More on Entrepreneurship/Creators
11 months ago
If you don't crush these 3 metrics, skip the Series A.
I recently wrote about getting VCs excited about Marketplace start-ups. SaaS founders became envious!
Understanding how people wire tens of millions is the only Series A hack I recommend.
Few people understand the intellectual process behind investing.
VC is risk management.
Series A-focused VCs must cover two risks.
1. Market risk
You need a large market to cross a threshold beyond which you can build defensibilities. Series A VCs underwrite market risk.
They must see you have reached product-market fit (PMF) in a large total addressable market (TAM).
2. Execution risk
When evaluating your growth engine's blitzscaling ability, execution risk arises.
When investors remove operational uncertainty, they profit.
Series A VCs like businesses with derisked revenue streams. Don't raise unless you have a predictable model, pipeline, and growth.
Please beat these 3 metrics before Series A:
Achieve $1.5m ARR in 12-24 months (Market risk)
Above 100% Net Dollar Retention. (Market danger)
Lead Velocity Rate supporting $10m ARR in 2–4 years (Execution risk)
Hit the 3 and you'll raise $10M in 4 months. Discussing 2/3 may take 6–7 months.
If none, don't bother raising and focus on becoming a capital-efficient business (Topics for other posts).
Let's examine these 3 metrics for the brave ones.
1. Lead Velocity Rate supporting €$10m ARR in 2 to 4 years
Last because it's the least discussed. LVR is the most reliable data when evaluating a growth engine, in my opinion.
SaaS allows you to see the future.
Monthly Sales and Sales Pipelines, two predictive KPIs, have poor data quality. Both are lagging indicators, and minor changes can cause huge modeling differences.
Analysts and Associates will trash your forecasts if they're based only on Monthly Sales and Sales Pipeline.
LVR, defined as month-over-month growth in qualified leads, is rock-solid. There's no lag. You can See The Future if you use Qualified Leads and a consistent formula and process to qualify them.
With this metric in your hand, scaling your company turns into an execution play on which VCs are able to perform calculations risk.
2. Above-100% Net Dollar Retention.
Net Dollar Retention is a better-known SaaS health metric than LVR.
Net Dollar Retention measures a SaaS company's ability to retain and upsell customers. Ask what $1 of net new customer spend will be worth in years n+1, n+2, etc.
Depending on the business model, SaaS businesses can increase their share of customers' wallets by increasing users, selling them more products in SaaS-enabled marketplaces, other add-ons, and renewing them at higher price tiers.
If a SaaS company's annualized Net Dollar Retention is less than 75%, there's a problem with the business.
Slack's ARR chart (below) shows how powerful Net Retention is. Layer chart shows how existing customer revenue grows. Slack's S1 shows 171% Net Dollar Retention for 2017–2019.
3. $1.5m ARR in the last 12-24 months.
According to Point 9, $0.5m-4m in ARR is needed to raise a $5–12m Series A round.
Target at least what you raised in Pre-Seed/Seed. If you've raised $1.5m since launch, don't raise before $1.5m ARR.
Capital efficiency has returned since Covid19. After raising $2m since inception, it's harder to raise $1m in ARR.
P9's 2016-2021 SaaS Funding Napkin
In summary, less than 1% of companies VCs meet get funded. These metrics can help you win.
If there’s demand for it, I’ll do one on direct-to-consumer.
7 months ago
How we started and then quickly sold our startup
From a simple landing where we tested our MVP to a platform that distributes 20,000 codes per month, we learned a lot.
Kwotet was my first startup. Everyone might post book quotes online.
I wanted a change.
Kwotet lacked attention, thus I felt stuck. After experiencing the trials of starting Kwotet, I thought of developing a waitlist service, but I required a strong co-founder.
I knew Dries from school, but we weren't close. He was an entrepreneurial programmer who worked a lot outside school. I needed this.
We brainstormed throughout school hours. We developed features to put us first. We worked until 3 am to launch this product.
Putting in the hours is KEY when building a startup
The instant that we lost our spark
In Belgium, college seniors do their internship in their last semester.
As we both made the decision to pick a quite challenging company, little time was left for Lancero.
Eventually, we lost interest. We lost the spark…
The only logical choice was to find someone with the same spark we started with to acquire Lancero.
