High-Impact Entrepreneurship

Join the global conversation

Entrepreneurs

Argentina’s Globant Raises $59 Million on NYSE; Second-Ever U.S. IPO for an Endeavor Company

Argentina’s Globant, founded by Endeavor Entrepreneurs Martin Migoya, Guibert Englebienne, Néstor Nocetti and Martin Umaran, had its U.S. IPO on July 18th, raising nearly $59 million. The Buenos Aires-based software development giant has become one […]

July 21st, 2014 — by admin

Read more

In the news

Colombia’s Refinancia Announces Majority Acquisition By Encore Capital; Plans Expansion in Latin America

Refinancia, founded by Endeavor Entrepreneur and Colombian Board Member Kenneth Mendiwelson, recently announced news that the California-based Encore Capital Group has purchased a 51% stake in the company. An entrepreneur success story in Colombia, Refinancia’s announcement demonstrates the […]

February 28th, 2014 — by admin

Read more
Get RSS Feed

Growing pains for Jordan’s tech entrepreneurs

Reprinted from Wamda. Original article here.

By Knowledge @ Wharton

Jordan has managed to avoid the violence and political upheaval its neighboring countries have experienced with the Arab Spring revolutions. Much of that stability is owed to the rule of King Abdullah II, who still enjoys popular support, but has nudged a slow, steady reform course.

Abdullah has also been a strong proponent for fostering a high tech entrepreneurship culture in the country. It is a policy that has produced dividends, particularly in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry. In just a decade, according to Jordan-based Information and Communications Technology Association (intaj), the ICT sector has come to represent 14% of the country’s GDP.

The country’s industry produced a watershed success for the region — Yahoo’s US$85 million acquisition of Maktoob, an Arabic email service and portal, in 2009. Jordan estimates that over 50% of its startups are now in the ICT field, including telecom, IT, mobile online businesses, and game development. The industry has also attracted foreign investment — roughly US$15 million in foreign direct investment in 2010, according to intaj.

Despite these achievements, ICT entrepreneurs in Jordan face some of the same hurdles for tech startups across the region. According to a recent study of Jordan’s entrepreneurship ecosystem by Fulbright Scholar Jamil Wyne, the country has managed to quickly develop a solid tech infrastructure, but the three main challenges for growth its entrepreneurs contend with include finding the right talent, knowing how to market products, and accessing angel investors.

Wyne notes that the solutions to these issues begin with getting a wider range of Jordanians involved in tech entrepreneurship, and fostering greater industry collaboration. “Finding ways to bring both young and old entrepreneurs into the ecosystem, attracting more female entrepreneurs and identifying mechanisms for fusing ICT with other industries are top priorities,” he writes.

(more…)

3 lessons from an athlete to entrepreneurs: how to work smarter, not harder

Reprinted from Wamda. Original article here.

By Chris Gallagher

The similarities between sport and business are well known. In both cases, doing things faster, differently or more efficiently can result in success. Having competed as an althete and now working as a coach, I can see three primary lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from.

1) Identifying your strengths

One of the essential things to know as an athlete is what you are good at. This might sound obvious, but it is remarkable how many athletes do not play to their strengths. This can be a tricky process, but without it, you are putting yourself at a considerable disadvantage. An athlete who is able to accelerate during the last 50m of an 800m race needs to know that they are able to do so, as it is their best way of winning. This applies for mental skills too – some athletes are able to read races. They are able to spot gaps in the race, changes of pace and the behavior of different competitors. This crucial insight can allow you to know when it is best to make a move.

In the same way, an entrepreneur needs to know what they are able to offer that is better, or at least different, from others. Just as an athlete can read a race, an entrepreneur’s advantage could be that they understand the market better. The success of a new bus company in my hometown (Bath, UK) resulted from a crucial key insight. The incumbent company was succeeding because they had little competition. The new company focused on two routes and sold tickets for a cheaper price. This simple (and successful) strategy resulted from the fact that they understood the reality of the situation – and played to it accordingly.

Finally, it is important to gauge how your strengths develop. In some cases, your core strength can change. Steve Ovett, the 800m 1980 Olympic Champion, is a prime example of this. During his junior years he was able to win races purely because of the fact that he was talented enough to be able to out-run his competitors. When he reached a world-class level, this changed; many of the people he raced against were capable of beating him. He then had to learn how to read the race and outsmart them. In the same way, Hotmail founders Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith spotted a simple problem – that email wasn’t portable enough – and exploited it. They made it possible to access email from anywhere, at no cost.

