A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Brittleness comes from “One Thing”

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

We’re tired of hearing how small software companies usually fail. The data show that the two most common causes are: (1) Product isn’t useful to enough people, and (2) Problems with the team.

You can have two Big Things, but not three

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Forget work/life integration for a minute. How much time do you have, regardless of partitioning? From your 24-hour daily allotment, the 1950s-style break-down is 8 hours for work, 8 for home and commute, and 8 for sleep and ablutions.

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The fundamental lesson of the forces governing scaling startups

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Idealistic founders believe they will break the mold when they scale, and not turn into a “typical big company.”

I hate MVPs. So do your customers. Make it SLC instead.

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Product teams have been repeating the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) mantra for a decade now, without re-evaluating whether it’s the right way to maximize learning while pleasing the customer. Well, it’s not the best system. It’s selfish and it hurts customers.

Should you invent a new UX?

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Early in my career, I was indoctrinated with a Cardinal Rule of User Interface: A user interface should minimize surprise. Have you always hated tabs inside dialog boxes? Understandable, but users know how they work, so you have to use them.

Why it’s nice to compete against a large, profitable company

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

A big, profitable company seems like the hardest thing for a small company to compete against.

Worrying is self-fulfilling; what to do instead

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Worrying is a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Worry” causes the very thing you’re worried about, to actually happen.

Scaling by “delegation” isn’t good enough

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Founding a company is a selfish act. It will consume every waking moment for the next 1-10 years. It’s an act of defiance and irreverence towards competitors and the status quo.

Finding the right advice

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

One thing we’ve learned from the diet crazes since the 1980s is that every single thing has been alternately touted as healthy or poison. No-fat, carb-heavy. Scratch that, no-carb, fat doesn’t matter. Scratch that, it’s only about low-cal. Scratch that, whole-30 and don’t track calories.

Not sure?

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Not sure? Yes you are. You’re just scared. Which is understandable. But you’re sure. Is employee #2 not working out, or does she maybe just need more time? If you have to ask, you know the answer, you just don’t want to do the difficult thing.

For marketing early startups: Deep, not wide

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Watch a bunch of interviews of founders of successful companies, and here’s what you don’t hear: We tried eight different marketing channels — AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, social media, events, retargeting, SEO, guest-posting, PR, and so on.

Avoiding the trap of low-knowledge, high-confidence theories

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

We’ve all laughed at detailed renderings of constellations overlaying a paltry set of stars that are in fact quasi-random.

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Should this startup exist? Converting 5W’s into existential justification

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

In American grade-school, we learn the “Five Ws” interrogatives: Who, What, When, Where, Why. And How. “How” is always tacked on like “Y” to the vowels.

The Lindy Effect on startup potential

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 10 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time. — Tom Cargill, Bell Labs.

Why large companies acquire small companies

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Large companies don’t acquire small companies for their financials. Revenue multiples, profit multiples, premium over the previous financing — these are metrics used by sellers to help determine a minimum acceptable price.

How do I figure out who my next important hire should be?

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

This is the perennial question for startups who have started to taste success, and are ready to invest in themselves in the form of new helping hands. The question is: How do you decide what role is most important to hire for?

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Change: Damned if you do, damned more if you don’t

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Top workplace complaints: 1) The way things are 2) Change. — Andrew Annett (@akannett) June 1, 2015. This plays out in many important ways: Customers demand an improved UX , but they don’t want to learn a new UX. Team members want consistency but don’t want policies. Developers want to be more efficient but don’t want to change how they work. Strategy is ineffective if it’s constantly in flux, but a strategy that remains unchanged in the presence of new information is incorrect.

Pricing determines your business

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

It’s often said that you shouldn’t talk about price during customer development interviews.

In its emptiness, there is the function of a startup

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

This article was originally published on the WP Engine Blog. Calm your freneticTL;DR twitchy-Twitter-brain for five minutes, and let some Chinese philosophy wash over you.

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Building in public forces true competitive advantage

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

What would happen if I forced you to develop all your precious, proprietary, secret-sauce code in a public Github repository? One thing would be: You would be judged.

Why startup biz dev deals almost never get done

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

As the founder of WP Engine, I receive weekly emails from startups proposing a “win-win” deal. So far, approximately zero have resulted in an successful deal. Here’s the problem , and how you can change your approach to business development so that it can succeed.

