Managing Startups: Best Blog Posts

Book description

If you want salient advice about your startup, you’ve hit the jackpot with this book. Harvard Business School Professor Tom Eisenmann annually compiles the best posts from many blogs on technology startup management, primarily for the benefit of his students. This book makes his latest collection available to the broader entrepreneur community.

You’ll find 72 posts from successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, such as Fred Wilson, Steve Blank, Ash Maurya, Joel Spolsky, and Ben Yoskovitz. They cover a wide range of topics essential to your startup’s success, including:

  • Management tasks: Engineering, product management, marketing, sales, and business development
  • Organizational issues: Cofounder tensions, recruiting, and career planning
  • Funding: The latest developments in capital markets that affect startups

Divided into 13 areas of focus, the book’s contributors explore the metrics you need to run your startup, discuss lean prototyping techniques for hardware, identify costly outsourcing mistakes, provide practical tips on user acquisition, offer branding guidelines, and explain how a choir of angel investors often will sing different parts. And that’s just for starters.

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Table of contents

  1. Managing Startups: Best Blog Posts
  2. Preface
    1. Safari® Books Online
    2. How to Contact Us
  3. Foreword
  4. I. Lean Startup
    1. 1. How We Fooled Ourselves into Delaying Our Startup’s Launch
      1. Why Didn’t We Release an Early Prototype?
      2. The Excuses We Came Up With
      3. The Excuse I Didn’t Admit
      4. Lastly
    2. 2. How to Build It: Lean Prototyping Techniques for Hardware
      1. The Dollar Store
      2. Pen and Paper
      3. Computer Modeling
      4. 2D Cutting
      5. Additive Manufacturing
      6. CNC
      7. Molding and Fiberglass
      8. Welding
      9. Arduino
      10. User Feedback
        1. How I (Try to) Pick People for Feedback
      11. Summary
      12. Acknowledgments
    3. 3. How Many Metrics Do You Need to Run Your Startup?
      1. What’s Your OMTM?
    4. 4. The Lean Stack MVP—A Different Approach
      1. The Lean Stack Flow
        1. The Vision—Lean Canvas
        2. The Strategy—Strategy and Risks Board
        3. The Product—Validated Learning Board
          1. Question: How does one create a card for a product prior to conducting problem and solution interviews?
          2. Question: What is a minimum viable feature (MVF)? What is the relation to MVP? How does one know which one to use?
          3. Question: Can you explain the lifecycle of a product through the four stages on the board?
          4. Question: Where do you capture product and experiment details?
        4. The Lean Stack in Action
        5. Now It’s Your Turn
    5. 5. Software Inventory
    6. 6. How to Get Out of the Building with the Validation Board
      1. 1. The Exploration Method
        1. Techniques (in Decreasing Order of Cost and Quality of Data)
        2. Five Bonus Tips for Customer Development Interviews
        3. Bad Questions
        4. Good Questions
        5. Recording Data and Scoring
        6. Avoid a False Negative/Positive
      2. 2. The Pitch Method
        1. Forms of Pitch
        2. Forms of Currency
      3. 3. The Concierge Method
        1. Concierge Tools
  5. II. Business Models
    1. 7. MBA Mondays: Revenue Models—Commerce
    2. 8. Freemium Pricing for SaaS: Optimizing Paid Conversion Upgrades
    3. 9. Why Churn Is So Critical to Success in SaaS
      1. The Impact of Negative Churn
      2. How Do You Achieve Negative Churn?
      3. Same Sales Force for Expansion/Up-sell/Cross-sell?
      4. How to Track the Different Factors That Make Up Bookings
      5. When to Focus on Negative Churn?
      6. Tactics to Help Reduce Churn
      7. Managing Churn Is Harder if You Are Selling to Small Businesses
      8. How Churn Affects Valuation
    4. 10. Achieving the Network Effect: Solving the Chicken or the Egg
      1. Two Versions of the Chicken or the Egg
        1. Type #1: Platforms/Marketplaces
        2. Type #2: Communities/Social Networks
      2. Solving Platform and Marketplace Issues