2) Growth and change

Growing your business is a process associated with risk. One entrepreneur once described to me the agony of hiring his first employee; he knew he needed to do it, but didn’t want to. Similarly, one of the biggest changes in athletics is going from junior to senior level. Unsurprisingly, it is the stage at which most athletes quit the sport. Having succeeded as a junior, they are unable to do as well as a senior. This is due to a number of key differences. First, the number of people you are competing against grows enormously. Whilst there may have been a dozen people of you caliber as a junior, there may be ten or twenty times more as a senior. Second, many senior athletes will have much more racing experience than you. You may be younger and be physically fitter, but they can still beat you because they know how to race. They can spot crucial gaps during competitions and know the strengths and weaknesses of other athletes. Finally, the competition standards are much tougher. It can take several years to achieve the necessary times and many athletes will drop out of the sport altogether.

An entrepreneur could encounter similar challenges when growing their business. If you decide to set up a new office in a larger city, you will undoubtedly find more competition. Indeed, you may find that they are outright better than you. In some cases, the businesses you are competing against may be as good as yours, but simply know how to market themselves better. With both business and sport, you cannot progress without taking on some form of risk. The athlete may quit against tougher competition and the entrepreneur may run out of money, for example. However, this should not discourage an athlete or entrepreneur from attempting to grow. It is simply a case of getting to know your competition well and working out your competitive advantages.

3) Managing information correctly

Feedback is something that a good athlete needs in order to progress, be it subjective or objective. The trick is not collecting this information, but managing it correctly. Numerous statistics are available – lap times, pulse rates and race results – but incorporating them into your training program properly is essential. One common mistake is to overanalyze a training (something I have done and seen often). The temptation is to change a training session or race tactics based on a few data points. Yet a slow race, or unusually fast session should be taken into account only in context of many months of training and racing. Otherwise, this can lead to minor adjustments being made on a regular basis that ruin the strategy for your whole season. More often than not, it is better to let your plan run its course. If not, you will never know how good it was in the first place. The lesson for entrepreneurs is clear here: once you have devised your strategy, stick to it. Take little changes into account, but allow for some variance in results. Run your strategy for a set period of time and then take stock.

These lessons emphasize the importance of working smarter, not harder, than the competition. Of course, hard work cannot be avoided, but the key is doing work efficiently.

What makes a good place to work?

Reprinted from Ben’s blog. Original article here.

By Ben Horowitz

At Opsware I used to teach a management expectations course because I deeply believed in training. In it, I made it clear that I expected every manager to meet with her people on a regular basis. I even gave instructions on how to conduct a 1:1 meeting so there could be no excuses.

Then one day while I happily went about my job, it came to my attention that one of my managers hadn’t had a 1:1 with any of his employees in over six months. While I knew to “expect what I inspect,” I did not expect this. No 1:1 in over six months? How was it possible for me to invest so much time thinking about management, preparing materials and personally training my managers and then get no 1:1s for six months? Wow, so much for CEO authority. If that’s how the managers listen to me, then why do I even bother coming to work?

I thought that leading by example would be the sure way to get the company to do what I wanted. Lord knows the company picked up all of my bad habits, so why didn’t they pick up my good habits? Had I lost the team? I recalled a conversation I’d had with my father many years ago regarding Tommy Heinsohn, the Boston Celtics basketball coach at the time. Heinsohn had been one of the most successful coaches in the world, including being named “coach of the year” and winning two NBA championships. However, he had gone downhill fast and now had the worst record in the league. I asked my father what happened. He said: “The players stopped paying attention to his temper tantrums. Heinsohn used to yell at the team and they’d respond. Now they just ignore him.” Was the team now ignoring me? Had I yelled at them one time too many?

(more…)

Negocios y Economía: “Endeavor Mexico: the rise of entrepreneurs”

Reprinted from Negocios y Economía. Original article here.

By Maria Eugenia Hernández Gutiérrez (translated from Spanish by Eunice Kim)

Given that since 2003, Mexico’s stock market value has grown 10% while Brazil’s has only grown 2%, why then has Brazil’s GDP grown 3 times more than Mexico’s during this time?

Global business experts explain that Brazil has implemented initiatives to help small to medium sized companies grow, while Mexico has not been able to implement the growth of small to medium sized enterprises. Brazil also supports the idea of venture capital firms investing in small rising companies, whereas Mexico has neglected to do so.

Creating companies is not enough; learning the tools to successfully grow the companies is what facilitates desired changes to the economy. An entrepreneurial culture that is cutting edge – and is at the forefront of what works and what doesn’t – is needed in order to create successful companies. In fact, 80% of start-ups in the world are likely to fail in the first 5 years, and 90% in 10 years. For Mexico, 75% of start-ups are likely to fail the first year, and 90% within 5 years.

