Letter to a Startup Wannabe (part 4)

After parts 1, 2 & 3, as the entrepreneurial knowledge continues to evolve, I’ve gathered extra resources for all startup wannabes to explore:

Product Market Fit

Rahul Vohra – “How Superhuman Built an Engine to Find Product/Market Fit”

What if you could measure product/market fit? Because if you could measure product/market fit, then maybe you could optimize it. And then maybe you could systematically increase product/market fit until you achieved it. Reoriented around this purpose and reinvigorated by the new direction, I set out to reverse engineer a process for getting to product/market fit. Below, I outline the findings that followed, specifically unpacking the clarifying metric that made everything fall into place and the four-step process we used to build an engine that propelled Superhuman forward on the path to finding our fit.

Growth Sandwich – “Problem-Solution Fit: When it’s the Right Time to Pivot?” – The problem-solution fit is the stage at which a startup business has a core group of happy and reference-able customers. Have no doubt about it: reaching a problem-solution fit is essential for every startup. Why is that? Because it shows us that our product has the potential of scaling, and getting to product-market fit.

Railsware – “Product Discovery – Why, How, When and many others – answered!” – Validate an idea. Check if there’s a market for it. Ship and listen to users. Iterate. Ship again. Listen to what they say. Iterate. Product Discovery, often referred to as Customer Discovery, is hardly a new idea. Despite that, many companies often forget about it or do it plain wrong. This applies to giant corporations, tiny bootstrapping startups, and anyone in between.

Neil Cocker – “How to validate your startup idea” – What I outline below is the method I’ve been using for a while. It’s not comprehensive, and each of the steps can be done in a much more detailed way. But it’s quick, captures good data, and gives you a very strong footing to start your journey.

Y Combinator – “A Minimum Viable Product Is Not a Product, It’s a Process: Building Product, Experimentation, MVP” – An MVP is a process that you repeat over and over again: Identify your riskiest assumption, find the smallest possible experiment to test that assumption, and use the results of the experiment to course correct. When you build a product, you make many assumptions. No matter how good you are, some of your assumptions will be wrong. The only way to find that out—the only way to test your assumptions—is to put your product in front of real users as quickly as possible. The point is to find out which of your assumptions are wrong by getting feedback on your product from real users as quickly as possible.

NfX – “The New Mindset for Product-Market Fit” – Why spend time and money to build the product if you can first check whether your product promise – the theoretical approval that users give to the idea of a product – resonates with your customers? You are marketing your product promise instead of a built product. You are sending your potential users to a landing page where you try to get them to respond to your call to action and convert into a “user.” Do this over and over again with different setups. Test like crazy, measuring everything, every step of the way. You need to think like a mad scientist experimenting with your language, art, CTA, pricing, ad channels, and audiences. But remember, your goal is to do this without writing a single line of code.

Rand Fishkin – “Product-Market Fit is a Broken Concept. There’s a Better Way.” – The most obvious ways to improve on the product-market fit mindset are:

  • Remove the concept of a binary yes/no
  • Apply a range (since any useful metric falls along a spectrum)
  • Use segmentation (as product and marketing professionals need these to wisely prioritize work)

Innovation

Chrissy Kidd, Jonathan Johnson – “Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile: What’s The Difference? – These approaches are often used to help organizations innovate, whether a step-by-step process or a holistic methodology, design thinking, lean startup, and agile are all tools you can use to promote innovation. 

Jake Nielson – “5 Proven Steps to Creating Your Own Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas – What if you could consistently create new business where there is little to no competition? In this article, I’ll explain the 5 easy steps to creating new ideas that help you lead your business out of the red competitive waters and into a new space where the competition is irrelevant – your own blue ocean. With Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas, innovators are able to systematically think through ways to create value for their target customers versus the competition. Obviously with each idea generated, more analysis would be necessary to validate whether those specific ideas were valuable to customers but the Blue Ocean Strategy approach provides a fast and analytical approach to ideation and innovation.

Growth Sandwich – “Jobs-To-Be-Done Framework: The Essential Guide for your Go-to-Market strategy – The Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) framework is a framework that helps businesses stay focused on the problems of their target customers and build or optimise new products according to that. Customer’s needs should be your first priority and it should guide everything that you are doing on a product level. They should also be the guiding light for your marketing plan, sales strategy and overall, your Go-to-Market plan.

Railsware – “Real-Life Cases of JTBD Frameworks – The core idea of JTBD is to cultivate innovation by changing perspective from personas to jobs. The framework allows you to get a better understanding of motivations, pains, challenges of your customers.

