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Esteban

Esteban

1 year ago

The Berkus Startup Valuation Method: What Is It?

More on Entrepreneurship/Creators

Evgenii Nelepko

Evgenii Nelepko

1 year ago

My 3 biggest errors as a co-founder and CEO

Reflections on the closed company Hola! Dating app

My pitch to investors

I'll discuss my fuckups as an entrepreneur and CEO. All of them refer to the dating app Hola!, which I co-founded and starred in.

Spring 2021 was when we started. Two techies and two non-techies created a dating app. Pokemon Go and Tinder were combined.

Online dating is a business, and it takes two weeks from a like to a date. We questioned online dating app users if they met anyone offline last year.

75% replied yes, 50% sometimes, 25% usually.

Offline dating is popular, yet people have concerns.

  • Men are reluctant to make mistakes in front of others.

  • Women are curious about the background of everyone who approaches them.

We designed unique mechanics that let people date after a match. No endless chitchat. Women would be safe while men felt like cowboys.

I wish to emphasize three faults that lead to founders' estrangement.

This detachment ultimately led to us shutting down the company.

The wrong technology stack

Situation

Instead of generating a faster MVP and designing an app in a universal stack for iOS and Android, I argued we should pilot the app separately for iOS and Android. Technical founders' expertise made this possible.

Self-reflection

Mistaken strategy. We lost time and resources developing two apps at once. We chose iOS since it's more profitable. Apple took us out after the release, citing Guideline 4.3 Spam. After 4 months, we had nothing. We had a long way to go to get the app on Android and the Store.

I suggested creating a uniform platform for the company's growth. This makes parallel product development easier. The strategist's lack of experience and knowledge made it a piece of crap.

What would I have changed if I could?

We should have designed an Android universal stack. I expected Apple to have issues with a dating app.

Our approach should have been to launch something and subsequently improve it, but prejudice won.

The lesson

Discuss the IT stack with your CTO. It saves time and money. Choose the easiest MVP method.

UX description

2. A tardy search for investments

Situation

Though the universe and other founders encouraged me to locate investors first, I started pitching when we almost had an app.

When angels arrived, it was time to close. The app was banned, war broke out, I left the country, and the other co-founders stayed. We had no savings.

Self-reflection

I loved interviewing users. I'm proud of having done 1,000 interviews. I wanted to understand people's pain points and improve the product.

Interview results no longer affected the product. I was terrified to start pitching. I filled out accelerator applications and redid my presentation. You must go through that so you won't be terrified later.

What would I have changed if I could?

Get an external or internal mentor to help me with my first pitch as soon as possible. I'd be supported if criticized. He'd cheer with me if there was enthusiasm.

In 99% of cases, I'm comfortable jumping into the unknown, but there are exceptions. The mentor's encouragement would have prompted me to act sooner.

The lesson

Begin fundraising immediately. Months may pass. Show investors your pre-MVP project. Draw inferences from feedback.

3. Role ambiguity

Situation

My technical co-founders were also part-time lead developers, which produced communication issues. As co-founders, we communicated well and recognized the problems. Stakes, vesting, target markets, and approach were agreed upon.

We were behind schedule. Technical debt and strategic gap grew.

Bi-daily and weekly reviews didn't help. Each time, there were explanations. Inside, I was freaking out.

Our team

Self-reflection

I am a fairly easy person to talk to. I always try to stick to agreements; otherwise, my head gets stuffed with unnecessary information, interpretations, and emotions.

Sit down -> talk -> decide -> do -> evaluate the results. Repeat it.

If I don't get detailed comments, I start ruining everyone's mood. If there's a systematic violation of agreements without a good justification, I won't join the project or I'll end the collaboration.

What would I have done otherwise?

This is where it’s scariest to draw conclusions. Probably the most logical thing would have been not to start the project as we started it. But that was already a completely different project. So I would not have done anything differently and would have failed again.

But I drew conclusions for the future.

The lesson

First-time founders should find an adviser or team coach for a strategic session. It helps split the roles and responsibilities.

Sammy Abdullah

Sammy Abdullah

1 year ago

R&D, S&M, and G&A expense ratios for SaaS

SaaS spending is 40/40/20. 40% of operating expenses should be R&D, 40% sales and marketing, and 20% G&A. We wanted to see the statistics behind the rules of thumb. Since October 2017, 73 SaaS startups have gone public. Perhaps the rule of thumb should be 30/50/20. The data is below.

30/50/20. R&D accounts for 26% of opex, sales and marketing 48%, and G&A 22%. We think R&D/S&M/G&A should be 30/50/20.

