Competitive Edge
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Competitive Edge
Creating your Unique Value Proposition to gain your Competitive Edge.
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Companies are bought, not sold | AlphaGamma

Companies are bought, not sold | AlphaGamma | Competitive Edge |

By now this nugget of startup wisdom should be well known: Companies are bought, not sold. And yet many entrepreneurs sadly don’t seem to act accordingly (and Silicon Valley, in all its glory, doesn’t foster good behavior as well). Let me explain: When you build a company which builds product users want and pay for, Read more: click image or title.



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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Create good companies that make #profits and that #grow.

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Why Your Significant Other’s Buy-In Matters for Your Startup

Why Your Significant Other’s Buy-In Matters for Your Startup | Competitive Edge |
Even in the most resilient relationships, being the spouse or partner of an entrepreneur can take its toll. This spouse shares 5 ways to avoid resentment. 

When Ned Tozun and I married, he vowed during the ceremony that our life together would always be an adventure. I assure you he has over-delivered on that promise, thanks to his entrepreneurial career and his startup, d.light. The business has been like the child no one wants: helpless yet uncontrollable, demanding yet insatiable, and remarkably adept at coming between mom and dad.

A startup is always a family affair—the good news is your business and your relationship can flourish together.

In the last decade, the effort required to grow d.light led to countless missed holidays and broken appointments; it has contributed to physical illness and emotional meltdowns for both of us; it moved us to China for three-and-a-half years; it delayed our timeline for starting a family and upended my own career.

Unsurprisingly, Ned and I have had years-long disagreements about work-life balance, time management, and our family’s quality of life. We all know entrepreneurs whose marriages have suffered, even fallen apart, because of the stress and intensity of the startup journey. Even in the most resilient relationships, the ongoing instability and resulting resentment can take a significant toll. Read more: click image or title.

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Via Cat George
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Great points for any couple in business. Living with #entrepreneurs or #startups is definitely a challenge. Turning it into a learning experience that allows you to grow closer is pretty awesome. Nice article.

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You’re Still Modeling Growth Incorrectly

You’re Still Modeling Growth Incorrectly | Competitive Edge |

When I first got the job running marketing at Mint, founder and CEO Aaron Patzer told me that we had to get Mint to 100,000 users within six months of launching.

The number itself didn’t intimidate me: Before Mint, I had been Facebook employee No. 30. I’d witnessed crazy, exponential user growth first-hand. The difference was that at Mint, we were pre-product and certainly pre-repeatable-growth-engine. That meant we had to invent something from scratch.

I won’t lie, I was nervous. I started by drawing up a marketing plan.

The result: After 12 months, Mint had more than 1,000,000 users.  We made it a whole extra comma above our target.

In the startup world, where growth is as essential to life as oxygen, falling short of your growth goals means your company dies.

Given the life-or-death importance of achieving growth, it’s ironic that growth teams, marketers and founders often treat it as a matter of faith. Their execution plans amount to working really hard, then dropping on their knees to pray to the growth gods that everything will magically work.

The mistake youre making is a simple but profound fix, and it’ll fundamentally change the way you approach growth. Read more: click image or title.

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Focus on what works and know what you're doing...

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VC Chamath Palihapitiya Says He Has Cracked the Code for Making Startups Grow

VC Chamath Palihapitiya Says He Has Cracked the Code for Making Startups Grow | Competitive Edge |

All startups want growth. They want more eyeballs, more traction, more signs that what they are doing is working. They worship at the foot of the mythical hockey stick graph. But growth is a fickle, unpredictable thing — sometimes great products die before reaching an audience. Sometimes companies find tricks to get tons of users, but after the tricks fade away, everybody leaves. You can’t count on growth.

Not according to Chamath Palihapitiya. The venture capitalist, whose claim to fame was starting the growth team at Facebook, said his Social+Capital Partnership now has a crew of growth experts that it deploys to portfolio companies. And he claims they can make just about anything grow. Read more: clcik title or image.

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Most interesting are the comments under this article, like this one from Chris Neumann:

What other companies other than Remind 101 has this worked for?  Seems like this is just centered on Remind 101.

IMO, the "code" to "crack" is to figure out which people are getting the most value from your product and orient your marketing around meeting their needs.  Then, figure out which acquisition channels work best, and optimize those channels.  Just be data driven in every step, and you'll grow.  I do this for multiple companies on a consulting basis, and just getting the company to become data driven in their decision making is often very very difficult.  It's also hard to instrument things and collect the data in the first place, so that's why most companies aren't data driven.  In short, figure out what's working and do more of that.  Figuring out what's working is hard.

or this one from Raymond Duke:

There are a set of principles that you can use to grow a product or service. They've been used since a cavemen traded tiger meat for a new cave, to companies been sold for 1 billion dollars. Be wary of those who claim to have developed something "new" - because they are manipulating you. "Cracking the code" or using terms like "growth hacking"  is just like rotating an unbroken wheel.

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Survive the Leap to Hyper-Growth with This Advice from Steve Blank - First Round Review

Most startups die right before they enter hyper-growth. Steve Blank shares his perspectives on how companies can cross the chasm.

This article is by Steve Blank, entrepreneur, author and one of the founders of the Lean Startup movement.

