Hey! I wrote a book on how to actually do customer development! Go to momtestbook.com to learn more.
An [in progress] attempt to concisely describe all the important bits of how startups work.
- Equity basics: vesting, cliffs, acceleration, and exits
- This series is in progress. Subscribe to receive it.
Picking an idea
Where do startup ideas come from? What makes them good or bad?
- Founder-model misfit
- Mistakes you’ve already made
- The coffeeshop fallacy
- How I come up with startup ideas (in 4 steps)
- Why local is hard
- Use the tools you’re displacing
- Launch an experiment, plant a flat
- If you can’t build the blog, you can’t build the business
- Are you still losing your ideas? Cut that out right now.
How to actually put lean startup into practice and move from “big vision” to “what to do this week”.
- Lean startup intro (with no buzzwords)
- The risk validation pyramid
- Beware the consistent plan
- Don’t pick your tools before you know the job
- Succeeding at the default metrics will kill you
- The permanent pivot and other problems
- Run the best case numbers before validating
- Launch is a tool, not a goal
- Cooking up a startup
- Making decisions
- 3 months of runway
- Abstraction makes us stupid at business
- You “write it down” to make better pivots next year
- Freemium lemonade
- Choose wars based on strengths and battles based on weaknesses
- Good enough!
- Your winter weekend workshop
Talking to customers
I spent 4 years going from awkward techie to competent enterprise sales guy. Here’s how to learn from customers without all the hand-waving and fluff.
- How to do (and what to expect from) early stage customer development & sales
- Big name discovery anti-pattern
- The novelty anti-pattern
- The 2 (or 4) most important custdev questions
- There’s no data in a compliment
- The greatest joke ever told
- Customer development antipattern: the meeting
- The mom test for good customer feedback
- The pathos problem
- You’re a startup. It’s okay to ask about money.
Finding customers to talk to
Nobody ever tells you where to find those pesky customers you’re supposed to interview…
- The customers around you
- If Barclays can do it, so can you
- Pizza party custdev
- Let’s admit that customer development is awkward
- It’s the CEO’s job to email the first 1000 signups
Learning about entrepreneurship
You’ll soon find yourself drowning in good advice. How do you make sense of it all and find what works for you?
- Close your eyes and jump twice, then walk uphill
- Adding a picture of me to your site will improve conversions by 788%
- Divorce lawyers and surgeons don’t care about retention
- Getting and giving good startup advice
- It’s a poorly drawn soapbox
- The elevator pitch of failure
- Metups are useful iff…
- When business books are not a waste of time
- My dad taught me cashflow with a soda machine
The founder’s mindset – failing
A healthy view of failure for folks who refuse to go back to the 9–5 but aren’t yet independently wealthy.
- 3 rules for new founders
- How to make failure sustainable (and career entrepreneurship possible)
- The one shot world – a case for career entrepreneurship and casual experimentation
- Beginner’s luck is real, sort of
- Congratulations. Good luck! Hmm.
- The purpose of passion
The founder’s mindset – shipping
Resolving the tension between working smarter and working harder.
- Trollope on shipping
- Hard work and high skills
- Hercules, Sisyphus, and the nature of hard work
- You can’t strategise your way past hard work
- Your startup is a gunslinger
- And then you flip the big red switch
- Anti-launch inertia
The founder’s mindset – being and improving
About becoming better founders.
- Unfair advantages grow from irrational habits
- Re-sync your beliefs
- Investing in a personal toolbox
- The problem isn’t you. The problem is the problem.
- Okay with bored
- Specificity, experience, and expertise
- How to screw up your life by getting promoted
- 78 questions for founders
Blogging for businesses
The real reason for blogging, without all the social media BS.
- What I learned from a month of blogging and 250k visits
- Blogging for your business is worth it even if you get no traffic
- If you can’t build the blog, you can’t build the business
- Coming up with ideas of what to write about (external tool link)
- Get a text message when your articles are posted to Hacker News or reddit (external tool link)
In a question with no easy answers, some approaches are still better than others.
