What I learnt from my first start-up

In 2011, three partners and I set out to create our own start-up company. Some two years later, we closed the doors to that same company because of internal disagreements that could not be resolved in ways that we would have liked. Regardless of what transpired, a lot of valuable learning came out of the entire experience and so, in this post, I will bring up four takeaways.

1. Do not leave out the partnership agreement

As soon as you get your start-up incorporated, it is worthwhile to draft up a partnership agreement and get it signed by you and your partners. This way, you and your partners have a written agreement with what each persons expectations are, share holdings and share types, and how those shares are transfered when needed. Partnership agreements produced by a lawyer can be costly but money invested early on can avoid a ton of headaches later.

2. Full time vs. Part time

You might be wondering… Should you make the big decision to quit your day job and take on working for your start up full-time? My opinion is yes. It’s true that leaving the stability and income of your day job is scary but in my experience working on a start-up part-time creates a time constraint and adds to an already heavy workload (unless of course you enjoy the idea of working 60+ hours weekly).

3. Investments vs. Bootstrapping

Should you seek out investors early or should you fund your own venture? Well, it really depends on the type of start-up and the initial funding required to get the development going. If for instance your new business needs to acquire expensive machinery from the get go, then you probably have no choice but to consider investor funds (even though this normally means that you will have to be prepared to offer a fair portion of shares). If the initial costs are low, bootstrap what you can. A little bit of love money helps too! Also, in case you didn’t already know, marketing campaigns can be extremely costly so don’t be surprised by the numbers when it comes time to start educating your target market about your product/service.

4. Wear many hats

Since your start-up will have access to limited funding (if any at all), hiring an array of employees to fill in the various expected roles becomes impossible. Instead, you have to be willing to become a jack of all trades of sorts, someone who can take on multiple roles. Granted, some roles require specialized expertize that you might find impossible to fill. In such cases, it might be helpful to seek out partners that can complement your skillset and become that needed asset for your team.

Finally, I will end this by bringing up a quote… “Failure is just a step on the road to success” because where there is failure, there is also learning.

About Harry Kavallos

Management @ Vanier College
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