At server startup, before child processes are spawned, you can do much more than just preload modules. You might want to register code that will initialize a database connection for each child when it is forked, tie read-only DBM files, fill in shared caches, etc.
The startup.pl file is an ideal place to put code that should be executed when the server starts. Once you have prepared the code, load it in httpd.conf before other mod_perl configuration directives with the PerlRequire directive:
Be careful with the startup file. Everything run at server initialization is run with root privileges if you start the server as root (which you have to do unless you choose to run the server on an unprivileged port, numbered 1024 or higher). This means that anyone who has write access to a script or module that is loaded by PerlModule, PerlRequire, or <Perl>sections effectively has root access to the system.