Recently, I got a call from Patrick, an ex-student I hadn’t heard from for 8 years. He's now the CEO of a company and wanted to talk about what he admitted was a “first world” problem. Over breakfast he got me up to date on his life since school (two non-CEO roles at startups), but he wanted to talk about his third startup —the one he and two other co-founders had most recently started.

“We’re at 70 people, and we’ll do $40 million in revenue this year and should get to cash flow breakeven this quarter,” he said. It sounded like he was living the dream. I was trying to figure out why we were meeting. But then he told me all about the tough decisions, the pivots and firing his best friend, which he had to do to get to where he was. In short, he had been through heck and back.

“I made it this far,” he said. "My board bet on me to take it to scale. I’m going to double my headcount in the next 3 quarters. The problem is where’s the playbook? There were plenty of books for what to do as a startup, and lots of advice for what to do if I was running a large public company, but there’s nothing that describes how to deal with the issues of growing a company. I feel like I’m just driving without a roadmap. What should I be reading or doing?”

I explained to Patrick that startups go through a series of steps before they become a large company, and that he was smack in the middle of two big ones. Read more:

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"Our work with Growthink was very helpful for creating a business plan to focus our efforts in the short term and increase our value over the long term."
Jack Bergstrand, CEO
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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

After dealing with the hurdles of birthing a startup comes the real deal: building a great company, dealing with growth, HR, corporate structures, etc. This article gives some sources of information and ideas on how to move to the next phase.

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7 Key Steps to a Growth Strategy That Works Immediately

7 Key Steps to a Growth Strategy That Works Immediately | Competitive Edge |

If you don't have a tangible plan, you're actually losing business -- or you're increasing the chance of losing business to competitors.

If only half of startups survive more than five years and only one-third make it to 10, what’s the one thing you could do to ensure your company is sustainable? The answer is to create a growth strategy for your business, of course.

A growth strategy involves more than simply envisioning long-term success. If you don’t have a tangible plan, you’re actually losing business -- or you’re increasing the chance of losing business to competitors.

The key with any growth strategy is to be deliberate. Figure out the rate-limiting step in your growth, and pour as much fuel on the fire as possible. But for this to be beneficial, you need to take the following steps: Read more here:

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"I have been receiving "Growing Your Empire" newsletter for about a year, and I appreciate the advice that you have been sharing on entrepreneurship - I have leveraged the information you've provided many times."
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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

A good growth strategy is absolutely necessary for building a new business or startup.

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22 Useful Communities For Professionals, Startups and Businesses - Toolyo Blog

22 Useful Communities For Professionals, Startups and Businesses - Toolyo Blog | Competitive Edge |
Do you need to boost your startup growth? These are some of the most useful communities you can find: Advice: Quora: Quora is an awesome community to find great advice. You can also ask...
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Great site with resources and ideas for startups and small business.

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Little’s Law Is Big For Startups | TechCrunch

Little’s Law Is Big For Startups  |  TechCrunch | Competitive Edge |

Traffic, traction, growth. We all know that these terms are prerequisites to success. As we launch our startups we hope for initial customer acceptance, which would lead to traffic, traction and growth (TTG). In some cases, we’re willing to pay for traffic. In most other cases, we work around the clock to ignite organic TTG.

When we read about the successful co-founders of a Yelp, Pinterest, or WhatsApp, we find ourselves inspired by their drive and intellect, but we often leave wondering what it really was that gave these startups the astronomical TTG that we all want. There’s certainly no shortage of ideas and opinions about how one startup achieved success, but as analytical founders, the prescribed path from “good to great” often does not satisfy us. We crave more mathematical guidance.

One discipline to turn to in order to understand the underlying mechanics of business is operations research (OR).

OR principles not only guide us to optimize and run our businesses smoothly but also provide us with statistical analysis of underlying business concepts via modeling and simulation. One of the most interesting studies in OR which provides relevant guidance to today’s applications is queuing theory. And inside queuing theory, Little’s law is a hidden gem that gives us profound hints on where to focus to achieve superior traffic, traction and growth.

Queuing theory in its simplest terms tackles problems within the context of the following flow in a store:

Arrival –> Service–> Departure

In a queuing system, there are items that arrive at some rate to the system. Then they depart. An item can be a customer or inventory. When we think about it, this is exactly what we have on a website or app. Visitors arrive, they stick around for a while, then they leave. The most valuable company is the one with the most visitors that stay the longest.

Little’s Law says that, under steady state conditions, the average number of items in a queuing system equals the average rate at which items arrive multiplied by the average time that an item spends in the system.


L =average number of items in the queuing system,

W = average waiting time in the system for an item, and

λ =average number of items arriving per unit time, the law states the following:

“The long-term average number of customers in a stable system is equal to the long-term effective arrival rate multiplied by the average time a customer spends in the store.”

This statement sounds trivial. Its magic, however, lies in the simplicity that the relationship is not influenced by the service distribution, service order or anything else. It’s not influenced by the color of the site, the distribution of the content or the price of the product. The only thing that matters is how fast the visitors are coming and how long they’re staying. Everything else is secondary. Little’s law doesn’t only apply to queues in physical stores; it applies to networks and to any system where there’s a flow of items.

