Startups for the Rest of Us Notes 2019

Startups for the Rest of Us

Episode 425 | How to Launch a Product Into a Mature Market

Date: 2019-01-01


A mature market doesn’t necessarily mean it is a big market.

Disrupting an existing market is where the hyper growth comes from.

Most mature markets right now are ripe for disruption one way or another.

If you’re going to bootstrap don’t go after enterprise sales in a mature market.

You’re going to need to find a space with early adopters who are going to be willing to switch.

If you enter into a huge market it will have a big player who can charge a lot due to brand name.

Add a lot of integrations that you know your early adopters will use.

Be the underdog. It is easy to market against the big guys when you can talk about being the anti-them.

You can start breaking rules when you know which rules to break.

When people are in so much pain they are willing to be the early adopters.

Episode 426 | Getting Started with Event Tracking

Date: 2019-01-08


If you have events in different systems and you want to try to track them then the first thing you need to do is document them.

Define what your events are (as one of three core lifecycle events).

A lifecycle event is something that a customer does inside of your app so that it starts providing value to them.

Figure out the things that the app needs to do for the customer to get value and focus on them as your events.

Name each of your events (past tense verbs e.g. “signed up”).

Use capitalized letters for events. (Be consistent across all events.)

Write down why this event is important to you.

Only track the events you are going to take action on.

Episode 427 | Scaling a Software Product, Raising Prices, When to Consider CRM, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2019-01-15


Do not prematurely shard the database.

It is hard to raise prices when you don’t have control of your distribution.

CRM is more for moving people through a process rather than as a repository for data.

Episode 428 | Building Relationships with Agency Partners, Determining Equity Splits, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2019-01-22


Don’t build a SaaS for consumers.

If you feel both partners are going to contribute equally over time then don’t ask for more than a 50% split.

An appraisal is a theoretical way to value a business.

Episode 429 | Building a Launch List of 5,900 and Grinding Out Customer Development

Date: 2019-01-29


It is a hard problem to solve to strike the right balance.

All startups have risk.

Add a scarcity piece (to building a list).

Introducing some element of scarcity is enough to get people to drop their email into a form.

Podcast: Art of Product

Episode 430 | What to Look For In a Co-Founder

Date: 2019-02-05


You need to know that your co-founder will always do the right thing.

Some people are too trusting.

In the short term you are looking for someone who can compliment your skillset. In the long term you are looking for someone where the things they want to do do not overlap with the things you want to do.

People have a lot less time on the side than they think they do.

Money is a very short-term thing.

Episode 431 | Converting Free Users to Paid, Vesting, Business Ethics, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2019-02-12


Facebook will not allow you to do advertising unless you have a Facebook account linked to it.

If you are bootstrapped and running your own business then you are doing that for a lot of reasons and one of them is that you control your own destiny.

(Even Steve Jobs) has a bunch of failures. He thought he knew what people want but it turned out he didn’t.

Episode 432 | How to Indirectly Overcome Sales Objections

Date: 2019-02-19


Your sales copy needs to speak to your visitors and the problem they are trying to solve.

Have a knowledge base.

You can overcome objections with downloadable resources such as whitepapers and guides.

You can build a lot of credibility by educating.

(Give away things) that are of a quality that people would be willing to pay for.

People that are doing content marketing really well these days are doing long pieces–5,000, 10,000, 15,000 words.

Case studies are great as you are essentially getting this massive testimonial from somebody.

Episode 433 | Managing Your Emotions, the Cost of an MVP, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2019-02-26


There is nothing you can do (about some people being angry when you do a price increase).

Try not to take (criticism) personally.

Don’t send flippant or rushed responses.

Seeing another company and thinking you can build better tech than them is not a recipe for success.

More than half of being a successful founder is dealing with the mental side of things.

Episode 434 | SaaS KPIs You Should Focus on From Day 1

Date: 2019-03-05


At all times you are going to have one or more things going sideways with your business. It is the nature of startups.

Your KPIs are going to change over time.

Be careful (drawing conclusions) from your early numbers.

Unique visitors isn’t really a KPI. You just want as many as you can.

On day one–when you have just launched–unique visitors doesn’t have much meaning yet.

Early day KPIs are different than later day KPIs.

When you hit $5k or $10k MRR (or 100 to 200 customers) you can start seeing trends.

Look for 10-20% of unique visitor to trial rate (if not asking for a credit card up front).

