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Internet of Things, Brand Loyalty, CFO, Valuations, Pitching, Hiring, Failing, SaaS, Marketing, Product. Roundup #23 Nov 5 2014

SUM-ONLYThis week’s Roundup #23 from Startup Management is a manual selection of 14 article links from the hundreds of articles being curated. Previous issues are available here. For daily content, please visit the website’s River of news (as a stream), or Magazine view (by category).

Redefining Competition with Connected Products

If there’s one piece you’ll want to read, and re-read, this is the one: How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition by Michael Porter (yes, the Michael Porter) and James Heppelmann, published in the Harvard Business Review [sorry, they put the firewall after it was open in the first few days]. This is a seminal article in my opinion. It starts off slow, to get the readers up to speed on the subject of the Internet of Things, but then dives into the profound implications connected products have on the relationship between customers and companies, including startups. “In many companies, smart, connected products will force the fundamental question, What business am I in?”

Brand and Customer Loyalty

Content is part of marketing, hence we call it “content marketing”. Having loyal customers that advocate for you is also part of marketing, and that’s called “advocate marketing”. 3 articles on the many ways you can boost Customer Loyalty. In “How to Turn your Customers into Brand Fans”, the 3 highlighted examples for user-driven brand evangelism are GoPro, Tourism Australia and Betabrand. In Customer Loyalty Revisited, Jeffrey Minch has an exhaustive list of customer loyalty actions you can benefit from your best customer advocates, and he introduces the interesting concept of “customers in waiting”. And to top off this topic, Casey Winters wrote Loyalty Marketing Part I: Strategies and Segments. “Every business has a loyalty problem.” The article helps you segment your customers according to loyalty and frequency, and guides you with actions for each.

CFO, anyone?

As Mark MacLeod points out, not all startup CEOs get to the point where they need a real, full-time CFO. But for those that do, he has produced an excellent Slideshare primer that pins the basics of a CFO’s job, in The High Performance CFO. “The best CFOs will provide leverage to the CEO to help scale and sanity.”

The Psychology of Pitching

Yes, pitching is like playing with the mind of the investor. In The Art of the Pitch, Jason Nazar lists 9 points to follow. “Why have investors focused on your computer instead of you? You’re looking to build a relationship; you want investors engaged in an organic, authentic conversation.”

Company Valuations

Brad Feld asserts that your valuation is a relative thing, in The Trap of Relative Value. Indeed, over time the pendulum always swings back to the “right valuation”. An entrepreneur finds out later if they were over-valued, under-valued or right-valued. If they were under-valued, the upside is easier to achieve. If they were over-valued, the expectations are tougher, and they need to live-up to that valuation, and if they don’t, the next valuation will self-correct.

Hiring and Paying Employees

I didn’t find anything counterintuitive in A Counterintuitive System for Startup Compensation, a First Round Capital review post. But the article has an exhaustive list of good hiring practices and tactics which I have seen being utilized over the years by larger companies. Basically, consistency and transparent processes are the backbone of fair compensations and happy employees. And there’s a related Quora post, How do you distinguish 10X software engineers from the rest? It lists a few tricks. One of them: “don’t look at job boards (top candidates are never looking for jobs), and don’t rely on your HR staff for sourcing them.”

Product Strategy

“You manage a product by the principles that created it. Before you launch a product you design for the behavior you expect. After you launch you design for the behavior you get.”

Des Traynor gave this great talk about Product Strategy in A Growing Company. It’s a 27 min video that is well worth watching if you’re involved in product management or strategy.


There is a lot of wisdom in The 5 Early Mistakes That Almost Killed This Founder’s Startup — and How He Survived. “Speed and execution are not everything. Assessing the landscape to see the big picture is. Until you have your first few hundred thousand users, every feature you add must be an absolute necessity.” A must read.


Tomasz Tunguz outlines The 9 Marketing Disciplines of Great SaaS Companies, and they are: Ops & Analytics, Evangelism, Content, Website Conversion, Paid, Product Marketing, Customer Lifecycle, Communications and International. It’s a short article, but it will make you wonder if you have these categories covered.

SaaS and Products

Jason Lemkin has an excellent post that covers more than its title, If You Don’t Think You Need a VP of Product, VP of Marketing, Etc. — Then You Haven’t Worked With a Great One. He makes the important distinction between helping and moving the needle. It’s a lot easier to hire someone that helps. It’s more difficult to hire someone who will move the needle for you.

The Product Hook

Finally, Nir Eyal penned a good summary of the key concepts behind his book, Hooked, in Why Messaging Apps are so Addictive. The concepts of Trigger -> Action -> Reward -> Investment apply to any product.