To examine a real-life situation, it’s safe to claim that Google, as a search engine, has the highest arrival rate of visitors, namely λ. But the visitors don’t stick around much. They quickly click through to another site via organic or paid links. Then they come back later for another search only to leave quickly. Google has done a phenomenal job at building up that arrival rate that made the company what it is today. But take a look at the acquisitions, research or any other top initiative at Google, and you’ll easily see that all of them target the second part of Little’s law: W, the average time a customer spends at a Google property, whether that’s email, phone, calendar or web browser.

According to Comscore, Google received about 13 billion search queries in March 2014. This translates to 433.3 million queries per day, 18 million per hour, 300 thousand per minute and only 5,000 per second. A quick comparison to Bing looks like this:


Number of search queries

TimeframeMicrosoftGooglePermonth3,600,000,000.0013,000,000,000.00Per day120,000,000.00433,333,333.33Per hour5,000,000.0018,055,555.56Per minute83,333.33300,925.93Per second1,388.895,015.43Per millisecond1.45


One wonders if Bing at any point exceeded Google’s 5,000 per second search rate. If yes, that’s good for Bing and bad for Google and it’s crucial to figure out why that jolt happened at that particular second. Investigating short bursts of higher-than-usual traffic leads to significant hints versus observing daily or monthly numbers.

Now consider Facebook. Facebook has both great arrival rate and time spent in “store.” But its customer arrival rate (λ) is not as high as Google’s. This is why all the top acquisitions and projects at Facebook target increasing the arrival rate. We visit Facebook a few times a day and stick around a little bit but then we quickly jump to a Google search.

Operation managers and entrepreneurs are more concerned with the throughput rate rather than the arrival rate. But the throughput rate is important only if there is arrival. Arrival is certainly a binary function without which there’s no usefulness. Once visitors arrive, the key metric to monitor is how fast they arrive, not how many.

Here are three implications of Little’s law as it applies to startups:

  1. For investors evaluating startups, it’s best to examine traffic figures at the lowest level of granularity possible. Even if the monthly uniques are low, surges in traffic at much smaller time intervals provide traces of higher value. The reverse is also true. Dips in arrival rates may suggest potential problems.
  2. For an entrepreneur, instead of focusing on the monthly stats, working on how to increase the searches per second is a healthier effort — particularly for those wanting to disrupt a certain market. The traffic numbers may be up and down and all over the place throughout the month, but it is the peaks of high traffic per second (or millisecond) that deserves the attention.
  3. It’s important to focus on why and how the influx of visitors surged in the smallest time frame available. Work to figure out ways to sustain that instead of focusing on monthly uniques.

Little’s law provides hints for social or viral growth, too, because in both cases, influence is spread out in short bursts as people visit the site/page/app almost all at the same time. Viral influx is the dream of a startup and after that, some level of stickiness is required to keep people around. But early traction trumps great content. Normalizing your metrics over time and looking at meaningful windows of time are a lot more useful than just looking at long-term averages.

If you’re hungry for analytical insights on traffic, traction and growth, look no further than queuing theory and particularly Little’s law. For those of you interested in the mathematical proof of Little’s law, here’s the link to Professor Little’s 2011 paper celebrating the 50th anniversary of his theory.

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There’s only a few ways to scale user growth, and here’s the list

There’s only a few ways to scale user growth, and here’s the list | Competitive Edge |

Scaling growth is hard – there’s only a few ways to do it
When you study the most successful mobile/web products, you start to see a pattern on how they grow. Turns out, there’s not too many ways to reach 100s of millions of users or revenue. Instead, products mostly have one or two major growth channels, which they optimize into perfection. These methods are commonplace and predictable.

Here are the major channels that successful products use to drive traction – think of them as the moonshots.

  1. Paid acquisition. If your users give you money, then you can buy users directly through ads. Usually companies try to maintain a 3:1 CLV:CAC ratio to keep their margins reasonable after other costs. (eBay, Match, Fab, etc.)
  2. Virality. If your users love your product, then you can get major “word of mouth” virality driven by a high Net Promoter Score. If you can get your product to spread as a result of users engaging with the product, you can further optimize the viral loops using A/B tests to generate even more virality. People often measure “viral factor” to see how effectively existing users attract new users, and of course, you want your viral factor to exceed 1.0. (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
  3. SEO. If your product creates a ton of unique content, in the form of Q&A, articles, long-form reviews, etc., you might end up with millions of unique pages that can in turn attract hundreds of millions of new users who are searching for content via search engines. (Yelp, Rap Genius, Stack Overflow, etc.)
  4. Sales. For startups targeting SMBs or the enterprise, you’ll end up fielding a large sales org to handle both inbound and outbound. This is especially true for companies targeting local SMBs, where telesales becomes the only option. Of course, to make this work, you’ll need to generate a multiple in revenue of what you pay them.
  5. Other. There’s the odd partnership, like Yahoo/Google, that can help make or break a startup – but these are rare and situational. But sometimes it happens!

These channels work and scale, because of two reasons:

  • They’re feedback loops. Each of these channels creates exponential growth because when you make money from customers, you can use that money to buy more customers, which give you more money. Or in the virality scenario, a cohort of new users will invite even more users, who then invite even more on top of that.
  • They have a high ceiling on saturation. Part of why paid acquisition will always be around is because people like free products, which cause these products to monetize using ads. As long as people will love free products (which they will, forever), there will be advertising to buy. The biggest ad networks reach a billion users or more. Similarly, SEO works because almost everyone uses Google, so as long as you’re dealing with a high-volume base of searches (like music lyrics, or products) then you’ll be able to reach hundreds of millions of users.

