Feb 12

Startup Tactical Quick Reference Guide

I’m a big fan of using simple chronological action lists to keep things moving and to make sure things get done, i.e., a bulleted list of things in priority order. Below I’m providing a quick reference tactical guide for startups of the things they should do and the order in which to do them. This list should be easily accessible and prominently displayed so items can be checked off for all to see. Please note that a number of items will need to be executed concurrently.

  1. Record your business idea as a story. Keep it in words your granny could understand.
  2. Identity your target customer. Who’s going to pay?
  3. Determine the market is big enough (investors typically need big markets)
  4. Clearly define the problem(s) you are solving
  5. Clearly define the solution(s) to solve the problem(s)
  6. Validate the idea
    1. Check with your target customers that you have identified a problem they would pay to have solved
    2. Check with your target customers that you have identified a solution they would buy
  7. Setup a landing page to share your idea with the world and capture email addresses, i.e., future potential customers
  8. Prime the sales pump – figure out how to reach out to target customers!! This is usually the toughest activity!
  9. If you need outside investment, be prepared!
    1. Develop the necessary investor materials, concept presentation system, etc.
    2. Understand how the investor thinks
  10. Minimum Viable Product
    1. While you are focusing on the marketing communication (point 8. above), define the MVP, i.e., the minimum functionality that your target customers would pay for.
    2. Understand that you are targetting the early adopter, who are a lot more forgiving than the mainstream market.
  11. Learn learn learn. Do everything you can to find out what your target customers really want and be prepared to adapt / iterate / pivot (pivot is the last resort when you're not getting traction).

"This article may not be reproduced in whole or part without including the name of the author (James Naylor) and an acknowledgement of the fact the article was originally published in Shoestring Advice for Technology Startups (http://www.KENOVATech.com/blog). Any other use of this material is unauthorized and is a violation of law."


  1. Rachna says:

    Thanks for your efforts for this great checklist items. I'm sure this will be helpful to lots of early startups importantly when they woke up one morning with an idea and all what they want is – Build it! 
    Question James: How can I validate my idea before start building it?

    1. James Naylor says:

      Hi Rachna, the posting “Startup Tactical Quick Reference Guide” has a short reference you can start with and see “Step 6: Define and Validate Your Solution” in the post “How to Start a Successful Hi-Tech Startup”. Pls let me know if this isn’t sufficient and I’ll write a specific blog if you can tell me what you need to understand.

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