Author Archive

Call to Action Examples

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Blogging, Lead Generation

Nobody disputes how important “Call to Actions” are but sometimes I run out of ideas for good ones.  Here is my list of favorite ones.

  • Find out the latest
  • Watch this short video for more information
  • Check this out!
  • See why we are excited!
  • Learn more
  • Read how we did it!
  • Start saving
  • Compare us to your current solution

Please suggest any that you have found effective in the comments and I will continue to update the list as they come to me.

Tristan Kromer’s May Workshops Promise To Help You Reframe Your MVP

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Events, Workshop

Tristan Kromer offers a great workshop on taking your big idea and break it into a series of small steps to test.

Your MVP Sucks! – How to crush your dreams and embrace reality

  • Monday, May 5, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (PDT)   more info
  • Tuesday, May 20, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (PDT) more info

You should attend if:

  • Have an understanding of lean but are looking for a deep dive;
  • You do not currently have Product / Market Fit;
  • Keep running experiments but either aren’t making progress or can’t tell if you’re making progress.

 

Silicon Valley Robot Block Party 2014

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Events

Recently, I attended the silicon valley robot block party. Like a mini-makers faire, it was alot of fun.  Folks were there with business robotics, home robotics, toy and entertainment robotics, and homemade robotic products by hobbiest and students.

Some of the robots showcased.

puzzlebox_orbit_helicoper

source: http://toyology.co.uk and orbit.puzzlebox.info

source: Techykids.com

source: Techykids.com

NASA

NASA

club project

Anki DRIVE

source: Anki.com

Robot Dog

pneubotics robots

source: Otherlabs

Romibo

source: Romibo

SRI Taurus

SRI Taurus

 lawn mover

Early this year, I interviewed the organizer of the event, Andra Keay, about the opportunities and challenges she sees in the robotic community. She is an Managing Director at Silicon Valley Robotics, and  Co Founder at Robot Garden

More coverage of the Silicon Valley Robotic Block Party

 

 

Office Hours: Schedule Time to Review Your MVP Readiness

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Startups

Office Hours ButtonAre you a startup founder or an innovator at a tech company with burning questions looking to get some great advice on your venture or idea from an lean startup expert for B2B startups?

SKMurphy functions as a startup advisor to help you understand the process of building a business.  We offer a no-cost, no-obligation MVP Readiness Assessment.

Request a consultation during our MVP Readiness Office Hours at https://skmtest.wufoo.com/forms/skmurphy-office-hours/

IEEE CNSV Mastermind 2014

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Consulting Business, Events

Mastermind GroupsWe wanted to let all of you know that IEEE-CNSV has a new benefit for its members. You have a chance to join and participate in a formal Mastermind (Peer Support) Group. This group is much different from our regular meetings. We will meet for a fixed set of four weeks about every other week starting on April 3, 2014. Group members will make a commitment to come to all of these four meetings, and to keep what is discussed in confidence. So, that means the members really get to know each other, and work on what is keeping their businesses from higher levels of success.

All attendees MUST have a CNSV profile (here is information on how to join CNSV). The group size will be limited to 12 attendees, so sign up right away if you to participate.

  • DATES:  Thursdays in April & May — April 3, April 17, May 1 and May 15 of 2014
  • TIME: 4-6pm
  • LOCATION: Hobee’s at 800 W Ahwanee Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94085 (just off Mathida Ave new Hiway 101)
  • COST: Free, but agree to purchase something from the restaurant, so they will reserve this room for us. This set of four meetings would normally cost $200, so this is a real bargain.

REGISTER: http://www.meetup.com/BayAreaMastermind/

WHAT MIGHT BE DISCUSSED IN A MASTERMIND MEETING?

Mastermind meetings allow you do share ideas as to what areas you are considering for the growth of your business, or your business and life balance. You will get feedback from your peers on how to resolve the concerns.