It might seem like it’s best to crack one of these channels right away, and then ride then into glory. But that almost never happens, and instead startups have to work towards them – but it takes time. To figure out if your CLV and CAC match up, you need to buy some users, then wait 6 months to see how well they monetize. If you want to see if your product is viral, you need to build your app, then wait to see if you have the retention and frequency to support a strong viral loop. SEO is hard because after the content is built, Google has to index it and you have to build PageRank. This can take months and years.

New products often only have months, or a year, to live, so these strategies are often not a real option.

High-risk, high-reward
Attacking one of these scalable channels is high risk but also high reward. Every startup has to make sure they are able to slot themselves into one of channels in order to scale their business, but in the meantime, how do you show enough traction to not run out of money?

This essay by Paul Graham gives us a clue, as he writes about Startups = Growth:

A good growth rate during YC is 5-7% a week. If you can hit 10% a week you’re doing exceptionally well. If you can only manage 1%, it’s a sign you haven’t yet figured out what you’re doing.

Another way to say this is, growth is measured through a percentage and so early on, small things can drive a high % growth when the base is small. When you’re starting, there’s a whole list of other tools you can use which don’t scale at all but are nevertheless low risk.

Here are some low-risk, unscalable ways to get users:

  1. Getting your friends+family to use the product
  2. Emailing/posting among your local community, whether that’s college or an alumni mailing list or whatever
  3. Guest writing on niche blogs – you often see this with mommy blogs, etc.
  4. Cold e-mailing potential users and influencers
  5. Engaging with potential users over Twitter, Reddit, forums, and other communities
  6. Contests and giveaways, partnering with a blogger/YouTuber or something
  7. Getting covered in niche press outlets, like the tech press
  8. … etc., etc.

All of the above require hustle, but are low-risk and fairly high-percentage. And when a contest can generate a few thousand signups, on a small base that’s not bad at all. The other added benefit is that these methods put you in direct/close contact with your users. So in the early phase, when you are still working on product/market fit, this can be an important way to learn if you have the right product.

However, none of these methods scale well, which is OK, if you know when you need to move on. Even getting covered in the mainstream press, like NYT level, maybe only garners a few hundred thousand signups max. Getting featured by Google or Apple is about the same thing. That’s better than nothing, of course, but it’s still far below what you need to get on a rocketship trajectory. For the rocketship, you’d need to perfect one of the 4 main channels I listed earlier.

So ultimately, how do you balance these? Let’s talk about the barbell strategy.

The barbell
To answer the question of how to balance these growth projects, let’s talk about the barbell strategy. The barbell strategy is a way that investors can split their holdings between some high-risk/high-return investments as well as low-risk/low-return conservative investments. Investopedia describes it:

Put your eggs in two baskets. One basket holds extremely safe investments, while the other holds nothing but leverage and speculation.

In the context of these growth channels, the key is to balance a series of progressively more scalable growth projects, while keeping track of the big growth channels that will help you shoot the moon.

Do the methods that don’t scale
During the early days, by all means, sign up friends and family. And get those blog mentions, and do all the content marketing you can handle. That’ll help create a base of engaged users, while you hit product/market fit. At each point, as what works caps out, go after the next marketing channel that can drive incrementally more users. In the early days, perhaps a contest partnership with a niche blog would do, but after a while, maybe you’d hire a small team to author long-term content marketing pieces to circulate.

Invest in moonshots
The other end of the barbell, the high-risk/high-reward projects, should be taken with deliberate projects and analysis. If you need your userbase to generate a lot more unique content for SEO, start fiddling around with features that reward long-form content. And start tracking what % of users write great content. And start making the small changes needed for Google to index your site. After a few months of this, you can start to understand what it would take to create enough pieces of unique content to make an SEO strategy work. You can usually work this kind of thing out on a spreadsheet.

Balancing between the two
It’s important to balance these short-term and long-term efforts. If all you do is work on nonscalable marketing methods, then inevitably the channels will tap out and your growth will slow. When you see the startups that are highly dependent on press hits for their traction, but seem anemic otherwise, this is exactly what’s happening.

The barbell strategy helps products make progress on long-term goals while still creating short-term momentum – you’ll need momentum to attract investor interest, but you’ll need the long-term scalable growth channels to really build your business.

Good luck. And if you have a product that’s working well, has a nice base of traction, and now the only things that can move the needle are scalable methods, don’t hesitate to email me for advice: voodoo at gmail.

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Scaling is the buzz word. Andrew Chen explains what works, and  how.

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The Inbound Growth Hacking Bible

The Inbound Growth Hacking Bible | Competitive Edge |

As a term, growth hacking has been around since 2010, when Sean Ellis of Dropbox fame bemoaned the fact that he cannot easily find a suitable successor when he moves on from a project since there was no way to succinctly formulate the requirements of the job. However, as a practice, growth hacking has been around for much longer than that, usually performed by creative marketers or business owners who were dedicated to growth beyond anything else and who had the skills and daring to think outside of what generally constitutes out of the box thinking, so yeah, out of the out of the box thinking. If, somehow, this isn’t enough of an explanation of what growth hacking actually entails, how it is different from marketing, and what are the skills that you need to become a successful growth hacker, do read on.

