Network Effects, The Startup Hustle, & Sweet Marketer-Engineer Love

Bear with me here; this was originally three different posts, but I quickly realized the crucial connection between all topics involved.

If you’re even remotely following the startup world / new sharing economy, you’ve noticed all the two-sided marketplaces sprouting up – Uber, TaskRabbit, Airbnb, Handybook, Elance, Lyft, and so on. They all face a pretty common challenge, which is the chicken and egg problem. These platforms do not offer prime value to either side until network effect is achieved on a relatively large scale (when Member X joins, Member Y benefits). And this isn’t exclusive to strict buyer-seller services, as it’s also in play for companies like Tinder and CoFounders Lab. I’m currently working with a few startups that fall into this category, so I thought it useful to research and outline some real-life examples of solving this problem. This will lead right into my next two points: 1) startups need biz dev hustlers on Day One and 2) engineers should cozy up with marketers much closer and much earlier than they typically do.

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Guy Kawasaki Is Wrong, Partnerships Are The Shit!

Guy Kawasaki has nearly 1.5 million Twitter followers, several best-selling books, and is regularly looked upon as one of the brightest minds in the business world. He’s also straight up wrong. Maybe even short-sighted. See what he told a group of startup peeps in a 2013 talk at UC Berkeley (skip to 15:23 and watch for about 60 seconds).

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On Self Doubt

Like any modern day entrepreneur, doubt creeps into my routine from time to time. Of course, this doesn’t tend to occur on my schedule, so I can never truly be prepared. “Startups are like roller coasters” is what we’ve all been told, and boy were they right.

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Tech Startup, Schmech Startup

(Part of this post originally appeared on Medium, but I’ve since added to it.)

What exactly is a “tech startup” anyway? Is it a new business that relies on digital…well…anything? Is it a startup delivered through the Web? Or a mobile app? Some recent snark on a reddit post of mine (shocking, I know) has me a bit snarked myself.

Confession: I’m a non-technical founder (ZOMG!!!!!) who sees things a bit differently on this topic. In building both MusicBox and Collabo, my co-founders and I have spent as much time addressing social dynamics as we have server traffic. And of all the reasons we listed in Why Collabo Will Fail, none were overtly tech related.

Saying a non-tech founder can’t build a startup is like saying a non-architect can’t open a brick-and-mortar store (click to tweet)

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Lipstick Pig

My Lipstick On A Pig Theory

Andy Sernovitz, the king of word of mouth marketing, once famously stated that “advertising is the price of being boring”. I’d like to amend that sentiment with the following:

All the marketing and “growth hacking” in the world will not overcompensate, in the long term, for a poorly planned or executed product or service.

I don’t intend to call your baby ugly, but there’s good reason I begin the majority of my client consultations with a step-by-step Customer Persona Profile exercise, followed by detailed discussion of product-market fit and user interviewing.

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A Reminder On MVPs

(This post first appeared on my former blog.)

Ramli John wrote a relatively simple but important post recently addressing an often misconstrued concept coming out of the Lean Startup camp – the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). He posits, “the MVP is NOT about the product”, that most startups falter in this process by losing sight of the true purpose of an MVP – to provide validated learning. A testable hypothesis statement is the foundation upon which this learning can take place.

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