This usually happens due to the lack of capital and official subsidies. The funds for the small to medium sized companies are so sparse, and those funded by the government don’t make enough revenue. With only the help of the government, 9 out of 10 companies would be able to exist but not grow. Another reason why they tend to fail is due to the state’s lack of willingness to reform their infrastructure to be conducive to positive growth of small to medium sized companies.

A solution to such problems would be through a program like Endeavor. Over the past 10 years, the Endeavor program in Mexico has striven to help reduce the high rate of failure for new companies.

Currently operating in 15 countries in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, Endeavor is an international NGO with a global network of business leaders, academic experts and professionals that selects, mentors, and accelerates the best high impact entrepreneurs around the world. In 15 years, Endeavor has screened and provided feedback to 30,000+ candidates and selected 708 high impact entrepreneurs from 443 companies. Supported and mentored by a growing network of 3,000+ local and global business leaders, these entrepreneurs have created over 180,000 high-value jobs and generate more than $5 billion in annual revenues. Endeavor’s support catalyzes a chain reaction in the larger economy – driving investment, creating role models, and fostering the conditions for the next Silicon Valley in Rio or Cape Town, Cairo or Jakarta. In fact, Thomas Friedman, the author of “The World is Flat 2.0,” journalist, and third time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, has described the Endeavor model as “the best anti-poverty program of all.”

In Mexico, Endeavor has been able to implement numerous projects and establish new offices in different regions of the country, such as Puebla, Yucatan, Baja California, and Distrito Federal. Linda Rottenberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Endeavor, says that the organization’s mission is to encourage public policy initiatives that help the growth of businesses.

In Mexico, Endeavor was the first of its kind to receive resources from the Secretary of Economy to work on specific projects to facilitate the growth of new companies.

Endeavor also helped change operational rules provided by the Secretary of Economy and the fund dedicated to small and medium sized companies so that the high impact, strategic projects can obtain up to 85 percent of the investment necessary to reach the next level of growth. Since 2005, Endeavor has annually received 5 to 6 million pesos from the fund dedicated to small and medium sized companies.

The success of the program can be attributed to the careful selection of the champions: high impact, innovative men and women who risk capital and create jobs. The selection process can be separated into two categories: the nomination of a company and the official decision on an Endeavor entrepreneur. Regional offices nominate companies who can benefit from strategic services in financing and the mentor network and strive for exponential growth. Statistically, the high impact entrepreneurs of Endeavor are able to generate income three times faster than those without the support of Endeavor. The companies promoted by Endeavor have registered annual sales growths of more than 45 percent and incomes of over 11 billion pesos, creating about 20,000 jobs.

Once a company is nominated by Endeavor, they have the opportunity to participate in an International Selection Panel, where they are met by a jury composed of individuals who represent Fortune 500 companies, consulting firms, and the top business schools of the U.S. If the panel comes to a unanimous decision, the nominated companies become promoted to Endeavor Entrepreneurs.

In January, the Endeavor Catalyst fund invested $2 million into Globant, a software developing company whose headquarters are in Argentina. In March, the fund completed a joint investment with Intel Capital to finance the company Minha Vida, a website promoting a culture of health and well-being in Brazil.

At the beginning of this summer in London, the International Selection Panel gathered for the 44th time and discussed the potential of 17 entrepreneurs from Brazil, Colombia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, and Uruguay.

Representing Mexico at the panel, Gabriela León, CEO of Gresmex. introduced a company that produces a line of surgical disinfectants and doctors that are able to cure multiple viruses without the use of highly toxic substances.

Héctor Sepúlveda and Luis de Yturbe attended the panel on behalf of Litebuilt, which revolutionized the construction industry in 2008 with the development of a concrete blog that imitates the LEGO toy piece and provides more efficient, sustainable solutions than the traditional construction methods.

Also attending the panel were Diego Solórzano and Jimena Pardo, founders of Carrot, a company that issues car rentals via a monthly pay that includes rent, gasoline, insurance, service, etc. and can be used for hours or days in specific locations within Mexico.

During the remainder of 2012, there will be two more International Selection Panels, one in Istanbul in October and the other in Miami in December. Representing Mexico will be Marco and Alexandra Gallardo, whose company PowerPet produces snacks without additives or conservatives for pets, along with scientist Alberto Osorio who created the first safe technique to correct farsightedness. Edna Fong created Jaztea, which produces tea ice cream and drinks with natural flavors. Roberto Quintero and José Irigoyen successfully created Cinemagic, a company that brings movie theaters to the most isolated parts of the country, and even succeeded to obtain an international certificate in 2010 at a panel in South Africa. Mauricio Pariente and Alejandro Chiliub have sold canned tuna, using a new packaging that offers consumers with cans with higher quality and no conservatives. The recent discovery of natural gas, including shale gas, in the Gulf of Mexico has motivated the state of Veracruz to conduct studies on the feasibility of starting a regional Endeavor project to contribute to the development of innovative projects in the agriculture, energy, education and technology industries.

