Why Startup Accelerators and Early Stage VCs Should Provide Centralized Analytics as a Value-Added Service

Note: This is a significantly longer version of an article I recently published on VentureBeat.

“Startups are the sum of the decisions made by the people who run them.” — Uzi Shmilovici, in Data Driven Decisions for Startups.

Uzi’s recent observation that “startups are the sum of decisions made by the people who run them” really resonated with me, and he’s absolutely right — the earlier startups begin collecting data, the better their decisions will be. There’s only one catch: Most startups don’t have any bench strength in Analytics. Continue reading “Why Startup Accelerators and Early Stage VCs Should Provide Centralized Analytics as a Value-Added Service”

Jeb and Selloscope Featured On Forbes Re:Thinking Innovation Blog!

The crowd cheers for Selloscope!

Just wanted to share the news that my startup Selloscope got some great coverage by Haydn Shaughnessy over on his Re:Thinking Innovation blog at Forbes.com! It was a pleasure to speak with Mr. Shaughnessy, and while I appreciate the feature, I’m particularly looking forward to following Mr. Shaughnessy’s work on innovation moving forward.

These ‘Fail Fast’ Guys Can Pry My Startup From My Cold, Dead Hands

It’s a fact of startup life that you win some and you lose some. Mostly you lose some. I’ve tried my hand a few times at bootstrapping a startup. I have one now that’s just ramping up, but I have to admit that along the way there have been a couple of times I just let a domain expire so I could move on.

Speaking of “moving on,” there’s a hugely popular yet dangerously bad idea out there that’s captivating more and more decision-makers: this idea of “Fail Fast.” I thought Mark Suster had put this one to bed early last year, but amazingly it continues to gain momentum. Here’s why I’m not buying it.

There are four things you absolutely have to know and do if there’s any possibility you’ll be involved in bootstrapping a startup:

1) Define and build your minimum viable product.
2) Aggressively keep your run rate as low as possible.
3) Iterate to find your product/market fit.
4) Don’t die.

If you live in a world where the flavor of the week is the most important thing — and I get it, I’ve worked there myself — then failing fast is a great strategy. Maximize your “successes” and get out while you’re on top.

But if I’ve done my marketing homework, the monthly bills are manageable, and I’m iterating toward market adoption, then as far as I’m concerned those “fail fast” guys can pry my startup from my cold, dead hands.

Startup Lesson Learned: Know Why You’re Here

This past Thursday I attended the Dallas Startup Happy Hour 2.0 to do some networking for my startup, Selloscope. I thought, “I have a Dallas-based startup, these guys are Dallas-based startups, it’ll be great to get out and meet some people.”  I was expecting it to be a little difficult to break into the conversations. (Actually it wasn’t so hard.) What I hadn’t counted on was this:

The first question everyone asks is, “Why are you here?”

So I give them the honest answer… I have a startup, I’m in Dallas, doing some networking, etc. etc. Turns out, that is the WRONG answer.

Continue reading “Startup Lesson Learned: Know Why You’re Here”

Enter the ( SEO ) Matrix

There are two very commonly known things about search engine optimization (SEO).

1) Great, targeted content drives PageRank.
2) Google’s page rank algorithm is recursive.

Given how common this knowledge is, it’s surprising that so many Web sites haven’t put 1 + 1 together: Your pages earn a PageRank based on content and links, and then they lend that PageRank power to your other pages based on how you link to them.

In effect, your internal link structure may be causing your most powerful, highest-ranked pages to spread their PageRank weight across your entire site, instead of to the specific campaigns or initiatives you mean to support with those individual pages.

The takeaway: Instead of thinking of your SEO efforts as a collection of channels (FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, and the obligatory blog) meant to drive content — think of SEO as a structured set of Content Tiers, each of which are built and interlinked to support your marketing and SEO objectives.

Enter: the SEO Matrix.

