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Generally Asked Question

Here are some common questions asked by our clients. Gain your knowledge here.

1Where do you find co-founders?
Most successful startups have more than one founder, and usually the founders seem to have been friends for at least a year before starting the company. The best way to meet co-founders is to go to school with them, so recent grads have a big advantage there. You can also meet co-founders at work, but be careful not to violate whatever noncompete you signed. In the old days, co-founders often met through user groups, but this seems less common now.

2How can someone start a startup if they have a family to support?
The best plan might be to start a consulting business that you can gradually morph into a startup. This way you always have a source of income.

3Do you know of any good books about startups?
The how-to type of books are generally wretched. Many are downright mistaken.

The best source of information about startups is probably not business books, but histories of particular startups and industries. The most famous is Tracy Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine, but there are many good books of this type. I particularly liked Sorensen’s My Forty Years with Ford.

The one book we encourage startup founders to read is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s critically important for anyone in the business. Try to get a used copy printed before the 1960s; after Carnegie died, the book continued to be “updated” by a committee, and the changes were not for the better. I’d also recommend Franklin’s Autobiography.

4I have multiple startup ideas. How do I decide which to work on?
Work on the one that will cause the most immediate, concrete improvement in users’ lives. Don’t worry too much at first about competitors, or how users will find out about it, or how to make money. But don’t work on something that’s going to take ten years, either. (In technology, ten years rounds up to never.)

Google is a good example. Everyone needs Web search, and the founders probably had something that significantly improved their own ability to find stuff online within the first couple months. And once something starts to work (a) it’s enormously encouraging, and (b) it’s much clearer what direction to take it in.

5How do I incorporate?
To form a legal entity, you would typically want to work with an experienced lawyer and then file with whatever state you plan to operate from. Other tools and websites are also available.

6How should my co-founders and I split up the company equity?
This is another question that needs to be answered on a case-by-case basis. While we cannot give you any hard and fast rules as to how your company should split equity, it is generally not advisable to make an even 50/50 split, as it can lead to a lack of control and motivation. Have an honest, open discussion and don’t be selfish.

This conversation needs to be held early, and put into writing. Once you’ve had this hard conversation, you can focus on the task at hand: starting a company.

7What type of incorporation should I use for my business?
There’s no one-size fits all answer here. It is important to understand all structures available, and choose the best structure for your business. When raising capital, investors will typically prefer a C-Corporation structure.

8How do I protect my idea?
You can file for patents, trademarks, and copyrights. If you have something propriety about your company, you should consider filing for a patent to temporarily protect your business in its infancy to get it up and running.

9How do you know when you’re ready to go full-time with your venture?
This is a tough question for any founder. Many startups are started on the side as a part-time project on nights and weekends. Inevitably, the time commitment will grow as you start to find success.

When determining whether to go full-time, it’s a personal decision that will involve a fair to high amount of risk. How confident are you in your business? How hard are you willing to work? How big of an appetite for risk do you have? What exactly is that risk? Do you have a family to support? If you start this business, how much runway do you have to start making revenue?

We strongly recommend considering all the above questions. In addition, take some time to create an honest assessment of your “worst-case scenario.” If things completely tank, where are you now? Is this worst-case that bad? Many founders will find that the pain of wondering, “What if?” is more severe than their potential worst-case scenario.

10How much should I pay myself?
As little as you can to get by. Your startups resources are precious and likely to be slim. You want to squeeze as much value out of them as possible, and that means taking a personal pay cut. Investors who have given you capital to work on your idea also don’t want to see you handle their money irresponsibly by taking an unreasonable share.

That said, investors also recognize that the best opportunity for the business to succeed and for them to make a return on investment, you need to be committed to the business. That means you do need to pay yourself enough money to survive and work on the business without taking on the distraction of other jobs and responsibilities.