Archive for Cool stuff

A simple way to develop and pitch your next company

I work on lots of new ideas for companies. I have developed the following tool that helps me (and it seems many others) to quickly develop and evaluate these ideas.
In the simplest form, it helps create an elevator pitch, (e.g. for www.gist.com – We focus on relationship centric professionals like sales, PR and recruiters (C) and, save them time (V) as they prepare for meetings, by creating dynamic full-contact dossiers (F) and charge them a monthly service fee (B). It is not critical for this to be the marketing pitch, but it helps.

CVFB

To get started on finding the “MVC” (minimum viable company), you need to start with the “smallest idea that is big enough” (a few customers, 1 value, 1 key feature and a clear biz model).
You need to identify real people you know (we built Gist for me and 2 sales guys, thx Kendall and Brandt) who can validate the idea, value, key features and their willingness to pay (which should be very high). As you find representative people, you can abstract key attributes of them to start to generalize into “personas” which becomes your real target customer. And from here you can start looking for the best beta users (more on that here)
You can then compare different parts of the model to see how well the idea works. A few examples;
C–V – does your target customer value what you are doing (e.g. saving time, qualifying leads, increasing revenue…) and how much (scale of 1-10)? Is the value a real pain or just nice to have? How do they solve this pain now? How would they quantify value?
V–B – is the value your delivering correlated to the business model? If you save someone time, do you charge more depending on the amount of time you are saving? Work hard to correlate these things by changing one of the other. This ends up relating to ROI (return on investment).
F–B – are the features you are building organized to support the different price points?
C–B – does your customer usually buy in the model you are proposing? What other services/products do they buy that are similar to yours and is the model similar for these products? How much do they pay for related services?
F–V – are the features you are building aligned with the value and in similar priority order? If your value is saving time, do you consider each feature on how much time it can save the end user?
If you can’t make an idea work on a just a few users, just a few features, a pretty clear value prop and a clear business value, it’s probably not such a good idea. I know one tool does not solve all the issues in considering a new idea, but this is the best one I have found. Please suggest others and/or other ways this could be improved. Good luck on your next idea.

http://tamccann.com/developing-your-next-company-with-one-simple-tool/

By T.A. McCann

Posted in Cool stuff

Seattle Interactive Conference – November 3-4, 2015

Always something interesting and always great networking.

Seattle Interactive is the premiere technology conference in the Northwest. The conference connects the most influential ideas of the year with emerging trends that will shape the industry.

Source: Seattle Interactive Conference – November 3-4, 2015

Posted in Cool stuff, Digital

B2B Startup Weekend Seattle April 17th – 19th

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Im excited to help organize Startup Weekend in April again.

B2B Startup Weekend Seattle Friday, April 17 – 19, 2015

Buy Tickets Here

SW-B2B-April2014-300x97B2B (business-to-business) implies that your primary customer and source of revenue is another business. The objective of this event is to encourage and empower entrepreneurs to build their B2B idea. To help the B2B entrepreneurs, 9Mile Labs and Startup Weekend will be bringing great people and resources to this event to educate and coach participants on the key considerations for building a viable B2B business.

Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014.

The non-profit organization is headquartered in Seattle, Washington but Startup Weekend organizers and facilitators can be found in over 200 cities around the world. From Mongolia to South Africa to London to Brazil, people around the globe are coming together for weekend long workshops to pitch ideas, form teams, and start companies.

All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.Whether entrepreneurs found companies, find a cofounder, meet someone new, or learn a skill far outside their usual 9-to-5, everyone is guaranteed to leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of startups. If you want to put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur, register now for the best weekend of your life!  #SWB2BSEA

Posted in Cool stuff

Startup lessons from Han Solo: 5 insights from a legendary ‘Star Wars’ entrepreneur – GeekWire

Startup lessons from Han Solo: 5 insights from a legendary ‘Star Wars’ entrepreneur – GeekWire.

I loved this analogy by Jonathan Sposato. Check it out.
When I was in 4th grade, I thought Luke Skywalker was a whiney little goody two-shoes. But Han Solo? Man, now that cat was cool!  Han Solo was my favorite Star Wars character throughout the entire first trilogy, and as I watched the trailer for the new Star Wars movie last week, it occurred to me that he was the Rebellion’s ultimate entrepreneur.