Andrej Balaz – “Uncovering the Jobs That Cause Customers to Hire Products and Services – People hire services and products to get specific jobs done in their lives. This article will help you to uncover and understand these jobs. You will be able to improve your product, shape your marketing and bring insights about customer needs closer to your designers and developers. We will look at the moment in which people switch from an old to a new solution and a bunch of techniques that help you to understand how this process works. At the end, you will get a template and a bunch of helpful links to get you started.

Marketing

Stefan Groschupf – “The Proven Process for Developing a Go-to-Market Strategy – A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is a step-by-step plan created to successfully launch a product to market. A good GTM strategy generally identifies a target audience, includes a marketing plan, and outlines a sales strategy. While each product and market will be different, a GTM strategy should identify a market problem and position the product as a solution. In simpler terms, a GTM strategy is the way in which a company brings a product to market. It’s a handy roadmap that measures feasibility and predicts success based on market research, prior examples, and competitive data. 

Backlinko – “Landing Pages: The Definitive Guide – This is the most complete guide to landing pages online. So if you want to create landing pages that convert SUPER well, see examples of the world’s best landing pages, get access to proven landing page templates, then you’ll love the detailed strategies in this guide.

Julie Supan – “What I Learned From Developing Branding for Airbnb, Dropbox and Thumbtack – The best thing about identifying the High-Expectation Customer (HXC) is that everyone — from employees to customers — gains peace of mind. Your users will understand the product, and know that it’s meant for them. You’ll slash your cost of customer acquisition and enjoy the benefits of a clear roadmap. With bias removed, your team can be more creative,” says Supan. “Keep checking in with your HXC and calibrating insights against them. Keep learning about them. If you do the work, they’ll lead you to consensus about what your company is—and what it isn’t.”

Kameleon – “Training course: Sersonalization & segmentation – This introductory course will teach you how to deliver personalized experiences to your visitors, segment your targets effectively and build a successful personalization strategy.

G2 – An useful tool for marketing research and competitor analysis. You can choose the right software and services for your business based on 1,178,800+ authentic, timely reviews from real users.

Sales

Pete Kazanjy – “Founding Sales: Sales for founders (and others) in first-time sales roles – This book is specifically for founders who are leading organizations that have a B2B, direct sales model that involves sales professionals engaging in verbal, commercial conversations with buyers. Moreover, many examples in this book will be targeted specifically to the realm of B2B SAAS software, and specifically as regards new, potentially innovative or disruptive offerings that are being brought to market for the first time. 

Greg Skloot – “The guide to sales and marketing for technical startup people – If your startup is selling a product to another business, the key to acquiring customers is sales and marketing. For many of us just beginning in startups, sales and marketing can be confusing and unknown. It sure was for me when I first started. Startups  Customers is a guide to sales and marketing for B2B technical startup founders and employees. It explains the fundamentals so you can understand what the business people are actually doing. Enjoy!

NfX – “The Hidden World of Pricing: Uber, Trulia, Etsy, Superhuman & More – The frameworks, tactics, and hidden truths Founders need to know about pricing – and how, when done correctly, it can dramatically lever-up growth. The fundamental issue for the high failure rate of innovation is that people build products without any clue as to whether someone will value the product – or more importantly, whether they would pay for it. Pricing or commercialization becomes an afterthought after building the product. And that is the core reason why many of these innovations fail. If you don’t put pricing as part of your product-market fit validation, you’re just hearing what you want to hear. So it’s really about achieving product-market-pricing fit.

Cathy Patalas – “15+ Places Where You Can Find B2B Leads, Other than LinkedIn – Here are 15 places on the web where you can find SaaS companies, startups, software houses, marketing experts and other companies that will match your Ideal Customer Profile. 

Growth Machine – “The 1-Man Sales Process of a 7-Figure Agency – In the past year and a half, Growth Machine has billed about $1.6M in work across 44 projects, and our inbound interest has steadily grown to around 60 leads per month. I thought it’d be fun to share the process that’s gotten us to this point, and how I’ve systematized a lot of it to make it easier for me to manage in less than 10 hours per week.

Product Development

UX Collective – A free, self-guided class to help you take your first steps into digital product design. With all the great content available online (plus a bit of discipline), we believe you should be able to learn the basics of our profession before investing in cost-prohibitive more formal education and training.

