“Social Proof is Not Proof”       Michael Wolfe www.about.me/michaelrwolfe      @michaelrwolfe
Now *this* is a tough crowd                     I didn’t know you were such                              an EPIC FAIL     ...
May 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt
TeamOur Investors & Board:Our Experience:
 COMPELLING TEAM • Three previous startups – all had big exits • Cohesive, strong team, B2B experience • Great board and ...
Solving “the email problem”
The workplace still runs like this!
 COMPELLING TEAM BIG PROBLEM • Universal • Well-understood • Hitting a breaking point
Made the finals
Got press and awards                       “The CEO Michael Wolfe is a proven                       winner along with his ...
 COMPELLING TEAM + BIG PROBLEM + SOCIAL PROOF                    == WIN?
Four months later . . .      Wut went      wrong?
Let’s go back to summer 2010        • Entrepreneur in Residence at Benchmark        • Was working on new company ideas    ...
Looked at the usual suspectsThey gave up and built a homegrown system based          on mailboxes and wiki pages
“Enterprise 2.0 from your inbox”GOAL: build a collaboration solution that people willactually use• Embrace email, don’t co...
The Plan• Raise some money                          TEAM fail• Build small team                          VALIDATION fail• ...
TEAM           Awesome engineering teamMike took on customer validation, sales, marketing,   finance, product management, ...
TEAM fail – no “hustler”       “HUSTLER”
TEAM lesson    If you fail, it will be because you don’t reach    product/market fit and don’t get customers  So, someone ...
VALIDATION         Is email overload a              problem?                                   Yup        Do you live out ...
VALIDATION fail  We validated the problem but not the solution  Overbuilt the MVP - we thought we needed clear    differen...
VALIDATION lessons         You aren’t doing it enough               No, you aren’t          Stop it, you really aren’t    ...
VALUE fail “Enterprise 2.0 value proposition:   – Get more done   – Find information   – Discover experts   – Build reputa...
The VALUE degrees of difficulty       “HARD “   VALUE PROP             Get        Winners customers, grow        revenueCo...
VALUE lessons      We focused on adoptability, not value  Wasn’t new and different enough – not “10x”          better than...
SMART MAILING LISTS• Easy to create and grow• Capture documents and discussions• Find content, discover experts• Social an...
PRODUCT fail People “liked” our product, but we didn’t get “love”   OK to have haters as long as you have lovers Needed cr...
Then, to add insult to injury
SOCIAL PROOF fail                                   (Smart people involved. I  “I have an idea I want to run   guess they ...
Things we did well                 Pivoted decisively      Great support from board and investors                  Team co...
Knowledge has been dropped:Don’t get distracted by who has SOCIAL PROOF and                     who doesn’t Diverse TEAM, ...
“Social Proof is Not Proof”       Michael Wolfe www.about.me/michaelrwolfe      @michaelrwolfe
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Failcon 2012

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This is a presentation I did at Failcon 2012 in San Francisco, It tells the story of ccLoop, a startup I founded in 2010.

ccLoop was my fourth startup. The first three found large markets and did well, but this one did not.

I discussed a few topics including:
- Getting the right founding team.
- Solving a problem that customers care dearly about.
- Building a product the customer can't live without.
- Knowing when to pivot and when to persevere.
- Not getting wrapped up into PR and worrying about which startups have "social proof" and which don't.

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  • “… and it’s this”
  • And it’s really … stupid
  • And it’s really … stupid
  • I like monkeys!
  • Failcon 2012

    1. 1. “Social Proof is Not Proof” Michael Wolfe www.about.me/michaelrwolfe @michaelrwolfe
    2. 2. Now *this* is a tough crowd I didn’t know you were such an EPIC FAIL Do you win the conference by being the biggest FAIL? I hope your presentation isn’t a FAIL!
    3. 3. May 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt
    4. 4. TeamOur Investors & Board:Our Experience:
    5. 5.  COMPELLING TEAM • Three previous startups – all had big exits • Cohesive, strong team, B2B experience • Great board and advisors
    6. 6. Solving “the email problem”
    7. 7. The workplace still runs like this!
    8. 8.  COMPELLING TEAM BIG PROBLEM • Universal • Well-understood • Hitting a breaking point
    9. 9. Made the finals
    10. 10. Got press and awards “The CEO Michael Wolfe is a proven winner along with his backers at Benchmark. This is a natural idea and opportunity with very long legs.” - NextUp Research
    11. 11.  COMPELLING TEAM + BIG PROBLEM + SOCIAL PROOF == WIN?
    12. 12. Four months later . . . Wut went wrong?
    13. 13. Let’s go back to summer 2010 • Entrepreneur in Residence at Benchmark • Was working on new company ideas • Intrigued by the collaboration market • Co-founder/CEO at Vontu with Mike • Now is a Partner at Greylock • Was working on a photo-sharing company
    14. 14. Looked at the usual suspectsThey gave up and built a homegrown system based on mailboxes and wiki pages
    15. 15. “Enterprise 2.0 from your inbox”GOAL: build a collaboration solution that people willactually use• Embrace email, don’t compete with it• Zero friction to become a user• Great UI, search, social features• Viral and freemium
    16. 16. The Plan• Raise some money TEAM fail• Build small team VALIDATION fail• Customer validation VALUE fail• MVP, iterate, iterate PRODUCT fail• Product/market fit SOCIAL PROOF fail• Profit!
    17. 17. TEAM Awesome engineering teamMike took on customer validation, sales, marketing, finance, product management, financing, etc.
    18. 18. TEAM fail – no “hustler” “HUSTLER”
    19. 19. TEAM lesson If you fail, it will be because you don’t reach product/market fit and don’t get customers So, someone on your team should be great at and work on only that It is not a part time job An engineering team is not a company
    20. 20. VALIDATION Is email overload a problem? Yup Do you live out of your inbox? Yup You aren’t happy with the tools you’ve tried? Yup Would you try this? Yup
    21. 21. VALIDATION fail We validated the problem but not the solution Overbuilt the MVP - we thought we needed clear differentiation. Should have got it out sooner “We talked to some customers” is not validation
    22. 22. VALIDATION lessons You aren’t doing it enough No, you aren’t Stop it, you really aren’t No, shut up
    23. 23. VALUE fail “Enterprise 2.0 value proposition: – Get more done – Find information – Discover experts – Build reputation and relationships – Be happy The “soft” value prop NO BUDGET. NO URGENCY. NO ONE
    24. 24. The VALUE degrees of difficulty “HARD “ VALUE PROP Get Winners customers, grow revenueCompliance, secu rity, cost savingsProductivity, collaboration, employe e satisfaction Loserville “SOFT “ VALUE PROP Email Web Saas Cloud Social Mobile OLD TECH NEW TECH
    25. 25. VALUE lessons We focused on adoptability, not value Wasn’t new and different enough – not “10x” better than the alternatives This is why the collaboration market is so hard And why so many email startups fail
    26. 26. SMART MAILING LISTS• Easy to create and grow• Capture documents and discussions• Find content, discover experts• Social and viral
    27. 27. PRODUCT fail People “liked” our product, but we didn’t get “love” OK to have haters as long as you have lovers Needed critical mass of usage to provide value, but without value couldn’t attract critical massEarly adopter market overlapped with Google’s install base
    28. 28. Then, to add insult to injury
    29. 29. SOCIAL PROOF fail (Smart people involved. I “I have an idea I want to run guess they know what they by you” are doing) “Sounds great” (People love my idea!) “Let me tell you about my (Wow, Mike sounds really great idea!” excited about this) “Sure, we’ll try it” (Everyone loves it!). “This thing is happening!” “Can I invest?”
    30. 30. Things we did well Pivoted decisively Great support from board and investors Team cohesion Selected a new project (Pipewise) with a lower “degree of difficulty”
    31. 31. Knowledge has been dropped:Don’t get distracted by who has SOCIAL PROOF and who doesn’t Diverse TEAM, VALIDATE the idea, leverage larger waves to add VALUE Follow your gut – you know the right thing to do Go and do it. Questions?
    32. 32. “Social Proof is Not Proof” Michael Wolfe www.about.me/michaelrwolfe @michaelrwolfe

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