Concept Stage – Startup Funding Life Cycle

Starting a business begins with an idea. It must focus on solving a problem in the market. At the concept stage, you have an idea and are exploring the feasibility of building a product or service based on that idea. Essentially, this process is broken up into five basic steps: Ideation, Competition, Organization, Branding & Marketing, and Pitching.

Ideation Once you have a basic concept, the focus is on determining whether it solves a meaningful problem and whether anyone would theoretically be interested in the solution. Your idea should reduce someone else’s pain or give them a of concrete benefit or improvement over the existing situation.

Here are five resources to aid in Ideation development:

Are You Prepared for the Entrepreneurial Journey?

Useful Mission – 5 questions to ask when writing a mission statement

Clarify the Vision – 10 questions to create an effective vision statement

Key to Startup Success: Customer Discovery

14 Startup Risks Entrepreneurs Should Consider When Launching their Startup

 

Competition

You will also need to determine how you will build the product or deliver the service and identify the target customers, partners, distributors and competitors in your market. Along the way you must develop and refine the product. The more data you collect, the better your analysis. The more refined your idea, the greater the likelihood of success. You must validate the market and potential demand for your product, particularly whether they will pay for the solution.

Here are resources to aid in developing a Competitive Analysis:

7 Steps to Assess Your Concept’s Competitive Environment

The Perfect Entrepreneurial T-E-A-M: Transformer, Examiner, Architect, and Mover

How to Protect Your Intellectual Property – Patents

 

 

OrganizationOrganizing a business can be a complex journey. Developing and filing the appropriate documents will create the foundation for a successful business.

Here are resources to aid in incorporating your Organization:

Buy-Sell Agreement – What, Why and How?

Five Documents Required for Organizing a Business

The Holy Grail of Entrepreneurship: The Term Sheet, Part 1

8 Types of Insurance to Mitigate Startup Risks

NOTE: This information may discuss issues for which legal advice should be considered prior to a decision or agreement with a third party. FundingSage is not a law firm. FundingSages’ employees and affiliates do not provide legal advice.  We recommend you seek the services of an attorney if legal advice is required.

 

Branding and Marketing

As entrepreneurs begin to establish their companies, they will find they need to register and file with the appropriate state and federal governments. However, some don’t consider the importance of initial branding & marketing as part of this process. Following are seven items entrepreneurs should address as they conduct their research on the opportunity before them.

Here are some resources to help begin Branding & Marketing:

7 Concept Stage Branding & Marketing Items to Consider

Marketing to Millennials 101

Identifying Startup Success: Using Backward Planning to establish Milestones and Metrics

How to protect your Intellectual Property -Trademark

 

 

PitchingPotential investors utilize your pitch to assess the market opportunity, the management team and expected efficiencies related to the use of potential investment funds. Remember that should the group move to the next stage, they are committing significant time and resources to a potential investment.

Here are some resources to help prepare your Pitch to Investors:

6 Items to Prepare for a Pitch to Concept Stage Investors

Concept Stage Startups: Investor Due Diligence List

14 Types of Information Investors May Request as Part of their Due Diligence Checklist for Your Startup

8 Options Entrepreneurs Utilize for Startup Concept Funding

9 Constituents Investors Will Want to Talk With Prior to Funding Your Startup

 

Patents are exclusive rights provided to inventors of innovative new, useful, non-obvious machines, processes, industrial designs, articles of manufacture or compositions of matter. Patent protection typically includes provisions of these exclusive rights for a specified period of time, related specifically to the invention.

Trademarks, like patents, provide the holder exclusive rights. They protect signs, designs, and expressions which identify properties of a company’s products and services. When the sign, design or expression identifies a company’s services, it is known as a service mark. Patents and trademarks are both forms of intellectual property.

Background Information

Patents

Sovereign nations typically grant patents to inventors or their assignees for a specified period of time in exchange for the inventor providing a detailed disclosure to the public. Generally, patent protection is available for a minimum of twenty years. However, the duration of exclusive rights related to usage of patented intellectual property does vary by country.

