The Fat Lady Cometh – Shutting Down startupSQUARE

On Dec 1st, startupSQUARE.com will thank it’s very generous alpha users and the support we’ve received from peers and mentors alike before closing our doors and shutting down. Why?

We’ve demonstrated that there is significant demand for this type of service, we have 46% product / market fit based on Sean Ellis’ suggested measurement method, and we have users so enthusiastic about the idea that they just send us money. Still we’re shutting it down. Continue reading

Interview with Chris Redlitz from KickLabs and Transmedia Capital (part 1)

I recently sat down with Chris Redlitz from Transmedia Capital to talk about his new startup incubator KickLabs and founding teams from his perspective as an entrepreneur (AdAuction, Get Relevant, Aptimus, and On Village), executive (Skyrider, Feedster, Reebok), and now venture capitalist. We discussed what makes a founding team work, potential conflicts of interest between investors and entrepreneurs, and what KickLabs looks for in a company. Chris is also going to be a judge at the Lean Deck Clinic on August 2nd.

T: In your experience, is there a distinct advantage to having a founding team as opposed to being a sole entrepreneur? Continue reading

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

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.

Continue reading

Clever Hans and Photoshop Iteration

It’s been over two weeks since we released a bare bones alpha of our site and started letting people in one at a time. Since then we’ve been through approximately:

  • 10 iterations of our “view idea” page
  • 6 iterations of “browse ideas” page and 3 of “browse people” page
  • 10 “profile” pages
  • 8 of our “p-home” page (this is the page you see when you log in)
  • 3 “search result” versions
  • and a whopping 14 basic template revisions

That’s a total of 51 revisions in 18 days, almost all of which are iterations based on feedback from users without writing a single line of code. Continue reading

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

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