There are outliers. There are exceptions to rules of thumb. Dropbox spent 45% on R&D whereas Zoom spent 13%. Zoom spent 73% on S&M, Dropbox 37%, and Bill.com 28%. Snowflake spent 130% of revenue on S&M, while their EBITDA margin is -192%.

G&A shouldn't stand out. Minimize G&A spending. Priorities should be product development and sales. Cloudflare, Sendgrid, Snowflake, and Palantir spend 36%, 34%, 37%, and 43% on G&A.

Another myth is that COGS is 20% of revenue. Median and averages are 29%.

Where is the profitability? Data-driven operating income calculations were simplified (Revenue COGS R&D S&M G&A). 20 of 73 IPO businesses reported operational income. Median and average operating income margins are -21% and -27%.

As long as you're growing fast, have outstanding retention, and marquee clients, you can burn cash since recurring income that doesn't churn is a valuable annuity.

The data was compelling overall. 30/50/20 is the new 40/40/20 for more established SaaS enterprises, unprofitability is alright as long as your business is expanding, and COGS can be somewhat more than 20% of revenue.

Aure's Notes

Aure's Notes

1 year ago

I met a man who in just 18 months scaled his startup to $100 million.

A fascinating business conversation.

Photo by abhishek gaurav on Unsplash

This week at Web Summit, I had mentor hour.

Mentor hour connects startups with experienced entrepreneurs.

The YC-selected founder who mentored me had grown his company to $100 million in 18 months.

I had 45 minutes to question him.

I've compiled this.

Context

Founder's name is Zack.

After working in private equity, Zack opted to acquire an MBA.

Surrounded by entrepreneurs at a prominent school, he decided to become one himself.

Unsure how to proceed, he bet on two horses.

On one side, he received an offer from folks who needed help running their startup owing to lack of time. On the other hand, he had an idea for a SaaS to start himself.

He just needed to validate it.

Validating

Since Zack's proposal helped companies, he contacted university entrepreneurs for comments.

He contacted university founders.

Once he knew he'd correctly identified the problem and that people were willing to pay to address it, he started developing.

He earned $100k in a university entrepreneurship competition.

His plan was evident by then.

The other startup's founders saw his potential and granted him $400k to launch his own SaaS.

Hiring

He started looking for a tech co-founder because he lacked IT skills.

He interviewed dozens and picked the finest.

As he didn't want to wait for his program to be ready, he contacted hundreds of potential clients and got 15 letters of intent promising they'd join up when it was available.

YC accepted him by then.

He had enough positive signals to raise.

Raising

He didn't say how many VCs he called, but he indicated 50 were interested.

He jammed meetings into two weeks to generate pressure and encourage them to invest.

Seed raise: $11 million.

Selling

His objective was to contact as many entrepreneurs as possible to promote his product.

He first contacted startups by scraping CrunchBase data.

Once he had more money, he started targeting companies with ZoomInfo.

His VC urged him not to hire salespeople until he closed 50 clients himself.

He closed 100 and hired a CRO through a headhunter.

Scaling

Three persons started the business.

  1. He primarily works in sales.

  2. Coding the product was done by his co-founder.

  3. Another person performing operational duties.

He regretted recruiting the third co-founder, who was ineffective (could have hired an employee instead).

He wanted his company to be big, so he hired two young marketing people from a competing company.

After validating several marketing channels, he chose PR.

$100 Million and under

He developed a sales team and now employs 30 individuals.

He raised a $100 million Series A.

Additionally, he stated

  • He’s been rejected a lot. Like, a lot.

  • Two great books to read: Steve Jobs by Isaacson, and Why Startups Fail by Tom Eisenmann.

  • The best skill to learn for non-tech founders is “telling stories”, which means sales. A founder’s main job is to convince: co-founders, employees, investors, and customers. Learn code, or learn sales.

Conclusion

I often read about these stories but hardly take them seriously.

Zack was amazing.

Three things about him stand out:

  1. His vision. He possessed a certain amount of fire.

  2. His vitality. The man had a lot of enthusiasm and spoke quickly and decisively. He takes no chances and pushes the envelope in all he does.

  3. His Rolex.

He didn't do all this in 18 months.

Not really.

He couldn't launch his company without private equity experience.

These accounts disregard entrepreneurs' original knowledge.

Hormozi will tell you how he founded Gym Launch, but he won't tell you how he had a gym first, how he worked at uni to pay for his gym, or how he went to the gym and learnt about fitness, which gave him the idea to open his own.