Typically, under the rights granted, third parties are prohibited from commercially producing, selling, using or distributing a patented invention without their having obtained specific rights to do so. In the United States, individual inventors must apply for patents but the patent may ultimately be assigned to corporate entities. Outside the United States, it is more typical for patent applications to be filed by either individuals or corporate entities.

Generally, a formal written application to the nation’s patent office is required and the concept is reviewed by a patent examiner to ensure it qualifies and that there are no precedents to the concepts under consideration. If a patent is infringed upon, the holder must generally enforce their rights through the legal system.  Typically, monetary compensation is sought as a remedy to the infringement.  In some cases, injunctions prohibiting future acts of infringement are also pursued.

Trademarks

Trademarks and Servicemarks are utilized to claim exclusive properties of products and services by the owner.  Like patents, trademark use can be based on both ownership and license agreement. In some jurisdictions, trademark rights can be established through use in the marketplace or by registration through the trademark office or similar jurisdiction. However, some only recognize registration as the appropriate process. Rights typically expire if trademarks are not actively utilized over time.

Trademark infringement can result from intentional acts or occur unintentionally. However, intentional infringement typically results in greater damages to the infringing party.

Resources

IP Australia
IP Australia is the Australian agency that administers intellectual property rights and related legislation associated with patents, trademarks, and designs.

Canadian Intellectual Property Office
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office is the Canadian agency which grants Canadian patents and registers trademarks.

European Patent Organisation, (EPO)
The European Patent Organisation is an intergovernmental organization established in 1977 based upon the European Patent Convention signed in Munich, Germany in 1973.

Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, (OHIM)
The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market is the European Agency responsible for managing creativity and innovation in the Community trade mark and the registered community design offices.

United States Patent and Trademark Office, (USPTO)
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is the Federal Agency which grants U.S. Patents and registers trademarks.

Small businesses are subject to a significant number of regulatory requirements. The Federal government does control some items, but individual states are the primary regulatory entities when it comes to organizing and controlling small business. They establish approved organizational structures, licensing requirements, and tax policy. State agencies also interpret and implement Federal statutes like environmental regulations.

Areas covered by Legal or Regulatory Requirements:

Advertising laws

Generally, these are covered by both State and Federal consumer protection laws. You need to be truthful and not misleading in your advertising efforts. They generally apply regardless of the advertising medium whether print, on billboards or over the Internet. There are also laws concerning online marketing such as spamming, telemarketing laws, and what you can and can’t say on a product label.

An overview of compliance concerns.

Employment and labor laws

There is a wide range of Federal, State and even local laws pertaining to employee rights such as discrimination and harassment, termination, safe and drug-free work environments, benefits, and wages. Of particular note to small business is the distinctions between salaried and hourly employee classifications as well as rules for subcontractors.

A summary of Federal Department of Labor Laws.

Finance law

Finance laws require businesses to follow certain guidelines when it comes to antitrust regulations, bankruptcy, and securities.

An overview of compliance concerns.

Intellectual property

These laws protect a trademark, patent, or trade secrets. Learn the correct procedures to take to safeguard your company’s property.

An overview of the issues involved and has links to give more in-depth information.

Online business law

Now that almost every business is online, companies need to be in compliance with laws dealing with online privacy, security, copyright, and taxation issues.

Aan overview of compliance concerns and the issue of online sales and sales tax.

Environment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and your state government have very specific laws when it comes to regulating the impact of business on the environment. Depending on the area of business, companies must deal with disposal of toxic materials, your responsibilities for air pollution control, and more.

An overview of compliance concerns.

Privacy laws

The government (and your customers) want to know you’re doing everything you can to protect the personal information your business obtains.

An overview of compliance concerns.

Foreign workers, immigration, and employee eligibility

Immigration status is now an important consideration when hiring employees. Companies must vet employees for legal status.

The top immigration law issues that affect business.

Workplace safety and health

These laws protect employees from a multitude of hazardous work environments. The fines for failing to comply with these laws can be substantial and ignorance of the law is no excuse.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has many outreach programs in place to help small business owners comply with workplace safety regulations.