Fred Wilson: the profit and loss statement

Reprinted from A VC. Original article here.

By Fred Wilson

Picking up from the accounting post last week, there are two kinds of accounting entries; those that describe money coming into and out of your business, and money that is contained in your business. The P&L deals with the first category.

A profit and loss statement is a report of the changes in the income and expense accounts over a set period of time. The most common periods of time are months, quarters, and years, although you can produce a P&L report for any period.

Here is a profit and loss statement for the past four years for Google. I got it from their annual report (10k). I know it is too small on this page to read, but if you click on the image, it will load much larger in a new tab.

The top line of profit and loss statements is revenue (that’s why you’ll often hear revenue referred to as “the top line”). Revenue is the total amount of money you’ve earned coming into your business over a set period of time. It is NOT the total amount of cash coming into your business. Cash can come into your business for a variety of reasons, like financings, advance payments for services to be rendered in the future, payments of invoices sent months ago.

There is a very important, but highly technical, concept called revenue recognition. Revenue recognition determines how much revenue you will put on your accounting statements in a specific time period. For a startup company, revenue recognition is not normally difficult. If you sell something, your revenue is the price at which you sold the item and it is recognized in the period in which the item was sold. If you sell advertising, revenue is the price at which you sold the advertising and it is recognized in the period in which the advertising actually ran on your media property. If you provide a subscription service, your revenue in any period will be the amount of the subscription that was provided in that period.

This leads to another important concept called “accrual accounting.” When many people start keeping books, they simply record cash received for services rendered as revenue. And they record the bills they pay as expenses. This is called “cash accounting” and is the way most of us keep our personal books and records. But a business is not supposed to keep books this way. It is supposed to use the concept of accrual accounting.

Let’s say you hire a contract developer to build your iPhone app. And your deal with him is you’ll pay him $30,000 to deliver it to you. And let’s say it takes him three months to build it. At the end of the three months you pay him the $30,000. In cash accounting, in month three you would record an expense of $30,000. But in accrual accounting, each month you’d record an expense of $10,000 and because you aren’t actually paying the developer the cash yet, you charge the $10,000 each month to a balance sheet account called Accrued Expenses. Then when you pay the bill, you don’t touch the P&L, its simply a balance sheet entry that reduces Cash and reduces Accrued Expenses by $30,000.

The point of accrual accounting is to perfectly match the revenues and expenses to the time period in which they actually happen, not when the payments are made or received.

With that in mind, let’s look at the second part of the P&L, the expense section. In the Google P&L above, expenses are broken out into several categories; cost of revenues, R&D, sales and marketing, and general and administration. You’ll note that in 2005, there was also a contribution to the Google Foundation, but that only happened once, in 2005.

The presentation Google uses is quite common. One difference you will often see is the cost of revenues applied directly against the revenues and a calculation of a net amount of revenues minus cost of revenues, which is called gross margin. I prefer that gross margin be broken out as it is a really important number. Some businesses have very high costs of revenue and very low gross margins. And example would be a retailer, particularly a low price retailer. The gross margins of a discount retailer could be as low as 25%.

Google’s gross margin in 2009 was roughly $14.9bn (revenue of $23.7bn minus cost of revenues of $8.8bn). The way gross margin is most often shown is as a percent of revenues so in 2009 Google’s gross margin was 63% (14.9bn divided by 23.7). I prefer to invest in high gross margin businesses because they have a lot of money left after making a sale to pay for the other costs of the business, thereby providing resources to grow the business without needing more financing. It is also much easier to get a high gross margin business profitable.

The other reason to break out “cost of revenues” is that it will most likely increase with revenues whereas the other expenses may not. The non cost of revenues expenses are sometimes referred to as “overhead”. They are the costs of operating the business even if you have no revenue. They are also sometimes referred to as the “fixed costs” of the business. But in a startup, they are hardly fixed. These expenses, in Google’s categorization scheme, are R&D, sales and marketing, and general/admin. In layman’s terms, they are the costs of making the product, the costs of selling the product, and the cost of running the business.