Nobody knows nothing. If you scale quickly, it's probable because you gained information early.

Lincoln said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I'll spend four sharpening the axe."

Sharper axes cut trees faster.

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Caspar Mahoney

Caspar Mahoney

1 year ago

Changing Your Mindset From a Project to a Product

Product game mindsets? How do these vary from Project mindset?

1950s spawned the Iron Triangle. Project people everywhere know and live by it. In stakeholder meetings, it is used to stretch the timeframe, request additional money, or reduce scope.

Quality was added to this triangle as things matured.

Credit: Peter Morville — https://www.flickr.com/photos/morville/40648134582

Quality was intended to be transformative, but none of these principles addressed why we conduct projects.

Value and benefits are key.

Product value is quantified by ROI, revenue, profit, savings, or other metrics. For me, every project or product delivery is about value.

Most project managers, especially those schooled 5-10 years or more ago (thousands working in huge corporations worldwide), understand the world in terms of the iron triangle. What does that imply? They worry about:

a) enough time to get the thing done.

b) have enough resources (budget) to get the thing done.

c) have enough scope to fit within (a) and (b) >> note, they never have too little scope, not that I have ever seen! although, theoretically, this could happen.

Boom—iron triangle.

To make the triangle function, project managers will utilize formal governance (Steering) to move those things. Increase money, scope, or both if time is short. Lacking funds? Increase time, scope, or both.

In current product development, shifting each item considerably may not yield value/benefit.

Even terrible. This approach will fail because it deprioritizes Value/Benefit by focusing the major stakeholders (Steering participants) and delivery team(s) on Time, Scope, and Budget restrictions.

Pre-agile, this problem was terrible. IT projects failed wildly. History is here.

Value, or benefit, is central to the product method. Product managers spend most of their time planning value-delivery paths.

Product people consider risk, schedules, scope, and budget, but value comes first. Let me illustrate.

Imagine managing internal products in an enterprise. Your core customer team needs a rapid text record of a chat to fix a problem. The consumer wants a feature/features added to a product you're producing because they think it's the greatest spot.

Project-minded, I may say;

Ok, I have budget as this is an existing project, due to run for a year. This is a new requirement to add to the features we’re already building. I think I can keep the deadline, and include this scope, as it sounds related to the feature set we’re building to give the desired result”.

This attitude repeats Scope, Time, and Budget.

Since it meets those standards, a project manager will likely approve it. If they have a backlog, they may add it and start specking it out assuming it will be built.

Instead, think like a product;

What problem does this feature idea solve? Is that problem relevant to the product I am building? Can that problem be solved quicker/better via another route ? Is it the most valuable problem to solve now? Is the problem space aligned to our current or future strategy? or do I need to alter/update the strategy?

A product mindset allows you to focus on timing, resource/cost, feasibility, feature detail, and so on after answering the aforementioned questions.

The above oversimplifies because

Leadership in discovery

Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

Project managers are facilitators of ideas. This is as far as they normally go in the ‘idea’ space.

Business Requirements collection in classic project delivery requires extensive upfront documentation.

Agile project delivery analyzes requirements iteratively.

However, the project manager is a facilitator/planner first and foremost, therefore topic knowledge is not expected.

I mean business domain, not technical domain (to confuse matters, it is true that in some instances, it can be both technical and business domains that are important for a single individual to master).

Product managers are domain experts. They will become one if they are training/new.

They lead discovery.

Product Manager-led discovery is much more than requirements gathering.

Requirements gathering involves a Business Analyst interviewing people and documenting their requests.

The project manager calculates what fits and what doesn't using their Iron Triangle (presumably in their head) and reports back to Steering.

If this requirements-gathering exercise failed to identify requirements, what would a project manager do? or bewildered by project requirements and scope?

They would tell Steering they need a Business SME or Business Lead assigning or more of their time.

Product discovery requires the Product Manager's subject knowledge and a new mindset.

How should a Product Manager handle confusing requirements?

Product Managers handle these challenges with their talents and tools. They use their own knowledge to fill in ambiguity, but they have the discipline to validate those assumptions.

To define the problem, they may perform qualitative or quantitative primary research.

They might discuss with UX and Engineering on a whiteboard and test assumptions or hypotheses.

Do Product Managers escalate confusing requirements to Steering/Senior leaders? They would fix that themselves.

Product managers raise unclear strategy and outcomes to senior stakeholders. Open talks, soft skills, and data help them do this. They rarely raise requirements since they have their own means of handling them without top stakeholder participation.

