I’m giving away 20 autographed copies of Guy Kawasaki’s book, Enchantment


Guy Kawasaki’s latest book, Enchantment, has had a profound impact on me. I want every entrepreneur to read this book. In fact, I believe in this book so much that I’ve spent just under $300 of my own money to purchase 20 copies for TSF readers. During my interview with Guy, I asked if he would be willing to send out autographed covers to the winners and he graciously accepted.

What the winners get:

An autographed copy of Guy’s latest book, Enchantment.

How to enter:

You can enter the contest in three different ways.
Option 1. Tweet our a link to this post by hitting the Tweet button by the title.
Option 2. “Like” The Startup Foundry on Facebook
Option 3. “Like” this article on Facebook.
Option 4. Leave a comment on this article.

If you do all four, you will quadruple your chances of winning.

Details:

I will select the winners a week from today (May 6) and ship the books out on Monday.

Be sure you checkout the interview Guy Kawasaki on startup metrics, mistakes, and enchantment too!

Readers: thank you for all of your support with TSF. I’ve really enjoyed our community. – Paul Hontz

Guy Kawasaki on startup metrics, mistakes, and enchantment

Guy Kawasaki knows his stuff. Before Guy became a VC, he was Apple’s original marketing evangelist. I had the opportunity to interview Guy via email and we talked about startup metrics and common mistakes entrepreneurs make.

Guy’s books have been instrumental in my growth as an entrepreneur. I believe his book is so valuable that I bought 20 copies of Enchantment (his latest book) with my own money to give away to TSF readers. Check it out after the interview.

What was the most profound influence on your life?

The most profound business influence was working in the Macintosh Division at Apple from 1983-1987. Those were the “wonder years” of my life when we were trying to make history with a new kind of computer. I hope that everyone has a chance to work for a leader like Steve Jobs on a project like Macintosh at least once in their life. 

Could you share a story of how a startup you were personally involved with overcame adversity ?

Most startups that are successful has overcome adversity. Starting a company is just plain hard–it’s hard to figure out what product or service to create, hard to actually create it, hard to get other employees to believe in it (this is called “enchantment!”), hard to get customers to adopt it (also “enchantment”), hard to cross the chasm from from early adopters to main street, hard to scale up, and then it’s hard to hand off your baby to people who can run a large organization. And this happens to only the lucky ones!

This is the process that most successful startups go thru. It’s not easy or clean. It’s a tough, messy business. If it were easy and clean, more people would do it and succeed at it. 

When you’re investing in startups, what is the metric you place the most value on?

There are three basic theories. First, some investors say they invest in people. The problem with this theory is that it’s impossible to know if the people are really good when you have to make the investment. Second, some investors say they invest in companies in large markets. The challenge here is the most successful companies usually create a market, rather than serve and existing one. Third, some investors say they invest in cool products or services. The tricky part is that most products or services are not done at the point of investment, and even if they are at least working, you really don’t know if people will adopt them. 

Entrepreneurs should dedicate themselves to reducing all three unknowns and challenges, and there’s a very simple way to do this: prototype a product and get it to market. If you’re right/lucky, then you can show that there is/will be a large market, that people like your product, and that you must be good guys/gals because you’ve come so far on so little money. 

Fortunately, you can do a lot more these days with a little money because tools are Open Source, people are cheap/free during a recession, Twitter and Facebook make marketing cheap, you can get cheap infrastructure in the cloud, and you don’t need office space because your team can be anywhere in the world with a good Internet connection.

Was there a mistake you made repeatedly with startups that you eventually learned from?

I used to believe the company’s “conservative sales forecast.” I’ve never seen a company come close to its conservative, worst-case forecast. In fact, now I take a company’s forecast and add one year to the delivery date and divide by 100 as an estimate of what will actually happen. 

Startups make this mistake because they do a top-down analysis like this: there are 300 million Americans, one in four owns a dog, ergo 75 million dogs, each dog eats two cans of dog food per day, ergo 150 million cans are consumed per day. How hard can it be to get, worst case, 1% of this market or !.5 million cans per day? 