An overview of business OSHA compliance concerns.

Disclaimer: The content presented on this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

WEBSITES – SMALL BUSINESS REGULATION

General Business Regulation

The SBA has a good introduction and reference to General Business Law and Regulations.

State Regulations

State laws, taxes, and licensing regimes vary widely.

General information about State Business Laws and Regulations:

  1. Link to every State’s Listing of Laws. May require searching through several levels of links but is very comprehensive.
  2. Information about specific Business Law in each State.

The SBA has a number of searchable databases that allow you to reference State regulations, permitting and licensing. Useful links:

  1. State Licenses and Permits
  2. State Tax Obligations
  3. State Business Registration

Links to State Resources

The following links give a more in-depth information about State Regulations, Permit and License Requirements, and Business Taxes. Below is a listing of links to each state’s websites.:

  1. Alabama
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Tax
  2. Alaska
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Tax
  3. Arizona
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Tax
  4. Arkansas
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Tax
  5. California
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Tax
  6. Colorado
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Tax
  7. Connecticut
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Tax
  8. Delaware
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Tax
  9. Florida
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Tax
  10. Georgia
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Tax
  11. Hawaii
    1. Business Portal
    2. Registration and Fees
    3. Business Taxes
  12. Idaho
    1. Business Portal-Search Wizard
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  13. Illinois
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  14. Indiana
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  15. Iowa
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  16. Kansas
    1. Business Portal *This site provides links to assist in organizing, registering and compliance for small businesses.
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  17. Kentucky
    1. Business Portal-“One Stop” Center
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  18. Louisiana
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licensing and Fees
    3. Tax
  19.  Maine
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  20.  Maryland
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  21.  Massachusetts
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  22.  Michigan
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  23.  Minnesota
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  24.  Mississippi
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  25.  Missouri
    1. Business Portal
    2. Code of State Regulations
    3. Taxes
  26.  Montana
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  27.  Nebraska
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  28.  Nevada
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  29. New Hampshire
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  30. New Jersey
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  31. New Mexico
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  32. New York
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  33. North Carolina
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  34. North Dakota
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  35.  Ohio
    1. Licenses, Permits, and Inspections
    2. Regulations and Labor Laws
    3. Filings and Payments
  36.  Oklahoma
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  37.  Oregon
    1. Business Portal-Business Wizard
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  38.  Pennsylvania
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  39. Rhode Island
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  40. South Carolina
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  41. South Dakota
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
    4. Business Tax Forms
  42.  Tennessee
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  43.  Texas
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Sales Tax
    4. Employment Taxes
  44.  Utah
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  45.  Vermont
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  46.  Virginia
    1. Business Portal – “OneStop” Service Center
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  47. Washington (state)
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  48. West Virginia
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licensing and Permits
    3. Taxes
  49.  Wisconsin
    1. Business Portal
    2. License and Permits
    3. Tax
  50.  Wyoming
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Taxes
  51. Washington, District of Colombia
    1. Business Portal
    2. Licenses and Permits
    3. Tax

OTHER RESOURCES:

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

  1. Federal Government Regulation: Search for small business – can refine for specific category or functional area
  2. Small Business Administration (SBA):
    1. Small Business Resource Listing
    2. Business Law and Regulation
    3. Business Guides by Industry/Sector
    4. Code for Regulations (CFR) The Code of Federal Regulations *(CFR) is the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register.
  3. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs: *This website give information about regulations that are under review or pending by Federal Government Executive Agencies.
    1. Actions Currently under Review
  4. Occupational Safety & Health Administration
    1. Small Business Site

TRADE ORGANIZATIONS:

  1. National Federation of Independent Businesses
    1. Sensible Regulations for Small Business: *Overview of quick facts
    2. Regulatory News Letter: *Discusses new and pending regulations
  2. National Association for the Self-Employed: *This site includes discussion of the regulatory environment and the impact on Small Business.
  3. U.S. Chamber of Commerce: *This site includes discussion of the regulatory environment and the impact on Small Business.

