Lean Startup & Early-Stage Business Model Validation
- Eric Ries’s book, The Lean Startup, is a must-read for entrepreneurs.
- Steve Blank’s “Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything” was the cover story of the May 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review. He also emphasizes that “An MVP Is Not a Cheaper Product, It’s About Smart Learning“.
- Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits published an overview of customer development and lean startup methods in their book, The Lean Entrepreneur.
- Laura Klein published a book, UX for Lean Startups, that provides an overview of user-centered design research techniques for validating demand in early-stage tech startups.
- Elad Gil outlines the pros and cons of staying in stealth mode.
- Andrew Chen unpacks the concept of product-market fit. Brian Balfour describes indicators of product-market fit and William Mougayar comments on why achieving product-market fit should be viewed as a gradual process, not a single event.
- Ben Yoskovitz of GoInstant on the value of focusing on “one metric that matters“.
- The Startup Genome Project presents research on thousands of startups in a pair of reports. Premature scaling is the leading cause of startup failure.
- Entrepreneur Graeham Douglas on lean techniques for rapid prototyping of physical products.
- Trevor Owens (Lean Startup Machine) on different approaches for validating assumptions.
- Alex Osterwalder, coauthor of Business Model Generation, which introduces the business model canvas widely used by entrepreneurs, lists eight questions you should ask about your business model.
- Our own thoughts on the only “2 ways to create a $100 million business”
- Thomas Eisenmann’s 10-part series on business model analysis covers a range of topics.
- Neil Davidson’s usefully short guide to software pricing: “Don’t just roll the dice”
- Fred Wilson of USV on the different business models for e-commerce sites.
- David Skok of Matrix Partners analyzes key factors for success with the SaaS model and why churn matters.
- Dave Kellogg of Host Analytics provides an in-depth discussion of how to estimate and interpret Customer Acquisition Cost in a SaaS business
- Jason Cohen, founder of Smart Bear Software, probes methods for estimating attrition rateswhen calculating SaaS lifetime customer value and analyzes factors that can reduce profitability in SaaS businesses
- Lars Lofgren of KISSmetrics offers a primer on SaaS metrics
- Great analysis by Bill Gurley on how to evaluate the potential of online marketplaces.
- Our post on marketplaces with complex transactions.
- MuckerLab’s William Hsu looks at how marketplaces create and capture value
- Julia Hanna explains Andrei Hagiu’s research on the difference between multi-sided platforms and traditional retailers.
- Sangeet Choudary discusses how to manage startup growth strategies that piggyback upon an existing dominant platform, used by AirBnB, PayPal, etc.
- Jason Calacanis gives the opposite side of the argument, advising entrepreneurs to NOT try to build businesses within dominant ecosystems
- Mark Suster gives advice for startups with applications that face a substitution threat from in-house versions developed by big platforms.
Startup Ideas & Naming a Startup
- Paul Graham explains why there are so many great startup ideas lying around unexploited right under our noses.
- And he explains how to find startup ideas by living in the future and building what seems interesting.
- Fred Wilson and Dharmesh Shah each offer advice on how to name a startup.
Customer Discovery and Validation
- Laura Klein describes five fast/cheap/easy approaches to user research and usability testing.
- Josh Porter of HubSpot explains why A/B testing shouldn’t be limited to small changes.
- Brant Cooper reviews biases that managers from different functions bring to the customer development process.
- Rob Walling on ways to use inexpensive advertising to improve a site and learn about visitors.
- This infographic from FormStack (via Boston Innovation) analyzes the anatomy of a perfect landing page.
- Ben Yoskovitz describes how and why to use the “day in a customer’s life” technique.
- Elizabeth Yin offers advice on how to find and interview potential customers.
- Three posts by Cindy Alvarez: 1) on how to cope with the fact that research respondents’ answer to “Do you want…?” is always “Yes!”; 2) how and why to use personas in product development; and 3) “10 Things I’ve Learned” about customer development.
- Mark Suster reflects on how and why startups should use metrics.
- Fred Wilson describes conversion metric targets for social media companies.
- Presentation by Cindy Alvarez of KISSmetrics on conversion rate benchmarks for different types of web businesses (big download, but worth the wait!).
- Andrew Chen collects retention rate metrics from several sources.
- Avinash Kaushik on key metrics for small, medium-sized, and large ecommerce sites.