To read the full article, click on the title or image.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Growth Hacking explained.

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7 Marketing Strategies That Don't Scale (But We Did Them Anyways)

7 Marketing Strategies That Don't Scale (But We Did Them Anyways) | Competitive Edge |
Looking for the next growth hack? Stop looking. Try these 7 marketing strategies that don't scale instead.

Growing up, I was a really small guy. So after I finished high school, I was eager to hit the gym and pack on some muscle.

As I began lifting weights, I found myself surrounded by people way bigger than me. So in an effort to speed up my progress, I tried to lift as heavy as I could. I also started taking a bunch of supplements I didn’t need. I kept trying to get big fast.

My initial results? Abysmal.

Then a friend of mine said something that changed everything.

Chris… just focus on adding 5 more pounds to the bar every month. If you can do that, you’ll be able to lift 60 more pounds than you can today.

He was totally right… Within less than 2 years, I brought my bench press up from 65 lbs to 135 lbs.

Believe it or not, this same thinking works wonders when applied to business. Getting one new customer a day doesn’t sound like a lot. But when you stack that up over an entire year, you’ll have 365 people paying you money.

So rather than thinking about how to get 365 customers, start by just getting one. Then another. Then another.

Doing things that don’t scale...  Read more: click image or title.

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Your BP template help me achieve the goals I've been trying for 5 years. The template led me to produce an effective tool to attract the investors I need.

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

#Scaling is all the rage these days. This article takes you back to business basics, from #customerservice, to live demos, speaking, conferences, etc. One way or the other, you can 'make' it happen if you really want to.

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Three Failed Entrepreneurs Walk Into a Bar...

Three Failed Entrepreneurs Walk Into a Bar... | Competitive Edge |

Once upon a time, there were three entrepreneurs who had just lost their businesses. They all happened to walk, sulking, into the same bar just off of Market St. and Polk St. in San Francisco. The drinks started flowing, and the three began telling each other stories:

Entrepreneur #1: Our business should have changed the world. Seriously, if we had been able to raise just a few million dollars, there would have been no stopping us. But we couldn't raise the funds. And after a while... well... we had to eat, right?

Entrepreneur #2: My company would have been the next unicorn. We had money and traction. But as we got bigger, our investors wanted us to get even bigger... faster. So we came out with new products. But the market didn't take to them. And we couldn't recover.

Entrepreneur #3: We had bad luck too. We were doubling every few months for years. We should have been the next Google. Then our board recommended a hire that we made. And he was political. I'm still not sure how it happened, but the board decided, today, for him to replace me.

The drinks kept flowing. First beers...then shots... then beers with shots inside of them. And the entrepreneurs kept talking. Perhaps it was the alcohol... or perhaps the recognition that they were sitting with human beings who shared their pain... but slowly they began to laugh and feel a bit better.

Then, out of nowhere, an old man approached. The entrepreneurs looked up at the man, blinked, and looked at each other; the old man was glowing like no living person they'd seen. Either he'd been sent from heaven or Mars, or someone had slipped something very strong into their drinks.To read more: click image or title.

Learn more about funding, find great funding sources, get a free business plan template, post your funding request for free, and more:

Via Pantelis Chiotellis
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Great story. #Failed #startup #founders can learn something here.

Thủ Thuật Game - Fun24h's comment, January 19, 5:30 AM
Hướng dẫn cách chơi cờ tướng :
A Subratty's curator insight, January 20, 9:47 AM

He who hasn't failed in life hasn't lived his life. 

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How to run better Marketing Experiments as a Growth Strategy

How to run better Marketing Experiments as a Growth Strategy | Competitive Edge |
How to run better Marketing Experiments to grow your business, using a Repeatable Growth Strategy to test and iterate for continuous improvement and...

Recently we were working with some clients, helping them look at their growth using marketing analytics. They all had revenue, and wanted to grow faster. They knew they could do better but needed help with these questions:

  • "where do I start?"
  • "what tactics should I use?"
  • "how should I measure my progress?"
  • "where should I focus?"

Maybe that seems familiar to you?

Read more: click title or image.

Need funding?

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Studying the process of marketing and finding the best ways to get results!

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What I Learned Building A Startup like Dogster, Inc.

What I Learned Building A Startup like Dogster, Inc. | Competitive Edge |

This just won’t work in paragraph form as nothing in a startup happens in a linear manner. It’s all happening at once, and the realization of any learnings come to you in no particular time frame after that.

In startup land, if you build a sustainable profitable business that is not growing greater than 50% a year, everyone will respect you individually, but few will respect the actual profitable, sustainable business. Seek their respect at your own risk.

If doing what you love (in my case making Internet products that help people connect) allows you to make a business out of it, you’ll end up hating what you created because all you get to do is manage a very complex, challenging business.

Once I created a successful service and business out of nothing I became a lot more scared of blowing it than anything else, when really I should have just been content that I had succeeded at each previous step. It’s important to yell out loud “I did it!” to no one in particular when you realize you achieved what what once a goal.

If you do not prioritize friends, family, loved ones, pets, plants, hobbies while working on a start-up they will decay and extinguish. All you will be left with is a startup. Read more: click image or title.

