A Few of My Favorite Startup Tips

Just finished reading the little book on Startup Tips. There are 100 tips. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Tip #11 – Get excited about the little things
  • Tip #14 – Get comfortable asking for advice and help
  • Tip #15 – Present your startup or biz development idea to anyone who will listen
  • Tip #16 – Get really, really good at concisely stating your business idea
  • Tip #30 – Sales are number one, two and three on the priority list
  • Tip #31 – To sell many, sell one
  • Tip #44 – Break your business down to a few key metrics
  • Tip #52 – Put people in positions where they can be successful
  • Tip #58 – Model the behavior you require
  • Tip #69 – Explore every possible sales channel
  • Tip #76 – If your customers have to change their behavior (for using your product/service) be prepared for a struggle

Please get the book Startup 100 Tips. It is a great read.

 

 

 

Enterpreneurship Is…

Enterpreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled –  a great read

The history of the word “entrepreneurship” is fascinating and scholars have indeed parsed its meaning. I’ll spare you the results, and focus instead on the definition we use at Harvard Business School. It was formulated by ProfessorHoward Stevenson, the godfather of entrepreneurship studies at HBS. According to Stevenson, entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.

 
“Pursuit” implies a singular, relentless focus. Entrepreneurs often perceive a short window of opportunity. They need to show tangible progress to attract resources, and the mere passage of time consumes limited cash balances. Consequently, entrepreneurs have a sense of urgency that is seldom seen in established companies, where any opportunity is part of a portfolio and resources are more readily available.
“Opportunity” implies an offering that is novel in one or more of four ways. The opportunity may entail: 1) pioneering a truly innovative product; 2) devising a new business model; 3) creating a better or cheaper version of an existing product; or 4) targeting an existing product to new sets of customers. These opportunity types are not mutually exclusive. For example, a new venture might employ a new business model for an innovative product. Likewise, the list above is not the collectively exhaustive set of opportunities available to organizations. Many profit improvement opportunities are not novel—and thus are not entrepreneurial—for example, raising a product’s price or, once a firm has a scalable sales strategy, hiring more reps.
“Beyond resources controlled” implies resource constraints. At a new venture’s outset, its founders control only their own human, social, and financial capital. Many entrepreneurs bootstrap: they keep expenditures to a bare minimum while investing only their own time and, as necessary, their personal funds. In some cases, this is adequate to bring a new venture to the point where it becomes self-sustaining from internally generated cash flow. With most high-potential ventures, however, founders must mobilize more resources than they control personally: the venture eventually will require production facilities, distribution channels, working capital, and so forth.
There is a lot more including:
  • Four types of risks entrepreneurs face
  • How they try to mitigate the risks

I like this article a lot. It is coherent and takes entrepreneurship beyond startups and founders.  I do believe (like many of us do):

that entrepreneurship is an engine of global economic development and a force for positive change in society.

Did I mention that it is worth reading and thinking about?

Startup Advice: Work Hard To Get Customers

Some great advice here from Sameer Mehta an Angel Investor

Work hard to get the customers. The best sources of goodwill are people who respect your service, and who are willing to pay for it over periods of time, right. If you work hard, if you gain your customers, there is nothing like it. I see a lot of people come to us for fund-raising. They work harder to raise capital from investors like us versus the customers they should concentrate on. At the end of the day, customers are what keep you afloat; they don’t take equity from you, they normally pay you in advance. They don’t ask for anything else in return, other than good service. I think, if you work hard and treat your customers with respect and give what they need, you will do well.

Sameer is right. The best money you get is the one you get from customers:

  1. It validates your value proposition
  2. It helps you focus on how to deliver greater and greater value
  3. It gives you some focus and the right priorities

The only thing you want to make sure is that the customer category you address is reachable and in significant numbers to take you to your next milestone.

Here is the full link to another excellent article from  Your Story by Murali D

Three Hard Problems for a Product Company…

If you are a product company, you need to hear this talk.

A small portion of my notes (may not be accurate enough to be called quotes)

Three hard problems for product software companies:

  1. How to get your customers into the front door ( website, portal, app)
  2. How do you get them to the Aha moment as soon as possible
  3. How do you consistently keep delivering core product value (as you learn more and more about the customers) as often as possible

The slides (did not show up well in the video)  may help when you are watching the video.

Meta:

I Googled “Growth Hacking” on YouTube and started listening to various talks. This is by far the best in my opinion. Here is a strong dose of reality. It may not be what you expect but definitely what you need to hear.

Really Great Entrepreneurs Have…

According to Astro Teller:

Really great entrepreneurs have this very special mix of unstoppable optimism and scathing paranoia. If you don’t have a tonne of optimism, you’re not going to make it… you won’t be able to evangelize to everyone else. On the other hand, if you aren’t constantly paranoid about what can go wrong and put plans in place, then you’re going to get bitten at some point.

