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Many project risks in distributed software development are very different from the ones in collocated development and therefore are often overlooked. At the same time, they depend to a large extent on project-specific characteristics. This article presents a model for identifying risks early in a project. This model systematically captures experiences from past projects and is based on a set of logical rules describing how project characteristics influence typical risks in distributed development. Thus, the model is able to assess risks individually for each project. It was developed by applying qualitative content analysis to 19 interviews with practitioners. An evaluation using expert interviews showed that the risks identified by the model matched the actual experiences in 81% of the cases; of these, 40% have not been regarded yet at project start. The article describes the concepts of the model, its instantiation and evaluation, followed by a conclusion and future work.