- How to date a supermodel (or get dealflow or find cofounders)
- Stop looking for cofounders and help them find you instead
- Bootstrapping your credibility
- I think bootstrapping might be impossible for non-programmers
- High value non-technical founders do exist
- Should every founder learn to program?
- A short-term, long-term, and bad approach to starting up without programmers
- Thriving without a tech cofounder
- Small team? Fix your life with a non-virtual assistant
- Why tech founders can’t hire in early salespeople
- A tale of 3 foundings
Appreciating the most under-used tool in the startup arsenal.
- Advisors aren’t pokemon (but they are magical)
- How much equity do I give an advisor? What do they give me?
- 2 common ways mentor conversations go wrong
Understanding the business model canvas
Case studies (mostly videos) explaining the subtleties and misconceptions about how the canvas applies to startups.
- Key activities for Groupon vs other email lists
- Customer segmentation & tiny houses
- Onstage & offstage for lean startups
- Strip club business models
- Social entrepreneurship and low value users
- Startup up from your PHD research
- Free users and key resources
- Channels, customers, and grannies
- Squatters vs. security guards
- Baby based businesses
- Good biz models for VC funding
- Minivid iteration case study
- 8 patterns for thinking about strong network biz models (thoughts-in-progress)
The series above were designed to comprehensively teach certain topics. The ones below aren’t — they’re just a bunch of articles on a given topic.
Specific business model patterns
Assorted thoughts about particularly interesting, strong, or problematic business models and ideas.
- Cheaper bootstrapping with transitional business models
- Bootstrapping an MMO with its byproducts
- User-generated content for startups
- Why would a developer invest time in your startup’s platform?
- Self-referential business models (aka. channel I N C E P T I O N)
- Those who suffer worst (re-segmenting the air travel market by niche
- When muses can work and why they will break you
- Scapegoats look like solutions at a distance
- Why I gave up on the games industry
- Learning with Flippa
Tricks for making quick progress
Lean startup is chock full of MVP ideas. Here are a few more.
- Give it away
- An example of how I’m currently validating a project idea
- Projectify that business
- Paying freelancers to build your prototype is a trap
- Etsy to kickstarter to scale
- I regret not learning some new tools sooner
- What your MVP demands of me
- Happening now: live webinar on MVPs & prototypes
Geeking out on lean startup
For the other process nerds out there…
- Disruptive startups are special
- Lean startup fatigue is a first world problem
- The saddest thing I’ve read this year
- Misunderstanding pull in lean startups
- A new (old?) model for understanding the stages of a startup
- B2B vs B2C is the wrong dichotomy
Miscellany about the things we built and the value we create.
- Tell them who it’s for
- Make it less annoying every day
- I’ve been wrongly measuring my productivity
- Overheard nuggets of product wisdom
- The product prison – golden handcuffs for entrepreneurs
- First, put some junk up
- Innovating in the wrong direction for brilliant products
- Super different, super fun
Sales & pitching
Tips for helping bad salespeople (like I was) become better ones.
- So your first sale got a “no”
- Pitching effectively to big groups
- Negotiate like you don’t need it (and other worthless advice)
- An overheard enterprise freemium pitch
- Implicit problems and BS benefits
- Why ABC
- How to ask for money
- Deciding which features to build for a big demo
- Journalists are consumers of stories — get on their supplier list
- How to lose at meetings
There’s enough written about how to raise money by folks who have done it more than I have, but here’s my take on a few points.
- Two investment deals are on the table. Which do you sign?
- Obvious first steps and first-step blindness
- Maybe you don’t want what they think you want
Totally random stuff
- I don’t miss the silicon valley (and you shouldn’t either)
- Under-valuing desperation, maybe
- I met a real live visionary!
- Tool Intro – Risk Dashboard
- Match funding incentives
- How I’ll manage my next founding team
- A man, a mop, a year, and an app – Joseph Hill on Aeir Talk
- The 10 posts I learned the most from this week
- Look outside
- Re-think in orders of magnitude
- A blind, forceful kick toward the sphinx
- Scoping down
- Asking for equity (as an employee)