- KISSMetrics on why you should focus on these 5 customer metrics and throw away your vanity metrics.
Demand Generation and Optimization
- Fred Wilson and Mark Suster each offer general advice on startup marketing.
- Cindy Alvarez on how to analyze reasons for low signup rates.
- Avinash Kaushik offers three techniques for analyzing website conversion rates and describes why and how marketers should use controlled experiments.
- Mixergy’s Andrew Warner interviews Miguel Hernandez on how to produce videos that drive customer acquisition (scroll down for podcast transcript).
- Akshay Arabolu offers a great compilation of posts on startup marketing.
- Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz published Lean Analytics, a book which reviews key performance metrics for various tech startup business models.
- The concept of “growth hacking” is examined by Bronson Taylor and in an ebook by GrowthHacker.tv’s Taylor and Neil Patel.
- Bustle.com founder/CEO Bryan Goldberg lists the 20 most viral startups of the decade and tracks their long-term performance.
- Simon Schmid on elements of effective marketing campaigns.
- Rival IQ’s Danielle Prager on how to analyze rivals’ social media tactics.
- Onboardly’s Shanelle Mullin offers a beginner’s guide to startup marketing analytics.
- Brian Balfour on how to build customer acquisition skills.
- Google digital marketing evangelist Avinash Kaushik presents a comprehensive marketing analytics framework.
- Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina on how to build trust in an online business.
- Post on marketing mobile apps by Matt Palmer
- William Mougayar covers the what/why/how of positioning statements
- Mark Suster on how startups should use PR.
- Joel Spolsky and Charlie O’Donnell each discuss the pros and cons of launching at a conference like SXSW.
- Erica Swallow offers 10 tips for managing startup PR.
- Posts on effective PR tactics and trends in PR by Jennifer Jacobson; Vanessa Camones; Jess Champion; Aimee Gindin; Conrad Egusa; and Katie Burke.
- Good tool to get free PR: http://www.helpareporter.com.
Viral Marketing & Growth
- Mark Suster interviews Buzzfeed’s Jon Steinberg, discussing strategies for building website virality.
- A presentation by David Skok on the science behind viral marketing.
- Sharad Goel on why virality is more rare than one might expect.
- Quora post listing resources on user growth strategies and tactics.
- David Skok from Matrix explains the science behind viral marketing.
Sales and Sales Management
- David Skok discusses how to build trusted sales relationships and interviews HubSpot VP-Sales.
- Mark Roberge on SaaS sales best practices.
- Ben Horowitz on hiring salespeople.
- Mark Suster reflects on excuses offered by startup salespeople and interviews Vince Thompson and Mo Ali, who discuss startup sales best practices.
- Steve Blank on the often contentious relationship between sales and marketing in startups.
- Michael Woloszynowicz on managing the risk of feature creep when sales offers input during the customer development process.
- One of the best sales books of all times: “Predictable Revenue: Turn your Business into a Sales Machine with Best Practices of Salesforce.com” – and a summary of the key take-aways.
- Jeff Bussgang on the challenge of scaling different types of sales models.
- Entrepreneur/investor James Altucher offers advice on personal selling.
- Mark Suster on how to shorten sales cycles; how to deal with large accounts’ demands for product customization; how to find a champion to refine your product and sales process; and the importance of a Unique Selling Proposition.
- Google Ventures’ Joe Kraus on how to match different types of salespeople to requirements at different stages of a startup’s evolution.
- Jason Lemkin on how to quickly assess a new Sales VP’s performance and whether your VP Sales should start as a “player/coach”.
- Chris Dixon on the Goldilocks Principle of business development, that is, how a big company may view partnership opportunities with a startup that is “too hot” vs. “too cold” vs. “just right.”
- Fred Wilson on how an orientation toward users versus brands should drive business development and other priorities at a startup.
- Curtis Smolar on the legality of content scraping.
- Entrepreneur Elad Gil discusses attributes of good bus dev professionals and how to hire them.
- Holger Luedorf of foursquare presents Startup Business Development 101, offering advice on how to prioritize and manage partnerships.
Product Management and Design
- “Facebook’s Julie Zhuo has written a trio of posts on how to work with product managers,designers, and engineers.
- Josh Elman explains the product manager role.
- David Auerbach explains why CEOs should adopt the product manager’s mindset, using Marissa Mayer as an example.
