Three hard startup milestones

Long way

How hard is it to start a company? Not hard at all! You just send in the papers to your local government office and in most cases you’re done. It’s not the starting of the company that’s hard, it’s other things. Here’s three of them that I know you will struggle with.

1. The name
The name is hard because it is on the surface a very simple decision but with wide reaching consequences. It’s also one of the first decisions you make. Should you name it what you do as in “Programmers Inc.” or should it be more generic as in “Purple Scout“? Is it easy to pronounce and spell? Are the domains available? Does anyone else have the same or similar name? Can I say it over the phone so that people hear what I say? Should I SEO-optimize it?
The name is also something everyone can have an opinion about. It’s a “roof on the bike shed”-decision, you don’t have to be an expert to have an opinion, you will get name suggestions from everyone.
The name will be with you for a very long time (hopefully) so this is a big decision. That’s why it’s hard.

2. The first customer
You don’t have a business without customers. Period. The first release of your software, your first employee, your first office these are all internal milestones with no real significance to your business. The fact that someone pays for your product or service is a proof that you have something other people want. This is a big step and a major milestone.
Of course now the trick is to set the price at a level that makes you profitable too, but that’s another story.

3. The first million
Depending on how fast this takes, the first million is proof that your company scales – this is a very important milestone because it should mean you have a system, not a product.

So there you have it: the name, the first customer and the first million. This is the hard stuff. Actually starting the company or having an idea for a business are both the easy parts.

Updated: when I studied math and computer science I was taught that on a large enough level there only exists 3 numbers: 0, 1 and infinity. These are the only three numbers you need to care about for your startup.

Another way to put it:
0) get started .
1) first customer.
infinity) scale it.


2 Comments on “Three hard startup milestones”

  1. Your update deserves post of its own. Then post it on hacker news!

  2. Magnus T says:

    The company name is a pain, but luckily it’s not very important. Find something decent and unique and move on.

    Once you have a product or service that looks sellable, that’s what deserves a good name and a campaign.

    Fanta is made by the Coca Cola Company, Lexus is made by Toyota – who cares.


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