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Author: Gordon Daugherty

startup mistakes

Absolute Versus Relative Sales Commission Plans

Compensating a sales team is a tricky and sensitive endeavor that requires a lot of advanced planning.  I previously wrote about my 5 Golden Rules of Sales Compensation.  But even if…

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MBO bonus plan

MBOs Demystified

Certain roles in the company call for a bonus as part of the total compensation plan.  But what criteria should be used for determining the bonus payout?  Common choices include company-level,…

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exit strategy

Answering the “Exit Strategy” Question

You’ve just completed a great investor pitch with heads nodding and good interaction.  You’re about to ask “Does this opportunity interest you enough to explore an investment?” when instead you get…

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competitive positioning

Comparing Yourself Publicly to the Market Leader

Market leaders almost never compare themselves to competitors publicly because it gives their competitors legitimacy and potentially shows nervousness about them.  But what if you’re #3, #5 or lower in…

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The “Yeah, Right” Rule

Similar to the “So What” rule, every time you make a claim, prediction or forecast, imagine your audience is thinking to themselves “yeah, right!” in skeptical fashion immediately after seeing/hearing your…

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SAFE versus convertible note

Comparing the SAFE to Convertible Notes

Initially made available by Y Combinator (YC) in 2013 and subsequently updated in late 2018, the SAFE investment instrument was intended to improve on the highly popular convertible note used…

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trial conversions

Optimize Free Trial Conversions via Nurturing

Are you a SaaS company that has an icon like this on your website to promote a free trial offer to interested prospects?  If so, once they start the free trial do…

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establishing valuation

Establishing Valuation Before Revenue Traction

Once you have a product in the market with an increasing number of paying customers, your valuation will increasingly be driven based on financial and operational metrics.  Don’t get me…

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acquisition LOI

Revealing Company Info Before Getting an Acquisition LOI

When an interested acquirer approaches you, they will naturally ask for as much information as you are willing to give them.  But how much and what type of information should…

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competitive positioning

An Unfair Advantage All Startups Have Against Big Companies

It’s not innovation or company culture or a determination to win.  Those are all important but successful big companies have at least some of those things too.  Startups often have…

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choosing a startup advisor

Selecting an Advisor

The title of this article suggests you’ve already decided that you need one or more advisors.  But spend time with your co-founders discussing this to make sure you agree it…

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startup advisor compensation

Compensating an Advisor

How much equity should you give to compensate an advisor?  Should the shares carry any special provisions like anti-dilution or change-of-control acceleration?  What about giving the advisor cash compensation?  Tough…

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advisor value

Maximizing Value From Your Advisor

Startups commonly give 0.5% equity or more to attract an experienced advisor (see related article titled “Compensating an Advisor”).  Sometimes after a few months they find themselves wondering if they…

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Da Vinci – Simplicity

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo da Vinci

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elevator pitch

Your Elevator Pitch Only Needs to Accomplish One Thing

There’s a reason it’s referred to as an “elevator pitch” – it must be expressed in a few sentences and no more than 15-20 seconds.  And that might even be…

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Unknown – Preparation

"Measure twice, cut once" - Unknown (English proverb) - H. Ross Perot (US Presidential debate, Oct 1992) - C. Gordon Daugherty III, M.D.

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When is Achieving a Nice Round Number of Customers a Meaningful Milestone?

The answer is, it depends on how you derive the number and how you communicate it.  I’m wearing my angel investor hat as I write this article.  I hear a common…

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investor research criteria

Investors’ Research Varies Widely Before Making a Decision

Each individual investor and venture fund is different in the way they like to interact during their investment evaluation. This difference is pronounced amongst angel investors and less so for…

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Evolution of Marketing Roles in the New Era

Wow has the world of marketing changed with the introduction of social media, marketing automation and other digital capabilities.  Not only is the way we “do” marketing different but the…

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strategic partnership

Get the Strategic Partner to Come After You

The courtship almost always starts with the small company approaching the HQ of the big company they desire as a strategic partner.  Usually, the big company is too distracted or…

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Unknown – A Turn in the Road

"A turn in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn."

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improving webinar attendance

Increasing Webinar Attendance

Business prospects are now accustomed to taking themselves through 60% of the sales journey (see related article titled “Prospects Take Themselves Through 60% of the Sales Journey“) but at some point…

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setting strategy

Try Strategy Horizons Versus a Timeline

Here’s the scenario.  You’ve got people asking you to express your strategy as a set of milestones extending through a certain amount of time.  This puts you in the mindset…

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Exclusivity – Run Away or Embrace?

