Created with Sketch.
Feel the Boot - The Science of Startups
10 minutes | Jan 19, 2022
Task Management ✍️ make time for strategic thinking
Task Management ✍️ make time for strategic thinkingUse these two time management and prioritization frameworksto ensure you accomplish your high priority strategic objectives Founders and CEOs can often get in the trap of working on mundane tasks while failing to take time to do the critical strategic thinking that will make the company soar. I found two frameworks that helped me in my startup, and I will walk you through them in this episode.Read the transcript here: https://ftb.bz/65BWatch the Video: https://ftb.bz/65V Subscribe to our newsletter and get a link to schedule one-on-one office hours with me. https://ftb.bz/joinMeet other founder at the Founders Alliance. https://ftb.bz/AllianceThe “what does the business require of you” concept comes from the seminal book “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker. https://amzn.to/3fyEdg6
5 minutes | Dec 30, 2021
64. Feel the Boot 2021 year in review
2021 was a big year for us at Feel the Boot. We experienced lots of growth, and I want to thank all of you for making such a fantastic experience.The best part of this year has been getting to interact with so many of you founders. I had many more one-on-one coaching sessions than in previous years. I've loved talking to so many of you. If you took advantage of them, I hope you have found them helpful.I've learned a tremendous amount from getting to take a quick peek behind the curtain of so many different kinds of companies. Many of these conversations directly inspired the episodes you saw this year, and I'm sure they will continue to do so.It's been interesting to see how COVID has impacted my angel investing and advising experience. When I used to do in-person meetings and in-person events, the drive times were significant. Now that I'm doing everything virtually, the massive expansion in the number of people I can help and the diversity of places they can come from completely altered the way I approach this whole business. The scale I can achieve with an all virtual process is incredible. There's no way I'll be going back to the old way of doing things.2021 has been a fantastic year for the YouTube channel. We've more than tripled in size. We started the year with less than 200 subscribers and will end just a hair short of 600, and people watched our videos over 16 thousand times. That number blows my mind because there's no possible way I would be able to reach anywhere near that many founders on a one-on-one basis.It's been interesting to look at the year's most popular videos. I was surprised to see that the most popular ones tended to be quite technical. I will try to do more of those in the coming year.The top three were: Understanding stock options from the employee perspective https://ftb.bz/9V How to create financials for early-stage pre-seed startups that will wow investors https://ftb.bz/28V Nine things angel investors look for in startup fundraising pitches https://ftb.bz/31V While I already have a long list of potential episodes, I'm always looking for new topics to cover. I want to create what you want to hear, so please reach out and let me know what episodes you'd like to see. You can do that by reaching out to me on social media. I'm most active on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Or you can use the contact form at Feel the Boot.This year also saw the introduction of Swift Kicks, a series of videos less than 1 minute in length.They turned out to be very popular because I can post the whole video to social media rather than just a little bit of an introduction to it and then a link over to YouTube. Some Swift Kicks are highlights from longer episodes, while others are short standalone answers to specific questions.In 2022, I'm hoping to do more of everything. More videos, more shorts, and more one-on-one coaching with all of you.We'll also be exploring some new kinds of content. Hopefully, I'll be putting out more materials that you can use as workbooks for your startup. I've got lots of ideas, but we'll see what I can manage to execute on along with everything else I've got going.Thanks for coming along with me on this journey over the last year. It's been a great pleasure.If you want to stay in touch, the best ways are following Feel the Boot on social media: https://ftb.bz/twitter https://ftb.bz/LinkedIn https://ftb.bz/FacebookIf you want to stay in touch with other founders interested in this kind of Feel the Boot content, come to the Feel the Boot Founders Alliance https://ftb.bz/Alliance.Until next time, next year, Ciao!
47 minutes | Dec 10, 2021
63. Focus on the fundamentals to create a marketing strategy for your startup – Tim Fitzpatrick Interview
Many founders skip the marketing fundamentals and strategic thinking and jump directly to executing on some set of ad-hoc initiatives.Then they wonder why their marketing is not working.While I have done a lot of marketing over the years, it is not my core expertise. So, I interviewed Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing, who is an expert.We talked about the fundamentals of marketing strategy and some great tips on implementing them in practice. Table of Contents:Missing the FundamentalsDefining your target customerCrafting the storyCreating a 90 day planWhat to measureThe power of channels LinksTim provided some free resources for you: https://www.rialtomarketing.com/feel-the-boot-the-science-of-startups/Join other Founders for help, advice, and support at the Founders Alliance: https://ftb.bz/AllianceAbout our guest Tim FitzpatrickTim is an entrepreneur/business owner with expertise in marketing and business growth. He has 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience with a passion for developing and growing businesses. That passion served him well in operating and managing a wholesale distribution company he co-owned for nine years. The company grew an average of 60% a year before being acquired in 2005.Since then, he’s had failures and successes that have been valuable learning experiences. He started Rialto Marketing in 2013 and has been helping service businesses simplify marketing so they can grow with less stress. Most people overcomplicate marketing. It doesn't have to be that way.
7 minutes | Nov 19, 2021
62. Design your C-suite with care. Consider the next 2 years of your startup when handing out titles
Job titles in startups are usually loosely defined and casually managed. In many cases, founders hand out very senior-sounding titles to their co-founders and early hires.While everyone likes having a fancy-sounding job title, they can come back to bite the company later as it grows.The one big title you need to have in the company is a CEO. Investors, partners, vendors, and employees all need to know who speaks authoritatively for the company. They are both the face of the company and the person with ultimate operational control. Beyond that, in an early-stage company, titles are somewhat arbitrary. Sometimes they are silly or descriptive, but often founders give all the early employees very senior titles like CTO, CMO, or Vice President of whatever.Early on, these inflated titles do little harm and can make everyone feel important. The problem comes later.Check out the written version of this episode here https://ftb.bz/62BGet the video version here https://ftb.bz/62V Get all the other episodes on our website https://ftb.bz/ Get all the videos on our YouTube channel https://ftb.bz/YouTube To get access to free one-on-one coaching with me, join our mailing list here: https://ftb.bz/Join
14 minutes | Oct 29, 2021
61. Understand founder equity dilution and how your decisions impact what you keep.
In this episode, I talk about dilution, the process by which your ownership in the company shrinks as you bring in investment. The decisions you make, and the terms you negotiate, can drastically alter your payout at exit.Read the article version of this content here: https://ftb.bz/61BListen to the Podcast: https://ftb.bz/Podcast Join Feel the Boot: https://ftb.bz/JoinJoin the Founders Alliance: https://ftb.bz/AllianceGet episode on control and ownership: https://ftb.bz/11B
22 minutes | Sep 20, 2021
60. Top Insights From 25 Years as a Founder, Angel, and Advisor
PodcastI have learned a lot of things about business and the entrepreneurial experience over the last twenty-five years. During that time, I was a founder, CEO, Chief Scientist, angel investor, and startup advisor. I recently gave a live talk at the Founder Institute, where I talked about my most significant insights about the startup world, business, and life.The attendees loved it, so I immediately started working on a version for Feel the Boot.Get the blog here: https://ftb.bz/60BWatch the video: https://ftb.bz/60VJoin Feel the Boot and get the link for one-on-one coaching: https://ftb.bz/joinJoin the Founders Alliance group: https://ftb.bz/allianceSo, here are the insights in no particular order:Validate early and oftenYou can't overcommunicateEverything a founder says is amplifiedNetworking is not schmoozingGet over your aversion to sellingTalk about benefits, not featuresUnderstand the person across the tableStyle and aesthetics matterYou don't scale, and delegation sucksStartups are a marathon
19 minutes | Aug 20, 2021
59. Asking your customer these questions can prevent massive wasted effort
I noticed a pattern among founders I meet, and it is something I did too. We have an idea and immediately start working on it before validating it with our potential customers. In many cases, we have practically finished the product before we start showing it to people.But, if we guessed wrong we have wasted a colossal amount of work.I think I know why this happens. For technical founders, coding and development are our comfort zone. We're happiest when we're behind the keyboard in a dark room, banging out code and creating new software. Creating that solution is why we founded the company in the first place. Also, for introverts, getting out and talking to people makes us uncomfortable. Also, we often feel that we already know what the customers want and need.We know our customers and feel that we can stand in as a good model for them when designing our solutions.Unfortunately, you're not a good model for your customers unless you're building a tool for people who are exactly like you. I made that mistake.I was building the first stand-alone application version of Anonymizer. As a privacy passionate person, building for other similarly passionate people, I thought I could just make what I wanted for myself. The product was incredible. It provided very fine-grained control over all aspects of what information websites could collect and on which sites or pages they could collect it.Our customers hated it, and even I rarely used most of the features. I was not even a good model for what I wanted myself!After finally talking with our customers, the next version of the product had exactly one control: on/off. It was a huge hit.My error had significant consequences. We spent many months focused on that first product, costing us money we could not afford to lose. It also significantly delayed our entry into the market with a solution people wanted to use. Once we realized the direction we needed to go, we had to scrap almost everything we had built.It is almost impossible to get your app perfectly right the first time, and there is no substitute for the learning you gain when your product is in a customer's hands. But, the more you can learn, pivot, and iterate before you build anything, the faster and more efficient you will be.I noticed a pattern among founders I meet, and it is something I did too. We have an idea and immediately start working on it before validating it with our potential customers. In many cases, we have practically finished the product before we start showing it to people.I think I know why this happens. For technical founders, coding and development are our comfort zone. We're happiest when we're behind the keyboard in a dark room, banging out code and creating new software. Creating that solution is why we founded the company in the first place. Also, for introverts, getting out and talking to people makes us uncomfortable. Also, we often feel that we already know what the customers want and need.We know our customers and feel that we can stand in as a good model for them when designing our solutions.Unfortunately, you're not a good model for your customers unless you're building a tool for people who are exactly like you. I made that mistake.I was building the first stand-alone application version of Anonymizer. As a privacy passionate person, building for other similarly passionate people, I thought I could just make what I wanted for myself. The product was incredible. It provided very fine-grained control over all aspects of what information websites could collect and on which sites or pages they could collect it.Our customers hated it, and even I rarely used most of the features. I was not even a good model for what I wanted myself!After finally talking with our customers, the next version of the product had exactly one control: on/off. It was a huge hit.My error had significant consequences. We spent many months focused on that first product, costing us money we could not afford to lose. It also significantly delayed our entry into the market with a solution people wanted to use. Once we realized the direction we needed to go, we had to scrap almost everything we had built.It is almost impossible to get your app perfectly right the first time, and there is no substitute for the learning you gain when your product is in a customer's hands. But, the more you can learn, pivot, and iterate before you build anything, the faster and more efficient you will be. Read this as a blog: https://ftb.bz/59BWatch the Video: https://ftb.bz/59V Join the Feel the Boot Founders Alliance https://ftb.bz/allianceSubscribe to Boot Prints and access to free office hours: https://ftb.bz/join Contents:Why do we code first and talk later?What do you need to ask customers? 1-What is the size of the pain point?2-What priority is this problem?3-What features do they need?4-What are the alternatives?5-What are their implementation concerns?6-How do they think about price and value for this?7-What messaging resonates with them?Getting to statistical significanceDon't let customers lead you around by the walletWho should you be talking to?Considerations for marketplace businessesGet it mostly right before starting to buildShut up and take my money!