And we did @ MicroAcquire.
Sell before your product dies. Make sure to profit from all the gains.
What did we do following the sale?
Not far from selling Lancero I lost my dad. I was about to start a new company. It was focused on positivity. I got none left at the time.
We still didn’t let go of the dream of becoming full-time entrepreneurs. As Dries launched the amazing company Plunk, and I’m still in the discovering stages of my next journey!
You’re an entrepreneur if:
You enjoy disassembling and reassembling things.
You're adept at making new friends.
YOU HAVE DREAMS.
You don’t need to believe me if I tell you “everything is possible”… I wouldn't believe it myself if anyone told me this 2 years ago.
Until I started doing, living my dreams.
8 months ago
After working at seven startups, here are the early-stage characteristics that contributed to profitability, unicorn status or successful acquisition.
I've worked in a People role at seven early-stage firms for over 15 years (I enjoy chasing a dream!). Few of the seven achieved profitability, including unicorn status or acquisition.
Did early-stage startups share anything? Was there a difference between winners and losers? YES.
I support founders and entrepreneurs building financially sustainable enterprises with a compelling cause. This isn't something everyone would do. A company's success demands more than guts. Founders drive startup success.
Six Qualities of Successful Startups
Successful startup founders either innately grasped the correlation between strong team engagement and a well-executed business model, or they knew how to ask and listen to others (executive coaches, other company leaders, the team itself) to learn about it.
1. Co-founders agreed and got along personally.
Multi-founder startups are common. When co-founders agree on strategic decisions and are buddies, there's less friction and politics at work.
As a co-founder, ask your team if you're aligned. They'll explain.
I've seen C-level leaders harbor personal resentments over disagreements. A co-departure founder's caused volatile leadership and work disruptions that the team struggled to manage during and after.
2. Team stayed.
Successful startups have low turnover. Nobody is leaving. There may be a termination for performance, but other team members will have observed the issues and agreed with the decision.
You don't want organizational turnover of 30%+, with leaders citing performance issues but the team not believing them. This breeds suspicion.
Something is wrong if many employees leave voluntarily or involuntarily. You may hear about lack of empowerment, support, or toxic leadership in exit interviews and from the existing team. Intellectual capital loss and resource instability harm success.
3. Team momentum.
A successful startup's team is excited about its progress. Consistently achieving goals and having trackable performance metrics. Some describe this period of productivity as magical, with great talents joining the team and the right people in the right places. Increasing momentum.
I've also seen short-sighted decisions where only some departments, like sales and engineering, had goals. Lack of a unified goals system created silos and miscommunication. Some employees felt apathetic because they didn't know how they contributed to team goals.
4. Employees advanced in their careers.
Even if you haven't created career pathing or professional development programs, early-stage employees will grow and move into next-level roles. If you hire more experienced talent and leaders, expect them to mentor existing team members. Growing companies need good performers.
New talent shouldn't replace and discard existing talent. This creates animosity and makes existing employees feel unappreciated for their early contributions to the company.
5. The company lived its values.
Culture and identity are built on lived values. A company's values affect hiring, performance management, rewards, and other processes. Identify, practice, and believe in company values. Starting with team values instead of management or consultants helps achieve this. When a company's words and actions match, it builds trust.
When company values are beautifully displayed on a wall but few employees understand them, the opposite is true. If an employee can't name the company values, they're useless.
6. Communication was clear.
When necessary information is shared with the team, they feel included, trusted, and like owners. Transparency means employees have the needed information to do their jobs. Disclosure builds trust. The founders answer employees' questions honestly.
Information accessibility decreases office politics. Without transparency, even basic information is guarded and many decisions are made in secret. I've seen founders who don't share financial, board meeting, or compensation and equity information. The founders' lack of trust in the team wasn't surprising, so it was reciprocated.
Finally. All six of the above traits (leadership alignment, minimal turnover, momentum, professional advancement, values, and transparency) were high in the profitable startups I've worked at, including unicorn status or acquisition.
I've seen these as the most common and constant signals of startup success or failure.
These characteristics are the product of founders' choices. These decisions lead to increased team engagement and business execution.
