Yet Another (ex-)VC Blog

Cloud computing, entrepreneurship, and venture capital

Posts Tagged ‘startups

Your checklist for picking a startup co-working space

leave a comment »

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

  — Johnny Cash, “I’ve Been Everywhere”

Startups and co-working spaces are like peaches and cream. They go so well together. And I’ve done a lot of co-working during my years in the startup ecosystem.

All of this co-working has given me some pretty strong opinions on which co-working space ‘features’ are most important for entrepreneurs.

Use this set of features as a rough checklist when you’re figuring out where you want to spend most of your waking hours during the earliest days of company building.

Free

This is the top feature if you’re an early stage startup.

Why?

It’s completely insane for an unfunded, cash burning early stage company to pay for office space.  In New York City and other startup hubs there are many co-working spaces that are 100% free.

Find them.

Other startups that are at the same stage as yours

…important for all of the following reasons:

  • Peer support – When you are having a crappy day (yes, it happens even though we entrepreneurs are ‘crushing it‘ all the time) it helps to have fellow founders around who can empathize with you.
  • Talent – If a startup in your co-working space has to fold or downsize (not uncommon), their team will be keen to help their former team members find new gigs. Like most early stage startups you’re looking for good people. Need I say more?
  • Service provider recommendations - Startups are always looking for recommendations about which freelance developers, designers, lawyers (you name it) they should be using. You can get in person, in depth recommendations from the other startups working in your space.

Investors hang out there

If you’re a startup and you plan to raise money you need to start building your investor network. If investors are spending time at your co-working space you’ll get to meet them in passing. That’s your foot in the door later on when you decide to formally start your fundraising process. (Remember, “Lines, not dots“.)

Not to mention that startup investors are very well networked. If you’re looking to get a bead on a certain sector of the market they can be a great resource to tap.

Silence!

Hopefully this is not the volume level at your co-working space.

Co-working is nice because you are around a lot of people. And co-working can be extremely unproductive for the same reason.

Sure, you can bring your big ol’ noise canceling headphones to work every day. But it’s just easier if the default sound level in the space is Low.

A leader who cares

The founders and managers of the best co-working spaces go out of their way to help the startups that work there.

Running a co-working space is not about collecting rent for them. It’s about building more companies.

Alumni who have gone on to bigger and better things

Startups will “graduate” from co-working spaces into accelerator programs, or they’ll outgrow a space because they’re hiring quickly.

You should give some weight to the success of the alumni that have come out of the space when you’re thinking about where to put down roots.

After all, you want your startup to eventually graduate from co-working. Don’t you?

 

Written by John Gannon

July 5, 2014 at 9:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

The only monthly goals that matter for pre-product B2B startups

with one comment

Before your B2B startup has a product available you’ll want a few – but not too many – metrics to help you steer the ship in the right direction.

Based on my experience at a couple of startups that I joined pre-product or founded here are the handful of metrics that I suggest you measure/goal.

Customer Development conversations

It doesn’t matter what your startup is building if customers don’t want it. 

Get out of the building and make sure you are talking to potential customers often. This is the only way you’ll get a deep understanding of your potential customers’ needs.

When you’re getting started a good pace is somewhere on the order of 1-2 conversations (new potential customers) per business day. Once you reach 25-50 conversations you should have a good sense of whether or not your product idea has legs.

Don’t cheat on this metric by counting conversations with potential partners or investors as ‘customer’ conversations. These groups can provide useful feedback but their feedback shouldn’t be weighed as highly as what you hear from potential buyers (Customers rule!).

If you’re having trouble finding enough potential customers to meet your goals, here are 4 tips for finding those ‘earlyvangelist’ customers that are so important to a customer development process.

Potential employees met

If your  little startup starts to make progress you’ll need to hire quickly. Without a pipeline in place you’ll struggle to make these hires.