19 minutes | Jul 30, 2021
58. How I learned to master complex B2B sales meetings as an inexperienced startup founder
When I started as a founder, I struggled with sales meetings. My scientific instincts worked against me. I often wanted to prove that I was right and argue my way to a sale. Fortunately, between fantastic coaching and excruciating failures, I eventually turned sales meetings into a personal strength. I want to share some of my key learnings with you so you can avoid the whole "pain and suffering" part of the process. Read the blog version of this episode: https://ftb.bz/58BWatch the video: https://ftb.bz/58V Feel the Boot Founders Alliance: https://ftb.bz/allianceJoin Feel the Boot: https://ftb.bz/join
35 minutes | Jul 14, 2021
57. Startup Lifecycles and Surviving No Man’s Land – Ruth King Interview
Profitability Master Ruth King is the award-winning author of 5 books including “the Courage to be Profitable” and “Profit or Wealth?” In this interview, we talked about the lifecycle of startups and particularly the challenges of a phase encountered by most companies that she calls “No Man’s Land.” Some of the specific topics we covered were:· When to listen to friends encouraging you to start a company· Talking to potential customers· Characterizing your users· Setting the right price· Managing through No Man’s Land· Transitioning from working in to working on your business· Building an emergency fund to survive the inevitable crises LinksFeel the Boot “Boot Prints” signup: https://ftb.bz/joinFounder’s Alliance: https://ftb.bz/allianceBlog with transcript: https://ftb.bz/57BVideo of interview: https://ftb.bz/57V Recommended books:The Miracle Manager https://amzn.to/3ATK0GyThe Courage to be Profitable https://amzn.to/3ecnxdXProfit or Wealth? https://amzn.to/3kb0N1K About our guest, Ruth KingProfitability Master Ruth King has a passion for helping businesses get and stay profitable utilizing the latest systems/processes/technology. After twelve years on the road, doing 200 flights per year, she knew there had to be a better way to reach business people who wanted to build their businesses and train their employees. She began training on the Internet in 1998 and began the first television like broadcasting in 2002. Her channels include www.hvacchannel.tv, www.profitabilityrevolution.com and others. Ruth holds an MBA in Finance from Georgia State University and Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Chemical Engineering from Tufts University and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively. Her latest book, Profit or Wealth? reached #1 in October, 2020. This book is preceded by The Ugly Truth about Cash and the #1 best-selling book, The Courage to be Profitable. These two books were named two of 37 books start ups should read, along with the books of Napoleon Hill, Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie and other esteemed authors. She is also the author of two other award winning books, The Ugly Truth about Small Business and The Ugly Truth about Managing People.