      3. Solving Community and Social Network Issues
      4. Don’t Be Afraid of Brute Force
    5. 11. Reverse Network Effects: Why Scale May Be the Biggest Threat Facing Today’s Social Networks
      1. Network Effects and Value
      2. Why Network Effects Work in Reverse
        1. Reverse Network Effects: Connection
        2. Reverse Network Effects: Content
          1. Curation
          2. Personalization
        3. Reverse Network Effects: Clout
      3. In Conclusion
    6. 12. Business Model Canvas for Puppies (Part I)
      1. Puppies-as-a-Service
      2. Find a Wall
      3. Customer
      4. Value Proposition
      5. Relationship
      6. Channel
      7. Minimum Viable Product
      8. The End?
  6. III. Customer Discovery and Validation
    1. 13. All Customers Are Not Created Equal
      1. Part I
        1. Consumers
        2. Small and Mid-Sized Non-Technology Businesses
        3. Technology Startups
      2. Part II
        1. Large Enterprise Customers
        2. Existing Customers
    2. 14. You Shouldn’t Use a Survey If...
    3. 15. A Perfect Use for Personas
      1. The Business Person
      2. The Barfly
      3. The Group Luncher
      4. And the Rest...
      5. Postscript
    4. 16. Fucking Ship It Already: Just Not to Everyone at Once
      1. The Interactive Mockup
      2. The Opt In
      3. The Opt Out
      4. The n% Rollout
      5. The New User Rollout
    5. 17. Stop Validating Your Product
      1. Validate a Problem
      2. Solve a Problem for a Particular Market
      3. The Easiest Kind of Customer Development
    6. 18. Using Surveys to Validate Key Startup Decisions
      1. Introduction
      2. Background
      3. So How Do You Get Quality Feedback?
        1. Learning About Your Own Customers
        2. Learning About Potential Customers
      4. Using a Survey and a Targeted Audience to Make Smart Decisions
        1. Create Clear Objectives
        2. Determine Your Target Audience—Who Do You Want to Survey?
      5. Create a Great Survey—Turning Key Objectives into Great Questions
        1. Modify Survey Questions:
      6. Uncovering Critical Insights
        1. Actionable Insights for Modify
          1. Objective: Understand pricing
          2. Objective: Identify demographics of Modify’s target customers
            1. Key demographic insights
          3. Objective: Understand if a subscription option is viable
          4. Objective: Understand market sizing
      7. Putting Results into Action
        1. Pricing
        2. Brand Recognition
        3. Demographics
        4. Subscription Viability
        5. Market Sizing
      8. Conclusion
  7. IV. Marketing: Demand Generation and Optimization
    1. 19. Very Basic Startup Marketing
      1. Marketing as a Funnel
        1. Awareness: How People First Hear About Your Company
        2. Conversion: Getting People Who Are Aware to Take Action
        3. Raving Fans: Getting Customers to Love You and Be Evangelists
      2. Marketing as Understanding
      3. Marketing as a Cycle
    2. 20. The Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing
      1. Foundation
        1. 1. Choosing a Market
        2. 2. Defining Keywords
        3. 3. Defining Success
        4. 4. Setting Core Metrics
        5. 5. Estimating a Conversion Rate
        6. 6. Setting a Budget
      2. Social Media
        1. 1. Choosing the Right Social Media Networks
        2. 2. Defining the Best Times to Post
        3. 3. Using a Keyword List
        4. 4. Creating and Using an Influencer List
        5. 5. Setting Up a Blog
      3. Startup PR
        1. 1. Craft Meaningful Positioning Statements
        2. 2. Define Your Startup Sensitivities
        3. 3. Identifying the Right Writers for a Media List
        4. 4. Creating a Press Kit
        5. 5. Reaching Out to Journalists
      4. Content Creation
        1. 1. Creating a Topic List
        2. 2. Knowing What Types of Content to Publish
        3. 3. Guest Blogging
        4. 4. Capturing Emails
      5. Test and Iterate
        1. 1. Setting Up Analytics Tools
        2. 2. Measuring Against Benchmarks
        3. 3. Brainstorming Creative New Ideas
      6. Best Practices
        1. 1. Sell the Solution
        2. 2. Have a Compelling Story
