7 Free Resources and Tools for New Founders
Series A, venture capital, angel investors.
Corporations, LLCs, partnerships.
Lean-canvas, market share, pitch deck.
When I decided to start my own company, I had no clue what these words meant. Coming from an academic background, I lacked a lot of institutional or basic business knowledge at the start. Never having started up a business before, it was daunting to figure out how to start. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do and a deep desire to grow this idea. Are you in the same position I was in just over a year ago? I want to share some resources I wish I had access to at this point to alleviate your concerns or questions.
Resources are available for free in multiple formats, depending on what and how you want to learn. I feature playbooks and guides, online courses, founder stories and encyclopedias. I recommend exploring a few of these resources to find the answers to your queries. For very early-stage founders, these guides will help you refine your idea and help it grow.
MaRS is one of the biggest innovation and startup launchpads in North America. While it might be a bit early to apply to their early-stage startup program, you can avail of their toolkit. These resources cover a lot of important topics. These include:
- Company Building: Everything you need to know about forming and positioning a company. I learned that there is an official way to get your business recognized by your government. Some steps need to keep your business in good-standing afterwards.
- Fundraising: Learn about different funding strategies and investors. What does it mean to give up equity in your company? What are venture capitalists and angel investors? How do you find them?
- Operations: All the nitty-gritty legal stuff, agreements and accessibility. I realized very late that understanding this information is extremely important in health-related startups.
- Recruiting and Hiring
- Branding, Marketing and Sales
Techstars is one of the most successful seed accelerators in the world. They help innovative tech companies make it big. Their toolkit features 20 bite-sized modules that take you through what you need to know. These modules are organized in a logical sequence. If you have absolutely no idea how the startup world works, this provides a pathway to learn from start-to-finish. This toolkit covers everything including:
- The Lean Canvas: A quick exercise to help define everything from market segmentation to value proposition.
- Key Performance Indicators: How to set out realistic and measurable goals.
- Pitching: How to present your business idea to potential investors.
- Navigating Mentor and Co-Founder Relationships
YCombinator is an accelerator that incubated companies like Airbnb, Coinbase, DropBox and Twitch. You can sign up for their startup school for free, immediately gaining access to many courses. The topics cover everything you might want to learn, even how to come up with a great startup idea. The resources are very easy to navigate. It also features a forum for founders to build community, ask questions and find answers.
StartHouse is an incredible resource to take your pitch deck (your slideshow presentation) to the next level. It gives you the actual pitch decks successful companies presented to investors. You can find the companies in your business niche to study the competitors. Without any prior guidance, I found making a pitch deck extremely challenging. I recommend browsing this site for inspiration and guidance.
Version One is a venture fund that invests in early-stage companies. Their handbook aggregates lessons from the almost 100 startups they have worked with or continue to work with. Compared to the other tools, these resources are in an eBook format. This living document will continue to grow. After all, the tech space is moving incredibly fast. Version One provides a great explainer on using their handbook:
Built around best practices and real-world experiences, but it doesn’t mean that everything will fit your specific startup and situation. You may want to add your twist to some practices or ignore some advice altogether. As you’re building your business, never forget that you’re in charge. It’s up to you to decide the best way to run it.
Startups is a tech company providing a platform to help people launch their idea:
We provide education and tools to walk aspiring Founders through the entire startup process: including education, business planning, mentorship, customer acquisition, funding, and staffing.
Their library of resources is free to peruse, forming an extensive encyclopedia for founders. It is split into four sections: videos, founder stories, expert advice and playbooks. Several step-by-step playbooks help build your company (or even newsletter) from scratch.
Seven Awesome Podcasts For New Founders
I absorb a lot of information through podcasts. There are dozens of podcasts about entrepreneurship and early-stage companies, delivering direct-to-ear wisdom. Here is a non-comprehensive list (I’ve put a little asterisk beside my favorites)!
- *How I Built This With Guy Raz: Interviews with successful founders
- The Tim Ferris Show: Interviews with successful founders
- WorkLife with Adam Grant: Interviews with founders and thought leaders
- *Modern Finance: FinTech and Blockchain news and innovation
- Masters of Scale: Interviews with founders and CEOs
- Business Wars: Tells the story of competing brands and companies
- Traction: Stories about how companies stared up
I also recommend listening to news and business podcasts within your company’s niche!
Final Words of Advice
Doing something new is always terrifying. Deciding to take the leap and work on your own startup idea is risky. But the process of starting a company helps you build valuable communication and leadership skills. If this first idea flounders, you will have the tools to get the next one going. There are also immense networks of knowledge in many regions of the world. Probably, there are even startup supports in your city, province/state or country. In larger cities like Toronto, there are many online groups and meetups for founders to intermingle, ask for advice and connect. Don’t be afraid to join these events and introduce yourself. You never know, you might even meet your future co-founder!