21 minutes | Jun 7, 2021
56. Bootstrapping vs. VC funding: which is right for your startup?
Should you bootstrap your startup to greatness or take outside investment to accelerate your growth? Making the right decision can determine if your company will succeed and change your payout at exit by orders of magnitude. Read the blog at https://ftb.bz/56BWatch the Video https://ftb.bz/55VJoin Feel the Boot for our newsletter and free personal coaching https://ftb.bz/joinMeet other founders in the Feel the Boot Founders Alliance group https://ftb.bz/alliance When is venture capital clearly the correct choice?When is bootstrapping clearly the correct choice?Implications for dilutionWhat if you have a modest exit?Managerial independenceResourcesResiliencyRelationshipsVC vs. Angel investorsBootstrapping vs. VC is not a binary choiceOther options for funding
17 minutes | May 3, 2021
55. Create a pitch deck that investors can read in seconds, because that may be all you get
Founders are often frustrated that, after struggling for weeks to perfect their pitch deck, investors just skim through it in a few seconds. Unfortunately, because they look at so many companies, they don't have a choice. I recently attended a webinar by Eric Bahn, GP and co-founder at Hustle Fund, where he talked about using better slide headlines to create a skimmable deck. His approach resonated with me, but I also had some additional thoughts on the topic. So, with his permission, I wrote this article to comment on and expand upon his concept.I created some example slides to demonstrate this concept. Take a look at the blog to see them https://ftb.bz/55B Eric suggests that the slide headlines should contain most of the vital information in the presentation. The contents of the slides only serve to support and amplify the titles. He advocates making the headlines complete sentences so that they can stand on their own. Furthermore, when read in order, they should create a comprehensible paragraph explaining the key aspects of the company and opportunity.This approach also has the advantage of helping you organize your slides. For readers to follow your message, presentations must flow logically and smoothly from topic to topic. Using complete sentences as headlines makes it obvious when your deck has a problem. Logical progression failures often happen when a deck goes through many rounds of revisions. A slide that made sense in its original position now does not follow from the previous ones. Reading through the headlines can quickly show you where you need to make changes.I encourage you to check out Eric's webinar. In addition to the presentation, he has extensive Q&A with the audience that helps explain the concept in more detail. Eric Bahn’s webinar https://youtu.be/z7icuhqPq5sBlog version of this episode: https://ftb.bz/55BVideo version https://ftb.bz/55V Founders Alliance https://ftb.bz/allianceJoin Feel the Boot https://ftb.bz/join
15 minutes | Apr 23, 2021
54. What projects to prioritize, and which you should kill, in your startup
Today I want to address a problem faced by many founders, prioritizing development projects in the face of conflicting opinions and pressures. Because resources are usually critically limited, you must narrowly focus your development resources. What are you going to build, and more importantly, what will not get built? The problem compounds when you are a non-technical founder/CEO, and your CTO, developers, investors, or others are pushing to prioritize specific projects about which you have doubts. Join Feel the Boot for office hours https://ftb.bz/join Feel the Boot Founders Alliance https://ftb.bz/allianceBlog Version https://ftb.bz/54BYouTube Version https://ftb.bz/54V Podcast https://ftb.bz/podcast 0:00 Introduction2:54 What Not to Build10:08 What to Build I recently advised two founders in this situation. One was pressured by their CTO and the other by a potential angel investor. In both cases, they wanted to re-implement third-party code they had licensed and which was performing adequately. These applications were core to their business but fairly commonplace with the same basic functionality available from multiple vendors. Writing their own version would be a significant undertaking.It can be challenging for founders to push back against more technical team members because they hired them for precisely those missing skills. The trick is to avoid having a technical debate. Reframe the discussion in terms of business needs and priorities. Start the discussion by looking at your options in the context of the company’s limited development resources. It is usually a zero-sum situation where every effort displaces something else. Typically, there are many projects on the roadmap which are absolutely essential to your growth.
25 minutes | Apr 9, 2021
53. Virtual Pitching and Fundraising Over Zoom, What Founders Need to Know
At one time, almost all startup fundraising happened in person. Investors wanted to see the founders face-to-face to get a read on their passion, intensity, and integrity. With COVID, all that changed, and the industry quickly pivoted to conduct virtually all pitching and investing over video conferences, mostly Zoom. I don’t think we will ever go back to pitching entirely in person, so mastering remote fundraising is critical.A comment by Munly Leong on an earlier video prompted me to create this episode. He asked how he could find angels and VCs making investments using 100% virtual and remote processes. Before addressing the general advantages, disadvantages, and key tips for virtual pitching, I address his question specifically.0:00 How Virtual Pitching Changes Startup Fundraising2:36 Finding people willing to invest 100% virtually5:16 Finding investors for companies outside North America and Europe8:55 Upsides and downsides to virtual fundraising10:43 Pre-screening matters more12:37 The pitch is everything13:51 Present, Converse, Demo16:29 Improve your A/V setup19:37 Watch your audience24:27 Virtual pitching not so different I would love to hear about your experiences with online fundraising. Please let me know what you have seen, or any great stories, in the comments below.Till next time, Caio! ResourcesWebsites with Lists of angel investment groups and seed fundshttps://www.angelcapitalassociation.org/https://angel.cohttps://signal.nfx.com/https://crunchbase.com Referenced EpisodesWhy you need Two Pitch Decks: https://ftb.bz/5BFive Step Pitch Deck Process: https://ftb.bz/33BSlow Down While Pitching: https://ftb.bz/52BWhy Angels Demand 20X returns: https://ftb.bz/3BBuild a strong foundation by testing assumptions first: https://ftb.bz/21B
8 minutes | Mar 31, 2021
52. Slow down and say less to communicate more when pitching startup investors
