Category: Getting Started

startup

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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victoryalt-img

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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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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customer success

Your 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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customer success

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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startup accelerator

Is a Startup Accelerator Right for You?

It seems like everywhere you look now there is some form of startup program advertising their method of helping entrepreneurs increase their odds of success.  From incubators and accelerators to…

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marketplace expansion

Expanding Beyond Your Home Market (Marketplaces)

Online marketplaces are being created for just about anything you can think of.  Some have a local services component on one side of the marketplace that carries an extra burden…

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Golden Rules For Really Tough Times

Many (probably most) startups go through periods of extremely little cash in the bank and with visions of crashing and burning before being able to recover.  Unfortunately, crashing and burning…

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Misuse of Open Source Software Can Kill Your Acquisition Exit

How can something that’s free and openly available cause so much unintended harm to your business?  The availability of open source software has contributed as much to lowering the cost…

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first board meeting

Your First Board Meeting

When you first incorporated as a C-corporation, probably only you and your co-founder were named as board members. You never really had official meetings or voted on anything, that you…

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management system

Establishing a Management System

I know what you’re thinking.  “We don’t even have 20 employees, so why do we need a management system?”  You might be thinking this because you previously worked for a larger…

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market sizing

Sizing Your Market

Market sizing is a very important element of your business plan and pitch deck.  The size of your market a question you’ll get asked all the time by investor prospects. …

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the CTO title

The Dilemma of the Startup CTO Title

You see it all the time.  A young, invincible hustler-hacker team join together as startup co-founders to pursue a dream of becoming the next Google or Facebook.  The hustler takes the CEO…

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hiring your first sales employees

Compensating Your First Employees When You are Cash Poor

Many startups begin with a founder that spends part-time on the idea while still having a paying job.  Another common approach is to secure a small amount of funding via…

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stock pricing

Pricing Your Stock in the Early Days

I get this question all the time from US-based startups: how should we price our Common stock?  It’s a very simple question with a not-so-simple answer.  The reason is that in…

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reducing legal costs

10 Tips for Controlling Legal Costs

It’s amazing how quickly legal costs can add up. If you’re running a startup, it’s possible that your legal costs are second or third highest amongst all of your expenses….

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Prioritizing Your Product Roadmap

If you already have an experienced product manager on your team, they are probably/hopefully following some well-established product management process. But what about the early days of company formation before…

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When Offered Help, Be Ready

Throughout your startup’s evolution you’ll find that you do a lot of networking with others that can potentially help you.  This includes potential business partners, employees, advisors, angel investors and VC’s.  Regardless…

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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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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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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 wrong,…

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An Unfair Advantage All Startups Have Against Big Companies

It’s not innovation or company culture or a desire to win.  Those are important but successful big companies have at least some of those things too.  It’s nimbleness (aka –…

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choosing an advisor

Selecting an Advisor

The title of this article suggests you’ve already decided that you need an advisor.  But spend time with your co-founders discussing this to make sure you agree it is something…

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advisor compensation

Compensating an Advisor

How much equity should you give 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 questions for…

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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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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 couple of sentences and no more than 10 seconds.  And that might even be…

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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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“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 any sort.  What…

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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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Common Tax Mistakes Startups Make

I love this blog post from Upstart Business Journal with 7 common tax mistakes US-based startups make.  And even though the post was from December 2012, the concepts and recommendations are so fundamental that...

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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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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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cofounder conflict

Avoiding Co-Founder Conflict

I really enjoyed this article from Dharmesh Shah.  It’s unbelievable how many startups get into trouble not because their product isn’t having success or their company can’t scale but rather…

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Does Your Solution Require Two Constituent Audiences to be Convinced?

In the world of mobile apps, as an example, a startup can create a minimum viable product (Lean Startup Methodology – order book here) and put it into the open…

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You Never Know What Operational Metrics You’ll Need – So Instrument Everything

It happens over and over and over again.  A company has a successful growth spurt and is ready to ratchet up to the next level.  They are sitting around a…

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vitamin versus aspirin

Vitamin or Aspirin – Which are You Offering?

I don’t know who came up with this analogy but I’d love to thank him/her because it’s a perfect way to think about your offering and its value proposition.  Is…

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bonus round executive

Is Your Potential Co-Founder Already in the Bonus Round?

For years I’ve helped friends and former business colleagues with their job search.  If I find out they are thinking about working for a startup or early stage company, I…

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so what rule

The “So What” Rule

I use this rule all the time when advising startups and early stage companies.  Actually, it has application in any sort of sales pitch, regardless of your company’s stage.  I…

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Founding Principles – Do You Have Them?

As you’re getting started with your new company, possibly the last thing on your mind will be defining the principles you want to run your company by.  You don’t even…

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