How to take your startup to the next level, with Aaron Patzer of Mint.com

Editor's note: Andrew Mager is reporting from the Future of Web Apps (FOWA 2010) conference, held in Miami from February 22 to 24. Click here to read all of his coverage.

Editor's note: Andrew Mager is reporting from the Future of Web Apps (FOWA 2010) conference, held in Miami from February 22 to 24. Click here to read all of his coverage.

Aaron Patzer, CEO of Mint.com, spoke about how to take your startup to the next level. His company was bought by Intuit for $170 million.

Here's how he got from idea to bankroll:

There are three phases of startup life.

Phase one is the garage phase - less than $100k in funding. The goal here is to validate your idea and create a prototype. How do you know if you have a good business idea. Think of anything that irritates you or pisses you off, and if you can figure out a good solution to that problem, then you have a valid business idea. The problem has to exist 5 or 10 years down the road too.

When you enter the seed phase of startup (<1 mil), you need to figure out your real revenue potential and find a sustainable advantage that you have over other startups. Revenue projections will be bullshit; don't worry about that. Per transaction/per user revenue is way more important. And huge market opportunity.

Name your company something memorable and normal. It will kill word of mouth if people can't remember the domain name.

Here is one of Mint's original slides from 2006:

After you've raised your first million, you need to scale people. Train yourself to hire good people. Hire better than you... then let them work. 99% of the people out there suck. When interviewing, the "why" is way more important than the "what". If a prospective from Princeton interviews with you, ask them why they decided to do what they've done.

Before you launch, start a blog about your ideas. Get experts to write guest posts to create credibility and interest. Take advantage of exclusivity: tell people that if they pimp out your new site, you will give them exclusive access. This is a great way to build Google juice too.

Give away free alcohol if you can. Give away tons of free schwag so your brand is everywhere.

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