Here's something to consider for startup employees and want-to-bes. 90% of startups fail, despite the allure of building something new and gaining ownership. With the emotional and time investment in startup formation, look for startups with these traits to reduce your risk.
Both you and the startup will thrive in these workplaces.
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7 months ago
Tesla recently disclosed its greatest secret.
The VP has revealed a secret that should frighten the rest of the EV world.
Tesla led the EV revolution. Elon Musk's invention offers a viable alternative to gas-guzzlers. Tesla has lost ground in recent years. VW, BMW, Mercedes, and Ford offer EVs with similar ranges, charging speeds, performance, and cost. Tesla's next-generation 4680 battery pack, Roadster, Cybertruck, and Semi were all delayed. CATL offers superior batteries than the 4680. Martin Viecha, Tesla's Vice President, recently told Business Insider something that startled the EV world and will establish Tesla as the EV king.
Viecha mentioned that Tesla's production costs have dropped 57% since 2017. This isn't due to cheaper batteries or devices like Model 3. No, this is due to amazing factory efficiency gains.
Musk wasn't crazy to want a nearly 100% automated production line, and Tesla's strategy of sticking with one model and improving it has paid off. Others change models every several years. This implies they must spend on new R&D, set up factories, and modernize service and parts systems. All of this costs a ton of money and prevents them from refining production to cut expenses.
Meanwhile, Tesla updates its vehicles progressively. Everything from the backseats to the screen has been enhanced in a 2022 Model 3. Tesla can refine, standardize, and cheaply produce every part without changing the production line.
In 2017, Tesla's automobile production averaged $84,000. In 2022, it'll be $36,000.
Mr. Viecha also claimed that new factories in Shanghai and Berlin will be significantly cheaper to operate once fully operating.
Tesla's hand is visible. Tesla selling $36,000 cars for $60,000 This barely beats the competition. Model Y long-range costs just over $60,000. Tesla makes $24,000+ every sale, giving it a 40% profit margin, one of the best in the auto business.
VW I.D4 costs about the same but makes no profit. Tesla's rivals face similar challenges. Their EVs make little or no profit.
Tesla costs the same as other EVs, but they're in a different league.
But don't forget that the battery pack accounts for 40% of an EV's cost. Tesla may soon fully utilize its 4680 battery pack.
The 4680 battery pack has larger cells and a unique internal design. This means fewer cells are needed for a car, making it cheaper to assemble and produce (per kWh). Energy density and charge speeds increase slightly.
Tesla underestimated the difficulty of making this revolutionary new cell. Each time they try to scale up production, quality drops and rejected cells rise.
Tesla recently installed this battery pack in Model Ys and is scaling production. If they succeed, Tesla battery prices will plummet.
Tesla's Model Ys 2170 battery costs $11,000. The same size pack with 4680 cells costs $3,400 less. Once scaled, it could be $5,500 (50%) less. The 4680 battery pack could reduce Tesla production costs by 20%.
With these cost savings, Tesla could sell Model Ys for $40,000 while still making a profit. They could offer a $25,000 car.
Even with new battery technology, it seems like other manufacturers will struggle to make EVs profitable.
Teslas cost about the same as competitors, so don't be fooled. Behind the scenes, they're still years ahead, and the 4680 battery pack and new factories will only increase that lead. Musk faces a first. He could sell Teslas at current prices and make billions while other manufacturers struggle. Or, he could massively undercut everyone and crush the competition once and for all. Tesla and Elon win.
1 year ago
Putin's War On Reality
The dictator's playbook.
Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, delivered a speech titled "On The Cult Of Personality And Its Consequences" in 1956, three years after Stalin’s death.
It was Stalin's grave abuse of power that caused untold harm to our party.
Stalin acted not by persuasion, explanation, or patient cooperation, but by imposing his ideas and demanding absolute obedience. […]
See where Stalin's mania for greatness led? He had lost all sense of reality.
The speech, which was never made public, shook the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc. After Stalin's "cult of personality" was exposed as a lie, only reality remained.
As I've watched the nightmare unfold in Ukraine, I'm reminded of that question. Primarily by Putin's repeated denials.
