Here’s the roadmap you need to create for your startup — and why it’s important

Yesterday I talked about the importance of setting goals in relation to my angel investing. Today I want to talk about the importance of a roadmap for your startup.

Now, I’m not talking about a product roadmap, I’m talking about a startup roadmap that details all aspects of the business.

Goals are big, audacious, and when done right, singular. By comparison, a roadmap is how you plan on reaching that goal, including the milestones along the way.

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For Inside.com my big, audacious goal was “to build the world’s greatest news product.”

In order to do that I had a number of steps on the roadmap, including:

  1. Define a new content unit — the update.
  2. Hit 24-hour news coverage for one full year.
  3. Delight 1,000 people per day.
  4. Create a world-class App that was so good Apple featured it.
  5. Delight 10,000 people per day.
  6. Create vertical Apps around passionate topics.
  7. Find partners for those vertical Apps.
  8. TKTKT TKTKTK TKTKTK TKTKKT TKTKTK TTKTKKT.
  9. Delight 25,000 people per day.
  10. Raised TKTKTK in funding.
  11. Delight 250,000 people per day.
  12. TKTKT TKTKTK TKTKTK TKTKKT TKTKTK TTKTKKT.
  13. Delight 1M people per day.
  14. TKTKT TKTKTK TKTKTK TKTKKT TKTKTK TTKTKKT.
  15. Delight 10M people per day.
  16. Raise TKTKTKT in funding.
  17. Hit TKTKTK in revenue.
  18. TKTKT TKTKTK TKTKTK TKTKKT TKTKTK TTKTKKT.
  19. Delight 50M people per day.
  20. Hit TKTKTK in revenue.
  21. TKTKT TKTKTK TKTKTK TKTKKT TKTKTK TTKTKKT.
  22. Delight 100M people per day.
  23. Hit TKTKTK in revenue.
  24. TKTKT TKTKTK TKTKTK TKTKKT TKTKTK TTKTKKT.
  25. Goal achieved: The world’s greatest news product hit scale & sustainability.

In this document I’ve replaced my specific strategies with TK (“to come,” for those of you not in editorial circles). Don’t want to show all my cards!

My roadmap includes some goals around usage, but also product features (6), design (4) and business (7).

These items should take seven years to accomplish, which is about 3-4 months on average. Of course, some of these are rolling and all are done in parallel. For example, we hit 24 hours of continuous news coverage in exactly 12 months, were featured by Apple in month 13, hit 10,000 people per day in under one year, and our vertical Apps will drop at month 15. In other words, things will drop in clusters, not sequentially (and that’s OK).

Take your startup and fill in this template:

  1. Create MVP.
  2. Raise $250,000 in angel funding.
  3. Delight 1,000 people per day.
  4. Create 1.0.
  5. Raise Seed / $1M in funding
  6. Delight 10,000 people per day.
  7. Delight 25,000 people per day.
  8. Delight 250,000 people per day.
  9. Raise A Round / $3M in funding.
  10. Release 2.0 of product.
  11. Delight 1M people per day.
  12. Delight 10M people per day.
  13. Hit TK in revenue.
  14. Raise B Round / $10m in funding.
  15. TK
  16. TK
  17. TK
  18. TK
  19. TK
  20. TK
  21. TK
  22. TK
  23. TK
  24. TK
  25. Your goal is achieved: [ fill in your goal here ]

Milestones will differ if you’re consumer (lots of users!) vs. enterprise (monthly recurring revenue), but the core concept is the same: have a roadmap.

For bonus points give this template to the five people on your team and have them spend 20 minutes building their version. Have all the versions printed out and share them over a meal.

This is a simple thought exercise, not something that is written in stone. It’s fine for you to rip up the entire roadmap if you find a massive fountain of oil along the way. For example, if vertical Apps become huge for Inside.com, well, we might stop and stake our claim there (leaving out some other items on the roadmap).

How do you plan things out? Do you even bother?