Write A Press Release, Not Code

This may not qualify as “new news”, but damnit, it needs to be shared [again...and again]. Too many startups struggle with a lack of focus. Lack of focus on product, on market fit, on appropriate growth tactics for different stages. It’s a hard game, I know. The to-do list is never ending and you’re constantly swimming against the tide while trying to guess what tomorrow will bring. As Sir Richard Branson observed:

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Optimize Your Words Like Eminem & Jerry Seinfeld

An interesting moment occurred in a recent Startup Next session here in NYC. A really cool hardware-slash-SaaS product team gave their weekly <60-second pitch to the room, which included a few mentors. In Q&A, they asked the mentors for advice on how to effectively connect with retail store managers / owners to do some basic customer development. What we all quickly realized is that there was a clear lack of message optimization, which seems to be a struggle for some startups when efforts are moved offline.

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Is This Fucking Awesome?!

That’s the name of a WordPress plugin I paid someone to build for me several years ago. I had no damn clue why I did it, but it was fun and funny and the developer (Nick Ohrn, he’s fantastic) got enough of a kick out of it that he gave me a nice price break. The concept was simple – right when you hit “Publish” on a WP post, a pop-up would appear that asked if the post was “truly fucking awesome” with yes/no button options. Clicking YES would publish the post and clicking NO would prompt you to go back, edit the post and “unleash the badassery”.

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A few thoughts on MVPs

Quick-hit Friday morning thoughts focused on the polarizing Minimum Viable Product (MVP)…

  • Viable, Delightful, Desirable – whatever term you use, don’t ever lose sight of what MVPs and Lean Startup exist for…validated learning.
  • Validated learning can mean a number of things to different startups. Your founding team needs to decide what KPIs to use before running any sort of MVP-backed experiments.
  • A sign-up page IS NOT ENOUGH. Neither are surveys asking “would you perform XYZ activity related to my made-up product?”. This video is the best way I can explain the inherent flaw in asking people if they’d do something.

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Anatomy of a startup biz dev program

I’m working on a free Intro to Startup Biz Dev class on Udemy and in my research I ran across a piece by Gagan Biyani (co-founder of Udemy and advisor to Lyft) on startup growth. In it, he discusses the importance of understanding your product’s lifecycle and the underlying psychology for your users throughout each step. I’ve been thinking a lot about how business development “works” and how crucial certain processes are in the eventual success of a killer approach to biz dev. So, I decided to outline the anatomy of a biz dev program specific to startups, a system gleamed from my experiences and observations over the years.

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Eff yo product! Learn, don’t launch.

My co-founder, Mike, and I started MusicBox without writing a single line of code. Truth be told, it took less than 5 days to cobble together a landing page, logo and brand messaging, an email distribution system, and to make sure we had enough approved inventory of up-and-coming music to get us through a month or two. We were far from geniuses about this, but we ended up well focused on our Minimum Viable Learning Environment vs. our Minimum Viable Product.

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How the on-demand ridesharing wars are being fought with partnerships

Shit’s getting real in the ridesharing space right now, with Uber full-on attacking Lyft, Lyft possibly doing samesies, and everyone announcing ride-pooling at the same damn time (not to mention companies like Hitch and Bandwagon, who exist solely for carpooling). When your business model is to connect passengers with drivers, or riders with riders, or riders with riders with drivers, achieving mass scale through strong distribution is vital. On the heels of both Uber and Hailo opening up their APIs, I wanted to note the strong role strategic partnerships are playing in this heated up space.

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APIs Are Changing The Face of Biz Dev

We are nearing the time when opening our supply chains across the Web isn’t just a good idea, it will be essential for competitive survival….open APIs have become an increasingly vital story for Web startups and traditional firms alike to cost effectively partnership, expand the reach of their products, and drive their network effect deeply across the Web. (source)

(If anyone needs an API refresher, this Quora thread may help.) Uber’s opening of its API recently has shone the light down yet again on the immense power of the new tech ecosystem and its relational capabilities. But along with it, we’re forced to ask the question, “Are APIs making the biz dev role obsolete?”

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