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Nick Nolan

Nick Nolan

1 year ago

In five years, starting a business won't be hip.

More on Entrepreneurship/Creators

Jim Siwek

Jim Siwek

1 year ago

In 2022, can a lone developer be able to successfully establish a SaaS product?

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

In the early 2000s, I began developing SaaS. I helped launch an internet fax service that delivered faxes to email inboxes. Back then, it saved consumers money and made the procedure easier.

Google AdWords was young then. Anyone might establish a new website, spend a few hundred dollars on keywords, and see dozens of new paying clients every day. That's how we launched our new SaaS, and these clients stayed for years. Our early ROI was sky-high.

Changing times

The situation changed dramatically after 15 years. Our paid advertising cost $200-$300 for every new customer. Paid advertising takes three to four years to repay.

Fortunately, we still had tens of thousands of loyal clients. Good organic rankings gave us new business. We needed less sponsored traffic to run a profitable SaaS firm.

Is it still possible?

Since selling our internet fax firm, I've dreamed about starting a SaaS company. One I could construct as a lone developer and progressively grow a dedicated customer base, as I did before in a small team.

It seemed impossible to me. Solo startups couldn't afford paid advertising. SEO was tough. Even the worst SaaS startup ideas attracted VC funding. How could I compete with startups that could hire great talent and didn't need to make money for years (or ever)?

The One and Only Way to Learn

After years of talking myself out of SaaS startup ideas, I decided to develop and launch one. I needed to know if a solitary developer may create a SaaS app in 2022.

Thus, I did. I invented webwriter.ai, an AI-powered writing tool for website content, from hero section headlines to blog posts, this year. I soft-launched an MVP in July.

Considering the Issue

Now that I've developed my own fully capable SaaS app for site builders and developers, I wonder if it's still possible. Can webwriter.ai be successful?

I know webwriter.ai's proposal is viable because Jasper.ai and Grammarly are also AI-powered writing tools. With competition comes validation.

To Win, Differentiate

To compete with well-funded established brands, distinguish to stand out to a portion of the market. So I can speak directly to a target user, unlike larger competition.

I created webwriter.ai to help web builders and designers produce web content rapidly. This may be enough differentiation for now.

Budget-Friendly Promotion

When paid search isn't an option, we get inventive. There are more tools than ever to promote a new website.

  • Organic Results

  • on social media (Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn)

  • Marketing with content that is compelling

  • Link Creation

  • Listings in directories

  • references made in blog articles and on other websites

  • Forum entries

The Beginning of the Journey

As I've labored to construct my software, I've pondered a new mantra. Not sure where that originated from, but I like it. I'll live by it and teach my kids:

“Do the work.”

Aaron Dinin, PhD

Aaron Dinin, PhD

1 year ago

I'll Never Forget the Day a Venture Capitalist Made Me Feel Like a Dunce

Are you an idiot at fundraising?

Image courtesy Inzmam Khan via Pexels

Humans undervalue what they don't grasp. Consider NASCAR. How is that a sport? ask uneducated observers. Circular traffic. Driving near a car's physical limits is different from daily driving. When driving at 200 mph, seemingly simple things like changing gas weight or asphalt temperature might be life-or-death.

Venture investors do something similar in entrepreneurship. Most entrepreneurs don't realize how complex venture finance is.

In my early startup days, I didn't comprehend venture capital's intricacy. I thought VCs were rich folks looking for the next Mark Zuckerberg. I was meant to be a sleek, enthusiastic young entrepreneur who could razzle-dazzle investors.

Finally, one of the VCs I was trying to woo set me straight. He insulted me.

How I learned that I was approaching the wrong investor

I was constructing a consumer-facing, pre-revenue marketplace firm. I looked for investors in my old university's alumni database. My city had one. After some research, I learned he was a partner at a growth-stage, energy-focused VC company with billions under management.

Billions? I thought. Surely he can write a million-dollar cheque. He'd hardly notice.

I emailed the VC about our shared alumni status, explaining that I was building a startup in the area and wanted advice. When he agreed to meet the next week, I prepared my pitch deck.

First error.

