Startup

What Is a Startup?

The term startup refers to a company in the first stages of operations. Startups are founded by one or more entrepreneurs who want to develop a product or service for which they believe there is demand. These companies generally start with high costs and limited revenue, which is why they look for capital from a variety of sources such as venture capitalists.

Key Takeaways

  • A startup is a company that's in the initial stages of business.
  • Founders normally finance their startups and may attempt to attract outside investment before they get off the ground.
  • Funding sources include family and friends, venture capitalists, crowdfunding, and loans.
  • Startups must also consider where they'll do business and their legal structure.
  • Startups come with high risk as failure is very possible but they can also be very unique places to work with great benefits, a focus on innovation, and great opportunities to learn.

Understanding Startups

Startups are companies or ventures that are focused on a single product or service that the founders want to bring to market. These companies typically don't have a fully developed business model and, more crucially, lack adequate capital to move onto the next phase of business. Most of these companies are initially funded by their founders.

Many startups turn to others for more funding, including family, friends, and venture capitalists. Silicon Valley is known for its strong venture capitalist community and is a popular destination for startups, but is also widely considered the most demanding arena.

Startups can use seed capital to invest in research and to develop their business plans. Market research helps determine the demand for a product or service, while a comprehensive business plan outlines the company's mission statement, vision, and goals, as well as management and marketing strategies.

The first few years are very important for startups This is the time that entrepreneurs should use to concentrate on raising capital and developing a business model.

Special Considerations

There are a number of different factors that entrepreneurs must think of as they try to get their startups off the ground and begin operations. We've listed some of the most common ones below.

Location

Location can make or break any business. And it's often one of the most important considerations for anyone starting up in the business world. Startups must decide whether their business is conducted online, in an office or home office, or in a store. The location depends on the product or service being offered.

For example, a technology startup selling virtual reality hardware may need a physical storefront to give customers a face-to-face demonstration of the product's complex features.

Legal Structure

Startups need to consider what legal structure best fits their entity. A sole proprietorship is suited for a founder who is also the key employee of a business. Partnerships are a viable legal structure for businesses that consist of several people who have joint ownership, and they're also fairly straightforward to establish. Personal liability can be reduced by registering a startup as a limited liability company (LLC).

Funding

Startups often raise funds by turning to family and friends or by using venture capitalists. This is a group of professional investors that specialize in funding startups. Crowdfunding has become a viable way for many people to get access to the cash they need to move forward in the business process. The entrepreneur sets up a crowdfunding page online, allowing people who believe in the company to donate money.

Startups may use credit to commence their operations. A perfect credit history may allow the startup to use a line of credit as funding. This option carries the most risk, particularly if the startup is unsuccessful. Other companies choose small business loans to help fuel growth. Banks typically have several specialized options available for small businesses—a microloan is a short-term, low-interest product tailored for startups. A detailed business plan is often required in order to qualify.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Startups

There are a variety of advantages to working for a startup. More responsibility and opportunities to learn are two. As startups have fewer employees than large, established companies, employees tend to wear many hats, working in a variety of roles, which leads to more responsibility as well as opportunities to learn.

Startups tend to be more relaxed in nature, making the workplace more of a communal experience, with flexible hours, increased employee interaction, and flexibility. Startups tend to also have better workplace benefits, such as nurseries for children, free food, and shorter workweeks.

The work at startups can also be more rewarding as innovation is welcomed and managers allow talented employees to run with ideas with little supervision.

One of the primary disadvantages of a startup is increased risk. This primarily applies to the success and longevity of a startup. New businesses need to prove themselves and raise capital before they can start turning a profit. Keeping investors happy with the startup's progress is critical. The risk of shutting down or not having enough capital to continue operations before turning a profit is ever-present.

Long hours are characteristic of startups as everyone is working toward the same goal—to see the startup succeed. This can lead to high-stress moments and sometimes compensation that isn't commensurate with the hours worked. Competition is also always high as there tend to be a handful of startups working on the same idea.

Pros
  • More opportunities to learn

  • Increased responsibility

  • Flexibility

  • Workplace benefits

  • Innovation is encouraged

  • Flexible hours

Cons
  • Risk of failure

  • Having to raise capital

  • High stress

  • Competitive business environment

Examples of Startups

Dotcoms were a common startup in the 1990s. Venture capital was extremely easy to obtain during this time due to a frenzy among investors to speculate on the emergence of these new businesses. Unfortunately, most of these internet startups eventually went bust due to major flaws in their business plans, such as lacking a path to sustainable revenue. However, a handful of companies survived when the dotcom bubble burst. Amazon (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY) are just two examples.

Many startups fail within the first few years. That's why this initial period is important. Entrepreneurs need to find money, create a business model and business plan, hire key personnel, work out intricate details such as equity stakes for partners and investors, and plan for the long run. Many of today's most successful companies—Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL), and Meta (FB), formerly Facebook, to name a few—began as startups and ended up becoming publicly traded companies.

How Do You Start a Startup Company?

The first step in starting a startup is having a great idea. From there, market research is the next step to determine how feasible the idea is and what the current marketplace looks like for your idea. After the market research, creating a business plan that outlines your company structure, goals, mission, values, and objectives, is the next step.

One of the most important steps is obtaining funding. This can come from savings, friends, family, investors, or a loan. After raising funding, make sure you've done all the correct legal and paperwork. This means registering your business and obtaining any required licenses or permits. After this, establish a business location. From there, create an advertising plan to attract customers, establish a customer base, and adapt as your business grows.

How Do You Get a Startup Business Loan?

A startup can obtain a loan from a bank, certain organizations, or friends and family. One of the best and first options should be working with the U.S. Small Business Administration, which provides microloans to small businesses. The average SBA loan is $13,000 and the max loan amount is $50,000. These loans are usually from nonprofit community lenders and can be easier to obtain than traditional loans from banks.

What Are the Benefits of Working for a Startup?

The benefits of working at a startup include greater opportunities to learn, increased responsibility, flexible work hours, a relaxed work environment, increased employee interaction, good workplace benefits, and innovation.

How Do You Value a Startup Company?

Valuing a startup can be difficult as startups don't usually have longevity in which to determine their success. Startups also don't generate profits or even revenue for a few years after starting. As such, using the traditional financial statement metrics for valuations doesn't apply. Some of the best ways to value a startup include the cost to duplicate, market multiples, discounted cash flow, and valuation by stage.

The Bottom Line

Starting a company can be a difficult venture but a rewarding one. Having a great idea and attempting to bring it to market comes with a host of challenges, such as attracting capital, employees, marketing, legal work, and managing finances. Keep in mind, though, that startups lead to increased job satisfaction and the possibility of leaving a legacy.

Article Sources

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  1. Nerdwallet. "6 Startup Business Loan Options for Entrepreneurs." Accessed Sept. 15, 2021.