Instead companies should do a bottom-up analysis. How much traffic can you get to your dog food website per day? Let’s say 5,000. How many will buy a case of dog food from you? Let’s say 1% or 50. How many cans are in a case? Let’s say 20. So it looks like you might sell 1,000 cans a day. The truth is that your sales will be a lot closer to 1,000 cans/day than 1.5 million cans/day.

What should a company do to enchant it’s customers?

It’s simple. The three pillars of enchantment are likability, trustworthiness, and quality. In a nutshell, you should aspire to the likability of Richard Branson (he got down on his knees and started polishing my shoes when I told him that I don’t fly on Virgin), the trustworthiness of Zappos, and the quality of Apple. High standards, I admit, but at least you know the goal. This is the right starting point, and you’ve got to start somewhere.

Startup Myth: A good product is all you need to be successful


Having a good product won’t make your startup successful.

Listen to this unfortunate story I recently heard. Entrepreneur X and his team spent months building a “perfect” app. They poured over every line of code and aligned every pixel. They kept their heads down and worked hard. The project wrapped up and they pushed it live. On the precipice of launch day they hired temporary help to handle all of the buzz they were sure they were about to receive.

When the startup launched the next day, sales were completely flat. This company bought into the myth that a good product is all you need to build a successful business.

A good product is simply not enough. It’s an ingredient but it’s not the whole cake. Multiple things need to happen asynchronously with development to maximize your products launch. This is why having a hustling co-founder is so important. Let the engineers focus on building platforms and let the hustler focus on these things.

Marketing:

Marketing begins well before the product launches. If you want a good example of a marketing plan, checkout Mint’s Original Marketing Plan (circa 2007). This is a fantastic place to start.

Narrative:

Who is your product for? You need to tell your products story in a way that makes sense to your target market. Your narrative isn’t a bolted on feature, it’s the heart of your product. Your narrative should effect everything from design decisions, to customer support, to which features you implement.

P.S. If your target market is “everyone”, you need to focus.

Relationships:

You need to be continuously talking to your customers. Find out what makes them excited about your product. Discover their pain points. Doing this makes it easy to line up customers before you even launch. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. I can not overstate the importance of relationships in business.

Your turn: What else does a hustler need to do to help his startup succeed?

For more startup news, please follow us on Twitter @startupfoundry or like us on Facebook.

The thinking behind Mint’s original marketing plan with Noah Kagan

Noah Kagan created the original marketing plan for Mint in 2007 (which you can see here). I posted the document on TSF and the response was overwhelming. Numerous readers called the document “pure gold” for startups looking to improve their marketing efforts.

I decided to ask Noah to come on the show so he could explain the “why” behind the document. I wanted to get inside his head so startups could learn from him. Enjoy the half hour interview.


Noah has since moved on from Mint to AppSumo. AppSumo has been a great sponsor for TSF and they’re good at what they do (Deals for geeks). Check them out.

Be sure you take a look at Mint’s Original Marketing Plan (circa 2007) in another tab so you can follow along!

For more startup news, follow us on Twitter @startupfoundry.

Data without intelligence is dangerously misleading. Focus on the right users.

Startups love numbers. Data is king in the A/B testing world. Numbers allow entrepreneurs to quickly quantitative decisions with hard data. In this data-driven world it’s easy to forget that data without intelligence is dangerously misleading.

For example:

Back during World War II, the RAF lost a lot of planes to German anti-aircraft fire. So they decided to armor them up. But where to put the armor? The obvious answer was to look at planes that returned from missions, count up all the bullet holes in various places, and then put extra armor in the areas that attracted the most fire.

Obvious but wrong. As Hungarian-born mathematician Abraham Wald explained at the time, if a plane makes it back safely even though it has, say, a bunch of bullet holes in its wings, it means that bullet holes in the wings aren’t very dangerous. What you really want to do is armor up the areas that, on average, don’t have any bullet holes. Why? Because planes with bullet holes in those places never made it back. That’s why you don’t see any bullet holes there on the ones that do return.

From Kevin Drum’s article on MotherJones.com

I see a lot of startups focus solely on increasing the number of users they have. I’ve received pitches from startups that say things like “Over 5,000 users have already signed up!”, and I’ll say “That’s fantastic but how many people are actively using your service?”. Total users are just bullet holes in the wing.

