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10 Ways Startups Can Say No

Nice quote from Warren Buffet from John from Beacon Maker. “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.” More startups die from doing too much than from lack of opportunity.   Think about this when; You’re thinking about new features. Either remove another feature or SAY NO. You’re thinking about new customers/markets. Either stop focusing on your current customers/markets or SAY NO. When someone asks you to be white label. Either say yes and only be a white label, or SAY NO. When a deal looks like ‘once in a lifetime’. Either sell them the same way you sell to everyone else, without derailing your roadmap, and without changing your focus, or SAY NO. When an investor says that you should change your focus to something you don’t know about or care about. Think very very carefully and even then probably SAY NO. When a customer says they will pay you for a feature you don’t think all customers need. SAY NO, or at least “not right now”. When a new platform comes out and people ask you to support it. Unless your existing platform is not nailed completely, SAY NO. When you get invited to more than two events per week, […]

Campaign Monitor Raise $250m

Big news; Australian Tech Company Campaign Monitor raise $250m from Insight Ventures That’s a huge effort for the guys and a well deserved milestone. It’s a great result for them and also a wonderful recognition of what is possible in Australia. Not just the size of the success, but the way they were albe to do it it while maintaining a balanced life.I’ve known the guys for years, though they typically keep their heads down working and are wonderfully humble about their results. A few things I take from this: Big success is absolutely possible from Australia. It takes time. Ten years for these guys. You can do it anywhere. They’ve done in 99% in Sutherland about 45 mins from the centre of Sydney. You can do it without raising capital along the way. Yes, you need tech co-founders, but it’s possible. You can do it with balance. They still surf regularly, are raising families and are (very good) table tennis players. You don’t need a crazy vision, but you do need to play in a big market. Deliver one product well and keep making that product great. They have barely stretched outside of email marketing but do it insanely well. Hats off to you guys! Image from Shoestring –  

Focus + Ambition = Flearn

One of the hardest things to do as an entrepreneur is to hold both laser focus and huge ambition in their heads, hearts and hands at the same time. It’s not just a challenge, it’s actually an important part of making it a success. I found a great video by legendary radio broadcaster Ira Glass about his lessons around living with the gap between your current ability and your ambition. A comment he makes which is absolutely true for entrepreneurs is that you must complete a volume of work to get the full lesson and close the gap between your focus and your ambition. You can’t just whiteboard it, business plan it, forecast it. You have to do it. You have to put a proposition in front of a customer, get them to say yes, try to deliver the value of your ambition and then evaluate whether you did. Then you can learn a tiny slither of the wisdom you need to bridge the gap. Then you can go and test again. This flearning at it’s best. Yes there will be a gap. There has to be. Stop quoting Steve Jobs about insanely great every time. Yes he got there some times, but he never go there first time. Even […]

Location still matters for tech businesses

Despite more communication and collaboration tools than ever, having a tech business team in the same location is still a big factor in increasing your chance of success. I got some flack when muru-D launched a ‘national’ program but wanted everyone to come to Sydney. From my experience working with more than 100 startups around the world and seeing many more is: Yes, it’s possible to run a team globally, but it is significantly harder than having them in the same room. This is why: Forming takes time. If the company or the team is new, it helps to  have lots of small moments which aren’t about the business to form the relationship. Your chance to have a chat over coffee, food, drinks goes way up and that is where trust and depth is established. Words aren’t enough. Online communication tools miss body language, emotion and other elements which are critical in young relationships but also in difficult moments. Emails, instant messaging, project management tools and user stories are limited. Tiny sharing. Getting a business working, especially a new, innovative idea isn’t about day long workshops, spreadsheets, or moments of brilliance. It’s 1,000 little conversations that slowly move you towards your vision. They sound like this: “Hey, what do you […]

Focused Startup Canvas

I’ve always thought that the Lean Startup Canvas by Ash was missing something. So I hacked together a quick version that I’ve tried about 10 times and feel gives me a greater grip of a startup is doing and the potential. This is a bit more focused on evaluating an existing idea but I still think it’s useful in brainstorming new ones. Things I’ve changed; I make it build from top left to bottom right. I find it easier to flow that way. I put the customer first. Too many startups have an idea but no customer. I’ve added team to know who is doing this. I’ve added traction to show how you’re going. I want to see what you think you should do next. I want to know how big it can be. I want to know if you know what the assumptions are. Please give it a try and let me know what you think; Note: This is public, so please make a copy.  Focused Startup Canvas

Hustler Hacker Test

I have a particular way I test to see if people have what it takes to do startups. When I meet someone who says they’d like to work on a startup I ask them to send me a URL to their idea in 24 hours. I try and clarify that I’m not after the full business or a working product. Just a URL to something. This shows me a couple of things. How do they articulate their idea to customers. Not pitching it, actually trying to sell something. Can they actually put together a site in 24 hours. There are 50 services that let you create a free site, blog, landing page. Launchrock, WordPress, Squarespace If they’ve been tinkering on it for a while but haven’t got anything out to the public, do they have the courage to finally share it out. Most people wait too long to put something out there. Response to feedback. They came to me for some thoughts, and I gave them some advice and they took it. No matter how small. It’s the start of the track record of execution. Some of the different responses I get: “But I’m not a coder?” – you don’t need to be. If you have to wait on coders […]

No Exit Strategy

There was a dinner last night of a bunch of great tech entrepreneurs last night and as hoped the conversations got quite fiery with a big topic being how do Australians approach exit strategy. I’ll get to that in a second, but I wanted to first share an amazing moment that happened at 11.30pm. There was only six of us left at that point – Matt Dickinson, David Kowalski, Oliver Palmer, Mike Cannon-Brookes, Dean McEvoy and me. Oliver said, as a closer to the event “Well, let me know if I can help you guys with anything in Singapore. Immediately Matt, Dean and Mike said “What about Tutor On Demand?” which is a company that went through Startmate which a few of us indirectly have tiny fractions of equity. Their first thought was how they could help someone else. That really typified the attitude that makes this industry great to be a part of. So, back to exit strategies. We were all throwing our 2 cents in about how we can help grow the ecosystem and the conversation went a bit like this. A: “ESOP and lack of Series A is really hurting us.” B: “Yeah, I don’t like that excuse. We’d have more capital if we had more founders […]

My Entrepreneurial Journey

Yep, I’m blogging again… hopefully more regularly. I loved this post about the paths of successful entrepreneurs. The Wild And Crazy Careers of 5 Self Made Millionaires  with this awesome infographic; It tells the reality of 10 year overnight successes, many failures on the road to success and that everyone is different. Here is my journey: 18 years old – Dynamic Realm: Sold computers and coax cable computer networks to local businesses. Profitable. 23 years old – Dynamic Realm: Sold websites to Australian companies. Profitable. 24 years old – Built business databases for governments. Went bust in dot com crash. 27 years old – worked for Kazaa. Left when it became a lawsuit. 33 years old – started Pollenizer with Phil. 24 years old – Pollenizer starts Mogeneration (now called Oomph) with Keith Ahern and Tom Adams. Going strong. 35 years old – Pollenizer starts Spreets with Dean McEvoy. Sold to Yahoo for ~$40m in 13 months. 36 years old – Pollenizer starts Wooboard.  Going strong. OK, so I’m no billionaire but I’m really really OK with that. I’m loving my journey. What’s yours?