So here are five startup lessons inspired by the legendary Han Solo.

1. Pick The Right Business Partner(s)

Chewbacca is the ultimate business partner. He’s loyal, a highly impactful persona to walk into meetings with and doesn’t talk back (just kidding on that last part).  But the real point is one of fit.  Han and Chewie complement each other and celebrate their differences. Han is the schrewd negotiator, while Chewie is the muscle. Han plots their strategic direction, while Chewie ensures the Millennium Falcon is ready for hyperspace.

A common mistake startup entrepreneurs make is to seek too many similarities in their partners. While you should obviously communicate well and not be boneheads, ideal business results come when you approach problems from totally different perspectives. Don’t get lost in a self-supporting bubble. Core skill sets should be complementary, otherwise you’re double-paying.

2. Make a move before your window of opportunity closes

Han on Hoth
Han on Hoth

On the ice planet Hoth, Han had to move quickly to find Luke before evening temperatures made a rescue attempt impossible. Han possessed two key entrepreneurial attributes here: acting fast, and acting fearlessly.

Whether it’s your employee’s payroll or your own future on the line, most key startup decisions are going to feel scary. Don’t dawdle.

As a startup CEO, be acutely aware of how quickly you have to make a decision. Make it. And then have the guts to stay committed, even if there is a raging debate about its validity. Effective leaders like Han Solo have the confidence in knowing that high decision velocity usually yields much better results than always “perfect,” but slow decisions.

 Effective leaders like Han Solo have the confidence in knowing that high decision velocity usually yields much better results than always “perfect,” but slow decisions.’

3. Balance mercenary with missionary

Han and Chewie do what they do for the bounty. But they also fight for the right side and come through in their defense of the Rebel fighters.

Too often, startup entrepreneurs seem conflicted about this balance.  How do we balance end-user value versus commerce?  Do we add one more ad unit to the homepage to capitalize on high impression rates, or will that “junk up” the experience?  Do we allocate 10 percent of interns from disadvantaged segments, or will the managerial overhead make it not worthwhile?

You don’t have to pick one at the exclusion of the other.  A balance can always be achieved. As you struggle with the “stormin,’ normin,’ performin’” stages of entrepreneurial life, know that all startups can do well in commerce, and do good by their users.

4. Look scrappy but have it ‘where it counts’

It’s clear that the Millennium Falcon could use a few repairs, perhaps a stop at West Coast Customs.  But Han and Chewie know they need to keep the overhead low. The reasons for this? You signal pretty clearly to investors, employees and strategic partners that impressing others is low, while you also can surprise others as you “punch above your weight.”  Save the luxuries — the class A offices and catered lunches — for when revenues are stable and profit margins are high.

5. Don’t wait to get rid of problems

GeekWire chairman Jonathan Sposato
GeekWire chairman Jonathan Sposato and friends.

In the controversial re-edition of Star Wars, it appears as if Greedo shot first during the famous bar scene, thereby causing Han to fire in self defense. I say bullsh*t! As a parent, I understand why George Lucas made the change.

But, as an entrepreneur, you simply can’t afford to allow threats to fester uncontested.  If you have a Taiwanese company infringing on your trademarks illegally, consult your IP attorney and do something about it.  If you have a problem employee spoiling the bunch, move quickly (and humanely) to excise the problem.

While it may not seem cool or ‘nice’ to get tough, dealing with the problem early will save you valuable time, money, and in some cases lost market share.  Han had one chance to get Greedo and Jabba the Hutt off his tail, and he didn’t hesitate to act decisively. Do it, and move on.

By GeekWire Chairman and serial startup founder Jonathan Sposato is the CEO of online photo editing service PicMonkey, and an investor in companies including Pokitdok, EveryMove and Vizify.

Posted in Cool stuff

Up America Summit 10/06/14 – 10/08/14

 Excited to part of the UP America Summit this year. The top startup community leaders from North America are coming together for the second annual UP America Summit in Kansas City on October 6th – 8th, 2014. The event will bring together top UP Champions, Startup Digest Curators, Startup Next Organizers, Startup Weekend Organizers & Facilitators, and Startup Education Organizers to build ideas, discuss future visions, share experiences, and create a network like no other for startup community builders around the nation.