Rich Mironov – “I’ve abandoned MVP – After years of struggle, I’m advising all of my clients and product leader coachees to stop using the term “MVP”.  Not to stop doing validation, discovery, prototyping or experiments they may associate that that acronym, but to remove the label from all of their docs and presentations and talks. Here’s why… Almost without fail, I find that the “maker” side of software companies (developers, designers, product folks, DevOps, tech writers…) and the “go-to-market” side of software companies (sales, marketing, support, customer success..) have irreconcilable definitions of MVP.

Maze – Fuel decision-making with rapid, remote testing

Test everything from prototypes, concepts, and copy with Maze. Confidently go from idea to launch with actionable user insights that are delivered to you in hours, not days.

Operations

SweetProcess – “The Key Difference Between a Policy, Process, & Procedure (and Why it Matters For Your Business!) – Successful businesses and organizations have systems. Every employee working for a company has a set of rules to follow as they complete tasks. They may also have instructions that show them exactly how to complete each task. There is too much confusion surrounding policy, process and procedure. Too often these three items are used interchangeably, but there are key details in each that make them necessary on their own for a complete working system. In order to effectively delegate tasks to others it’s important to have all three elements.

Oliver Peterson – “Implementing Processes: How to Boost Success Rate by 70% – If you aren’t implementing processes, you’re setting yourself up for failure. In this article, my goal is to provide a well-rounded introduction to how to start implementing processes using Process Street, simplifying the “process implementation process” into three core parts, according to principles of the Lean continuous process improvement cycle. 

Oliver Peterson – “What is BPM? The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started – Simply put, BPM, or business process management, is a system made up of the following components:

  • Processes that your business uses to achieve its goals
  • The ongoing task of monitoring and tweaking these processes to ensure they are achieving said business goals
  • The tools that make these things easier

You need a good understanding of what processes are and how to implement them properly before you can start managing them.

Oliver Peterson – “What is BPM Software? The Best Business Process Management Software (BPMS) – In a nutshell, business process management is an umbrella term for the many different ways a company creates, analyzes, and updates all of the processes that drive work in the business. Different departments within a company are responsible for following and maintaining their own processes. There may be a dozen or more core processes that each department handles. With business process management, the idea is to take a step back and look at all of the different processes, from every perspective; both as a whole and as individual processes. By analyzing the current state of the processes being used, areas of improvement can be identified in order to achieve a more efficient and effective organization. In short, BPM is a methodology summed up by the idea of running an organization via processes.

Geckoboard – “90+ KPI examples to keep your company on track” – Making business decisions hinges on knowing how your teams and products are performing. And that knowledge comes from tracking the right key performance indicators (KPIs). But with hundreds of KPI examples to choose from, how do you know which ones are best for your company? That’s why we made this list. We put together the top 90 KPI examples for multiple use cases, from ecommerce to customer support to finance. Select KPIs based on your industry, and you’ll be set to gauge your company’s performance.

Human Resources

Pete Flint – “4 Signs You’re Building A World-Class Team – As the Founder/CEO of Trulia, we grew the organization to 1000+ people and a $3.5B valuation when we merged with Zillow in 2015. Along the way we focused on 4 distinct principles for building out a world-class team:

  • Plan for the future, then start with the burning issues of today
  • Become an exceptional developer of talent
  • Be uncompromising and set exceedingly high standards when hiring
  • Double down on onboarding to set your new hires up for success

A strong team is an enormous multiplier. Founders need to be pushed to raise their sights and should be recruiting, developing, and onboarding world-class people.

Phil Drolet – “Why Most Entrepreneurs Are Slowly Killing Themselves – Phil Drolet believes that the “work ‘til you drop” mentality that exists in the entrepreneurial world is both destructive and counter-productive. It leads entrepreneurs to sacrifice their health and relationships for a lifestyle of exhaustion and overwhelm, which dramatically affects their business results. After a personal breakdown, Phil Drolet realized that there is a better way to achieve entrepreneurial success. That’s why he began leading a counterculture of entrepreneurs who want to achieve greater results by working smarter, not harder.

MetaBeta – “Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing: A Guide to Implementing OKRs and Building an Accountable Team – A startup can eventually pivot to a better market or a different product. It can get funded, can hire better people. However, without a healthy culture, everything will crumble. The healthiest culture is a culture built on accountability and operational excellence, not on fancy values. One way to build accountability and performance from the start, and define the right culture, is to use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). OKRs are a management performance framework, first created by Andy Grove at Intel and used today by Google, Twitter, and thousands of high-growth startups. This article offers a practical way of implementing OKRs, based on my 20+ years of experience as a founder, and on my many mistakes.

