I’ve gone back and forth on writing this post. First, I should apologize about the profanity in the title.
Wait, no I shouldn’t.
Entrepreneurs are the most hopeful people on the planet. They all start something with the hope that it will be “the next Facebook” or will be as important as Netscape, or maybe will become a billion dollar company with minimal social value like Groupon.
We believe in ourselves so much, that when someone else doesn’t believe in us, we are flabbergasted.
So entrepreneurs apologize. They apologize for broken code; they apologize for bad UI; they apologize for getting funded (or not). They apologize for screwing users (accidentally) and then for being slow to correct it.
Stop apologizing; start being honest.
We color numbers, and listen to investors way too much.
Entrepreneurs are pussies.
Its the same with products and features. Time and time again, I will talk with an entrepreneur about his product, and he will continue to extoll how awesome a feature or product is.
“How many people are using it?”
“Well, we are in beta, so not many, but its going to be huge!”
“You’ve been in beta for a year. How many people are using it?”
“Have you seen how well designed it is! Apple will totally feature our app because of its design!”
“Stop being a pussy. Kill the stupid feature.”
We hang on to things too long, we continue to employ folks that add no value, or worse are roadblocks because we don’t want to fire someone who has done so much for the company.
Entrepreneurs confuse activity for achievement. Working hard is not working well. We drink tons of Red Bull, stay up late, write missives on our blogs (wait…I resemble that remark!) or develop a cool side project that kinda is something that we might use at some point in the future.
Just stop it.
Its your company. Its your time, and future, and blood, sweat and tears. Its time for you, as an entrepreneur to stop apologizing for the short comings of your product (which may appear as shit taking about other startups. Yeah, I know, and you know that your “critique” of other startups is only a defensive mechanism to make you feel better about your companies short comings.)
Own it. Your company is your company. Not your investors, or friends, or users or Techcrunch’s.
Own your decisions. They are your’s to make. Make them and live with the consequences.
Own your future. Find what makes your business tick and focus on that and only that. Everything else is distraction.
And, most importantly, stop being a pussy.
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Well that title removes any chance that Business Week, Inc, Forbes, etc will pick it up, and that other than Brad Feld and Mark Suster, no one will reblog/retweet/etc, so we can speak plainly.
(Just making sure…)
The past few weeks have been really interesting at Graphicly. We have achieved product/market fit, our new product launch has been overwhelming, and there is a clear direction and focus in the company. Revenue is doubling week over week, and our internal mantra has gotten equally clear.
“You are either building, selling or leaving.”
So much has be made of “vanity metrics” and our apparent love affair with them. As entrepreneurs, we are told by the media, investors, and other entrepreneurs that whats cool isn’t $1 million but $1 billion. That Instagram is AMAZING and their 15million plus users are the reason why.
How can we not buy into the importance of vanity metrics, when it seems that the ONLY THING THAT PEOPLE CARE ABOUT is vanity metrics?
For a company to be successful there are literally only two functions the company has to perfect. Building and Selling. Thats it. Metrics and analytics are only the score card, the reporting mechanism to determine if what you are building will sell, and what you are selling is worth building.
Last rant on this point: Find a metric that is truly indicative of what makes your business go. It may be a vanity metric like page views, or something more interesting like reads/user, photo filters per session, or times my mom shares my baby pictures on Facebook. Find it and love it. Throw out all other charts and graphs. Put ONE FUCKING SLIDE in your board deck/presentation and tell your shareholders if that number is going up or down and why. Any other metric just makes it easier for your investors and employees to tell their friends why the company they are a part of is cool in a dumbed down fashion so others can understand. But DONT CARE about those numbers.
Care ONLY about the metric that proves that you are building something worth selling, and selling something worth building.
Now, about sales.
Both Brad and Mark have written about Grinfucking. Its an epidemic. No one wants to be the bad guy. The working stiff dreams of being involved in that super cool startup with the sick lounge. When he gets pitched by that startup founder in the flannel shirt and Warby Parker glasses, Toms shoes and Charity:Water rubber bracelet on a cool new technology and he doesn’t understand it, then he is full of FEAR THAT HE IS AN IDIOT.
Which makes the awful, awful truth that the prospect will never say no.
Your goal as an untested, unknown founder, who has a product to sell that NO ONE CARES about is to find what about your product makes your users lives better. Read that again. Thats not a feature. Thats not a price. Thats a feeling. Better is a feeling. Sell the feeling.
For enterprise its 99% of the time that you are making your prospect look good to his/her boss. Thats it. Focus on that.
For consumer its 99% of the ego or time. People want to be part of something amazing, or want something to help them become amazing. At Graphicly, we consider our “Content Empowerment Platform” an easy button for authors and publishers. They want their stories seen. We make it so. Its amazing and it helps each one of them show the world how amazing they are. It makes their lives better. It makes them happy. (I hope.)
Instagram makes people happy. Its not the number of users, but the amount of engagement that is what makes them awesome.
Stop getting excited by the “maybes” and “lets have another meeting” responses you get to your product. IT MEANS YOUR PRODUCT SUCKS.
Budgets, approvals, etc are all excuses as to why they don’t want to buy, but don’t want to say no.
If it takes more than a simple presentation of your value to a prospect to get to a verbal yes, YOUR PRODUCT SUCKS. (Ok, maybe you SUCK as a salesperson. But sales isn’t hard if you are a founder. You are just making it hard.)
Get to an answer.
Build, Sell or Leave. It IS THAT EASY.
Finally, about revenue.
In todays funding climate, if you are not thinking about your business in terms of speed to self-sustaining revenue, you are a moron. Seed rounds are, and will continue to be, relatively easy to raise (sub $1mm). Series A investors are now looking for real businesses with real potential. Call it a crunch, call it Jennifer, doesn’t FUCKING MATTER if you don’t have a real business, because you will be called DEAD.
Have a real path to revenue. Test that path immediately. Ensure that its a real path, with the real ability to simplify sales, and go that way. You never want to get in the car, see the path you need to travel, press on the gas and find the tank empty without a gas station in sight.
Just Fucking sell. Your company depends on it.
This week there was a ton of rumblings, leaks and rumors about Apple’s big “eBook” event that took place earlier this am.
Apple is going to change education!
Apple is going to destroy publishing!
(Interesting that no one really said “Apple is going to sell more iPads!” but we live in a world that hopes that everyone leans towards doing good for goods sake.)
Did it happen? Did the world turn upside down causing the worlds publishers to weep?
Apple’s move into the education market is an important one. This year, for the first time ever, Amazon sold more digital books than print books. Print, for lack of a better word, is dying. People are still buying books, in fact some could argue that more books in total are sold — the diversity of purchases has increased (as defined by the total number of titles), even while the sales of printed books has slowed.
At lunch with Ron we talked about how the science fiction of our youth was actually coming true. Cable has passed its usefulness; people are watching TV in 3D, and the government is still run by troglodytes that believe the can control the flow of communication and information. (One would think they saw the Christian Slater film Pump Up the Volume…). Technology is no longer a “thing” to marvel and discuss, it just is.
Publishing is probably the last bastion of old school media that digital is disrupting. With low(ish) price points and the amazing smell and feel of paper, and the romanticism we still attach to the printed word, it seemed that digital was almost an after thought.
Amazon, with its Kindle, began to widen the crack in the wall, and now with Apple’s ebook Authoring tools, the walls have fallen down.
Or have they?
We all love the interactivity of tablet based books, and the application for text books is clear, but its not as simple as that.
Currently there are more than 30 different marketplaces that an author could distribute their work digitally — if they own the digital rights that is. Most markets have wildly different file formats, so that building for one certainly doesn’t work as well for another — especially if the book is any other than flowing text. Most markets have different payment terms, revenue splits and requirements, rights requirements, and thats just if you are writing a flowing text-based book.
You want to do a fixed format children’s book? A graphic novel? An illustrated novel? Cookbook?
Apple’s authoring tool comes with another kicker — if you build a book in their authoring tool, and IF you can get it to work on another marketplace, you legally can’t distribute through the other marketplace without a financial arrangement with Apple.
Yup. You read that right.
Im not going to spend much time on that, Paul Carr over at PandoDaily (great work Sarah!) does a great job of writing about it, and I agree with his assessment.
Being an independent author or publisher has just gotten more messy, rather than less.
I am excited that Apple has entered the eBook space, especially the education space, as I know it will do wonders for readers.
But, there is something wonderful about a book. There is something beautiful about being able to read that book (on any device), in any way you want, and hopefully, one day this gigantic mess of rights, distribution, file formats, etc. will be cleared up.