His odd claim that Ukraine is run by drug addicts and Nazis (especially strange given that Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, is Jewish). Others attempt to portray Russia as liberators rather than occupiers. For example, he portrays Luhansk and Donetsk as plucky, newly independent states when they have been totalitarian statelets for 8 years.
Putin seemed to have lost all sense of reality.
Maybe that's why his remarks to an oligarchs' gathering stood out:
Everything is a desperate measure. They gave us no choice. We couldn't do anything about their security risks. […] They could have put the country in jeopardy.
This is almost certainly true from Putin's perspective. Even for Putin, a military invasion seems unlikely. So, what exactly is putting Russia's security in jeopardy? How could Ukraine's independence endanger Russia's existence?
The truth is the only thing that truly terrifies leaders like these.
Trump, the president of “alternative facts,” "and “fake news” praised Putin's fabricated justifications for the Ukraine invasion. Russia tightened news censorship as news of their losses came in. It's no accident that modern dictatorships like Russia (and China and North Korea) restrict citizens' access to information.
Controlling what people see, hear, and think is the simplest method. And Ukraine's recent efforts to join the European Union showed a country whose thoughts Putin couldn't control. With the Russian and Ukrainian peoples so close, he could not control their reality.
He appears to think this is a threat worth fighting NATO over.
It's easy to disown history's great dictators. By the magnitude of their harm. But the strategy they used is still in use today, albeit not to the same devastating effect.
The Kim dynasty in North Korea has ruled for 74 years, Putin has ruled Russia for 19 years (using loopholes and even rewriting the constitution).
“Politicians and diapers must be changed frequently,” said Mark Twain. "And for the same reason.”
When their egos are threatened, they sabre-rattle, as in Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump's famous spat about the size of their...ahem, “nuclear buttons”." Or Putin's threats of mutual destruction this weekend.
Most importantly, they have cult-like control over their followers.
When a leader whose power is built on lies feels he is losing control of the narrative, things like Trump's Jan. 6 meltdown and Putin's current actions in Ukraine are unavoidable.
Leaders who try to control their people's reality will have to die to keep the illusion alive.
Long version of this post available here
11 months ago
6 Rules to build a successful NFT Community in 2022
Too much NFT, Discord, and shitposting.
How do you choose?
How do you recruit more members to join your NFT project?
In 2021, a successful NFT project required:
Twitter and Discord bot-filled
Goal was quick cash.
2022 and the years after will change that.
These are 6 Rules for a Strong NFT Community in 2022:
THINK LONG TERM
This relates to roadmap planning. Hype and dumb luck may drive NFT projects (ahem, goblins) but rarely will your project soar.
Instead, consider sustainability.
Plan your roadmap based on your team's abilities.
Do what you're already doing, but with NFTs, make it bigger and better.
You shouldn't copy a project's roadmap just because it was profitable.
This will lead to over-promising, team burnout, and an RUG NFT project.
Building a great community starts with giving.
Why are musicians popular?
Because they offer entertainment for everyone, a random person becomes a fan, and more fans become a cult.
That's how you should approach your community.
A great team helps.
An NFT project could have 3 or 2 people.
Credibility trumps team size.
Make sure your team can answer community questions, resolve issues, and constantly attend to them.
Don't overwork and burn out.
Your community will be able to recognize that you are trying too hard and give up on the project.
BUILD A GREAT PRODUCT
Bored Ape Yacht Club altered the NFT space.
Cryptopunks transformed NFTs.
Many others did, including Okay Bears.
What made them that way?
Because they answered a key question.
What is my NFT supposed to be?
Before planning art, this question must be answered.
NFTs can't be just jpegs.
What does it represent?
Is it a Metaverse-ready project?
What blockchain are you going to be using and why?
Set some ground rules for yourself. This helps your project's direction.
These questions will help you and your team set a direction for blockchain, NFT, and Web3 technology.
EDUCATE ON WEB3
The more the team learns about Web3 technology, the more they can offer their community.
Think tokens, metaverse, cross-chain interoperability and more.
BUILD A GREAT COMMUNITY
Several projects mistreat their communities.
They treat their community like "customers" and try to sell them NFT.
Providing Whitelists and giveaways aren't your only community-building options.
Consider them family and friends, not wallets.
Consider them fans.
These are some tips to start your NFT project.