silly startup case studies

Silly Startup Case Study Ideas

University entrepreneurship professors often tell me that many of their students struggle to come up with a good startup case study idea to use for some aspect of the course….

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How to Think About Product ROI

In an era dominated by fast-paced technology innovation, every product purchase decision is greatly influenced by a crucial metric: Return on Investment (ROI). As organizations navigate the labyrinth of choices…

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how venture capital funds work

How Venture Funds Work

Most successful tech startups end up sitting across the table from a venture capital (VC) fund somewhere along their journey. With a little luck, they also enter into negotiations about…

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event networking

Best Practices for Networking at an Event

Founders are regularly told they need to network like crazy in order to be successful.  On the surface, that sounds like going to a bunch of events and meeting a…

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Extending Longevity for First-Time CEOs

“Do you want to be rich or the perpetual king/queen?” That’s a question an investor might ask a first-time founding CEO. What they’re trying to determine is if the founder…

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land and expand sales

Explaining the Land-and-Expand Sales Strategy

All startups want to maximize their revenue from each customer they secure. But for B2B startups that target enterprises, achieving that swing-for-the-fence maximum with the initial deal is practically impossible….

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messy cap table

Common Causes of a Messy Cap Table

The puzzled look on a first-time founder’s face after hearing an investor’s concern of a “messy cap table” happens more than some probably think.  But what the heck does “messy”…

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Investor Rejection

20 Investor Meetings and No Interest, Now What?

Something is wrong. 20 initial meetings is almost never enough to fully complete a round of funding. But 20 meetings with the right investors should result in at least a…

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fundraising recession

Fundraising After a Sudden Market Downturn

The value of this article will be directly proportional to the significance of the market downturn that creates general uncertainty and affects the ability for startups to fundraise. All downturns…

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investor due diligence

Demystifying Investor Due Diligence

I think of due diligence as an investor’s process for confirming either their intention or full-blown commitment to invest in your company. After initial conversations, presentations and email exchanges, a…

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When Service Companies Build a Product

Service companies traditionally have low gross profit margins as compared to tech companies, especially software. That’s because services require human bodies to deliver most of what the customers are paying…

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acquisition earnout

Golden Rules for Acquisition Earnouts

Many startup founders dream of the day they eventually sell their company for hundreds of millions of dollars, or more. They envision many zeros added to their personal bank account…

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startup acquisition

You’ve Decided it’s Time to Sell the Company

I’m willing to bet that 95% or more of startup exits are via acquisition rather than IPO.  But when is the right time to sell?  Actually, you’re a lucky founder…

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selecting attorney

Selecting an Attorney

In the very early days, many startup founders get legal help from a relative or college friend that also happens to be an attorney. But if they aren’t a corporate…

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virtual meeting tips

20 Tips for Virtual Investor Meetings

The COVID-19 pandemic forced all interactions between investors and fundraising founders into virtual settings.  And the return to a “new normal” will certainly leave a place for them into the…

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hardware startup

Of Course, Hardware is Hard

Founders of hardware startups quickly get tired of hearing the phrase “hardware is hard”, especially when voiced from someone that has never worked for a hardware company and has very…

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short meetings

Mastering the 30-Minute Meeting

For much of my career, a one-hour meeting was the norm.  But in the world of startups, 30 minutes is all you get most of the time for sessions with…

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startup revenue growth

Launching New Growth Engines

All startups that get a product in the market with paying customers do a variety of things to boost their sales.  After initial product-market fit and a repeatable customer acquisition…

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startup hiring - Hiring Executives First

Hiring Executives First

Somewhere along the way, you and your co-founders will be faced with the need to hire your first employees.  Regardless of how much funding you have for salaries (versus equity…

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business models

The Day-in-the-Life Exercise

Startups build solutions that either solve problems or unlock opportunities for a particular user or paying customer.  But the solution can only provide value if it gets into the hands…

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fundraising recession

Fundraising During a Pandemic

Some of the posts to this progressively-built article no longer apply, and that’s a good thing because it means investor and fundraising dynamics have returned to normal. I never imagined…

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startup advisors - Corporate Execs Advise Startups

When Corporate Execs Advise Startups

I regularly get introduced to a career corporate execs that has an interest in mentoring or advising startups. Oftentimes, it is because the executive recently retired or is planning to…

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series a ready

Your Series A Readiness Scorecard

Founders often ask me how much revenue they need to generate to be ready for a Series A.  The question is so common that I previously wrote an article just…

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stock option exercise period

The Unfair Stock Option Exercise Period

Understanding the post-termination exercise period for stock options is crucial for tech startup founders, advisors, board directors and early-stage venture investors. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll gain valuable insights into…