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"I loved working with Growthink. The staff are passionate about their work and committed to what they do in a way that can only be achieved when you love what you do. They helped keep us on track to achieve our planning goals. I am looking forward to continued success working with everyone from Growthink in the future."
- Venus Williams, Professional Tennis Player and CEO, V Starr Interiors

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Welcome to #startup land. This article is written in the style that startups are managed: pretty much everything at the same time. It gives an impression as to what being part of a startup is like.

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6 Timeless Strategies to Drive Entrepreneurship Success

6 Timeless Strategies to Drive Entrepreneurship Success | Competitive Edge |

Adhere to these key principles to build a high-growth company amid changing circumstances.

In today’s ever changing business climate, an entrepreneur can easily become overwhelmed. It’s vital, though, to stay focused on your goals for the company.  

Even with a firm strategy in place, every entrepreneur should do these six things to clear a path to success:

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Growthink helped me with two business plans. I liked working with Anna Vitale because she was a professional yet personable and that gave me a sense of trust. Keep up the good work.”

Phil Marcu

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Looking to Scale Your Sales? Seven Bullets to Dodge

Looking to Scale Your Sales? Seven Bullets to Dodge | Competitive Edge |

Gabriel Luna-Ostaseski's sales team at Calfinder had just hit $8 million in revenue. They were feeling good about their process — like they had finally hit their stride — and the numbers were looking good. “There was just this shared feeling of, 'Hey, let's hit the 'Go' button on this thing,” he says. And they did — they scaled the team from 6 to 24 reps in thee months on a bootstrapped budget.

At first, things looked promising. They doubled and then quadrupled the number of contracts they landed each week. But then it happened, what Ostaseski now calls the 'Oh Shit moment' when they realized a few cancellations were turning into many. “It literally started to feel like a tidal wave behind us. Churn increased by 2x. We didn't catch on to the churn and we stopped paying attention to how we were selling things.” Ultimately, they had to shrink the team back down the six. But many lessons were learned.

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"Thanks for all you do to encourage entrepreneurship! You and your team have successfully created a road map that most could follow to completion and exit strategy. Yes, it is possible to do these things on your own, but it can be short-cutted by using your strategy."
Jay Ed Moore

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

The art of sales, and the difference between builders and sales architects.

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7 Ways to Prepare Your Startup to Scale Up

7 Ways to Prepare Your Startup to Scale Up | Competitive Edge |
Are you a startup founder who's eager to scale your business? Make sure you make these preparations first.

Assuming that you've successfully started a startup. Scalability is the ability of a startup to grow. Or, to put it more precisely, a scalable business can adapt to a larger workload without compromising performance or losing revenue. Can your business with $0 in annual revenue grow to a million dollar company?

If it's scalable, then yes.

But not every business is poised to make it big. Some startups get off the ground without the right systems, people, or mindset in place. Trying to grow such businesses is like trying to inflate a tractor tire with a bicycle pump.

Here's how you can prepare your startup to scale up.

1. Get the basics down.

Before you even worry about scaling your startup, make sure your fundamentals are fool proof. According to the StartupGenom's survey of 3200+ startups, 74% of failures can be explained by premature scaling. So make sure you're covered for the following:

  1. Make sure your core product line reaches "market fit". You can make gradual improvements through product iterations based on user feedback and data.
  2. Find out your largest core users.
  3. Find out the marketing channels with the biggest ROI and scaling potential by testing with smaller budgets first.
  4. Make sure you have the resources to scale. Seek additional round of funding if necessary. You can't worry about profitability while scaling, and the last thing you want is to run out of money.

Note: Even though these practices are software-centric, they also apply to physical products. So if you started an e-commerce site, make sure you take the time to get the basics right before scaling.

2. Automate Everything.

If you're spending a long time "setting up" your business, then good for you.

  • Setting up cloud storage and organization...
  • Setting up training processes for new hires...
  • Setting up marketing automation...
  • Setting up payroll for rapid processing...
  • Setting up billpay for automatic withdrawals...

Even though it takes a long time on the front end, this activity will pay for itself in the long term. You'll be able to access data faster, hire faster, market better, pay easier, and streamline operations for a truly scalable model.3. Boost marketing.

How can a business scale if no one knows about it?

Focus on marketing, and scalability will follow. But not every form of marketing is scalable. According to Forbes "direct marketing is...not scalable" and "word-of-mouth does not scale."

Content marketing, on the other hand, is one of the most scalable growth methods. Content marketing has evergreen value and viral potential, making it the growth-hack method of choice for most startups.

4. Outsource non-essentials.

For big corporations, the name of the game is "in-house." They've got in-house graphic designers, developers, conversion optimizers, SEOs, CPAs, lawyers, and even janitors.

Startups can't afford that luxury, and if you want to be strong enough to grow, you'll need to outsource all non-essential roles.

Your graphic design firm doesn't need a law department. Your SEO consulting firm doesn't require a full-time PowerPoint designer. You just need to focus on what you're good at.

This lean approach is what allows a startup to break into the big time. When you're nailing it with your core competencies, you'll start to scale up.

5. Keep an eye on social media.

Every new startup is in the public eye. Whatever happens on social media will be examined by the world.

It's important in your startup days to watch your social media carefully. Fledgling startups can't afford to take a major PR hit with a social media flap. Big companies might be able to weather the storm, but your startup isn't ready for it.

Scalability is about surviving, as much as it is about growing. If you hit a PR fiasco, you're limiting your chance of survival and scalability.

6. Excuse yourself.

Your business is not about you.

