Today I'm celebrating my two-year anniversary of leaving the corporate world. My company Plated.com, which delivers fresh ingredients with accompanying recipes to residential apartments throughout the East Coast, recently raised our $5 million Series A financing, and while we certainly aren't at the end of our journey, it feels like we've made it through our darkest days.
Here I've listed the best resources to turn to when starting your own business or entering the startup world.
1. Legalize it
So you want to start the next AirBnB or Uber? Before doing anything else, incorporate your company on LegalZoom.com. It costs $99 (plus state filing fees) and will allow you to talk about your business, not just your idea.
Taking the plunge is the first step in turning your career into a reality.
2. Buy a domain
When my cofounder Josh and I were just getting started on my couch on West 14th Street in Manhattan, we needed a website. How else are people going to know about you? And in those first days, we just needed something. And official business needs an official website.
3. Get active on Twitter
This may seem like obvious advice, but Twitter is a great resource for anyone getting started. You should make a list of all the leaders in your industry and follow them. Twitter gives you an opportunity to have conversations and interact with these people as well.
4. Know who to listen to
There are so many resources out there, how do you know who you can really trust when it comes to making the right decisions around legal structure, convertible debt, founder dating, hiring programmers and everything else on your plate as you start up?
VentureHacks.com should be the first place you go when you have startup-related questions, whether they be "How much equity should I give our first engineer?" or "Should I incorporate as an LLC or C Corp?"
5. Read business books
Next, take a day or two and read Tony Hsieh's Delivering Happiness. You might say, "Nah, dude, I just want to go build something awesome that people are going to love!" Right, if only it were as easy as that.
Read Hsieh's book. Learn from other business leaders who have already been there. It will help prepare you mentally for the battles, losses and victories that are to come.
Other suggestions are Eric Ries' The Lean Startup and Steve Blank's Four Steps to the Epiphany.
6. Take advantage of your unemployment benefits
This might sound a bit heretical, and the Tea Party sure isn't going to like it, but the U.S. (and the state of New York in particular) has a social safety net for a reason. You're not going to live luxuriously off of unemployment benefits, but they're enough to keep you from starving for four-to-six months until you have validated or invalidated your idea.
When I left the corporate world behind two years ago today, it took eight months until Josh and I started taking a salary. I had a West Village apartment, business school loans, and a gym membership to pay. My wife and I transferred onto my Tricare health insurance available through the Marine Corps Reserves, and we tightened our belt.
We wouldn't have made it without help from the government.