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Onboarding Isn’t About Signups, It’s About Long-Term Engagement

Instigator Blog

At some point in your startup’s existence you’ll need to focus a lot of attention on your product’s onboarding experience. Don’t worry about this right away. At the start just make sure people can sign up and go get some early adopters by any means necessary.

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The Importance of Understanding Your Best Users

Instigator Blog

Every startup has a certain percentage of “good” users. I put good in double quotes because the definition of a good user will vary depending on the startup. You need to define what a “good” user is for your startup.

Data is an Input and a Filter into the Product Development Process

Instigator Blog

Recently I spoke at CrunchConf in Budapest. It was a great experience. The conference is fantastic for people interested in data (e.g. data analysts, scientists, product managers, etc.) Having said that, I’m not a data scientist. I don’t spend the bulk of my time storing, organizing and sifting through data. I’m not smart enough for […]. Lean Analytics

“You Don’t Look Like a Founder”

Instigator Blog

WTF does that even mean? It means: You’re not a young white guy. And it’s total b t. Heather Anne Carson, co-founder @ Repable recently posted this on Facebook: (She didn’t ask me to write this.) It’s not surprising that guys feel / think this way (but saying it out loud really demonstrates a whole […]. Entrepreneurship

The First 10 Questions I Ask Entrepreneurs When Investing

Instigator Blog

I’ve been angel investing for about a year now , and I’ve made a total of 10 investments (2 in the last month). I don’t think I’ll keep up that pace, but it’s been a lot of fun.

“No Marketing” Isn’t as Impressive as You Think

Instigator Blog

Almost every early stage startup that pitches me these days talks about the traction they’ve had with absolutely no marketing whatsoever. “We have five hundred signups and we’ve done no marketing at all.” ” “Our beta list is growing quickly–and we’re not even marketing yet!” ” “Customers are knocking at our door, and that’s with no marketing.” ” […]. Startups

Experimenting with Product, Price and Market

Instigator Blog

Every startup has to experiment with product, price and market to find the right combination that allows them to scale and win. But if you find yourself experimenting with all three at the same time, you need to take a step back and evaluate where you’re really at. Last week I wrote about product/market fit […]. Lean Startup

Launch Your Startup When You’ve Already Won

Instigator Blog

The tech industry is overly-obsessed with making noise, being self-congratulatory and too often, focused on the wrong things. We look at PR as a big win.

Product/Market Fit and Lean Analytics

Instigator Blog

In the last couple weeks I’ve read a few great blog posts about product/market fit and the confusion that exists around what it really means. I’d say for many early stage startups, product/market fit is thought of as that point in time when you’ve finally built a product that people use and it’s time to […]. Lean Startup

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Product Debt

Instigator Blog

If you’ve spent any amount of time around developers you should be familiar with the term technical debt. Technical debt comes from hacking things together quickly and moving on. It accumulates over time. It can come back to bite you in the ass (if you scale to the point where the debt becomes obvious). It’s […]. Product Management

Speaking Gigs, Training, Discounts, Free Tickets and More

Instigator Blog

I don’t normally post about speaking engagements, conferences or training sessions that I’m conducting, but there are a bunch of upcoming events that I hope interest people. Along with that, I have discounts and free tickets to give away–so why not do it all at once?!?! Product Strategy for Designers I’m doing a 2-day […]. Business

Don’t be Data-Driven, be Problem-Driven

Instigator Blog

Recently a founder of an early stage startup asked me, “How do I convince my co-founder and team to be more data-driven?” ” I think I surprised him with my answer, because I told him that the key issue wasn’t being more data-driven, it was being problem-driven.

Every Startup Employee is a Marketer

Instigator Blog

In an early, small startup, everyone wears many hats. One of the more important hats for everyone to wear, which doesn’t always come naturally to people, is that of marketer. Most early stage startups don’t have a marketer, and may have very little marketing expertise.

Engagement is a Long-Term Process

Instigator Blog

Drip marketing is a way engaging people before they buy. You capture people’s email address and then reach out on a regular basis with something of value.

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Data should be the Common Language in an Organization

Instigator Blog

If I was to ask you what you do, I’m sure you could provide an answer. Most people lead with a title–“I’m an engineer working on software systems,” or, “I’m a senior marketing manager that drives marketing initiatives for our products.” ” Fair enough. That’s a reasonable answer. A much harder question is “Why?” ” Why do […]. Lean Analytics

The Challenge of Changing People’s Behavior

Instigator Blog

Building a product is easy. Getting people to use your product consistently is hard. The real challenge is changing people’s behavior.

Put Yourself in a Position to Be Lucky

Instigator Blog

Last week I spoke at a University of Toronto event to a small group of students. They were mostly business students (so I implored them to learn how to code and be useful–seriously business students, learn to code). As I was going to the event and reviewing my notes, I wrote the following down: Put […]. Personal Development

Size Matters in Seed Investments

Instigator Blog

Tomasz Tunguz has done a great analysis of the likelihood of follow on financing based on the size of your seed round. You need to check it out, and just read his blog in general, it’s awesome.

Responsibility, Accountability and Levelling Up

Instigator Blog

In hierarchical organizations, levelling up is fairly clear–it means moving up the ladder from one position to the next. Those interested in doing so have a clearer path (although it’s not easy) to more responsibility. Hierarchies with lots of levels have all sorts of issues, but they do make levelling up more obvious. Startups are […]. Scaling Startups

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6 Things You Need to Pivot Successfully

Instigator Blog

Pivot. We’re all familiar with the word — and many people now roll their eyes when they hear it. The word has been bastardized, overused, and taken out of context. But it doesn’t mean pivots aren’t important. Dont hate the word, hate the people that use it incorrectly and ignore its importance. Pivot. Say it with me. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Recently, I did a presentation on pivoting: what it means, why it’s important, and how to do it properly.

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Optimize for Happiness

Instigator Blog

Last Friday, April 22nd was the 30th anniversary of my brother’s death. He died at 8 years old. I wrote about it a few years ago as a way of celebrating his life and remembering him. Time heals. But it still f **g hurts. Not surprisingly, it’s around this time of year that I really reflect […]. Personal Development

My First 9 Months as an Angel Investor

Instigator Blog

As a founding partner of Year One Labs (an early stage accelerator), which operated actively in 2010-2011, I participated in 5 very early stage investments. But that wasn’t angel investing (although it had some similarities). Nine months ago I made my first independent angel investment. I’ve made 7 in total. They include: anonymous company (can’t tell you yet), sendwithus , Scalability ( Hockeystick ), Mixgenius , TandemLaunch (a fund / incubator), Breather and Javelin.

Want to Raise Money? Ask for Advice

Instigator Blog

When you start raising money for your startup, people will tell you, “If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice.” ” You might dismiss this as generic, cookie-cutter advice, but there’s definitely some truth to it, particularly the second part.

When is it Time to Pivot or Quit?

Instigator Blog

Entrepreneurs aren’t quitters. To succeed you need to be resilient, thick skinned and borderline crazy. You need to have just the right amount of delusion to believe you can succeed, spurring you on despite the absurd odds. But sometimes, you have to quit.

Taking Advantage of Startup Accelerators

Instigator Blog

Last week a company that I advise, Qimple, got accepted into 500 Startups. It’s great to see. Lots of people are congratulating them on Facebook and Twitter. They’re incredibly excited. In Canada we buzz about our entrepreneurs “making it” south of the border. All warm and fuzzy. But let’s be clear: Qimple hasn’t won squat. […]. Startup Accelerators

No longer at VarageSale

Instigator Blog

Sometimes (most of the time?) things don’t go as planned. If there’s one constant in life, particularly in the world of startups, it’s change. And last week there was a big change in my life. I’m no longer at VarageSale. I’m now going to take a bit of time (to relax, catch up on things, […]. Personal Development

Lean Startup and Lean Analytics in the Enterprise

Instigator Blog

It’s clear that Lean Startup is shifting from startups to the enterprise. There’s still a lot to learn amongst early stage entrepreneurs, and a lot of discussion that’s needed around implementing Lean Startup, but attention has definitely shifted to applying the framework in large organizations. Alistair and I have been looking at how Lean Startup and Lean Analytics are working in the enterprise.

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Design is Purpose Driven and Solves Problems

Instigator Blog

I’m not a designer. Or an expert in UX or UI. But as a product manager, it’s my job to understand how design (and UI/UX) can be applied to solving problems. (It’s It’s also my job to have an opinion…hopefully an educated one!)

Introducing Highline BETA – a Startup Co-Creation Company

Instigator Blog

Today, I’m launching a new company: Highline BETA. I’m co-founding Highline BETA with Marcus Daniels. I’ve known Marcus a long time and we’ve stayed in touch throughout the years. We’ve now found the right time and opportunity to work together. Highline BETA is something different. We’re a startup co-creation company. What does that mean? It […]. Highline Beta

Startup 51

Small Features

Instigator Blog

(Powered by LaunchBit ) We often measure the “size” of a feature based on how hard it is to build (development time) and how hard it is to use (for end users.) So a “small feature” is one that’s easy to code and easy to use.

Structure Matters (Scaling Startups)

Instigator Blog

When you first start a company there’s very little structure involved. You have a couple founders, an idea and (hopefully) a ton of passion for the problem you’re trying to solve. Lean Startup provides a methodology for how to do things, but generally the work and overall experience is pretty chaotic. And that’s totally fine. […]. Scaling Startups

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Digging Deeper into Lean Business Model Canvases

Instigator Blog

I’m a big fan of Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas. I was also very impressed with Steve Blank’s new initiative Lean Launch Lab , which combines a canvas business model tool and a blogging tool for startups to use and share information regularly with investors.

Single Founders or Co-Founders?

Instigator Blog

Conventional wisdom says that startups should have two or three founders. People tend to have pretty strong opinions on the issue, although I doubt they have definitive evidence / proof to back up their opinions. Some investors won’t even invest in single founders at all–so understandably for entrepreneurs this is a big issue. Most “business-focused” single founders are told right from the get go that they need to find a technical co-founder.

The Startup Rollercoaster is Real

Instigator Blog

You know what’s hard? Starting a company. You know what’s fun? Starting a company. There’s something about the insane challenge that makes starting a company so incredible. Having said that, I really don’t enjoy being told I’m wrong, or that my plan/idea/approach won’t work. (I I don’t know many people who like that!) And when people […]. Entrepreneurship

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Don’t Sell Technology, Sell Magic

Instigator Blog

Tech startups aren’t in the technology business. They’re in the magic business. I’m not talking about sleight of hand tricks, fooling people with funky props, or pretending to saw off someone’s head. I’m talking about providing magical experiences to customers.

Lessons Learned Launching a Lean Startup Accelerator

Instigator Blog

Year One Labs is a Lean Startup accelerator. I believe it’s one of the first of its kind, with a very heavy focus on customer development and a rigorous Lean Startup process.

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Tiny, New, Addictive Behaviors (or How to Build an Awesome Minimum Viable Product)

Instigator Blog

Early on, once you’ve identified a problem genuinely worth solving, you need to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and put it into the hands of early adopters. In Lean Analytics , we call this the Stickiness Stage. I recently wrote that most startups fail at this point –they simply don’t get the traction they need (in terms of regular usage, engagement and retention) to keep going.

Quiet and Boring: How to Build a Successful Startup

Instigator Blog

A few days ago, Indeed (a job aggregator site) announced that they had been acquired by a Japanese company called Recruit Co Ltd. One story I saw pegged the acquisition close to a billion dollars. I’ve heard through the grapevine about some very happy investors. Indeed is a big company (25,000 employees, 80 million unique visitors per month.) And while you’ve probably heard of them, there’s very little about them in the public eye.

The Role of Product Managers

Instigator Blog

I came across an interesting discussion on Branch about the role and future of product managers. I’m not a member there so I couldn’t respond directly, but figured I’d put my thoughts here instead. Yesterday the discussion only had a few comments on it. Today there are more and one of them is very similar to what I was going to say.

How Many Metrics Do You Need to Run Your Startup?

Instigator Blog

Answer: Only one. One of the concepts we’re pushing hard in the Lean Analytics book is the One Metric That Matters (OMTM). The idea is this: at any given time in your business there’s one key metric you should be focusing on. Not two, or three, or four. Just one.