Google ReWork – “Guide: Understand team effectiveness – Following the success of Google’s Project Oxygen research where the People Analytics team studied what makes a great manager, Google researchers applied a similar method to discover the secrets of effective teams at Google. Code-named Project Aristotle – a tribute to Aristotle’s quote, „the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (as the Google researchers believed employees can do more working together than alone) – the goal was to answer the question: “What makes a team effective at Google?”

Gallup Institute – “What Is Employee Engagement and How Do You Improve It? – Employee engagement helps you measure and manage employees’ perspectives on the crucial elements of your workplace culture. You can find out if your employees are actively engaged with their work or if they’re simply putting in their time. You can discover if your team building activities and human resources practices influence positive business outcomes or if there’s room to grow. And with the right approach, you can learn what to do to improve your employees’ connection to their work and your company.

Legal

Gust – Co-founder Equity Split Pie. Deciding how to fairly divide equity and ownership of a startup is important to both your co-founders and your business’s future. This free tool (based on Gust data) will help you ask the right questions to determine how much value each founder will contribute, and give you a sensible, objective recommendation for a fair equity split.

Gust – Everything you need to start your company plus access to fundraising support, built-in community, and $50K in savings for just $1000/year. Form a company optimized for growth. Issue stock & manage company ownership. Stay up-to-date with your company’s operations. Understand your financial health from day one. Open a business bank account. Establish relationships and protect intellectual property. Raise money from pre-seed investors. Find the right startup counsel. Join a powerful network. Save money on crucial startup services.

Startup Company Lawyer – I’ll try to cover common startup company questions from my practice, including incorporation, founders stock, stock options, seed financings, convertible note bridge financings, Series A financings, M&A issues, IPO planning and other things that seem to come up over and over again.

Finance

Christoph Janz – “SaaS Financial Plan 2.0 – It’s a simple plan for an early-stage SaaS startup with a low-touch sales model – a company which markets a SaaS solution via its website, offers a 30 day free trial, gets most of its trial users organically and through online marketing and converts them into paying customer with very little human interaction. Therefore the key drivers of my imaginary startup are organic growth rate, marketing budget and customer acquisition costs, conversion rate, ARPU and churn rate. If you have a SaaS startup with a higher-touch sales model where revenue growth is largely driven by sales headcount, the plan needs to be modified accordingly.

Osome – “Tools to Keep Track of Your Startup Finances: P&L and Cash Flow – Running out of cash is a Number 2 reason for startup failures. So how to keep track of your company’s finances and avoid cash disappearing into the void? Even if you are bad with numbers and find mathematics exhausting, you can use two simple tools to organise your finances: P&L and Cash Flow statements. Profit and Loss (P&L) statement shows If your business is making money or losing it. Cash Flow statement tracks all the movement of your cash. Although normally associated with bookkeeping and accounting, these statements can help your business a lot. So let us look at the P&L and Cash Flow, compare them, and do some counting to get the hang of the tools.

Darren Craig, – “How to create realistic financial projections for your first year in business – In entrepreneurship, if you predict bundles of profit but actually get a whole lot of loss, then you’ll be out of a business. In fact, miss managing your cashflow can turn your business on its head even if you’re doing well – it’s the biggest killer of startups around, like a horrible startup mass-murderer.

Fundraising

NfX – “The Non-Obvious Guide to Fundraising – If you’re a Founder looking to fundraise venture capital, the first thing you need to understand about the process is that it’s far more complex than it appears. Fundraising is one of the most challenging parts of being a Founder because it most often works opposite your instincts. It is just as much about what not to do as it is about what to do. Instead of relying on traditional best practices, it’s the non-obvious insights that will bring you the most learning, leverage, and ultimately, the best Founder-Investor partnership (and success) over time. 

Sifted – “Can startups grow without venture capital? – Headlines about large valuations and big funding rounds hide the fact that a huge number of venture-backed startups fail. And yet, that’s part of the game plan: most VCs expect three out of 10 of their investments to fail completely. This leads to VCs hedging their bets on one or two startups and reserving follow-up funding for them. It also leads to pressure to grow quickly, take further investment and exit. For a startup, raising venture capital is time consuming. It can become a founder’s full-time job, taking them away from building their company and team. In return, they give up equity and gain an added voice at the decision-making table.  Because of all of this, companies increasingly want other options. What if founders could keep their equity and their board seats and exit whenever they chose?

Sébastien Fiedorow – “VC questions bible. A guide to prepare for your next pitch session.” – In 2019 I met +400 startups. Here are the most critical questions. We say numbers don’t lie, so I took the shot at studying this panel of ambitious founders to identify any form of trends. In this article, I focused on one single thing: what are the most chirurgical and incisive questions in meetings, how decisive there are.

Carlos Eduardo Espinal – “How does an early-stage investor value a startup? – The biggest determinant of your startup’s value are the market forces of the industry & sector in which it plays, which include the balance (or imbalance) between demand and supply of money, the recency and size of recent exits, the willingness for an investor to pay a premium to get into a deal, and the level of desperation of the entrepreneur looking for money.

Jean de La Rochebrochard – “Yet Another Monthly Investor Report Template. That Works. Super Well. – This monthly report allows you to stand back from your daily operations and get a better picture of your company, the people, the product, the process… It’s obviously the best way to inform your investors on a regular basis so they can understand what you’re doing, where you are heading to (and consequently trust you). Finally, it’s the perfect moment to trigger actions from your advisors and investors.

Jean de La Rochebrochard – “Introduction Template For The Startups (Founders) & Their VCs (Investors) – Our founders often ask us to introduce them to fellow investors and we’re happy to do so when it makes sense. However, it can be time-consuming and it’s important to maximize the impact of such intros. Therefore we expect founders to have worked on a great pitch deck (even short), to have relevant data to share and to have prepared a list of potential investors with a superb intro (model below) we can easily send to other investors.

SlideBean – “Convertible Notes, Equity and Startup Funding Explained – Un video de 15 minute cu cea mai clara explicatie pe care am vazut-o pana acum despre ce sunt Convertible Notes, cum se face valuation-ul unui techstartup, de ce apare diluarea, care sunt termenii uzuali si la ce anume sa fii atent cand folosesti acest instrument de finantare.

Dave Lishego – “The Best Way to Do Cap Table Math (In My Opinion…) – Cap table math is confusing. Determining the post-money cap table for an equity round with an option pool refresh and one or more convertible notes converting to equity can be overwhelming. Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous shortcuts to tame the complexity. While they simplify the calculations, they often yield incorrect results because the logic isn’t obvious and it’s easy to make faulty assumptions.

NfX – The Brief is a fundraising pitch tool for Founders and VCs.

Investors Database

Shai GoldmanVC Fund Database for Early-Stage Startups

Lucy Lynn-Matern – A database of every VC that has put money into an EU-based edtech startup since 2010

NfX – Signal is the Investing Network for Founders, VCs, Scouts, and Angels. It’s a free community-driven tool. Its mission is to give all Founders access to the highest quality capital sources & advice. It helps Founders find the right investors for their company, based on sector, stage and quality of investor.

NfX – VC matches are powered by the unique data from Signal, the Founder-VC network with 6,700+ VCs and 4M+ connections between top founders and VCs.

Online Education

YCombinator – “YC Startup Library – Over the past 15 years, we’ve created many videos, podcasts and essays as resources for startup founders. We’ve now consolidated them here.

Slidebean – “Welcome to Startups 101 – If you are in the process of starting a business, these are the videos we recommend you to watch first. We cover topics like how to create a pitch deck, seed funding, stock options, convertible notes, founder’s salaries, and how to use a financial model for your business.

MentorBox – Get access to the most powerful lessons taught by the authors of hand-picked, best-selling books. Becoming a MentorBox member means you’ll be joining one of the biggest book clubs on the planet. With 50,000 active, engaged members, you’ll meet and learn alongside like-minded go-getters. And, because we’re constantly adding new content from world-class authors, you’ll stay on the cutting edge of innovation, business strategy, and psychological research.

Qualitance oferă acces gratuit la platforma online de cursuri BottomUp Skills. Asa ca oricine are posibilitatea de a se instrui gratuit în cele mai noi si mai eficace metodologii folosite in #techstartup precum Design Thinking, Growth Hacking, Agile și Lean Startup.

Templates, Tools

FounderHub – A powerful toolkit for business owners. FounderHub guides you through the most important legal, technical and logistical requirements of starting a company, while allowing you to focus in what matters most. From registering your company, your trademark and buying your first domain, we integrate the tools to help you get your business started. Fill your information once, and use it for all your platforms.

Hello, Startup – This is a list of tools, links, and checklists to help you build a startup. They are based on the book “Hello, Startup: A Programmer’s Guide to Building Products, Technologies, and Teams” by Yevgeniy Brikman. These resources are a work in a progress. They are also open source, so you can add your contributions by submitting a pull request to the Hello, Startup GitHub Repository. 

CoFounders Lab – Templates for Entrepreneurs – Sample pitch decks, cold emails, NDAs, and other resources to help your business thrive.