- Henrik Kniberg of Spotify explains how the company builds products.
- Aaron Schildkrout, co-founder/co-CEO of HowAboutWe presents a seven-part series onproduct development philosophy and process.
- Legend’s Nathan Barry offers tips on wireframing.
- Phil Sharp of UserTesting.com recounts lessons learned from 100,000 usability studies.
- Cliff Kuang of Fast Company presents a list of 30 essential books for product designers; Artsy’s Robert Lenne has curated a list of required readings for product designers.
- VentureBeat’s J. O’Dell does a roundup of the 10 best design trends of 2013
- Userium’s usability checklist (HT: Tristan Kromer).
- “In software, the superstar is the team, not the individual” – Achival Garg on why you should focus on building 10x teams, not on hiring 10x developers.
- Great list of some of the simplest and most effective start-up homepages.
- In Venture Deals, Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson offer a terrific, in-depth explanation of term sheets, funding strategy, VC motivations, etc.
- Fred Wilson discusses working capital financing and customer financing.
- Dan Weinreb discusses the pros and cons of working with angel groups in seed rounds.
- Ty Danco reviews reasons why an angel will walk away from a funding opportunity.
- Jason Calacanis and Fred Wilson each discuss how much money a startup should raise.
- David Hornik and Fred Wilson each discuss the pros and cons of convertible notes.
- Mark Suster and Fred Wilson each discuss strategy for pricing follow-on rounds.
- Chris Dixon on best practices for raising a seed round and a VC round.
- David Beisel discusses the importance of having VC partner buy-in for a Series A round.
- Cowboy Ventures’ Aileen Lee generated a flurry of commentary with her post on Unicorn exits (>$1 billion), including posts from CB Insights and Fred Wilson.
- Y Combinator’s Paul Graham on fundraising, startup investing trends, and investor herd dynamics.
- Our thoughts on what makes a great investor and why geography matters less.
- Fred Wilson on tradeoffs between valuation and % equity ownership.
- Aaron Hall, founder/CEO of Boatbound, offers a primer for raising funds on AngelList.
- Mark Suster offers practical presentation tips, a primer on how to pitch to VCs, and thoughts on how/why to pitch without a deck.
- Ryan Spoon on how to create an early stage pitch deck.
- The Art of the Investor Pitch – high-level overview of some key points by myself.
- Matt Rosoff summarizes a panel with five VCs describing best practices for pitching.
- Brendan Baker on how to communicate traction to investors.
- Jason Baptiste on best practices for demo day pitches, and Jason Cooper on the downside of demo days.
- Robin Wauters/TechCrunch describes Adeo Ressi’s one-sentence approach for pitching a startup; a list of pitching resources from Ressi’s Founder Institute.
- Charlie O’Donnell comes up with ten tips for pitching your company and explains why you shouldn’t email your pitch deck before a first meeting with a potential investor.
- Pitch deck template from Jean de La Rochebrochard; Dashboard also breaks down the startup pitch
- Reid Hoffman on what he wished he knew before pitching LinkedIn to VCs and his annotated LinkedIn pitch deck.
- Paul Graham on how to convince investors.
- Brad Feld on how to do effective product demos.
- Brad Feld on founders agreements and equity splits and on the cap table impact of hiring a CTO.
- Mark Suster on why a startup doesn’t need a COO and why the advantages of having a cofounder are often overstated.
- Fred Wilson on the strengths and weakness of 1st-time vs. serial entrepreneurs.
- FounderDating co-founder/CEO Jessica Alter provides advice to technical founders seeking a non-technical co-founder and describes the three biggest mistakesentrepreneurs make when looking for a co-founder.
Recruiting and HR Policy Issues
- Jeff Bussgang on why early-stage startups should avoid titles.
- Cindy Alvarez on how startups can hire the right “big company” employees.
- Brian Balfour on startup hiring best practices.
- Michael Woloszynowicz on how non-technical managers should give feedback to developers.
- Chris Dixon on how to hire programers for your startup – Albert Wenger covers the same topic and also explains how to retain them.
- Ben Horowitz on the challenges of hiring senior leadership into your startup.
- Courtesy of Business Insider, the deck that Greylock VP-Talent Dan Portillo uses to advice portfolio company CEOs on recruiting.
