Starting a Startup

So it has now been 2 and a half weeks and things seem to be settling down a little bit.  There are massive amounts of things to do on a development end and I’m starting to try and reach out through social media and what have you, but in many ways things are starting to level out.  For the most part I think (I hope) that all of the legal stuff is out of the way, so now I can focus on the fun part! Also, I am excited to announce that RightCall.co is officially live (WOO!) and even though a lot of the pages are not done and many of the graphics need to be changed to actually reflect RightCall (they’re currently the graphics that were included in the template I’m using), you can start taking a look around and you can SIGN UP to be one of the very first users!  I’m also thinking about hooking up some of my friends and first users with special deals (ie free usage), so keep an eye out for that. Finally, I want to talk a little bit about what things are actually necessary when making a startup (like what the hell was I actually working on the last few weeks?).

  1. Research.  The most important thing was to do things as right as possible the first time and avoid making costly mistakes.  Not being at all versed in all things legal, I spent about a week researching before spending any money.  Maybe I made the right decisions or maybe I didn’t, but hopefully any mistakes I made won’t cost me too much.
  2. Naming.  I already wrote an entire post on this so I won’t rehash it, but you can’t start a business without a name (not exactly true because sole-proprietorships can be run under your name) and it would be a major (read expensive) hassle to change it later.
  3. Registering a business.  In NJ, at least, theres a bunch of paperwork to file to actually create a business and unfortunately its not super cheap ($125 to register a Limited Liability Company (LLC)).  I thought long and hard about the differences between a sole-proprietorship and an LLC, debating back and forth as to which one was better given my situation, or if it was even necessary this early in the game. For those who don’t know, there are two main differences.  Essentially, an LLC allows for multiple owners (or ‘members’) and is treated as a unique legal entity, whereas a sole-proprietorship cannot have multiple owners and is legally considered as part of the owner.  This means that it is hard for the company to scale and the owner is offered no legal protection, being liable for every liability of the company. Ultimately I registered an LLC, because I decided that this would make life much easier down the road and would also make filing tax returns easier.  Along with that I had to draw up an Operating Agreement, for which I used a free trial of LawDepot‘s template, which was extremely helpful and intuitive.
  4. Banking and taxes.  Once I registered RightCall LLC, I had to register for an EIN and make a business bank account.  Getting the EIN proved relatively painless through the IRS website.  As far as banking, PNC offers free banking for small businesses, making it the obvious choice.  This step seemed to be important, especially as an LLC, because separating personal and business expenses makes filing taxes exponentially easier (so I’ve been told).

I guess long story short, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you spend any money.  It would suck to find yourself having spent a lot of money only to realize that you registered for the wrong thing or that your idea is worthless.  So be smart.

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Buying a Domain Name

I’m going to keep this one pretty short and sweet because its not very difficult.  Essentially the way it works is that you have to find a registrar through who you can register a domain (web address).  These are companies that keep track of all of the available web domains and can sell you any ones that are not in use.  Examples are GoDaddy.com, Register.com, NetworkSolutions.com, etc.

First, you need to pick a domain name.  This is going to be something like http://www.samgavishughson.com.  You will have to check to see what is available.  Sedo.com is a pretty good place to check, or you can search directly on a registrar’s page.  I also like domai.nr which will give you some alternative suggestions if you type in your desired name.  Some points on naming (these don’t really apply to blogs, more so to businesses):

  • .com is ideal because its easiest for people to remember, but its not the end of the world if you can’t get it
  • try and make your domain easy to spell
  • avoid numbers

Once you’ve chosen a name, you have to actually register.  If you Google ‘register domains’, you’ll find plenty of good registrars, and if you don’t have ads blocked in your browser, you can sometimes get really good deals (I registered one on Register.com for $0.50, hence the title).  I personally have used both Register.com and GoDaddy.com, both of which were fine.  Then you just have to type in your desired domain and go through registration.

WARNING: When you register, they will try to get you to pay for things like hosting and web design, which I would strongly recommend against.  The only thing that may be worth extra money is WHOIS privacy, which prevents your personal information from showing up in a public database of registrants.  This is usually around $10.00 per year.  It isn’t necessary, though and I personally have never bothered, but I see the benefit.

Now you’re done!

So I just got to try out Google Glass

Thank you TigerLabs for opportunities like this!  Glass is super cool.  I have no idea whether it is going to catch on or not or whether this is going to be the device that revolutionizes everything, but at least for developers, this is an awesome new playground.

I know, I’m so cool, right?

The ever elusive name

If you were to ask me what unexpected challenges I faced in the first week of starting a company, I would have to say that it was hands down coming up with a name.  There are many important attributes to the perfect name.  It has to be catchy, easy to spell, and preferably give people a sense of your purpose.  But more important than anything else, it has to be unique.  This turns out to be surprisingly difficult short of making up words.

Some Background: The project that I am working on is a company that helps cellphone users find wireless plans.

I toyed with so many different possibilities and scoured the internet for advice, but the first 4 days yielded nothing.  Everything I could think of just didn’t have any ring to it.  As a point of reference, the name that I started with was Find My Plan.  I even registered a domain for it, but soon realized that this was missing any flow.  It was descriptive, but that was about it.

I moved on to listing keywords.  I had all sorts of things from recommendations to service but there was no way that I could combine these to make something that works (and believe me I tried).  I even looked around at names of other companies to see which ones stood out to me as good names, like Pinterest and PayPal, but that took me no further.  Even when I thought I had found something that might work, it inevitably turned out to be in use by another company.

Finally I reached a turning point.  After 4 days of searching, I decided to try using a thesaurus.  This turned out to be the key to the puzzle.  In one day, I came up with a whole host of ideas, from Two Cents to Smart Talk.  As I started to look, many of the names were already in use, but I finally found one that was perfect: RightCall.  It combines the perfect catchiness with relevance, and of course it enables slogans such as “Looking for a wireless plan? Be sure to make the RightCall.”

Long story short, don’t underestimate the difficulty/importance of choosing a name!