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Yet Another (ex-)VC Blog

Cloud computing, startups, and venture capital

Posts Tagged ‘startups

Why I Mentor

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If you have made it to the end of a startup journey, and if you have the time, stretch out your hand and help the next traveler. They will be grateful and you will greatly benefit as well.

Source: Why I Mentor | Jeff Wald

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Written by John Gannon

November 5, 2015 at 3:48 pm

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This wasn’t as risky as it seemed

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Like most decisions, this one wasn’t as risky as it seemed. If you’re the sort of person who can afford to quit his/her job to make things, everything’ll be okay regardless of how this all turns out.

via Build products | Christina Cacioppo.

Written by John Gannon

December 7, 2014 at 10:42 am

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How startup founders create fans for life

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The story: Friend of mine was working at a startup that was recently acquired. She hadn’t reached her one year cliff and was let go by the acquirer after the transaction completed.

Nonetheless the founding team took care of her, most likely through accelerated cliff vesting. Now she’s gone on to launch her own business using some of that seed capital.

Maybe not surprisingly one of the best VC’s in the business, Fred Wilson, says accelerated cliff vesting is the right thing to do in this kind of situation:

I believe that the cliff should not apply if the sale happens in the first year of employment. When you sell a company, you want everyone to get to go to the “pay window” as JLM calls it. And so the cliff should not apply in a sale event.

Founders who take care of people – when they don’t really have to – make fans for life.

 

Written by John Gannon

September 24, 2014 at 11:30 am

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Your checklist for picking a startup co-working space

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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

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

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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

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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

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Startup years = dog years

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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

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