Entrepreneurial ambition and/or potential scalable product or service idea for a big enough target market. Initial idea on how it would create value. One person or a vague team, no confirmed commitment or no right balance of skills in the team structure yet.
Defining mission and vision with initial strategy and key milestones for next few years on how to get there. Two or three entrepreneurial core co-founders with complementary skills and ownership plan. Maybe additional team members for specific roles also with ownership.
Committed, skills balanced co-founding team with shared vision, values, and attitude. Able to develop the initial product or service version, with committed resources, or already have initial product or service in place. Co-founders shareholder agreement (SHA) signed, including milestones, with shareholders time and money commitments for next three years with proper vesting terms.
Iterating and testing assumptions for validated solution to demonstrate initial user growth and/or revenue, initial Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) identified. Can start to attract additional resources (money or work equity) via investments or loans for equity, interest or revenue share from future revenues.
Focus on KPI based measurable growth in users, customers, and revenues and/or market traction & market share in a big or fast moving target market. Can and want to grow fast. Consider or have attracted significant funding or would be able to do so if wanted. Hiring, improving quality and implementing processes.
Achieved great growth, that can be expected to continue. Easily attract financial and people resources. Depending on vision, mission and commitments, will continue to grow and often tries to culturally continue “like a startup”. Founders and/or investors make exit(s) or continue with company.