think about the little details that can help save them money on their energy bill. The vast majority of people keep the refrigerator or freezer too cold, fail to make sure refrigerator door seals are airtight, neglect to regularly defrost fridges and freezers, overload their dishwashers, and keep dishwasher water temperature too hot. As a result, energy consumption remains high, and energy bills remain high

Not only do kitchens represent a primary source of the household energy consumption, but also a primary source of house fires. More fires start in the kitchen than any other room in the home, and household cooking appliances frequently account for the billions of dollars in fire-related insurance claims every year. The number one cause of house fires and house fire injuries is the stove.

✔ 46% of house fires caused by cooking equipment

✔ 62% of house fires caused by ranges or cooktops

✔ $4,000 average fire and smoke damage repair costs

Culina is actively solving both of these common challenges caused by cooking equipment simultaneously. Our technology provides homeowners with immediate, real-time insight into their energy consumption by aggregating data for all kitchen appliances connected to our Smart Plugs while also delivering the preventative intelligence necessary to reduce kitchen-related disasters.

Key Features and Benefits:

We designed our Culina Smart Plugs to work in tandem with an intuitive, user-friendly mobile application — allowing users to gain a much-needed technological upgrade to the most popular room in the house.

Easy Setup:

Culina Smart Plugs work with standard two and three-pronged appliances and cooking devices. Simply attach the Culina Smart Plug to the appliance’s electrical, plug it into the wall, download the Culina app, connect, and configure

Constantly Learning:

Powered by machine learning artificial intelligence, our Intelligent Culina Response System learns user habits every time someone uses an appliance connected to one of our Smart Plugs.

Multi-Threat Sensors:

Our state-of-the-art sensors detect a variety of potential threats to the kitchen — including sudden and unusual temperature fluctuations, poisonous gas and emissions, toxic smoke, and more. Homeowners receive alerts whenever unusual activity is in progress such as a stovetop being left on for too long or during an unusual time of day.

Remote Monitoring:

Users can monitor all information directly from an easy-to-navigate dashboard in real time using the Culina App for iOS andAndroid. Users can check metrics such as fridge and freezer temperature,cook time, and usage data as it is being gathered.

Remote Appliance Control:

With the Culina App, users can control all connected appliances and devices. If our Smart Plug is attached to a crockpot, for example, a user can add the ingredients before they head to work, activate the crockpot remotely, and come home to a readymade meal waiting for them the moment they step through the front door.

We designed our Culina Smart Plugs to work in tandem with an intuitive, user-friendly mobile application — allowing users to gain a much-needed technological upgrade to the most popular room in the house.

Remote Shut-Off:

Not only does remote operation over appliances provide convenience, it also serves to prevent kitchen-related hazards. The Culina App includes auto shut-off capabilities allowing users to turn off appliances using their smartphone even when they’re not at home. This is particularly useful in the event that users forget to turn off the oven or stove to prevent potential house fires.

Advanced Notifications:

In addition to notifying users if an appliance is left on by accident or if it detects a potential hazard, Culina also reminds users anytime regular maintenance is required.

Energy Consumption Data:

Users can also monitor energy consumption on a weekly basis right from the Culina App. By providing at-a-glance insight into whether energy use has gone up or down, users gain the ability to adjust their usage accordingly in order to conserve energy and ultimately save money in utility bills the long term.

Inter-operability:

Our cloud-based technology integrates with other popular platforms including Google’s Nest and Lowe’s Iris.

Cost-Saving Benefits:

Not only can users conserve money in energy consumption bills with Culina, but new insurance guidelines also provide significant discounts for homeowners who deploy smart technologies in their homes.

PRICING AND REVENUE

Culina will initially monetize from hardware sales.

Hardware:

Our product will sell for $149 MSRP with approximately 40% profit margin. We will initially sell our product through popular e-commerce platforms and through our website — followed by brick-and-mortar outlets including Lowe’s, Best Buy, Home Depot, and other major big box retailers.

5-Year Net Revenue Projections

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Company Milestones:

With much of the heavy lifting already completed, Culina has laid the groundwork for rapid expansion going forward. Here’s an overview of our accomplishments since first founding the company in 2013.

Consumer Validated:

Our first generation product is market-ready and primed for commercial manufacturing. We have pre-sold 10,000 units, representing approximately $1,890,000 in pre-launch revenue. Our immediate customer base growing by the day and we have successfully proven that this is a product that consumers want and are enthusiastic about.

Investor-Backed:

We have secured a total of $5 million in funding among angel investors, founder capital, friends and family, and VCs.

