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  • Writer's pictureRyan Grant Little

The 7 Stages of a Startup that Hasn't Been Venture Funded

Photo: Shannon Rowies on unsplash

Someone from a foundation asked me today if I knew of a good definition for the different phases of a startup that weren't specifically pegged to funding rounds. I didn't, and searching didn't produce anything really serviceable. So I came up with these seven stages which match most of the bootstrapped or otherwise non-venture-funded growth arcs I've seen.

Note the distinction between customer (who gets the bill for the product or service) and the beneficiary (who reaps the benefits of the product or service) which is not always the same, especially where social and environmental solutions are concerned.

Here's what I came up with:

  1. Idea – identified problem, solution, target market, target customer and/or beneficiary

  2. Launch – some form of entity created and some level of commitment requiring a tradeoff (e.g. entrepreneur quits job or sacrifices evenings and weekends)

  3. Proof of concept – external validation from a target customer and/or beneficiary that the product or service serves a real need that is not being met

  4. Minimum viable product – version 1.0 of product or service in place and being used by pilot customers or beneficiaries

  5. Go-to-market – product or service for sale at targeted commercial price point

  6. Growth – sales and organization headcount are ramping up

  7. Maturation – organization is refining positioning, operational, and governance setup alongside growth

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