Archive for the ‘ Apps ’ Category

2 little rules for keeping startup teams united

The 2 most important factors that keeps startup team going are a strong belief in the vision and people that enjoy working with each other, both a professional and personal level.  On the professional side, there are no shortcuts – hire great people, make sure you set high standards, and have a great vision that the team agrees with. On the personal side, there are 2 rules that you can set which will guarantee you an increased level of teamwork just by virtue of people liking each other more:

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1. No political talk in the office. Ever. It never leads to anything good. I’ve yet to see anyone convince someone else, and all it leads to is people disliking each other.  And the funny thing is, people like arguing politics even though their views are irrelevant. Your opinion will not make a single iota of difference in the office. Keep your company politics free

2. No religion talk in the office. See #1? same thing except even more important. Respect those that want to worship, respect those that don’t. Don’t try to convince each other because there is no point in this, and it should go without saying that no discrimination should ever take place.

Politics and Religion are big heavy issues anywhere in the world, but in Israel (where Clear Sky Apps is from), its even more so. Everyone has a strong opinion on these, and the best way of avoiding friction is simply not letting these issues come into the office at all.

Some might argue that this is unfair – people should be free to talk about whatever they want. I disagree. Any item that offends people in a major way and causes friction is simply not constructive, and should be flagged as NSFW (Not Safe For Work).  If you meet someone who has an opinion that offends you, you can walk away from them and not talk to them again. In fact, I personally know people that don’t speak to some of their relatives because of a dumb reason. You should not allow this to happen at work.

The team will be much more united and happy if this unnecessary friction is non-existent in the first place. And people will respect you more as a founder if they feel that they are being treated and judged based on their performance and nothing else (and that is topic for a whole blog post on its own)

p.s.

I speak from experience. Across my career I worked in several places where politics or religion where big issues of discussion. It never lead to anything good at all.

Disclaimer: no politicians were physically harmed during the creation of this post.

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VCs that dont like your idea are good for you.

Contrary to common belief, VC’s that tell you that your idea sucks is a good thing. In fact, its the 2nd best outcome you could hope for.  Best would be “holy shit, this is awesome – where do we wire the money to?”, but lets get back to reality – “we don’t like it because _____” is actually a great response.  The worst response is a nice smile and a “we’ll be in touch”.

Here’s why an objection from a VC is good:

For one thing, they are telling you what they think is wrong. You may disagree, and you may even be right, but it does not matter. There is some form of a discussion taking place and this can lead to you changing their mind, or to you being better prepared for your next meeting with a different VC. The objections will always be there whether you like it or not. Its just that some will never be told to you to your face. The ones that are telling you what their objection is are doing you an immense favor. They are helping you. In fact, they know that you don’t want to hear it, but they are telling you their view because:

  1. They are interested and are just drilling you to see how you handle it (yes, this does happen)
  2. They are not interested, but they think enough of you to speak their mind freely, at the risk of looking like mean, arrogant people.
  3. They are not interested, and think even more of you. They know that you are mature enough to realize that they are giving you gold.
  4. They are mean and arrogant.

Reality is that 90% of the time its 1, 2, or 3 (mostly 2 & 3, but thats just the way it goes). 4 happens, but its not common. Why would anyone mean or arrogant bother giving you their time and view point ?

The VCs that smile nicely at you are doing you no favors at all. They don’t want to bother discussing it, and those are the ones that will usually never call back.

For my previous company I’ve raised several millions from VC’s. Many objections came up and  we used them to our advantage.  Here’s what I recommend:

  • Before beginning your fundraising, make a list of objections that might come up, and prepare an answer for it. Be ready. For the top 5 objections, prepare slides that have the answers on them.
  • Dont present these slides, but if the question comes up during your presentation then say: “Excellent, glad you brought that up. I have a slide that addresses this, and we’ll get to it in a bit”. At the end of your presentation, just before finishing, jump to the slide that has this objection on it (you can do this for several objections at a time).
  • Alternatively (depending on your style): handle the objection verbally right when its asked, and finish up by saying “I even have a slide that elaborates on this, and I’d love to talk about it in detail at the end”.  I usually did this.
  • After every meeting write down the new questions that came up, and consider which should be added to your objection list.
  • For an objection that comes up often, handle it IN the presentation even if its not asked. This is for those potential investors that might not ask.  But be sure to build the answer into a slide in a way so it does NOT look like you answering a question, or else you might come off as being defensive (I really should write a post on how to do this… its a whole pack-of-bananas-topic all on its own).
  • Make a list of top 5 risks and present this as part of your flow. These are the top risks that YOU believe that exist. Present them and openly discuss your viewpoint. It will show that 1. you are realistic  2. mature  and the best part is that if they agree with these being key risks then you will come off as 3. smart. Yay.  Follow up meeting, here we come.
  • p.s. if you think that you are scaring them off by showing the risks, then you’re being over optimistic. They will look for the risks anyway, better you tell it to them straight.

VCs that give you objections are being good to you. They are helping you pave your way to your next meeting either with them or with a different VC. And they are not being arrogant, they are speaking their mind as ex-founders themselves. You should already know by now that founders are strong minded and opinionated.. just look in the mirror. Then look to your left. See that VC dude there? he was a founder too.

Here’s to the crazy ones

Two tips for hiring your first salesperson

Note – this post was also featured on building43.com

Working at a Startup is great. Its probably one of the most exciting jobs anyone could have, you get to create something from nothing – literally taking a napkin with some doodles on it and turning it into a dream that is about to come true with millions of enthusiastic customers. Unfortunately, somewhere between the napkin-doodle and your 1,000,000th customer, someone actually needs to say “yes, I would like to buy a few copies of that fine piece of software”, and for that  to happen you need  to hire your first salesperson… Bummer. Continue reading

Startups can beat the software giants (a recap)

I’ve been getting a lot of traffic to my first ever post, about a month ago, “how can small software startups beat the SW giants?” and lots of comments in mail, twitter, etc.  So – here is a collection of posts that include tips that are very relevant to software startups. Keep in mind one thing as you read these – you can dare to be different, the big companies cant…  Think about it as you go through the links below Continue reading

Why many free trial offers fail

Note: This post was also featured on building43

For many SaaS vendors  offering prospects a free trial seems to be the prescribed route of getting the customer on board.  Many marketing & sales executives dictate to their team that this is the key goal they should push for with all their prospects in order to convert them into paying customers. What many vendors don’t realize is that this process in many cases is flawed and if not properly managed, could be costing them the loss of the most qualified customers. Continue reading

Market penetration, choosing the right vertical (or – joining Morpheous, Neo, and the rest of the enlightened)

Hopefully you are convinced that you need a strategy that includes starting with a vertical market niche that will help you take the whole market by storm.  Unless your name is Steve Jobs, this is the first stepping stone of any market penetration. Steve is in the position to make stuff with a coolness factor so high and he has branding so strong that he doesn’t need to do much except for announcing it.  If you think that your product announcement will have the same effect as his, you need to take the Redpill and join the liberated ones that are living in the real world fighting the sales & marketing battles against the agents (guess what movie I watched again last night?).  If you’re not convinced that you need a market niche to begin with, read this.

So what are the makings of a vertical market that you can dominate, and that can be your first stepping stone to conquering the universe? Continue reading