Startups – The Earliest Phase Is The Most Productive

From Jessica Livingston. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days

Apparently sprinters reach their highest speed right out of the blocks, and spend the rest of the race slowing down. The winners slow down the least. It’s that way with most startups too. The earliest phase is usually the most productive. That’s when they have the really big ideas. Imagine what Apple was like when 100% of its employees were either Steve jobs or Steve Wozniak.

The striking thing about this phase is that it’s completely different from most people’s idea of what business is like. If you looked in people’s heads (or stock photo collections) for images representing “business,” you’d get images of people dressed up in suits, groups sitting around conference tables looking serious, Powerpoint presentations, people producing thick reports for one another to read. Early stage startups are the exact opposite of this. And yet they’re probably the most productive part of the whole economy. Why the disconnect? I think there’s a general principle at work here: the less energy people expend on performance, the more they expend on appearances to compensate. More often than not the energy they expend on seeming impressive makes their actual performance worse.

It is one of those books that you can keep reading and re-reading.

Besides a Great Idea, it Takes…

Here is a great post on 6 Myths and Fallacies about Small Business Startup. One of the myths is that idea is everything .

To make your business work, besides a great idea, you will also need to:

  • Create an effective business plan.
  • Develop marketing that effectively introduces your great idea to the world.
  • Network effectively to create the partnerships necessary to get your product or service off the ground.
  • Handle customer service issues and make improvements as you begin to get feedback.
  • Scale your business and add members to your team as you grow.

Idea is a great starting point and is likely to evolve and get refined as you have more conversations.

Be Nice. Always, Always, Always be Nice

Be nice. Always, always, always be nice.

It is a strange advice to see in a book that teaches you to sell, but not as strange as it appears.  Most of the best sales people I know are extremely nice people.

It’s not your words that sell. It’s your preparation, your questions, your comprehension of the prospect’s problems, and your actions to solve them. Yes, you need to talk about the product and talk about their business, but you have to do it in a comfortable way.
Most of our sales successes have been due to the comprehension of the prospect’s problems and some knowledge of how others solved them. Somewhere in that process, our product might have been involved. One of the advantages you have, as a sales person listening to lots of questions and problems from potential customers is that you become a kind of Information Hub. That puts you in a consultative role.  That is always a good starting point and a way to build a rapport with customers.
unless they have a problem equivalent to their house on fire and you are the fire department, insurance company, and grief counselor combined, you both know that you won’t be doing business together, because that’s how things work.
When customers have urgent pressing problems and they think that you may have a possible solution, they will give you a lot of their time. They will somehow find you.
I absolutely, positively recommend choosing 2-3 media platforms and becoming active. Personally, I use our company blog, a personal blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The blogs enable me to share perspectives and industry expertise in detail, while Twitter and LinkedIn allow for sharing these posts and for daily interactions with customers.
I think this is a great idea and can relate to it.  Several of my fellow entrepreneurs do that as well.
You need to give them a reason to take your calls, return your calls, or spend five minutes with you when they do answer the  phone.
This will be very difficult initially. But if you provide value in every interaction with the customer, it gets easier.
As you are calling each of your prospects and inbound leads, white papers are effective because they show that you are serious about the industry and that you are participating with thoughtful contributions.
We did not do this well at all. But I have seen how some companies like Hubspot do such a good job.
Know your industry-specific news sites. These industry news sites give you plenty of reasons to call a lead or a prospect to ask them how a particular  happening affects their business.
A bit of shameless plug. If you want to know how to discover news and send them to your customers or use them as conversation starters, we can certainly help.
The process of  migrating a ‘user’ to a ‘customer’ will reveal the answers to several vital questions about your business and its viability.
If you are a startup in the early customer development phase, this is invaluable. Even as you grow, this process can keep you well rooted.
Startup Selling: How to sell if you really, really have to and don’t know how  by Sambucci, Scott is really a book worth reading. I enjoyed it thoroughly and I think I will go back and reread parts of it later. Thanks to Sid for suggesting it.

Emerge Forum at Calicut, Kerala, India – Sep 27th

Emerge Forum at Calicut, Kerala, India  – Sep 27th

Why Service Companies Should Consider Product Initiatives
Why Service Companies Should Consider Product Initiatives

My talk was about Product Initatives for Services Companies. My theory is that service companies can augment their business by building few products or apps.

There were over 30 participants – mostly local entrepreneurs from Calicut. My talk was followed by a lively discussion and quite a few questions both in the seminar hall and outside during the break. I think I would like to go back there and do some workshops.

Entrepreneurs from Calicut

I told that that I will be happy to visit them and spend time with them once in a few months (even once a month, if it helps) to bootstrap a product innovation ecosystem.

It is always a pleasure to meet and have conversations with entrepreneurs. They are a special kind of people. Giving talks is one of the ways of finding really smart people and making friends.

Nasscom Emerge Community organized it.  They do a wonderful job of helping entrepreneurs in Tier 2 cities. This is my 3rd such visit in about a year. The others were in Cochin and Madurai.

My Slides:

How Service Companies Can Benefit from Product Initiatives