by Alejandro Torres Frías

I’ve recently started to analyze a new business venture in the field of IT with a good friend of mine, and now partner, based in Silicon Valley.  The fact that he’s located in the US and I’m in Chile, makes this business opportunity viable considering that our operations would be ran from Chile and the US simultaneously and coordinately.  Given the fact I can currently work only part time on this project, because I have a job at a business I founded with other partners a few years ago, I don’t have a lot of extra time to invest in this project at this early stage.  My friend is in a similar situation, so we’re faced with having to develop this project on a part time, bi-hemisphere basis.  So, how are we supposed to develop a serious business effort thousands of miles away, with not a lot of time?  Thanks to some business know-how and wiki technology, very easily indeed.

It has been amazing to realize how in less than 3 hours, all of the the necessary business documentation was born and well on its way to a successful and complete development through only 4 documents hosted in Google Docs and Spreadsheets, the free most accessible wiki service around town.

If you are not sure of what a wiki is, make sure to watch this great 3 minute video introduction to wikis, from our friends at ZDNET and then continue reading this post under the video player:

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To get started with the business analysis, I was supposed to generate a couple of documents which would help us start this effort effectively and then send them to my partner.  A few years back, I would have instantly launched an Excel or Word document, but instead I launched my Google Docs and Spreadsheets Home Page, where I knew I could create online documents and share them with my partner, possible investors and any other future collaborators in the US and anywhere else in the world.  Always the latest version, always online, total collaboration.  The 4 documents I created to get the biz to a power start are:

1. Business Bio (Text Document)

2. Business Gantt Chart (Spreadsheet)

3. Business SWOT Analysis (Spreadsheet)

4. Business Cash Flow (Spreadsheet)

If you’ve ever created or planned to create a new business you’ll agree that as an entrepreneur you should always develop and use tools like business plans, financial analysis, market studies among many other things to make the launching process as smooth as possible.  I’m sure the Gantt Chart (2) , SWOT Analysis (3) and Cash Flow (4) ring a bell and can be created your own way.  On the other hand, if we concentrate on the Business Bio (1), in our case, it includes different sections that will allow us to get a clear idea on the identity of the business from (nearly) every perspective:

a) Objectives of the Business:  What do we do?  Here we describe our business, its products and/or services.

b) Barriers to Entry?:  What walls are there before we get in the field?  Are there any quality certifications, special regulations, etc.?

c) Market (Potential Clients): Who do we sell to?  Identify our clients (direct & indirect), market/s, size, segments, niches, etc.

d) Competitors: Who do we go against?   Who are the kings and queens of the field?  Who would be playing in our same level?

e) Business Model/s: How do we operate, sell, buy, get paid, pay commissions or rebates?

f) The Players: Who do we work with?   Who’s on our ecosystem?: How will the company be conformed (personnel, partners, investors, key strategic partners (people & companies), suppliers, etc).

g) Capital: How much is the tab?    How are we going to finance this venture?  How big a share of the company are we willing to sell to capitalize?

h) Mission: Who do we want to be?   How will we accomplish it?  How would we like to be and be perceived in terms of objectives, processes, quality, people, satisfaction, values, sustainability?

i) Vision – Where do we want to be in 2, 5, 10 years?: It never hurts to dream, especially when you think you have the right plan to get there.  This is one of the very fun parts of entrepreneurship.

j) Name of the Business: And our name is… (all name proposals must be accompanied by an available web domain dot com, .net, .it, .info, .cl, .whatever).

k) Literature: Informational links that complement the research and contents of this document and overall business analysis.

Now remember, nothing’s ever final in 2.0.  In the age of collaboration and participation, things are in the eternal “Beta”, always evolving and improving thanks to the continuous feedback made available to and by all of the individuals in the team.  I’m sure that as we enter and analyze content, we’ll edit, add to, delete and move around information.  It will probably become the Business Plan itself, where we will probably add to all the data gathered in the Gantt Chart, Cash Flow and SWOT Analysis.  Fairly simple to keep track of won’t you say?

I’m sure I’ve missed some or many points regarding launching a business right, but I feel confident this 4 document, under 3 hour effort will get us on the right path.

What other key points do you think I missed?  Would you use this approach to evaluate a real business opportunity?  Thank you for providing feedback in the comments section.