- Entrepreneur A hired a developer early on to build an alpha product with a promise to pay for services renders in a couple months. Post-work, they’ve parted ways, and the entrepreneur wants to pay off the developer and retain all code. The dev, however, wants some ownership of the company and code.
- Entrepreneur B is highly successful in a services business, and now wants to build a product addressing a pain in the current business. The entrepreneur planned to work with a developer to build the product as a test before any mass market approach. The entrepreneur wants to pay for the consulting services with no equity share, while the dev wants share for mass market opportunity.
In both cases, the entrepreneurs hatched the ideas and have the intellectual property to market their products. The devs do not have industry experience and bring “pure” development capacities. Neither dev has worked in an early-stage startup before; however, they’re highly interested in working in a startup due to the potential. This, of course, is expected. Entrepreneurship and startups are the “it” things today, and everyone wants to latch onto something and someone successful.
- I love experimenting and self-improvement. I don’t want to be so rigid to not be open to potentially better, different ways of doing things.
- I can be a little too verbose sometimes with redundant wording. This is an exercise in staying focused and to the point.
- I value perspectives. This new approach will give me a new perspective into writing and thinking.
- Test reader behavior. Shorter posts are more easily digestible for readers. I’ll review Google Analytics, and see if this new approach has made a difference in subscribers, time spent, pages visited, etc.
|I know — my PowerPoint skills are amazing…|
- In a way, it’s almost like they’re the mini-CEO, complete with the influence, but no authority — they aren’t the direct supervisors of the engineer or designer and can’t fire anyone for not following through, and focused on the success of the product’s mission. [TNW] This couldn’t ring more true for Body Boss where the four of us co-founders had no “hierarchy” and equal equity. We formed a four-headed Product Manager. This can be incredibly challenging when everyone has a different vision, though, as wheels spin and development halts.
- [Josh] Elman wrote a post entitled A Product Manager’s Job and in it, he says that a core part of it involves having a good feel “for what seems right or wrong, and are also good at listening to early feedback from testers and others who try it.” [TNW] It’s rare there’s a dedicated Product Manager in a startup. In reality the CEO and the lead engineer (and designer) take on the role together. However, the take-away here is the importance of involving feedback from testers and partners early and often in the development of the product. This mitigates risk of building an unwanted product or non-essential/ useful features.
- True empathy for the customer is a must-have (we’ve all used products that didn’t feel like they had the customer in mind). [DC] Going hand-in-hand with the preceding point, building a product with the customer in mind is critical. Like at Body Boss, none of us were professional strength coaches, and yet, we were selling to them. We didn’t have true empathy, though, and thus, we missed some of the big pain-points early. This was hard moving forward from the start. Note the little nugget in what I just said, too: none of us were professional strength coaches. Having experience in your market/ industry can go a long way in developing empathy and leveraging your network for traction growth.
- […] PMs need to have an appreciation for leading while also understanding that it’s about solving the holistic problem. Being a PM can teach you a lot about leadership and also about yourself […] it’s not about using your power to accomplish something — he sees this action as a sign of weakness. It’s all about inspiration, vision, and analysis while keeping in mind that it’s a team sport so you’re not going at things alone. [TNW] and Attention to detail and planning skills are crucial due to all the moving parts. [DC] Product Managers are connectors. They have great communication skills and enough know-how of the business, sales and marketing, design, and technical know-how to empathize with the right touch points of the product. Just as you move higher up the ladder in a corporate setting, a leader’s duties shift to more strategic initiatives and people influences… much of what a Product Manager does.
- [Joanna] Wright says that managers need to be aware of three things: knowing the product and its users, having tenacity by picking up ideas and following through even though no one may believe in it, and being able to collaborate and working with others to have a strong vibe together. [TNW] Joanna’s points here highlight every critical aspect of an effective Product Manager… they are multi-faceted and view the product holistically… they are leaders – inspiring, team-oriented, collaborative… they persevere with the vision believing in the long-run benefits than short-term challenges… they are internally and externally people-focused as people are what drive the product either consumption or creation… they don’t just drive execution, but they motivate execution.
|I was tempted to use a mirro #selfie picture as a not-so-subtle play on “reflection”, but decided on a less cheesy route. You’re welcome. (Photo cred: http://splitshire.com/focus/)|
Why do I blog?
First, it’s a challenge.
Secondly, blogging plays a role in BRANDING.
Thirdly, blogging introduces me to many others with a similar passion.
Fourth, blogging can inspire, motivate, and teach others.
And then, blogging is therapeutic.
And finally, it’s a challenge.
So that’s why I blog…
|I’m on the Atlanta Tech Blog’s list! Scroll down alphabetically 42 spots as of 12/24!|
- Shares… see above. You’re likely getting common stock, b-t-dubs (“btw” (“by the way”))
- Vesting period. The vesting period is some time horizon that the employer has guaranteed some rights to ownership (via the stock) to the employee. During this time, the employee accrues these rights per some vesting schedule (if any), the employee can choose to “exercise” his/ her options. This mechanism encourages the employee to stay with the company as well as to do well (since a great company is better to own than a good company).