I judged a pitch competition last night and the other judges and I, all noticed something about most of the pitches. They were going way too fast. The founders were just tearing through the material and leaving us baffled about what it was they were talking about. So I was inspired to create a quick episode talking about this issue, unpacking why it happens so often, and some ways to try to avoid the problem yourselfRead the whole blog here: https://ftb.bz/52BWatch the video: https://ftb.bz/52VJoin Feel the Boot free for access to my office hours: https://ftb.bz/joinIt is not hard to guess why the founders were going so fast through their material. They only had three minutes to pitch their company, and so much they wanted to say about it. They felt that they had to rush to get through all of the things they thought we'd need to hear. And therein lies the problem. The presentations ended up being like a fire hose of completely undifferentiated words. So, the paradox is that you need to say a lot less. And the less time you have, the more rigorous you need to be about what you cut out. There is no way that you're going to say everything significant about your company. It's just, it's not possible. You're going to need to pick and choose. So say less, really edit down the information. Even if you know you need to provide a piece of information, you may be able to go through it quickly. Some points will only take a couple of seconds, then pause for it to be received, then move on. And the pause matters. Let things sink in. When I listened to the pitches, my inability to understand the key elements of their business was driving me insane. They spent two seconds on one topic, and as I was trying to work out what they meant, they were on to talking about the next topic. Because I was still thinking about the previous point that I thought might be important, now I've missed the following two things, and I'm trying to scramble to keep up. Not good.So take a breath, slow it down. It was funny to read the chat window during the pitch competition. The founders were talking to each other about how they were getting out of breath. They literally forgot to take breaths, and it showed. The key here is just to own your time, which also exudes confidence. If you slow down what you're saying, you're master of your space and time. You show that you know the points you want to make. You're not just trying to fill the time available, but rather convey exactly and only the information that you want to share. You pause to allow them to understand that, and then you move on. It shows that you are in control of the situation.We know that investors make a lot of their decisions based on the CEO. To a great extent, the job of a CEO is to communicate. Demonstrating that you're a strong communicator is essential. All this is a very long way of saying, "In your pitch, take your time, slow down, say less."Till next time, ciao
50 minutes | Mar 12, 2021
51. What founders need to know about patents and intellectual property for startups - Adam Philipp
What are trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets, and how should you use them in your startup? Investors frequently pepper startups with questions about their intellectual property and how well it is protected. Most founders know very little about this somewhat arcane and complex topic. Fortunately, with a bit of information, you can start making the right decisions for your business and speaking intelligently about the issue with angels and VCs.I brought in Adam Philipp to get you up to speed on the basics and some initial strategies. Adam is the founder of the IP law firm AEON Law, a patent attorney, and has been practicing IP law for over 25 years. If you have any questions or would like us to go deeper on some topic, please let me know in the comments. I am sure Adam would be happy to come back for another episode. You can find Adam’s law firm at aeonlaw.com and follow him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/adamphilipp/ and @AdamPhilipp on ClubHouse where he can be found offering the occasional “Patents and IP Law AMA.” Read the blog version: https://ftb.bz/51BWatch the interview: https://ftb.bz/51VJoin Feel the Boot: https://ftb.bz/joinCheck out our community of founders: https://ftb.bz/allianceIn this interview we covered:1:37 What is intellectual property?5:08 What should founders do early on to protect their intellectual property?10:05 What are the elements of a patent?14:22 How can a founder talk safely to investors without an NDA?19:54 When should you file your patents?24:27 Which provisional patents are worth converting to full patents?27:32 How do you enforce patents?34:30 How should startups use copyright?42:10 Patents vs. Trade Secrets
12 minutes | Feb 26, 2021
50. Bad startup advice creates cargo cult thinking. Learn to spot and avoid it.
I am concerned about a lot of the startup advice I see out on the internet. Much of the advice is sound, and almost all is well-intentioned, but I think that a significant fraction is problematic. The troubling advice is typically in the form of a recipe or template for success. It tells founders that if they take specific actions, follow a given pattern, or use a particular pitch deck, they will succeed. I often see this guidance in interviews with extremely successful founders. The implication is that if you do the same things they did, you will have a similar outcome.I worry that these kinds of guidance are too rigid and replace thinking with mimicking. Startups are not like snowflakes; they are far more diverse. Tips that apply to one company may be inappropriate or harmful to another. I suspect that this kind of advice often leads founders into cargo cult thinking. Since many of you might be unfamiliar with cargo cults, I will take a quick detour to explain them before discussing how the concept applies to startups.Read this as a blog: https://ftb.bz/50BWatch the Video: https://ftb.bz/50VListen to the Podcast: https://ftb.bz/podcastVisit the Founders Alliance: https://ftb.bz/allianceJoin Feel the Boot: https://ftb.bz/joinThe 5 step pitch deck process is here: https://ftb.bz/33B
11 minutes | Feb 16, 2021
49. Six reasons to delay automating processes in your startup as long as possible
I have talked to many founders about automating business processes and why they should put that off as long as possible. You may have heard the Y Combinator mantra “do things that don’t scale.” Usually, they discuss that in terms of sales or support, but we rarely talk about the idea with respect to software and automation. We need to understand the value of doing things by hand in the early stages of a business. In this episode, I explore the kinds of automation you may want to defer with some specific examples. I then share the six primary ways that performing these processes manually, in the beginning, can provide value to the business and avoid unnecessary costs. Read this as a blog: https://ftb.bz/49BListen to the podcast: https://ftb.bz/podcastWatch it on YouTube: https://ftb.bz/49V Get exclusive FTB content and member-only office-hours by joining free on our website: https://ftb.bz/joinJoin us at the FTB Founder’s Alliance: https://ftb.bz/alliance Founders often have a strong bias towards action. When you see that some process will eventually need to be automated, you may want to do it immediately. In most cases, I suggest that you hold off and go with “mantomation” at first. Mantomation is what I call it when you fake your automation using people. Users want results. They don’t care if some sophisticated software is doing the magic or a box of hard-working hamsters. It is the result that counts, and it does not matter if they need to “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” I am not suggesting that automation is bad or that you should not do it at all. In my examples, the companies all eventually make heavy use of software processes. My advice is to wait until the last possible moment before you start that development. When the manual approach is strained to the limit, and you have squeezed all possible information from working directly with the data and customers, then start automating.
