Angel Investors vs Venture Capitalists
Angel investors (sometimes called angels) are wealthy individuals who invest their personal money, which they often made by creating a successful startup themselves. Angel investors usually invest between $10k and $100k in return for a small amount of your company.
Venture capitalists are people that work for a venture capital (VC) firm. They are usually called 'partners' of the VC firm and they get paid to invest other people's money. VC firms usually invest in companies that have already raised money from angel investors and they usually invest larger amounts, between $1 million and $10 million+. Investors' aim is to invest in companies that are going to grow, so the equity they own increases in value and hence they make money.
See this list of well known VC funds.
Equity refers to how much of the company a person owns. Eg. If you split your company between three people, you each own 33% of the equity in that company.
MVP & The Lean Startup
Minimum viable product (MVP) and the Lean Startup are two terms thrown around a lot when talking about how to create a company. Wikipedia summarizes an MVP way better than I can:
"A minimum viable product has just those core features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more."
One of the tricky things about building an MVP is working out which features are 'core features' and which features are 'nice to have' but not necessary for you to start testing your idea. This is where the Lean Startup comes in.
The Lean Startup is a book about how to find the core features of an MVP in a way that saves you a lot of time and often doesn't require a single line of code.
One of the coolest examples of an MVP is the story of InstaCart. To create a 1 hour on demand delivery service without an army of drivers they just did the shopping and deliveries themselves, often by using Uber taxis because they didnt even own cars. Here's an inspiring 20 minute talk on their story.
Silicon Valley (SV) is a region in California covering the southern portion of the San Fransico Bay Area. SV is known as world's largest hub of tech companies. Here's a visualization of all the companies located there.
Incubators or startup accelerators (there's probably a difference between the two terms but it really doesn't matter) are programs that help startups get started. If you get accepted into an incubator they usually invest $20k - $100k in return for ~7% of your company. This is followed by a 3 month period where they introduce you to mentors while giving you individual startup advice. Incubators generally end with a 'demo day' where each company pitches their startup to a bunch of investors with the hopes of raising more money.
Hacker News and Paul Graham
Paul Graham (PG) is the founder of YCombinator and the creator of Hacker News (found at news.ycombinator.com). Hacker News (usually abbreviated to HN) is a reddit-like website where people submit links related to technology and startups. The links that get up-voted the most rise to the top. HN would be nothing without its community and you often find YC partners commenting on the submitted links.
Pro tip: instead of having to check HN every 5 minutes to stay up to date there is this handy Facebook bot that posts the top 5 links on HN to Facebook (so now you only have to check Facebook every 5 minutes...).
What makes Paul Graham especially well known is his amazing essays on startups. These essays are quoted continuously among YC folk and are well worth the read.
Pro tip: since these essays are kinda long, I use the app Pocket to download the essays and listen to them next time I'm catching the train/bus/hyperloop.
Over the past 30 years people have been building tools upon tools that make it easier to code without any background in computer science. We've now reached a point where its so easy to learn how to code that people of all ages are doing it.
Along with making it easier to code, programmers often release their code to the public for free. There are now so many open source projects that if you have an idea for something you can generally find a very similar example on the internet and use it as a starting point. So you now have no excuses to not try to build something yourself.
TechCrunch (TC) is the most well known technology news site.
Crunchbase is a database managed by TechCrunch that allows you to look up information on a particular startup. Its a particularly good resource for looking up how much money a company has raised. Eg. See InstaCart on Crunchbase.
Revenue vs Profit
Revenue is the money coming into a company via sales. Profit is the money you have remaining after you've paid for all the things you have to pay for (employee wages, cost of materials of your product, cost of renting an office etc).
Seed round, Series A, B, C, D
As a startup grows it sometimes needs to raise money (the alternative is called bootstrapping). Companies raise money in periods called 'rounds' in which they raise a sum of money all at one time (usually within a few months). The first round is called the seed round and since the valuation of your company is pretty small at the beginning you don't want to raise a bazillion dollars because you would give up all your equity and not own much of the company anymore. Rounds generally progress to higher and higher amounts if a company is growing successfully, starting at a few $100k for a seed round to a million or more for a series A, all the way to $100 million or more for a series D. None of these numbers are set in stone however and you only need to raise as much money as you need...
... if you need to raise money at all. Sometimes startups are making revenue or even profit from day one and simply don't need to raise any money. This is called bootstrapping.
Consumer (B2C) vs Enterprise (B2B)
Businesses creating a product for regular everyday consumers are called business to consumer (B2C) companies. Businesses selling to enterprise (other businesses) are called business to business companies (B2B). There is a distinction between the two because products suited for consumers are sometimes extremely different than products suited for enterprise.
There were a few business terms I left out when writing this initially so I've brought in my buddy Ryan Farley to fill in a few blanks. Ryan is the cofounder of current TechStars company, LawnStarter and he contributes to their awesome blog. They also have some great articles for aspiring entrepreneurs (and they're hiring).
Total Addressable Market (TAM)
When thinking about the company you want to build, one of the first things you should think about is TAM. Your TAM is your entire total market size, in dollars spent annually. The bigger TAM the better (a lot of investors look for TAMs of over $1 billion) and its preferably growing. Also, be sure to avoid being too broad. For example, with LawnStarter, the target market is not all of home services; rather it's the smaller subset of residential lawn maintenance.
This is how much the investors are valuing a company at a given round of funding.
The pre-money valuation plus the amount that was invested.
Bonus 3 Tips
Here are a few bonus tips to know about that will give you an extra insight into starting a company:
This is a kickass mini-documentary series made by Alexis Ohanian (the founder of reddit, a full-time partner at YC, and an all-round badass). It examines a bunch of startups in NYC via interviews with their founders.
Here are 3 books that have helped me more than any others along my entrepreneurial path so far:
Steve Jobs - The founder of apple and instigator of both the personal computer and smartphone revolutions. Fun fact: he dropped a surprising amount of acid when he was young.
How to Win Friends and Influence People - The bible of how to best interact with others.
Think and Grow Rich (TAGR) - The bible on using visualization as a method to achieve success.
James is one of my favorite but less well-known bloggers. He has some of the craziest stories and is an excellent writer. Check out his blog here.