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The Founder's Roadmap

What if there were literally a roadmap for entrepreneurs and web founders to understand the steps it takes to start a business?

Photo of Ashley Jablow
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The Founder's Roadmap is an actual map that helps direct new entrepreneurs through the steps of starting a business.

This idea is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but if we could create a founder's roadmap, what might it look like?

I know there isn't one prescribed, one-size-fits-all way to start a business, but then again - might it be possible to lay out very clearly and visually the steps that everyone needs to take in order to start an online business? 

This roadmap could be available in hard copy (imagine it handed out at meetups and events) as well as online, perhaps as a resource provided by an entrepreneurship incubator like the Hub or Y Combinator.

How will your concept support web entrepreneurship?

Starting a new business - online or otherwise - is a convoluted and confusing undertaking. Everywhere you turn, people have different opinions, perspectives and suggestions. Whether it's trying to determine if your product or service is desirable or viable for your market, or trying to understand local or federal legislation related to your business, starting a new venture is messy and confusing. This roadmap would help new and future founders understand the basic journey they'll need to take to get their idea up and running.

What kinds of resources will be needed to get this concept off the ground and scale it?

When I think of resources, I think of two elements: the actual visual design of this roadmap and the information needed to populate it. The most challenging part would be the information that's included in the map. I'm aware that starting a business is very location-specific; that is, what matters in terms of regulations and licensing, for instance, varies across locations. However, there are certain steps that every entrepreneur must follow, from creating and refining a business plan to recruiting to the right team.

How could we get started?

As a start, perhaps we could interview people who have started web businesses, to find out about the steps they took in the beginning? While we know it would be difficult and probably too detailed to include every single step that every single entrepreneur takes when starting a business, I bet these interviews would help us identify which are the most common steps that entrepreneurs take when starting a business. Even something like a tag or word cloud could help us get a sense of the tasks, conversations and decisions that founders make when starting a business. We might also reach out to entrepreneur networks like the Hub, Women2.0 or others, to get their feedback and help us iterate the map further. These networks may also agree to share the map with their members when it's finished.


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Photo of DeletedUser


This is great and has the potential to be a fantastic tool for fast-tracking ideas forward!

Photo of DeletedUser


This is a great idea Ashley! This Road-Map would definitely be a great resource for the start up community. It would be great to also do a crowd sourcing community (website) that will allow founders to give their personal insights as they are taking their journey through the checkpoints. This will give founders real experiences to reference.

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Aina, I really like your point of incorporating the personal stories of entrepreneurs – everyone's map will look different after all. Thanks for weighing in and apologies for being slow to reply!

Photo of DeletedUser


I agree with Aina in that there is a great opportunity for input from successful entrepreneurs who have experience drawing (and most likely re-drawing) their own road map. What if there was a feature called "I'm lost!" that would connect the user to an appropriate mentor who could help them find their way to the next checkpoint or milestone? It would be akin to stopping for directions.

The mentors could be pre-interviewed and tagged with keywords that would be used to match the best mentor to each "lost" entrepreneur given the nature of the startup and their location on the Road-Map.

Photo of Paul van Zoggel

Great, don't forget to put in the failure periods, they will happen, it is not only a stairway to heaven :)

Especially going through the downfalls and head up going strong is important. I read some inspirations on the importance of psychological guidemap'

Photo of Ashley Jablow

This is a great idea Paul. What if these moments could be called something clever like 'rest stops' on the map - almost like a chance to take a time out, reflect on your progress and assess the missteps you might have made?

Photo of Paul van Zoggel

Missteps/Missed-steps breaks probably, to reflect on the steps you took and because being further (and wiser) to see if you did enough or should do some more partnersearching friends user testing. So it doesnt become a waterfall.

Scrum fits?

Photo of Paul Reader

Good points - many steps will be cyclical and iterative - like conventional software development - and each step perhaps represents milestones in conventional project management.
I can envisage two levels to this. There are many ways of getting from London to Rome (by road) sometimes detours will be necessary, even retracing steps, but good planning will make a smoother journey.
At the top level we can see the major steps (like Paul's 12 steps) underpinned by detail in something like Louise's Project Angel and incorporating tools like Andreanna's Toolbelt. Bringing these concepts together truly collaboratively might result in an excellent and self-evolving expert system application across all platforms.

Photo of Paul van Zoggel

Hi Paul, Ashley, sorry only see this reply now. Various concepts hook in together, complementary. Would be pitty if only 1 would get through this phase and loose interest of people to further develop their ideas.

