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Evaluating an Idea for Feasibility — The Launch Continued

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The prep work that goes into launching your business may be as exhausting and frustrating as managing a startup. It is important to focus, stay organized and press forward. Onward and upward, as they say! So, what are the next steps in preparing for a launch?

Choosing a Name

...is often the first step, once you’ve determined what it is you actually want to do. Will the name be direct (Facebook) or indirect (Shazam)? Coming up with a name that isn’t already in use nowadays can be a nightmare, so follow a few quick steps to get your feet set in the process. First, know whether you want a descriptive or quirky name. Start by writing down fun words that describe what you do. Look for word and letter combos that create a new word or a new spelling. Research nouns or verbs in foreign languages and create a name based on one of these. For example, Limpiar is “to clean,” and perro is “dog” in Spanish. If you combine them you could call your dog-washing business Limpierro. Note: I do not recommend opening a dog-washing business called Limpierro…for a lot of reasons!

Creating a Logo

...is often the second process entrepreneurs go through. Unless you are creative (which I am not), this process can be painstakingly boring and difficult. The “art of the logo” is something that many entrepreneurs have failed at (see just about every small church website in America). Logos have become something of an art expression for startups in recent years, so don’t downplay the importance of yours. The logo will be the window to your business as you embark on the journey of branding. First, if you are not creative (and I mean capable of using expensive design software), find a graphic artist. Look for a firm if you have money, but otherwise just ask around or go to an art institute near you. Give them ideas and tell them what you do (helps to have the company name at this point). Be prepared to look at dozens of iterations, but give honest feedback. An artist’s feelings are not easily hurt.…this is your business, your baby and your branding, for crying out loud. Go simple, go color, go square (think apps and business cards).

Establish an online presence

...even before you have developed a line of code or a first prototype. Get your domain (you are looking at domain names as you consider company names, right?), create a Twitter handle, create a Facebook page, create a YouTube channel, launch a Google+ page and investigate other common social media tools that your industry uses. Now use them…all of them!

Early and often…find followers and be a follower. Comment, create content and look real! Create a sweet splash page with a giant timer (counting down to your launch date) so that everyone thinks you are doing something crazy behind the scenes. I mean, if you have a logo and a splash page you are a startup, right? Now go to TechCrunch and Mashable to see if you can get a page there. Tell them you are in “stealth-mode”(everyone loves that phrase, but half the time, all it really means is that you don’t have ANYTHING). If you have a partner in crime (you do have a co-founder…?), register with StartupDFW or StartupAmerica (depending on your location) for great resources.

Get to Networking

Now make business cards, hundreds of them, through VistaPrint or one of the other low-cost card makers. Please don’t just print a bunch of cards with perforated edges! Take your cards, and yourself, and start networking. Check launchdfw.com/events/ to know where to go. There are nearly a dozen events a week. Bring your cards, your smile and your elevator pitch.

Building an App

So you’ve met lots of people and told them you were stealth…which means you need a quick app? There are a few sites out there for building a free or cheap app. I highly recommend checking out one of the following sites to see if they meet your needs:

Each of these sites has the ability to develop a basic app with little or no programming for very little cost. It’s a great avenue into the app space.

Build Your Own Site

Let’s say you want to build a site on your own, but you don’t know how to write code. No problem! There are quite a few startups and resources out there for learning the basic tools. Check out:

To Outsource or Hire Within?

OK, I get it; you don’t want to do this yourself! So who do you hire? Should you outsource development? If you don’t have the network or the cash to pay full-time developers, there are dozens of companies that can develop software for you from apps to websites to software systems. Spend time researching to understand which platforms you want or need to develop your software. When you research firms, make sure they develop the type of software you need. A few local companies to start with are:

For those with more technical experience who want to source development in pieces, check out TopCoder.com.

Finding beta customers to test your product once it is built is essential to understand how the software will handle the load of users as well as how user friendly the UI is. Check out BetaBait.com for a community of professional beta users. The type of product you are launching will dictate how you pursue beta users. If your business requires more of a traditional pilot/launch partner, consider who in the market has the biggest pain. Your solution solves someone’s problem (we established that early one), but who hurts the most? Who is willing to do anything to alleviate the pain? Find that group and offer them a partnership opportunity. You need a partner with patience, though. You need someone who can handle working with a startup that doesn’t have full tech support or all the bugs fixed. This company is your evangelist if you can solve their problem without too many hiccups. Use them as a reference and go find more partners.

Jeremy Vickers

Jeremy Vickers is the executive director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where he leads a team focused on cross-campus startup activity and entrepreneurship curriculum. Prior to his arrival at UT Dallas, Jeremy was at the Dallas Regional Chamber from 2011 to 2015 as the vice president of innovation. He led strategy and program implementation to support building the North Texas innovation ecosystem. Read more articles

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