Start developing relationships now which may turn into hires down the road:

  • If you’re a technical founder without a counterpart on the business side you should make a point to meet a bunch of sales/marketing/product people each month.
  • If you’re a non-technical founder without a technical counterpart then make sure you’re meeting a bunch of software engineers each month.
  • If you have a complete team in place then just try to meet lots of great people each month.

Like anything in startupland, this is a numbers game. If you’re meeting 5, 10, 20 really sharp people per month you’ll quickly have built up a great pool of future talent for your company.

And if you can actually get them to quit their cushy job to join your budding startup before it’s on the tech community’s radar, then you may be on to something. On the flip side, if you’ve met 40 people and none of them want to come work for you, maybe that’s a signal you need to consider as well.

(Here’s some great guidance from Paul English, founder of Kayak, about how to make your startup really great at recruiting, interviewing, and hiring.)

“Marketing”

Even if you don’t have a product available you need to start your marketing engine ASAP.  Otherwise you’ll be caught completely flat-footed if/when you reach product-market fit and you want to scale up fast.

Pick one metric (be it leads, blog visits, Twitter followers, Facebook likes, or something else), set a goal for that metric, then execute.

Content marketing is probably your best bet – and most capital efficient way – to reach whatever goal you set (versus buying ads or paying to acquire traffic) at this early stage. And it is the gift that keeps on giving because you can re-use and re-purpose your content to drive future marketing efforts.

That’s why content marketing makes so much more sense when you’re at this early stage. You can develop an audience and a following by creating helpful, free resources to people in your target market.

If you do this content marketing thing right, that audience will be very eager to hear about what you have built once the product is finally available.

One more thing. Even though you are “marketing” don’t market your product. Because you don’t have one (at least not one that works) yet. Plus, the features you promise today may not (OK, 90% likely will not) be the ones that actually ship.

Product features completed

Last but certainly not least you should be setting product goals each month.

These goals should be focused on user facing features (“deliver user-facing feature X”)  and not platform features (“build interesting backend queuing system that a customer doesn’t actually use directly”).

One exception? Perhaps a system for your team to monitor customer usage. Kind of important, eh?

What metrics did I miss? Let me know in the comments or just tweet at me and I’ll respond.

Thanks to my enterprise software / SaaS savvy pals:

for their input on this post.

 

Written by John Gannon

June 27, 2014 at 9:12 am

The simple 3 step social media strategy for any early stage startup

leave a comment »

First step: Pick an established social media platform. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit.

Second step: Pick an emerging platform (e.g. Quibb, Medium). Emerging = hasn’t raised hundreds of millions of dollars of VC money (yet)

Third step: Engage via the established platform and the emerging platform equally and often.

Why?

On the established platform it’s fairly clear what you need to do to build a decently sized and engaged following. On the downside, there is lots of competition for attention there. So you can get reasonable – but not outsized – “returns” from investing in the established platform.

The emerging platform is the Wild West. There’s less competition for attention. And it’s wide open for someone (maybe your company) to take some risks, experiment, and maybe build a strong following on what could be the Next Big Thing. On the downside, it could be the next MySpace and you will have nothing to show for your efforts.

Think of your investment in the established platform as the base and the emerging platform as the bonus. And then execute on both.

Written by John Gannon

June 20, 2014 at 8:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Startup years = dog years

leave a comment »

In the last six weeks we have:

Despite all of that it still doesn’t feel like we’re moving fast enough.

Dog years!

Written by John Gannon

June 6, 2014 at 8:55 am

Gurley dispels the myth of The Church of Lifetime Value of the Customer (LTV)

leave a comment »

Some people wield the LTV model as if they were Yoda with a light saber; “Look at this amazing weapon I know how to use!” Unfortunately, it is not that amazing, it’s not that unique to understand, and it is not a weapon, it’s a tool. Companies need a sustainable competitive advantage that is independent of their variable marketing campaigns. You can’t win a fight with a measuring tape.

via The Dangerous Seduction of the Lifetime Value (LTV) Formula « abovethecrowd.com.

