Business & Finance Entrepreneurs

Wicked Start Launches Free Service to Make Startup Business Planning Easier

Bryan Janeczko last year launched Wicked Start, an online resource for potential entrepreneurs, as a paid service. The company has now decided to change its model and offer it free, creating a robust and useful tool for anyone seeking to take their business idea from the back of a napkin (or maybe not even that developed) and start pushing it toward reality.

Wicked Start functions like an online coach, or as Janeczko thinks of it, "an online incubator," for your startup idea, helping you get from step to step through the planning process to launch.

It helps you keep yourself on track and accountable. The user experience is well thought-out in 10 sections, each with links to written and multimedia resources. The sections start with The Starting Block, in which you're asked basic questions like "What is your idea?", "What is the market need"?, "What is your business model?", What is your value proposition?", "Who is your competition?", "How will you promote your product or service?" and "Does your idea have potential?" It's almost like going through a session with a business coach or mentor. You document your ideas in the site's forms and they're stored for you to refer to and edit.

Other sections are Industry, in which you make sure you know your industry before you jump in; Prototype, in which you create a sample of your product or service, a draft of your logo, secure a domain name, create a web presence, and other functions needed at this stage. Then comes Structuring Your Business, in which you enlist professionals like CPAs, laweyers and banks.

The next sections are Business Plan, which walks through a linear narrative of what a good plan should include -- complete the sections and you have your plan. The Funding section gets you thinking about your capital needs and where to get funded; the Business Infrastructure section deals with licenses, insurance, patents, and setting up an office.

Finally, the Hiring section gets you to map your org chart, think about partners, advisors and job descriptions. The Operations section walks you through the mechanics of operating your business, and the Marketing section deals with brand building, customer service, and getting ready for launch.

There are many resources out there for just-starting entrepreneurs. There are plenty of business plan software packages, communities like Startup Nation, and social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter with groups devoted to entrepreneurship, as well as books by the thousands. (a particularly good one is Hit The Deck: Create a Business Plan in Half the Time with Twice the Impact, by David Ronick). The nice thing about Wicked Start is that it has put solid resources in one well-designed, user-friendly place.

Janeczko says Wicked Start has about 1,000 current users and that a new version of the system launches in August, after which the company will more aggressively promote to attract new users.

Wicked Start's team has legimitate entrepreneurial cred. Janeczko was the founder of Nu-Kitchen, an online food retailer, which he sold to Nutrisystem. Co-founder Darlene Newman, who handles the technology side of the business, started with a lemonade stand and became a technology consultant to startups.

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