In order to be truly scalable, your business should be able to function just fine without you. The way you put that into place is by deliberately shifting responsibility off your shoulders, or into the oversight of someone else. In addition, you should take deliberate absences so you can force the business and personnel to be independent.

It may be a little bit humbling to come back from a four-week vacation and discover that the business is thriving without your being there. But this can actually be encouraging, too.

Your business is making money while you sleep, relax, or build something else.

You've proven to yourself and to your employees that the business isn't tied to your presence or even your existence. You feel liberated. They feel empowered. The business is ready to grow.

7. Hire the right people (and only the right people).

A business is scalable, only when it has the right people on board.

First, though, you have to hire only the people that are necessary to the operation. (See "outsource" below.)

Here are some of the key characteristics of a team member who will help you scale:

  • They can do what a program can't. If you have a human doing something that a machine can do, then you're wasting human effort. A startup needs to automate everything that it can in order to maximize the output of human team members.
  • They are full of good ideas. You can't put a dollar price on the value of a good idea. A single lightbulb moment on the part of one employee can more than pay for that employee.
  • They have more than one skill. In the startup environment, one person might have to do three jobs. Hire people with a multifaceted skill set, or skills that can be transferred from one task to another.
Final thoughts.

Scalability is a mindset, too. Sure, you need to have the right systems and processes, people, and plans.

But you also need to think big to become big. Having a scalable business means that you are free to unleash your dreams, make a lot of money, and have fun doing it. Once you get your mind in the game, scalability becomes way easier.

What have you done to create a scalable business?

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

As a startup you need to scale up your business. Investors would not be interested if you can't.

Ian Harris's curator insight, December 23, 2014 12:11 AM

Worth considering!

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How to Get Traction for Your Startup and Funding

How to Get Traction for Your Startup and Funding | Competitive Edge |
Most startups want to get funding, but what they need are customers to prove demand... only then will they get funding. This article will focus on ways to use Kickstarter to not only build a customer base, but also demonstrate to investors that there is demand.

Most startups want to get funding, but what they need are customers to prove demand... only then will they get funding. This article will focus on ways to use Kickstarter to not only build a customer base, but also demonstrate to investors that there is demand.

There will include lots of successful stories on Kickstarter. The press enjoys them and they are highly shareable--because of the social media era. Currently, crowdfunding sites have become a highly popular medium in order to fund and promote your following business venture, which includes the hilariously simplistic ones. Presently everybody is buzzing in regard to the Kickstarter participant from Columbus who utilized the website to attempt to raise ten bucks to cook potato salad for the initial time. The Ohio Kickstarter user managed to exceed his Kickstarter project objective and obtained more than $55,000 in funds.

Most fantastic Kickstarters, unfortunately, don't get this much success, especially the technology-concentrated ones. What is the reason for this? It's likely because individuals have a more difficult time visualizing and understanding projects with more technical topics.

For the ones who have more tech-concentrated projects, here is how you can leverage Kickstarter in order to make your project successful:

1) Simplify your Messaging

It is important that you relate to the target audience and it may be challenging if the project is extremely technical. As you are creating product descriptors, consider your audience and then ask: Do they get my product? Do they see value in my product?

If those questions are answered prior to posting the campaign, chances are the average individual is going to be more than likely to back you.

2) Promote through Social Media

This one seems as if it should be a no-brainer--particularly coming from a PR viewpoint--but it is vital that you frequently generate fresh content during the month-long Kickstarter project. Posting updates daily to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn will assist you in driving more traffic. Plus, as you have these backers, that new content isn't just critical for updating these individuals, yet additionally from a search engine optimization perspective. You also can boost the project's engagement by reaching out to related projects, for purposes of cross-promotion, in order to dip in one another's backer pools.

3) Engaging Social Networks for Backing

It has been theorized that securing funds upon the first day of a Kickstarter launch includes the ideal method of ensuring a project is a success. One method of doing so includes engaging followers on social networks, by reaching out to your social media connections prior to launching and reaching everybody you know using email projects. You have to maximize the donor pool.

4) Spotlight Uniqueness to Provide Backers Reasons to Promote and Support You

It's crucial that you spotlight why your Kickstarter project is special. Techniques like personal marketing will be just as vital as marketing your product. With a public crowdsourcing campaign, individuals will be more than likely to turn away from an opportunity to fund if they do not feel connected to an individual requesting funding. Writing a letter or creating a video that explains why you require the funding includes a great method of connecting with the audience.

It also is useful to provide tangible rewards which will appeal to the audience, to increase backers' interest within the project.

5. Earned Media and PR

Press coverage and 3rd-party validations that highlight your campaign include the most efficient methods of driving a special audience to a landing page. However, to accomplish this type of validation will take more than merely talking about the product. Providing thought leadership upon associated product trends, the competition, and the wider marketplace could assist in securing mentions and increasing your visibility.

Piece of the Pie on Kickstarter

Launching a highly successful Kickstarter project may be a good way to increase your enterprise's visibility, as well as generate a customer base, prior to searching for seed funding. And by leveraging the above tips, hopefully more technology startups may boost their odds of taking a cut of the more than the $1 billion dollar pie of Kickstarter funding the platform has accrued so far.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Traction, sales, customers is the big plus when trying to convince investors that you are the real thing.

