Startup Roadmap

The Startup Roadmap: 

High Level Steps:

1. Define Your Goals and Organize Yourself

2. Select Broad Industry Market, Then Select an Industry Group and Sub-Industry in that Industry Market, Then Narrow the Segment Down Again into a Specific Niche

3. Talk to People in Your Niche  

4. Identify problem in a narrow market segment that people want to solve through a purchase

5. Find people to help

6. Design a solution through a minimum viable product supporting requirements only to the most important problem in your narrow market segment

7. Develop Solution

8. Deliver Solution

9. Expand and maintain solution

Detailed Steps: 

  1. Define Your Goals and Organize Yourself

Define Your Goals

Quickly you’ll realize that to create and maintain a successful business you’ll need to keep yourself consistently motivated and be really passionate about your business’ subject matter as the startup roadmap is long and challenging often with very little immediate results and support.  

Therefore, define a few motivations to mentally fall back on when you hit a roadblock (or if you wake up one morning and Just don’t want to do the work!). 


I’m starting a successful for profit business to…

  • increase autonomy
  • increase my personal power
  • solve a unique or big problem
  • achieve financial independence
  • take on a new challenge
  • make an impact on society
  • OR all of the above

Create a blog for personal development and motivation to stay focused. This blog can eventually turn into your business’ website and the traffic you gain as you progress may eventually turn into clients. 

In blog articles journal daily about progress and road blocks to your goals as well as your solutions to resolve roadblocks. Your solutions could be to gain new skills or research that supports an action plan. 

Organize Yourself

Ensure that your blog is backed up just in case your website goes down. Use a plugin or download your files manually to store in the cloud or an external hard drive. 

Keep one word document available to capture spontaneous ideas. Just write down anything you think of and develop a routine to consistently refine those ideas in a funnel from general to more specific. 

Create an evergreen activity plan with specific due dates using our startup roadmap

Organize yourself through a RAID (Risks, Actions, Issues, and Decisions) log and allocate time to update it daily. 

Use a free cloud storage site like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Box to store your documents. 

2. Select Broad Industry Market, Then Select an Industry Group and Sub-Industry in that Industry Market, Then Narrow the Segment Down Again into a Specific Niche

Selecting a niche is challenging as overreaching is often easy. Overreaching to a too broad market is problematic because your offering will not be differentiated enough compared to your competition. To create a differentiated offering your business must iterate many times as possible on a specific product or service to develop value in excess to anything else on the market. The more incremental improvements that satisfy needs for specific people for a specific thing the more likely you will be come the de facto offering. If you’re focus is broad you’ll ultimately be just generally good at many different areas and not stand out among your competition.  

Although good advise, this is easier said than done.

How do you know if you’ve picked the right niche?

Here’s a some recommendations to determine what to focus on: 

  • Pick an Industry Market, Industry, Industry Group. Options depending on your end goals:
    • Narrow down the list to ones you feel passionate about (What makes you happy)
    • Narrow down the list to ones that you may talk about or focus on frequently. To determine (what you obsess about):
      • Write out a list of categories from: Your Youtube History, Your Google search history, Books you read, People you admire. Write out what they do why you feel that way.
      • Determine the highest counted category and pick that that
    • Narrow down the industries that has are documented to have high returns (ends justify your means). To determine:
      • Do a google search for list of industries that have a high market cap and potential
    • Narrow down the list of industries that you have a lot of experience working in or one that your family has a lot of experience in (something that comes easily to you)
    • Once you have narrowed down the list then write the pros and cons for each item on the list
    • Pick that industry to focus on
    • If you feel like you are stuck or don’t like the focus anymore repeat the process for “Pick an Industry”

The good news is that if you end up bored or it doesn’t seem like you’re getting much traction in your selected Market you can always pivot. 

But you may be asking what are the Industry Markets to choose from? Although not exhaustive these are some of the categories below:  

Select a Broad Industry Market




Commercial and Professional Services


Consumer Discretionary

Consumer Staples

Health Care


Information Technology


When reviewing the markets ask yourself a few questions:

Is your market high growth? 

What are market opportunities and risks? 

How many competitors are in the market? 

Will my potential company have the market all to itself or are there a lot of barriers to entry? 

When you are just in the preliminary research stage pick a few categories and then after you’ve done some research you can select one to focus completely on. 

List out the major companies in that Broad Market segment and create a plan to research each

When researching a company document: 

  • Products
  • Niche served
  • Differentiation
  • How they generate revenue
  • Synergies with other companies (i.e. suppliers, subcontractors, distribution etc.)