Trial to paid conversion (when asking for credit card up front) you want 40% to 60%.

If you look at your churn across your entire customer base you are missing some information.

Look at your first 60-day churn and post 60-day churn.

Focus on revenue churn rather than customer churn.

Net negative churn is the holy grail of SaaS.

Lower-priced products tend to lead to higher churn.

The page for your KPIs is the pulse of your business.

Episode 435 | The Value of Startup Accelerators, Better Onboarding, Liability Insurance, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2019-03-12


The goal of most accelerators is to provide you enough funding to get you to demo day (where you can raise more funding).

Insurance is one of those industries where they profit by your lack of knowledge and them being able to be opaque.

Get personal liability coverage.

If you have somebody building code for you then you want to have a contract in place.

The odds of somebody stealing your code and doing something with it are pretty slim.

Episode 436 | How to Respond to Customer Suggestions

Date: 2019-03-19


If you are always trying to talk customers out of suggestions that is a problem.

Ask the customer questions to make sure that you understand their context and point of view.

Digging into their context might show that they are curious or it might show that they are not a good fit for your service.

Ask them how they would prioritize their suggestion.

Compare their context to yours.

“Is this something they saw your competitor do?” Is that a road you want to go down with your product.

Is this something only they would use?

Make sure your response establishes a common context for the two of you.

You are never going to have a to do list that gets shorter over time. It is always going to get longer and longer. You have to pick and choose which things you do and don’t implement.

A lot of things sound like good ideas…but as the founder you need to decide what gets you the most bang for your buck.

Episode 437 | Monetizing B2C, Selling a Small SaaS, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2019-03-26


You have long-term risks (if you choose not to sell your small business and that will factor into your multiple that you would receive).

10 years is forever for a SaaS app.

Google can make an SEO change that completely decimates your business.

You might want to take several years of cash flow and put them into your next thing.

At some point you have to hire.

At certain scales you sometimes have to do things you don’t want to.

Episode 438 | Casual Conversations with Rob & Mike

Date: 2019-04-02


Don’t go down the path of (big technical changes) until you have more customers and more revenue. It is not a top priority.

Having more time to practice improves (conference) talks.

With legal terminology there are different ways to interrupt the exact same words.

Episode 439 | 9 Key Takeaways from MicroConf 2019

Date: 2019-04-09


Know what you are getting into when you are raising funding.

Know what you are good at and make sure you double down on that.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Don’t only build what your customers ask for.

Words matter.

You should build an audience before you build a product. (Rob disagrees but thinks it makes it easier.)

(Market) your unique thoughts, skills, and abilities.

Episode 440 | How to Build Case Studies That Don’t Suck

Date: 2019-04-16


At a certain point you can’t do the best ever, you just need to do the best that you can.

One year does not make a trend.

Case studies can function at the top of the funnel to drive traffic, in the middle of the funnel to convert leads, and at the bottom of the funnel to convert leads and increase sales.

(Case studies) are very versatile depending on how they are written.

You can do multiple versions of the same case study. You can make it general for the top of the funnel and specific at the bottom.

Case studies make your customer the hero–and by extension the prospect that is looking at it will think, “Wow, I want that to be me.”

One of the biggest things about building a case study is to think about who you are targeting.

You need to find customers interested in being in your case study. They need to be excited about using your product.

Use an introductory questionnaire.

Look at a summary of the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. Show where someone ended up and then trace back to how they got there. What did they do? What challenges did they have along the way? What did they get from your product that allowed them to level up?

Focus almost exclusively on the story.

The brand recognition for the story matters less than the story itself.

People like to consume content in different ways.

Episode 441 | Revisiting 2019 Goals, Why Remote Companies Grow Slower, and A Couple Listener Questions

Date: 2019-04-23


Book: Mindset

The successful founders have growth mindsets and are always questioning their beliefs.

People that are able to implement new things quickly…are the founders that are succeeding.

It is hard to not have focus.

Remote companies grow slower than co-located ones.

Growth for companies where the founder has a hobby are ten to fifteen percent slower.

Even though remote companies do not have faster growth it does not mean that being remote causes slower growth.

Venture companies tend to have offices and have more money which they can use to goose the growth.

When you see data that conflicts with what you think you need to consider why that is.

Do flash sales (if you are doing B2C).

Episode 442 | Corporate Structures and How the Choice You Make Now Can Impact You Years Down the Line

Date: 2019-04-30


(When you get funding) the investors might be mad that you are making a profit. That is not the goal. The goal is to spend all that money fueling growth.