Areas that could be discussed:

  • Business Plans for 2014
  • How to get more business
  • ow to handle the stress of too much business at one time
  • How to get out from under Brokers
  • How to keep up with changing technologies
  • Whatever concerns or challenges you might be having

Five Serious Financial Mistakes Bootstrappers Can Avoid

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, First Office, skmurphy

Five  serious but avoidable financial mistakes we hear from time to time at a Bootstrapper Breakfast:

  1. Mistake: using credit cards to finance your startup.
    Fix: Pay cash, trade favors, barter, go without, but don’t let your monthly balance roll over and accumulate.
  2. Mistake: not having a stopping rule for when you need to stop bootstrapping and look for work. This can lead to bankruptcy.
    Fix: set a time limit and an expense limit for getting your new business off the ground. Work part time and work on your business part time to maintain break even cash flow.
  3. Mistake: not keeping your spouse in the loop if they are working and keeping the lights on while you bootstrap.
    Fix: treat your spouse as an investor or a board member: provide ongoing detailed accounting of plans and spending.
  4. Mistake: hiring a full time employee too soon.
    Fix: start with contractors, make sure you can at least break-even on a regular basis with the contribution the employee will make vs. the additional expenses incurred–understand all of the expenses you first full time employee will trigger (e.g. workers compensation, payroll service, fixed salary expense (vs. contractor)).
  5. Mistake:  signing a lease on an office too soon
    Fix: use co-working space, look for an informal sublet, be clear on why you need an office (e.g. just pay for meeting rooms as needed, barter for lab or working space as needed, look at hourly/day rate offices for conference calls or meetings).

#3 got picked up by Entrepreneur Magazine in a roundup of 7 tips: “Funding Your Business on Your Own? Learn From These 7 Entrepreneurs.”  I thought these three from the list were also common and avoidable:

  • “Branding too soon” by Rebecca Tracey of The Uncaged Life
    This is really investing too much in messaging before you know what works. I have made this mistake and I see others do it as a way to make the business seem “more real” or “like an established company.”  Trying things out in conversation gives you the fastest feedback and is the easiest way to iterate if you are deliberate about it.
  • “Idealism about costs” by Tom Alexander of PK4 Media
    This comes in many forms, but the most serious that he touches on is not understanding how long it can take to get paid, especially by a larger firm. 90 to 120 days from invoice has not been uncommon for many of our clients. Small firms tend to pay faster, and getting paid the first time by a large firm can take much longer than subsequently.
  • “Failing to calculate burn rates” by Steve Spalding of Project MONA
    This takes several forms, but one mistake is to pay yourself a salary (incurring State and Federal taxes on the “round trip” from your savings back to your bills instead of putting less money into the business and living off of your savings. It’s also better to provide the bulk of your starting capital as a loan instead of equity, so that early profits can be distributed as loan repayments instead of salary or dividends.

Update Thu-Feb-27 (morning): Elia Freedman offered a common critique of this post, In Getting Good At Making Money by Justin Williams and “How to Get Good at Making Money” by Jason Fried. Writing “The Art of Bootstrapping” he observes

The only thing a bootstrapper needs to know: CASH IS KING. Nothing else matters and every decision needs to be made to maximize cash. The articles refer to revenues, but revenue is not cash. Here’s an example: I do a contract development job today for $10,000. When done I submit an invoice and the company takes 60 days to pay. Yes, I have $10,000 in revenues today but I don’t get the cash for 60 days. How do I pay my bills in the meantime?

I am relentless when it comes to managing cash. I have a spreadsheet that gets duplicated and updated with actuals and projections every month. This allows me to make cash flow decisions months before the negative shortfall actually happens, allowing me at various times in the history of the company to ratchet up spending, lay people off, cut payroll or minimize other expenses. Because of this work, I see the company very very clearly on a month to month basis and can make appropriate choices.

I think it’s a fair criticism. An accrual accounting perspective has too much parallax from bootstrapper’s actual cash position and offers a false sense of security. I tried to sharpen the advice from the Entrepreneur round up on “Idealism about costs” toward this but I would add a sixth mistake to make it clear:

Mistake: Using accrual accounting (ignoring the timing–the real cash impact–of cost and revenue items) will kill you.
Fix: Forecast  and manage the explicit timing of cash in and cash out for your business. Understand that people will cash your checks immediately but be slow to pay your invoices.  Some won’t pay the full amount or even pay at all. Rely on clear understanding and simple plain English agreements, don’t hope that “legal language” in a contract will make a difference to your getting paid (assume any contracts you sign will be enforced against you by larger firms.