The right way to view total users

Looking at total users is a useful way to determine demand for an idea. If you haven’t launched yet and you already have over 1,000 users sign up, you can start gauging the market. Total users can help you quantify a market but it’s a poor way to measure the health of your startup.

Focusing on the right users.

User engagement is the metric you need to measure to understand if people like your execution. After you launch it’s not about how many users signed up, it’s about how often they interact with your product. The users who use your site three times a day are exponentially more important than the ones who check it once a month.

Focus on increasing user engagement. It’s a better indicator of the health of your startup.

For more startup news, follow us on Twitter @startupfoundry or like us on Facebook.

The Humanization of Business.

Gary Vaynerchuk started with nothing and turned himself into a celebrity. Gary has a loyal following and has already written two New York Times best sellers. He has done this by engaging with his customers around the clock and hustle.

I caught up with Gary while he was on tour promoting his latest book The Thank You Economy. I asked Gary to talk to TSF readers about how they could connect with their customers in meaningful ways. In this interview Gary gives some fantastic tips for founders on how to build meaningful relationships with clients and engage their user base. You don’t want to miss this interview.

How can a startup strapped for cash connect with customers?

• Use search.twitter.com. Actively seek out your customers.
• If your site doesn’t have traction yet, search for things that your audience would be talking about and join the conversation. Just don’t spam it.

You have just under a million followers on Twitter. How do you stay engaged when your startup starts gaining that much traction?

• Intent. Gary wants to be connected with his audience so he makes it a priority.
• What is the end goal for the user? Make your product be all about solving your user problems. Don’t lose tract of this.
• Spam doesn’t work. Consumers have strong BS radars and it undermines their trust. Don’t play games with them.
• Do you care about people giving you the shootouts? Let them know you care.
• Hard work matters. That can separate you from your competitors. It’s all about hustle.

How do you have transparency with your users?

• Act human. Treat every engagement as if it’s happening face to face. You are a person, not a machine.
• We are living through the humanization of business.

What’s one piece of advice you can give to startups?

• You’re living through a bubble. Build for the long haul and make money.

How About We Disrupt Online Dating


This is a guest post written by Jason Lorimer.

When I first read about a NYC start up called How About We, I was doubly stoked.
First, I have an affinity for East Coast entrepreneurs being one myself and then add in the
concept that someone was finally out to disrupt the sluggish and otherwise dull online dating vertical — I did a little happy dance in the confines of my office.

My cheer was short lived as I came to learn over weeks of watching their activity that they are seemingly another start up in a long line that start with supremely disruptive ideas only to end up creeping towards the middle. I’ll come back to this particular company and how I think they can have a tremendous impact in the coming months but let’s take a cursory look at the online dating space: All but wholly owned by E-Harmony and Match for over a decade, this market is just now turning ripe with the wide spread acceptance of internet dating as a social norm. It is likely that most everyone reading this has met or knows someone who has met and had a relationship of some measure through an online dating site. While there are a considerable number of niche sites, the foremost freemium player and even a few that border on strange, I could not find a single company that was out there taking a stand that people can get behind. Solving a problem that exists in a world where online networks are the base of our social operations. That is, bridging the online/offline divide in an engaging way. Motivating people out from behind their monitors in a mostly passive way. The company I single out herein, their name rings these attributes. It breathes simplicity. I absolutely love it. Unfortunately my affection ends there. The truth is that this company seems to be doing just enough differentiation to get the attention of their largest counterparts. Which seems to have worked as they are all rumored to be implementing similar “plan making matching” features.

Look no further then the advertising How About We has implemented to see how halfway out of the box they are positioned:

“It’s the Modern Way to Date”

I don’t know these guys and the people I have met in the course of doing business say they are very sharp. I am sure they are. It is a great opportunity. I do not single them out for any other reason then they are the closest among the infiltrators to making a significant dent on the market by providing real utility for people. I think they will grow no matter what they do if for no other reason then the online dating inclined are looking for a new place to park their profile. I do not however imagine they will bring new people into the process though and that is what you need to do if you want to have success that won’t just be copied by the competition. Bring a half million new people into the process and you will have the biggest companies in the space banging down your door to buy you. The market is flat. It needs new customers. It needs you to innovate.

The model I would design for How About We would be all of two pages. A registration page with a fun 45 second video explaining why the service rocks along with a button to log in via Facebook. See how social travel site GTrot does the log in with FB Connect flawlessly.
Notice how they say underneath  — “No need to register. Just connect with Facebook.”

Upon clicking the button and approving the terms from Facebook, the now fully connected visitor would be taken to a real time stream, complete with FB profile photo and their fellow visitors suggestions for things they would like to do. You could sort at the top of the stream by the typical filters like distance, age, etc but sorted right in the stream. Clicking on a name would show their FB profile in a new window and you could contact them by shooting them an email that you would mask on their behalf.

When the user is ready to post their own suggestion for something fun to do together, it pushes out to their FB wall with a url back to the site. Other interactions could push as well. Say there were functions that let you advocate for another persons suggestion by clicking “Cool”. This gesture meaning that you are not in that area or so inclined to attend with them but you still think their idea rocks.

You get the idea. Simple, socially integrated and ultimately disruptive.

I know what you might be thinking — only log in with FB connect, no profile hosted on the site, leaving the site, people want to keep profiles separate, etc. Yes, this will turn some people off — exactly my point. It is not the people you turn off you should need be concerned with. Those people already use other dating sites. It is those new ones you can turn on you want and will make the bigger players want you too.

Think about it.


More about Jason Lorimer:

Jason is an entrepreneur @CulturaHQ, advocating on behalf of those with the ambition to do more than just entertain ideas. He builds things armed with an insatiable curiosity and a healthy dose of impatience. Developing socially integrated platforms where people can participate and add their own value to their experience, Jason and his team transform pre-internet business models into post-internet companies that scale.

At the office, when he is not working with partners to incubate their early stage ventures, he posts on his blog and loves kicking around ideas with other entrepreneurs from around the world. Occasionally disconnected from the world wide web, Jason is a music lover and amateur artist with several creative outlets including photography and painting.

You can find Jason on Twitter: @CulturaHQ

For more startup news, follow us on Twitter @startupfoundry.

“Once the color pallet matches our business cards, we’ll ship”


“Once we tweak the UI color pallet to match our business cards, we’ll ship.” said the self-titled CEO. It was an unusually warm autumn day as Startup Employee X couldn’t believe the words coming out of the CEO’s mouth. This was the fourth delay on a project that was over budget, behind schedule, and they were losing market share to their competitors.

Startup Employee X began to notice a pattern. Every time the product was ready to go the CEO got cold feet and found an arbitrary problem. Employee X worked tirelessly to convince the CEO they were ready to ship, but he refused to listen. The Employee could see the writing on the wall and decided to resign his position.

By the time spring rolled around, the company still hadn’t shipped their product and their bank account was quickly dwindling. The company laid off the majority of it’s staff. The CEO still refused to ship. Three months after that, the company shut down. They never shipped anything.

You could (rightfully) blame the ineptitude of the CEO for the companies failure but I believe the heart of the problem lies in the CEO’s fear of shipping. Unfortunately I’ve seen many founders exhibit some of these same characteristics (thankfully not to the same degree). Things change substantially when you have some skin in the game. It’s far worse to never ship anything then to ship and fail.

Be brave, focus on what’s important, and get some skin in the game. Ship.

For more startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry.

TSF Next Level: Learn the simple copywriting system to double conversions

Background:

My goal with TSF is to help entrepreneurs and founders grow. I’ve been doing this by hosting interviews, writing articles, and covering brand new startups. The communities response has been fantastic and I’ve been looking for ways to improve my content and go even deeper in subject matter.

I talked with Andrew Warner about my aspirations for TSF and we have decided to run an experiment. Andrew and I have teamed up to provide hour long courses for entrepreneurs that get results. We will bring in an expert and have them teach actionable steps for entrepreneurs to implement in their startups.