Product/Market Fit, Competition, Marketing, Customer Development, Entrepreneurship, SaaS, Boards. Roundup #22 Oct 20 2014

SUM-ONLYAfter Product/Market Fit: Messaging, Positioning and Branding A lot can happen after Product/Market Fit. One of the key activities that gets elevated is Marketing. I wrote Get out of your building again, Part II, as a riff on Steve Blank’s Part I that focused on customer development. I posit that you need to get out of your building again, but this time, it’s for marketing outreach activities and to establish your physical presence where your customers and markets are. And to accentuate the importance of marketing, I published the outline of my next book on Startup Marketing. The title isn’t set yet, but it will cover Messaging, Positioning and Branding, 3 of the “non-analytical” parts of marketing, and ones that startups aren’t typically naturally good at. Truth is you don’t become a successful startup by not becoming a known brand along the way. Developing a Product that Users Want and Not Being Delusional In How to Predict Technology Flops, this Intercom blog digs up a CBInsights chart on the Top 10 Reasons Startups Fail, and not surprisingly, “No Market Need” is a distant first. The post continues by noting that you can segment technology’s impact and progress into 4 buckets: Breakthrough, Game Changer, Incremental and Disruptive. “What do all technology flops have in common? They failed to do a job for their customers.” In How to Avoid Delusional Thinking in Start-up Growth Strategy, one of my favorite entrepreneurs that write superbly well, Aaron Schildkrout has a great piece on Andrew Chen’s blog where he covers the reality of various growth levers: virality, press, bizdev, content, SEO, paid acquisition/direct marketing. Aaron ends with the power of “magical thinking”- noting that “the most important and powerful customer acquisition tactic is building a product that people love.” Complementing that CBInsights chart, Matthew Gallizzi dives deeper into each one of these 10 reasons, in How to Respect your Startup’s Context (and Grown Quicker), and tells you the gotchas to avoid. I like his multifaceted comparison of Confidence vs. Ego, e.g. “Confidence says: I’m valuable. Ego says: I’m invaluable.” Squeaky Wheel Wisdom for SaaS Churn Strategy Jason Lemkin advises: Don’t Fire Your “Worst” Customers. Hire Them a Psychiatrist Instead, because he has found “how little complaints are correlated to renewal rates and customer happiness.” That’s because the ones that churn are the quiet ones, and they leave without warning. Lean Startup Summarized in 12 Concepts If there was an executive summary to Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup book, Tren Griffin just wrote it via this blog post, A Dozen Things I’ve Learned from Eric Ries about Lean Startups (“Lattice of Mental Models” in VC), where he distills its essence without missing a beat of substance. Easy Board Meeting Slides If you agonize when preparing Board decks, here’s An Alternative to Board Decks Some Seed VCs Actually Prefer. This NextView Ventures post gives you a cookbook approach with templates you can use. Startup Lesson #8: Things that Don’t Scale Tips from DoorDash If you’re following YCombinator’s How to Start a Startup from Stanford University, they are at #8 now. This one is with Stanley Tang, founder of DoorDash (re-inventing local delivery), on Things that Don’t Scale. And you might even enjoy the annotated Genius version. On the subject of competition, I liked Stanley’s answer: “At the beginning consumer demand was never a problem, even up until now. So for us it’s just about finding a need and just focusing on serving that demand. At the beginning competition doesn’t really matter.” Thiel vs. Andreessen Well, actually it’s Thiel AND Andreessen. An insightful podcast of Marc Andreessen interviewing Peter Thiel, and it is peppered with wisdom and wit from both. Here’s a good quote I hadn’t heard before from Thiel, on the subject of managing teams: “Conflict happens when different people want to do the same thing, not different things. The challenge as a boss is to have people do different things. If you tell two people to do the same thing, you generate a fight out of nothing.” The Sign of a Great Entrepreneur Having been there, I know that entrepreneurs can be stubborn and dogmatic. But there comes a time when they need to listen and be influenced by actual feedback that is beneficial. In All the Great Entrepreneurs Make this Change, John Vrionis of Lightspeed Venture Partners observes that Great entrepreneurs begin the journey as passionate artistic visionaries who ignore the counsel of many, and then EVOLVE to become excellent LISTENERS who make refinements based on feedback. So, can you make the switch from visionary non-listener to a proactive listener and refiner?]]>

Competition, Marketing, Mentoring, Growth Hacking, Leadership, Sales, SaaS Metrics, Roundup#21 Dec 15 2013

Startup Management is a manual selection of 25 article links from the hundreds of articles being curated. Previous issues are available here. For daily content, please visit the website’s River of news (as a stream), or Magazine view (by category). My next update will have something to do with the end of the year. Also, I’ve got a number of upcoming important blog posts before the end of 2013.


