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Ten Nuggets of Advice for Tech Startups

My talk at Entrepreneurs Roundtable with advice for tech startups.

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Ten Nuggets of Advice for Tech Startups

  1. 1. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion Dan Olsen, CEO, YourVersionDan Olsen, CEO, YourVersion Entrepreneurs RoundtableEntrepreneurs Roundtable January 28, 2011January 28, 2011 Ten Nuggets of Advice for Tech Startups
  2. 2. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion My Background Technical + Business/Marketing (EE + MBA) 19 years of Product Management Experience 5 years at Intuit, led Quicken Product Management Cofounded consumer web startup in Madrid, Spain Led Product Management at Friendster PM consultant to startups:, YouSendIt, Epocrates CEO & Cofounder of YourVersion, startup building  “Pandora for your real‐time web content” Won TechCrunch50 People’s Choice Awards Website + browser tools + apps for iPad, iPhone, Android Will post slides to
  3. 3. 1. Focus on the Customer Problem First
  4. 4. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion Russians: pencil NASA: space pen ($1 M R&D cost) Example: Ability to write in space  (zero gravity) Problem Space vs. Solution Space Problem Space A customer problem,  need, or benefit that the  product should address A product requirement Solution Space A specific  implementation to  address the need or  product requirement
  5. 5. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion Iterating Your Product Vector Based on  User Feedback in Solution Space Problem Space (your mental model) Solution Space (what users can react to) Help user book travel Help user plan travel Customer Feedback Mockups / Code
  6. 6. 2. Go After a Big Opportunity
  7. 7. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion High Importance + Low Satisfaction = OpportunityImportance of User NeedImportance of User Need User Satisfaction with Current AlternativesUser Satisfaction with Current Alternatives Competitive Market Opportunity LowLow HighHigh LowLow HighHigh Not Worth Going After
  8. 8. 3. How Will Your Product be Better?
  9. 9. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion Kano Model: User Needs & Satisfaction User SatisfactionUser Satisfaction User DissatisfactionUser Dissatisfaction Performance  (more is better) Delighter (wow) NeedNeed not metnot met NeedNeed fully metfully met Must Have Needs & features  migrate over time
  10. 10. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion What is Your Value Proposition? Which user benefits are you providing? How are you better than competitors? Competitor A Competitor B You Must Have Benefit 1 Y Y Y Performance Benefit 1 High Low Med Performance Benefit 2 Low High Low Performance Benefit 3 Med Med High Delighter Benefit 1 Y ‐ ‐ Delighter Benefit 2 ‐ ‐ Y
  11. 11. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion 4. Design & Ease of Use Are Critical4. Design & Ease of Use Are Critical Visual Design Interaction Design Information Architecture Conceptual Design Recommended reading: Jesse James Garrett’s “Elements of User Experience” chart, free at What most people see and react to What good product people think about
  12. 12. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion 5. Prioritize and Stay Focused Limited resources 10 high priorities = FAIL What’s most important? Manage scope Avoid feature creep Bread down big items Strategy = deciding what  you’re not going to do Must say “no”
  13. 13. 6. Launch so you can Learn & Iterate
  14. 14. 7. Listen to Your Customers
  15. 15. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion “Ramen” User Feedback for Startups Anyone can do it! Ingredients: Solution‐space product/mockup to test 1 customer (with laptop if testing code) 1 desk 1 person to conduct the session Pen and paper Optional note‐taker and observers
  16. 16. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion Typical Format for Customer Session 5 ‐ 10 min: Ask questions to understand user  needs and solutions they currently use 30 ‐ 50 min: User feedback Show user product/mockup Non‐directed as much as possible When necessary, direct user to attempt to  perform a specific task 5 ‐ 10 min: Wrap‐up Answer any user questions that came up Point out/explain features you want to highlight Ask them if they would use the product
  17. 17. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion Dos & Don’ts of Conducting Usability Do Explain to the user: Their usability test will help improve the product Not to worry about hurting your feelings “Think Aloud Protocol” Ask user to attempt the task, then be a fly on the wall Ask non‐leading, open‐ended questions Take notes and review them afterwards for take‐aways Don’t Ask leading questions “Help” the user or explain the UI (e.g., “click over here”) Respond to user frustration or questions (until test is over) Get defensive Blame the user
  18. 18. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion 8. Build a Team with the Required Skills You can’t do it all yourself Many different skills are required for success: front‐end dev, back‐end dev, PM, UI design, QA, marketing Wear multiple hats: generalists better than specialists
  19. 19. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion 9. Take Advantage of Free/Cheap Resources Never been easier to start Open Source Software PHP, Ruby on Rails, MySQL Servers Amazon Web Services Groups & Events, SVASE Office space Hacker Dojo, Plug & Play,  Citizen Space Angel/seed $, incubators
  20. 20. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion 10. Startups are like Roller Coasters Exciting with scary moments High highs, low lows Challenging turns & dips Find at least 1 cofounder:  1 + 1 = 3 Get through the dips, share the highs Enjoy the ride!
  21. 21. Copyright © 2011 YourVersion Try it out at: Free apps: iPad‐hd iPhone‐app Android phone Android tablet