C-corps are the big ones. If you go public you are a c-corp.

With c-corps there are no pass through taxes.

With c-corps you are essentially double-taxed if you are pulling cash out of the business. So, if you are pulling cash out of the business you do not want to use a C-corp.

With an S-corp is typically hard to take investments.

If you think you might sell for less than $20 million then an LLC is probably best for you.

Episode 443 | Determining Which Signals Matter, Staying on Task Without Extrinsic Motivation, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2019-05-07


You’re reliant on somebody at some point.

Twitter is for noise.

Almost all decisions are reversible.

You know you are in a zone of personal growth when you are doing things that make you feel not comfortable.

If you find that you have less time then you get the work done faster.

A blog post is better than a Tweet. A book is better than a blog post.

(Productivity) is about priorities and saying no. It is about showing up every day and getting shit done.

Relentless execution.

Ask yourself (Monday morning), “What do I have to get done? What will move the business forward the most?”

Episode 444 | Our Biggest Regrets, Feelings of Isolation, Impact of Management Tasks on Deep Work and More Listener Questions

Date: 2019-05-14


Email client: Super Human

Think through things before doing them. Pause and look at the big picture.

It takes time to repair relationships you have damaged.

Find something outside of your business that you can use to socialize.

Cut down on the synchronized time you have to spend with people.

Episode 445 | Why Absolute Thinking Is ALWAYS Bad

Date: 2019-05-21


Absolute thinking is the very black and white views of things.

Don’t use “always” and “never”.

Looking at pros and cons is complicated.

Higher level thinking involves nuisance.

First learn the rules. Then master the rules. Then learn when you should break the rules.

Rules are helpful for giving you guardrails early on.

Episode 446 | How to Build More Successful Integrations

Date: 2019-05-28


All APIs are not created equal.

There are times you are going to have to do blackbox testing in order to figure out how things really work.

It is easy to overbuild.

What customers are using the API and what visibility do you have on the other side?

APIs are a good promotion strategy.

Episode 447 | Platform Risk, Pricing, and Customer Development

Date: 2019-06-04


People will mentally cross you off their list if they don’t understand your pricing model.

Whether switching costs are high or not the cost is high in peoples’ minds.

You can’t make an app that is 30% better and expect people to switch.

Book: The Mom Test

Episode 448 | Let’s Talk About Bluetick

Date: 2019-06-11


(Try to) ship features every week.

You are going to encounter a problem almost every day as an entrepreneur. They should be speedbumps.

You can’t let perfect get in the way of good when shipping.

You need differentiation (between your product and your competitors).

Start looking at every problem as a speedbump rather than a roadblock.

Episode 449 | Two-Sided Marketplaces, How Much Testing is Too Much, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2019-06-18


If you are not a developer it is easy to discount unit testing.

Have extensive (80% to 90%) unit test coverage.

Snapshot testing is taking a screenshot and comparing from one build to the next to see if things are going wrong.

If you have good test coverage you should have 2.5 lines of test code for every line of production code.

People can be very opinionated on things they are not experts in.

Everybody has opinions but do they have taste?

One person’s opinion about what looks better (when comparing two designs) isn’t going to provide useful feedback.

With two-sided marketplaces focus on one side first.

Episode 450 | Founder Hotseat: Matt Wensing of SimSaaS on Making Consistent, Needle-Moving Progress

Date: 2019-06-25


For any business you are part of think of yourself as an owner first (rather than your job title).

When you are a single person company or a small team it is so important to know your strengths and weaknesses.

How to consistently make needle moving progress on your business is showing up every day and having a schedule that is as ideal as possible for you.

Episode 451 | Stellar Growth, Platform Risk, Layoffs and Powering Through Roadblocks with Laura Roeder

Date: 2019-07-02


As a tool you have to make sure you are 100% in compliance with the APIs and terms of service because you are putting your customers at risk.

People don’t read every message you send.

If you have to do layoffs do it all in one go.

Episode 452 | LinkedIn Outreach, New Features vs. Fixing Bugs and More Listener Questions with Jordan Gal

Date: 2019-07-09


It is hard to keep everyone aligned on what you are thinking.

As you get older you get to know yourself better.

A lot ends up on gut feel as to where your customers are and what you should be doing.

Don’t go too long without giving your customers new features.