When you’ve got an idea of who the main players are in a market and you select one then you can move on to focusing on an Industry Group and Sub-Group that you want to focus on. 

Select an Industry Group and Sub-Industry

List out sectors, industry group, and industry sub-group categories through references like the Global Industry Classification:

These are examples of Markets and Market Segments (separated by colons): 

Energy: Energy Equipment and Services, Oil Gas & Consumable Fuels

Materials: Chemicals, Construction Materials, Containers and Packaging, Metals and Mining, Paper and Forest Products

Industrials: Capital Goods, Aerospace and Defense, Building Products, Construction and Engineering, Electrical Equipment , Industrial Conglomerates, Machinery, Trading Companies and Distributors

Commercial and Professional Services: Chimerical Services and Supplies, Professional Services

Transportation: Air and Freight Logistics, Airlines, Marine, Road and Rail, Transportation Infrastructure

Consumer Discretionary:

Automobiles and Components, Automobiles, Auto Components,

Consumer Durables & Apparel: Household Durables, Leisure Products, Textiles, Apparel, and Luxury Goods

Consumer Services: Hotels, Restaurants, and Leisure, Diversified Consumer Services

Retailing: Distributors, Internet and direct marketing retail, Multiline Retail, Specialty retail 

Consumer Staples: 

Food and Staples Retailing: 

Food Beverage & Tobacco: Beverages, Food Products, Tobacco

Household and Personal Products: Household Products, Personal Products

Health Care: 

Health Care Equipment and Services: Health Care Equipment and Services, Health Care Providers and Services

Pharmaceuticals, Biotechnology, and Life Sciences: Biotechnology, Pharmaceuticals, Life Sciences, Tools, and Services


Banks: Banks, Thrifts and Mortgage Finance

Diversified Financials: Diversified Financial Services, Consumer Finance, Capital Markets, Mortgage Real Estate Investment Trusts (ETFS)

Information Technology: 

Software and Services: IT Services, Software Services

Technology Hardware and Equipment: Communications Equipment, Technology Hardware Storage and Peripherals, Electronic Equipment Instruments and Components

Semiconductors and Semiconductor Equipment

Communication Services: Diversified Telecommunication Services, Wireless Telecommunication Services 

Media and Equipment: Media, Entertainment, Interactive Media and Services


Utilities: Electric Utilities, Gas Utilities, Multi-Utilities, Water Utilities, Independent Power and Renewal Energy Producers

Services: Equity Real Estate Investment Trust (REITs), Real Estate Management and Development

How to make a decision around which Market, Market Segment, and Narrow Niche within the Segment to select:  

Select a Niche

You want to find a narrow niche so you can develop a very strong grasp of the needs to dominate with your product and service at the start. In doing so you can develop insurmountable barriers to entry for competition. 

3. Talk to People in Your Niche

Define the people you are helping solve problems through technology solutions

  • Decide Country/Countries to focus on
  • Research the demographics of the people/businesses within your industry in that geography
  • If business to business select five sample businesses that are representative of your target market for research
  • List out people in each of these companies that you want to speak to with contact information (first name, last name, company, email, phone, linkedin)
  • PLEASE NOTE: Focus on a very narrow and specific group of people to start. Once you have really understood and have a very clear differentiated advantage serving that group then branch out to other groups of people.

Create a hypothesis about values and attitudes for the people in your niche

  • Define generally what you hypothesize your target market’s goals are
  • Define generally products / services your target market (if business to business) produce
  • Define generally what you hypothesize your target  market’s processes
  • Validate your hypothesizes in the next step to talk with your target market
  • For software businesses develop a baseline application that can be configured to scale up to an app for a specific purpose. For instance create a class library that will allow you to 

Write out a list of questions to ask for each potential group of interest

You will want to talk to several customers and let them do most of the talking

The goal is to find a problem to develop a product or solution around. 

Examples of questions to ask potential clients while determining a product market fit: 

Customer Questions

What problems do you feel you need to solve? 

How much are you willing to budget to solve that problem? 

What should this product cost and how can you justify the purchase? 

When would you need delivery? 

How willing would you be to participate in a beta program? 

How will your needs change in the future? 

What are the alternatives to solve your problem at the moment?

Create a list of specific people to speak to

Write a talk track to reach out to those people through email, phone, social media, and/or networking groups 

List out a networking group, narrow down to three, select one networking group, and attend networking group regularly. 

