How do I officially sell shares of my c-corp to an investor?

I’m looking to get funding from family and friends right now. If anyone decides they want to invest, how do I officially give them their shares? It’s a C-Corp, so I’m assuming there’s a form I have to file?

If there is a form, will this be the same form I use if I get an investment from an Angel or a VC down the road that is significantly larger than the investment made by family and friends?

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Startups that sell online, can you describe the process that goes from receiving the order to giving the package to the delivery company?

Hi all, I'm a European business student, me and my team are doing a report about what happens during this phase of the delivery process. The ideal would be that you go into as much detail as possible about all the steps (like printing the bar-code or the packaging).

Thanks for helping us!

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Tips for Starting an E-Commerce Business That is Built to Sell

Entrepreneurs are driven by many different motivators. Some may create a new business because they feel an abstract impulse to bring a particular vision to life. Others enjoy the prospect of building a legacy for their family, generating a steady stream of passive income, or even building a multinational enterprise. While many entrepreneurs won’t necessarily consider a hard exit the main reason to start a business, building a company with the express intention of selling it is also a very feasible reason to get into the entrepreneurial game.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of overlap between building a successful business with the intention of selling it and building a successful business for any other reason. However, there are certain strategic and operational mechanisms you can put in place from the start to ensure maximum profitability and an expedited sales process.


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Below, we’ll take a look at how e-commerce startups can ensure that they’re building a business that’s positioned for a highly profitable sale, whether that’s the owner’s ultimate objective with the company or not:

Selling in an evergreen market

E-commerce sites that sell products that are always in demand are very attractive to potential buyers. The security that comes with a brand that never goes out of fashion is something that lowers the investment risk and drives up the price for an online property.

Some e-commerce sites specialize in selling a specific evergreen product. Take for example, Zoma, an e-commerce mattress seller. This brand relies on its products’ countless benefits to position themselves in the health and wellness market. By strongly aligning their brand message with concepts like pain relief, Zoma is also entrenching themselves in a space that is extremely unlikely to see a drop in consumer interest. This is the very backbone of evergreen e-commerce.

But, what if you’re already running an e-commerce website that doesn’t focus on an evergreen market? Is there a way to reduce the risk from a prospective buyer’s point of view?

The obvious solution would be to diversify your inventory. For instance, niche electronics stores often sell items that are at risk of being outdated by disruptive technology. Stores like these could branch out into peripherals, software or other related products that don’t face the same risk.

Of course, acquiring the new inventory and updating the site to accommodate new categories of products comes with a cost that has to be balanced out against the benefits of entering a less risky market. It’s a good idea to not make this move before your business can accommodate the investment and new operational expenses.


Related: The Basics of Creating a Useful Return Policy for E-Commerce Growth

Diversify points of sale

Many e-commerce stores operate only on a single selling platform, like Shopify, Amazon or their own website, while other online retailers sell their products from a combination of these platforms. Having your goods available via multiple platforms severely limits the risks of being dependent on one service provider or e-commerce platform. If one of the platforms becomes unavailable for an extended period, your revenues will plummet—especially if it’s your one and only.

People looking to invest in businesses are aware of this risk. They’ll regard an online store that is only established on one platform as much riskier than one selling from their own website while also having a solid presence on Amazon.

This valuation driver can be taken a step further with strategic offline partnerships. Just because your company generates plenty of sales online doesn’t mean you can’t expand your reach into the brick-and-mortar world. Doing this successfully is a massive risk-reducer and will increase the value of your business.

For example, Elemental Labs’ electrolyte-replenishing drink is sold online but is also ideal for being sold at places where health-conscious people work out. Making a flagship product available at physical locations as well as online not only creates additional retail channels, but also reduces dependence on electronic sales.

Reduce owner dependence

People looking to invest in businesses are extremely wary of the ones that rely too heavily on the direct involvement of the current owner. This can play out in many ways, but one of the most frequent is when the current owner’s personal image or brand overlaps too much with that of the company’s brand.

An extreme, but very relevant, example is Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s global lifestyle e-commerce site. If the site was to be acquired, there would likely have to be some agreement in place that would keep Paltrow’s image attached to the property, something that the seller may be unwilling to do.

Another way this could play out is if the owner’s personal social media presence plays an important role in the site’s sales funnel. If this were suddenly to be extracted from the company’s operations, how would it affect lead generation? This is something that a potential buyer will regard as a significant risk, and if you want to position your site to sell, it’s critical that you find ways to extract your personal brand from the company’s brand image and operations.

