Through a sort of strange coincidence, I found myself reading Tucker Max’s blog today.
If you know who Tucker Max is (and many people do), you may think I was reading his famous “asshole” blog. Interestingly enough, though, Tucker seems to have matured lately, and is now writing a more thoughtful blog on how to become a writer, run a startup, and get published.
“‘Why do you want to be a writer?’ 99% of [people who tell me they want to become a writer] have no fucking concept of how to answer that question. They’ve never even asked themselves this most basic and fundamental question. They stutter and stammer and can’t come up with even one concrete reason. [And BTW--there is only ONE correct answer to that question, I will cover that in another thing I'm writing.]“
Interested, I thumbed through the rest of his blog, but I never found where he followed up with the answer. Since I’ve gotten this question too (although it more often comes in the form of “How do I become a blogger?” with me), I figured I’d answer it from my perspective.
I Struggle to Answer the Question
And then…something strange happened. I struggled to answer the question. I had a momentary panic attack: Was I one of those awful 99% of people who “wanted to be a writer” yet “had no fucking concept of how to answer that question”? But no, that didn’t feel quite right. (more…)
Here’s the story of how our funded startup almost collapsed–how we recovered, and how ultimately we became better and stronger because of it.
It was January 2013 and we’d run into some issues scaling our business. We’d made design decisions on how we built our tool back in October 2010 that were starting to bite us hard as we tried to gain larger clients. Neither Parnell (my co-founder) and I had done anything wrong–we’d just originally built our software to serve the needs of an SEO consultant (me, back then!) and those decisions weren’t scaling to large agencies with tens or hundreds of users potentially using our software.
As more agencies trialed (and ultimately didn’t convert into paying customers) with our software, we uncovered so many fundamental flaws that we were forced to consider a complete re-write. I wanted to add recommendations. Our customers needed more agency features. The feature requests were piling up and the technical debt we had accumulated was staggering. The good news was that we’d uncovered a whopper of a market–the bad news was that our software, as currently written, wasn’t cutting it.
Frustrated by the technical debt and facing serious doubts about his ability as a technical co-founder, Parnell thought about leaving the company. At first I thought it might be a good idea, as well, as he didn’t want to face the prospect of re-writing everything, only to potentially fail again. But a couple days later, after I went through some deep thoughts, I gave him a very personal plea to stay. Next to Brian, my fiance, Parnell is my closest friend in the world, and I believed in him and his technical ability. (I mean, the dude codes Haskell for fun. ) I told Parnell I couldn’t imagine building this company without him. (more…)
Ah, the financial side of your business. If this is the stuff that makes your eyes glaze over (and yet you’re an entrepreneur)…you’re the person I wrote this post for.
I know a lot of us aren’t big fans of doing the financials, and I understand why you feel that way–after all, it’s certainly more fun to build a product than it is to work on the freakin’ numbers.
By the time you’ve read this post, you’ll be able to do a financial model yourself (without hiring a crazy-expensive CFO!), and you’ll know the following:
How many sales you need every month to pay all your bills.
How to price your products so you don’t lose money on each sale.
When to hire your next employee (or when to quit your job)–based on the sales goals you set.
When you’re going to run out of cash (or, alternatively, how much cash you’ll be able to pay yourself every month without going broke.)
How much capital you need to raise (if any!)
How to quickly assess your business every month to ensure you’re meeting the goals you set for yourself–and how to know quickly if you’re in trouble, before it’s too late.
In summary, this is the blog post I wish I had 11 years ago when I was getting started in business. Let me state this unequivocally: Building a financial model has been paramount to the success of my business. However long it takes you to build a model (and it won’t take you too long if you follow the path I’ve outlined below), it’ll be worth it. It may even save your business from going bankrupt–or enable you to quit your job or hire your next employee more quickly.
Now let’s take a look at what a financial model is and how to set one up for your business… (more…)
Starting a new business, but stuck on finding the perfect idea? I hear you. In fact, you’re not alone.
Recently, I asked people who opted-in for more information on my upcoming “Art of Email” course what they needed most in their businesses. Although many people said “Customers!”, several people asked how they would go about finding the perfect new business idea.
Let’s talk about that. I know the phase you’re in when you’re stuck on the idea. You want to start a business. It pays better (maybe!), offers more flexible time by allowing you to set your own hours, and gets you out from under the thumb of a boss. Plus, it’d be awesome to work for yourself and get people to sign up for something you’re doing for them.
The problem is making the leap from where you are now to actually having a successful business. In this post, we’ll work together on the first few steps to get you to the point of building your new business’s foundation.
First, to have a business, you need two clearly-identified items: (more…)
Years ago, when I lived in Silicon Valley, there was a core group of about 50 people–the “cool kids”–who would make or break any social application that came about. Even though it often seemed, back in those days, that Twitter was down more often than it was up, the “cool kids” persisted in their use of it, and so it grew. Twitter’s founding team befriended and embraced the “cool kids” and success ensued.
Twitter was successful on a small scale until 2009, when Oprah joined it and Ashton Kutcher became the first person to get 1 million followers. The “cool kids” had started the revolution, but Oprah marked the day when Twitter became mainstream.
Over the years, the core group of “cool kids” slowly fragmented. Some of the influencers, like Robert Scoble, went on to grow huge networks of their own. (Scoble currently has 325,049 followers on Twitter and nearly half a million followers on Facebook.) Others returned to running startups, blogging, or even working a day job, much as they had done before. The “cool kids” didn’t as heavily influence Facebook’s rise to the top of social media, and they barely registered a blip as Pinterest pulled in record-breaking amounts of obsessed followers.
Many startups today try to implement that same model of getting Silicon Valley’s “digerati” to pay attention to their app/website/new social media network/whatever. The founders are convinced that if only Robert Scoble will do a video of their new company, or if TechCrunch will write an article about their latest round of funding, that they, too, will be successful. They see the outside results of something like Twitter, without understanding the view from inside the Valley–and how much things have changed over the past few years. (more…)