May 10, 2011
The Startup Phase: Steps to Launching a Tech Company
So you’re great with computers, love the latest apps and often advise friends on what programs they need to adopt. Still, starting a tech company can be quite an undertaking; especially if you are essentially a novice. Here are some tips on what to do in order to get started.
1) Join a tech incubator or accelerator program where you can take advantage of free or reduced price office space and equipment, collaborate with other tech entrepreneurs, and receive insight from veterans. For example, the NewMe accelerator program will bring seven minority-led startups from across the country to be mentored by Silicon Valley’s best and brightest for nine weeks this June. Keep in mind that some accelerators require an equity stake. Check your local university or search the National Business Incubation Association for organizations near you.
2) Get into the Lean Startup Movement. Some of the best tech startups started with simple designs, ideas and html coding (Remember, Facebook anyone?). Initially you should opt to create a Minimal Viable Product. You do need to demonstrate that your idea is useful and will eventually be profitable for its investors, but it’s not a good idea to spend a lot of money right out the gate. Instead, take advantage of free, open source software like, Ruby on Rails, a web application framework that includes tools to make common development tasks easier, and survey your potential customer base to determine what they want or need.
3) Search for early stage seed capital using resources like AngelList, a free social community of angel investors and venture capitalists who share deals with each other. Getting introduced on the list can result in an invite to pitch your idea and possibly get funded.
4) Network and participate in events like Startup Weekend, which is held in cities around the world and gives tech entrepreneurs, developers, and programmers, a venue to form teams, learn programming, develop prototypes, and start companies.
5) Perfect your tech pitch. The tech elevator pitch can be far more difficult than a regular elevator pitch since there might be a lot of technical information to convey to your audience. It should be available even when you’re sleep. In other words, if someone visits your website wanting to know what you do, you need to be able to explain it to them in clear consise terms. That might mean using a video animation service like Switch Video or SayitVisually.
6) Finally, seek out other African Americans in technology with similar goals. Black Founders, is one new organization created to promote diversity and provide mentorship in the Silicon Valley startup community. They are planning to expand their events to other cities, including New York. Also try searching for Black Tech groups in your area on Meetup.com. Currently, there is a Blacks in Tech Meetup group in New York and Los Angeles. If one doesn’t exist in your city organize it yourself.
For more information: Read Startups Open Sourced, a collection of interviews with 33 tech founders, who talk about programming, design, VC funding, and sustainable/lean growth. The book talks to BE Nexter Justin Seibel who launched Justin.tv, a platform where people can watch and broadcast live streaming videos. The book is $20 as an ebook through paypal or $30 for paperback at Lulu.com.