The meeting seemed like a funding request. Imagine the awkwardness.

His assistant walked me to the firm's conference room and told me her boss was running late. While waiting, I prepared my pitch. I connected my computer to the projector, queued up my PowerPoint slides, and waited for the VC.

He didn't say hello or apologize when he entered a few minutes later. What are you doing?

Hi! I said, Confused but confident. Dinin Aaron. My startup's pitch.

Who? Suspicious, he replied. Your email says otherwise. You wanted help.

I said, "Isn't that a euphemism for contacting investors?" Fundraising I figured I should pitch you.

As he sat down, he smiled and said, "Put away your computer." You need to study venture capital.

Recognizing the business aspects of venture capital

The VC taught me venture capital in an hour. Young entrepreneur me needed this lesson. I assume you need it, so I'm sharing it.

Most people view venture money from an entrepreneur's perspective, he said. They envision a world where venture capital serves entrepreneurs and startups.

As my VC indicated, VCs perceive their work differently. Venture investors don't serve entrepreneurs. Instead, they run businesses. Their product doesn't look like most products. Instead, the VCs you're proposing have recognized an undervalued market segment. By investing in undervalued companies, they hope to profit. It's their investment thesis.

Your company doesn't fit my investment thesis, the venture capitalist told me. Your pitch won't beat my investing theory. I invest in multimillion-dollar clean energy companies. Asking me to invest in you is like ordering a breakfast burrito at a fancy steakhouse. They could, but why? They don't do that.

Yeah, I’m not a fine steak yet, I laughed, feeling like a fool for pitching a growth-stage VC used to looking at energy businesses with millions in revenues on my pre-revenue, consumer startup.

He stressed that it's not necessary. There are investors targeting your company. Not me. Find investors and pitch them.

Remember this when fundraising. Your investors aren't philanthropists who want to help entrepreneurs realize their company goals. Venture capital is a sophisticated investment strategy, and VC firm managers are industry experts. They're looking for companies that meet their investment criteria. As a young entrepreneur, I didn't grasp this, which is why I struggled to raise money. In retrospect, I probably seemed like an idiot. Hopefully, you won't after reading this.

Alana Rister, Ph.D.

Alana Rister, Ph.D.

1 year ago

Don't rely on lessons you learned with a small audience.

My growth-killing mistake

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

When you initially start developing your audience, you need guidance.

What does my audience like? What do they not like? How can I grow more?

When I started writing two years ago, I inquired daily. Taking cues from your audience to develop more valuable content is a good concept, but it's simple to let them destroy your growth.

A small audience doesn't represent the full picture.

When I had fewer than 100 YouTube subscribers, I tried several video styles and topics. I looked to my audience for what to preserve and what to change.

If my views, click-through rate, or average view % dropped, that topic or style was awful. Avoiding that style helped me grow.

Vlogs, talking head videos on writing, and long-form tutorials didn't fare well.

Since I was small, I've limited the types of films I make. I have decided to make my own videos.

Surprisingly, the videos I avoided making meet or exceed my views, CTR, and audience retention.

Recent Video Stats from YouTube studio — Provided by Author

A limited audience can't tell you what your tribe wants. Therefore, limiting your innovation will prohibit you from reaching the right audience. Finding them may take longer.

Large Creators Experience The Same Issue

In the last two years, I've heard Vanessa Lau and Cathrin Manning say they felt pigeonholed into generating videos they didn't want to do.

Why does this happen over and over again?

Once you have a popular piece of content, your audience will grow. So when you publish inconsistent material, fewer of your new audience will view it. You interpret the drop in views as a sign that your audience doesn't want the content, so you stop making it.

Repeat this procedure a few times, and you'll create stuff you're not passionate about because you're frightened to publish it.

How to Manage Your Creativity and Audience Development

I'm not recommending you generate random content.

Instead of feeling trapped by your audience, you can cultivate a diverse audience.

Create quality material on a range of topics and styles as you improve. Be creative until you get 100 followers. Look for comments on how to improve your article.

If you observe trends in the types of content that expand your audience, focus 50-75% of your material on those trends. Allow yourself to develop 25% non-performing material.