Dominate a niche using strategic partnerships

Selling products that can only be sourced from extremely specific suppliers is an excellent way to raise the barrier to entry for potential competitors. No matter what market you’re selling in, there are often opportunities to be the major player in your niche by building exclusive relationships with sought-after suppliers.

These relationships may take a long time to develop, but the rewards can place your business in an extremely enviable position. When competitors are unable to sell the same products to a loyal audience, potential business buyers will regard your business as a very attractive option.

Take, for example, Orizaba Original, a company that went out of its way to establish lasting relationships with suppliers of extremely niche products. The founder of this fashion brand spent years traveling Mexico and developing relationships with manufacturers of high-quality clothing that cannot be sourced anywhere else. By establishing and cultivating these relationships, the company makes it extremely difficult for competitors to dilute their share of this particular market.

However, on the flip side, some business buyers may see this as a risk, given the dependence on a single product source. That’s why it’s extremely important to ensure that these partnerships are made official and treated with the respect they deserve.


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Leverage a high-profile global trend

Essentially, this concept involves leveraging an emerging trend that is extremely likely to become evergreen. Certain products address needs that involve global urgency and are unlikely to go away – like climate change, for example.

A vast number of consumers are willing to invest in products that will limit the impact that global warming has on the future of the planet. Innovation in this space is rife. If you are able to produce and sell products that provide a solution to a problem of this magnitude, the room for growth is limitless. Once production, distribution and sales infrastructures are set up for a company like this, potential buyers will consider the company a very attractive investment.

An excellent example of this concept at work is Modmo, an electric bike manufacturer selling attractive alternatives to urban transport that resonate with a customer base extremely focused on saving the planet. The pain-points that these bikes solve are incredibly clear, and when a thriving business is built around that need, valuations go through the roof.

Key takeaways

Whether an eventual sale is your primary objective when starting a business or not, there are several reasons why building a business that’s positioned to be sold is a solid strategy.

First, and most importantly: you will always exit your business. There are some things in life that can’t be avoided. You’re not going to be able to run your company forever.

Secondly, even though you may intend to create a never-ending legacy for your family, fewer than 33 percent of family-operated companies survive through a second generation. An even more surprising statistic is that only three percent of businesses survive a fourth-generation handover.

Other reasons to build a business that’s geared for a sale include experiencing a change in personal priorities, or needing capital to launch a new, exciting venture. So, whatever your current objective is for starting a business now, think long-term and take these tips into consideration to help you build a successful, highly marketable enterprise.

The post Tips for Starting an E-Commerce Business That is Built to Sell appeared first on StartupNation.

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How to Sell to the Enterprise: Avoid Saying No

One of the hardest parts of building an enterprise SaaS company is figuring out how to crack large accounts – $ 100k-$ 10m annual contracts. I've been thinking and writing on this topic recently, and wanted to share some of those thoughts below (original post here):

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To sell your product to enterprise buyers, minimize the times when you need to say “No” during the sales cycle.

Enterprise software purchasing is a complex process with potentially innumerable stakeholders and procedural hurdles to cross. Even if you have a badass product that will perfectly fit your customer’s needs, you still need to wade through a complex buying process.

The decision to buy a product like Netflix is simple: I want to watch a once-in-a-generation classic like “Selling Sunset,” so I pay for Netflix to stream it into my greedy eyeballs. As an individual, I make the purchasing decision and enjoy the rewards alone (thankfully).

Contrast this to a buyer like the US Air Force deciding to use Slack – even just calculating the number of users that they’ll have is a non-trivial task, and that’s for a relatively straightforward, consumer-friendly SaaS product. Transformational changes – say, moving to the cloud – can be exponentially more complex. The number of stakeholder approvals and compliance hurdles that must be vanquished on the way to this sort of purchase boggles the mind, but this is exactly where you make your bones as an enterprise SaaS business.

Detractors Want You to Say “No”

Innumerable potential blockers can arise during a sales cycle: you’ll have to say “No” to a particular use-case provided by the product that you’ll be replacing, or explain why you lack a feature that a buyer was expecting from a previous job. In most cases these gaps are unimportant… but these blockers can really throw a wrench into the sales process.