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7 Principles for Propelling Your Startup to Success | New Beginnings

Want a venture to succeed?

I developed seven principles that can help a startup improve its odds at success based on analysis of more than 1,500 public companies that I did for my book Value Leadership.

Companies that followed these principles the most closely (I call them value leaders) grew sales 35 percent faster and generated 109 percent higher net margins than their peers and increased shareholder value almost five times faster than the market in the 10 years before 2003. Companies that do a better job of creating value for key stakeholders, such as employees, customers and communities, also happen to generate more value for shareholders.

The organizations that apply all these principles will outperform those that skimp on some. For example, one of Google’s glaring weaknesses today is its inability to create a significant new source of revenue beyond advertising. That does not seem to hurt the company too much now but it could in the future.

Although I developed the following seven principles years ago, I believe they can help a startup succeed today as has been borne out by recent company history

1. Value human relationships.

Entrepreneurs can’t do it all themselves, which means they need to hire talented people. Treat talented people with respect and be sure they are a good fit with the values of the company.

For example, Google hires very smart people who fit with its unconventional approach to problem solving. Google has used its famous data-driven approach to decision making to identify traits associated with effective management. And it has used those insightsto hire and promote peope who demonstrate these skills.

2. Foster teamwork.

If an entrepreneur hires talented people, he or she should demand that they debate solutions. Ask them to use their skills to develop better solutions from working together than they would by toiling on their own.

In the last few years, Google has encouraged more teamwork, which has helped the company bring new ideas like Google Glass to fruition.

3. Experiment frugally.

Startup CEOs must resist the urge to perfect their products before launching them. Instead, they should build fast, inexpensive versions of their products, receive feedback from the market and improve the product in response.

Google encouraged this kind of frugal experimentation by letting its employees spend 20 percent of their time working on projects of personal interest.

In 2011 new CEO, Larry Page, decided he wanted to “put more wood behind fewer arrows” and phased out 20 percent time while phasing in the Google X lab to work on innovations, Quartz reported.

4. Fulfill commitments.

A startup will not succeed unless the team knows the management’s intentions and then leaders act accordingly. And leaders who tell their people they’ll do one thing but do the opposite will lose trust.

Google has certainly tried to follow through on its oft-stated value “don’t be evil.” Sadly, it has not always succeeded, such as when it decided tocensor search results in China in 2006. It stopped in 2010.

Don’t make the same mistake. It’s better for a startup to give up on a business opportunity than to violate its core values.

5. Fight complacency.

Don’t let the success of a particular product or service keep the company from searching for better ways to meet customers’ needs. Remember Blockbuster? To fight complacency, maintain a healthy paranoia and always be on the lookout for how to adopt new technologies that will give customers superior value.

Consider how Netflix transformed itself from a DVD-by-mail service to an online streaming provider. Not only has Netflix managed the transition masterfully, it has also added new capabilities like creating popular shows and managing relationships with high-bandwidth service providers.

6. Win through multiple means.

Don’t let the startup become dependent on one product that competitors can copy. Protect sources of revenue and profit by being good at a few key skills that are difficult for rivals to copy.

Under Steve Jobs, Apple could enter into existing businesses (like MP3 players, smartphones and tablets) and cut itself a big slice of the profit pie. Apple won through multiple means: It had great product design, superb marketing and customer service, an efficient supply chain and the ability to motivate third-party providers as evidenced by the success of iTunes and the App Store.

7. Give to the community.

Running a startup is especially challenging because business owners can’t pay enough to attract top talent. But they can make up for the smaller pay packet by developing a meaningful mission.

Consider the case of Embrace Innovations, whose CEO, Jane Chen, I interviewed in June 2011. The social enterprise was started in an attempt to save the lives of premature babies in developing countries. In India, many premature babies died after not being kept warm during a four-hour journey to the hospital.

Because of its inspiring mission, the company attracted talented employers, who developed a tiny sleeping bag of special materials able to keep infants at the right temperature. This saved many lives.

This week my class of 30 Babson College undergraduates explored how Google has applied these seven principles: The students concluded that despite some flaws, notably in its privacy policies, Google is a value leader. The students concluded that Google excels at valuing human relationships, winning through multiple means, experimenting frugally and fighting complacency.

Ready to try these principles? In my book I listed 24 specific activities that companies should perform to follow the seven principles as well as 107 more detailed tactics to accomplish these activities.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Good principles to keep in mind when doing business.

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12 tips for young entrepreneurs from an Egyptian startup founder

12 tips for young entrepreneurs from an Egyptian startup founder | Competitive Edge |

Amira Azzouz is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a fashion portal for the Middle East in both Arabic and English, which launched three years ago in 2010. Recently she's struggled with a content scraping scandal, after discovering that at least four major sites in Egypt had stolen her team's content. Below, she shares some of the lessons she's learned over the years about maintaining a balanced, healthy, and successful life as an entrepreneur.

As a young female entrepreneur I’ve learned so much over the past four years, lessons much more practical than what I learned in college. I'm not saying I know it all now, but I definitely have a good share of experience (though I'm sure there are still more hard lessons to come!). Having said that, I think it's important to share these important tips with female entrepreneurs in our region, to help them maintain a healthy life. So here they are:

To read the full article, click on the title.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Excellent 12 points. I especially like the 20/80 tip about the workload. They are all excellent though, and born form experience.

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