This method can help you expand your audience faster with your primary trends and like all your stuff. Slowly, people will find 25% of your material, which will boost its performance.

How to Expand Your Audience Without Having More Limited Content

Follow these techniques to build your audience without feeling confined.

  • Don't think that you need restrict yourself to what your limited audience prefers.

  • Don't let the poor performance of your desired material demotivate you.

  • You shouldn't restrict the type of content you publish or the themes you cover when you have less than 100 followers.

  • When your audience expands, save 25% of your content for your personal interests, regardless of how well it does.

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Ari Joury, PhD

Ari Joury, PhD

1 year ago

7 ways to turn into a major problem-solver

Frustration is normal when faced with unsolvable problems. Image by author

For some people, the glass is half empty. For others, it’s half full. And for some, the question is, How do I get this glass totally full again?

Problem-solvers are the last group. They're neutral. Pragmatists.

Problems surround them. They fix things instead of judging them. Problem-solvers improve the world wherever they go.

Some fail. Sometimes their good intentions have terrible results. Like when they try to help a grandma cross the road because she can't do it alone but discover she never wanted to.

Most programmers, software engineers, and data scientists solve problems. They use computer code to fix problems they see.

Coding is best done by understanding and solving the problem.

Despite your best intentions, building the wrong solution may have negative consequences. Helping an unwilling grandma cross the road.

How can you improve problem-solving?

1. Examine your presumptions.

Don’t think There’s a grandma, and she’s unable to cross the road. Therefore I must help her over the road. Instead think This grandma looks unable to cross the road. Let’s ask her whether she needs my help to cross it.

Maybe the grandma can’t cross the road alone, but maybe she can. You can’t tell for sure just by looking at her. It’s better to ask.

Maybe the grandma wants to cross the road. But maybe she doesn’t. It’s better to ask!

Building software is similar. Do only I find this website ugly? Who can I consult?

We all have biases, mental shortcuts, and worldviews. They simplify life.

Problem-solving requires questioning all assumptions. They might be wrong!

Think less. Ask more.

Secondly, fully comprehend the issue.

Grandma wants to cross the road? Does she want flowers from the shop across the street?

Understanding the problem advances us two steps. Instead of just watching people and their challenges, try to read their intentions.

Don't ask, How can I help grandma cross the road? Why would this grandma cross the road? What's her goal?

Understand what people want before proposing solutions.

3. Request more information. This is not a scam!

People think great problem solvers solve problems immediately. False!

Problem-solvers study problems. Understanding the problem makes solving it easy.

When you see a grandma struggling to cross the road, you want to grab her elbow and pull her over. However, a good problem solver would ask grandma what she wants. So:

Problem solver: Excuse me, ma’am? Do you wish to get over the road? Grandma: Yes indeed, young man! Thanks for asking. Problem solver: What do you want to do on the other side? Grandma: I want to buy a bouquet of flowers for my dear husband. He loves flowers! I wish the shop wasn’t across this busy road… Problem solver: Which flowers does your husband like best? Grandma: He loves red dahlia. I usually buy about 20 of them. They look so pretty in his vase at the window! Problem solver: I can get those dahlia for you quickly. Go sit on the bench over here while you’re waiting; I’ll be back in five minutes. Grandma: You would do that for me? What a generous young man you are!

A mediocre problem solver would have helped the grandma cross the road, but he might have forgotten that she needs to cross again. She must watch out for cars and protect her flowers on the way back.

A good problem solver realizes that grandma's husband wants 20 red dahlias and completes the task.

4- Rapid and intense brainstorming

Understanding a problem makes solutions easy. However, you may not have all the information needed to solve the problem.

Additionally, retrieving crucial information can be difficult.

You could start a blog. You don't know your readers' interests. You can't ask readers because you don't know who they are.

Brainstorming works here. Set a stopwatch (most smartphones have one) to ring after five minutes. In the remaining time, write down as many topics as possible.

No answer is wrong. Note everything.

Sort these topics later. Programming or data science? What might readers scroll past—are these your socks this morning?

