Archive for November, 2009

Top 10 startup articles I read last week

Here are 10 great articles I read during the week of Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!





Twitter growth flattens, WordPress picks up… really?

I read an article from TechCrunch today on blogging versus microblogging which includes this interesting graph:

Wordpress versus Twitter

OK, so it’s all doom and gloom for Twitter and WordPress should do a happy dance.   But wait.  This graph is about unique visitors to and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I read blogs in Google Reader and I use TweetDeck. I rarely go to these two URLs directly.   So, for all the time I spend scanning blogs and interacting on Twitter, I would personally be absent on this graph. I took a quick look at my Twitter feed and most of the people I follow post updates from various Twitter clients too.

So I wonder how one should really interpret this graph (and for that matter, a similar set of graphs from Mashable in October).  I know unique visitors is a standard metric to measure these things, but I wonder if it really shows the whole picture. Thoughts anyone?

Startup events in Boston – December 2009

Small Business Trends has published another event round up in a blog post.  Two events are coming to Boston next month. Check this out.

SBIR Workshop – Success Strategies

This is a free workshop for regional businesses interested in obtaining federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. The federal SBIR program funds over $1 billion each year of early stage R & D conducted by small businesses for technologies that have government and commercial applications.

This event is intended to instruct small businesses in the region how to access funding through this program, how to increase chances of success for the award and how to manage an SBIR award if your application is successful.

Startup Weekend – December 4, 2009

Startup Weekend is an event that comes to your city. It is a 54-hour startup event that provides networking, resources and incentives for technology entrepreneurs to go from idea to launch.  Get connected with local developers, innovators and entrepreneurs.

Social networks are dominated by people aged 35-49. That’s GOOD!

I have a friend who keeps laughing at me for hanging out on Twitter.   She tells me it’s passe.  All the kids have abandoned it.  It’s not trendy.  Only older people use it.  And there’s proof: Nielsen says 35-49 year olds dominate everything.

Well, DUH… why does she think I hang out in these places?  I like connecting with fellow Gen Xers.  I get vastly more value out of these networks today, compared to a few years ago, when nobody I knew was on these networks.  I have repressed all memory of life before LinkedIn.  And Twitter has become a fountain of knowledge.  I follow people, businesses and groups, I click links, then I subscribe to the ones I find interesting.  The quality of my Google Reader subscription list has improved 300%.  And I keep tabs on my friends and family, as well as their kids, pets, plants and fancy foodie dinners on Facebook with no effort.  It’s all good.

So the stats are working for me as a consumer.  They are also working for me as a product person making things for people in this and adjacent age brackets. It tells me my buyer and user personas can be reached on these networks, and that I have new tools to reach them and engage with them that were nonexistent 10 or 15 years ago.

This stuff is mainstream now.  So what if the tweens have abandoned Facebook?  I say to everyone in my generation (and beyond): get over the denial, get online and engage!

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

[tweetmeme source=”chenelaine” only_single=”false” service=””]

The president of my second startup had a large poster with this Stephen R. Covey quote:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

I was young and stupid. I didn’t get this Main Thing business.  I mean, I REALLY didn’t get it.  I had just left a consulting company where we prided ourselves on our ability to keep 3 or 4 balls in the air at all times.  Aren’t we all supposed to multitask?  Isn’t that how you show your efficiency and effectiveness?  I thought my boss had extraordinarily pointy hair.

It’s been many moons since I saw this poster.  I have come around 180 degrees.  Stephen R. Covey and my boss definitely got it right.  Yes, we multitask. Yes, we have 10 balls in the air at all times.  But not all balls are created the same.  Some balls can be dropped without catastrophic consequences; others can’t. If we don’t identify and mark the one ball that really matters, we’ll take our eyes off to pay attention to something else.  One day we’ll drop this ball, and everything will unravel.

These days, if the main thing is not well defined, I push and push until it is well articulated and internalized by all stakeholders.   Then we can all focus on the same thing in our quest for success.