Discovery is greenfield, exploratory, research-based, and needs higher-order stakeholder management, user research, and UX expertise.

Product Managers also aid discovery. They lead discovery. They will not leave customer/user engagement to a Business Analyst. Administratively, a business analyst could aid. In fact, many product organizations discourage business analysts (rely on PM, UX, and engineer involvement with end-users instead).

The Product Manager must drive user interaction, research, ideation, and problem analysis, therefore a Product professional must be skilled and confident.

Creating vs. receiving and having an entrepreneurial attitude

Photo by Yannik Mika on Unsplash

Product novices and project managers focus on details rather than the big picture. Project managers prefer spreadsheets to strategy whiteboards and vision statements.

These folks ask their manager or senior stakeholders, "What should we do?"

They then elaborate (in Jira, in XLS, in Confluence or whatever).

They want that plan populated fast because it reduces uncertainty about what's going on and who's supposed to do what.

Skilled Product Managers don't only ask folks Should we?

They're suggesting this, or worse, Senior stakeholders, here are some options. After asking and researching, they determine what value this product adds, what problems it solves, and what behavior it changes.

Therefore, to move into Product, you need to broaden your view and have courage in your ability to discover ideas, find insightful pieces of information, and collate them to form a valuable plan of action. You are constantly defining RoI and building Business Cases, so much so that you no longer create documents called Business Cases, it is simply ingrained in your work through metrics, intelligence, and insights.

Product Management is not a free lunch.

Plateless.

Plates and food must be prepared.

In conclusion, Product Managers must make at least three mentality shifts:

  1. You put value first in all things. Time, money, and scope are not as important as knowing what is valuable.

  2. You have faith in the field and have the ability to direct the search. YYou facilitate, but you don’t just facilitate. You wouldn't want to limit your domain expertise in that manner.

  3. You develop concepts, strategies, and vision. You are not a waiter or an inbox where other people can post suggestions; you don't merely ask folks for opinion and record it. However, you excel at giving things that aren't clearly spoken or written down physical form.

Matthew Royse

Matthew Royse

1 year ago

5 Tips for Concise Writing

Here's how to be clear.

I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” — French mathematician, physicist, inventor, philosopher, and writer Blaise Pascal

Concise.

People want this. We tend to repeat ourselves and use unnecessary words.

Being vague frustrates readers. It focuses their limited attention span on figuring out what you're saying rather than your message.

Edit carefully.

Examine every word you put on paper. You’ll find a surprising number that don’t serve any purpose.” — American writer, editor, literary critic, and teacher William Zinsser

How do you write succinctly?

Here are three ways to polish your writing.

1. Delete

Your readers will appreciate it if you delete unnecessary words. If a word or phrase is essential, keep it. Don't force it.

Many readers dislike bloated sentences. Ask yourself if cutting a word or phrase will change the meaning or dilute your message.

For example, you could say, “It’s absolutely essential that I attend this meeting today, so I know the final outcome.” It’s better to say, “It’s critical I attend the meeting today, so I know the results.”

Key takeaway

Delete actually, completely, just, full, kind of, really, and totally. Keep the necessary words, cut the rest.

2. Just Do It

Don't tell readers your plans. Your readers don't need to know your plans. Who are you?

Don't say, "I want to highlight our marketing's problems." Our marketing issues are A, B, and C. This cuts 5–7 words per sentence.

Keep your reader's attention on the essentials, not the fluff. What are you doing? You won't lose readers because you get to the point quickly and don't build up.

Key takeaway

Delete words that don't add to your message. Do something, don't tell readers you will.

3. Cut Overlap

You probably repeat yourself unintentionally. You may add redundant sentences when brainstorming. Read aloud to detect overlap.

Remove repetition from your writing. It's important to edit our writing and thinking to avoid repetition.

Key Takeaway

If you're repeating yourself, combine sentences to avoid overlap.

4. Simplify

Write as you would to family or friends. Communicate clearly. Don't use jargon. These words confuse readers.

Readers want specifics, not jargon. Write simply. Done.

Most adults read at 8th-grade level. Jargon and buzzwords make speech fluffy. This confuses readers who want simple language.

Key takeaway

Ensure all audiences can understand you. USA Today's 5th-grade reading level is intentional. They want everyone to understand.

5. Active voice

Subjects perform actions in active voice. When you write in passive voice, the subject receives the action.

For example, “the board of directors decided to vote on the topic” is an active voice, while “a decision to vote on the topic was made by the board of directors” is a passive voice.

Key takeaway

Active voice clarifies sentences. Active voice is simple and concise.