The topic of competition for startups came back via two posts;  Competition from Rob Go, and Why I Don’t Stress Over Competition Anymore, by entrepreneur Alex Turnbull of Groove. Each post tackled a different aspect of dealing with the competition. Alex suggested not worrying about the competition, but dealing with it, and Rob says he likes to see startups that adopt a balanced view of the competition. I wrote a post on that topic, Treat the Competition Differently, Depending on Your Stage; outlining how you view the competition depends on the stage you’re in: idea, MVP, product/market fit, growth, scaling.


In Onboarding vs. Waterboarding, Matt Blumberg reminds us of the importance of employee on-boarding, especially the first 90 days, and even preparing for it, before Day 1. “Take onboarding much more seriously, and you’ll be astounded by the results.” “It’s important to get new hires engaged even before their first day.”


Mentoring entrepreneurs is a black art. This post by Sramana Mitra resonated with me, Mentoring Startups: 10 Lessons We Have Learned. It contains insights for mentors and mentees. “It is a complex exercise to give people a message that goes against the grain of media hype.

Virality and Growth Hacking

GrowthHackers.com has a two-part case study on Upworthy. Part I Upworthy — What Happens When a Growth Hacker Launches a Media Company, details some of the strategies that lead them to reach 88 million uniques per month. According to their secret sauce, the “sweet science of virality” includes 5 factors: 1) content, 2) framing, 3) Tech/UX, 4) data, and 5) luck. And Part II 88 Million Uniques, but Will it Kill Upworthy, discusses their dependence on Facebook, how they grew mobile, international markets, and the importance of the brand to maintain a sustainable business.

Growth Hacking in the Enterprise

In The Enterprise Hacker Rises, Tom Rikert from Andreessen Horowitz notes there is a new family of startups that is providing tools that can be used by enterprise hackers without technical backgrounds. Examples include GoodData, Zapier, Optimizely, Wise.io, SnapLogic, and Capriza.

Customer Feedback

In Five Ways to Learn Nothing from Your Customers’ Feedback, Rob Markey lists the 5 mistakes I have also seen myself while advising startups. It typically starts with this fundamental mistake: “Aggregate the feedback into scores, percentages, and averages — and stop there.


Kate Stull has a clearly written post for new and experienced managers, How to be a boss: a new manager’s guide to managing down. Some of the advice: “Get used to being the decision-maker, but don’t do it on your own. Never take the credit, always take the blame. Connect with people *as a manager*.”

User Experience

500Startups has an interview with Intuit Design strategist Leah Buley, Leah Buley on Design, Research and Business Strategy that includes some good advice on designing the user experience. “Great experiences are focused. To make great products, simplify.” “You are (probably) not your user. Imaging how you would use it is not enough.”

Working Remotely

Denis Duvauchelle of Twoodo highlights The most valuable lessons learned from managing a virtual team, noting there is a difference between “remote” and “distributed”. “In a remote team, there is a company office(s) where some team members are based full-time. A distributed team has no location base – everyone is in a different place.” He outlines 10 lessons for remote team management, and his journey from remote to distributed.

Customer Retention

In What happens right after sign-up makes or breaks any web product, Nate Munger lists 8 methods to think about, and questions to ask yourself. One of them is “progressive profiling”, a technique that LinkedIn, Facebook and Tumblr have employed.

Churn Management

Tomasz Tunguz has a post, How To Hire A Head Of Customer Success For Your Startup, where he emphasizes the importance of churn management. To materially reduce churn, the company must appoint someone who has the data access and the mandate within the organization to search for and identify causes of churn and the influence to enact change.” I agree with Tomasz that “data access” is key. This data is basically coming from the various SaaS systems, and there are solutions that allow you manage it [hint: Amity, Gainsight].


If you’re interviewing a candidate for a sales position, Jim Keenan says to look for the (smart) questions that candidates ask, in How to Know You’re Interviewing an “A” Player. These are point-blank questions, and they show the maturity and experience of the candidate. Must Read. And Mark Birch has a great framework for thinking about how to acquire sales leads, in Sales for Startups: Lead Acquisition, Source & Acquisition. He breaks it up into 3 buckets: Lead Acquisition, Lead Source, and Lead Execution. And Frank Beizer, author of Sales Shift outlines Why B2B Sales is Adopting a B2C Approach. The short answer? Inbound marketing! It is making more difficult and more lucrative at the same time.