- Advice on recruiting engineers from Bryan Schreier, Young Entrepreneur Council’s Matt Mickiewicz, developer Tom Blomfield, and former Amazon VP Neil Roseman (interviewed by First Round Review).
- FounderFuel shares General Assembly’s flowchart on developer recruiting.
- DaedTech’s Erik Dietrich on how to create an environment that helps retain great developers.
- Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” is a must read for all start-up entrepreneurs and CEO’s
Board Management & Advisors
- Steve Blank offers a radical proposal for reinventing the startup board meeting.
- Jeff Bussgang summarizes best practices for running a startup board meeting.
- Mark MacLeod describes the Model Board Package.
- Our tips on forming an advisory board and keeping your investors in the loop.
- Matt Blumberg describes what makes an awesome board member.
General Management Advice
- David Beisel on how to do due diligence calls for recruiting, biz dev, fund raising, etc.
- Mark Suster on the value of cutting out middle-men in different types of startup negotiations.
- Ben Horowitz advises startup managers on how to avoid being misinterpreted by employees.
- James Altucher and Ben Horowitz each give advice to startup CEOs on the decision to sell their company.
- A 4-part series from John O’Farrell giving advice to startups on going global.
- Fred Wilson on target burn rates at different stages in a startup’s life cycle.
- Jason Cohen on startup problems that cannot be solved with money.
- Our own advice on pivoting.
- Analysis by ChubbyBrain of the top 20 reasons for startup failure.
- Rid Empson/TechCrunch description of Startup Genome research on premature scaling as the leading cause of startup failure (scroll down for infographic).
- Quora thread on why startups fail.
- Thoughtful post-mortem from former head of biz dev for OneTrueFan.
- Vin Vacanti offers advice on when to shut down a startup.
- Brad Feld argues that sometimes failure is your best option.
- Fred Wilson describes two scenarios when things don’t work out: slogging it out, and hitting the wall.
- Henry Blodget analyzes Y Combinator data to assess startup failure odds
- Jason Freedman offers tips on how to fail “elegantly,” i.e., keeping one’s reputation/relationships intact.
- Entrepreneur Sumon Sadhu on seven signs of startup dysfunction.
The Startup Mindset and Coping with Emotional Pressures
- Ben Horowitz gives advice to startup CEOs on managing their own psychology and the fine line between fear and courage when making difficult decisions.
- Steve Blank on why entrepreneurs are like artists and how aspiring entrepreneurs can fail from lack of nerve.
- Dharmesh Shah on 23 questions that keep entrepreneurs up at night.
- Jason Cohen on what to do when the emotional pressure of founding a firm makes you want to throw in the towel; Spencer Fry on coping with this pressure.
- James Altucher offers 100 rules for being an entrepreneur.
- Jessica Bruder of Inc. Magazine on the psychological price of entrepreneurship.
- Mark Suster on the importance of realism in startups.
- Paul Graham on the benefits in early-stage startups of “doing things that don’t scale” — especially when acquiring a new venture’s first customers.
- Investor David Tisch on the importance of “not losing sight of why,” that is, of an entrepreneur keeping her motivations for launching a business in perspective.
- Entrepreneur Gilad Avidan on “Ten Things I Wish I Knew About Being a Founder Two Years Ago“.
- Programmer/investor Alex Payne offers advice to a young programmer considering a startup.
- Startup Life, a book by Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor offers advice for coping with the pressures that entrepreneurial career can put on friends/family relationships.
Career Planning Issues
- Charlie O’Donnell on how to switch careers and join a startup.
- Randall Bennett on what you can gain from working at a startup with low survival odds.
- Simeon Simeonov offers 10 reasons to join a startup and gives practical advice on how to find the right startup position.
- A 3-part series by David Beisel on how to find the perfect startup job.
- Jason Cohen on why it’s important for entrepreneurs to blog, and how to get started.
- Brad Feld shares the TechStars Mentor Manifesto: great advice for anyone coaching startups.
- Rob Go on the downside of a career in venture capital.
- Alex Krupp: “How I got into Y Combinator as a Non-Technical, Single Founder.”
Tools for Entrepreneurs
- Lists of tools for startups from Steve Blank, Startup Weekend, PBworks, NashCoding, Shyam Subramanyan/List.ly, and Jaret Manuel.
- List of online survey tools from Eric Leland/ideaware.
- List of resources for designers and developers from Brian Hernandez.
- A guide to getting started with iOS development from without friction.