Startups for the Rest of Us Notes 2013

Startups for the Rest of Us

Episode 138: More Tips for Identifying Startup Ideas

Date: 2013-06-25


Startup ideas come from luck or spontaneity, insider knowledge of an industry, and research.

Take some time and don’t run with the first idea you have.

It can be a big benefit if you are customer zero for your product.

Tap into your network to gauge if multiple people have the same problem.

Troll customer forums of large companies to find where people are having problems.

Are you building a feature, a product, or a business?

Don’t go into a space that you find boring.

Better to go against a gorilla and niche it down over another startup in your niche.

Talk to customers before writing any code.

Episode 139: 6 Questions You Should Ask In Your Customer Development Survey

Date: 2013-07-02


It is important to be able to eliminate people as potential customers.

Find pain points.

Find what features they require.

Fine which competitor they currently use.

Get email address at end of surveys.

Have a field for more comments.

Use pretty specific questions as broader questions take more time and you get less specific answers.

Episode 140: Gorilla Fighting 101, Cost of Creating Content, Selling to Offline Customers and More Listener Questions

Date: 2013-07-09


Establish relationships with writers you hire.

Don’t worry about competitor price changes luring away your current customers as the cost of switching is high.

Provide better value than similar products.

At the beginning great branding and design are little value. Focus on what problems you’re solving for the customer.

Don’t spend time and money up front on design as your product might never take off. Once your making money you can go back and fix your design.

Previous advice does not apply if you’re in the design space in which case there is a minimum bar you need to hit design wise.

Episode 141: The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking (and How to Apply Them to Your Startup)

Date: 2013-07-16


Understand deeply.

Break complex issues into component parts. e.g. Understand algebra before trying to understand calculus.

Break your app down into the minimum features. Launch with the minimum features.

Choose small wins.

Make mistakes. They are a critical part of learning.

There is no replacement for real world experience.

Follow the flow of ideas. Look backwards to see where ideas come from and forward to see where they’re headed.

Ideas are almost always evolutionary.

To be an effective thinker you need to be willing to change your mind when faced with new evidence.

Episode 142: Does Startup Validation Work?

Date: 2013-07-23


Product, market, and execution are the three legs.

Just because you have a large mailing list you’re not necessarily going to get a lot of customers.

Conversion tactics need to be used properly for your mailing list.

When you’re listening to too many people that aren’t paying you money then you’re probably not solving things for all people.

You need to put in full time.

Your product might not work even if you validate it.

Episode 143 | How To Hire Like a Bootstrapper With Special Guest Laura Roeder

Date: 2013-07-30


Don’t bill people up front early in the game (during beta).

Start with a smaller project when hiring.

You have to work with people to find out if you’re going to work well with them.

It is more important to have the right people than to just have people working for you.

Do the calculation to find out where you’re actually adding value to the business.

Don’t build yourself a job.

Where they love the most is where people will do their best work.

Do a form to have people fill out rather than send in a resume. Ask questions that pertain to how they would handle the job.

Getting rid of micromanaging is the key to success for leading an effective team.

Episode 144 | The Viability of Inbound Marketing, Challenges for Non-Technical Founders and VOIP Options for Entrepreneurs

Date: 2013-08-06


Find out who your true early adopters are.

If you’re targeting the enterprise market you need to charge high enough to justify it.

To do outbound sales you need to charge $200-$500 a month for your product.

Technical hires should be able to explain decisions made in code samples they provide.

Do not rule out annual billing.

Know your cost of customer acquisition.

The best time to start a business is yesterday.

Episode 145 | Does Lean Startup Work for Bootstrappers?

Date: 2013-08-13


All new products and services have uncertainty.

Make sure you’re making the right measurements. Don’t make assumptions. Use hard data to make the decisions that will move you forward.

Find out what works and what doesn’t before you start throwing resources at it.

The minimum viable product can be just a single feature.

Typical accounting metrics often don’t work with startups.

Avoid vanity metrics.

Pivot or persevere.

Everybody should be doing split testing whether you are doing a lean startup or not.

The rate of change is very important when you’re talking about actionability.

Episode 146 | Product Companies Vs. Service Companies

Date: 2013-08-20


Services are customizable (for a price) while products are prepackaged.

You can scale a product company a lot higher with less people.

Adding infrastructure is cheaper than adding people.

Typically with a product company you’re less dependent on a single customer.

With a product company you can generally take time off and customers don’t notice.

It takes time to hit scale.

Service companies tend to charge exponentially more per customer because there is a human that needs to deliver those professional services.

It is easier to customize your service offering on a per-customer basis.

