Over the last six months, I have shared many lessons with you on how best to build your startup. Below is a checklist of the most important “must-haves” for any successful startup:

___  A good business idea–“secret sauce” solution to real world problem  (Lesson #1)
___  A well-thought out business plan and revenue model (Lesson #7 and Lesson #78)
___  A large and growing industry, where a big business can be built
___  A firm handle on current and future competition (Lesson #19)
___  Defensible barriers to market entry (Lesson #43)
___  An experienced board of directors or advisors (Lesson #12 and Lesson #45)
___  A deep network of colleagues in your startup ecosystem (Lesson #47 and Lesson #85)
___  A motivating and credible CEO (Lesson #14)
___  An experienced and backable start-up team  (Lesson #2, Lesson #27 and Lesson #83)
___  Appropriately compensated employees (Lesson #58 and Lesson #59)
___  Equity in hands of key managers (Lesson #9)
___  An entrepreneurial office culture (Lesson #13)
___  A healthy office environment with work-life balance (Lesson #18 and Lesson #55)
___  A religious focus on putting your customer first (Lesson #33)
___  The right product and pricing strategy (Lesson #20)
___  A profitable and tested “go to market” sales and marketing plan (Lesson #21)
___  Infectious enthusiasm and passion for business (Lesson #50)
___  A clear management focus on what you are building (Lesson #40)
___  Speed to market and knowing when to cut losses (Lesson #71)
___  Disciplined decision making skills (Lesson #87)
___  Flexibility to fine-tune model and navigate challenges (Lesson #8 and Lesson #31)
___  Persistence in goods times and bad (Lesson #29)
___  The right mix of intangibles that investors are looking for (Lesson #86)
___  Market timing and luck (Lesson #3)

And, more specifically, do not approach professional venture investors until you have achieved:

___  A good mix of the “must-haves” above
___  A sufficient proof of concept (e.g., revenues or visitor traction)
___  Meaningful customers under contract who would be solid references
___  A sizable pipeline of customers in the works
___  Key industry partnerships with brand-name marketing partners
___  Clarity you fit the types of investments your target investor makes
___  A fine-tuned elevator pitch, to get their attention
___  A credible “road map” for investor to realize 10x returns within 5 years
___  Realistic thoughts on potential exit options and buyers
___  A realistic expectation on valuation to attract capital (Lesson #32)
___  Clear handle on how much money you need, including cushion to last 18 months
___  Logical use of proceeds invested in future growth (not past debts)
___  A debt or equity investment structure that works for the investor

For this second list, please re-read Lesson #4–How to Raise Capital for Your Startup and Lesson #10–How Best to Approach VC’s or Angel Investors.

About Writer: George Deeb is a serial entrepreneur. He is a managing partner of Red Rocket Ventures; Chairman of MediaRecall; Founder of iExplore; Startup Mentor, Michigan BBA; Adventure Traveler

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