It finally happened.  You’ve been trying to get the attention of a huge prospective strategic partner and finally they gave you a chance to explain the value you can bring…

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negotiating valuation cap

Justifying the Valuation Cap Amount in Your Convertible Note

In a previous article I explained what convertible notes are and when they are commonly used (see article titled Convertible Note Basics).  Now I’d like to dive into one of…

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startup fundraising

How Much Funding to Raise for Your Startup

Hopefully you are reading this before you decide how much to raise.  I’m referring less to the earliest funding raised (perhaps from friends and family) just to get your minimum…

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startup storytelling

Use Storytelling to Describe the Problem You Solve

In a previous article I suggested the proper flow and order of topics for your pitch deck (see article here).  Now I’d like to dive into the Problem section with…

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pitch deck

Typical Pitch Deck Flow (Topic Order)

Your pitch deck will become the single most valuable communication tool to use with external audiences of all types and you will use it for multiple purposes. You’ll use it…

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channel recruiting

Build Out a Channel By Swimming Upstream From Your Deals

You have a product that is ideally suited for a channel-based distribution strategy.  But every time you approach a prospective channel partner, they expect you to already have landed some…

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startup business plan

“Don’t Waste Time on a Business Plan” Doesn’t Mean Don’t Plan

I’m afraid the current “don’t waste time creating a business plan” mantra is doing unintended damage.  It’s leaving the impression on first-time entrepreneurs that they don’t need a plan of…

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A Quote Defining Luck

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" - Seneca (1st century Roman philosopher) - Abraham Lincoln - Darryl Royal (former UT football head coach) - Oprah Winfrey

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startup scalability

The Difference Between Growth and Scalability

I often hear startup founders say things like “We want to scale” or “We scaled a lot in the past six months.” In most cases, they should have used the…

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Co-Marketing Explained

Thanks to HubSpot for this valuable explanation of what co-marketing is and what some of the common forms are (article here).  One of my blog categories is devoted to business development (BD).  BD…

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convertible note basics

Convertible Note Basics

Are you scratching your head trying to figure out how convertible notes work?  They are form of convertible security that is so commonly used for pre-seed and seed rounds of…

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startup marketing

Why Isn’t a Marketing Professional One of Your First 10 Employees?

If you’ve seen my bio or LinkedIn profile, you’ll know I’ve served three stints as a CMO and roughly half of my professional career has been spent in a marketing…

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pr is dead

PR is Dead – Or Is It?

The PR industry that is focused on high tech has been going through a continual transformation since the early 2000’s when the Internet started taking center stage for publicity.  I find a…

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raising prices

Thought About Raising Your Prices Lately?

Effective pricing strategy involves part art and part science.  But it’s not a “set it and forget it” aspect of your business plan.  Once you start getting some traction for…

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startup fundraising

When Prospective Investors are Looking for Predictability

If you're fundraising during the very early formation of your company, your ability to predict the future will be very difficult.  Of course, you can imagine and dream what might...

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Wayne Gretzky – Take the Shot

"You miss 100% of the shots you never take." - Wayne Gretzky

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business development

More BD Resources = More Chaos

I’m a firm believer that business development activities should be focused and with a stated purpose/objective and expected return.  But what most companies do is hire one or more BD…

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Consider Everything

Consider Everything Short of a “Yes” a “No”

I recently heard Dr. Robert Wiltbank from Willamette University use this analogy and loved it so much I had to share it with others.  Entrepreneurs are, by nature, very optimistic. …

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Why Use a GPS When a Compass Will Do

Why Use a GPS When a Compass Will Do?

I guess the corollary to this could be “don’t use a compass when the precision of a GPS is needed”.  In fact, the main point is to use the best…

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tracking progress

A Simple Back-of-Napkin Assessment of Company Progress

I don’t have anything against a traditional SWOT analysis but recently found myself helping a couple of startups figure out how they are progressing against their business plan and vision. …

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Shakespeare – Cowards, Valiants & Death

"Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.  Of all the wonders that I yet have heard it seems to me most strange...

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closing an investor

Getting to Closure with an Interested Investor

Some investors want to be the last one to commit and few want to be the first.  It’s mostly a safety and survival technique.  Think about it from their perspective. …

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startup fundraising

Having Trouble Raising Money?

Fundraising is rarely easy and is usually a far underestimated undertaking by entrepreneurs that haven’t done it before.  In the fundraising section of this blog, I describe ways of approaching…

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acquisition exit

Don’t Accidentally Kill Your Future Acquisition Exit

Too many startups discover they’ve got an acquisition-blocking or acquisition-inhibiting issue after a price tag has already been agreed with the acquirer.  It comes out during due diligence and the…

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co-founder conflict

Avoiding Co-Founder Conflict

It’s unbelievable how many startups get into trouble not because they aren’t finding product-market fit or because their customer acquisition model is inefficient but rather because the co-founders have some…

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sales commission compensation

5 Golden Rules of Sales Compensation

Sales incentive plans are really delicate things.  This stems from the fact that the best sales reps/managers intuitively do whatever puts the most money in their pocket.  They do so…

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sales commission plan mistakes

Is Your Sales Incentive Plan Driving Bad Behavior?

Within legal and ethical limits, a good sales rep should do whatever puts the most money in their pocket and it’s up to the company to make sure their associated actions and…

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