Proprietary Technology:

We have applied for and have been granted a provisional patent for our Smart Plug technology.

Strategic Partnerships:

We are in the process of building relationships with notable industry leaders,influencers, and development teams in the home automation sector.We are also in advanced-stage partnership discussions with a number of major name insurance providers.

Press Mentions:

Culina has received coverage in many of today’s most renowned tech and entrepreneurial publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, The Verge, WIRED, and Engadget, among others.

Manufacturing:

A US-based contract manufacturer has been secured and is ready to begin production with the capacity to produce around 50K units per month as we scale.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT

Our initial focus on the consumer space with our launch product is just the first step in our long term roadmap to growth. In order to capture a larger market share and continue scaling the company exponentially, we are planning on rolling out a B2B model in the future. This will provide Culina with new revenue streams and will offer a valuable, tech-driven solution for businesses.

Commercial Kitchens:

Commercial kitchens consume a huge amount of energy — roughly 2.5 times more per square foot than any other commercial space, according to the EPA.

The Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI) estimates commercial kitchen equipment is often only 50% efficient. The challenge with reducing energy consumption in commercial kitchens is that it’s neither practical nor affordable to replace all kitchen equipment or redesign entire work spaces.

In an effort to reduce CO2 emissions, some governments are offering incentives to business who can cut back on their carbon footprint. In the UK, Enhanced Capital Allowances allow businesses to benefit from 100% tax relief on their qualifying capital expenditure on energy-saving equipment. This can provide a cash flow boost and an incentive to invest in energy-saving equipment which normally carries a price premium compared to less efficient alternatives.

Our 2nd generation product will represent a revenue-generating and energy-saving solution for commercial kitchens where equipment is frequently selected based on low capital cost with little regard to whole life-cycle cost and the resulting negative energy consumption.

Built on cloud computing, machine-to-machine communication, and information-gathering sensors, the Internet of Things market is rapidly making more and more commonplace devices “smarter.” Factor in the increasing prevalence of smartphones and tablets, and home automation and IoT products are now becoming much easier to use and significantly more affordable than they have ever been before.

What was once only reserved for the wealthy and tech-savvy, everyday consumers now have direct access to and can take advantage of a growing number of home automation devices. The evolution of the Internet of Things has enabled consumers to digitally connect and remotely control everything from their door locks to their thermostat to their garage opener and essentially everything else in between. Evidence of the enormous impact home automation tech has had in the consumer space can be seen in the enormous adoption of products like Nest and Amazon Echo.

The home automation market and Internet of Things (IoT) space is a thriving industry with growth expected to exceed $50 billion by 2020. This represents an estimated 300% increase from today’s market of $12.5 billion. Around 8.4 billion connected devices will be installed globally by the end of 2017, representing a +31% increase in just one year. Around 63% of these devices will be used by consumers, with the remainder deployed by businesses.

Culina is perfectly positioned to capitalize on a major multi-billion dollar market opportunity to provide greater protection, actionable intelligence, lower energy consumption, and more cost savings to the millions of homes in the US.

TARGET AUDIENCE

We are directly targeting three specific target populations for our product:

Homeowners:

Homeowners are our end users and will benefit the most from our product. For homeowners, Culina represents safety, peace of mind, increased convenience, and an economically-wise investment that pays for itself over time.

Residential Property Managers:

Including apartment complex and student housing owners. Culina offers increased owner ROI, occupant satisfaction, significantly lower operational and maintenance costs.

Insurance Companies:

By reducing home fires caused by unattended cooking and the resulting billions of dollars in related insurance claims filed every year. Insurance companies can also leverage our technology to adjust homeowners insurance policy pricing.

MARKETING STRATEGY

Culina has carefully developed a diverse marketing plan intended to keep our brand in the hearts and minds of our existing and prospective customers, enabling us to continue expanding our reach, and grow our business. Between our massive social network followings and email database contacts, we regularly communicate directly with over 100,000 consumers.

SEO & Social:

We will drive traffic and conversions to our website using social media marketing via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and others. We are also exploring SEO and SEM.

Content Marketing:

We consistently release marketing content through our blog that aims to educate our audience about the value that our product provides. Our content marketing efforts aim to influence and persuade readers without having to rely solely on conventional direct selling tactics.

Influencer Marketing:

We will launch an initiative to guest blog articles and features in IoT, home automation, and startup tech publications like TechCrunch, Wired, VentureBeat, and other outlets in our industry.

COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE

Primary competitors for Culina include other companies that are currently operating in the home automation and Internet of Things space, such as Nest Labs, Amazon Echo, and Wallflower Labs.

Nest

Leading home automation company Nest introduced their first product, Nest Learning Thermostat, in 2011. The company was founded in 2010 by former Apple engineers Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers and is headquartered in Palo Alto, California. Nest was acquired by Google on January 14, 2014 by Google for $3.2 billion and still operates under its own brand identity.

Features:

Nest Labs designs programmable, self-learning, sensor-driven, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats, smoke detectors, and other security systems.

Pricing:

The 3rd generation Nest Thermostat prices at $249; Nest Indoor and Outdoor Cams are $199; and their Smoke & CO Alarm retails for $99.

Key Weaknesses:

After Nest’s acquisition, the company has underperformed in sales and fallen below the expectations that Google set for them when it purchased the start

Features:

Alexa is a voice-activated virtual assistant housed within the Echo smart speaker. Users simply say her name and then ask a question or give a command.

Pricing:

The Amazon Echo retails for $99 for Amazon Prime members and $170 for everyone else.

Key Weaknesses:

However, some users have noted uneven sound quality and limited “skills” capabilities. Users can also only interact and communicate with Alexa in English and German.

Wallflower

Founded December 1, 2013, Wallflower Labs is a Charleston, MA-based startup that designs an internet- connected smart plug that works with any freestanding plug-in electric stove. The company’s founder previously founded Yap — a speech recognition technology that was acquired by Amazon in 2011 to help develop Alexa. The startup has raised a total of $2.5 million from three rounds of equity funding to date, with the most recent funding reported at $1.5 million via convertible note on August 30, 2016.

Features:

The smart plug sounds an alarm and alerts homeowners via smartphone when the stove is turned on, someone forgets to turn it off, when a cooking time expires, or the smoke alarm activates.

Pricing:

Because Wallflower Labs are still in the pre-launch phase, the company has not yet publicly released consumer pricing information.

Key Weaknesses:

Unlike Culina, which connects with all smart appliances and cooking devices in the kitchen, Wallflower Labs is solely focused on monitoring stove usage.

DIFFERENTIATING FACTORS

Culina maintains a unique competitive advantage over other existing home automation and IoT products in several categories. Our biggest differentiators include:

Diverse Product Capabilities

Culina makes it possible to gain an across-the-board view from an entire network of interconnected devices. Whether they’re connected to the refrigerator, a gas or electric-powered stove, a microwave, or dishwasher, our Smart Plugs can deliver insight into everything from smoke and gas detection, temperature changes, and usage metrics — regardless of the brand and through a single, user-friendly app.

User-Friendly

Our technology is easy to use and doesn’t require any technical-savvy. Setup and configuration is simple, users are able to be up and running out of the box in approximately 10 minutes, and software updates are deployed over-the-air.

Affordability

Culina is priced below our competitors’ products while delivering superior functionality and value. This will be an essential factor in helping us continue to gain market share nationally.

Team Strength Our team is comprised of industry veterans who bring decades of experience to the table across industrial design, mobile tech, cloud-based technology, artificial intelligence, and more. Our leadership team has a history starting and leading companies to successful exits and have established valuable relationships with industry leaders along the way that will help the us strategically position Culina as a market innovator in the days ahead.

INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY

Culina is currently seeking a total of $15M in Series B equity financing to fuel the next stage of company growth — including manufacturing, pre-order fulfillment, ongoing development of our platform, and marketing efforts in order to continue expanding the Culina brand. Any remaining funds will be allocated as operating capital.

Why Invest in Culina? With Culina, investors have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor with a company that’s positioned to grow into a leading innovator in the home automation and IoT space.

With Culina, we’ve tapped into something truly extraordinary that’s being celebrated by both early adopters and investors alike. With 10,000 units pre-sold and $1.89M in pre-launch revenue , we’ve already successfully demonstrated validation in the consumer space. With over $5 million in funding secured across several financing rounds, we’ve already proven that investors believe in our company, our mission, and our ability to succeed.

We’ve also established a scalable business model and robust product pipeline that will prime us for widespread expansion in the days ahead. We’re now seeking investors who share our passion and commitment to pushing the boundaries of what home automation can be and do through nextgen technology.

We’re looking forward to working with you in accelerating Culina’s growth to become a dominant player in the booming global home automation and IoT industry.

