How to Take your Start-Up to the Next Level
How to Take your Start-Up to the Next Level from Carsonified on Vimeo.
What is it about?
Aaron Patzer, founder of mint.com, talks about how he got from an idea to $170 million in just three year.
What can I learn?
Don’t be secretive: Aarons first idea was a goal setting software. Instead of building it in stealth mode, he decided to talk to people. Only about one in eighty of these people found this idea appealing, so he discarded it. Later he hasn’t gone secretive. He showed mint’s UI to lots of people and optimized it over time.
Build a prototype: If you are raising money, looking for customers or hiring people, a prototype is real advantage. People can actually see your idea in action, click around and feel the experience. Would you rather listen to a 10 minutes sales pitch or playing around 10 minutes with a new software?
Leverage your success: If you are once in the news, try to stay there. Mint got a pretty clever idea. They gave away free mint mojitos at the Techcrunch 40 and were eventually elected as people’s choice. Then they talked to other journalists if they won’t want to interview the people’s choice winner. And so on.
What is it about?
How do you build a niche product, e.g. an ebook and market it properly? Eric Van Der Hope shows how to find product ideas, create products and sell them.
Write your goals down: Before you start, you should think about your goals. What do you want and how can you reach this? You can start at a farer horizon, e.g. 5 years in the future and plan top-down how to reach these goals.
Test your idea: He presents some key features of good niche markets. You need to check if there is few competition. If there’s too much, it’s already too hard to enter, but if there’s none, you should ask yourself why nobody had the idea, yet. The next step is to check the willingness to buy. Do people in this market normally pay money? For example, it’s probably hard to sell to open source developers because they aren’t accustomed to pay for most stuff. The next step is to check if there is any need, you have a hard time to sell if nobody really wants your product. The last step is to check if this is a sustainable market. I.e. is it just a hype or can it bring your steady revenue for the next years?
Know your customer: If you found your niche market, you should try to find out as much as possible about your customers. To write your copy and set your pricing, you should know what their problems are, a little bit demographics, maybe whom they trust, etc.
I think the cover looks extremely scammy, though some chapters are really useful. Especially, I like the niche finding and the very first chapter about setting goals. Sadly, most of the book got some dubious practices.
What is it about?
David Cummings and Adam Blitzer explain how to automate your sales process and how marketing automation can save you time and increase your customer count.
Segment your customers: It’s nothing new to segment your customers into age, location or job occupation. But you could also segment your customers into their willingness to buy. They propose to add scores for each customer on which they get treated differently. For example, you could give someone +10 points, if he enters his email address or +25 if he downloads the trial. This allows you to tailor individual action to each willingness segment.
Join your customer informations: Most companies got a CRM, website analytics, bid on Adwords and maybe work with salesforce.com. It’s important to collect all data and make it more useful. If you connect your CRM and website analytics, you can ask people why they don’t use your website anymore or offer upgrades for power users. But beware, it shouldn’t be too creepy.
Drip marketing: In Referral Engine I presented this concept at first. It’s about staying in touch with your customers and prospects. You can send them useful information, offer specials or invite them to webinars. It becomes especially powerful if you use it with customer segmentation. You could take people with low willingness scores into a nurture program where you offer them useful information and slowly build a relationship.
There are some really cool ideas which only a few companies use today. I think these tools are extremely powerful and you should really consider starting to employ them. Think Outside the Inbox is not really a how to guide but maybe there is one. If you know one, please comment on this post. Thanks!
What is it about?
Sam Wyly talks about his journey from a young boy in Lake Providence to a billionaire in Texas. Most of the book is dedicated to University Computing his first company which sold processing time to companies.
Quality of the journey: Success isn’t how much money you made, it’s how happy you were. Sam Wyly dropped his job at IBM for starting his own company because he was restless. He gave up his security for uncertainty and debt but he was happy.
Hire complementary people: Although, he made his fortune in software, Wyly wasn’t really into programming but he knew how to sell. Sterling Software, a company founded after selling University Computers for $3.3bn, consisted of over 30 acquired software companies. These companies weren’t really merged into one big company. Rather they existed as own sub companies. Only financial planning, accounting, etc. was centralized.
Be in motion: A problem of IBM and other giants is that the are mostly rigid. This allows small companies/startups to penetrate new markets faster and often these giants are too slow to anticipate change in existing markets. Don’t become a rigid, stay agile.
Size doesn’t matter: The first big acquisition of Sterling Software was Informatics which was valued at $200m. Sterling Software, at this time, valued only about $30m but Wyly wanted to acquire Informatics. Sterling Software acquired Informatics because they raised about $180m in cash from issuing junk bonds. Sometimes size doesn’t matter.
It’s a refreshing book, especially because lots of people think that every successful software company started in California (Microsoft didn’t either, by the way). For readers without a small finance background it is maybe a bit confusing because Wyly talks a lot about financial instruments. All in all, a neat biography about a not so well-known billionaire.