I think trust is as important, if not more important than cash. Bootstrappers who focus exclusively on cash without also managing trust and social capital will often fail to prosper as well. Related blog posts:

Update Mar 8: this post was included in the Founder Institute’s “Mar 2 2014: This Week’s Must Read Articles For Entrepreneurs.

Improve Your Sales Pitch

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Sales, Startups, Workshop

Peter Cohan from Second Derivative offers some of the best sales demo/pitch training and hands-on learning that we have seen. So we are honored to offer these interactive workshops to startups.

Here is the upcoming schedule:

March 5&6, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA Register Now
May 21&22, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA Register Now
October 15&16, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA Register Now

Getting More Customers Workshop on March 25, 2014

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, 5 Scaling Up Stage, Events, skmurphy, Workshop

Getting More CustomersLet’s face it, finding customers can be quite a challenge. In this interactive workshop, we will cover a variety of proven marketing techniques for growing your business: attendees will select one or two that fit their style and develop a plan to implement them in their business in the next 90 days.

  • Speaking – small groups, large groups, conferences, …
  • Writing – blogging, newsletters, articles, …
  • What Other People Say About You – referrals, testimonials, case studies, …
  • Getting Found When and Where Prospects are Looking: adwords, Craigslist, trade shows, SEO/SEM, …

March 25, 2014 9am-12:30pm
Sunnyvale, CA
$90 includes lunch

Register Now

“This workshop provided great material to bounce off of. SKMurphy created a fertile space for me to think about my business and plan a concrete step forward. Thank you.” Paul Konasewich, President at Connect Leadership

Content Creation for Thought Leadership and Lead Generation

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Lead Generation, Thought Leadership

SKMurphy develops highly relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage customers. We help our clients organize and clearly articulate their experiences and insights in ways that generate inquires. We develop an editorial calendar that  complements SEO strategy and ecosystem partner relationships. We always consider audio, video, and animation options in addition leveraging public speaking events.

Here are a couple of articles that we developed:

And here is some example videos

 

 

Is Your Health and Fitness Application or Appliance Really a Medical Device?

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in skmurphy

The last few years have seen the rise of Quantified Self movement and increasing demand for solutions for the Home Health market as the US population continues to age. Many startups are also offering new and very popular personal fitness applications. As a result we are seeing a lot of new products aimed at the personal health and fitness market as well as the medical device market proper. Some entrepreneurs who think they are building a personal fitness device are in fact building a medical device.

Walt Maclay, president of Voler Systems, wrote “Are You Making a Medical Device?” to some practical guidance on how to determine if you are risk for regulatory review and oversight, or substantially more review and oversight than a consumer oriented personal health device would face. Here is an excerpt but you should read the entire article if you are working on a personal health and fitness application or appliance to make sure it’s not really a medical device:

There are lot of exciting and innovative advances in the fitness and healthcare space today. Startups and established firms have introduced thousands of new software and hardware solutions–and more are being developed every day. But some of these companies may think they are making a fitness or home health device when they are actually introducing a medical device without realizing it. If you make a medical device and don’t register it with the FDA, you risk getting a letter from the FDA with an injunction and a notice to stop selling your product.  To be ready to register with the FDA can take tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of regulatory work for a simple device. Read more

MVP: What’s Really Under Your Control

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, Community of Practice, Customer Development, Lean Startup, Workshop

An MVP is an offering for sale

We use this definition in our “Engineering Your Sales” and “Validating Your MVP” workshops and our MVP clinics. Our focus is on developing and selling products to businesses so that biases the definition a little bit but it’s important to remember what’s under your control in crafting your MVP:

  1. The particular type of customer: you can select who are you targeting and messaging. In many B2B markets the best message is a dog whistle: highly appealing to your target and of little interest to those who are not.
  2. The specific problem or need your focus on: it’s better to pick a very narrow pain point initially so that you maximize your chances of providing value.
  3. What you provide: the feature set and packaging of your offering.