Reach out to people on the list through email, phone, and/or social media with the intent to schedule a meeting to speak longer

Repeat steps a through if until an appointment is scheduled to speak for longer

When an appointment is scheduled allocate time to prepare for that appointment

Talk to the people in your niche through 1×1 interviews to understand their problems that they are willing to spend money to solve

At the appointment ask discovery questions to uncover current situation, problems, problem impact, benefit, and ideal solution. 

Get commitment from the people to solve the problem through a paid solution based on the current understanding.

Record the conversations 

4. Identify problem in a narrow market segment that people want to solve through a purchase

Analyze and organize conversations to find commonalities.

Analyze your notes and playback of the discussion

If you solve this problem is it valuable to someone then it is a good problem to solve. 

Determine the Pain to implement versus Value Received. If cost to implement is low and easy to plug and play than adoption will be higher

Refine your framework of questions and continue to find more people in your target market to speak to until you find enough people with a similar problem to solve and commitment to solve that problem with a paid solution

Perform Competitive Analysis

Your goal is to prove that you have a competitive edge over the competition within your niche or provide a different focus in product or service

Create a spreadsheet with the following categories 

Business name, Market, Segment, Niche, Strengths, Weaknesses

Questions to ask yourself during Competitive Analysis: 

Who are your competitors? 

What are their sales volumes? 

Where is their product niche? 

How will you compete with them? 

Are there barriers to entry for new competitors? 

Create a presentation as a read out to ensure that you have successfully captured the problem correctly and reconfirm commitment to spend money to solve that problem. 

Once you have confirmed niche, problem to solve, and have gotten commitment from people to spend money for the solution then create a business plan. 

Define Vision

Define Mission Statement

Develop a Marketing Strategy

Many people confuse Marketing with Sales. Sales is an arm of the promotion mix while Marketing is discipline of understanding people’s psychology as it relates to a brand and strategy for best positioning that brand to the target market. 

Marketing consists of the four P’s:

Product – what to sell

Place  – where to sell

Price – how much to sell for

Promotion – how to raise awareness, gain acceptance, and make people want to buy

5. Find People to Help

At the start you will need to do most work yourself. However, that is not a sustainable solution especially if you want to eventually earn passive income as a business owner. 

You will need to develop skills! Here’s how: 

    • Read books
    • Take tutorials
    • Take college classes
    • Read online material from other likeminded people
    • Read biographies and/or watch videos of people who have already done what you want to do
    • Start incrementally creating things
    • Write about the skill you are learning
    • Journal about your progress daily
    • Intern at a company that will help you get the skills you require
    • Get a mentor

Initially you will want to select 3-5 people to start with you.  

Define and concentrate all resources on 2-3 objectives

Create a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) chart to outline who will do what

Once you have started to get some clients to earn some money you’ll then hire the person who knows everything about the business and that person will hire the team. From there you will manage that person.

How to hire the best talent and managers to manage that talent: 

    • Define hiring process and who will be involved (It may only be you to start)
    • Define the positions that are required to help you get to your goals. If you’re the only person doing everything now break up and group your activity so that the responsibility can be assigned to one person.
    • Determine what ideal skills are required to satisfy
    • Create an incentive plan by position
    • Create a job descriptions
    • Create job postings on sites like LinkedIn,
    • Leverage an Application Tracking System.
    • If not enough revenue for a system then use a spreadsheet for candidate and application tracking. 
      • Store resumes in a folder
      • Create a spreadsheet with the following fields
        • First Name
        • Last Name
        • Phone
        • Email 
        • Is Active? 
        • Activity Tracker
        • Source
        • Potential Role
        • LinkedIn
        • Interview Scheduled Dates & Times
        • Candidate Status
        • Notes
        • Hiring criteria section to rate and compare candidates 
    • Create hiring evaluation criteria. Some examples: 
      • Technical Skill
      • Soft Skill
      • Organization
      • Leadership
      • Collaboration
      • Critical Thinking
    • Define a skill rating system for example: 
      • 0 to 5 rating scale for each hiring evaluation criteria
      • 0 – No Awareness
      • 1 – Awareness but no practical application
      • 2 – Trained but not used in on the job work
      • 3 – Competent have used skill in the on the job work
      • 4 – Acted in a lead capacity
      • 5 – Top in Class, SME, Thought Leadership in skill
    • Source candidates
      • Search for skills with sourcing tools like Linkedin
      • Network with people you know 
      • Reach out to candidates through email, text, phone, social media (Facebook, Linkedin, etc.)
      • Assess interest
        • If interested determine what is driving the interest
        • If not interested determine why. If it is an issue with approach or company fix that. 
      • Schedule interview or interview on the spot
      • Update Candidate Tracker regularly
    • Create interview structure and interview questions by hiring criteria category in a template 
    • Before the interview copy the interview template and take notes
    • Interview people. During the interview if possible record as sometimes it is difficult to capture everything during a conversation
    • Update candidate tracker with hiring criteria ratings and notes
    • Compare the people interviewed to the description of the position and to each other 
    • Source and interview as many people as possible as your first few hires will be determine the success or failure of your business venture