The most interesting line in the P&L to me is the next one, “Income From Operations” also known as “Operating Income.” Income From Operations is equal to revenue minus expenses. If “Income From Operations” is a positive number, then your base business is profitable. If it is a negative number, you are losing money. This is a critical number because if you are making money, you can grow your business without needing help from anyone else. Your business is sustainable. If you are not making money, you will need to finance your business in some way to keep it going. Your business is unsustainable on its own.

The line items after “Income From Operations” are the additional expenses that aren’t directly related to your core business. They include interest income (from your cash balances), interest expense (from any debt the business has), and taxes owed (federal, state, local, and possibly international). These expenses are important because they are real costs of the business. But I don’t pay as much attention to them because interest income and expense can be changed by making changes to the balance sheet and taxes are generally only paid when a business is profitable. When you deduct the interest and taxes from Income From Operations, you get to the final number on the P&L, called Net Income.

I started this post off by saying that the P&L is “one of the most important things in business.” I am serious about that. Every business needs to look at its P&L regularly and I am a big fan of sharing the P&L with the entire company. It is a simple snapshot of the health of a business.

I like to look at a “trended P&L” most of all. The Google P&L that I showed above is a “trended P&L” in that it shows the trends in revenues, expenses, and profits over five years. For startup companies, I prefer to look at a trended P&L of monthly statements, usually over a twelve month period. That presentation shows how revenues are increasing (hopefully) and how expenses are increasing (hopefully less than revenues). The trended monthly P&L is a great way to look at a business and see what is going on financially.

I’ll end this post with a nod to everyone who commented last week that numbers don’t tell you everything about a business. That is very true. A P&L can only tell you so much about a business. It won’t tell you if the product is good and getting better. It won’t tell you how the morale of the company is. It won’t tell you if the management team is executing well. And it won’t tell you if the company has the right long term strategy. Actually it will tell you all of that but after it is too late to do anything about it. So as important as the P&L is, it is only one data point you can use in analyzing a business. It’s a good place to start. But you have to get beyond the numbers if you really want to know what is going on.

5 digital tools to boost your brand: infographic

Reprinted from Angel Investment Network.  See original article here.

The mid-market briar patch

I needed a pictureReprinted from A Smart Bear. See original article here.

By Jason Cohen, founder of WP Engine & Smart Bear Software.

During the summer, one of the Capital Factory companies developed a plan to sell into the “mid-sized” corporate market. Uh oh.

The startup graveyards are littered with companies who tried to target this seemingly alluring market segment — customers small enough to be intelligent and nimble, young enough to embrace new technology, yet big enough to spend real money to alleviate real pain.

It sounds like it’s best of both worlds. But the reality is it’s the worst of both worlds.

They’re not “small enough to be nimble,” because at fifty employees they’ve already established much of the lumbering process and bureaucracy of companies a hundred times their size. Shackled by budgets and internal politics, technology changes require expensive coordination and retraining, and fear of change trumps potential rewards of improvement.

All this makes for an arduous sales process just like with big companies. But although they have the process and controls of a large company, they don’t have the budgets to match; there’s no large reward for successfully navigating the painful, Herculean sales adventure.

Worst of both worlds.

Why is it like this? Maybe they’re stingy because they’re still being run by a parsimonious small-business founder (like me!) who is still straightening used staples to save pennies. Maybe it’s because with a few dozen people, the segmentation of teams, departments, roles, and behavior is inevitable. Whether because of physical limitations of communication or human tendency towards tribal behavior, we fall into semi-autonomous isolation coupled with formal processes to ensure command-and-control, and a bureaucracy is born, self-generating and largely inescapable.

Whatever the reason, it’s a tar-pit.

Then there’s the numbers game. There are 220,000 businesses in America having 50-500 employees, and only 18,000 businesses with more than 500. That’s often the argument for going after those mid-sized businesses — look how many there are!

But the average employee count of the mid-sized is 119 and of the large is 3,100, so if your goal is to sell a copy of your software to everyone inside a company, you have to sell 30 mid-sized for every large. Or looking at it another way, the total number of employees of mid-sized companies is 26m, whereas large is 60m.

And since the sales effort isn’t much different between 75 seats or 750, this is a lot more work for the revenue.

Even setting aside the internal machinery, “mid-sized companies” isn’t really a market segment anyway.

“Mid-sized companies” have less in common than you’d think; it’s much more important to know what industry they’re in. A 100-person technology startup has a certain makeup of employees — ratios of developers, QA, tech support, sales staff, HR, etc — whereas a 100-person plastics manufacturing company has a very different make-up, for example having no software developers, probably not tech-savvy, and IT is run by a guy who is a Windows “power user,” runs Exchange, hasn’t heard of Google Apps, and doesn’t know how to open a port in the firewall “my Cisco guy” installed.