These are normally the three areas that you tinker with during marketing exploration and MVP introduction. It’s also important to understand what’s not under your control: 

  1. The customer decides if the need is important enough, or the problem severe enough, to devote any time to conversation or learning more about your offering.
  2. The customer decides if your solution offers enough of a difference over the status quo and other alternatives available to them to actively consider. Value is in the customer’s mind and it’s created in the customer’s business when they successfully deploy your offering. Your MVP is not valuable in the abstract; it must always be evaluated in the context of a particular customer. It does not matter how much time and expense you have invested in creating it, it’s the effect it will have on the customer’s business.
  3. The customer decides the nature and size of the initial purchase. You can decide not to pursue an opportunity that is “too small” but if the customer wants to pilot in a team or one department before deploying your solution more widely it’s often better to take that deal and get started than continue to argue for a larger initial deal. Breaking your offering into phases and smaller components will always make it easier to digest.

The following chalk talk illustrates this last point in more detail:

See “Chalk Talk on Technology Adoption” for a transcript.

Pictures from 2013 Inside 3D Printing Conference

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Events

I saw some very cool stuff at the Inside 3D Printing Conference yesterday. Here are a few of my favorites.

paper 3d printingtoys

A scale model from Mcor paper 3D printers.  There was lots of toys. This one is from fabbster.

But not everything was hard and stiff – check out this personalized rubber shoe sole.

shoe 3d printingrubber 3d printing

There was lots of medical devices printed on professional grade printers. Examples from Afinia and netfabb booths.

Hip Replacement Spine

My favorite – electric guitar -

electric guitar

Okay this was not printed a home computer, this printer from 3D Systems was priced at $300k.

I saw some exciting software and tools. Having trouble drawing 3D Systems’ recent acquisition,  SensAble can help.

SensAble

Robert Felten Software Recognized by EE Times

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Clients in the News

Source: EE Times

Source: EE Times

We are excited to see Robert Felten’s recent project, GUI for a flash drive, featured in EE Times. Robert Felten Software provides Software Development Consulting and Contracting. He specializes in Qt/C++ GUI and embedded software.

See the Rick Merritt’s round up of the Flash Memory Summit at “Slideshow: Flash Innovators Flood Show

Robert is a new client, we are excited to see his expertise recognized.

Capturing Intellectual Property Workshop: Saturday Oct-19-2013

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in First Office, Legal Issues

Every once in awhile we find great workshops that are open to all size companies.  Bill Meade’s “Capturing Intellectual Property” is one such workshop.  His hands-on workshop will cover:

  • What is intellectual property (IP)
  • The forms and functions of legal IP protections
  • The IP system and its functioning (on one slide)
  • Capturing an invention
  • Checking the invention for enablement
  • How to capture invention if you work in a big company

Who should attend:

  1. Engineers who have never filled out an invention disclosure form.
  2. Section managers/Scrum Masters who are interested in learning what types and quantities of IP they should be seeing from their product development efforts.
  3. Patent agents and attorneys who are not “seeing enough” IP from their project teams and would like to capture more.

Bill Meade is an intellectual property consultant at BasicIP.   In addition to capturing inventions, Bill has substantial experience in disclosure evaluation, IP portfolio management, business side of litigating patents, and licensing patents.

Register NowSaturday, October 19, 2013
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM (PDT)
Sunnyvale, CA

If You Knew How Hard a Startup Would Be

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in skmurphy

I blogged about George Gilder’s essay “Unleash the Mindabout a year ago, in it he referenced a quote by Albert Hirschman that “creativity always comes as a surprise to us” that I tracked it down to a book by Hirschman called “Development Projects Observed” (and an article “The Principle of the Hiding Hand“).

Here it is with more context:

“Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore, we can never count on it as we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we could not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.”
Albert Hirschman in “Development Projects Observed

I think few would start a new business or join an early stage one if they appreciated the true risks.

I think entrepreneurship is driven more by a desire for autonomy, creative self-expression, and lifelong learning. It can be the natural result of personal, family, and cultural expectations.  Sometimes it’s creative solution to a lack of career alternatives. And for some it’s a calling.

