How to Make Your Investor Pitch Lean

Have you ever needed feedback on your investor pitch? Are you in the San Francisco Bay Area?
If you answered yes to both, we’re helping to promote the Lean Deck Clinic being put on by The Lean Coffee Meetup and hosted at the new San Francisco startup incubator Kicklabs. It’s a chance to present your pitch in front of a room of peers, 3 VCs and 3 angel investors like:

Hope is the Enemy – Startup Advice from a Monk

Thich Nhat HanhI was recently reading a book by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk (Yes…I really do read books by Vietnamese Buddhist monks. No, I’m not Buddhist.) when I came across this section that struck me:

When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future…Hope becomes a kind of obstacle. – Thich Nhat Hanh Continue reading

$3.95? We’re Rich! First Revenue During Alpha Testing

On Friday, I received this welcome email:

Subject: Sale – Entrepreneurs Guide to CustDev- ID:5777670 Entrepreneur’s Guide to CustDev eBook

You have earned an affiliate fee of 3.95 USD for the sale (ID:5777670-686=
2856) of Entrepreneur’s Guide to CustDev eBook on Thu May 27 2010 23:52:3=
9 MST.

Sincerely,
Entrepreneurs Guide to CustDev

startupSQUARE, having not yet progressed to beta testing, now has revenue! Granted, a very small amount of revenue. Why?

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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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How to Sell Me (Not), I Dare You to Try

“Thanks for the meeting, no I don’t want to hire you to consult for my company.”

Having to sit through an increasing number of sales pitches from startup consultants these days, I thought I’d summarize the points that worked in selling me and what just turned me off. At the very least, next time someone tries to pitch me, maybe I’ll just send them a link to this blog before the meeting. At best, I’ll formalize some points to improve on my own sales pitch. Continue reading

How to Practice Shutting Up (Customer Development Practice)

I’ve discovered a great new method of growing bigger ears. Ready? Wait for it… go listen to sales pitches from startup consultants.

If you’re an entrepreneur, then you probably don’t like being bossed around and you might think your own opinion is pretty damn good. If you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t be starting your own company. (I’ll admit it, I have both of those flaws to varying degrees.)

Given those two features, you may or may not have a tough time (like me) really shutting up and listening to your customers. It’s always tempting to interject your own opinion, and even if you think you’re just asking a clarifying question, you’re probably adding some spin to it to try to nudge your customer’s responses the way you want…the way you expect…the way you know your customers ought to be thinking. Continue reading

Impending Doom and Early Releases

This week we’ll be letting a few users into our early release of startupSQUARE.com and we’re rather embarrassed about it. It’s buggy, it’s ugly, and it probably just won’t work. But we’re going to throw it out there anyway for a few select people who can mock us about it to our face so we can get early feedback.

Improvement via Trauma

One of the things we’d like to achieve with this early alpha release is a bit of trauma. Continue reading

I Need Bigger Ears (Customer Development Mistakes)

I realized today that I have been taking the axiom of “talk to customers” far too literally. While the quality of my feedback has been reasonably good and I’ve gotten a number of good ideas, there’s a big difference between talking to customers and listening to customers. I’ve been having far to much of a two way dialog and not letting my product speak for itself.

Screen-shot Demo

I got a call today from Performable.com which is developing a new A/B testing tool. I signed up for their beta test a few weeks ago and they gave me a call to ask if I would be willing to walk through a demo with them. Within a minute, they had a screen share up and were showing me a live demo. Although I had no control, it was definitely not a walk through in the traditional sense. it wasn’t a guided tour so much as an exploration. They showed me a screen and started peppering me with questions. Some of my favorites:

  • What do you think this page does?
  • What do you think will happen if you click this button?
  • What do you think this wording means? Continue reading

Bad Economies are Great for Business

Note: We’d like to take a moment to welcome Carmen Neghina, our intern extraordinaire and author of this post, to the startupSQUARE.com team. Yay Carmen! Thanks – Tristan

Why start your own company in a bad economy? Try to ignore the gloomy media picture of the world coming to an end, a crashing economy, high unemployment, business failures and difficulty accessing loans. Yes, I might be asking for a lot, but why not focus on the positive?

The amount of registered US companies does not change drastically from year to year, regardless of the economic climate. Although there is no clear trend towards more companies being launched, the Kaufmann Foundation noticed something interesting: startups initiated in tough times have increased chances of success, with half of 2009’s Forbes 500 companies having been launched in bad economies. The same is true for the world’s fastest growing companies. If you would actually like to see some of the companies that made the best out of recessions, look at Inc.com’s report. Suddenly, a recession doesn’t sound too bad now, does it? Continue reading

Someone Please Write a Blog Post about Minimum Viable Strategy

Watching Dave McClure‘s presentation today, I started to think about how a lot of the lean startup and customer development folks talk about creating the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), Release Early / Release Often, Product / Market Fit, Pivoting, etc., etc., but there’s very little talk about choosing your market or your product strategically. (At least not that I’ve noticed, feel free to correct me.) I’d like to read that blog post.

A lot of the advice out there ultimately mitigates risks. Here is my horribly unfair summary:

  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – Spend less on creating your product, therefore you are risking less time and money on a bad product.
  • Release Early / Release Often – Learn in small increments, therefore you are risking less time and money on a bad product.
  • Product / Market Fit – Either change your product to fit the market or choose a different market for your product before you start spending money on marketing, therefore you are risking less time and money on a bad product.
  • Pivoting – If you have a bad product, change it to something else.

Continue reading