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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 coronavirus - Fundraising during a pandemic

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

Stock options are a fabulous compensation tool for early-stage companies that can’t typically afford to pay market rate salaries. They also serve as a good retention tool for employees that…

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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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Webp.net Globe

The Complexities of International Expansion

There is a point in the evolution of most tech companies that international expansion seems appropriate and beneficial to support continued growth.  I find that most startups either pursue that…

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sales commissions

Major Milestones Along the Path to $100M

$100M is a nice big and round number.  I know it’s not $1B but it’s still a very respectable revenue figure for almost any company to reach.  What if I…

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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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You're Fired (Terminated)

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, especially if many months or longer of hard work has already…

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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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stock option exercise period

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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Good at Sales

You’re Not As Good at Sales As You Think

A company founder has no choice but to secure the first sales of their newly-created product and the first strategic partnership.  That’s because they can’t afford to hire a sales…

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Career Success

A Model For Career Success

Over time, society has increasingly expected instant gratification and uses of an “easy” button to achieve a desired result.  Unfortunately, when it comes to the pursuit of career success, it’s…

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Unknown – Taking Initiative

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The next best time is now." – Chinese Proverb

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How Long Should You Bootstrap?

With as little as it costs to get a software startup off the ground these days, many entrepreneurs start off as what we call “bootstrappers” rather than fundraisers.  There’s nothing…

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bridge round

The Fundraising Chasm

Not much different than the famous chasm described in Geoffrey Moore’s book “Crossing the Chasm”, funding your startup venture over time also has a chasm.  This fundraising chasm doesn’t trip…

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Aristotle – Learning

"Learning is not child's play; we cannot learn without pain." – Aristotle (Greek philosopher, 384-322 B.C.)

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startup crisis

Mock Crisis to Maintain a Well-Oiled Machine

It’s amazing how success can cause numerous blind spots for managers and executives.  The greater the success, the more severe the blind spots.  As an advisor, I sometimes poke on…

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4P's marketing

The New 4 P’s of Marketing

Anyone that took a marketing class in college was taught about the 4 P’s of marketing (product, price, place, promotion).  And although the fundamental concepts are still valid, they just seem…

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entrepreneur personas and personalities

The 8 Personas of Successful Entrepreneurs – Which Are You?

Successful emergency room doctors must be highly intelligent and calm under pressure.  Successful  triathletes must to be goal-oriented and driven.  Successful songwriters must be creative.  What about entrepreneurs?  Entrepreneurship is…

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Edison – Persistence

"I never failed once. It just happened to be a 2,000-step process." – Thomas Edison (inventor)

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customer success - Time-to-Value Metric

A Startup’s Most Valuable Resource

When I ask entrepreneurs what their most valuable resource is, I ALWAYS get one of two responses: money (aka – funding, cash) or people.  And it’s hard to argue about…

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startup fundraising

Using Verbal Commits to Secure Your First Investors

Almost no investor wants to be the “first check written” for your round of funding.  This makes total sense if you think about it from their perspective.  If you don’t…

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customer success - Time-to-Value Metric

Importance of the Time-to-Value Metric

What do buying a new smartphone and being given a gift card have in common?  In both cases you want to extract value as soon as possible.  With the gift…

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