OK, this really isn’t about starting a company, it’s about creating a presence for a new organization. While there are many ways to do this, here is a simple method that will give you.
Bootstrap secrets, email and phone
One question is how to deal with passwords. You want to start secure so download a copy of 1Password and create a new vault. This is where your passwords will go. Create a vault if with the generator and don’t lose it. Put it into that vault and your personal one.
To begin you will need a gmail backup identity. Create one at gmail.com. And use the 1Password generator to get a secure one. A typical one is something like ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’
While you are at it go to Google Voice and create a phone number. Pick an area code that works for your startup. That is Bay Area is you are techie, New York if doing fintech,…
Now create a Dropbox id with the new Gmail identity. Download the Dropbox synchronizer Then go to 1Password and preferences and choose sync and sync into that directory.
Now you can share that Dropbox with your cofounders and send them the vault password securely. Via iMessage or Signal. Don’t use email!
Ok, this might seem silly, but having a name that make sense is actually pretty hard and given all the domain squatters it’s not easy. I do this in two steps. First brainstorm about a name and then see if you can get a reasonable domain name. I use namecheap.com mainly because it seems to have the best search across the zillions of TLDs that exist.
There is a big tradeoff between a really long
newideasandthings.com vs a much short name that uses one of these non-traditional TLDs. Personally, I think that millennials are pretty flexible and while a name like
surround.io was controversial four years ago, now no one things about .io as strange. So I think you probably rather have
new.ideas than a really long domain name.
When you are doing this, it is so cheap (no pun intended), that you might want to get a few, so for new.ideas, you might like newideas.cloud as well for instance, get a bunch of variants. Now some TLDs cost thousands of dollars and some are just $6, now is not the time to invest in a big name, you want a decent placeholder.
Now using Namecheap, you click other and it really goes through a massive list of TLDs that fit. It’s a good idea to go through them all. Then when you are ready to buy, make sure to go to google and make sure you don’t have conflicts. That is do you have an organization doing exactly what you are doing. I normally use google.com and startpage.com to check this. The reason is that google.com is way too personalized these days, so it will not feed you generic results that other people see. You want to go through at least the first two pages of results to make sure there isn’t a conflict.
Finally, make sure you use cashbackmonitor.com to check for deals. Right now for instance, you get 15-20% off by a click through since domain names are so profitable. I normally just buy a year and see how it goes.
As an aside I normally get NameGuard (it is free right now for a year and forever), this is a good privacy keeper.
Getting a website
Now the next step is to get a placeholder website up and running, you will need this later to authenticate with Google. Right now I’m still using bluehost.com mainly because it allows unlimited storage. It is slower, but is also allows unlimited domains, so you just need to get to bluehost.com. Again use cashbackmonitor.com to get a good deal.
So the first step is to point the new namecheap.com domain to the DNS servers for bluehost which right now are ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com. Go to Namecheap and select the domain and
MANAGE and then go to the DNS settings and choose Custom Domain, type in the name servers and then click on the green arrow (it is not obvious to enable). To see when this propagates run the command (on a Mac),
host -a _yournew_domain
You now need to wait for the DNS servers to propane the new address. You can check this by going to your terminal window and doing a dig. And then you want to go to the Bluehost Domain Manager and choose
Assign this Domain
Now you assign a sub domain. Bluehost will create a directory and create a dns entry to point to that directory.
You can now fire up WordPress by going back to the control panel and going to
Install WordPress and this will create a WordPress domain and select your domain and choose Next. Note that you can two different problems with this installation.
WordPress Installation Gotchas
The first is that if you are using WordFence or other protection, they by default turn off directory browsing and prevent you from searching. This causes 403 errors with the Mojo Marketplace Installation. The quick fix is to fire up your ftp file server (FileZilla is what I use on the mac) and rename .htaccess to something else.
The second problem is that you may be using an older version of PHP. Version 5.6 is required, so go to Bluehost Control Panell/PHP Config and turn on 5.6.
It will ask you for an initial admin, use the Gmail account you just created and make sure to put the password randomly generated into 1Password. Sit back and watch the installation happen. Note that Mojo Marketplace tries to get you to buy themes and so forth, so just quit it now.
Also go to WordPress.com and create an I’d there and allow editing using the new gmail and save the password into the shared 1Password. This will let you use the mobile application from WordPress to edit your custom domain.
Jetpack. Make sure to enable the security adding and Jetpack. The most important is automatic updates so you don’t get exposed to security holes.
Wordfence. Next make sure to install this and then to optimize it. It hacks away at .htaccess to fix things.
Now you have a shiny domain it’s time to get email running. Logon to gmail. The lowest cost way is to create a single admin gmail and the forward everyone else’s mail to their personal email. This costs just $5/month.
So here is what you want to do, first you need to bootstrap this using the ordinary backup gmail account you created. Then you go to gsuite.com and type in your new domain name, it will take you through a series of questions.
The most important is authenticating you to the google to make sure that you can take over the mail and other services. It will ask you to edit the home page as the default to add a tag. This is actually the hardest thing to do with WordPress because it means you have to modify the theme.
The easiest thing to do is to change the DNS records. It will ask you to add a random string as a TXT record. And it has great instructions for Bluehost on how to do that. The steps are to login to Bluehost.com, go to DNS Zone Editor and click on the new domain.
You will see an addition dialog and select the
TXT record type, Type an
@ into the name so it matches everything and then copy and paste in the long verification string.
Then it will ask step you through the next. It is most convenient to have two browser windows open side by side when you do this. Then it will ask you to enter the
MX records, this means that when Mail is Exchanged (get it MX), it will go to the google servers. You will also be asked to deleted the existing MX records. I normally just bump the priority to 100 so if later I have to switch back, I just deleted the google records.
Finally it will say OK and validate everything. You are now connected to Gsuite!
Adding Gsuite users: Beware automatically suspended
Ok, there main trick here is that the wizard will have you add users, you type it in and it adds temporary passwords. In my case, I stopped the process in the middle and got a mysterious status
Account automatically suspended and I couldn’t delete or edit this. The help is also useless. And you can’t reactivate the user and if you try to delete, the deletion will hang. It is actually waiting for a logon from the single user to set the password.
If you wait long enough on chat, you can see what is happening. When the wizard creates these accounts, it does a special thing, you send an email with the password (not very secure!) but this is one time. At that point the account cannot be deleted or changed by the administrator. Believe me I tried!
What you have to do is to login as that user on google.com. You actually need to open another browser window to do this and then you type in the password and it works. So if you see this entry, you know it is somewhere in the login process. The status message isn’t helpful.
Now you can tell your users to logon to gmail.com and you are up and running!