"We do it for you"

One enthusiastic visitor to the Genlighten booth today suggested we need a new sign… a big one to go behind the booth that says simply “We do it for you!”

I’ve shied away from that use case so far… the person who is really stuck and tired of being stuck and just wants someone to helicopter them beyond the research obstacle they’re facing.

I see that as the province of the true professional rather than the lookup provider. But what this potential customer seemed to be saying was that there’s a document-focused version of hiring a professional, and that it sounded like we were planning on fulfilling that need. And she liked that. Hmm…

Most of the people involved never intended to be entrepreneurs, it just sort of happened. They didn’t start with a grand idea, a patent, or even funding in many cases. Some of the businesses were in competitive spaces that you would have thought they were nuts to go into. Time after time after time, the story was not sexy. It was about grinding it out. It was a story of will. It was a story of perseverance. It was a story of doing tasks that, from the outside looking in, would seem boring, dry, and monotonous. Every single one of these stories followed that same story line.

from Entrepreneurship Is Not Sexy on Rob May’s Coconut Headsets blog

Perserverance. Well at least that’s one successful startup founder trait I’ve got.

Genlighten Working Dinner at Gillson Park

Cyndy and I wanted to test some crucial fixes our CTO just implemented and brainstorm around some UI/UX design changes we’ve been pondering. We ordered takeout Chinese food and headed down to Gillson Park in Wilmette along the lakeshore. We found a nice table, fired up the MiFi 2200 and took turns ordering lookups and mock-fulfilling them. Kept it up until the mosquitoes got too annoying.

via Bud Caddell’s blog, What Consumes Me. Image from Flickr
Working on that “Hooray!” segment…

via Bud Caddell’s blog, What Consumes Me. Image from Flickr

Working on that “Hooray!” segment…

Don’t wait for perfection—launch and learn

I’ve struggled with this the whole way and it’s coming to a head now. I find myself wanting to tweak things that are about appearance more than usability… and hold off letting customers in until I’m done tweaking. Got to stop that and move on.

As recently as one year ago, everyone worked hard at making sure their brand was portrayed in a positive light. The message was tightly controlled and as a customer, you had very little power to express your love or hatred of a product.

As you all know, that’s impossible now. You could spend $10,000 on banner advertising for your new web app, proclaiming it to be “The World’s Best Solution for XXXX”, only to be ripped apart on Facebook, Twitter and the blogs.

It’s not about advertising anymore. It’s all about Conversation and Empowerment.

via Ryan Carson, Don’t Let Your Baby Die — How to Use Social Capital to Market Your Web App

Microcopy is extremely contextual…that’s why it’s so valuable. It answers a very specific question people have and speaks to their concerns right on the spot.

Here are some… examples:

* When signing up for a newsletter, say “this low-volume newsletter”
* When people add their emails, say “we hate spam as much as you do”
* When subscribing for something free, say “you can always unsubscribe at any time”
* When storing customer’s information, say “You can export your information at any time”
* If offering optional account creation, say “If you create an account, you’ll be able to track your package”

All of these microcopy examples have one thing in common: they help to alleviate concerns of would-be customers. They help to reduce commitment by speaking directly to the thoughts in people’s heads. That’s why this copy can be so short yet so powerful.

From Joshua Porter, Writing Microcopy, on his Bokardo blog

If your goal is to have a huge company and sell $100,000,000 of software per year, you’re going to have a tough time. You’ll almost certainly fail, it will take years, it will take cooperation among many people you haven’t yet met or hired, it will take a massive market, it will take beatable competitors, and it will probably take debt and/or investors. And yeah, a down economy could be your undoing.

But if your goal is to run a smaller successful business and be independently wealthy, it’s different. If you’d be happy making $1,000,000/year or even $200,000/year many potential problems fall away. A small, focused market changes the rules.

from Jason Cohen, Too small to fail: How startups can grow in recessions, on the “a smart bear" blog.

Right now, I’d be thrilled making $100,000/year, believe me.

If your company has VC investors, they will reduce the probabilities of an exit that would produce a 1-5x return for the angels. That exit might have produced a 100x return for the entrepreneurs because they paid much less than the angels for their shares. Having VC investors does increase the probabilities of exits above a 5x return. But there is no free lunch. This data shows that after a VC invests your chances of failing completely also increase significantly.

Exits with VC and Angel Investors (via rafer)

Dean’s take: Exactly. 1-5x return for angels, here we come.

At first, entrepreneurship is a Faith-based initiative. There is no certainty about a startup on day-one. You make several first order approximations about your business model, distribution channels, demand creation, and customer acceptance. You leave the comfort of your existing job, convince a few partners to join you and you jump off the bridge together.

However, successfully executing a startup requires the company to become Fact-based as soon as it can.

from Steve Blank's blog post today entitled Faith-Based versus Fact-Based Decision Making.