A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

When “fits and starts” is the most efficient path

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

You roll down the windows and wear a helmet when you take your car to the track. This does not make me less terrified of a fiery death. The American Autocross champion was sitting in my passenger seat screaming at me to not let my foot off the pedal until I bounced off the RPM limiter.

A Scorecard: Should a decision be fast, or slow?

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

We all know that startups should make decisions quickly. Fast decisions leads to rapid action, which accelerates the loop of production and feedback, which is how you outpace and out-learn a competitor, even one that already has a lead.

How repositioning a product allows you to 8x its price

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Pricing is often more about positioning and perceived value than it is about cost-analysis and unconvincing ROI calculators. As a result, repositioning can allow you to charge many times more than you think. Here’s how.

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.

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.

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.

How to simplify complex decisions by cleaving the facts

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

We all face complex business decisions for which there is no one, correct answer, and yet a strong and occasionally permanent decision is required of us. Sometimes the puzzle is created by fundamental uncertainty inherent in the decision.

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.

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.”

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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No wait, of course THAT is the single most important SaaS metric

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

The single most important SaaS metric is retention , because cancellations indicate lack of product/market fit, no matter the cause (price, features, severity of need, duration of need). If it cannot be fixed, it means the business is a failure even if other metrics are stellar.

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.

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 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.

The optimistic case for IoT security standards

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

With the second major IoT-based DDoS attack having passed through the news cycle, everyone wants to know what can be done to stop future attacks.

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.

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.

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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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.

7 things a large stinkbug on the back porch can teach startup founders

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Clickbait works. Stop clicking on crap and get back to work. How-To

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.

Strategic Activities for a Company Retreat

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

I am planning a company retreat. What are some great questions we can work on as a company? cc @RNeivert @robwalling @asmartbear. — James Kennedy (@JamesKennedy) July 15, 2017. I happened to be sitting on the tarmac, delayed.

Balance is weak. Tension is strong.

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Objects in tenuous balance will tumble at the slightest nudge. Objects in tension, on the other hand, are strong. When you fire a gun you pull with one hand while pushing with the other because in tension there is stability.

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.

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.

You’re a company when…

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

2,700 days ago, and 40,000 subscribers ago, I published my 13th blog post. Feedburner said there were 50 RSS subscribers, but at least 40 of them were directories or scrapers.

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?)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Refutation: An acquisition is always a failure

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Oh how the media loves superlatives (but only because that’s what we click on and share). Jake Lodwick wrote an article on PandoDaily entitled “An acquisition is always a failure.”

New Year’s Questions (neé Resolutions)

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Do New Year’s resolutions work? Studies say “no.” ” Maybe asking good questions of yourself is a better way to lift your eyes to the horizon of possibilities for 2015. What good questions have you not taken the time to ask?

Your non-linear problem of 90% utilization

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Does it feel like everyone is working very hard, all the time, and yet not accomplishing as much as everyone would like? Maybe this is why. Suppose a web server is running at 50% of its full capacity.

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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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.

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.

Stubborn Visionaries & Pigheaded Fools

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Scenario 1 (S1). At time (A) you start an AdWords campaign. At time (B) it’s obviously not working; a waste of time and money. But you keep trying, and by time (C), you’ve figured it out; it’s working! Scenario 2 (S2). At time (A) you start an AdWords campaign.

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%

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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Invention is Drudgery

A Smart Bear: Startups and Marketing for Geeks

Edison spent 18 months on the drudgery of trial and error to produce the first workable light, which lasted only 13 hours before the carbon fiber filament would burn out.

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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