Yet Another (ex-)VC Blog

Cloud computing, startups, and venture capital

Archive for May 2014

Undercover Recruiter is spot on

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I’m getting pretty bored of “what to wear to an interview” and “10 things to say in your CV” rubbish (ours isn’t rubbish! – Editor). The average recruitment blog / feed is full of it. When are recruiters going to talk to passives about how to stay in jobs, how to get a promotion, how to cope with exams if I need to requalify?

80% of the market is passive and recruiters insist on boring the 20% who should already know what to wear by now! Interview tips are the junk food of the recruitment feed. (Another blog for another day.)

via How Recruiters Can Actually USE Twitter #TechTuesday.

Written by John Gannon

May 30, 2014 at 3:48 pm

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App for busy people who like to help other people

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Please build this app for me. I’ll be your first customer if you do.

Here’s the spec:

  1. Keeps track of the people I generally care to keep in touch with. Family, friends, or business associates are all fair game.
  2. Keeps track of people who have explicitly asked me to do a call or meeting regarding startup career advice.
  3. Monitors my calendar for times where I am traveling (on foot) from one place to another. Or detects when I am walking surface streets.
  4. When I am walking or traveling between meetings the app will suggest someone to call based on the list of folks compiled in #1 and #2. I can click ‘Call’ to call this person, ‘Next’ to see the next person on the list, or ‘Drop’ if the person shouldn’t be on the list any more.

End result is that I can help more people without making my schedule any busier. And if I just want to walk and not call anyone, that’s fine too :)

 

Written by John Gannon

May 30, 2014 at 8:49 am

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First timers guide to building a startup advisory board

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Most startups (especially those that want to raise money) these days have advisory boards. They’re usually made up of industry insiders, startup founders and execs, and other impressive sounding folks.

Originally I was resistant to creating a formal advisory board because it would take away cycles from talking to potential customers. Then, like any good entrepreneur, I changed my mind.

Lots of posts have been written on this topic and maybe I should have read some of them! Nonetheless, here’s my thought process for the key decision points I’ve thought through (or am still thinking through).

Why did I decide to form an advisory board for my startup?

 

Forming an advisory board provides a semi structured, low cost, low risk way to get more smart people involved with (and cheering on) your startup. I like that a lot.

Who did you ask to join your startup’s advisory board and why?

I’m asking people to join who check as many of these boxes as possible(in no particular order):

  • Domain expertise (industry, technical, or functional)
  • Passion for our problem area (the intersection of marketing, recruiting, and technology)
  • Strong network in their domain
  • Willingness to help with ad hoc things that come up (“Hey, do you know any great salespeople?”) as well as things that might require a deeper dive (“Hey, could you review this board deck and let me know what you think?”)
  • Solid human being (In other words, someone I would like to spend time with)

Although many startups use advisory boards as a way to pack in a bunch of ‘name brand’ folks on their pitch deck I’m trying to resist the temptation. Maybe this will come back to bite me but I’d rather get people who are excited to really lean into helping us vs. just letting us put their name on a slide and hoping we don’t bug them. :)

How will you compensate your board of advisors?

Advisors will get a small chunk of equity as I want them to share in any upside that they help the company create. From what I’ve read and experienced myself this is fairly standard procedure.

Besides that, what else will an advisor to your startup get out of this deal?

When all is said and done we’ll have 5-7 advisors who cut across different disciplines and functional areas. I’m sure there is a lot I will learn from them. There’s also a lot they could learn from each other. I’m going to help make sure that cross-pollination happens. Helping them extend their networks is the least I can do.

Feel free to call out any gaping holes in my logic in the Comments :) Next post on this topic will be about how this actually works in practice!

 

Written by John Gannon

May 28, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

These benchmarks can tell you whether your business plan is viable

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The ‘other’ 1%

A Founder's Notebook

From Things I’ve Learned About How to Build Good Product by Peter Nixey:

1. Golden rule of social: 90% of people consume, 10% of people curate, 1% of people create.
2. Rules of engagement: Registered users / installs — 30% will use it each month, 10% will use it each day, 1% will use it concurrently.
3. Fremium conversion: 1% of your signups will pay (normally 1-5%).
4.  Expensive is profitable: “50% of our revenue comes from only 11% of our customers” — Ryan Carson, founder Carsonified and Treehouse.
5. Cheap is expensive: Cheap accounts cost more in support (7x).
6. Advertising revenue: Social network CPM ~$1, Times Newspaper ~$10; $1M / year in revenue = 1bn page views (good luck).
7. Email subscriptions: Open rates = 20-40%, click through rates = 1-5%; 1 sale per 3,000 emails.
8. Churn determines SaaS size:…

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Written by John Gannon

May 27, 2014 at 7:41 pm

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Founder productivity hack: The open meeting

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This is a great hack for founders but also for any busy professional who gets a lot of inbound requests to network over coffee, drinks, etc. By adopting this hack you still get to meet interesting people and help people out but you don’t stress out your calendar in the process.

The hack is pretty simple:

  • Set a consistent weekly timeslot (I recommend 2 hours) and location that can accommodate at least a few people for a meeting. Could be your office, a big coffee shop, a bar…doesn’t matter just as long as there is space for people to congregate. (You could even do Skype instead. I know some folks who do this and it seems to work well for them)
  • When you get requests to meet for coffee reply to the person let them know that you will be available at the timeslot/location you selected. You should also let the person know they should email you the day before to let you know that they are coming.

I’ve started doing this recently and it works well. I get to meet a lot of interesting people and I don’t have to worry about scheduling specific time to do it. And the cross-pollination is great as well.

For example, this past week a guy I was helping with his startup job search also had some legal questions about a startup project he was working on. Turns out our company’s lawyer was visiting that day and was able to advise him on those questions, gratis.

Hat tip to a couple of folks (Charlie with his lunches and Vapiano and Amol with his Friday event) who introduced me to this great networking hack.

 

Written by John Gannon

May 27, 2014 at 8:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The course that’s missing from every MBA curriculum

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“How to outsource” – a course where you have to build something (that actually works) using only offshore teams or individuals.

Syllabus is simple. Give each student $500 in credit on eLance/oDesk and let ‘er rip. Students can pool resources to build bigger/cooler stuff or they can go it alone. Throw in a mentor or two who have run some serious but scrappy outsourced dev projects to help people when they start flailing.

Benefits to the students are huge:

– They learn how to hire, fire, and manage freelancers. Lots of MBAs have zero management experience so this is a good training ground for those all important ‘HR’ like functions.

– They learn some of the tools of distributed development (e.g. Github, Trello).

– They’ll learn what is possible to build based on the $ constraints (i.e. What can $500 ‘really’ buy you).

– There will be wide variance in the quality and cost of the final products. Therefore, lots of ‘lessons learned’.

– Just maybe they build something super cool that they can keep working on or build into a real venture.

Benefits to the startup ecosystem: More ideas that can be tested, more products that can be built, and less people giving up on entrepreneurship.

 

Written by John Gannon

May 24, 2014 at 7:58 am

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3 credibility killers for entrepreneurs

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Never say any of these things to an early stage investor or entrepreneur you’re approaching for advice if you want to be taken seriously…

  1. “Do you know any good patent lawyers?”
  2. “We just set up our company bank account.”
  3. “I haven’t built anything yet because I haven’t found a technical cofounder.”

 

Written by John Gannon

May 18, 2014 at 9:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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