Written by John Gannon

September 5, 2012 at 11:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

4 awesome B2B startup sales tips from Steve Blank

leave a comment »

Lessons Learned

In complex B-to-B sales, multiple “Yes” votes are required to get an order.

A single “No” can kill the deal. Understanding the saboteurs in a complex sale is as important as understanding the recommenders and influencers

We needed a selling strategy that took all of this into account.

In a startup not losing is sometimes more important than winning.

via At times not losing is as important as winning « Steve Blank.

Written by John Gannon

August 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

The Mythical “A” Player

leave a comment »

“A” players are executives that are 10x more productive than their peers. They are equally excellent strategically and operationally. They are equally capable at rolling up their sleeves or leading others. They thrive – with or without direction. They are big picture and detailed. They are the perfect mix of confidence and humility. They fit into any team culture, thrive under any leadership style, and raise the game of everyone around them, while befriending them all at the same time. Best of all, they miraculously fit within your pay scale, and you can retain them despite brutal competition for their services. “A” players are perfect – except for one small issue – as defined here, they don’t really exist.

via The Mythical “A” Player and The CEO’s Real Job « Thinking About Thinking.

Written by John Gannon

June 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

A maturity model for startups

leave a comment »

Lots of people talk about ‘before product market fit’ and ‘after product market fit’ as the two main phases of a startup’s evolution.   I’d argue that what Ho Nam (Altos Ventures) proposed in his recent blog post might be a better, more granular way to look at the startup evolutionary process:

Getting through the first breaking point is not about rushing into execution mode. It’s a gradual process that will never end. A framework we’ve found useful in assessing progress along a continuum is the Capability Maturity Model see the five levels of maturity below. It’s a development model whose origins trace back to studying software projects and failures in the 1960s when computer science was in its infancy and few “best practices” existed. Within any company, there will always be processes at different levels of maturity. It’s important to keep in mind that even successful large companies will have chaotic episodes and continue to live with countless undocumented, ad hoc processes that are developed and refined over time. Initial – the process is new, ad hoc, chaotic and undocumented. Individual heroics are relied upon to get the job done. The focus is on outputs. Repeatable – the process is somewhat documented. Repeating the same steps may be attempted. It’s not clear if the process will yield desired outputs. Defined – the process is well defined, documented and confirmed as a standard process that can produce results. Managed – the process is quantitatively managed in accordance with agreed-upon metrics. Optimizing – process management includes deliberate process optimization and improvement.

via Altos Ventures Musings: The First Breaking Point.

Written by John Gannon

June 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Another perspective on the “fire fast” mantra

leave a comment »

I understand and admire the wisdom of the “fire fast” mentality but that wisdom is no substitute for the real work of leadership: figuring out the right people for various roles. Often when I help a client unpack their feelings while they are in the throes of a decision about whether or not to terminate someone, what is revealed are contradictory facts and ambivalent feelings. And too often, our discomfort with our contradictory feelings, our ambivalence, leads us to rush to judgement, destabilizing and antagonizing the entire organization.But if we wait, if we can pause and bear the discomfort of uncertainty, then we have a shot at getting to the heart of the problem manifested in all those facts. Then we have a shot at creating the kinds of organizations that not only succeed, but embody the best of our values, the best of our aspirations.

via The Gift of Our Ambivalence | The Monster In Your Head – Blog by Jerry Colonna.

Written by John Gannon

February 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Hire the future startup stars

leave a comment »

Experience is often over-rated. Some of the most successful startup teams consisted of people that lacked relevant experience at the time they joined. But, what they lacked in experience, they more than made up for in sheer talent and hunger. In the early days, hire athletes. People with raw talent and a propensity to get things done. Don’t be resistent to recruiting people that are early in their careers. You’re looking for arbitrage opportunities. You’re looking for the future stars — because you likely can’t afford or convince the current stars.

via Startup Lessons From 17 Hard-Hitting Quotes In “Moneyball”.

 

Written by John Gannon

February 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,460 other followers

%d bloggers like this: