Contradictory Startup Advice...and How to Navigate It
Contradictory Startup Advice…and how to navigate it Christina A. Brodbeck (@jellyfishbloom), Co-Founder/CEO of theicebreak An awesome iPhone app and Web site for couples.
Advisors People on FB/Twitter Partners Investors Lawyers Users Board Testers IntrosCo-Founders Journalists Employees Uncle Sam PR Bf/Gf/Wife/Husband/Time to find one… Before you had 1 boss. Now you have tens, hundreds, thousands, and if things go really well…millions. And they all have advice.
A lot of this advice is contradictory,which can make you feel like stoppingin the wrong place and giving up.
Advice like….raise more moneythan you need or raise just enough
Like….monetize first or get to knowyour customer first
Like….focus first on highengagement or massive growth
Like….too much competition orit’s an unproven market
Like….launch quickly and iterate orget it perfect first
Like….we invest in the person butwe don’t fund single founders
Like….pay attention to the competitionor don’t worry about competition
Like….get out there and network orjust focus on building
Like….you need PR or your productwill speak for itself
This can all be maddening! Both areright, but there is a middle ground.
The Middle Ground [More Advice]• Your journey is different than anyone else’s, so listen to advice, but make up your own rules and follow those. You are your own middle ground.• Know your story and tell it well. This is what will convince customers, investors, advisors, new employees. This is your most valuable asset. Spend time thinking and developing it.• You are your best PR person. It’s all about relationships. If you can, start cultivating them at least 1 year out before launch. If you don’t have a year, start now.• Offer journalists something. Write up an idea or skeleton and send it to them. Offer to guest post. Also, be real; don’t “use” journalists - they are nice people.• Hiring a PR firm too early can bankrupt you. If you do have to hire them, hire them AFTER you’ve got your story down.
• When working with a PR firm, set milestones. If you’re less than 6 months old and not big yet, you can’t afford a retainer. Do a short term milestone-based contract instead (i.e. get in 3 outlets for launch).• Your blog will get no traffic at first, and no one will likely know of you. Reach out to influencers in your space with large twitter and blog followings, and make them a part of your family/company. Have them write on their blogs and accounts about you. Their blogs get more views than yours.• If you’re a “normal” consumer brand, tech press is good for raising capital, but not necessarily for acquiring users. Do some tech press to build buzz, but then move quickly to focus on outlets where your users actually go.• Focus heavily on engagement during private beta. Then focus on growth as soon as you publicly launch. That way you don’t waste initial “live” time on engagement.
• It’s hard to raise money as a single co-founder unless you’re a rockstar. Most people aren’t rockstars• You need someone to bounce ideas off of. Until you find a co- founder, build an advisory board of people with the skills you want in your co-founder. Fill your advisory board with people who have the skillset your team lacks.• Getting a product built is the most important thing, so to balance product building with relationship building go to 1 event per week pre-launch while focusing on building. After launch, go to at least 2/week for the first 6 months to focus on creating awareness.• Offer to speak and volunteer at events and conferences. It’s cheap PR.• Don’t raise money until you have the core founding team in place, know you work well together, and are sure of their commitment. Ideas change, people don’t.
• Make sure when you do your first serious, structured raise that you try to raise at least enough for 14 months of runway. Not too much, not too little.• Have an idea before you raise how far you want to take your company. Do you want to get acquired or do you want to go all out and IPO? Raise accordingly. Raise too much $ and you can limit quick acquisition potential.• Paying too much attention to competition can paralyze you. You don’t have to proactively and religiously read industry news. Instead, subscribe to 50 important people in your field, and follow them. You’ll get most of the news you need.• Social proof exists. It’s a fact. Build your profile early on Angelist, but you don’t have to promote it until you have one big investor onboard who can bring others in.
• The more new and innovative the thing you are doing, the harder you make it for yourself. If you’re the first ones out there, it can be harder to get funding until other tag-alongs appear and make noise.• Don’t build a product that you’re not a super user of. Build with passion.• Get one major thing perfect, but not everything for launch. This way you can launch quickly, and have at least the best part of the site feel seamless. Fix the rest and the odds and ends as the site grows.• You lead the ship and have the vision, but let your user’s and usability testing results guide the way.• You can test even without a product. Talk to your target demographic early. Bounce ideas off of people from the get-go. Get off your computer and talk to people. Talk to your would-be super users about your idea early.
• You can user test anywhere (i.e. make paper mocks and go to a coffee shop and set up a sign that says “will buy you a cup of coffee if you test my product”)• $25 Visa gift cards are your best friend for usability testing. They have an automatic record (your credit card log, and fewer receipts to be lost).
Christina A. Brodbeck, @jellyfishbloomCo-Founder/CEO of theicebreakAn awesome iPhone app and Web sitefor couples.It was originally given as a talk @FundersFoundersThe topic of this presentation was inspired byMark Ferlatte (@ferlatte) andEverrett Harper (@everettharper).