WEBSITES:

  1. NOLO – Law for All Website
    1. NOLO – Small Business Legal Requirements: *Comprehensive listing of legal requirements for Small Business as well as other legal issues that might be of use.
    2. NOLO – State Start-up Requirements for Small Business
    3. NOLO – Federal Start-up Requirements for Small Business
    4. NOLO – Small Business Resource Page: *Has many business/start-up software offerings
  2. SmallBusiness.com: *This website has a series of articles related to small business. While this is a valuable resource, it is not very friendly and lacks a good search tool.

MAGAZINE ARTICLES:

  1. Money Magazine:
    1. Stealth IRS changes mean millions of new tax forms
    2. Healthcare Law’s Massive Hidden Tax Change
  2. Entrepreneur Magazine:
    1. Listing of articles on Regulation
  3. Forbes Magazine:
    1. Small Business Regulations Surge under Obama
  4. The Economist Magazine:
    1. Small Businesses Fret Less…: *This gives a brief description of the issues involved in small business regulation and has an interesting tool that gives an overall ranking for each state’s regulatory/tax environment for small business

VIDEOS:

  1. Videos of State Regulations

Accelerators, also known as seed accelerators, are organizations which support seed and early stage startups through a formal, defined mentoring program from experts with experience across the startup spectrum. Typically organized as a cohort program lasting twelve to sixteen weeks, the programs end in a public pitch event or demo day presentation to investors.

Background Information

Accelerators provide defined cohort programs, for entrepreneurs and startups. The programs typically last 12 to 16 weeks, although the duration may vary.  They generally occur on-site at locations provided by the accelerator. Most include a continuing mentorship during the course of the program led by multiple experienced mentors who have been trained for this purpose.

Most accelerators require attendees to be on-site and a few require the attendees to relocate their companies to the region in order to be accepted into the program. Most require a full-time effort by the entrepreneurial teams as opposed to the individual entrepreneur.

Accelerators are designed to address all the key issues from identification of the idea or concept, to building a prototype, conducting market surveys/tests/validating the market, building teams, creating and documenting the company infrastructure and ultimately obtaining third-party financing.

Other resources may include:

  • Startup stipends which could range from $10K – $100K
  • Office space during the program
  • Special events and/or dinners with guest speakers
  • Entertainment events
  • Specified professional services from accounting, legal, marketing and other professionals are provided to participants free of charge by some accelerators and their professional partners
  • Free access for defined periods to select web-hosting, software and SAAS tools supporting the development, growth, and operations of the startup
  • Occasional housing for the cohort participants (but this is usually the exception)
  • Post Demo-day mentoring

The culminating event is usually a Demo-day in which the entrepreneurs pitch their companies to the public and investors such as angel and VC groups. The value of the process for the entrepreneur includes a network of connections, the experience of participating in the cohort with peer companies, and recognition for having been chosen and participated in the program.

It is not typical for entrepreneurs or startups to be charged fees for these programs. Instead, the accelerators typically require equity in the startup, ranging from 6% – 10% depending on the accelerator.

Resources 

Accelerator Assembly
A European based industry-led network that connects accelerators, entrepreneurs and policymakers to strengthen the support afforded to internet-based startups on the continent.

Business Innovation & Incubation Australia
Business Innovation & Incubation Australia, (BIIA) is an association of Australian business incubators which sets the practice standards for the incubator industry in Australia.

Canadian Association of Business Incubation
The Canadian Association of Business Incubation, (CABI) is a Canadian association dedicated to supporting the growth of new and early-stage businesses in Canada.  Their mission is “to advance the success of business incubators and accelerators across Canada while enhancing the knowledge and skills of incubator and accelerator professionals and promoting a better understanding of business incubation/ acceleration’s role in economic development.” 

National Business Incubation Association
The National Business Incubation Association, (NBIA) was established to advance business incubation and entrepreneurship in the United States.  It is a provider of information, education, advocacy, and networking resources to its members and partners to bring excellence to the process of assisting early stage companies.