Keep momentum going.

Episode 453 | How a Non-Technical Founder Built and Sold a Multi-million Dollar SaaS Startup with Jeff Epstein

Date: 2019-07-16


If you care about something there will be a level of stress.

Anything technical always takes a lot longer than you hope.

When you have a board you always have to look at multiple years out.

Once you raise money you’re on the clock. The worst thing you can do is decelerate or stop growing.

The uncertainty of an acquisition is scary for a lot of people.

Episode 454 | Overcoming Fear (Throwback Episode)

Date: 2019-07-23


Your software isn’t going to be perfect.

Everybody makes mistakes and bugs are mistakes. You need to fix the mistakes and move on.

The first time you do anything you are going to be scared.

Anxiety which transforms into fear is actually good to a certain extent. It will make you perform better.

You are going to make the right decision with the information you have at the time.

Taking risks is a necessity if you are an ambitious person.

Failure and rejection are going to be inevitable when you do anything that has risk associated with it.

Get a sanity check from someone else.

Episode 455 | “Things I Would Have Done Differently” with Tracy Osborn of WeddingLovely

Date: 2019-07-30


Who knows what is going to happen down the line.

Google giveth. Google take it away.

Episode 456 | Launching a 2nd Product + Revisiting Freemium with Ruben Gamez

Date: 2019-08-06


Try to better serve individual segments of your market.

Change and switch if you recognize you are going in the wrong direction.

With SEO you can go many months without a sign that it is working.

Episode 457 | Starting a Marketplace, Marketing Channels, Resellers, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2019-08-13


People will only pay for something that is providing them value.

Rob Walling ebook: Start Marketing the Day you Start Coding

Nights and weekends are hard.

Episode 458 | The Return of Mike Taber

Date: 2019-08-20


You need to give yourself permission (to take time away to get over burnout).

You have to focus on being productive.

You need to figure out not just what motivates you but what you want to achieve.

Episode 459 | From Day Job to Productized Service to Fast-Growing SaaS as a Non-Technical Founder

Date: 2019-08-27


The time from making a few thousand bucks to $10,000 MRR is really hard.

There are businesses that could have succeeded if they have a little more time.

WordPress plugins are an expensive channel to maintain but very high-quality.

Episode 460 | Funded Competition, Growing an Email Newsletter Audience, White-Labeling and More Listener Questions

Date: 2019-09-03


See if you can recreate content as guest posts.

Put yourself out there so more people will know about you and you will have more opportunities to share what you are doing.

Whitelabeling in general is distracting. It is way more technically challenging than most developers think it is.

Whitelabeling devalues your brand and creates a brand for someone else.

You are trying to build a brand for the long-term.

Get someone familiar with the startup space (when dealing with legal documents, contracts, and employment agreements).

Episode 461 | Doubling Down on Bluetick

Date: 2019-09-10


Each day is a new start and use it at that.

Separate your self-worth from your product.

Focus on your personal health.

Episode 462 | Competing Against a 900 lb. Gorilla, Splitting from Your Co-founder, and More Listener Questions (with Jeff Epstein)

Date: 2019-09-17


More than half of being a successful entrepreneur is managing your own psychology.

If you’re entering a competitive space you don’t always need to be your first user.

A business sale is not at all what you can expect.

A lot of time engineering and writing code is black and white but business is shades of grey.

Don’t assume you are right.

In general smaller teams have less dysfunction.

Say positive things in public and negative things in private (about others).

Negativity is toxic and it spreads.

Episode 463 | Troubleshooting Enterprise Sales (A Founder Hotseat with David Heller)

Date: 2019-09-24


With email marketing you don’t say “Sign up for my newsletter” you say “Sign up for my newsletter and you get this”. There is an opt-in reward.

Have a repository of your answers (to your customer questions).

Episode 464 | Highs, Lows, and Building Your First Sales Process with Steli Efti

Date: 2019-10-01


Relationships don’t become stronger without a lot of work.

Who is your customer? How does my customer buy?

Your sales reps should focus on closing deals but not focus on closing deals at any cost.

Make sure the revenue you bring in is not just any revenue but quality revenue.

Episode 465 | A Bluetick Update from Mike Taber

Date: 2019-10-08


How can you pitch in a way that is going to resonate well for the people on the receiving end of it?

Figure out your positioning (in marketing).

Episode 466 | Answering Listener Questions With Craig Hewitt

Date: 2019-10-15


A productized service model is a great way to transition out of your day job into running a business.

