Current Product Manager & Software Engineer intern. Former founder of Mise (www.eatmise.com), a SF-based meal delivery service, which grossed $35K+, delivered 3.4K meals, and achieved ramen profitability in 7 months all through organic word-of-mouth alone. Currently advising: - Alex H. of Alcohaul (alcohol delivery service) - Ryan K. (HK restaurant delivery service)
Traction, product, and/or connections if you have them.
It's incredibly difficult to enter into such massive retailers as the competition is incredibly high. As a product in the pharmaceutical vertical, I'd also ask about your regulation and certification - likely things that those retailers take extremely seriously, especially in these aisles.
Many companies and small businesses that manufacture products which are then sold in CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, etc... usually start first by carrying their product in independent stores. They build their way up, one small branch at a time, one small store type at a time (independents => chain stores => mass retailers).
The selling gets progressively easier over time, as you have more proof that this product actually DOES sell and is something customers want.
It would be extremely difficult it would be to convince any of these retailers to carry your product when your product isn't a) finished b) has no proof of performance.
Several things that you mention are cause for concern:
- Selling a prototype to these massive retailers implies that you're just getting started. Even if you do get into those stores, how exactly would you prove your ability to scale to their inventory demands?
- If you're just getting started, how good are your financials? You should be aware that of the three you mentioned, Walmart is most notorious for late payments (relative to regular business cycles).
Domain expertise and talking to users.
By working with the users you want to sell to or even just the industry, you will see how they do things - and more importantly, see what it takes to influence their behavior.
You may realize pain points you didn't see in the first place - and may even end up rethinking your parameters/format of downloadable as well. It's a huge commitment, however, so most people do the second, which is talking to users.
Read Paul Graham's essay on launching.
Startups are a marathon, not a catapult. You are looking for consistent, incremental progress and growth over the lifetime of the company, not one short-term rocket-ship blastoff.
Read Hacker News.
Go out and meet people - and make friends with people who you think are smarter than you. There is a logic that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Talk to those friends constantly.
If you always chase after skill sets, certifications, you will be operating at relatively the same curve as everyone else who is doing the same thing. And that's good. But, if you truly go for things that truly challenge your thought process, thinking, and framework beyond an academic sense - things that other people can't copy, you will end up a better founder, a better CEO, and a better person as a whole.
Use company card for any mileage that you are driving for business purposes.
It'll make tracking and end-of-year reporting much simpler.
You may not, however, use the mileage you drive to and from your office (the IRS labels that as commute mileage) as a tax-deductible business expense.
Ask around for comparable valuations from people who have already sold their franchises before. I'm sure there are plenty of stories online.
Ultimately, valuations are derived from a combination of current cash flows, profits, and future projected cash flows.
The question of whether or not anyone will actually buy your franchise at THAT valuation is a different story - and depends on the market, industry, climate, city, along with your own urgency to sell, etc...
Look for startups that are in the same vertical that your book is based on.
Reach out to the marketing leaders/team at those companies. They'll likely be very open to a mutually beneficial showcase - and even if they don't have podcasts, a Youtube video is a suitable replacement.
I must ask - why only podcasts for promotion?
 Worked at three SF startups that did just this and were always actively in need of people/domain experts to bring on for interviews.