No Titles Please – We’re a Startup

I had to laugh out loud when I read this at jacquesmattheij.com:

At some point in the thread he writes: “We are working on that now. It might give us more breathing air but still will keep us with a CEO (him) that I cannot trust professionaly.”

I practically fell off my chair when I read that. A three letter title in a two man company ? What does that make him ? CTO ?

…and then he continues:

Titles are for insecure people that need to have their egos re-inforced or they are for people that have reached a stage in the life of their startup where it starts to make sense to divide the work in to fixed roles, where you have well defined territories and people as a rule will avoid crossing over in to each others territories.

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First Dates and One Night Stands for Co-Founders

Always wear a tux on the first dateBefore you and your co-founders step up to the alter and say “I do”, it’s a good idea to get to know each other a little first. Maybe even play a little footsie.

I’ve been searching and searching for good advice on the subject and consistently come up empty. There’s plenty of advice on how to split up equity, qualities to look for in a co-founder, and even the occasional article on places to go to find entrepreneurs. Why is there zero information on how to vet them? The typical article seems to suggest a good conversation will do the trick, presumably because you’ve just dosed your co-founder with sodium pentathol and wired him to a lie detector. Continue reading

Why Get Married on the First Date?…Co-Founder Dating

In our customer development interviews with entrepreneurs looking for co-founders I’ve found many pitches follow this general course:

1) My idea is amazing, but I can’t tell you about it.
2) It’s a 100% surefire billion dollar idea, if only I had someone to do __________.
3) I will only tell you about my idea if you commit to indentured servitude for at least one year if not longer.

I find this a bit loopy. Continue reading

Customer Development with Network Effects

How does customer development differ with regards to products which require a network effect to be useful? Short answer: No one knows.

Companies offering services such as Skype, eBay, Facebook, and others have cannot really test their value proposition without having a critical mass of users. A telephone with only one person on it is pretty useless. Yet these are some of the most lucrative inventions ever. So how do you apply the principles of customer development to these situations?

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Top Takeaway – Startup Lessons Learned

On April 23rd I was able to go to the Startup Lessons Learned Conference and had my world rocked. I thought I was lean, I could be leaner. I thought I had a minimum viable product, I could have built less. Although Steve Blank, Eric Ries, Dave McClure, David Weekly etc. etc. all have written and spoken prolifically about their methods and thoughts, there is a powerful feeling to being the the same room as a thousand other people drinking the same kool-aid.

Sponsorship Helps

First off, I should mention that I wouldn’t of been able to go at all without the sponsorship of the Microsoft Bizspark program. Usually I’m not one to thank MS except sarcastically for bricking my hard drive, but there’s no way a bootstrapped company like ours could have gone. So special thanks to Adrian Perez, Joel Franusic, and Bizspark! Continue reading

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Wow I’m tired. Tired and energized. In the past few weeks we’ve had the typical ups and downs of every startup. We’ve let in a number of alpha users, got another hundred signed up thanks to a very minor TechCrunch mention, and realized our Minimum Viable Product wasn’t minimum enough.

We started building our site with a basic premise that entrepreneurs were willing to post their pitches to attract co-founders and investment. We confirmed this hypothesis through numerous customer interviews and surveys. We test drove our site with a limited number of alpha users and despite the clunky interface we were pleased by the results. We pushed people through a rather long survey and got an 82.9% completion rate, far higher than we would’ve thought. So we knew that people were willing to fill out some forms.

So you can imagine our surprise when our first chunk of 50 alpha users decided not to post any business ideas or pitches. Oops. Continue reading