Offering expert consulting means developing a specialization and focus that enable you to execute with distinction. The phrases “finding the niche for your product” and “product market fit” are essentially equivalent. A key definition of a market is that members reference each other’s buy decisions and therefore building up a set of references lowers your next prospect’s perception of the risks in your product or service (not just will it work or will you do what you say you can do but are you going to offer them significant value.
Painful cofounder experiences are more common than happy ones, and especially so when the parties don’t know each well to begin with and the business startup fails. Here is a real email exchange that explores some ways to minimize the risks.
To make effective use of your advisory board you have to provide them written material in advance that offers context on your situation and the questions you want to explore with them.
A panel of four entrepreneurs will address the practical considerations for evaluating and joining a startup as a co-founder or early employee at a Wednesday, August 17 event at the Silicon Valley Cofounder Academy.
Here are fifteen quotes that each communicate a different truth about negotiation. I have added some commentary to suggest how to apply them.
Entrepreneurs can be paralyzed by the rich set of possibilities they face. It seems almost paradoxical that when you have one choice you can start immediately, when you have two you can flip a coin, but as possibilities multiply the desire to make the best choice can paralyze you. To fully embrace your creativity you must master your dread of the unknown.
I have learned the hard way whenever I wish for smarter prospects it means I need to improve my presentation, demo, or proposal: whatever it is that I have offered them that they didn’t understand, or believe, or decide to act on.
Each interaction with a business prospect or a customer has to promise an exchange of value: their time or money for at least the strong possibility of benefit. Many of the startup fantasy camp customer development training models neglect this and teach beginning entrepreneurs to rely on the kindness of strangers. This may work in certain consumer verticals but it rarely works in B2B markets.
A recent question from an office hours session on how to handle a prospect asking you to critique a competitor when both of you have new offerings in a new application area.
Getting better at customer discovery conversations requires preparation, practice, note taking, and follow-up. It can also be tremendously helpful if you can arrange for a partner who can observe, contribute, take notes, and de-brief with you. Even if you are a solo entrepreneur “trade interviews” with another entrepreneur: agree to help them with one of their interviews if they will help you with one of yours. Here is a recent exchange I had during an office hours edited for clarity.
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.
An entrepreneur who succumbs to the illusion of progress does a startup more self-inflicted damage than almost anything else. Working on the wrong things squanders effort and irreplaceable time without gaining the learning needed for the actual efforts required.
I recently did an in depth interview with Jen Berkley Jackson of The Insight Advantage on primary research tools. Jen works with companies to help them make sure that they understand their customers better than any competitor or potential competitor. Her firm performs primary research for clients, using a variety of tools to gather information from customers, prospective customers, and the general market. Because of her considerable experience with a range of primary research tools I took this as an opportunity to explore the spectrum approaches that are available.
In Chapter 9 of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” Robert Pirsig goes into an extended explanation of the Scientific Method using the metaphor of motorcycle repair. He stresses the value of an experiment log, explaining how to organize it so that you don’t become lost in exploring for solutions to a problem. I have excerpted it below and intermixed some commentary about applying it to early market exploring and debugging new product introduction problems.
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.
Ash Maurya rebooted his blog as “The Space Between“–experimental format where he is exploring the space between ideas–and has offered a number of short reflective posts. Here are excerpts from three where he explores the value of planning and reflection, and the need to prioritize learning over the illusion of progress.
Q: Should I tap my 401K to bootstrap my startup? I had a conversation with the CEO of another firm and he and his partners did this to bootstrap. They started a C corporation and set up a corporate retirement account, the partners then rolled existing retirement accounts into the corporate plan and invested the money in the company’s stock. I did a little research and found these articles:
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.