“It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.”
Winston Churchill


Related posts:

Tips for Choosing a Logo

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, Startups

  1. Text Treatments: text logos are simple, the company name is always right there. Most high tech logos are text treatments, they are clear and simple. With text logos you have instant impact, customers don’t need to decipher anything. Another benefit of text treatments are logo aspect ratio comes naturally with words. They always seem to work whether you are shrinking or stretching them. Examples are Google, IBM, Intel, and eBay.
  2. Icons: symbol logos can be recognized faster, our brains process images quickly than words alone. But they require more  work and $$$ on branding and presence before people have the connection between symbol and company. Examples are Nike‘s swoosh, Apple‘s apple and Linux‘s penguin. Notice these logos have nothing to do with the companies product: they are about being different and being memorable. They are also very simple designs.
  3. Keep it Simple:  like many other types of design, the best logo designs are elegantly simple. They shrink, stretch, or twist without losing their intangible emotional resonance. Color may add to the design, but they still look great in black and white. In fact, most logo designers use grayscales to do the initial design, then move it to color. They have to look good on your business card, on literature, and on your website.

I have used TheLogoCompany and LogoWorks and were very pleased with the results. My favorite is TheLogoCompany, they have a good article about colors. Others have been very happy with 99Designs.

Upcoming MVP Clinics in July and August for Startup Enterpreneurs

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, Customer Development, Events

Sean Murphy, CEO of SKMurphy Inc will be moderating two upcoming MVP Clinics. These are interactive roundtable discussions were entrepreneurs can present where they are with their MVP and hypotheses about customer, problem, solution, and value. The roundtable will explore issues that founders are having in defining and evaluating their MVP.

Format

  • Introductions each attendee describes briefly who they are, their startup, and the issues they want to discuss about their MVP.
  • Five minute briefing and a one page handout on MVP’s
  • We address the issues raised in a roundtable format, clustering them where possible and encouraging questions and suggestions from attendees.

The MVP Clinic facilitator is Sean Murphy, CEO of SKMurphy Inc. and  offers customer development services for technology entrepreneurs. SKMurphy’s focus is on early customers and early revenue for startups. Sean is an early and active member of the Lean Startup group and has been a workshop presenter and mentor at the Lean Startup Conference for the last three years.

Get Out of Your Batcave: Customer Development for Lean Startups

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in skmurphy, Workshop

SKMurphy WorkshopJoin us on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 for a new class “Get Out Of Your Batcave: Customer Development for Lean Startups” from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM at Education @ PARISOMA in San Francisco, CA.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Establish “ground truth” in an early market
  • Use an MVP (minimum viable product)  to explore the market
  • Apply what you have learned to drive early product iterations
  • Make your offering attractive to paying customers

This interactive class will cover key concepts and rules of thumb for successful innovation by lean startups. We will cover actionable strategies for lean startups bringing discontinuous or disruptive products to market.

Register Now

Why Get Out Of The Batcave To Discover A Market’s Ground Truth?

To Find As Many Surprises As You Can
In The Market
Before Building And Launching Your Product


For more “Get Out Of the Batcave” stories and advice see:

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Rules of Thumb, Sales

A talk I enjoyed by Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.

Some great insights from Apple, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the Wright Brothers:

  • Why  -> How -> What
  • Why is not “to make a profit” that’s a result..
  • Why is your purpose, your reason for existence.
  • Common approach is What -> How -> Why but much less compelling.
  • People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.
  • Dr. King said “I have a dream” not “I have a comprehensive 12 point plan.”

Sinek is the author of “Start With Why”

 

Validating Your MVP & Value Proposition at Lean Startup Circle SF Apr-2

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Events, Lean Startup, Workshop

Join us in San Francisco for an interactive workshop “Validating your MVP & Value Proposition.“  We will cover a variety of proven techniques for validating your MVP & value proposition for B2B startups.

Register NowWhen: 5:30-8:30 PM Tue-Apr-2-2013
Where: 1355 Market, Suite 488, San Francisco
Cost: $60

This interactive workshop will provide:

  1. Systematic approach to validating your MVP & your value proposition
  2. Understand who buys your product and how they calculate its value and total cost
  3. Explore different options for reaching them
  4. Learn how to track efforts and measure results
  5. Determining when to pivot and when to persevere

We will cover:

  • What is MVP?
  • How much do I need to talk to people about my MVP?
  • Techniques for Validation
  • Where to find people to validate Your MVP?
  • Iterating your MVP for problem validation, customer validation, market niche exploration, and product launch

SKMurphy Workshop

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