Top startup articles of the week

Here are the top startup articles I read this week. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Get out of the office and interview a customer today

[tweetmeme source=”chenelaine” only_single=”false” service=””]

Today I watched a snippet of an interview with David Meerman Scott on his blog, Web Ink Now.   In the interview, David made up a new acronym: “MSU” – it stands for Making Stuff Up.   He points out the lunacy of the behavior of marketers and product managers who sit in their conference rooms with nice cosy Aeron chairs, making up theories about what they think they should do to sell to customers. Instead of spinning theories about how people buy their products, these marketers should get off their behinds and go talk to their buyer personas.  It would be transformational – you would learn something new about what people really need.

This resonated deeply with me.  I’m a huge believer in getting out of the office and meeting some real buyers and users.   If we are inwardly focused, we’ll lose touch with the buyers and users and end up missing the mark.   Sadly not everybody shares this view… One of my previous startups had a leadership team that was very inwardly focused.  They persisted in Making Stuff Up.  Predictably, most of the stuff didn’t work and the product didn’t sell very well.   The startup eventually perished.

So don’t get caught in the MSU mentality.  Get out of the office and do some interviews today!

Lead generation is the holy grail – or is it?

I read a nice article today about the importance of lead generation to the business model of many internet companies.  This article makes many great points.   However, lead generation is only half of the story.  The other half is lead conversion.

I am reminded of a great talk by Alan Armstrong at Product Camp Boston on win/loss analysis, where he showed a visual depiction of various places bottlenecks can occur in the sales funnel:  leads to prospects, prospects to customers, customers to sales.  Win/loss analysis would help identify these bottlenecks, so they can be fixed to result in more sales.

Lead generation is often costly.  It behooves startups and small businesses to make sure their lead conversion process is a well oiled machine, so they can get the most out of every marketing dollar spent.

Teamwork: everyone pitches in to flip burgers

We received a shipment of 400 boxes of product last Friday.  Everyone who wasn’t on the phone with a customer got out and formed a human chain to help move them from the freight elevator into the inventory room.

For all the joking and laughing and attempts to throw them at the next person in line, we didn’t drop one single box, and we got it done in just over an hour.  And guess who was at the end of the human chain?


VC’s still expect 42% annualized return

I was chatting with a coworker the other day about whether the economy has changed the ROI expectations from VC’s. I decided to do some homework to educate myself. I found an article on Venture Beat that referenced a Pepperdine University study conducted in March / April 2009 on the ROI expectations of private capital providers in the recession.

I find great humor in this: the answer is 42%. Private equity groups expect a bit less, at 25%.

The report also stated that the most common exit is selling the company to a public company. The current expectations of VC’s for the ratio of sale price to total venture investments for companies that have started generating product revenue is 4-6x. This may be a bit optimistic since the actual data from their previous funds indicate that this ratio generally comes out at 3-4x.

Some other highlights:

  • Top 5 areas of investment include software, medical devices, biotech, clean tech and internet, in that order.
  • Massachusetts is home to 7.6% of portfolio companies.
  • Most of the investments are in companies with product revenue but still operating at a loss (Stage 4 in their terminology), followed by startups with a low burn rate and who have done very little product development to date (Stage 1).
  • Most VCs expect companies who have started generating product revenue (whether profitable or not) to achieve a revenue growth rate of 30-40% over a 5 year period.
  • The time to close from signing an LOI is usually 1-2 months although it could take 3-4 months or more.
  • Board members are assigned in 51% of the deals, and CEO’s are assigned in 27% of the deals.

There is a lot more data and color in the actual report itself. They are also doing another survey in Oct/Nov, so there will be an update of this data in a couple of months.  It’s a free download and a fascinating read – highly recommended. (Unless you are the CFO, or a VC,  in which case you already know all this).

Twitter Updates


%d bloggers like this: