There is everything in a name

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Discovery is one of the big problems that every startup faces.

It is even worse if you are a mobile first play, because the discovery process in the appstore – both on iOS and Android is quite broken, which makes it even worse.

The ability for your potential customer to “stumble” onto you, has phenomenal consequences for the growth of your startup and customer base.

While we should all aspire to make discovery frictionless, here is ONE thing, every founder MUST DO.

Get the name right.

1. Do not misspell.
2. Do not make it harder for someone to say the name to someone over a phone call and for it to be either misunderstood or misspelt.

You can totally make an exception to this if you are a B2B Enterprise (high ticket, with feet on street sales model). But if you are a B2B SME focused startup or a B2C startup, the name is one critical aspect that you control to ensure you don’t create unnecessary hurdles for folks to discover you. Don’t stand in your own way.

PS: You no longer need <startupname>.com. Several startups domains such as get<productname>.com and do some basic SEO optimization, and are good to go. But that’s the deal, if your name is something that google thinks is misspelt, you are making it harder… again.

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Investment isn’t entitlement.

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Came across a tweet today of someone complaining that no investor is interested in them to invest. The trend lately is to tag the PM on all these whining.

Listen. Investment is not an entitlement. Statistically less than 1% of businesses will even qualify for venture capital. And that is being super generous.

If you are 20 something, the very fact that you know about venture capital and can at the very least pitch for it shows how far we have come. A generation ago entrepreneurs took personal risks in loans and such to chase a dream. Half a generation before that (and even today) many families risk their savings and mortgage family homes as a way to get started on a business idea.

Imagine what a privileged brat one must be that they are disappointed at the world because someone didn’t fund them crores on the basis of a powerpoint presentation!

Investors are in the business of saying no. They manage other people’s money and they’ll say no to 99.9% of the entrepreneurs and pitches they hear.

Investors aren’t giving you their money just because you want it. They are investing because they see a high possibility of getting more back in return. (Read this over and over again till it sinks in)

3 things…

1. Show that you have vision. 
2. Demonstrate capability. 
3. Prove demand.

And you will have the opportunity to convince them on non-linear growth ahead. If you succeed, you get the capital, else not.

Entrepreneurs who blame investors because of their inability to raise capital, will blame markets because of a bad product and will blame their team for bad leadership. At the least, investors and moreso fellow entrepreneurs are excited to see an entrepreneur lead, “despite everything”.

Entrepreneurship at the end of the day is about making things happen, despite how everything else was and is.

It’s weird, but in the last 14 odd years I have never once met an entrepreneur who has raised money having that as their sole intention. Entrepreneurs who raise capital and have investors circling them are those who against all odds are going after something much bigger and capital is just one of the several things along the way.

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Startups in the B2C space have three stages* that they need to pass.

Stage one – user traction; the part where users sign up and complete a core action.

Stage two – value loop; where the system develops stickiness the more active the user is.

Stage three – virtuous loop; where network effects kick in and the more the users the more the experience for everyone improves.

Most startups will die before they reach stage 2 or 3. But if you are aware of that, you can think about how to innovate the cycle for 2 and 3 – or maybe the market has evolved now.

Go pick on the bones from the starup graveyard. Find companies that achieved user traction but couldnt solve stickiness.

Google didn’t invent its search engine business model, overture did. Google simply fixed what was wrong with the model that didn’t work.

Techcrunch deadpool section is a goldmine. If you know what to look for.

*Recommended reading : The hierarchy of Engagement deck by Greylock ventures on slideshare

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It is better NOT to focus on a brand right now.

I meet entrepreneurs who tell me that their focus is on building a brand. That’s innnately their choice, but there are two ways to build a brand – one is by being so good at what you do and do it consistently that over time you become known for it. Thats the right way to build a brand.

The other is to position yourself with some emotional angle, associate yourself to some cause and try to pull some heart strings.

Id advice against the latter. The world is quite divisive right now. It felt like it was a good idea a few years ago as social media was emerging to get associated with causes and connect emotionally. But these days you are bound to outrage someone by treading that path.

For the next few years atleast, it will be better to be reliable than relatable.

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