You can prepackage your service offerings as if they were a product.

In a services company cutting costs generally means firing people.

Service companies tend to have lower margins than product companies.

Episode 147 | SaaS Pricing, Segmenting Customers, Selling Before Coding, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2013-08-27


Lot of opportunity with WordPress plugins.

How is it going to save me time or make me money?

Look at credit unions for bank accounts when just starting up.

Try to get customers to pay upfront for first year of service.

Flesh out early on exactly what you’re building.

Episode 148 | Online Marketing Trends with Special Guest Clay Collins

Date: 2013-09-03


Design is the new copywriting.

99 Designs is the best way to interview a designer.

It is easier and cheaper to grow your business by focusing on design rather than conversion.

It takes a lot of domain expertise to nail the copywriting.

Good marketing is often merely a matter of highlighting the things that are most important to highlight.

Calls to action should be above the fold.

The color of call to action buttons should be yellow (assuming it doesn’t conflict with the color scheme).

Opt-in boxes do better when the call to action is on the right side of the page.

Resource lists are working now (to get email signups).

Don’t do too much HTML in email.

Make sure calls to action in email are above the fold.

Don’t ask for more than one piece of information when somebody is coming to a landing page from a mobile device.

When people go to a website they make a judgement of whether it is a giving page or a taking page.

Put “Download Now” on a button.

Episode 149 | AuditShark and Drip Updates

Date: 2013-09-10


With Facebook ads every time your click rate goes down the minimum bid will go up.

Banks sometimes can freeze international credit cards when used for purchases through stripe.

You can’t launch without the value needed to charge someone.

Episode 150 | Ten Ideas for Things You Can A/B Test

Date: 2013-09-17


Send email three days before trial expires.

Start by testing headlines.

Test if a free trial button is going to work out. (Test versus a Buy Now button.)

Getting credit cards upfront weeds out people who aren’t necessarily engaged with the product.

Don’t chase after tire-kickers.

Test using trust symbols (vendors, cc icons, etc.).

Test having free trial form right on the homepage.

Test your testimonials with and without photos, names, and websites.

Test whether to display honest reviews of your product or filtered reviews of your product.

Test using a chat widget.

Episode 151 | Getting Paid Before You Build, Dealing with Entrepreneurial Angst, Figuring Out How Much to Charge and More Listener Questions

Date: 2013-09-24


The more users the more data points you have.

When it doubt ask for a credit card (up front).

Getting signups up front helps you validate whether people are actually willing to pay for it.

The number one goal of a business is to stay in business.

Remember that you are not your customers.

In aggregate numbers won’t lie.

Episode 152: Strategies For Loading Up Your Pre-launch Email Lists

Date: 2013-10-01


Scalable content marketing from Bootstrapped With Kids.

Look for website that accept startup announcements.

Reddit Rate My Startup

Beta List.

Use social media like Twitter and Facebook.

Setup goals in Google Analytics so you can see which source is good for you.

Ask to be a guest on podcasts.

When pitching podcasts you’re not pitching your product you’re pitching a (compelling) story.

Listen to past episodes of podcasts to find out if your information is a good fit for their audience.

Setup Google Alerts.

Ask bloggers if you can write guest articles on their websites.

You don’t want to be putting your best material on your blog. You want to be putting your best material elsewhere.

Use SEO.

Use landing pages as much as possible so you can test what text is and isn’t converting.

If you don’t know what sources are converting then you’re leaving a lot of data on the table.

Perfect Audience or Ad Roll.

If you don’t have time to track a paid advertising campaign then shut it down.

Episode 153: SaaS Pricing Tactics

Date: 2013-10-08


Launching pricing earlier can help you find the real customers for your service.

Most profit comes from your highest priced plans.

Some plans exist simply to make other plans look better.

Heavy usage of discounts might signal issues with your pricing structure.

Usage limits create a success penalty.

If there is no difference in conversion rates based on length of trial then go with a shorter trial so that you can test and iterate faster.

You’re probably going to get five times more trial users if you don’t ask for a credit card upfront.

Episode 154 | Tools For Testing Your Sales Funnel, Reseller Strategies, Integration Marketing and Other Listener Questions

Date: 2013-10-15


Anytime you come across somebody using a spreadsheet as a tracking tool you have an opportunity to build something to do it better.

Google Analytics, Kiss Metrics, Google Web Optimizer for testing your sales funnel.

Look at visit to trial conversion ratio, trial to paid conversion ratio, and visit to drip email sequence.

Be careful about running A/B tests when you don’t have enough incoming traffic.