Continue reading “Enter the ( SEO ) Matrix”

How Non-Compete Agreements Really Work

Part of the ritual of starting a new job is signing all the paperwork: the acceptance letter, I-9, W-4, insurance forms, direct deposit.

Oh, and the non-compete and confidentiality agreements.

When we accept an offer for a new job, signing a non-compete agreement as a condition of employment seems like a footnote at the end of a long chapter… something that surely we don’t need to actually read.  Non-competes are ubiquitous — and, we assume, mostly harmless.  However, these agreements are so common (and so one-sided) that I wanted to spend a few minutes describing how they really work in practice. Continue reading “How Non-Compete Agreements Really Work”

A Rationalist Responds to Godin’s Blog Post “Are You Rational?”

In his recent post Are You Rational?, Seth Godin makes a broad argument that nobody is rational all the time (true enough): that some decisions fall squarely within the domain of  rational methods (e.g., analyzing your Adwords click-thru rate) while other things are best approached irrationally: falling in love, appreciating music or wine, or generating ideas for new businesses and startups.  He goes on to say that “irrational passion is the key change agent of our economy.”  Simply put, he proposes that there are entire domains of human endeavor  that are better managed  with the  “gut” — a common belief and arguably a staple of American culture itself.

A great professor once told me, “If a good essay is one that’s fun to argue with, yours is a great essay.”  It’s in this spirit that I can’t resist offering a counterpoint to Godin.  My argument: that passion and irrationality are two different things.  Passion has place, but the time when it was OK to “go with your gut” is well behind us. Continue reading “A Rationalist Responds to Godin’s Blog Post “Are You Rational?””

How to use LinkedIn to get a job and get ahead

LinkedIn is not just Monster.com 2.0… it represents an entirely different way of thinking about and managing your career progression.

Many of us (most of us?) begin a job search reactively in response to something — maybe we didn’t get that promotion, the culture changed, we’re not getting the training or support we want, or one of a thousand other reasons. But most of us put off changing jobs or even careers until we’ve reached a very high point of frustration.

What LinkedIn does is this: Continue reading “How to use LinkedIn to get a job and get ahead”

Is it impossible to start a start-up as a non-programmer?

A question was asked on the Facebook Web 2.0 (Entrepreneurs) forum: “Is it impossible to start a start-up as a non-programmer?” My response was selected as Best Answer to this question, so I wanted to share.

Question (paraphrased):

My situation is that I have an idea, I’ve been working on planning it for sometime, am finishing off my business plan, and want to start looking for some seed funding in the near future. But. Niether myself, or business partner, have any programming experience. Is it impossible to move forward without any?  Is it impossible to start a start-up as a non-programmer?


I think it’s entirely possible, but there are a lot of potential pitfalls.  Here are a few things I learned the hard way:

  1. Trying to get seed money is somewhat like trying to be an NBA star; most people don’t make the big-time. If you really believe in your idea, make a plan for getting it done that doesn’t require millions of dollars in seed money.
  2. Great ideas are nice, but implementation is what makes money.
  3. If you’re investing your own money, streamline your product down to its core value. Be ruthless in doing so. Getting it out there, and getting some users who are excited about your core value, is much more important than squeezing in a couple of extra features. (And it’s easier on the credit card.)
  4. As many posters have already suggested, there are plenty of programmers out there who’ll work for equity. Also, you can hire very affordable international labor for just a few bucks an hour; you can even get in touch with those resources through Guru.com these days. In either case, always make sure you have COMPLETE, water-tight product specs and use-cases before putting your developers to work.
  5. Make sure you know *exactly* what you’re building. Technical implementation details excepted: If you need to incorporate a lot of feedback from your devs back into your business plan and/or your product design, you don’t know where you’re going.
  6. Crowdsourcing is emerging as a potential avenue for startups (e.g., Cambrianhouse.com.) I’ve put a couple of projects on Cambrian House myself recently; however, since it’s a public forum, you may not want to give away any singularly brilliant ideas. Also, sites such as Prosper.com are very accessible funding sources.