Does anyone have a link to a decent guide for a web startup? I have an idea/opportunity I want to get going, and I do have sufficient technical knowledge and some experience with the web, but I've never launched such a big project. I want to do it the right way and not forget anything in the process.
Slightly off topic: whats the verdict on mediatemple? I've heard great things and not-so-great things about them.
I don't have a start guide persay however I have launched two web start-ups and have a fair bit of experience with this.
The general important points on the flow of a startup:
Flesh out the business idea, look at competitor products/services and get more then 'just an idea' about how the level in competition with this market. Look at current consumer trends in your target market and attempt to see if the market is about to go through rapid growth and/or change - try to predict how those changes will impact your idea.
Establish a budget and timeframe for doing proper market research. Put together a package to perform market research. Talk to people you don't know and find out 'how likely' they are to purchase your product or service. This is a good time to think about pricing and your pricing model. Doing enough of this type of research it will show clearer patterns on what people are willing to spend on. Don't get blindsided by all those around you that say it is a wonderful idea and they would buy it, it is more important that you get real feedback. You may set up more formal market research or perform a self driven yet targeted approach to elicite the fee4dback that will help you plan or even decide if the idea is worth .
Get your finances in order. Make a good business plan that shows how and where you will spend your or your investors money. You need to be clear on your budgetary constraints, as it will dictate what types of advertising, 3rd Party expertise, business materials, communication costs, staffing costs (if you are to have staff), outsourcing costs (which may include ongoing marketing). Often time this step is completely missed which is a 'BIG UP-STREAM BLUNDER', you need to know how you will pay to market and get your idea out there. A great idea with a crippled ability to get it to its market in a meaningful way is as good as dead, so if it looks like you will need to raise more money before you enter the market, this is the best (least costly) time to do it.
You can perform tandem steps at this stage: 1) Start building a prototype or first version. 2) at the same time try to solicit a small group of 'early adopters' that you allow to use your idea for free, be sure to clearly understand what they will be doing, describe this to them and don't be afraid to make them work. You need good feedback with the idea. As the development of your prototype comes along, you can stage iterations that they will work with.
Plan a launch date. To often now a days people launch web services/products too fast. People have very little patience these days and a missed or an ill-working service/product will be a short death. Make sure that you plan for enough time to get a stable first version. It can help that you group the functions of your web application in terms of core, nice to have, and future consideration. Set your launch to target the time you will need to get the 'nice to haves' done; however be willing to stub these functionalities if your launch is in jeopardy.
Consider adopting Behaviour Driven Design (Agile) programming practices. It will help keep you on schedule. Make sure you have quality coders and web designers that understand 'modern' design practices. Ensure that you have your project under version control like using a GITHUB account to manage your project assets. Build an organizational structure for your programming, media, documentation, and copy writing assets. You should strongly consider having experienced copywriters work with your site's content as it can make a big difference to the uptake of your site's information.
Put some marketing dollars around your launch. Market your launch in the channels most frequently used by your potential customers. Don't assume that marketing via the web is going to do it for you. You may want to look at Gorilla, Direct, Paid for Blogs, Industry Web/Print marketing. Make sure you have media kits to send to newspaper agencies. Consider supporting a charity and get more marketing (do to the free press that charities often get) and you will help someone at the same time.