        3. 3. Use All Your Resources
      7. Conclusion
    3. 21. What the Highest-Converting Websites Do Differently
      1. 1. They Make Their Unique Value Proposition(s) Clear
      2. 2. They Test Their Calls to Action
        1. How Do You Find Out What Questions Your Customers Have?
      3. 3. They Test Their Headlines
      4. 4. They Tend To Have Short Forms
        1. Test the Number of Form Fields
        2. Other Techniques to Try
    4. 22. Understanding the Customer Buying Cycle and Triggers
      1. The Customer Buying Cycle
      2. How the Buying Cycle Impacts the Sales Approach Needed
        1. What’s the Difference?
        2. How Do You Adapt Marketing to a Buyer’s Stage in the Cycle?
        3. What Do You Do with Visitors That Are Not Ready to Buy? (Lead Nurturing)
        4. How Online Lead Sources Relate to the Customer Buying Cycle
      3. Understanding Buying Triggers
        1. Working with Triggers to Improve Marketing
          1. 1 & 2. Identify the Personas that buy, and their specific triggers
          2. 3. Build trigger-specific messaging and content
          3. 4. Look to see if you can create the trigger, or help a customer realize a trigger has happened
      4. Encountering a Customer Too Late in the Buying Cycle
      5. Conclusions
    5. 23. Building It Is Not Enough: Five Practical Tips on User Acquisition
      1. If You Build It, They May Not Come
        1. 1. Do Not Test a Lot of Channels at Once
        2. 2. Diversity of Channels Is Not Important in the Early Stage
        3. 3. Paying for Users Is Okay
        4. 4. You Only Need Three Tools to Test Your Customer Acquisition Channels
        5. 5. Avoid the Button Color A/B Testing Rabbit Hole
    6. 24. Introduction to A/B Testing for Landing Pages
      1. Improperly Segmenting Traffic
      2. Misunderstanding Randomness
      3. Mixing Experiment Factors
      4. Data Dredging
      5. Comparing the Results of Different and Unrelated Experiments
      6. Inconsistent or Unimportant Metrics
      7. Naïve Analysis of Results
      8. Substituting Testing for Creativity and Common Sense
      9. Make It Easy on Your Developers
    7. 25. You Built It But They Didn’t Come: Eight Tricks for Marketing Your Mobile App
      1. Build a Great App
      2. Get Great Reviews
      3. Build in Social
      4. Pitch, Pitch, Pitch (and Then Pitch Some More)
      5. SEO Your App Description
      6. Be Free, Freemium, Cheap...
      7. If All Else Fails, Advertise
      8. If All Else *Really* Fails, Buy Users to Get in the Top App Lists
  8. V. Sales, Marketing, and PR Management
    1. 26. At Times Not Losing Is as Important as Winning
      1. Customer Validation
      2. They Have a Problem and Know It
      3. A Match Made in Heaven
      4. The CIO
      5. The IT Revolt
      6. We’re Going to Lose
      7. The Third Way
      8. The “Take-Away” Gambit
      9. Lessons Learned
    2. 27. Nine Ways to Make Your Startup Grow Virally
        1. Get Your Users to Spread the Word
        2. Increasing Conversion
      1. Conclusion
    3. 28. Our PR Stinks: Here’s What Your Startup Can Learn from It
      1. The Familiar Doubt
      2. How Did We Solve the First Problem of Filling the Platform?
      3. Growth
      4. The Big Guys
      5. Our PR Still Stank
      6. How, Exactly, Did We Manage to Grow?
      7. What Were Our End Results with PR?
      8. What Were Our End Results with Content Marketing?
      9. At This Point in Time, Our PR Still Sucks
      10. The Fate of Your Brand
    4. 29. Some Tips for Interacting with the Press
    5. 30. Startup Branding: A Practical Guide for Entrepreneurs
          1. 1. What does startup branding really mean for an early-stage company? Is it just picking a name and a logo?
          2. 2. Any favorite startup examples that you think are particularly clueful about brand and drawing out the right emotional response?
          3. 3. Speaking of names, how do I pick a great name for my startup? Does it really matter all that much?
          4. 4. What about logos? Can I just hack something together? Use a crowdsourcing service like 99designs? Or is that a waste of time?