Accelerator Listing

Many of these accelerators are spotlighted on our FundingSage Startup Accelerator Spotlight. Learn more about your favorite accelerator there!

500 Startups

Aarambh Ventures

ABQid, Inc.

Accelerate Baltimore

Accelerprise

AccelNow

AgLaunch

Alchemist Accelerator

AlphaLab

Aviatra Accelerators

autoxlr8r

Betaspring

Bisite Accelerator

Bizdom Cleveland

Bizdom Detroit

Blue Startups

Blueprint Health

Boom Startup

Capital Factory

Capital Innovators

Carao Ventures

Cherokee McDonough Challenge

Co Lab Gig Tank

Collider

Coolhouse Labs

DreamIt Ventures

Elmspring Accelerator

Entrepreneurs Roundtable

EO Sydney

EVC Ventures

Excelerate Labs

Fintech Innovation Lab

FlashStarts

Fledge

FounderFuel

gener8tor

Groundwork Labs

HACKcelerator

The Harbor Accelerator

Hatch

HAX

Health Wildcatters

Healthbox

Healthbox Studios

Idea Foundry

IDEA – Northeastern University Accelerator

IGNITE

Imagine K12

Impact Engine

Innovation Crossroads

Iowa Startup Accelerator

Jaarvis Accelerator

Jumpstart foundry

Kickstart Accelerator

Knoxville Entrepreneur Center

Launch Chapel Hill

LaunchPad LA

Lighthouse Labs

Lightspeed Innovations

LUISS Enlabs

MuckerLab

NEST’up

NYC Seedstart

OCEAN Accelerator

Orion Startups

Oxygen

Pioneer Square Labs

Portland Incubator Experiment

Portland Seed Fund

Project Music

Prosper Women Entrepreneurs

RetailXelerator

RevTech Labs

Rock Health

SaltMines Group

Seamless Accelerator

Seed Hatchery

SEED SPOT

SeedSumo

SEKLAB

The South Florida Accelerator

Speed@BDD

Spark* Accelerator

Sparkgap

Sprint Accelerator

Start Co.

Startfast Accelerator

StartPlanetNI

Startup Chile

Startup Health

Startup Studio Monterrey

Startup Yard

StartX

Straight Shot

Surge Accelerator

Swiss Startup Factory

Tampa Bay WaVE

Tech Ranch

Tech Wildcatters

TechrIoT XLR8

TechStars

Telluride Venture Accelerator

TETUAN VALLEY

The ARK Challenge

The Biz Foundry

The Brandery

The Hive

The Idea Village

The Startup Factory

Thrive AgTech

TLV Global Launchpad

UpTech, Inc.

VentureHive

The Works

XLerateHealth

Y Combinator

The Yield Lab

Zeroto510

The Small Business Administration (SBA) site is a comprehensive source for information on starting and operating a small business. However, it can be difficult to navigate. There are multiple links that seem to address the same issue, but don’t always take you where you need to go. You could spend hours looking through this site, some productive, some wasteful.

Resources

SBA FINANCING:

Here are some useful links if you are looking at SBA Loan financing:

  • Information Site
    This site gives a brief outline of different financing options. It is very general and does not give detailed information or useful links to specific financing options.
  • SBA Loan Site
    This is a useful site for understanding SBA Loan Programs. It is just a broad overview. The link below is much more helpful in understanding the specifics of the loan programs.
  • SBA Loan Programs
    This is an extremely useful site for understanding SBA Loans. It gives links to the different loan programs. These pages explain how the loans work, give eligibility criteria, fees, rates and terms.

SBA Lending Information:

  • Lender Documentation Tool
    On this page, you identify the type of loan you want and it will identify the documentation you will need and provides links to those documents. For the “do it yourselfer,” this is a useful site.
  • Find an SBA Lender
    The Small Business Administration does actually lend money. The program is administered through commercial banks in your area. This is a link to the SBA search engine that may assist in finding a lender in your area.

Be sure to talk with your local banks to see if they are an SBA lender. They will be able to give you specific information about your local options.