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startup board members

Early Stage Board Composition

Upon a startup’s incorporation, their attorney usually helps establish a board of directors (aka – the “board”), even if a solo founder is the only board member.  The company’s bylaws…

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international expansion for startups

The Complexities of International Expansion

Are you a startup founder in the US dreaming of expanding your business globally? International expansion can be an exciting venture, but it’s crucial to understand the complexities and risks…

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sales commissions

Major Milestones Along the Path to $100M

Growing a tech startup to $100 million in annual revenues requires a strategic company roadmap and overcoming significant milestones. In this comprehensive guide, startup founders, advisors, and early-stage investors will…

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startup chaos

Always on the Verge of Out-of-Control

I regularly hear startup founders longing for the day when they reach $1 million in annual revenue. They proclaim how much easier everything will then be. But I also regularly…

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Firing a Cofounder

How to Part Ways with a Co-Founder

It royally sucks when a founding team reaches a point where they decide they can no longer work together. This is especially true after a year or more of really…

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sales commissions

Selecting Your Sales Commission Metric

For companies that don’t have a self-service customer acquisition model, no other function ties more directly to financial results than Sales.  Because of this, it is critical to have strong…

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Advisor Compensation

Startup Advisor & Board Compensation Guidelines

You’ve been working with a startup founder or perhaps a co-founding team and they pop the question: “Would you be interested in joining our advisory board?”  You were secretly hoping…

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Loretta Lynn – Differentiation

“You either have to be first, best or different.” – Loretta Lynn (country music legend)

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startup lies

Aspirations, Exaggerations & Outright Lies

Just from the article’s title you probably think you know everything I’m going to say, right?  I predict not but soon we will find out.  The basics definitions of aspirations,…

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startup evolution

The Numerous Evolutionary Paths to Startup Greatness

How many times have you read about a rocket ship company that’s taking over the world?  You get green with envy after imagining what it would be like to sit…

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strategic partnership

Get Your Strategic Partner to Fund Your R&D

I often talk about the “we’re big, you’re small” phenomenon that often exists when startups are seeking or negotiating a strategic partnership.  While that phenomenon certainly gives the big partner…

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pre-seed funding

Threading the Needle for a Successful Pre-Seed Round

Raising money from professional investors before your product is built, launched and generating revenue is far more difficult than when those things have already been accomplished.  This can result in…

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Getting Maximum Credit from Your Enterprise Trials

Investors are often skeptical of claims made by startup founders.  Among the various types of claims that can be made, this especially relates to all forms of traction.  This article…

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startup cap table

Your First Cap Table

After deciding your new business venture seems worth pursuing, you will have quite a few decisions to make regarding incorporating your new entity.  You might decide to read online articles…

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startup mistakes

Accumulated By-the-Book Debt Will Eventually Come Due

In the earliest days of a startup, the founders are hugely optimistic and driven.  But they also know about the low odds of reaching the point of having paying customers…

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Series A sweet spot

Series A Sweet Spot Combines Size & Slope

I often get asked how much revenue is needed to successfully raise a Series A.  I can tell the entrepreneur wants me to confirm what they might have read in…

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Build a Company – Not Just a Product

It’s amazing how often I ask an entrepreneur to tell me about the business they are building only to get a response that goes on and on about the product…

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business plan

Your Initial Business Plan is a Huge List of Assumptions

While in the coffee shop with your co-founder and blank sheets of paper for brainstorming you are in what I refer to as the “hope, vision, promise and potential” phase. …

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Nikola Tesla – Foretelling a Wireless, Connected Future

"When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. ...

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advisor value

Extreme Value Pricing

Many of us that sell products have learned about value-based pricing and the benefits from pricing our product based on the value the customer actually receives.  But I’m still amazed…

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Daugherty – The Grass Isn’t Greener

  “Growing a great company never gets easy.  It remains hard, just in different ways over time.” – Gordon Daugherty

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trade show hacks

Favorite Trade Show Hacks

Imagine this scenario.  You decide to pay $2,500 for the cheapest exhibit option at your industry’s big annual trade show.  You know you’ll spend another $2,500 on cheap travel, lodging…

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Daugherty – Churn

"Churn is like a leaky boat.  You can bail water (more new customers) and/or work on the leak (happier customers)." - Gordon Daugherty

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Artificial Intelligence

A.I. Will Revolutionize the Marketing Function

The field of marketing has dramatically changed over the past 15 years due to the advent and dramatic proliferation of the Internet.  Roles like social media marketing, activities like search…

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negotiating valuation cap

Negotiating Valuation with Investors

I know, you just want me to show you the scorecard and associated secret formula investors use to decide a supposedly “fair” valuation for your company.  Unfortunately, you are only…

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Henry Ford – Foretelling

"Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right" - Henry Ford

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