9 minutes | Jan 29, 2021
48. Who is Lance, and why is he talking about startups?
I don't introduce myself in these blogs or episodes, which may leave some of you wondering, "Who is this Lance person, and why in the world should I take his advice on startups?" I thought So, that’s the topic for today.TLDR:I have been an entrepreneur where I ran my own business for 13 years. I then stayed on as Chief scientist for the acquiring company, where I helped develop their technology, delivered sales presentations, managed their PR, and ran their marketing department.Since 2012, I've also been an active angel investor and startup mentor.Before all that, I was an astrophysicist, so I bring a scientific approach to the startup process. The longer versionI grew up in an academic household where both my parents were professors. One of them was a physicist and the other a sociologist. From the age of six, I planned to follow my father footsteps to becoming a physicist I went to graduate school at UCSD to study astrophysics. I was working with the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck, trying to understand the early Universe. In my spare time, I started dabbling around with cryptography, privacy systems, and building anonymous email systems. About the time that started to take off and get exciting, I realized that the Hubble Space Telescope wasn't big enough to answer the questions I was trying to ask. That was getting frustrating, so I put my Ph.D. on hold and founded what became Anonymizer, a company focused on consumer internet anonymity. It allowed people to avoid all tracking on the Web. I grew the business for several years, but we began to hit a plateau around 2000. And, of course, 2000 was an exciting time to be in an unfunded startup. That was when the .COM collapse happened all the fundraising dried up. It was touch and go to survive at all.After that, there was the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. We, like everyone else, started to wonder what part we could play. We started reaching out to people that we'd met in the government, mostly in the FBI, because they kept subpoenaing us for records on our Anonymous users. We were able to talk to them about how they were conducting online undercover operations, and we pivoted to focus on building covert operational platforms for the national security community. This model was very successful. These had extreme pain points and were willing to pay a lot to have them solved, and we were the only people around doing it. Between 2001 when we started selling to the government, and 2006 that segment of our business went from about 1% to more than 95 percent of our total revenues. Around that time, we realized we didn't have the background or government connections to take the business where we wanted to go. So we started looking at being acquired by a Beltway Insider, and in 2008 we had an excellent exit to a small systems integrator. The founders of that company were all former Spooks and had the connections, knowledge, and understanding to take the solution where I couldn't. But, being spooks, they weren't going to talk to the media, so I ended up becoming the face of the company that bought mine.I did all the pr. I did most of the public speaking. I wrote the company blog, and it was my face & voice any time we needed to speak publicly.After a few years of being the Chief Scientist for this company, I decided I didn't want to live in the DC area anymore, so I moved out to Wine Country in California, where I could telecommute.That was I started to get involved in Angel Investing. One of the first things I did when I moved out here was join the North Bay angels and get involved in a startup mentoring program. Helping startups became a passion of mine. I discovered that I loved working with and helping these early-stage companies achieve success.At this point, I don't need more outward trappings of success. I'm enjoying living on a hilltop next to my vineyard with beautiful views and an excellent wine cellar. Now I'm much more interested in giving back to other companies. The great thing about advising is it provides most of the fun of being a Founder without the hundred-hour work weeks and constant existential dread.Shortly after joining the North Bay Angels, they invited me to be on the board and their selection committee. The committee is the group within the North Bay angels that looks at all of the applicant companies and decides which will present to the entire group. That is a great experience because I get to see so many different pitches. These are not the finely polished best of the best. I see many rough presentations, which helps me know what makes the best of them shine.A problem with the in-person advising was I could only meet a limited number of companies, and I wanted to help a vastly larger number of Founders. That's why I created Feel the Boot as a platform where instead of doing Just one-on-one advising, I could put this information out on the Web where would be accessible to anyone. Then, if they needed more specific individual coaching, they could seek me out, and I'd be able to do that.At the beginning of 2020, I walked away from my role as Chief Scientist to focus full-time on advising.Later in 2020, I joined the Founder Institute. I reached out to them, and they offered to make me a global entrepreneur in residence. That means I'm advising their companies everywhere in the world. One of the great things about this is I talk to many companies with different issues and problems. I am continually learning from the experiences of every founder I help.The advice I give through Feel the Boot comes from my history as a founder, my experiences as an investor, and learning from one-on-one advising, consulting, and BoD work with founders.But everything always comes back to my experiences as an academic and a scientist. It shapes the way I think about everything. I am always looking for patterns. Why do startups work the way they work, and how can we understand them at a fundamental level. I want to get founders away from the "cargo cult" approach where they think that if they emulate a pattern, it should work because it worked for someone else. I want to get to the fundamental why and how. Think deeply about what you're doing so that you can take what's unique about your business and put it in the best light, and leverage it in the best possible way.I question whether this will be useful to anyone, but hopefully, this gives you some idea of where I come from, why I'm passionate about startups, and why the things I say hopefully carry some weight.Till next time … Ciao.
