Pivoting on Investor Feedback a.k.a Beware of Mentors

Don't outsource your decision making.

Let me explain.

Investors, mentors, advisors, and other experts are great to talk to. They'll offer valuable insight on market sizes, suggest great customer acquisition strategies, and sometimes offer you wads of cash to continue with your business.

But when I hear someone say,

Based on feedback from our investors we've pivoted our idea.

...I can't help but cringe. (Update: This behavior has now been dubbed The Assisted Blind Pivot)

I've said it again and again...the only expert on your business is you.

Continue reading

Lean Deck Clinic November

It's November! Gregarious and I are putting together the next Lean Deck Clinic on November 11th.

So if you're in San Francisco and you're looking to get candid feedback on your pitch from potential investors, sign up now.

This time around, we're going to focus on the learning and we're keeping the headcount to 18 companies. There'll be two VCs and Angels per round table and presenters in the final round will be asked to summarize their lessons learned from the workshop for everyone's benefit.

We've put together a basic template for presenters to focus on with the emphasize on lean. Enjoy!

Lean Deck Template
View more presentations from Tristan Kromer

Continue reading

Lean Deck Clinic Lessons Learned

It's been a few weeks since the Lean Deck Clinic and Gregarious & I are starting to plan the next ones. But first, we wanted to publish some of the lessons learned from the clinic.

These are notes from the participants themselves of advice given by a variety of different clinicians (see here for the list). So the bullets may at times contradict one another or other advice you may have read or received. I've edited some for legibility.

Special thanks to John Maloney from NetworkGrader.com who took some very good notes and sent them in.

You need to hook an investor in 30 second on a human level by finding a shared experience/pain point. Start your pitch with stories and craft a compelling narrative. Describe the offering first and why it is important and an opportunity.

Continue reading

Startup Weekend Lesson Learned #1 – The Pitch

This last week was crazy, mostly because I spent all last weekend coding, marketing, pitching, and navigating the intense and creative atmosphere of Startup Weekend SF (#swmobile). If you haven't been to Startup Weekend, you should because it's the best place to get a quick feel of what it takes to run a startup and one of the best places to find a co-founder for your next business. (Aside from startupSQUARE of course!)

One of the great things about Startup Weekend is the amount you can learn in a short time. It's really a lean startup practicum. So I'll write a few quick notes about what I've gotten out of it, starting with the big pitch at the end of the event. My team was called KissMobs and we made a mobile dating app to create a flash mob singles scene.

Continue reading

Update: How to Make Your Investor Pitch Lean

Getting lean is becoming essential to all aspects of running a business and pitching is no exception. Here's a quick update on our original post to the Lean Deck Clinic on Monday August the 2nd. The event is sold out for participants, but you might be able to score a ticket to the final round of presentations if you're fast. (There were three left as of this post.)
All of the participants will get great feedback on their pitches from the panel (see below) to help them improve their pitch and their business model, but the big news is that there's a host of great prizes for the participants including one year of free hosting from Media Temple and one year of analytics from KissMetrics.
Special last minute addition is the big grandaddy prize of a whopping 15 hours (~$5,000) of in legal work courtesy of Antone Johnson at Bottom Line Law Group who is himself a lean startup and focuses on providing "lean startup lawyers for emerging growth companies". That's enough legal work to get incorporated, deal with patents, trademarks, privacy policies and more. There may even be some more special treats coming for the other participants.
The Deck Clinic is being organized by The Lean Coffee Meetup with Gregarious Narin, Rich Colins, and startupSQUARE chipping in. It's hosted at the new San Francisco startup incubator Kicklabs. The panel of judges and experts has expanded to include a room of peers, VCs and angel investors :
Sumeet Jain (CMEA Capital) Chris Redlitz (Transmedia Capital) (Check out our interview with Chris here) Michael Downing (Transmedia Capital) Hiten Shah (Kissmetrics) Thomas McInerney (Angel Investor) Jai Choi, Partech International) Debbie Landa (DealMaker Media) Philip Kaplan (Blippy)

And don't forget to check out the NYC Lean Coffee if you're in New York!

Good luck to all participants!

Continue reading

Interview with Chris Redlitz from KickLabs and Transmedia Capital (part 1)

I recently sat down with Chris Redlitz from Transmedia Capital to talk about his new startup incubator KickLabs and founding teams from his perspective as an entrepreneur (AdAuction, Get Relevant, Aptimus, and On Village), executive (Skyrider, Feedster, Reebok), and now venture capitalist. We discussed what makes a founding team work, potential conflicts of interest between investors and entrepreneurs, and what KickLabs looks for in a company. Chris is also going to be a judge at the Lean Deck Clinic on August 2nd.

T: In your experience, is there a distinct advantage to having a founding team as opposed to being a sole entrepreneur?

C: Yeah, I think so. Especially in technology it’s good to have breadth so to speak. You can obviously take an idea and have it outsourced but from a development point of view, it’s good to be able to collaborate. Collaboration is really the most important thing when you’re doing something. I have an idea but I need to actually have some sort of way to vet that idea as it morphs along the way. Having someone that has a little bit more of a technology capability with someone that is more of a business or marketing person... it’s kind of the ideal situation if you can make that work.

T: So what do you think doesn’t make that work?

Continue reading

Heap | Mobile and Web Analytics