During the UP America Summit, attendees explore the local startup ecosystem by traveling to multiple sites and learning from leaders immersed in what the local community is doing. The UP America Summit is a 2.5 day event. Part workshop. Part experience sharing, Part ecosystem exploration. All fun!

Posted in Cool stuff

Use Your Competitors’ Products All The Time by Brad Feld

Here is some great advice from a very smart guy. Brad Feld.

I was sitting with the founders of a company we’ve funded the other day talking about their competition. I love this product and I use it every day. It doesn’t yet have widespread adoption, but it as extremely actively used by the early adopters.

This company has several competitors – long time incumbents with somewhat stale, but useful products, and several new competitors, including well-funded and noisy ones. I use several of these products regularly in different situations and have encouraged the founders to use them also.

During our conversation, we started off by talking about pricing and go-to-market strategies. As part of this, we were talking through a strategy to change the current game being played in the market, both from a product and pricing perspective. We had clarity on the product side (we have several fundamental architectural differences that enable a powerfully different approach at scale) but thrashed for a while on the pricing perspective.

I realized I wasn’t very clear on the pricing strategies of the competitors so we went through them on-line. While this was sort of useful, our knowledge of their products, how they work, and what the current limitations of them are was more enlightening. Ultimately the product differentiation drove the pricing differentiation discussion, which resulted in our hypothesis about how to change the game which we are now testing.

If we hadn’t all be active users of these competitors products, we would have had a stupid conversation. While we have limited visibility into the competitors’ product roadmaps, we know how hard it will be for them to change several dimensions of their products. Sure, we should assume they can and will do this, but as we enter the market in a serious way, I think we can carve out a unique and very significant position for ourselves by leading with the product differentiation and supporting it with a pricing strategy that undermines theirs. In the absence of the product information we have from our experience using their products, we wouldn’t have been able to tie these two constructs together, and our resulting approach would be weak.

My general approach to competition is to “obsess about their products while completely ignoring the company.” If you can identify competitors, use their products continually, if only to have that knowledge when the moment comes that you have the conversation about how you are going to change the game.

-Brad Feld

Posted in Cool stuff

Startup Weekend Seattle

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 4.04.48 PM Organizing another Startup Weekend
Mobile/Wearables Seattle
This one is one of the focused on Mobile and Wearable tech!

Friday, July 25 – 27, 2014
Event starts at 6:30 pm

MOZ 1100 2nd Ave #500
Seattle, WA 98101

Buy Tickets

Posted in Cool stuff

The Power of Being Human in Business Development by Chet Kittleson

I’ve had some really crummy experiences with business and corporate development people in the past year. There’s been a strange change in ethos, where suddenly people have forgotten that when they do deals, they are doing deals with other people, not with a company. I learned this in 1993 when my first company was acquired by Len Fassler and Jerry Poch, two of the absolute master deal makers I’ve ever worked with. The each taught me so much about this, by first being people, then dealmakers.

I’ve got a few posts on this topic coming but until then here’s a great post from Chet Kittleson at UP Global about how he thinks about it. Now, while Chet focuses on business development, the same is true for corporate development or sales.

My name is Chet Kittleson and I’m a human. I have eyes and ears and a nose and two nieces, and one nephew, and two sisters, and a wife, and a house and a couple of cats and a mom and a step dad and a biological dad and some friends and a history filled with good and bad and right and wrong and so much more that I can’t fit into one run-on sentence. Like I said, I’m a human.

What I’ve done with this first paragraph, hopefully, is began to build up trust between you and I. The type of trust that extends beyond the walls of LinkedIn and Twitter, and into a meaningful relationship between us as human beings. I’ve exposed more than simply what I do for a living, and in doing so, I’ve broken down a wall that previously would have created a barrier between where we stand now and where we might stand a week or a month or a year from now.

This sentiment is meaningful in every walk of life, but in business development this is the difference between failure and success. It’s not Microsoft or Google or Amazon that you’re looking to partner with, it’s Mary or Matt or Lindsay.

“Companies don’t make deals with other companies. People make deals with people. Understanding the motivations and incentives of the relevant people involved is critical to getting a deal done,” said Greg Gottesman of Madrona Venture Group.