22 minutes | Jan 15, 2021
47. Ten Common Startup Fundraising Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
As a Global Entrepreneur in Residence at the Founder Institute https://fi.co and chair of the selection committee for the North Bay Angels https://www.northbayangels.com/ I see heaps of pitches. Unfortunately, the same few fundraising mistakes doom most of their efforts. I want to share with you my list of the ten most common fundraising mistakes founders make and how you can avoid them.1 – Only Looking at EquityJust because you can get angel or VC investment does not mean that you should. Some other sources of growth capital don't require selling part of your business.2 – Going in ColdAt the North Bay Angels, companies introduced by a member receive funding several times as often as previously unknown startups. You are at a massive disadvantage if your first interaction with an investor is to put your hand out asking for money.3 – Fundraising too EarlyA large fraction of companies applying to the North Bay Angels are not ready for angel investment. Unfortunately, you typically only get one bite at that apple.4 – Missing the What and WhyI often reach the end of a pitch, having heard all kinds of information but with no idea what the company does or why. I need to be able to picture your business in action and your users interacting with the solution.5 – Failing to Understand Your AudienceYou know your business far too well, or at least I hope you do. You no longer remember what was obvious about your market space and what you learned while working on your business. This leads founders, particularly technical founders, to assume that their audience of investors understands these things too. I assure you that we do not.6 – Weak CommunicationsIn a perfect world, investors would judge your company solely on the quality of your idea, plan, and execution. Unfortunately, we don't live in that world. Investors are unlikely to see past an ugly surface to the gold within.7 – Hiding WeaknessesMany startups have some skeletons in the closet. If it looks like you have been trying to keep these issues hidden, you are violating our trust. And trust is everything in early-stage investing.8 – Failing to Make CommitmentsOften founders are vague about timelines and milestones. I want to know that after this investment, you will release a new version of the product with the following enhancements, grow to some number of customers, and generate a specific amount of revenue. If you can show a history of making and keeping commitments, even better.9 – Raising too Much (or too Little) CapitalSometimes funding applications draw an immediate rejection because they are raising too much money or too little.10 – Failing to Follow-upFinally, follow-up after your introduction, pitch, and any other interaction. Most investors are busy and easily distracted. If you wait a few days to get back to us or set the next meeting following a pitch, I am likely to have forgotten most of what you said and be off chasing some new shiny object.ConclusionFundraising is hard, time-consuming work. Even if you do everything right, the odds of any angel or VC investing in your company are low. But, if you make these unforced errors, the odds quickly drop to zero. You are taking a huge risk as an entrepreneur. Make sure you give yourself the best possible chance of success.
10 minutes | Dec 31, 2020
46. I picked the wrong year to stop sniffing airplane glue - looking back at 2020 and to our future.
In this year-end installment of Feel the Boot, I want to, not surprisingly, look back at 2020 and also talk about some of the ideas I have for where Feel the Boot can go going forward.When I thought about this episode, the first thing that came to mind was the "I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue" scene from Airplane!For those of you who aren't familiar with that reference, check the Wikipedia article. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airplane!A time of transitionThis year has been kind of a train wreck for almost all of us, and it made me realize how much privilege I have personally. I know many people who are having a rough time while I'm up here on a mountaintop with a beautiful view, a vineyard, and naturally isolated. Plus, I've been working from home for years, so not that much has changed for me.The reason I thought about the "Picked the wrong year to quit sniffing airplane glue" is that at the beginning of this year, I chose to leave my job after 24 years. I founded Anonymizer in 1995, eventually exiting through an acquisition. I became the Chief Scientist of the company that acquired mine, which then got reorganized. I ended up doing PR for the company, public speaking, running the marketing department, and helping with sales and technology, all kinds of different jobs and roles. But fundamentally never had to jump off that cliff, as I did when I first started Anonymizer, until January 1 of this year. I decided to leave a job where they treated me very well and paid me well to go full-time with Feel the Boot, helping startups, advising mentoring, and Angel Investing. Of course, that meant I walked away from my entire income stream. Angel Investing is not a short-term returns kind of activity. Also, I don't charge for my advising. So, walking away from my paycheck was scary enough without doing it in a strange year like this. It wasn't just the risk of taking on this new role and focusing on this new kind of activity, but then there was the covid crisis, the pandemic, the lockdowns everything got transformed. As usual, we had fires. I live up here, north of San Francisco, where the fire seems to come through every year. Fortunately, I didn't get evacuated this year. I got evacuated. In 2017 and 2019, but not in 2020, going against the pattern of things this year. The fires only came within a couple of miles of me, but I was able to wait them out at home. I had to use industrial Quality Air Filters to go outside, but even so, we did better than in some of the previous fire seasons.New rolesWith this new focus on my advising activities, I took on some new roles. One of the things I'm doing now is chairing the selection committee at the North Bay Angels, which means I am