          5. 5. Any tips on where to find a great freelance designer for a startup logo? And what would you consider reasonably priced?
          6. 6. How do I decide what category my startup falls into? Is it better to find an existing category, or blaze the trail of a new one?
          7. 7. How much does good branding matter when trying to raise capital? Is smart money really fooled by that kind of thing? Will I look foolish for having invested in branding?
  9. VI. Product Management/Product Design
    1. 31. Sometimes It’s Not the Change They Hate
      1. Did You Do Any Sort of User Testing Before Launch?
      2. Did You Test with Current Users or Just New Ones?
      3. Did You Add Something Useful to Users? Really?
      4. Do You Mind Losing a Portion of Your Users?
      5. Have You Honestly Listened to Your Users’ Complaints?
      6. Have You “Fixed” the Problem by Letting Users Change Settings?
    2. 32. What You Will/Won’t Learn from Usability Testing
    3. 33. Product Marketing Contribution
      1. The Problem
      2. The Job
      3. Product Marketing Responsibilities
      4. What to Do?
    4. 34. Time-Boxing Product Discovery
    5. 35. Product Management Then and Now
          1. Organization:
          2. Education:
          3. Spends days:
          4. Learns about customer behavior:
          5. Makes case for project funding based on:
          6. Reads:
          7. Deep knowledge in:
          8. Loves:
          9. Sits with:
          10. When things don’t go well:
          11. Strives to please:
          12. Makes decisions based on:
          13. Communicates with stakeholders:
          14. Attitude:
          15. Worries about:
          16. Secret weapon:
          17. Strives to create:
    6. 36. Live-Data Prototypes Versus Production
    7. 37. Continuous Discovery
    8. 38. The Role of Product Managers
    9. 39. Why Companies Should Have Product Editors, Not Product Managers
      1. Product Manager: One of the Toughest and Worst-Defined Jobs in Tech
      2. Bad Ideas Are Often Good Ideas That Don’t Fit
      3. Jack Dorsey in His Own Words
      4. Lead with Product
    10. 40. Five Outsourcing Mistakes That Will Kill Your Startup
      1. Mistake #1: Outsourcing Something That Shouldn’t Be Outsourced
      2. Mistake #2: Not Sufficiently Vetting Your Staff
      3. Mistake #3: Hiring Based on Technical Skills Rather than English Proficiency
      4. Mistake #4: Insufficient Management
      5. Mistake #5: Failure to Award Responsibility and Reward Good Work
      6. Conclusion
  10. VII. Business Development and Scaling
    1. 41. Who You Gonna Call? Partnering with Goliath: A Tale of Two Announcements
      1. Time to Find a Partner
        1. The Right Partner
        2. Mission Clarity
        3. Behind the Headlines—A Deal with Teeth
        4. Goliath Delivers...
        5. ... With a Little Help from His Friend
      2. In Summary
    2. 42. A Recipe for Growth: Adding Layers to the Cake
  11. VIII. Funding Strategy
    1. 43. Micro-VCs and Super Angels Two Years Later: Looking Back and Some Predictions for the Future
      1. The Dedicated Seed Strategy Continues to Have Strong Benefits
      2. Evolving and Converging Strategies
      3. A New Normal?
      4. A Few Predictions
    2. 44. Why Do VCs Have Ownership Targets? And Why 20%?
    3. 45. How to Evaluate Firms for a Seed VC Syndicate
    4. 46. A Choir of Angel Investors Sing Different Parts
    5. 47. Super Pro-Rata Rights Aren’t Super
  12. IX. Company Culture, Organizational Structure, Recruiting, and Other HR Issues
    1. 48. Getting Promoted Too Quickly
    2. 49. Recruiting Developers? Create an Awesome Candidate Experience
      1. Ideas for Creating an Awesome Candidate Experience (CX)
    3. 50. Startups: Stop Trying to Hire Ninja-Rockstar Engineers
    4. 51. How to Hire Hackers: A Realistic Guide for Startups
      1. You’re a Startup—Have the Founders Make the First Contact
      2. Interviewing: It’s Not Just About the Role, It’s Also About Who They Will Have Lunch With
      3. Interviewing: Choose Carefully Which Opportunity to Pitch
      4. Signing: How to Make Candidates Sign an Employment Agreement More Quickly
        1. How to Hear “No” and How to Say “No”
    5. 52. MBA Mondays: Best Hiring Practices
