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I’m now writing over here; Mr Focus

Turning an Internship into a Career

Guest post by Paula How to turn an internship into a career It’s no secret that internships can be the best way to get your foot in the door. The job market for graduates is becoming increasingly competitive, and the best way to get noticed is to be 22 years old and have 25 years of experience under your belt.   And although it’s hard to get excited about the prospect of unpaid work, especially in return for just a reference, your internship can be the start of an incredible career if you go about it the right way.   1. Learn to network The most valuable thing you’ll get out of any role, whether you’re an intern or a CEO, is the people you’ll meet along the way. You’ll meet people that inspire and motivate you, as well as people that teach you valuable lessons. You’ll probably also meet people you don’t work well with, which will be a lesson on its own in that you’ll have to exercise adaptability and tolerance.   Your internship is essentially the starting point of your professional network that will continuously grow, so take advantage of it while you can.   If you haven’t got a LinkedIn, sign up now. It may seem […]

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, […]

Three Key Metrics

There are lots of metrics which you need to track, understand and build on to run a good business. Typically there is too many, which is why I suggest trying to find three key numbers to know if it’s really working. This started when Mike Cannon-Brookes was on the Pollenizer advisory board and pushing us for regular metrics, but keep it simple. “Just give me three numbers which means you’re going forward.” I’ve pushed the companies I’ve worked with on the same point and ended up adding the three metics to my version of the lean canvas. Why 3? The reason three is a good number is because it can’t possible include everything you need to track. You need to pick those that really matter. Even just asking this question is a great way to know if you are tracking a vanity metric or a real number. The other reason why 3 is good, is it makes you find a simple way to communicate progress which is important for team, investors, spouses and yourself. Three is small enough to put in an email subject line to ensure that you can keep everyone up to day, and it’s also simple enough to keep everyone aligned. Which 3? This is the harder […]

Business Plans for Startups

Planning is useful. Plans are most often useless. Especially in startups. A startup is trying to be a small business and the difference is uncertainty. There is so much uncertain that to try and write a business plan, even with ten MBA’s and PHD’s, you’d still be left with a laundry list of assumptions. That being said, the process of planning is important and my suggestion is to scale your planning with your business. Before you start – keep it very simple and do a one page business plan, business canvas or my version of the canvas. Mick’s Focus Canvas Discovery phase – Use your canvas until you have spoken to at least 5 customers and done at least 5 experiments. After that, start a brand new canvas. Don’t edit the old one. Validation phase – Do a pitch deck to present, not to read through. Start with the Universal Pitch Deck and make sure all questions are answered satisfactorily. Make sure it flows as a story and there are no gaps. It is OK to say that an area needs work. Efficiency stage. You can either do a pitch deck to read through, as this will lead to a better flow, or you can do a 5 page business […]

Sydstart 2014

Buy Your Ticket To Sydstart Now 2014. That is the year, and that is my goal for Sydstart. 2014 attendees. Wow. Huge. I gave one of the first talks at the first Sydstart way back in 2008 when there was 50 people in a free room at the Australian Technology Park. I’ll always remember the words on the website. “It’s time we put a rocket under the startup industry here.” This year is at the Sydney Entertainment Centre and we want it filled with energy and entrepreurs and geeks and hackers and hustlers and robots and ninjas and pirates. What you’ll get out of going: A day immersed in tech startups. You will see more than 50 new tech companies you never knew existed. You will meet more than 50 people who have energy, ambition and are kindred spirits. You will learn at least 10 new things. You will get introduced to at least 5 new products that you will try and love. You will be amazed at how big and exciting the Australian technology industry actually is. You will hear at least 5 things which will make you laugh. You will see at least 10 tee-shirts with cryptic messages that initially you don’t understand but then laugh at a […]

Global Sales: Required Reading

Here are some good posts on driving global sales of tech companies: Getting to No When you’re early on, you’ll get lots of people keen to have a chat and hear more. This can be good for feedback, but for actual sales, at some point you need to ask the question. This is why I like breaking up my initial target market into two groups. Group A for research, where you ask lots of questions, get lots of feedback and admit all of your weaknesses and your alpha stage. Group B is for selling (or at least testing selling) where you put offers to them, try and get the sale. Don’t get feedback, be tough, set a high price. Customer Acquisition This will help you really understand life time customer value and customer acquisition costs. Great detail and numbers in here. There is no avoiding this. It’s just plain hard work in spreadsheets and doing it over and over and over. KPI Dashboard for SaaS businesses More great detail here and an actual spreadsheet to start you off. It is really worth spending time to understand why these numbers matter now and in the future. This is the real substance of a working startup. Cohort Analysis Getting it right is […]

Don’t Blame Investors

Bronwen Clune has written some great blog posts on Pollenizer recently but I really disagreed with one she wrote on The Guardian blaming investors for the lack of diversity in tech startups. A good conversation ensued when Avis Mulhall shared it on Facebook. There are lots of important areas in there, so I thought I’d offer my thoughts. Here are Bronwen’s points and my thoughts: Belief one: you can only succeed if you have an all-consuming passion for what you’re doing It’s not ‘only’ but it is certainly helps, and if you have to choose between someone passionate and someone not, then of course you take passion – and investors hold the money. If you’re not passionate you’re not going to know the space as well and you’re less likely to stick through the hard times. Belief two: working long hours separates the real entrepreneurs from the hobbyists Again, it’s not mutually exclusive, you can have ‘four hour work week’ like businesses but any new business, even a cafe or accounting firm takes work to do the job, admin the business and grow the business. If you can do it in less hours, great, more power to you. But most of the time it takes a lot of work for the […]

Tech Co-Founder Roundabout

It’s hard to find a tech co-founder to build a business with. Ask Liz at YouChews. It’s even harder to build a tech business without a tech co-founder. The reason it’s an issue is a bit of a circular reference. Don’t Have a Tech Co-Founder: Startups are risky. So it’s hard to attract funding early. So you don’t have much money to pay people. So if you can’t pay people and you’re not a coder then it’s hard to create a product, that gets traction that gets funding to pay people. Maybe a 1% chance of success. Have a Tech Co-Founder: Startups are risky. So it’s hard to attract funding early. So you don’t have much money to pay people. Since you’re a coder, you make a MVP in your spare time. Your MVP gets some traction and either makes some money so you bootstrap or it helps you raise some money. Maybe a 5% chance of success. Other Reasons Why It’s Hard Uncertainty – building a new product that does a new thing in a new way isn’t just hard, it’s risky. You have to learn which takes time (if you are a programmer) or money (if you aren’t a programmer). Startup tech companies is a contact sport. You […]

First Flearner Advantage

One of the delicate contradictions that are important for startups is an impatience for action, but patience for results. Speed You have no money, you have 1,000 competitors, customers have never heard of you and you have 39 mistakes to make before you get it right. You need to move fast. Launching fast is critical. Not because of first mover advantage, but because you start the process of learning straight away. First mover is actually a disadvantage in innovation.* You are doing something new and you have to learn the lessons. That costs time. It only becomes an advantage if you learn faster than anyone else. Otherwise you expend all of your resources and the next business starts from first base due to your efforts. The other reason to launch fast is that no amount of work in advance can make it perfect. You don’t know what you don’t know, and indeed nobody knows. There are at least half the things you need to know that can only be learned by doing. The smartest, most experienced people developing the most feature rich, customer focused designed product is still a bundle of assumptions. Indeed the more thinking, the more you put into it the more assumptions that are combined together. This […]