I meet many people who have a fantastic idea for an e-commerce venture but are unsure of how to get started, so I have broken down the process into six steps. Several Europe-wide organisations, often referred to as business incubators, can guide you through these steps, so it is well worth visiting their web sites to see what they offer. Just recently, become.com started:
Step One: Source finance. It will cost money to set up your new business. Unless you are fortunate enough to be able to fund the venture yourself, you will have to seek funding from venture capital (VC) firms. This entails writing a convincing business plan. A business incubator can help you draw up a winning plan.
Step Two: Submit the plan to investors. Europeans are becoming more and more willing to invest in e-commerce ventures, and venture capitalist firms are springing up independently or as offshoots of investment banks. Some will already be willing to invest in Slovakia-based dot.coms (Internet-based firms) and this confidence will increase if Slovakia gains accession to the OECD.
Step Three: Validate the plan with the venture capitalist. The venture capital firm will review your plan and decide to accept it, make recommendations for modification or reject it. Business incubator organisations can put you directly in touch with VC firms, meaning you won't have to shop around.
Step Four: Prioritise technology infrastructure. After you have got your first round of funding, one of the most important decisions you have to make is how to structure your technology base. You must think big right from the start, as demand for your product and services may flood in from all over the world. Inadequate technology will prevent you interacting properly with your new customers (and vice versa), and they may decide to shop elsewhere.
Step Five: Establish the business infrastructure. Premises, staff, marketing, advertising, legal advice, accountancy - you will need most if not all of these if your business is to be successful. Business incubators can put you in touch with all the services you need to start and grow your business.
Step Six: Go live! And best of luck in your new online venture.
Michael Klemen is Senior Vice President, Applications Marketing, Oracle EMEA. Questions and comments may be sent to email@example.com