Rank your ideas intuitively and logically. Write Medium stories using the top 35 ideas.

5 - Google it.

Doctor Google may answer this seemingly insignificant question. If you understand your problem, try googling or binging.

Someone has probably had your problem before. The problem-solver may have posted their solution online.

Use others' experiences. If you're social, ask a friend or coworker for help.

6 - Consider it later

Rest your brain.

Reread. Your brain needs rest to function.

Hustle culture encourages working 24/7. It doesn't take a neuroscientist to see that this is mental torture.

Leave an unsolvable problem. Visit friends, take a hot shower, or do whatever you enjoy outside of problem-solving.

Nap.

I get my best ideas in the morning after working on a problem. I couldn't have had these ideas last night.

Sleeping subconsciously. Leave it alone and you may be surprised by the genius it produces.

7 - Learn to live with frustration

There are problems that you’ll never solve.

Mathematicians are world-class problem-solvers. The brightest minds in history have failed to solve many mathematical problems.

A Gordian knot problem can frustrate you. You're smart!

Frustration-haters don't solve problems well. They choose simple problems to avoid frustration.

No. Great problem solvers want to solve a problem but know when to give up.

Frustration initially hurts. You adapt.

Famous last words

If you read this article, you probably solve problems. We've covered many ways to improve, so here's a summary:

  1. Test your presumptions. Is the issue the same for everyone else when you see one? Or are your prejudices and self-judgments misguiding you?

  2. Recognize the issue completely. On the surface, a problem may seem straightforward, but what's really going on? Try to see what the current situation might be building up to by thinking two steps ahead of the current situation.

  3. Request more information. You are no longer a high school student. A two-sentence problem statement is not sufficient to provide a solution. Ask away if you need more details!

  4. Think quickly and thoroughly. In a constrained amount of time, try to write down all your thoughts. All concepts are worthwhile! Later, you can order them.

  5. Google it. There is a purpose for the internet. Use it.

  6. Consider it later at night. A rested mind is more creative. It might seem counterintuitive to leave a problem unresolved. But while you're sleeping, your subconscious will handle the laborious tasks.

  7. Accept annoyance as a normal part of life. Don't give up if you're feeling frustrated. It's a step in the procedure. It's also perfectly acceptable to give up on a problem because there are other, more pressing issues that need to be addressed.

You might feel stupid sometimes, but that just shows that you’re human. You care about the world and you want to make it better.

At the end of the day, that’s all there is to problem solving — making the world a little bit better.

Hudson Rennie

Hudson Rennie

1 year ago

My Work at a $1.2 Billion Startup That Failed

Sometimes doing everything correctly isn't enough.

Image via: glassdoor.com licensed under CC BY 2.0

In 2020, I could fix my life.

After failing to start a business, I owed $40,000 and had no work.

A $1.2 billion startup on the cusp of going public pulled me up.

Ironically, it was getting ready for an epic fall — with the world watching.

Life sometimes helps. Without a base, even the strongest fall. A corporation that did everything right failed 3 months after going public.

First-row view.

Apple is the creator of Adore.

Out of respect, I've altered the company and employees' names in this account, despite their failure.

Although being a publicly traded company, it may become obvious.

We’ll call it “Adore” — a revolutionary concept in retail shopping.

Two Apple execs established Adore in 2014 with a focus on people-first purchasing.

Jon and Tim:

  • The concept for the stylish Apple retail locations you see today was developed by retail expert Jon Swanson, who collaborated closely with Steve Jobs.

  • Tim Cruiter is a graphic designer who produced the recognizable bouncing lamp video that appears at the start of every Pixar film.

The dynamic duo realized their vision.

“What if you could combine the convenience of online shopping with the confidence of the conventional brick-and-mortar store experience.”

Adore's mobile store concept combined traditional retail with online shopping.

Adore brought joy to 70+ cities and 4 countries over 7 years, including the US, Canada, and the UK.

Being employed on the ground floor, with world dominance and IPO on the horizon, was exciting.

I started as an Adore Expert.

I delivered cell phones, helped consumers set them up, and sold add-ons.