Look what we did

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

“You must be so proud of what you created” — the reflexive conclusion delivered by visitors to our building at WP Engine, struck by a beautiful place teeming with energy and activity, coming upon the little office of the founder. “What we created,” I always respond.

The unprofitable SaaS business model trap

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Marketo filed for IPO with impressive 80% year-over-year growth in 2012, with almost $60m in revenue. Except, they lost $35m. It’s not impressive when you spend $1.60 for every $1.00 of revenue, force-feeding sales pipelines with an unprofitable product.

How to measure the accuracy of forecasts

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

“There’s a 30% chance of rain today.” ” And then it didn’t rain. So, was the forecast accurate? Or what if it did rain. Does that mean the forecast was inaccurate? How do you hold forecasters accountable, when the forecast is only a probability?

Fermi estimation for startup business models

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Early in a company’s life, you don’t know anything. Often your best estimate of any metric or market behavior or business model component is at best accurate within a power of ten, for example “expected conversion rate between 0.5%

The wrong question: Is now the right time to start a company?

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

The answer is always yes. But it’s the wrong question. I started Smart Bear in a recession (2002) and it went great. I’ve been explaining for eight years why recessions are a great time to start a company.

An eBook pricing model that resulted in $100,000 in sales

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

This is a guest post by Nathan Barry, in response to two other posts that previously appeared on this blog. Nathan is the author of Designing Web Applications , The App Design Handbook , and Authority: A Step-By-Step Guide to Self-Publishing.

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LARGE x RARE == DIFFERENT: Why scaling companies is harder than it looks

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Something interesting happens when you run more than 1,000 servers, as we do at WP Engine. Suppose I told you that on average our servers experience one fatal failure every three years.

The only way to guarantee startup success

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Everyone said this would be the most embarrassing moment in the band’s eight-year career. Depeche Mode had decided to play the Pasadena Rose Bowl — capacity 60,000 — for the 101st show of their 1988 tour.

What if there isn’t another 10x?

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

What if Dropbox is just an awesome file-sharing and backup service but not a universal key/value storage API? What if OpenTable is the perfect reservation system but nothing else? What if Yelp has ratings but can’t solve the logistics of food delivery?

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Visualizing the Interactions Between CAC, Churn and LTV

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

(Guest post by Gordon Daugherty. If you like this, go see his Shockwave Innovations blog ) Anyone that has taken an accounting class or learned basic business financials knows the interaction between key elements of a P&L (revenue, cost, expense) and a balance sheet (assets, liabilities, equity).

The Code is your Enemy

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

You’re a builder, a creator — whether a back-end programmer, a Linux hacker, a Javascript ninja, a UX magician, a designer. You make stuff.

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Stop chopping yourself to pieces

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

My personal experience, confirmed by numerous studies, is: It’s faster to process email in batches rather than checking in 30 times/day. Humans cannot multi-task, they just complete both tasks slower, and with lower quality.

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Reframing the problems with “Freemium” by charging the marketing department

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Seems like every third startup nowadays is using the “Freemium” business model: The lowest service tier is free, and the business is designed to get those users hooked and then upgrade to a paid plan.

No, *I’ll* tell you the answer!

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

If you bet a startup will fail, you’ll be right most of the time, but not because you’re insightful.

The rise of the “successful” unsustainable company

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

It’s appalling what passes for “successful entrepreneurship” in the press or the Valley, but it’s not their fault.

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Satisficing vs Maximizing

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

“Maximizing” means expending time and effort to ensure you’ve solved something as best as possible. It requires exploration and analysis to ensure “the best” option hasn’t been overlooked, and that we have confidence in our evaluation of all options.

Darwinian company growth doesn’t always select the best companies

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

“Survival of the fittest” is not the same thing as “survival of the best,” though not apparent at first glance. Fittest” means “most able to become a grandparent.” Sound weird?

“Stealth mode” and other f’ing brilliant strategies

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Here’s some of my super-secret winning strategies from fifteen years of building startups. Stay in stealth mode until the last minute. The last thing any startup needs is people finding out about it. You can get attention later — that’s not difficult.

Zero-sum marketing channels: Good or bad for a startup to pursue?

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Many marketing channels are “zero-sum,” meaning that if one company wins a piece of the channel, other companies cannot also use that piece. Example: AdWords, where the price is set by the highest (dumbest?)