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Take a journey with me as I learn to take insanely great pictures.
There's a great article by Robert Strauss in Stanford magazine describing how his startup failed.
Kudos to him for writing the article. It's a golden opportunity for us to highlight some of the things he did wrong.
I'd love to hear your comments -- if you decided to go into the exact same business he did (selling a condom on a keychain), what would you have done differently?
The most glaring immediate error I see is that he pursued large quantity orders without fully testing the market. He was so focused on buying units in quantities of 10,000 that he didn't gauge demand and define success by making just a few prototype units first.
Audible.com has a very mature customer acquisition and retention strategy. I originally signed up for Audible after they sponsored of one of my favorite podcasts, This American Life. Audible was offering a free audio book, just to try the service. I decided to try it.
Little did I know that I was entering the Hotel California of software subscription services. I'm not upset with them -- it's more that I'm in awe of their ability to keep me as a customer for a year longer than I expected.
The reality is that Audible is expensive -- around $15/month to be able to purchase one audio book per month. After using up my free month, and then paying for two additional months, I realized I wasn't going to use it enough to justify the cost since I'd only listened to one audio book in a three-month span, and I went to cancel it.
Audible then offered me a deal: Just $5 for me to keep my existing credits for the next year. Since I had two audio books I hadn't read, I took the bait. But I never used those credits so when the renewal came up, I knew I really wanted to cancel.
Here's what the process was like when I just tried to cancel the account:
Recently, one of our investors asked me to make a short video & screencast introducing myself and my company to a group of foreign entrepreneurs that wanted to peek under the covers and see what the life of a US startup CEO is like.
Since I believe in capturing content for knowledge sharing, I decided to go a step further and write this full post about how I work, so this investor would not only have the video he requested, but also have a URL to send to these foreign entrepreneurs with specific tips.
About me & how I work:
I've written passionately about Scrum before, and how it's a great way to create an agile development environment in a startup. I've adapted a flavor of Scrum for my personal daily routine. (This isn't full-on Scrum since it's something I just use personally, but it adheres to the most important principle: At any given point in time. You should be focused on whatever is most important, regardless of any arbitrary deadlines).
Here's a great 16 minute audio clip from NPR's Planet Money blog around negotiating techniques the pros use, including:
this post about what I know to be true
In this past election, I did something I now really regret: I voted 'yes' to Proposition 30.
Uber, a San Francisco startup, is ruffling lots of regulatory feathers, as reported recently in the New York Times. I also wrote about my experience with Uber back in 2010.
I'll be the first to agree that car sharing services like Uber and Lyft present difficult problems for regulators. But that's not what this post is about.
My problem is with a statement made by Matthew Daus, the former chairman of NYC's taxi & limousine commission. He said, "New Yorkers deserve an apology from Uber for price-gouging them during the hurricane." Besides having a hopeless conflict of interest as the former commissioner, he's throwing out the bully phrase "price-gouging" as if basic supply & demand economics didn't apply to him or his industry.
If Uber doubling its rates (or more) after hurricane Sandy to adjust supply with demand is price-gouging, then I'd like to coin an equally demeaning term: "time-gouging."
Henry Blodget of BusinessInsider gave an excellent presentation titled The Future of Digital at a recent Ignition conference.
As you can see from the trendlines in the graphs below, the promise of smartphones is rapidly coming to fruition, with over 50% penetration in the US, and an especially-significant stat that by 2015 the number of broadband connections coming from mobile devices will be over 300% the number coming from fixed (i.e., desktop computer) devices. Translated, that means the promise of blazing-fast broadband on your phone is already here with 4G LTE on many new smartphones, and it's about to become ubiquitious. And that means that people will just reach for their phone instead of walking over to a desktop computer whenever they want to do anything online. I wrote about this phenomenon in a post about how the iPhone 5's connectivity has been growing exponentially since its introduction.
Another significant stat shown below is that the time smartphone users spend in apps is 600% greater than mobile web. As TechCrunch reported last October, mobile app downloads are skyrocketing from 2 billion in 2010 to 98 billion in 2015 -- an increase of almost 50x. And as Localytics reports, 26% of users only open an app once after downloading. Already, engagement is a problem in mobile, and as the number of downloads skyrockets fifty fold, the problem is going to get much worse. Just think about your own phone: How many apps are on it that you downloaded, but never use.
Fred Wilson coined the term "30/10/10" to refer to 30% of the download base being MAUs (Monthly Active Users) and 10% of the download base being daily actives. I believe the engagement stats for many apps are often even worse than that. Oftentimes, as the Localytics data illustrates, 25% to 50% of users don't even open the app once after downloading it. In a presentation from PinchMedia (now several years old), the active user rate 90 days after install was well under 5% of the download base.
As CEO of my startup, I sometimes have to be in sales mode. (Well, every owner of a company is always in some sort of sales mode, but in this case I mean prospecting for customers of new product offerings).
I recently wrote about what it takes to create an effective sales team. But here I just want to share one pro-tip, and see if I can find a few other interested people to beta-test a new tool with me.
We have a new product that we're piloting, and so I'm in sales mode for a bit testing the waters. I always like to do the initial sales myself, so I can tweak it and figure out what's working and what's not, before I pass it over to a sales team. Plus, hearing the inevitable "no's" from prospects is a great way to get honest feedback about the product so we can iterate on it quickly.
As part of this, I'm sending targeted emails out to CMOs of large brands. I have a very specific methodology I follow to find the CMOs I believe will be most likely to have interest in our product. And I always start at the top of an organization -- even if the CMO isn't the one making the direct buying decision, they almost always control the P&L, and if the CMO sends an email to a direct report to check something out, then it's much more likely to be followed up on (and quickly) than if I targeted that person directly. To learn more about this sales philosophy, read this blog post I wrote many years ago about selling effectively.
If you haven't seen the hilarious viral honey badger youtube video, check it out before you read this.
I just read this awesome passage from TheNextWeb from Jeff Bezos when he was starting Amazon:
“I’ve been optimistic about Amazon since the early days,” says Bezos. “I was most pessimistic literally at the very beginning. It took sixty meetings to raise a million dollars, which I needed to get the company started. Twenty two people providing around $50,000 each, on average, to get me that million dollars. That was the riskiest time for Amazon, that’s when the whole thing may never have happened. Raising that money was very, very difficult.”
Reminds me of the nastyass honey badger.
I just ordered Advil and yogurt for our office using Instacart, an incredibly awesome new service that delivers groceries to your door in under three hours.
Instacart has been in the news a lot lately, and is billing itself as 'Amazon for groceries with 3 hour delivery'. The great thing is that it actually works.
I knew I was going to be sitting down with Instacart's CEO Apoorva Mehta, so I placed an Instacart order before-hand (something Apoorva says happens to him all the time, especially at VC pitches). And viola, fifty minutes later Liz showed up with my Advil and yogurt order. Watch the video above to see it in action.
Instacart is currently only live in San Francisco and the South Bay area but Apoorva hopes to expand into other markets in the coming year.