As the company grew, I became a Virtual Learning Facilitator and trained new employees across North America using Zoom.

In this capacity, I gained corporate insider knowledge. I worked with the creative team and Jon and Tim.

Image via Instagram: @goenjoy

It's where I saw company foundation fissures. Despite appearances, investors were concerned.

The business strategy was ground-breaking.

Even after seeing my employee stocks fall from a home down payment to $0 (when Adore filed for bankruptcy), it's hard to pinpoint what went wrong.

Solid business model, well-executed.

Jon and Tim's chase for public funding ended in glory.

Here’s the business model in a nutshell:

Buying cell phones is cumbersome. You have two choices:

  1. Online purchase: not knowing what plan you require or how to operate your device.

  2. Enter a store, which can be troublesome and stressful.

Apple, AT&T, and Rogers offered Adore as a free delivery add-on. Customers could:

  • Have their phone delivered by UPS or Canada Post in 1-2 weeks.

  • Alternately, arrange for a person to visit them the same day (or sometimes even the same hour) to assist them set up their phone and demonstrate how to use it (transferring contacts, switching the SIM card, etc.).

Each Adore Expert brought a van with extra devices and accessories to customers.

Happy customers.

Here’s how Adore and its partners made money:

Adores partners appreciated sending Experts to consumers' homes since they improved customer satisfaction, average sale, and gadget returns.

**Telecom enterprises have low customer satisfaction. The average NPS is 30/100. Adore's global NPS was 80.

Adore made money by:

  • a set cost for each delivery

  • commission on sold warranties and extras

Consumer product applications seemed infinite.

A proprietary scheduling system (“The Adore App”), allowed for same-day, even same-hour deliveries.

It differentiates Adore.

They treated staff generously by:

  • Options on stock

  • health advantages

  • sales enticements

  • high rates per hour

Four-day workweeks were set by experts.

Being hired early felt like joining Uber, Netflix, or Tesla. We hoped the company's stocks would rise.

Exciting times.

I smiled as I greeted more than 1,000 new staff.

I spent a decade in retail before joining Adore. I needed a change.

After a leap of faith, I needed a lifeline. So, I applied for retail sales jobs in the spring of 2019.

The universe typically offers you what you want after you accept what you need. I needed a job to settle my debt and reach $0 again.

And the universe listened.

After being hired as an Adore Expert, I became a Virtual Learning Facilitator. Enough said.

After weeks of economic damage from the pandemic.

This employment let me work from home during the pandemic. It taught me excellent business skills.

I was active in brainstorming, onboarding new personnel, and expanding communication as we grew.

This job gave me vital skills and a regular paycheck during the pandemic.

It wasn’t until January of 2022 that I left on my own accord to try to work for myself again — this time, it’s going much better.

Adore was perfect. We valued:

  • Connection

  • Discovery

  • Empathy

Everything we did centered on compassion, and we held frequent Justice Calls to discuss diversity and work culture.

The last day of onboarding typically ended in tears as employees felt like they'd found a home, as I had.

Like all nice things, the wonderful vibes ended.

First indication of distress

My first day at the workplace was great.

Fun, intuitive, and they wanted creative individuals, not salesman.

While sales were important, the company's vision was more important.

“To deliver joy through life-changing mobile retail experiences.”

Thorough, forward-thinking training. We had a module on intuition. It gave us role ownership.

We were flown cross-country for training, gave feedback, and felt like we made a difference. Multiple contacts responded immediately and enthusiastically.

The atmosphere was genuine.

Making money was secondary, though. Incredible service was a priority.

Jon and Tim answered new hires' questions during Zoom calls during onboarding. CEOs seldom meet new hires this way, but they seemed to enjoy it.

All appeared well.

But in late 2021, things started changing.

Adore's leadership changed after its IPO. From basic values to sales maximization. We lost communication and were forced to fend for ourselves.

Removed the training wheels.

It got tougher to gain instructions from those above me, and new employees told me their roles weren't as advertised.

External money-focused managers were hired.

Instead of creative types, we hired salespeople.

With a new focus on numbers, Adore's uniqueness began to crumble.