The old adage, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” should be something closer to, “it’s not what you know or even who you know, it’s who you can influence.” And to be clear, influence is not in the same family as manipulation. Influence is based off of authenticity and trust built by years of friendship and communication. People who genuinely trust you to help them make smart decisions based on their needs as human beings as well as the needs of the companies they work for are in your sphere of influence. This is where the bulk of real and lasting business happens.

You’ll be surprised at how captive another person will be when they view you as an industry expert on things that pertain to their needs, rather than an expert at selling whatever it is you’re selling. Send them suggestions on other partnerships or products that have nothing to do with your organization. (Thanks to T.A. McCann for that nugget.) Connect them with your competitors if they’re able to offer something that aligns better with their goals. Stay relevant and true and you’ll be invited into conversations and email threads that otherwise you would have never been privy to.

“I never would have imagined what a profound impact the people I bonded with – co–founders, investors, mentors, partners – early on in my entrepreneurial career would continue to have in my personal and professional life over 15 years later. What better investment can we all make than in the people we respect.” said Mike Fridgen, GM at eBay and former CEO of Decide.com.

So if you’re interested in pursuing a career in business development, or are new to the field, here’s your first call to action: drop every book you’re reading with “sales” in the title, walk outside, and meet someone. Then meet someone else. Then go back to the first person you met and ask them how they’re doing. And all the while, don’t forget for one second that every single person you’re meeting is ridiculously human. Every one of them, regardless of their title, the number of connections they have on LinkedIn or the amount of budget they have control over, they’re human and they have eyes and ears and a nose and nieces and nephews and sisters and brothers and wives and husbands and all the rest.

Second call to action: start selling something. Anything. Learn how to remain human when money is added to the equation. Cold call strangers out of the phone book, set up camp outside of a grocery store, and learn to build trust out of nothing in an authentic way. I’ve worked with partners on $500 deals and I’ve worked with partners on $500,000 deals, and in the end it all comes down to your ability to understand those on the other side of the table. Start with beef jerky like Noah Kagan did with his 24-hour business challenge, and work your way up from there.

Good people are everywhere, even in the business world, and as the barriers fade away those who you once referred to as contacts or connections turn into, don’t let this word intimidate you, friends. They turn into people you can share stories with, people you can consult with on the next fiscal years partnership proposal, people who can help and that will at some point need help. It’s simple, but if you can remember this throughout each coffee meeting and each conference call and each email, you’ll be just fine. Hey, that’s one human’s opinion though.

Chet Kittleson is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at UP Global, parent company to Startup Weekend, Startup Next, Startup Education, Startup Digest, and Startup Week.

Posted in Cool stuff

Co-founding Jetway.io

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I’m co-founding a new startup called Jetway.io. We
focus on entrepreneurial professionals like Startups and save them time and money as they prepare for cloud deployment by giving them a dynamic cloud deployment toolset through a portal. Jetway.io your Cloud CoPilot. Stay tuned for Beta news.

Posted in Cool stuff

The Startup Calendar

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 In a startup, you are always racing against a clock. Most of the time this is “when are we going to need to raise more money” but can also be working toward key milestones or trying to outpace key competitors, which is often when you need to raise money. And, as you racing toward these milestones, there are lots of things the team needs to track and measure, many of which relate to one another. For example, if you need to raise money, you want to show a ramp in new users/customers, which is usually fueled by an earlier marketing tactic or key product update. So, you need some form of a “startup calendar” that allows you to look ahead as well as track your progress toward the metrics that matter to the company and can be correlated over time. I have developed a lightweight Google Doc as a start to this process and am using it actively in our latest company, www.rivaliq.com (the best way to analyze and monitor your competitive landscape). It is an open Doc, so clone it, add to it, react to it and help me make it better. 

The Startup Calendar – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AnSCCr4IgqIpdGx3M1hUcjV6cGM0NUJaNmNqRGctdkE&usp=sharing

Pay attention to time and make measured progress!

By T.A. McCann

Posted in Cool stuff
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    Tech entrepreneur, Co-founder @soleredigital , Digital Marketer and Investor with a passion for startups living in Seattle WA.
    Organizer at #startupweekend.               
    Seattle WA, USA @BMAckerman

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