HOW TO CREATE A “GO TO MARKET STRATEGY”

A“go to market strategy” outlines how your startup plans to deliver your product to your customer. While similar to a business plan, a go to market strategy is narrower in scope. A business plan covers everything about the business, while go to market strategy zeros in on exactly how your startup will deliver a product or service to your customer.

Define Your Product

This one might seem painfully obvious, but you have to know what you’re selling before you can sell it. With that in mind, take a little time to clearly define your product before you dive into the rest of your go to market strategy. You need to be able to say exactly what the product is as well as what it does.

Granted, much of the information you uncover as you develop your go to market strategy will speak to this. But your research will be more useful if you’re starting with a solid understanding of what, exactly, it is you’re selling.

Define The Market

There are a few important elements to consider when you’re defining the market for your startup.

Target Market

The target market section is where you determine and lay out exactly who your product is for. Be specific. A target market description should include the market size, demographics, income, geography, etc. It’s the macro-level view of who is going to be buying your product.

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Total Addressable Market (TAM)

The total addressable market (TAM) explains just how much potential for growth your startup has. Investors want to know you’re solving a painful problem in a giant market. They want to invest in good companies that can have huge outcomes to make up for all the bad investments they might have made. They’re thinking to themselves, “If this startup isn’t going after a big enough market, it won’t be able to create an exponential outcome for me.”

TAM addresses the question “How many people could potentially use this product?” It doesn’t mean how many people will use your product. This is the question you’ll get asked the most, and the answers are often the most wrong.

The problem starts when people don’t realize they are using different terms interchangeably. Are you being asked how many people could potentially use your product or how many people will use your product? Nearly every person on the planet may have the ability to watch Netflix, but that doesn’t mean the TAM for Netflix is the entire population of Earth!

Market Need

Market need is about determining the drivers of demand for your product. Why do your potential customers need your product? What will drive them to spend their money on it? In this section, you’re going to look at the current behaviors of your target market and outline how those behaviors prove that they’ll be interested in spending money on your product.

Market need is not your competitive analysis, but it does help to look at your competition in order to determine how people are already behaving. It also helps because you can find gaps in the market — need that aren’t currently being filled that your company can fulfill.

Market Test Results

If you’ve been able to conduct market tests — or if you have access to market test results that have been conducted by someone else — you should write them up in the market test results section. What conclusions did you come to after running your tests or doing your research? How did you get to those conclusions? Do you have any experts who can back you up?

Here are some questions about your market that you should be able to answer by the time you’ve finished this section:

✔ How big is your market?

✔ Where is it located?

✔ What are some demographic facts about your market?

✔ Why do your potential customers need your product?

✔ What are they already spending money on?

✔ Is your target market growing, declining, or staying stable?

Specify The Buyer

This is where you get specific about the person who is going to buy your product. The user persona is a character created by you and your team to personify the typical customer of your startup. Using the data you gathered in the market section, you should be able to create a person who represents your greater market.

Ask Yourself:

✔ What’s your user’s name?

✔ How old are they?

✔ Where do they live?

✔ Do they live in a house or an apartment?

✔ Do they own or rent?

✔ What do they do for work?

✔ Do they have children?

✔ Are the married? Single? Divorced?

✔ What level of education have they achieved?

✔ What’s their income?

Continue with questions along those lines until you have a fully fleshed-out persona. The specifics will help you narrow down exactly who you’re targeting and will help you outline more general demographics for your target market.

Get A Crystal-Clear View Of The Customer’s Problem

If you’re going to sell your product, the number one thing you have to ask yourself is: How does this benefit my customer? What problem am I solving for them? Without knowing what the problem is, you can’t present your product or service as the solution.

If you’ve made a business plan, you already have a problem statement. But if you haven’t gotten there yet, here are some general tips for how to create your problem statement.

Pick The Biggest Problem

There’s a good chance that your product solves multiple problems, and that’s wonderful. Right now, however, it’s time to lead with just one of them – the biggest problem you solve. If your biggest problem isn’t compelling, it stands to reason that the second biggest problem you tackle isn’t going to save you. You don’t win on the number of problems you solve; you win on how well you solve a particular problem.

This doesn’t mean we will ignore the other problems. We can certainly cite those as well, but we want to tighten our focus initially so that we can talk about this problem first, build a story around it, and then dig into related problems to solve later.

Focus On The Pain-Point

Not all problems are created equal. The value of a problem is proportionate to how painful that problem is. The more painful the problem, the more powerful the solution.

You don’t have to be addressing a life-threatening problem to make it powerful. You need to focus on the detail of the pain in your problem. Even “convenience” can be presented very differently if it isn’t given enough character.