So for example if you’re selling server monitoring software, everything about how to sell into these two companies is different: How you find them, what pain you’re solving for them, what that user wants to see in the interface, etc.. The fact that both are monitoring 100 computers is only vaguely “the same;” there’s more differences than similarities.

The most common argument I hear targeting the middle is:

“Small businesses have no money, and the large companies already use Entrenched Competitors X and Y, so it’s in the middle that there’s opportunity.”

But there isn’t necessarily an opportunity. Maybe your competitors have figured out that it’s not cost-effective to sell to the middle.

WP Engine is a perfect example of this. My initial idea was to target the “mid-market” of the WordPress ecosystem — bloggers and websites big enough that cheap hosting was no longer delivering the speed, scale, and support they required, but not big enough that they could afford full-time WordPress experts or the $2500/mo (and up) cost of Automattic’s excellent but expensive “WordPress VIP” program.

There are some drawbacks here to be sure. People with $50/mo blogs have many of the same problems as people with $2000/mo blogs but pay us 40x less, which might imply we should focus on the high-end blogger. But there’s lots of $50/mo bloggers who never call and never have a problem where the profit margin is great (even if the absolute dollar profit is less), whereas a $2000/mo blogger is constantly running into new speed and scalability challenges since even small changes to their configuration is magnified by 10,000,000 hits a month, vaporizing that so-called profit with expensive expert human time.

In other words, exactly the problems of “selling the middle” — with small-blogger budget meets big-blogger problems.

If we just chose one or the other, we could optimize the rest of the business around it — hiring, automation, marketing, sales — and maybe we should. (Actually we have a theory that there’s another way for us to solve this problem, but that will have to remain under wraps for now. I know, I know, I just said hiding your business plan is silly, but although I’ve shared our “secret” plan with dozens of people in person, it’s a little different publishing it in front of 30,000 RSS subscribers… at least, not yet.)

So my immediate reaction to anyone “selling to middle” is the same: Yuck. If you’re going to do it anyway, I hope you have some nice, extenuating circumstances that truly makes you the exception to the rule.

7 lessons my $1.8 billion competitor, Omniture, taught me over the last 7 years

Reprinted from Quick Sprout. Original article here.

By Neil Patel

Over the last 7 years I’ve been in the software as a service space. More specifically I’ve been in the web analytics space. My first analytics startup, Crazy Egg, helps you understand how people interact with your website. And my second one, KISSmetrics, helps you understand your customers so you can maximize your lifetime value.

In the analytics world the biggest player in the space, by far, is Omniture. And although they aren’t a direct competitor to either of my startups, I’ve had the privilege of watching them go from being just another analytics company to turning themselves into a 1.8 billion dollar company.

Here are the 7 most important lessons I’ve learned from watching my competitor, Omniture, dominate the analytics space.

Lesson #1: Best Product ≠ Biggest Company

By no means does Omniture have the best product out there. And no, I am not just saying this because I own 2 analytics companies…

Their product is hard to use, it’s slow, they’ve had a ton of instances of data loss, and they constantly get customer complaints. If you don’t believe me, just Google “Omniture Sucks”.

That’s actually the main reason I got into the market. Years ago I used to own a consulting company and we used to help our customers use Omniture… and they hated it, although they kept on paying for it.

So what did I learn exactly? Well you of course want to try and have the best product out there, but even if you don’t that’s not a valid excuse for not making money. Before Omniture sold to Adobe their revenue’s were well into the 100s of millions. In 2008 (they sold in 2009) they had $296 million in revenue. Which brings me into lesson number 2…

How I applied this to my business: Although we focus heavily on product at KISSmetrics, we hired a VP of Sales a bit more than a year ago to build out our sales team. You can’t just focus on product or sales, you have to focus on both.

Lesson #2: Sales is the quickest way to grow a software company

I’ve always had the belief that you need a finished product before you start selling. The reality is, you don’t. I didn’t learn this until I sat on a sales call from a rep at Omniture. Here are the specific things I learned from digging into their sales process:

PowerPoint presentations can be more effective than real product demos – if you have an incomplete product the last thing you want to show someone is a half working product because it’s really hard to convince someone to pay for something that isn’t built. And if your product is built, but has bugs, it’s also a bad idea to show someone a demo of a product that doesn’t work 100% of the time. Through PowerPoint presentations Omniture was able to dance around all of these issues because they were able to show you the problem they were going to solve for you. And if you happen to close a deal before your product is done, you can always tell a company you won’t be able to start till X date as you are backlogged from customer demand.
Always sell with case studies – the more case studies you include in your pitch, the more validation you bring to your product. Case studies show that your product does what it is supposed to do. If you can’t use case studies, try to use data and facts to back up how your product will make a company more money or at the very least save a company money.
Don’t forget to score leads – if you are an ideal candidate for Omniture you can expect one of their sales guys to constantly hound you. If you aren’t you’ll notice that their sales reps won’t bother you too much. It’s not because they don’t want your business, but it is because they are lead scoring. They know that if you aren’t ready to buy, it’s best to throw you back to marketing where they can continue to educate you until you are ready to talk to a sales rep. This is smart because sales reps are really expensive and you don’t want them talking to people who aren’t ready to pay.
Educate first, sell second – just like the lead scoring example above, Omniture has a tendency to educate first and then sell. It helps drive up the demand for their product, which makes the job easier for sales reps. They do this through webinars, whitepapers, conferences, booths, and countless other forms of marketing. But if you look closely at all of the methods I mentioned above you’ll notice 1 thing in common… all of their marketing methods involve collecting your contact information so their lead qualifiers can follow up with you later on to figure out when you are ready to buy.
The bigger the pitch the bigger the money – Omniture doesn’t sell you analytics, they sell you a solution to your problem. And the bigger the problem they can solve, the more money they can charge. A good example of this is that they don’t help you with just your SEO needs or PPC needs, instead they help you with your digital marketing strategy. They know large corporations are shifting their budget towards digital marketing and if you look at Google Trends, you’ll notice that more and more people are interested in digital marketing. In essence, they are riding the wave of what’s popular, as that tends to be where the big bucks are.

How I applied this to my business: Throughout the last year we’ve been building out our sales team at KISSmetrics. We are now at the point were we are adding a new sales rep each month.

(more…)

What makes a minimum viable team?

Reprinted from This is going to be big. Original article here.

By Charlie O’Donnell

You have a million things to get done at your startup, yet you only have a handful of people to do them. How are you ever going to get it done? Who should you hire? What should be the makeup of a founding team? What is the Minimum Viable Team, if you will, for a startup?

To make life simpler, I’ll take a page from George Carlin, who masterfully widdled down the Ten Commandments down to two simple rules. I can break down all the things a startup needs to do into three ideal people.

Let’s start out with the basic functions of a tech company:

1) Engineering
2) Marketing
3) Sales
4) Business development
5) PR
6) Design
7) Product Management
8) HR
9) Operations
10) Finance

Ok, that’s just overwhelming.

Ready to start simplifying?

The last two are pretty basic. On a 2-3 person team, there really are no “operations”, save for some light calendaring, and “finance” is pretty simplistic. To the extent that you need bills paid and some simple bookkeeping, you should 100% outsource this, because it’s not a good use of anyone on the team’s time. Let’s call these tasks “Some outsourced crap the team shouldn’t be thinking about.”

Now we’re down to nine core business functions on a small startup team.

Let’s take sales and business development. When the product is early and still pivoting, these are kind of the same thing. In a way, you can think of BD as “sales when you don’t know what the product is yet.” It’s basically working with potential outside partners to reach your business goals–which could be revenue, distribution, financing, product development, awareness, etc. If you think about it, these things are all of the goals of another function on the list–PR. Interesting that biz dev and PR would have the same exact goals–but not surprising, since they deal with the same group: outsiders. PR is just a way to get outsiders to come to you, so communicating to them should be part of the same role as negotiating business deals with them.

So, we could generalize this function and call it “Attracting and benefiting from outside interest.”

That leaves seven core business functions. Just to recap, we have:

1) Attracting and benefiting from outside interest.
2) Some outsourced crap the team shouldn’t be thinking about.
3) Engineering
4) Marketing
5) Design
6) HR
7) Product Management

But wait, isn’t the recruiting part of HR also about outside interest? Sure is! Getting people to join your company is a key goal of early PR. The part that isn’t about recruiting, like healthcare benefits if there are any, shouldn’t that be part of the crap the team shouldn’t spend time thinking about? Yup! So, poof! Break that baby up, divide it, and now we’re down to six.

Wikipedia defines Marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers”. So, when you read into it, marketing isn’t really selling, it’s more of finding and packaging the right thing to sell to the right customers. Hmm.. what other functions in our organization have to do with our customers? Well, a good product certainly requires a good customer or user experience. And what is a good user experience? It involves a deep understanding of the target audience and figuring out what kinds of interactions they’re going to find valuable.

Understanding the audience and designing products that suit their needs requires close cross-functional collaboration to get it right. Therefore, it makes sense that all of these functions in the process–marketing, design, and product management–fit under one roof:
“Customer experience.”

