My advice is to first and foremost firewall your personal assets. It will save you a ton of regret and headache later if things go wrong.
- If you are in the US then start by forming an LLC (or Delaware C corp if you have the funds) with a separate bank account.
- If you are in the services business then get business insurance (quite affordable actually).
- Buy domain names. Also set up a time line for when you may want to register a trademark if that applies in your case.
- Create all necessary document templates ahead of time, for e.g. NDA, contracts, IP assignment etc. depending on what is applicable in your case.
Some additional advice :
- Never make verbal promises or handshake deals especially when you are scouting for a co-founder, contractors, or employees. It doesn't matter how well you know them.
- Avoid, to the extent you can, offering equity for services or deferred compensation. In the early stages it is quite possible that you will be using contractors. If you do then make sure the written agreement terms are solid and unambiguous.
- Read books like Deal Terms, Term Sheets and Valuations, Venture Deals, High Tech Startup, Founder's Dilemma, Fools Gold etc.. and become very familiar with the concepts and terms. I can't stress this enough -- be well informed!
- Thoroughly understand cap tables and how they change over time/events.
- Read Getting To Yes (Harvard publication, if I remember correctly). Will help you with your negotiation skills.
- Consider startup incubators if that helps in your particular case. But be careful and understand the terms carefully. Some incubators will take a non-trivial amount of stock in exchange for very little.
About co-founders :
If you are passionate and/or good at selling your idea it is quite likely you will attract co-founders. Do not rush. Take your time to get to know them within the context of your startup regardless of how well you have known them personally.
- If you can try to work out a try-out phase with potential co-founders. But be very careful and make sure both parties sign proper agreements and are very clear about what they are getting from each other.
- Personally I am not a fan of part-time co-founders. If someone wants to join they are either all in or out.
- Please read Founder's Dilemma (Noam Wasserman).