Content Marketing

Just for the 2 graphics on Content Marketing metrics success for B2B and B2C, The Future of Content: Upcoming Trends in 2014 from The Moz Blog deserves to be read.


First Round Capital has a long post, How to Win as a First-Time Founder, a Drew Houston Manifesto that details Drew Houston’s journey and success. It’s a summary of a 57 min video that is included in the post.


There’s an excellent Slideshare presentation on The Modern Marketing Organizational Structure by Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, CMO at Mindjet in this post, One CMO’s advice for getting started with agile marketing. I liked this quote about the marketing operational philosophy: “Operate like consultants; Execute like scientists.” And Avinash Kaushik has a really good article, Digital Marketing and Analytics: Two Ladders For Magnificent Success. The charts and diagrams are magnificent, and lay out a clear evolution for digital marketing you will need to consider.

SaaS Metrics and Growth

Christoph Janz has a great post, The 8th DO for SaaS startups – Stay on top of your KPIs, with a useful table that outlines a list of key metrics for each of the 3 phases of evolution: 1) pre product/market fit, 2) post product/market fit, 3) post scale. If you think that calculating the CAC is easy, this post by Dave Kellog, The Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) Ratio: Another Subtle SaaS Metric lists the six issues to consider: months vs. years, customers vs. dollars, revenue on top vs. bottom, revenue vs. gross margin, the cost of customer success, and time periods of S&M. That SUMs it up! Don’t forget to share on Twitter,  add us to your Feedly, forward to a friend, follow on Twitter, read in Flipboard, or just visit the website often and daily. To sign-up, please click here. William Mougayar Founder & Chief Curator Startup Management]]>

Venture Capital, Entrepreneurship, Marc Andreessen, B2B, SaaS, Growth Hacking, User Experience – Roundup #20, Nov. 24 2013

Startup Management is a manual selection of 15 article links from the hundreds of weekly articles being curated. Previous issues are available here. For regular updates, please visit the website’s River of news (as a stream), or Magazine view (by category).

Venture Capital and Global Ecosystem

A lot of good articles this week in the Venture Capital and global Ecosystem categories. Rather than list them here, here are the direct links for these categories: Venture Capital and Ecosystem.

Marc Andreessen

Here’s a transcript of an insightful interview of Marc Andreessen by Andy Serwer of Fortune, Inside the mind of Marc Andreessen. Must read. He talks about the state of IPOs, building long lasting companies, disruptive models, the shared economy, and where advertising and marketing are going.

B2B Marketing

There is a certain grind to B2B marketing in the early stages of growth. In Five Content Marketing Growth Hacks for Enterprise Startups, Ross Simmonds outlines 5 of these activities: 1) Webinars, 2) Presentations, 3) Videos, 4) Case Studies, and 5) Content.

VC/Entrepreneur Relationship

Brad Feld says to Create Structure out of the Gate and You’ll Thank Yourself Later, via a guest post by Ari Newman, where they advocate to treat your early debt investors like board members and institute structured governance expectations from them.

Raising Venture Capital

Alex Turnbull, CEO/Founder of Groove has 5 questions you need to ask yourself prior to taking VC money, in Why I Turned Down $5 Million in VC Funding. Bottom line is that your goals and the VC’s need to be aligned. There’s a good discussion in the comment section of that post, and on USV.com.

Employee Equity

Andy Rachleff of Wealthfront had a long post in First Round Review, The Right Way to Grant Equity to your Employees, where he lays out a process, some principles and formula. Fred Wilson responded, mostly agreeing with Andy, but pointing to a difference in how equity is to be calculated, in Employee Equity.

Product Management

Top Hacks from a PM Behind Two of Tech’s Hottest Products from First Round Review is a long read, but contains some really good nuggets of practical advice in product management from Todd Jackson who worked for Mark Zuckerberg and managed the fine line between Mark’s vision demands and the product development realities. “You can’t leave any chance for misunderstanding, or for even one person to walk away from a meeting with different conclusions.” And “When engineers are motivated, even if they run into something they don’t know how to do, they’ll say, ‘We can totally figure this out. We’ve got this.


Ellen Gottesdiener and Mary Gorman explain How do you Turn Competing Stakeholders into Collaborating Product Partners. You’ll need to figure this out when you have customer partners, business partners and technology partners, each with diverging goals and priorities.