6. Design a solution through a minimum viable product supporting requirements only to the most important problem in your narrow market segment

Create the solution as a minimum viable product for your core differentiation only to support user stories for your narrow market only (i.e. don’t expand to requirements outside of your narrow market focus): 

Flesh out an understanding of the problem in specific detail. If you find gaps or have additional questions outline those and go back to your stakeholders to follow up. 

Start with Outcomes, Test Scenarios, and Test Steps. With this step imagine what the end user experience will be and imagine someone using the product or service. Using this approach will ensure that all functionality is thought of end to end

Start at a high level and gradually write more specific detail until design is actionable. Ideally all steps will be outlined with exactly the actions to take so it can be handed off to a developer in any skill level (this will save costs). However some aspects may require trial and error. Therefore, either create a POC yourself or work with an experienced developer to figure these pieces out. 

List out high level options for solutions for each functional area and list out the pros and cons of each

Create process flow diagrams

If software create wireframes

Write user stories for the technology that is being built. As a…I want to…

    • Write the requirements for the technology that is being built.
    • Write the specific steps to build the technology by requirement
    • Create a timeline for each of the steps
    • Delegate each of the steps or do them yourself
    • Manage the steps to completion

7. Develop the Solution

Use methodologies like Agile for new product development whether it is hardware, software, or knowledge content. 

Create user stories, requirements, build steps, test scenarios, and test steps in a requirements management system like Jira, Rally, or something similar. 

Although this activity should occur in the design phase, start with the end in mind and outline test steps. Then from your design start from the most general and iterate through each of the stories and incrementally document more detail. This should be a continuous improvement process. 

If you have a team of developers or content creators then set 15 minute scrum calls first thing in the morning. 

In those calls understand what was accomplished yesterday, what is planned for today, and any blockers. Use a spreadsheet to document the date individual and each of the three discussion points. Record each of these meetings. 

If there are any blockers identified assess if another team member can support. 

If there are any additional discussions required to speak about a topic in more depth schedule that outside of the scrum call. The scrum call should only take 15 minutes

After the meeting review the recording and ensure that notes were taken accurately. Send a recap email to the team and ensure the recording is in a shared space. 

If follow up is required around blockers do research and/or take action. Ensure that all of this detail is documented and follow up with the team appropriately. 

Ensure that a RAID (Risks, Actions, Issues, and Decisions) log is continuously updated as the effort progresses

8. Deliver Solution

Sell your solution to the people you want to help

    • Create a presentation defining the problem, impact, benefit, features, and advantages of the solution.
    • Do a demonstration of the solution and link it to the problem that the people articulated in their own words.
    • Ask the people to pay for the solution

Increase network by joining club and attending social events. 

Go to networking events and trade shows

Create contact lists of people in businesses or leverage a service that provides contacts

Cold call people in list

Understand people’s goals, assess current environment and identify how to support potential client to achieve goals. 

Create a mutual plan to deal closure and plan for delivery

Sign contract. 

Deliver Solution

9. Expand and maintain solution

Maintain and support your client base and help them solve more problems to help them grow

  • Create a process to receive feedback from clients
  • Hire and/or assign a person to respond to the feedback and solve the problem
  • Create a backlog of enhancements to the product
  • Define a release cycle for the enhancements

Continue research and development to innovate with new ideas and products

Track clients in a Customer Relationship System (CRM) 

Meet with high value clients on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly, etc.)

  • As the owner of your company your are responsible for the future cashflow of your company. Therefore, figure out how to quickly get out of the mode of maintaining the company’s day to day operations and figure out what will make the boat faster. In addition, continue to reinvest and refine your product so that you can increase your differentiated advantage.

To help you through this process this site provides resources and tools for personal development, business strategy, business skills, technology skills, and monetization strategies.

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