Adversaries who oppose a new software vendor will latch onto any time when you don’t say “Yes” like a lamprey – poking holes in the case to buy your product. Blocking stakeholders are typically incentivized to either preserve the status quo or explicitly harm your case, and include:

  • Teams who are incentivized to minimize risk, such as Compliance, Legal, IT, and (in some cases) Security.
  • Teams who are frequently blamed if a poor buying decision is made, such as Procurement. Some companies also just have risk-averse, blame-heavy cultures in general.
  • Champions of incumbent solutions – for example, an executive who originally purchased the product that you’re replacing.
  • People who don’t want to do the work of changing to a new vendor.
  • Competitors.
  • (Rarely, but occasionally) people who are just nihilistic or obstructionist jerks.

One of the biggest enemies when selling to a complex organization is time. Buyers get discouraged if it’s taking too long to sign a new vendor, and there’s often a small window when a company is ready for change and the stars have aligned for them to drop some serious coin for it. Detractors will latch onto any “Nos” that they hear and use it to delay or kill a sales cycle. This is especially common when replacing a strong incumbent – you had better believe that Oracle knows every trick in the book to make it seem that your product is untrustworthy or incomplete.

In order to overcome this, allow your sales team to say “Yes” as often as possible. The client is worried about some niche use-case? We have a partner who will make it happen. The client wants a particular security feature? We can make sure that the particular risk the Security team flagged will be handled. The client needs to format their data just right for board meetings? With a little bit of elbow grease on the customer’s part, we can support it.

Ways to say Yes more:

  1. Make your product as flexible as possible – eg make everything programmable via API or expose webhook callbacks for all major business actions. This helps customers, consultants, or your implementation teams extend your product’s capabilities for use-cases that are unique to them, which you’ll never directly build yourself.
  2. Identify major gaps that will be a pain to build for, and find quality partners who can fill in these capabilities. Similar to the above, this allows you to cover niche functionality that only a few customers will need.
  3. Make it easy to transfer raw data into or out of your platform. For example, virtually every enterprise product requires some amount of internal executive level reporting, which is typically both critical and highly team-specific. By furnishing raw data exports you can check the box of helping to provide these reports. Being able to ingest or output large volumes of data also helps check the box of whether it’ll be easy to migrate to your product.
  4. Building common no-regrets enterprise features. For example, the areas of governance (SAML, RBAC), security (password controls, 2FA, internal endpoint protection), compliance (SOC 2, HIPAA), and audit logs are all areas where it’s easy to have a gap that will scare the shit out of a conservative buyer. By building for lots of use-cases in this area, you can ensure that you won’t get ruled out for missing features that are peripheral to your core value proposition.
  5. Find the right customers. If you’re constantly finding yourself saying No during the sales cycle, you’re probably selling to the wrong folks. This is common for early-stage startups or when your sales & marketing teams aren’t generating enough pipeline (forcing you to sell to weak leads). Having a very strong perspective on why your product is special, and who it’s special for, can help you to avoid this trap. So can having discipline – you’re often better off doubling down on making your core customer deliriously happy than stretching for a flashy new logo.

Note that the strongest form of #1 and #2 is turning yourself into a platform that others can build on top of.

Case Study: Salesforce

Salesforce has a decent product. It’s by far the dominant player in the CRM industry, but it’s hardly a loveable product like (say) Zoom, Uber, Datadog, the iPhone, or even Excel. However, Salesforce has used this product to become the #1 in their industry, in part because their team can sell the hell out of it.

If you look at Salesforce, you’ll see that they use all of the techniques described above to ensure that they always have a story for how they can deliver, even if it requires extra integration work. Combined with their ferocious marketing, it’s little surprise that they’re approaching a $ 200B market cap as of this writing:

  • They’re well instrumented with open APIs, and use ampscript to build custom functionality.
  • They have an app marketplace built on these APIs that’s filled with niche solutions, creating a platform ecosystem, and will also acquire companies to fill product holes.
  • They have a robust set of reporting and data import/export functionality, allowing complex organizations to onboard rapidly with services (if necessary).
  • Salesforce has a metric ton of enterprise features, and also aggressively moves to support new platform expansions that enterprises might want, such as migrating to Microsoft Azure for their hosting.
  • Salesforce’s target customer is well-defined and obvious – it’s literally in the name.

Case Study: Slack

Slack got its start by selling to smaller organizations and startups, but has since extended their reach into the enterprise. As time has gone on and they’ve begun to see real competitors, they’ve used all of the this post’s enterprise sales tactics to continue to move up-market:

  • They have a web of Slash /commands, webhooks, and APIs that allow for easy integration.
  • They used these tools to build a successful app marketplace, completing the platform strategy.
  • They once made it dead simple to migrate from their once-largest competitor, Hipchat (they’ve since killed Hipchat in their sleep like Washington crossing the Delaware). They still provide this for Microsoft Teams.
  • Slack is now packed with enterprise-grade security and compliance features.
  • As a horizontal SaaS product, Slack is a good fit for many organizations and relatively unlikely to find a particularly bad-fit customer.