Here are some questions you should be able to answer by the end of this section:

✔ What problem is my product solving?

✔ Is it my customer’s biggest problem?

✔ How does this benefit my customer?

DETERMINE YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION

The value proposition is one or two sentences that spell out exactly why customers should buy your product instead of a competitor’s. What value does your product bring to your user’s life? Why will they want to spend money on the thing you’re offering?

A good place to start when determining the value proposition of your startup is by determining the problem facing your customer. Once you’ve established the problem, it’s time to show how your product solves that problem. Make a list of the benefits and value your product brings to your customers. You can also research the competition in order to determine what makes you stand out from everyone else.

Examples:

“Stripe is the best software platform for running an internet business. We handle billions of dollars every year for forward-thinking businesses around the world.” — Stripe

“Free music. Millions of songs. Play on any device. No credit card needed.” — Spotify

“Software to fuel your growth and build deeper relationships, from first hello to happy customer and beyond.” — HubSpot

FIGURE OUT A PRICING STRATEGY

How much are you going to charge for your product? Determining your pricing strategy is more involved than just picking a number out of thin air and slapping it on your website. You have to truly know your market, know your customer, and know your product.

It’s a complicated process that involves clear and deep knowledge of your product and the marketplace. What are your competitors charging? How much does it charge you to make, ship, or store your product? These are all factors to take into consideration when you’re figuring out your pricing strategy.

OUTLINE MARKETING AND PROMOTION PLANS

Your investors are going to want to know what your plan is for marketing and promotion.

Remember: This is your go to market strategy. And what’s more focused on going to your market than your marketing and promotion plans?

You don’t have to know every single step of your marketing plan at this point, but you should be able to answer the question: What’s your promotion strategy?

You should also do some research into the marketing strategies of your competitors for this one.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself as you’re developing your marketing and promotion plans:

✔ Where are my competitors advertising?

✔ Does it seem to be working?

✔ Where aren’t they advertising?

✔ Am I going to focus on digital marketing? Content marketing? Social media? Billboards? Advertisements in print magazines? Why? Why not?

✔ What’s the cost of this advertising method?

✔ Where does my target customer/user persona spend the most time?

✔ Where do they spend the least time?

DETERMINE YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION

A go to market strategy is important for investment, but it’s also important for acquiring customers. (That’s the real end goal, after all.) So once you’ve figured out who your customer is, where they are, and how they buy things — go get them! Put that go to market strategy to work!

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere

For the uninitiated, Lean startup is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.





I have personally benefited by this methodology in real use case. And, I must say, it saves a lot of time & effort for developing products/services. Also, helps a lot to build customer-centric products that are liked/bought by them.


Let’s take an example to understand how you can use this methodology for your business idea. Let’s say you want to build an e-commerce store. Now, as you know, there are hundreds of online stores that are already live selling all kinds of stuff that you can’t imagine. So, it makes sense, to consider & then re-consider the products you want to sell.

What if you can actually gauge the customer likes/dislikes; see through & analyze their behavior/actions before you actually setup the store & start procuring/manufacturing the products.

All it would take is 1-2 weeks & less than $300 to test your future store, which is gonna cost you more than $10,000 (considering tangible products). A lot of small business companies, e-commerce startups use this approach to decide the ultimate product they want to sell.

If you still don’t know it yet, here’s a few bullets to get you through this:

  	
  • Setup a dummy site with minimal hosting bandwidth & a simple CMS: wordpress, shopify or wix.
  • Research the products you want to sell. Find their images, content on google or any website/directory. For  apparel products, you can also research alibaba/aliexpress Chinese sites. They are quite updated on trending  styles & designs coz they supply/ship their products to almost all the countries.
  • Add these products to your catalog page, setup basic UI elements & content for your brand.
  • Now your site/business page is pretty much setup in less than $300.
  • Next, create A/B split tests & start running your campaign on facebook OR use google adwords to drive traffic  to your site.
  • At this point, you can very well track the users activity on all your product pages. You can use simple/free plugins to see which all products are viewed more, added to cart, customer locations, ip addresses.
  • Also, your facebook/google campaign would provide you with quite a number of datapoints of the customer visits, products, ads impact, target audiences.
  • Analyze this data, figure out what kind of products sell more or liked by users.

This is a simple technique to test your product before actually setting up the full-blown web portal & procuring your products. You can easily pivot & stream line your production line without burning much of your time & money.

Visit this link to see some of the successful startups that used simple validated learning's to build their product/service: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/233408