in charge of looking at all of the companies applying to get funded and deciding which ones get to go through to present to the group as a whole. It is a severely narrow funnel. We might get 30 applicants in a two-month cycle. The committee will look at maybe 15 of them, with the rest dropped right off the bat. We pick five or six to present to the committee, and the committee then selects two or three to pitch to the whole group in that two-month cycle. That's why I talk so much about fundraising and how competitive it is. Many of the companies we reject are good companies with sound business plans. One change we made this year is looking at companies from a much wider geographic area because of things like zoom and the fact that people don't need to travel to present to a group. Now it's not a hardship where someone needs to fly out to Sonoma for a chance at funding. They just need to show up for a quick Zoom meeting. Rather than being exclusively Bay Area focused, the North Bay Angels is now looking at applicants from anywhere around the country. The dissolving of geographical borders is a big trend in the investment community right now.The other activity I have taken on this year is becoming a global entrepreneur in residence for the Founder Institute. With them, I provide advice to the companies in their program anywhere around the world. Founder Institute is a global organization with chapters in 90 countries. I might have office hours with someone in Toronto, and then the next call with someone in London, Sydney, Cape Town, or Hong Kong. These days I open my sessions by guessing whether it's day or night by the light in their room and then asking where they are. It's fascinating to see all the different kinds of businesses they're launching relevant to their specific geographic areas.I'm finding that this Covid lockdown environment has been a real boon for my ability to engage with the startup community without regard to driving distance. Before this, I would usually have to go down to San Francisco for most activities. That's at least an hour drive in good traffic, and it's rarely good traffic, to attend a meeting for an hour or two and then drive back. So I didn't do that very often. Whereas now that I can just jump on the zoom, I'm going to tons of these kinds of events. They give me exposure to a much greater range of companies in different situations doing different types of things. Those experiences informed many of the videos I created this year.Most frequent advice of 2020I don't know if it's something about the plague that we're having, but I've noticed that I seem to be giving two pieces of advice more than I ever remember doing before. The first is about the need to focus on talking about what your business is. More than ever, I'm seeing pitches laser in on some technical aspect of the business, or diving into jargon, and skipping answers to the big picture questions. Who are you doing this for? Why are you doing it? What is the business? How does this make money? Why do people want to pay for it? I need to understand these big dumb picture items before I can appreciate the subtle aspects of exactly how you're accomplishing what you're doing or what's unique about your technology.The other theme of my 2020 advising has been narrative. Convincing people that they need to spend more time telling stories. They present a lot of facts, and they've got compelling data, but it's hard to digest it and contextualize it when it's just presented in that raw form. I think most of the companies I'm looking at would do much better if they could tell a story about their customers, the problems they're having, and why engaging with this product will benefit them.I am not sure why those two are coming up over and over this year, but it's definitely a pattern. I'm curious to see whether that continues into 2021. Feel the Boot going forwardSpeaking of 2021, I think we're going to be doing some reorganizing of the Feel the Boot content. Starting off, I only had a couple of episodes, so the blog format worked well. Now that I have 40+ episodes recorded, and by the end of next year it'll be a lot more, we need to find ways of making this content more accessible. We must ensure that when you come in looking for an answer to a certain kind of question, you can immediately find the episode or the blog or the content that's relevant to what you need to know as opposed to digging through them all in chronological order. So I'm going to be spending more time thinking about how I can curate the information to make it more useful.I'm also considering creating more of a course like structure. Rather than just having an episode on whatever topic occurred to me after talking to some founder, I could try creating a series on getting started, finding product-market fit, doing experiments, or what have you. The episodes would flow together in a logical way to create a program Founders could go through, for free, to take them from point A to point B. From getting their funding rounds, or not getting their funding rounds and bootstrapping their way up, to eventually reaching whatever level of success they're shooting for.I also think that it might make sense to start pulling this together into a book, so one of the projects that I'm going to be looking at this year is whether I can take all of this content that I've created and distill it down into a volume which would provide that clear roadmap of progress making it much easier to find or refer back to relevant information when experiencing particular problems as you go through different phases of growth.Finally, your feedback would be invaluable in helping guide our direction. What kinds of content would you like me to create? How can I, and Feel the Boot, be maximally useful to you as a Founder? What kind of problems are you having? What kind of information or answers are you unable to find in other places? Many other people are writing and blogging on these topics, but you're here for a reason. How can I make this more effective and productive for you? Let me know what you like, what you don't, and how I can improve. Until next time, next year, ...Ciao.
Terms of Service
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
© Stitcher 2022