Via Zoom, hundreds of workers were let go.

So.

Early in 2022, mass Zoom firings were trending. A CEO firing 900 workers over Zoom went viral.

Adore was special to me, but it became a headline.

30 June 2022, Vice Motherboard published Watch as Adore's CEO Fires Hundreds.

It described a leaked video of Jon Swanson laying off all staff in Canada and the UK.

They called it a “notice of redundancy”.

The corporation couldn't pay its employees.

I loved Adore's underlying ideals, among other things. We called clients Adorers and sold solutions, not add-ons.

But, like anything, a company is only as strong as its weakest link. And obviously, the people-first focus wasn’t making enough money.

There were signs. The expansion was presumably a race against time and money.

Adore finally declared bankruptcy.

Adore declared bankruptcy 3 months after going public. It happened in waves, like any large-scale fall.

  • Initial key players to leave were

  • Then, communication deteriorated.

  • Lastly, the corporate culture disintegrated.

6 months after leaving Adore, I received a letter in the mail from a Law firm — it was about my stocks.

Adore filed Chapter 11. I had to sue to collect my worthless investments.

I hoped those stocks will be valuable someday. Nope. Nope.

Sad, I sighed.

$1.2 billion firm gone.

I left the workplace 3 months before starting a writing business. Despite being mediocre, I'm doing fine.

I got up as Adore fell.

Finally, can we scale kindness?

I trust my gut. Changes at Adore made me leave before it sank.

Adores' unceremonious slide from a top startup to bankruptcy is astonishing to me.

The company did everything perfectly, in my opinion.

  • first to market,

  • provided excellent service

  • paid their staff handsomely.

  • was responsible and attentive to criticism

The company wasn't led by an egotistical eccentric. The crew had centuries of cumulative space experience.

I'm optimistic about the future of work culture, but is compassion scalable?

Sam Hickmann

Sam Hickmann

1 year ago

What is headline inflation?

Headline inflation is the raw Consumer price index (CPI) reported monthly by the Bureau of labour statistics (BLS). CPI measures inflation by calculating the cost of a fixed basket of goods. The CPI uses a base year to index the current year's prices.


Explaining Inflation

As it includes all aspects of an economy that experience inflation, headline inflation is not adjusted to remove volatile figures. Headline inflation is often linked to cost-of-living changes, which is useful for consumers.

The headline figure doesn't account for seasonality or volatile food and energy prices, which are removed from the core CPI. Headline inflation is usually annualized, so a monthly headline figure of 4% inflation would equal 4% inflation for the year if repeated for 12 months. Top-line inflation is compared year-over-year.

Inflation's downsides

Inflation erodes future dollar values, can stifle economic growth, and can raise interest rates. Core inflation is often considered a better metric than headline inflation. Investors and economists use headline and core results to set growth forecasts and monetary policy.

Core Inflation

Core inflation removes volatile CPI components that can distort the headline number. Food and energy costs are commonly removed. Environmental shifts that affect crop growth can affect food prices outside of the economy. Political dissent can affect energy costs, such as oil production.

From 1957 to 2018, the U.S. averaged 3.64 percent core inflation. In June 1980, the rate reached 13.60%. May 1957 had 0% inflation. The Fed's core inflation target for 2022 is 3%.
 

Central bank:

A central bank has privileged control over a nation's or group's money and credit. Modern central banks are responsible for monetary policy and bank regulation. Central banks are anti-competitive and non-market-based. Many central banks are not government agencies and are therefore considered politically independent. Even if a central bank isn't government-owned, its privileges are protected by law. A central bank's legal monopoly status gives it the right to issue banknotes and cash. Private commercial banks can only issue demand deposits.

What are living costs?

The cost of living is the amount needed to cover housing, food, taxes, and healthcare in a certain place and time. Cost of living is used to compare the cost of living between cities and is tied to wages. If expenses are higher in a city like New York, salaries must be higher so people can live there.

What's U.S. bureau of labor statistics?

BLS collects and distributes economic and labor market data about the U.S. Its reports include the CPI and PPI, both important inflation measures.

https://www.bls.gov/cpi/