Bringing It All Together

Five tips help you write clearly. Delete, just do it, cut overlap, use simple language, and write in an active voice.

Clear writing is effective. It's okay to occasionally use unnecessary words or phrases. Realizing it is key. Check your writing.

Adding words costs.

Write more concisely. People will appreciate it and read your future articles, emails, and messages. Spending extra time will increase trust and influence.

Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” — Naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau

Aparna Jain

Aparna Jain

1 year ago

Negative Effects of Working for a FAANG Company

Consider yourself lucky if your last FAANG interview was rejected.

Image by Author- Royalty free image enhanced in Canva

FAANG—Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google

(I know its manga now, but watch me not care)

These big companies offer many benefits.

  1. large salaries and benefits

  2. Prestige

  3. high expectations for both you and your coworkers.

However, these jobs may have major drawbacks that only become apparent when you're thrown to the wolves, so it's up to you whether you see them as drawbacks or opportunities.

I know most college graduates start working at big tech companies because of their perceived coolness.

I've worked in these companies for years and can tell you what to expect if you get a job here.

Little fish in a vast ocean

The most obvious. Most billion/trillion-dollar companies employ thousands.

You may work on a small, unnoticed product part.

Directors and higher will sometimes make you redo projects they didn't communicate well without respecting your time, talent, or will to work on trivial stuff that doesn't move company needles.

Peers will only say, "Someone has to take out the trash," even though you know company resources are being wasted.

The power imbalance is frustrating.

What you can do about it

Know your WHY. Consider long-term priorities. Though riskier, I stayed in customer-facing teams because I loved building user-facing products.

This increased my impact. However, if you enjoy helping coworkers build products, you may be better suited for an internal team.

I told the Directors and Vice Presidents that their actions could waste Engineering time, even though it was unpopular. Some were receptive, some not.

I kept having tough conversations because they were good for me and the company.

However, some of my coworkers praised my candor but said they'd rather follow the boss.

An outdated piece of technology can take years to update.

Apple introduced Swift for iOS development in 2014. Most large tech companies adopted the new language after five years.

This is frustrating if you want to learn new skills and increase your market value.

Knowing that my lack of Swift practice could hurt me if I changed jobs made writing verbose Objective C painful.

What you can do about it

  1. Work on the new technology in side projects; one engineer rewrote the Lyft app in Swift over the course of a weekend and promoted its adoption throughout the entire organization.

  2. To integrate new technologies and determine how to combine legacy and modern code, suggest minor changes to the existing codebase.

Most managers spend their entire day in consecutive meetings.

After their last meeting, the last thing they want is another meeting to discuss your career goals.

Sometimes a manager has 15-20 reports, making it hard to communicate your impact.

Misunderstandings and stress can result.

Especially when the manager should focus on selfish parts of the team. Success won't concern them.

What you can do about it

  1. Tell your manager that you are a self-starter and that you will pro-actively update them on your progress, especially if they aren't present at the meetings you regularly attend.

  2. Keep being proactive and look for mentorship elsewhere if you believe your boss doesn't have enough time to work on your career goals.

  3. Alternately, look for a team where the manager has more authority to assist you in making career decisions.

After a certain point, company loyalty can become quite harmful.

Because big tech companies create brand loyalty, too many colleagues stayed in unhealthy environments.

When you work for a well-known company and strangers compliment you, it's fun to tell your friends.

Work defines you. This can make you stay too long even though your career isn't progressing and you're unhappy.

Google may become your surname.

Workplaces are not families.

If you're unhappy, don't stay just because they gave you the paycheck to buy your first home and make you feel like you owe your life to them.

Many employees stayed too long. Though depressed and suicidal.

What you can do about it

  1. Your life is not worth a company.

  2. Do you want your job title and workplace to be listed on your gravestone? If not, leave if conditions deteriorate.

  3. Recognize that change can be challenging. It's difficult to leave a job you've held for a number of years.

  4. Ask those who have experienced this change how they handled it.

You still have a bright future if you were rejected from FAANG interviews.

Rejections only lead to amazing opportunities. If you're young and childless, work for a startup.

Companies may pay more than FAANGs. Do your research.

Ask recruiters and hiring managers tough questions about how the company and teams prioritize respectful working hours and boundaries for workers.

I know many 15-year-olds who have a lifelong dream of working at Google, and it saddens me that they're chasing a name on their resume instead of excellence.

This article is not meant to discourage you from working at these companies, but to share my experience about what HR/managers will never mention in interviews.

Read both sides before signing the big offer letter.