Until you know what you should be charging as a reseller it is very difficult to know what you should be charging as a white label provider.

Episode 155 | Six Key Takeaways from MicroConf Europe 2013

Date: 2013-10-22


Concierge is getting somebody on board with a new application. You do a lot, if not all, for them. It is not scalable. Get somebody to where they get value out of your application.

If credit card fails then language in notification email should be gentle like “we’re going to pause your account” rather that “we’re going to cancel your account.

Don’t pay more than one third of lifetime value to acquire a customer.

If you’re hiring you need a standard operating document.

Episode 156 | Leveraging Services to Increase Cash Flow using a Hybrid SaaS Model

Date: 2013-10-29


Have an annual plan.

A hybrid SaaS solution gives you long term revenue while the services help bridge the gap.

You want the customer to think really inexpensive and highly optimized outsourcing.

Get your customer successful early.

Script the first five minutes of your application like the invasion of Normandy.

Raising the prices isn’t always the solution.

Episode 157 | How to get started with info products and WordPress plugins

Date: 2013-11-05

Link for list of announcement sites.

It is much faster to get an info product out especially if it is in an expertise you already have.

You can fork plugins on as they are all GPL.

You don’t have to be an expert to teach people what you know.

Don’t be afraid to put a price on an info product.

Find ways to create value-adds to your info product.

Amazon has an on-demand print service.

Info products need to be refreshed over time.

Episode 158 | The Reunion Show

Date: 2013-11-12


You don’t need to go big if you’re a first time founder.

Episode 159 | Business of Software 2013

Date: 2013-11-19


Steve Publino’s advice on productivity.

Have A tasks, B tasks, and C tasks.

Spend 50% of your time on A tasks and no more than 20% of your time on C tasks.

Inbox zero.

Forward emails to Trello.

Launching is addictive.

Find companies that have hostages not customers.

Don’t over optimize your funnel. It is when you start pissing off customers.

Define quantifiable success.

Words matter.

You need to have a lot of traffic to make testing worth it.

You get eaten from below not from above.

Episode 160 | Advice on Selling a Startup, Early Days SaaS Optimization, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2013-11-26


Don’t build a SaaS app as your first app.

If you’re selling a SaaS app try to find a third party to appraise it.

Focus on onboarding.

Opt-in Monster is a WordPress plugin for building a mailing list.

Most people aren’t going to go after projects that make them less money than their previous ones.

Your natural inclination is to build something larger than what you’ve previously built because you’ve become more accustomed to doing those types of things.

If you’re starting out the portfolio approach, the stair-step approach, is the way to go.

Work your way up there (to the major leagues).

A lot of people localize too early.

Episode 161 |  6 Steps For Content Marketing

Date: 2013-12-03


Book: Hatching Twitter

Book: Rework

Book: The E-Myth Revisited

Book: The Lean Startup

Once everybody is using the same terminology it makes it easier for everybody to talk about the same thing.

You need to know what it is you want to do before you randomly start creating content.

What is the content supposed to do?

If you build something that isn’t helpful to people, no matter how good it is, you’re just wasting your time.

Tools are a good example of things that can draw people in if they’re really well executed.

Try to find people to build content for you.

Use attention grabbing headlines.

Your content strategy can feed into your SEO strategy.

Consistency (in posting data) can help draw people back to your site.

Enable one-click sharing.

Engage with your audience after you’ve published your content. Ask them to tweet or email you. Thank them.

Measure the things related to your content marketing.

Episode 162 | Our Predictions for 2014

Date: 2013-12-10


Book: Masters of Doom

There are going to be arbitrage opportunities with Twitter advertising.

In order to set yourself apart you have to do things other people won’t.

Concierge service (onboarding clients) is low hanging fruit.

Integration marketing will pick up steam as more companies offer APIs.

Episode 163 | Our Goals for Next Year (And Why You Should Set Your Own)

Date: 2013-12-17


Set goals.

Goals keep you accountable.

Goals help keep you focused on the things you should be working on.

Episode 164 | 50 Mobile Apps That We Use to Run Our Businesses

Date: 2013-12-24


Gmail app for iOS

Chrome for iOS



Google Drive

Quick Office (from Google)

Simple Note







Paid (3rd party Stripe iOS app)




Amazon Cloud Player


Amazon Instant Video


Kindle for Chrome plugin


FTP on the Go




Episode 165 | Our 5 Biggest Mistakes From the Past Year

Date: 2013-12-31


Paid acquisition is a dubious proposition.

Pay attention to your health.

Don’t let email negatively impact your productivity.

Have a mastermind group. It can be helpful moving your forward.

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