- Vesting schedule vs. the Cliff. In the offer letter details the time periods the employee can exercise options per a vesting schedule. Or, the offer letter may make mention of a “cliff”. The cliff is some period of time after the start date of the employee for which the vesting may begin. From the cliff onwards, vesting occurs typically monthly. The cliff is a mechanism founders and investors like to mitigate attrition in the first year.
- Strike price. This is the agreed upon price of each company share the employee accrues over the vesting period.
- Types of financing including equity vs. debt
- Earnings per share (EPS)
|Just checking out what’s under the hood (image source: http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/gedney/med/KY0344.jpg)|
- The foundation of Salesforce is built on Leads, Accounts, Opportunities, and Contacts. In fact, check out a quick intro via Rivalry’s blog—“Leads, Accounts, Opportunities, and Contacts in Salesforce: The Basics”.
- Re-packaged and glorified spreadsheets and Outlook in one. That is to say, when you play with Salesforce, you can quickly see how Salesforce grew so fast because it really is Excel and Outlook repackaged. In the end, many sales people started with cruder products earlier and Salesforce’s structure, the reminders, etc. were familiar already.
- You can see its earlier “Big Platform” cloud beginnings. Marc Benioff (Salesforce’s Founder) is a former Oracle Exec. When you click around Salesforce, you can see very similar UI/ UX as some of the other big platform players like Oracle and SAP. Not originally Oracle, but I see similarities with Oracle’s Agile PLM, SAP eSourcing, etc. (full disclosure: I played with these systems three years ago).
- Salesforce’s power is its core + all the third-party apps. Salesforce is #winning and killing it by being simple, and also the system that holds the data. At the end of the day, it’s hugely simple in concept, and what makes it powerful is integration to other powerful apps through its App Exchange like Rivalry, SalesLoft, Tinder Box, ToutApp, etc.
- Salesforce is still cumbersome. The opportunity is automating/ mechanizing it. I love tools like those mentioned above, but especially Voxa. Everything Salesforce does, I was doing already in my own setup with spreadsheets. I could make it more powerful with notifications and the like, but really, that’s all it was. As I did Biz Dev for Body Boss and others, the biggest pain in the rear, and ultimately what makes Salesforce powerful is the data that is inputted. From this standpoint, every CRM is still annoying… until you can automate logging events like contact history, adding leads/ contacts, etc. That’s where tools like Voxa which can automatically log your activities and even detect human language to schedule follow-ups that much more powerful. You get around the biggest pain!
- There are better tools, but they integrate to Salesforce, too. You really don’t need much time in Salesforce to see where it could improve. However, like I said in the bullets before, there are tools that are better and can MAKE Salesforce better. For example, as a pipeline tool, I’m visual guy, and I don’t see Salesforce’s Opportunities list as a great tool. It really just looks like a list. PipeDrive, however, is a much better, visually-oriented tool to manage your pipeline. Luckily, it, too, can integrate to Salesforce.
Obviously the above didn’t just come out of three hours, and okay, maybe I’m not an expert. Some of these were notions I had coming into the learning sessions, but were reinforced. Can’t say anything was dispelled other than Salesforce is really, really easy. I know during my three hours I didn’t play with every module, and maybe one day, I’ll get that opportunity in MY OWN instance. Or, maybe I’ll be a part of simplifying Salesforce into another CRM startup. (Okay, that made me laugh because there are several others that do a decent job.)
- If you want to be on the business side, know your numbers. I shared with Wayne an idea I’m currently incubating, and he had some great questions regarding the business model. In effect, he was testing the economic feasibility of the idea as well as my wit. Sadly, I didn’t quite respond as well as I wanted. His advice was to practice mental/ back-of-the-napkin math for ideas. That should at least help early on determine if there’s a viable business idea.
- Early on, it’s about the product rather than the team. This was an interesting viewpoint. For… ever, I heard how VCs, entrepreneurs, etc. invest in the team behind the startup. Wayne’s point was that if the idea (i.e. product, service) is good, then the market will pull you up. From there, you’ll find money both from your customers and want-to-be investors. Also, the team will quickly learn and get the experience. Wayne cited this as a key learning from watching company after company go through YC.
- Build a pain pill, not a vitamin. Okay, that phrase is actually pulled from David Cummings, but it’s apparent in what Wayne was prescribing (see what I did there?). From the preceding bullet, the underlying take-away is to find an idea that addresses pain points for markets. If you find a real pain killer, customers will come to you. Of course, marketing will help, too.
- If you’re not a programmer, don’t bother. On Saturday, I bit the bullet and bought a MacBook to learn how to program in iOS for this new idea I’m incubating. Since then, I’ve churned through hours and hours of iOS programming tutorials (for Swift) through 4 courses. Wayne cited that if I wanted to stick to the business-side of things, get better at that. Many good programmers have been programming for a long time, and there are 18 year-olds who would smoke me. It’s always going to be catch-up. I should focus on what my experience has given me, and hone those skills.
- Notion of “Liquidity” – 3 tenets: proximity of the sale, right product and right customer, and timing. At least for my current incubating idea, I must deal with these three sides of liquidity that will challenge my success vis-à-vis if I can EASILYaddress these three tenets to facilitate the marketplace.
