CodeFest 2014. Brett Martin — Postmortem of a venture-backed Startup
Postmortem of a
Lessons learned from the rise and fall of @ Sonar
Brett Martin, @brett1211
Three time founder: “NewCo”,
@Sonar, Dataowl…Getting less
bad each time
Went to Dartmouth, worked on
Wall Street, won a Fulbright,
published by HBR and a bunch
of other things that don’t
Not actually 103
@Sonar by the #s
~$2,000,000 in Venture Capital
+300 press mentions (NYT, Time, CNN etc)
Dozens of awards (e.g. Ad:Tech best mobile startup)
Value today = $0
Metrics that matter
Culture is your cofounder
What kills startups
When to move on
P/M Fit: False positives
“I would use your product if only you had X feature” is
a dangerous signal to follow.
P/M Fit: False negatives
Removing friction from existing user behaviors
almost always has a higher ROI than building castles
in the sky.
P/M Fit: Metrics that matter
Know what metrics will be required to raise your next
Time Wasters: Events
Events are for research, business development, and
hiring; NOT for getting to 10,000,000 downloads.
Time Wasters: Brands
Be polite, but postpone brand and agency “intros”
until you’ve built your own audience. If you build it,
they will come (and pay).
Time Wasters: Side projects
You do not have 20% time. Identify your top three
priorities. Throw away numbers two and three.
Time Wasters: Competition
Be steady at the wheel. The only way one startup can
kill another startup is by getting into the other’s head
and leading them off a cliff.
Time Wasters: Selling the
Companies don’t get sold, they get bought. The best
way to get bought is to build something of value.
That’s hard to do when you are trying to sell.
Avoid bad relationships like the plague but when you
inevitably find yourself in a difficult partnership,
don’t waste precious energy wailing against it. Make it
work or move on quickly.
People: Be practical
Prove yourself by finding diamonds in the rough, like
People: Culture is your cofounder
Think of culture as a cofounder that is present when
you are not.
Onward: What really kills
Startups don’t die when they run out of money, they
die when their founders let go.
Onward: When to move on
Startups take 7-10 years. Life is short so choose wisely.
You ain’t beat if you don’t quit.