    6. 53. How to Design a Successful Interview Process for Hiring Top Talent
      1. 1. Reviewing Resumes
      2. 2. Screening Candidates
      3. 3. First In-Person Interview (with me)
      4. 4. Second In-Person Interview (with Fred)
      5. 5. Third In-Person Interview (with the team)
      6. 6. The Practical
      7. 7. The Post-Practical
      8. Conclusions
    7. 54. Snake-Oil Startup Recruiting
    8. 55. Recruiting and Culture (MBA Mondays Guest Post)
      1. Make Recruiting a Top Priority at the CEO Level
      2. Communicate the Company Vision Broadly and Directly
      3. Challenge Traditional Notions of Corporate Transparency
      4. Be Patient: “Slow Recruiting”
      5. Open-Source Your Culture: Generosity of Spirit
      6. Cultivate the Spirit of the Organization
    9. 56. Firing
    10. 57. MBA Mondays: Asking an Employee to Leave the Company
    11. 58. The Board of Directors—Selecting, Electing, and Evolving
  13. X. Startup Failure
    1. 59. What Goes Wrong
      1. Determination
      2. Variety of Problems
      3. Cofounder Disputes
      4. Investors
      5. Distractions
      6. HR Acquisitions
      7. Making Something People Want Is Hard
      8. Roller Coaster
      9. Hard, But Not Impossible
    2. 60. Why Startups Die
      1. Post Mortems
      2. How to Survive
  14. XI. Exiting by Selling Your Company
    1. 61. The Economic Logic Behind Tech and Talent Acquisitions
    2. 62. Knowing Where the Exits Are
      1. Taking the Exit
      2. “Your Best Exit May Be Behind You”
      3. Stepping Back from the Fray: November 2005
      4. Stepping Back from the Fray: February 2007
  15. XII. The Startup Mindset and Coping with Startup Pressures
    1. 63. What It’s Like to Be the CEO: Revelations and Reflections
      1. What It Feels Like to Be the CEO of a Startup
      2. Epilogue
    2. 64. How We Fight—Cofounders in Love and War
      1. Introduction
      2. How We Fight
        1. Taking Time
        2. Simulating Real Life
        3. What Are You Fighting About?
    3. 65. Vision Versus Hallucination—Founders and Pivots
      1. A Pivot a Week
      2. Pivot as an Excuse
      3. Sit on It for Awhile
      4. Change the Value Proposition Last
      5. Find a Brainstorm Buddy
      6. Lessons Learned
    4. 66. 50 Startup Lessons Learned in 12 Months
    5. 67. Advice I Wish I Could Have Given Myself Five Years Ago
    6. 68. The Only Two Questions Founders Need to Answer
      1. Do You Need to Pass These Tests to Succeed?
      2. When I Passed These Tests and When I Failed
    7. 69. Once You Take Money, the Clock Starts Ticking
    8. 70. The Series A Crunch Survivor’s Guide
      1. 1. Your Team Lacks a Track Record
      2. 2. Your Product Execution Is Not Competitive with Other Products Investors Are Seeing
      3. 3. You Lack Product Traction
      4. 4. The Market You’re Addressing Is Not Big or “Important” Enough
      5. 5. You’re Fishing in a Recently Poisoned Pond (e.g., the Deal Space Pioneered by Groupon)
      6. 6. Your Valuation Doesn’t Match Reality
      7. 7. Your Burn Is Unjustified, Scary, or Lacks Discipline
      8. 8. You Lack Clients
  16. XIII. Management and Career Advice
    1. 71. Selling or Funding a Startup? Tips on Surviving Technical Due Diligence
      1. Be Better Prepared for Technical Due Diligence
      2. Vitality
      3. Scalability
      4. Maintainability
      5. Continuity
      6. In Conclusion
    2. 72. Playbook for Incoming MBAs to Start a Company out of School
    3. 73. Manage Your Tech Career
      1. How to Use the Tool
      2. Find the Right Company (or Pie)
      3. Get What’s Fair, but Don’t Negotiate Too Much
      4. The Bottom Line
    4. 74. Hey Entrepreneur—Please Get an MBA
      1. 1. What You Actually Learn
      2. 2. Tuition Costs
      3. 3. Time Commitment
      4. 4. The Wrong Network
      5. 5. Many MBAs Choose Not to Start Businesses (and Who Gives a Shit?)
      6. My Suggestion
    5. 75. Why I Left Consulting and Joined a Startup
  17. Colophon
  18. Copyright

Product information

  • Title: Managing Startups: Best Blog Posts
  • Author(s): Thomas Eisenmann
  • Release date: May 2013
  • Publisher(s): O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  • ISBN: 9781449370497