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The First-year Startup Checklist: Weathering the Storm

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Image credit: Pixabay

Congratulations on taking the bold step to launch your startup—maybe you had a big ceremony or kept things simple. Either way, the ball is rolling, and things will be different now that you’ve formally joined the competition.

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We will assume that you have yet to launch your product or that it is in the trial phase. It is so easy to see the product’s ingenuity that you pay little attention to the road between now and the launch. This is where most startups miss in their first year.

Reports show that around 20% of startups fail in their first year. We’ve compiled a checklist to help you navigate the turbulent waters and maintain traction after your first year. Work with them, and you’ll create a solid foundation for the next few years.

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Checklist for First-year Startups

This list is not exhaustive, as other things may be peculiar to your product or service. However, the points here cover most of what you’ll need in the first year. They include the following:

  • Funding
  • Finance management
  • Hiring (team building)
  • Marketing
  • Security
  • Pivoting

Let’s review each point in more detail.

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You may have bootstrapped your startup until its launch, funding the idea’s development. Unless you still have more money, it is time to source for investors (funds). Trust us when we say things will move dramatically in the first year.

It is time to dust the papers and get your pitch deck ready. You will speak to many investors. Some will decline, especially when you have little traction.

Fortunately, venture capitalists are more visible today than before. Instead of focusing on venture capital companies, you can speak to individuals, including angel investors. You might need a couple of suits to go to events that host those capable of investing in your business. This process calls for persistence, as many will turn you down. Nevertheless, you will ultimately land an investor, and the feeling will be like hitting sizeable online casino jackpots, which also require putting yourself out there and advancing your skills in games like Crystal Haters, Cyberpunk City, and Fairy Wins to score the big rewards.

With that in mind, pay utmost attention to the next point on this list.

Finance Management

Now you have the funds to keep the lights on while you work on the product launch or the next iteration. We’ve seen cases of fund mismanagement by startup founders. Slync’s ex-CEO was arrested in early 2023 for tricking investors into releasing $67 million.

Establish a robust financial management strategy as soon as you receive funds from investors. That may involve hiring a professional accountant to handle the funds and balance the books. One misstep, and you may have investors breathing down your neck for mismanagement.

Although you can use the funds at your discretion, sticking to your business plan is essential. Investors often fall back on what you promised when they dial in to see how funds are managed.


We are sure that part of securing funding is getting the right staff. This step is crucial to your business’s success in the next year. It is not about hiring professionals but finding the right fit for your company.

You are better off interviewing the prospects instead of outsourcing the hiring to a third-party HR. That will ensure you get people with the right skills and readiness to work and build with you. Remember, your first employees will likely take on multiple roles as you build.


The level of marketing depends on your product or service. However, getting people excited about your product or service before launch is often better. That will soften the ground when you land.

Now you understand why you needed a partner from the start. You cannot focus solely on the technical aspect of your startup. Someone must handle the marketing and be the face of the company.

Outsourcing your marketing needs might be more affordable than hiring an in-house team. Whichever you decide, ensure you have a solid strategy.


Corporate espionage, hacks, frauds, etc., are things you will likely face in your startup’s early days. Hence, securing your startup as soon as it launches is crucial. This includes physical and digital security measures.

Grab cyber insurance if necessary, and get the best encryption you can afford. Also, educate your employees on cyber security and risks. Conduct regular security audits.


Sometimes, initial ideas for startups lack the innovation needed to be successful. We’ve seen popular companies pivot from their original directions and be successful. You can refer to PayPal, Twitter, IBM, Airbnb, etc.

It is best to keep an open mind and not invest resources in a dying idea. The good thing is that you can run with the current traction of your startup to implement a pivot idea.


90% of startups may fail in the first four years, but yours can be among the few that survive. The key is getting your foundation right. Don’t focus so much on building and launching that killer product that you forget other crucial areas.

Also, be open to pivoting. Ideas evolve, and yours can develop into something more than your original plan.

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James Musoba
James Musoba
Studying Africa's startup and technology scene. I always look forward to discovering new exciting inventions and vibrant entrepreneurs.

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