We are looking for feedback on this course. If you love or hate this idea, I want to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment on this article or email me at tipbox@thestartupfoundry.com. If you’re on the fence for this course, buy it. If you’re unhappy with it, let me know and I’ll refund your money and you can keep the course for free.

Note: This course has already been recorded so the audience won’t be able to ask questions live.

The Course:

Andrew’s story:
A few weeks ago, while getting ready to sell the first product on my site, I had a painful realization.

I realized that it didn’t matter that I worked hard for weeks to create my product. It didn’t matter that I paid extra for the best software to deliver it. It didn’t matter that I tested my online shopping cart over and over using every family member’s credit card to be sure it worked well.

None of it mattered.

The only thing that mattered — the only thing that determined whether my product was a hit or flop — was the text I wrote to sell it. (Haven’t you found that in your work?)

The realization freaked me out because I spent hundreds of hours getting everything right and now it all came down to this one sales page.

So I sat at my computer and started to write. Well I tried to write. What I ended up doing was futzing with the design of the page and the size of the font. Then I made myself endless cups of coffee and … well, you get the idea. (Have you ever done that?)

Around that time, I interviewed Dane Maxwell on Mixergy (my site). I asked him, in essence, “Dane, you’re not a professional copywriter. You create web apps. So how do you create sales pages that sell hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of web-based solutions to real estate professionals who are notoriously reluctant to buy online?”

What I discovered is that he has a mindset and a framework that help him write irresistible copy and gets people to buy. To him, copywriting is actually fun because he knows the fundamentals of how to do it right. (Haven’t you found that in your life? The better you become at something the more fun you have with it, right?)

Sign me up!

What are other people saying about it?

He opened my eyes to a new way of doing things, and he did the same for my audience. Check out the comments from people who heard the interview:

“Have Dane come back EVERY WEEK!!” — Michael Weiss

“Excellent. Love to hear more on sales strategies from Dane.” — Reedge

“Just awesome” — Bob Hiler

“Andrew, I’m a techie dude.. and turned off from lead generation. But this guy is on the money!” — Amul Patel

You can understand why they’d get excited, right? I mean, how much are good copywriting skills worth to a company? $5,000? $100,000? More?

So that’s why I asked Dane to teach this course.

Marketing HipMunk with hustle

Alexis Ohanian came on TSF to talk about marketing HipMunk with hustle. HipMunk is a travel search site that focuses on what travelers actually care about. Before Alexis joined the HipMunk team, he cofounded Reddit and created BreadPig. There are some fantastic lessons in here for startups looking to give their marketing a boost. I’ve included a summary of the interview below the video.

What is HipMunk?
HipMunk is an online travel site that filters trips by agony instead of just price.

There aren’t any ads on HipMunk. How do you make money?
Our profits come from referrals. Our goal is to help you find a great flight as fast as possible, not sit around on the site and click on ads.

When did you have your first “ah ha” moment with HipMunk?
The user interface came together a few weeks before launch. When I saw it I knew HipMunk was going to be special. It was incredibly easy to use and focused on what travelers actually care about, “agony”.

Fun Fact:
Before HipMunk launched they were using the word “Suckage” instead of “Agony”. They decided to change it because it “might not fly in some parts of the country”.

What makes the User Interface so compelling?
For most people it’s worth $25 to avoid a 4 hour layover in Chicago. Our user interface recognizes this and tries to find the balance between price and comfort.

Some startups have fantastic tech, but they still struggle to get traction. Do you have any tips?
Generate the “Ah ha!” moment. If you have something that is 10x better than the competition and you’re struggling to gain traction, you might need to make the benefits more obvious. Be relentless that people have a good experience with your brand. Make things simple.

What does a non technical co-founder do?
Grunt work. A non technical co-founder needs to hustle all the time. It’s time consuming, not glamorous, and incredibly necessary for your startup to succeed.

Marketing:
First you need to have an awesome product. It’s much easier to hustle for something that kicks ass. Second, you want to focus on making things personal. Be as genuine and as cheap as possible.

Find a few people outside of your company that love your product. They will be your best salesman.

Thanks to Alexis for coming on TSF. Be sure to checkout HipMunk!

For more startup news, follow us on Twitter @startupfoundry