Takeaways

Saying Yes often (or saying No infrequently) is important in enterprise sales cycles. To find more ways to say Yes:

  • Build a flexible product with programmable hooks.
  • Fill niche functionality with partners, turning yourself into a platform.
  • Make it easy to import and export data in bulk.
  • Build no-regrets enterprise features.
  • Sell to the right customers.

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

How will I sell the Software of my failed B2B start-up?

So back in December we started an Enterprise Start-up for information curation. Fast forward 6 months, the market is in bad shape, and due to the bad market situation we all have personal problems due to which we can't continue working on this. So I thought the best thing to do now is to sell the what we built (if possible) for some quick cash.

Now onto the product, it's an AI tool like Bloomberg terminal to scrape all kinds of news-stories from around the world based on keywords and other filters. The value is that you can track latest news (or historic news for research and analysis) about industries like the Vaccine industry or Oil or any of that with the ability to write and deploy custom ML models and score the news articles on specific niche-cases and filters based on how the model is trained and all this would be rendered on the dashboard where you can fetch news and filter it by different scores like sentiment, the ML model score etc and gives you various visualizations on the scores of ML model and the news. It gives you the ability to go niche and be more focused. It's all written in Python.

So the question is, we had a few "potential clients" who we demo-ed it to, but then it didn't work-out. How can I find people who'd be interested in this, so that they can make better use of this? Is that even possible?

Thanks.

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

WJR Business Beat with Jeff Sloan: Start a Business to Sell Your Expertise (Episode 94)

On this morning’s WJR Business Beat, Jeff shares insights from a guest on this past weekend’s StartupNation Radio show: Steve Rundell is a stakeholder in a company called Explico, and his company performs forensic accident investigations.

During the interview, Steve talked about how anyone can start a business to sell his or her own expertise.

Tune in to this morning’s Business Beat to hear more from Steve and Jeff: 

“At the end of the day, we’re selling expertise, and if you have expertise to sell, then that can be the seed to start a business.”

– Steve Rundell

Tune in to News/Talk 760 AM WJR weekday mornings at 7:11 a.m. for the WJR Business Beat. Listeners outside of the Detroit area can listen live HERE.

Are you an entrepreneur with a great story to share? If so, contact us at editor@startupnation.com and we’ll feature you on an upcoming segment of the WJR Business Beat!

WJR Business Beat Transcript

Good morning, Paul.

You know, it never ceases to amaze me just how much opportunity there is out there to start a business. And I’m the startup guy. I’ve heard it all, right? Nope. And that’s the beautiful thing. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to interview a fascinating guy who is a stakeholder in a company called Explico. His name is Steve Rundell and his company does forensic accident investigation.

Now Steve’s got degrees in engineering, including a Ph.D., and he puts his skills and education to work in the highly specialized field of forensic investigation. He and his colleagues at Explico investigate accidents and try to piece together just what happened, and they’ve made a highly successful business by doing it.

But here’s the really interesting part. At one point during the interview, I stopped him and I said, Steve, what you do is really amazing. And you’re obviously highly skilled and qualified, but our average listener out there who might be wanting to start a business for him or herself, probably isn’t saying, “That’s a field I can jump into tomorrow!”

But wait, Steve told me you can actually start a business to sell your own expertise. Take a listen to Steve:

“If you can show, and you can demonstrate that not only do you have the expertise, but you can convey it simply and concisely to a jury and not lose your cool when getting grilled by an attorney, and if you can have a combination of expertise and ability to communicate it and a cool head on your shoulders. Yeah. There’s a lot of accidents that happen in this country. So, you could make a whole national practice out of it. At the end of the day, we’re selling expertise, and if you have expertise to sell, then that can be the seed to start a business.”

Examples of such expertise includes that from an auto mechanic to a trucking logistics expert. So, if you have expertise to sell, here’s an opportunity to start a business and profit from it.

I’m Jeff Sloan, founder and CEO of StartupNation.com and that’s today’s Business Beat on the Great Voice of the Great Lakes, WJR.

The post WJR Business Beat with Jeff Sloan: Start a Business to Sell Your Expertise (Episode 94) appeared first on StartupNation.

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