You can’t treat entrepreneurs like average, everyday human beings — for a lot of reasons — but mostly due to the fact that they are constantly, perpetually, and stressfully pressed for time.
I’m not putting entrepreneurs on any sort of “busier-than-thou” pedestal, nor trying to elevate what they do as the solution to all humankind’s problems. I just know, from over 20 years of experience starting and running companies, that time in my biggest enemy.
So when offerings are introduced that intend to provide solutions for entrepreneurs in their quest to build a better and more successful company, I’m always frustrated by the time commitment required to get to the answer. This is especially true in startup, a domain where there’s always a greater-than-normal chance that the answer given is not going to apply to the founder’s unique idea, strategy, or execution. …
Freemium models seem like an easy way to get new customers to fall in love with your product. But freemium models aren’t for every business.
When they work, they work like magic, locking the customer into a value proposition that’s harder to give up than if they never experienced it at all.
When they don’t work, those same models can become an economic albatross of costs that don’t generate any revenue, and eventually sink the company.
The important thing is knowing which camp your product is going to fall into before you carve out that tricky free tier.
First, let’s dispel the conventional lure of the freemium model. …
Quick question: Can you state what your company does in a single sentence?
Most startups think about growth this way: They look at their product as point A and product-market fit as point B. But a lot of them skip the step that draws the line between those two points: positioning.
In its simplest form, positioning is an exercise to determine what, who, and where you are. It begins with that simple question: “What does your company do?” And it results in a path that gets you to product-market fit.
Here’s how to do that.
Positioning is traditionally thought of as a marketing concept, defining the space where the company’s brand fits into the universe of its market and its competitors. …
The customer isn’t always right, but rest assured they will tell you what’s wrong.
And that’s a crazy valuable opportunity waiting to happen.
I was reminded of this again last week when I sent out the new Teaching Startup web app for beta testing to a handpicked group of top entrepreneurs.
A little backstory: Teaching Startup has been a newsletter product that has worked extraordinarily well for over six months now — increased adoption, increased engagement, growing revenue. It’s an advice product via newsletter, so it lacked a central repository. …
We’ve all heard this one by now: If you’re not paying for a product, you are the product.
You should never do this to your paying customers.
There are a whole host of reasons why serving ads to paying customers is a horrible idea — reasons I’ve learned firsthand launching dozens of digital products, from user-generated content sites to two-sided marketplaces to service subscriptions and just about everything in between.
Let’s go over those reasons and make sure you’re not setting up your customer-driven product for failure, whether you’re serving ads or not.
That’s a bold statement, but I can defend it. …
I just launched the most boring MVP of my career.
Admittedly, it was boring on purpose, but even I was shocked at how vanilla the results were. It’s OK though, because even though the MVP was dull as shit, it was also useful as hell. At this early stage, useful is all I care about.
I’ve been launching new products for over 20 years, mostly as an entrepreneur or part of a startup. I’ve had huge successes and crashing failures. I’ve launched brilliant and clever cool new things and dreadfully mundane solutions to nagging and expensive problems.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned: When it comes to long-term success, there might appear to be correlation between flashy and successful, but there’s no causation. …
Here’s a major problem every new company faces: Useful is boring.
Now, there’s always the occasional success story that enters the market like a tornado, generating huge amounts of buzz while still leaving copious value in its wake. This rarity leads to the misconception that when a product is looking for traction, it needs to generate as much interest as it can as quickly as it can.
But history is littered with useless products and startups and entire product categories that flashed in their respective pans and quickly trended out of the mainstream. The Amazon Fire Phone. Theranos. 3D televisions. …
The argument around the viability of no-code centers around the fact that there’s really no such thing as no-code.
I mean there is no-code as we know it, and I’m a true believer. I’m actually building a product around no-code — a viable, real, it-costs-money product.
I’m a believer because the promise of no-code is an entrepreneur’s dream, especially those of us who are also true-believers in minimum viable product, two-sided marketplaces, subscription models, and eService.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, and I’ve built dozens of viable, even successful products. …
Pricing a new product is one of the hardest things you’ll do.
I’ve been through pricing decisions that have taken months, only to still get it wrong. It’s been argued to me that it’s easier to raise the price than it is to lower it, and I’ve been told I was crazy for doing the reverse. I’ve missed the mark way too high and way too low, and I’ve stuck by my guns, painfully, until I was proven right.
When you’re pricing a new product, there are a lot of moving parts in the equation. …
Sometimes an entrepreneur is at the right place at the right time and doesn’t realize it.
But the thing is, this scenario doesn’t happen a lot with opportunity. Conventional wisdom will tell you that all those sad “coulda-been” stories that come out of startup are about opportunities that were almost within reach but then slipped away. The reasons are usually pinned to fate — too early, too late, just not the right place or the right time.
Those stories are garbage. I intend to fix that.
There are two critical questions an entrepreneur faces with every opportunity that materializes in front of them (i.e. …