The perfect beta testers are the people that love what you do and will give you a lot of latitude.

You can indirectly monetize your podcast with products, services, conferences, or membership sites.

Episode 467 | “A Life-Changing Exit” with Adii Pienaar of Conversio

Date: 2019-10-22


You never know what changes beyond your control in the next two or three years.

Having a short close is generally beneficial to the seller.

Episode 468 | Tables Are Turned As Tracy Osborn Interviews Rob About the Past Year

Date: 2019-10-29


Just because you are capable of something as a founder doesn’t mean you should do it.

Get out of the idea stage and get validation. Get someone using it.

Episode 469 | Key Takeaways from MicroConf Europe 2019

Date: 2019-11-05


Don’t have anything in production that is going to delete a lot of data at once.

When you are building your own startup you only have your own information and access to what is there.

You can catch up with people online but it is different being in the same room and talking with them.

Episode 470 | A Bluetick Update from Mike Taber

Date: 2019-11-12


As entrepreneurs we cannot hate our job.

Find your one differentiating feature or factor that would make it easy for people to understand what (your product) is as a vision rather than what (your product) is today.

What can you have (in your product) that will make people switch from other tools?

Pick the biggest pain point (of your possible customers).

You’re either dealing with competitor pain or customer pain these days if you are building a SaaS.

Episode 471 | Fighting to Gain Traction in a Crowded Space with Jane Portman of Userlist

Date: 2019-11-19


When you have vitamins it is easier for people to try them out but the churn is higher.

When you have the aspirin it is harder to get people to move over.

Features are not exactly the key thing in purchasing decisions.

Focus on a niche.

Freemium is not a great way for bootstrap founders to start a business. Not just for a lack of revenue but because MRR is a validation.

Episode 472 | From Amazing Launch to Near Bankruptcy to Profitability with Shai Shechter

Date: 2019-11-26


Once you launch your launch audience is used up.

When things are going quickly and you see a month that flatlines then you think that is an anomaly (but it might be the beginning of a problem).

Some hiring decisions are not in the company’s best interest. Sometimes you hire people into roles you should still be doing.

Revenue growth can hide high churn.

Episode 473 | Managing Annual Subscriptions, Low-price vs. High, Being a Non-Developer Founder, and More Listener Questions with Laura Roeder

Date: 2019-12-03


Make sure you have 100% faith in the person you are putting in a leadership role.

You shouldn’t try to pretend to be anything you’re not.

Look at how the math works out to make (your idea) a viable business.

Someone asking questions is a huge sign of intelligence.

Episode 474 | Overcoming a 40% Decline in MRR with Brian Casel

Date: 2019-12-10


A lot of people don’t realize that when you have a high price point it doesn’t take you that many customers to get you to a high (revenue target).

There are pros and cons to productized services. They can grow quickly but they aren’t as scalable.

How can you ensure that customers are really happy after the first month?

You should learn to code enough to communicate with developers.

Stick with (a programming language) that has a huge developer community and a ton of resources.

Try and find mentors.

If you get to launch and you do not have some sort of launch list that you have been building then you have a problem.

Episode 475 | A Bluetick Update from #Mike Taber

Date: 2019-12-17


Segment the types of (your potential customers) and what their price point is.

Frontend code is not just a technical challenge.

It is hard to extrapolate from a single data point.

Episode 476 | “We Went from Hundreds of Free Trials to a Few Dozen…On Purpose” with Jordan Gal

Date: 2019-12-24


The holidays in ecommerce are always big.

Pricing is just one piece of it.

Just because you can say you are at several million in ARR does not mean everything is good.

Raising prices on existing customers is complicated.

Personalize (your pricing change notification). “Last month you did X, with our new pricing you would be paying Y.”

If you do math emotionally you get the wrong answer.

Think about it from the customer’s perspective.

The nature of churn is that it carries on for a few months.

Create an actual sales pipeline and steps.

You don’t have to play by established rules. Do what you think is best for your business.

Episode 477 | Assessing Product-Market Fit, How to Find a Mastermind, and More Listener Questions with Brian Casel

Date: 2019-12-31


It is important to couple pure data from surveys with actual conversations with customers.

You are going to find out much more from actual conversations.

If you think you can build an app better, do you think their users care at all?

A lot of people don’t care and are used to using something.

You can have Stripe accept paper checks on your behalf.

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