You mention a few, here is my throw :

1. Identifying ingredients : The startup wiki

2. Search ingredients for own soup : Fast help on mobile : Angel and (Zaphod) Guide

3. Have the data and fast search as a resource for timeline/roadmap/highway : this concept.

4. Have an inspiring journey with EU hero stories as guide. Collect/connect heroes in webentrepreneurship to inspire people to join/start online business.

This is enough for webentrepreneurs not all the time have to reinvent the wheel, locally, globally.

I see a foursquare/wiki/facebook timeline appish toolie.

5. To inspire a generation which is NOT yet thinking about webentrepreneurship, If the data is real (crowdsourced up to date). And the 'holy' hero starters success stories are real. We have a backbone to develop something like urgentevoke in the future. ( Real data resources + great fictional/real hero layer) .

Photo of Louise Wilson

It might sound obvious but it would be good to include information on what happens if the person chooses not to (or can't for some reason) follow the road map at a certain point. The fact that starting up is convoluted and confusing means it could be easy to try and jump hurdles or skip sections but this could be detrimental to success.

I've been working with a client who a wants a similar idea for his company to follow and we discussed creating a 'snakes and ladders' visual for them so that they could instantly see how far they would be set back if they didn't follow the journey properly...

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Great point Louise. It will be great for people to know the potential extra hurdles they might get into by omitting a step.

Photo of Ashley Jablow

This is a great point too. Maybe it's less of a curvy map like I've drawn, but more like a process flow diagram that shows decision points along the way....I'll have a think about how I might revise my image.

Photo of Paul Reader

The concept is really great!
I admit one of my first thoughts was "snakes and ladders" but I don't think there is anything wrong with your image Ashley. In my humble opinion it represents the twists and turns encountered along the way, perhaps with the occasional blind alley, cul-de-sac or roadblock. I think the imagery could even be embellished in places with the odd bridge, hill to climb, plateau, downhill run.the analogy goes on,,, maybe I'm an old romantic - now I'm thinking La Tour de France - teamwork solo effort - my mind is running away....

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Hi Paul, sorry for my slow reply - but yes! It's easy (and fun) to start imagining what this map might look like. Lots of the landmarks and symbols we see on maps could actually very nicely translate to stories, decisions or pivot points on this map too. Thanks for weighing in.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Very nice idea. Of course, as you said, each start up is its own journey and each country is specific, however, through some of the interviews posted in the inspirations, once can see some similarities emerging. You could also imagine then country based versions (the founder's road map in the UK, in France, in Spain, in Germany, etc.) if / when needed.
You could imagine a paper version but also an interactive version that would allow you to go more in details, maybe with short interview excerpts.

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Oh I love the idea of a map for each country! And then there could be elements or 'stops' on the map that help founders see moments when they can be creating opportunities to work across borders and countries.

Photo of Paul Reader

Continuing here - I think the interactive aspect is a winner too - the interviews could be a bit like tourism highlights, maybe based on Paul's heroes, and James McBennett's Founders Dictionary like interpretations for road signs, while links to important standard steps like those in Louise's Project Angel could be like milestones. These in turn might link to Andreanna's Toolbelt, although these last three would stand on their own too. Below these would be further interactive elements like James Moyer's Intelligent Flowcharts and another related concept IP FastStart (that I'm about to publish).
I'm sure I am leaving out lots of relevant concepts that have appeared since you floated this and I must start to map them to get a proper overview - but I see this and Haiyan's Startup Planner Platform as complementary top layers.

Photo of Jason Hill

Great idea! Having checkpoints that challenges assumptions would be extremely valuable. Also providing a resource for "no strings attached capital through competitions and grants can build momentum and guide one through the early stages...for someone who might turn to a road-map for guidance.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Nice one. Maybe some learnings from Wicked Start?

Photo of DeletedUser


Hi Ashley,

I really like this concept! As you said though, every idea is different, every start-up has different needs and the journey varies according to who you are, where you live, which resources you have, etc...

Recently I put together a Mobile Business Entrepreneurship course for teaching entrepreneurship in Africa where I guided entrepreneurs in the process of finding the right idea and make it happen on paper (business plan). It didn't include funding and legislation, but only pure business design. That process is also the same I used to organise the tools on the platform I put together, .

What I noticed is that you do need a 'Human' and 'Expert' to guide you through the process... Maybe your map could be linked to my 'Business Design Coaching' platform idea?

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Oh, I like it! I'll connect our two ideas using Build Upon next....Great points about the 'human' element of this.

Photo of Stefan Ritter

simply brilliant!

this reminds me of Tom's video, on how to visualize a business model:

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Great point - I'll add it as a build :) Glad you liked my idea!