David Cain has many thoughtful and carefully observed posts on his blog “Raptitude: Getting Better at Being Human.” Here are excerpts from three posts that offer practical advice for entrepreneurs.
A niche software supplier provides expertise and functionality that individual firms in an industry would find more expensive to develop on their own. Managing the feature content and evolution of the feature set requires that a reasonable fraction (for example at least 30-40%) of the customer base needs the feature so that they feel they are getting their money’s worth out of a monthly or annual software subscription. Here is a checklist that one of our customers, DataCare, uses to evaluate new feature requests.
Edited remarks from a presentation at the Silicon Valley Society for Competitive Analysis on Tue-May-24 on “Extracting Insights From A Competitor’s Software Demo.”
One of the most common questions I hear in conversations with entrepreneurs at a Bootstrapper Breakfasts, in Office Hours calls, or with clients–and not infrequently from myself when comparing notes with peers–is, “Am I making a fool of myself?” Here are some questions you can use to clarify your situation when you are starting to feel like a fool.
As entrepreneurs we need to pay attention to the details that matter but to achieve even modest growth or scaling we also need to use delegation. We need to allow other team members to contribute their own strengths, experiences, and insights to the project at hand.
In your early customer discovery conversations to assess demand for a new offering a wide range of customer needs and symptoms can trigger a leap to a solution, which just happens to be yours. Guard against this by probing to understand the root problem–have at least three questions that allow you to dig out the details–and consider questions that would disqualify your solution.
Scott Robertson had a great post up last month on how to make content marketing work: be relevant, be different, be real, be useful, and be consistent. Here are some excerpts along with additional thoughts and commentary.
Two critical aspects of any plan are risk identification and assessment, but if a team stops there and does not modify the plan to mitigate as much of the risk as possible then it’s pointless. Risk mitigation is what allows you to build a sustainable and enduring business.
Surviving the holidays can be hard for entrepreneurs. If you visit family or see old friends few if any may understand what you are doing or going through. You may face a variety of suggestions that essentially treat you as unemployed–strictly speaking it’s an accurate assessment for many early stage bootstrappers–and possibly unemployable–again, strictly speaking, it’s often an accurate assessment.
In the last decade I have switched to drinking tea from coffee. I came across a neat process description for making tea by George Orwell in “A Nice Cup Of Tea” that mirrored what I do–except for adding milk or cream to my tea. I was struck by how often we think we have come up with an approach that we believe is rare or unique and discover a similar approach described that’s decades or centuries old.
It’s OK to solve your own problem first, to be the first customer. This at a minimum gets the idea out of your head and reduced to practice where it can be tested. The trick is to use this basic product to spark further discussions about the problem you solved, no your solution.
Much has been written about a startup making a pivot in direction after Eric Ries first coined the term
in a 2009 blog post “Pivot don’t Jump to a New Vision.” The word pivot has attracted almost as much wordplay as the word lean. What follows is a short list of good and bad reasons to pivot.
We recently helped a client frame the exploration of an opportunity for acquiring a small software firm. Here are some questions to consider if you are contemplating the sale or acquisition of small software company.
There are broadly three categories of challenges a new product must address: it has to be feasible, it has to be desirable and it has to be profitable. Below is a simple checklist to help you evaluate product ideas.
Q: We have a product for bloggers but I am having a lot of trouble getting leads. I have met bloggers from popular media companies at events, I have cold called them, e-mailed them, and e-mailed to on-line groups that I am a member of. None of this has worked. How do I interest people in my product?
I have a couple of suggestions:
Q: I’m just about to get out of the building to validate hypotheses and start learning, but I have a problem with the business model canvas. I have been advised to develop detailed hypotheses before starting customer discovery. This is my startup and I have no idea how to fill in the business model canvas channel box or answer Steve Blank’s BMC channel/pricing hypotheses question on “the price at which half of the customers say yes.”
Q: I am preparing to launch a website for my minimum viable product (MVP). It’s a few pages and has has some forms and a file upload capability. Potential customers will be able to explain a particular type of problem that they have and then upload some relevant files for review. I will review their situation and send them a link for payment if I can fix the problem. My concern is that if I don’t have pages for “Contact Us”, “Services”, and “About Us then a potential customer may not trust the website to actually start a purchase. Is it waste to add these pages? Would I be smarter to launch a very simple site with a form and file upload.
Build A B2B MVP That Inspires Trust
If the information you are requesting is not particularly proprietary and you are only looking to charge $10 or $20 dollars then the “put up a landing page and see who clicks” model may tell you enough. This is essentially an impulse purchase.
But when you write “I will review their situation and send them a link for payment if I can fix the problem,” I am assuming that you are selling to business and that your target price point is more than $100. This moves beyond the impulse purchase or simple consumer buying models for a $4 E-book or a $19/month service; if you plan to charge more than $300 then you are pretty clearly into a “considered purchase” and need to provide a richer context for the decision than a simple landing page. Also because you are asking for data that they may consider private or proprietary this makes it more of a considered purchase.
Q: What is the target allocation for each of these critical tasks in a successful startup? Here is my list of critical tasks in a startup and a percentage allocation:
- Planning 10%
- Execution 50%
- Ideation 20%
- Talking to Potential Customers 15%
- Recruiting 5%
What Is The Real Decision?
Can you clarify :
- At what stage of company?
- What time frame are the percentages averaged over?
- Is this just for the founders or total effort of all team members?
- What is the distinction between ideation and planning? Can you please elaborate on this?
How would you use or apply any answer that you get? In other words, what is the real decision you are trying to make?
“A holiday gives one chance to look backward and forward, to reset oneself by an inner compass.”
I have not yet internalized the lessons from Daniel Cook‘s “Laws of Productivity: 8 Productivity Experiments You Don’t Need to Repeat” [PDF] so I find myself work–and now blogging–on a holiday. Here are my key take-aways from Cook’s roundup on knowledge work productivity and some additional thoughts on why they are so hard to put into practice. Do as I say not as I do.