- It’ll take 2-3 years to reach any level of success. Obviously, that’s not applicable to every startup, but from his experience, that where he’s found the greatest success in his startups. He also cites that San Francisco could be a great place for entrepreneurs, but with the added cost-of-living considerations, there are significant downsides. At the end of the day, be good at where you are.
|Executives are getting harder to reach from all the pitches and cold calls. (Image source: http://www.channelweb.co.uk/IMG/475/87475/hiding-under-table.jpg)|
“[High-profile] people deployed brute force to screen out unsolicited, inbound communications.” – John Greathouse
- Get the appointment. The goal of the first communication is not to sell a product (though if you do, awesome). Instead, it’s about getting an appointment/ introduction.
- Respect and Flatter the Gatekeeper. I read in “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi, Founderand Chairman of Ferrazzi Greenlight and networker-extraordinaire, the need to respect the admins, secretaries, and assistants of execs. These pros have the holy grail of the execs you’re trying to reach – their schedules. If you’re nice to them, not only can they find time to fit you in, but they also overhear a lot of the strategies potentially giving you a leg up.
- Subjects Lines Are Key Lines. When you’re going to email someone, think about that subject line intently. That can either inspire someone to open your email, or immediately put you on the back foot if you’re too “salesy”.
- Track what you say. If you’re going to do some cold communications like calls or emails, it’d be smart to have a script ready. You don’t have to necessarily memorize it word for word, but know the gist to be able to speak naturally, not like a robot. Test the script with different audiences and fine tune as you go along to develop a message that truly resonates.
- Use every tool at your disposal… timely. With the ascendency of social media in business, it’s not a surprise to find execs of large companies using things like Twitter to communicate and have a presence. Depending on their position, industry, etc., Twitter can be a very easy way to interact with an exec vs. the “not cool” phone or email. At least, not at first.
- Quality is to warm as quantity is to cold. Cold communication can be a simple way to quickly advertise/ outbound market to people you don’t know. However, you’ll need to reach out to many in order to get a response, let alone an enthusiastic appointment. At the end of the day, warm leads are obviously better, but you definitely need to put in a little thought so that you’re not burning a personal connection or wasting a potentially great connection. In the end, a mix of the two can do wonders till you create that inbound marketing machine.
- Be creative. This is more of a hypothesis because I’m still fiddling with what is creative and what can be creepy weird. However, sometimes you need a little interesting way of getting your product/ service out there, especially if it’s truly innovative (startups!). Whenever people see a demo of the product I’m selling now, people get excited and their imaginations run wild with what they can do with it. However, it takes them to SEE it. Pictures don’t do it justice for obvious reasons. Instead, I’m going to try including a GIF where I can record a demo, and insert it as a picture into emails. I’m unsure if it’ll work, but it should be a quick and easy way to demo, while being educational.
How many free trials have you ever started and then never used again outside that first sign-up? How many free trials did you use, and then you were just floored by the value or what you could do that you signed up as a paid user? Or maybe you just continued your free account?
David Cummings just posted a post “Time to Wow” on his blog touching on free trials, and implicitly, their true purpose. In it, Cummings actually references another article by a blogger named David Skok — “Growth Hacking Free Trials: Time to Wow! is the key to success“.
So let me touch on this little subject with some anecdotal evidence:
- “Wow” can be facilitated with ease of set-up. I touched on the ability to quickly get set-up in “Who’s poised to profit in this fragmented, online dating world of startups?” But if you can get set up quick on a free trial, the easier and faster users can use and love your app. You can use things like social media sign-ins (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.), or being able to import pictures (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, etc.).
- Engaging, high quality, fun media can be Wowing. If you can bake into your free trial some engaging content like a tutorial that steps through your app to show some value, it can be engaging in showing high quality content while also helping your customers learn to use your product.
- Not all Wow is good. “Wow, this app is really big!” or “Wow, this product is confusing!” are obviously not good Wow moments. Simplicity in design can be a Wow in itself, or at least hedge the negative Wows.
- Is your free trial demonstrating your value? Free trials are tricky because the user(s) usually doesn’t have any skin in the game. Hence, free trials don’t always convert well. It’s implied in Cummings and Skok’s advice to potentially narrow down the Wow values sometimes to the core of your product/ service to get the buy-in quickly and explicitly.
- Track what you can effectively with free trials. Since users oftentimes have little skin in the game and can quickly end or switch to another competing product/ service, you should aim to capture as much detail as effectively possible, and make the trial better to up conversions. Track who signed up for the free trial, what did he/ she do within the free trial? Was there a hiccup? How can you reach out to help him/ her?
Converting prospects to free trials can be tough, and then converting from free trials to paid subscribers can be even tougher. Add to that, free trials are oftentimes the only chances you get with those prospects with today’s plethora of options in the market. Thus, you need to weigh the strategy of the free trial heavily. Get your Wow factor apparent to the user to engage them quickly. You’ll know ineffective trials when you aren’t converting to sales or if the users aren’t using the product more than a couple times during the free trial.