The role of a customer experience person is simple: understand my customer and satisfy them by creating easy to use products that enable them to accomplish their goals. How you do this tactically is a combo of intense user research, narrowing product requirements, getting feedback, user experience testing, etc.

That leaves us with four functions of a startup:

1) Attracting and benefiting from outside interest
2) Customer experience
3) Engineering
4) Some outsourced crap the team shouldn’t be thinking about

Tada!

And given that the outsourced crap isn’t a person at the company, there’s your three person startup team:

“Outside person”
“Customer experience”
“Builder”

Many startups start with two people. When you’ve got two people on the team and you’re going super lean in the early stages, usually your best bet is to have a customer experience person and a builder. Outside tasks, like getting PR for the company, can often be done with the help of advisors and investors who are good at showing the company around. Plus, in such a connected world, at the seed stage, the “outside” bar is low–a good article, review, demo can be a difference maker and get you on the right radars.

More often than not, however, you wind up with an outside person and a builder–because outside people are usually the business people who knew the industry well enough to have the idea in the first place. If you have the magical unicorn that is both a builder and someone who has a process for thinking about customer experience, you’re gold–but not many of these exist. So its left up to you, but you may have another resource you’re not thinking about. Many startups outsource visual design work, and instead of hiring that designer, hire a second developer.

I think that designer could be more helpful than you think, and maybe will do more for you than a second developer. The designer should be your third leg of the stool.

That makes the decision of the founding outside person:

1) Learn product management, like, yesterday.
2) Deputize the designer and bring them on full-time to run the product management process.

In regards to the latter, let’s be clear about what we mean by a designer. Design encompases a number of different areas:

1) Interaction design: These people are tasked with learning about your users, coming up with the flows to help them get done what they need to get done, and who maps product requirements to a set of wireframes. In other words, if you build a photosharing app, they’re the ones that realize that an app needs two buttons, taking a picture, and pulling from your phone, to get photos into the system, and put together what clicking each one means.

2) Visual design: These folks put flesh on the wireframe, giving your app a look and feel that will appeal to your

3) Usability: These people not only smooth out the rough edges so that your users can *easily* accomplish their objectives. This is a continual process–one that many people unfortunately outsource as a one time “fix”. If anything, if you had to outsource something, visual design is something you can have someone else do for you to give you a base set of colors, styles, etc that will serve you well in the near term. Usability needs to be a weekly, in-house process. Your whole team should be forced to watch users use the product with their eyes glued open each week.

Point being that your designer, if they’re doing their job and you’ve got them in a process that immerses them in customers, are the closest people in your company to the mindset of your users. While you’re out pitching to investors and press in the outside role, they’re testing to see whether or not people understand the word “invite” versus “request” in the context of your app. That’s the person who needs to own feature requirements, best practices on implantation, etc. When you’ve got a feature idea, you should be submitting it to them to see whether it jives with their model of a user.

What’s even better about this model is that more and more designers are learning how to code and getting a deeper understanding of how the technology works that they’re designing for–because those are the constraints they need to keep in mind when figuring out solutions to user problems.

It’s also important that this person is full-time–always thinking about the users for this product and not just one of many contract customers. Many startups will tell you that it’s nearly impossible to hire a designer full-time and I agree–but that’s to hire them as a designer. I know a bunch of designers who have jumped at the chance to own product as an opportunity to gain responsibility, and broaden their skillset while still keeping creative juices flowing and getting high levels of customer interaction. It’s a win-win for btw sides and it is the kind of offer startups should consider making. Product management processes can be learned, but curiosity, creative problem solving and continual desire for improving the product are drives found in most designers that are tough to take a class on.

EFE, which has worked with Endeavor in the Middle East, wins Schwab award

Reprinted from Education for Employment

During a ceremony at the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of New Champions in Tianjin, China, Education for Employment (EFE), which has worked with Endeavor in the Middle East to create employment opportunities, was recognized as one of the world’s leading social innovations by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Chosen from more than 1,000 international applicants, EFE was praised for its “novel approaches, demonstrated impact and ability to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” EFE’s Founder & Chair Ron Bruder and President & CEO Jamie McAuliffe accepted the award on behalf of the EFE Network of affiliates in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia,Yemen, Europe, and the United States. As a Schwab Award recipient, EFE is fully integrated into the events and initiatives of the World Economic Forum, allowing EFE to benefit from peer-to-peer exchanges with other top leaders in business, government, civil society, social enterprises and the media.

Contact us

Press center

Community

Newsletter Sign Up