Software Engineering, Business Models, Culture, Management, Metrics, Analytics, Entrepreneurship, Growth, Marketing, Weekend Roundup#14 Oct 13 2013
This weekend’s Roundup #14 from Startup Management is a manual selection from the hundreds of weekly articles being curated. Previous issues are available here. There are 32 links in this mega edition. I couldn’t narrow it further. Too much good content!
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Does your Startup have a Narrative?
John Hagel has a compelling post The Untapped Potential of Corporate Narratives, where he explains the importance of narratives, and why they can make the difference between institutions that either crumble or grow stronger. If you replaced the context of the institution by the startup, the same concept applies, and even more forcefully, in The Power of Pull for Startups that I wrote.
To MBO or Not MBO, That is the Question
Brad Feld has a great post, No More MBOs, where he puts into question the usefulness of MBO-based bonuses in startups. It’s a good read, including the discussion. I agree with Brad that linking bonuses to MBOs can be messy, but I’m saying Don’t Abolish MBOs, so let’s not throw the baby with the bath water. MBO is a management tool, not an incentive program.
Dharmesh Shah is notorious for splitting the book open on transparency, with this line “We are radically and uncomfortably transparent”, from his famous deck on the HubSpot culture. In a new guest post on the Sequoia Capital Grove blog, he gives an executive summary on Radical Transparency, stating that “At HubSpot, we practice extreme transparency.”
Can you take a VC out of their blog, and make them talk outside of their turf? Rohan Rajiv’s A Learning a Day just did that, with Mark Suster, in the RealLeaders.tv series, Mark Suster on careers, branding and mentors. There’s one question Rohan didn’t ask Mark: why are you growing a Van Dyke? Fred Destin has reconstituted Marc Andresseen’s (passionate) comments from HackerNews as a pseudo interview. Marc’s comparison of enterprise vs. consumer startups is bang on. This is a must read. Fred Wilson resurrected a 20-minute 2005 video interview with Paul Graham, where he talks about hackers vs. developers, what makes a great software product, and the startup culture. And here’s an animated 30-minute interview with Chamath Palihapitiya on This Week in Startups, where Chamath pounds on Apple’s obsession with their profits margins, and shames them for not doing more with iCloud.
An easy to read post-mortem, Tab: Startup to Shutdown, with 10 lessons. It is from the perspective of a London-based startup that came to the US too early to pitch investors.
Product managers are the unsung heroes, says Ken Yeung in Product Managers: Who are these mini CEO’s and what do they do? Bonus: the post includes a 1.5-hour video with Marissa Mayer, where she talks about product management (Google vintage). If you are a product manager, bookmark this one, because it also contains some great links.
Tomasz Tunguz reveals Sales Efficiency Benchmarks for SaaS Startups from 20 publicly traded SaaS companies. Sales efficiency is the ratio of quarterly marketing expenses, divided by the incremental revenue over the next 12 months (it should be over 1). That ratio apparently drops below 1, after 10 years since founding. It’s too bad Tomasz doesn’t have commenting on his blog, because I have a few questions on the 2 charts he posted. Peter Levine explains how you Create an “Express Lane” for the Procurement Departmental SaaS Applications. It includes a comprehensive checklist that covers issues that large companies are typically worried about, and a framework of partnership with the stakeholders. And I remind SaaS startups not to mount frontal assaults on the enterprise, in About That Sales Cycle…It Will Kill You.
Customer acquisition is all the rage in startups. Brian Balfour provides an incredible list of links if you’d like to learn How To Become A Customer Acquisition Expert. Wow.
If you have never hired a designer, or if you have hired a bad one, then you need to read How to Hire Designers, by Paul Adams of Inside Intercom. It’s a follow-up their Dribbblisation of Design post. “Visual design doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Evaluate designers against the layers that you need.”
Metrics and Analytics
It’s another primer on analytics, but a good one, from KISSmetrics: The Beginners Guide to Startup Analytics. Marc Barros lays out the Metrics that Really Matter with Hardware Startups. “Customer love, market share and profits” are 3 of them. And in Why I don’t like the LTV metric, Jason Cohen says it’s because “every component of LTV changes over time.”
David Hassell has a good post, Employees Quit Leaders, Not Companies. It cites a study that analyzed 20,000 employee surveys, and found that the primary reason people quit is actually a “loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders.”
Marketplaces and Business Models
Fred Wilson prompted a debate about Curated Marketplaces, inspired by Stephanie Tilenius’ post on The New Curated Consumer Marketplace Model: 10 Criteria for Success. And here’s a primer about Platform Thinking and Disruption with with Sangeet Choudary. “Software and technology are not the end product. Instead, they simply serve as the underlying infrastructure that enable users to interact with each other.”
Eran Galperin says Nobody Cares What “Growth Hacking” Means to Marketers. I agree. Some marketing activities are labeled as “growth hacking”, just because that term is popular.
Casey Winters lays out the Three Phases of Scaling Startup Marketing, a wide ranging list of actionable ideas, with their associated costs. Scott Brinker who coined the term agile marketing, Debunks its 3 myths.
What does it take to be a serial entrepreneur? Lydia Dishman tries to figure out The Science and Psychology Behind What Drives Serial Entrepreneurs. “Making mistakes does not equal learning.” Here is a long First Round Capital Review post, There’s a .00006% Chance of Building a Billion Dollar Company: How This Man Did It, recounting how David Friedberg started and sold The Climate Corporation, his full-stack risk management company, for $1 Billion. Fred Wilson reminds us there’s a difference between Starting and Finishing, and makes a VC confession: “The art is helping the first time founder learn how to turn themselves into a great leader manager or helping them decide that they should step aside and let someone else take over.”
Mobile marketing is not easy, nor cheap. This primer covers some basics, App Marketing 101: Crush the Competition and Rule the App Store. Parabolic title, but a good start.
The Psychology of Engineers: a Talk on Introversion/Extroversion and Flow is a 20-min video on the basics of introversion and extroversion. Great for understanding the two sides, and it is not just for engineering jobs. And What CTOs Fear Most is a part II of an excellent series from Keen IO, with the CTOs of CircleCI, Life360, thoughbot, Gengo, and Markerly. Too many good nuggets there, to single out any one of them.
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