I started a business earlier this year and collected a lot of scattered information in doing so. Here are those notes.

How does this all work..?

I didn’t really know what I was doing as I started the business. After all the research, events, mentor meetings, etc. the single best resource to start with was the Startup Playbook from Y Combinator - http://playbook.samaltman.com/. Reading that and working through my mission, problem, product or service, business model, team, market, market growth rate, and financials was incredibly valuable. I had answers to most every question asked by a mentor or at an event, etc. as a result of this. A giant thank you to Sam Altman and everyone that contributed for publishing the playbook!

Business Formation

I filed for an LLC online at https://mblsportal.sos.state.mn.us. It only took a few minutes and ~$150 to file. Thompson Hall (now JUX.law) has a great series of articles on doing so ( http://jux.law/business/formation/limited-liability-company-llc/ ).

I also filed for an Employee Identification Number online with the IRS ( https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Apply-for-an-Employer-Identification-Number-(EIN)-Online ).

I used a P.O. Box where possible as the address. As expected, I guess, I now get a ton of spam mail from people pulling the on-file addresses from the state and sending spam offers.

Still working on an Operating Agreement & business bank account, but basically every mentor I’ve spoken with has highly, highly suggested having both established early on. I looked at Venture Bank ( http://www.venturebankonline.com/ ) and Silicon Valley Bank ( http://www.svb.com/ ) as options focused on new businesses. Venture Bank is a local company while SVB is rather well established in the startup community and is forming a local branch office down at Industrious.


I’ve been tracking expenses in a simple Numbers spreadsheet, with photos / PDFs of the relevant receipts. Tax Receipts has been a fantastic guide for what to track under which category: http://taxreceipts.com/tax-guide/

Other than gas, car insurance, and personal food & basics, most expenses have been deductible.

Free Business Advice & Help

There were a lot of resources I came across that provided free business advice. The two best ones from my experience were

The mentors from both were incredibly helpful in asking questions, exposing gaps, sharing experience, and working with me to formally develop a business plan. You can’t beat the cost of free! If your company is software oriented, you can also reach out to Minnesota Emerging Software Advisory ( http://www.mesagroup.org/ ). They provide mentoring advice to companies with at least a Minimum Viable Product built out, looking to grow.

One last mention, I enjoyed meeting with Meda Procurement Technical Assistance Center ( http://meda.net/mnptac/ ). They provide free advice and mentoring to companies looking to work with / compete for government contracts, and at least in my experience, are staffed by a few very sharp people.

Free Legal Advice & Help

Minnesota has a program LegalCORPS ( http://legalcorps.org/ ) that provides free business-related legal advice around the cities at various libraries and similar locations. If you’re at or under a certain income level, they can also provide full representation. The advice clinic I attended was incredibly useful, four lawyers answered every question I could think of and sent me off with a bunch of additional resources to boot.

Potential [Venture] Funding

I haven’t decided whether or not to seek out funding, but while researching everything else I collected links on possible sources for future use. Here are those links:

Most of these also run events and programs, and are worth checking out to see if anything they have going on is relevant. There are certainly a lot of pitch events.

Grab Bag

A few other things I did, picked up a domain name ( https://iwantmyname.com/ ), set up a basic webpage with Squarespace ( https://www.squarespace.com/ ), landed at email via Office 365 ( https://products.office.com/en-us/exchange/exchange-online ), picked up business cards from Moo ( https://www.moo.com ), applied & qualified for BizSpark for a whole of ton of free resources including Visual Studio from Microsoft ( https://www.microsoft.com/bizspark ). I looked into a coworking space before ultimately deciding not to use one. There are an ever-growing number of them in the twin cities at various price points, including COCO ( https://explorecoco.com/ ), The Reserve ( http://reserve.work/coworking ), Industrious ( http://www.industriousoffice.com/locations/minneapolis ), and WorkAround ( http://workaroundtc.com/ ). Tech.MN, a great resource for all things tech in the twin cities, recently published a fantastic coworking guide as well - http://tech.mn/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Ultimate-Guide-to-Coworking-in-Minnesota-2016.pdf.