SaaS Strategy

There is a gem of a chart in this article by Indy Guha, The race for growth: Why SaaS marketers are feeling the pressure. Developed by Bain Capital Ventures, and named “The “Revenue Pit-Crew for Cloud Apps Growth”, the table breaks the key enterprise SaaS tools by the various needs and outcomes: 1) qualified leads, 2) initial buy experience, 3) churn reduction and upsell revenue, and 4) cash for growth management. Must read if you’re in the enterprise/SaaS market.

User Experience

How do you provide design feedback when a team gets together to review a product? Jake Knapp of Google Ventures has Nine Rules for Running Productive Design Critiques. Not surprisingly, tact is as important as substance. And Frank Guo says to Create Great UX in an Agile World by Conducting Lean UX Research, if you’d like to inject agility into the user experience process.

Growth Hacking

Brian Balfour outlines 3 phases of evolution in Traction vs. Growth. They are 1) Traction, 2) Transition, and 3) Growth. They correspond respectively to 1) product/market fit, 2) discovery growth levers, 3) turning up growth levers. It’s a great read, and includes the metrics you need to look at, for each phase.

Software Development Choices

Should you build mobile apps in native or cross-platform code? “40 percent of developers have started building native, only to switch to HTML5, and 31 percent have started building cross-platform, only to switch to native” says John Koetsier in HTML5 vs. native vs. hybrid mobile apps: 3,500 developers say all three, please. However, Ravi Pratap says there’s and alternative to responsive design, in Responsive Design vs. Adaptive Delivery: Which One’s Right for You? “With adaptive delivery, the most significant difference is that the server hosting the website detects the devices making requests to it, and uses this information to deliver different batches of HTML and CSS code based on the characteristics of the device that have been detected.” Finally, a third article from Abhay Parasnis on a related topic, Native, Web, Platform: What’s the best way to build a new app?, where he lays out the pros and cons of each approach, from a developer’s perspective. That SUMs it up! Don’t forget to share on Twitter,  add us to your Feedly, forward to a friend, follow on Twitter, read in Flipboard, or just visit the website often and daily. To sign-up, please click here. William Mougayar Founder & Chief Curator Startup Management]]>

Weekly Roundup #19, Competitive Analysis, Marketing, SaaS, Customer Loyalty, Product Management, CRM, Nov 15 2013

Startup Management is a manual selection from the hundreds of weekly articles being curated. Previous issues are available here. The content is on the thin side this week, as I’m being much more selective with the curation. We will stick with a weekly curated update, and not do a daily one. For regular updates, please visit the website’s River or Magazine view.


In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, a Zemanta blogger praises the book by the same name. These are: 1) Absence of Trust, 2) Fear of Conflict, 3) Lack of Commitment, 4) Avoidance of Accountability, and 5) Inattention to Results. The book goes through these, including action steps to overcome them. The fictional case study in the book is a tech company.

Competitive Analysis                

Tomasz Tunguz rebutted Steve Blank’s Company Competitive Analysis, in Why The Petal Diagram Isn’t The Best Competition Diagram For Startup’s Pitch. Tomasz says petal diagrams don’t communicate the startup’s unique way of competing in the market”. My opinion is that the form of the diagram doesn’t matter. What’s important is to know: a) how different you are from the competition (or incumbent), b) what position you want to occupy, and c) how you’ll get there.


Brian Balfour has a long post, Adapt Or Be Left Behind – How The Marketing World Is Changing, where he enumerates the several marketing channels and tactics that are currently hot and popular. You probably know most of them, but it’s a good checklist.

SaaS and CRM

Paul Philp of Amity says current CRM practices haven’t caught-up with the SaaS model, in The SaaS Industry Needs a Customer Relationship Revolution. SaaS is a soft offering, therefore requiring a customer cultivation approach across the various “soft” touch points.

Customer Loyalty

Want Happy Customers? Implement the 5-Visits-Plus-2-Badges Rule. For Your Customer Success Team — And You, says Jason Lemkin. The “5” stands for “Meet On-Site with 5 Customers a Month, Every Month, or 60x a Year”. Why? Because “you’ll learn which customers are actively using your product — but are unhappy and at risk. Attitudinal Customers are worth about 3x those who only use you because they are stuck with you.”

Product Management

In The Startup Method: A 6-step Process for New Feature Development, Ryan Glascow compares the “scientific method” to the “startup method” for new product and features development. It’s a good read, let alone for the comparison table that will give you a better appreciation for the agile, iterative methods that startups adopt. That SUMs it up! Don’t forget to share on Twitter,  add us to your Feedly, forward to a friend, follow on Twitter, read in Flipboard, or just visit the website often and daily. William Mougayar Founder & Chief Curator Startup Management]]>

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