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Brants Rant

The Truth About Evil Marketers

A technical CEO learning marketing is the equivalent of a sales/marketing CEO learning development engineering.

Not.

I am not a developer.  If push comes to shove, I can code in PHP, or develop shell scripts, and truth be told, I did take a couple of ECE courses in college; courses which inexorably told me I was not going to be a developer.

My path to becoming a marketer was unusual, I think, which has had both its advantages and disadvantages.   I like to think I'm a "technical marketer," rather than what I call a "Madison Ave" marketer; not to dis the later, since they have their role to play in the grand scheme of marketing.  By technical marketer, I don't mean one who only markets technical products, or who does only "product marketing" in the industry vernacular, but rather a marketer who uses processes and actionable metrics to achieve near term business objectives that lead to realizing company vision.

IMO, development is harder than marketing.  Continue reading “The Truth About Evil Marketers” »

Customer Development Presentation

Unlike my classmates who headed to Silicon Valley from UC Davis upon graduation, I moved to Washington DC to work for a defense consulting firm. After a couple of years, "I dropped out" to write a novel, which I subsequently finished, explored the country for 3 months, finally landing in San Francisco and beginning my career in technology.

My book was (is) trite and sophomoric. After all, what insights do most 20-somethings have worth sharing? A lack of experience -- a lack of failure -- makes pontification shallow. One of my younger brothers, who was trying to make a living as a painter at the time, had a great comment. He said that he felt my book, like his art, was merely trying to say too much. That it wasn't that we didn't have good things to say, but that there was lack of discipline in focusing and examining in greater depth a few ideas, rather than "letting it all hang out."

I think young entrepreneurs suffer from a similar malady. Continue reading “Customer Development Presentation” »

Elevator Pitch

Note: Originally published at SANDIOS.

Everyone has heard of the "elevator pitch" and all entrepreneurs know they need one. Right? I'm talking about the ability to tell your business story in the time it takes the elevator to get the floor where your audience will egress. While everyone knows they need one, the confidence imbued in entrepreneurs -- necessary to be an entrepreneur -- often results in the overconfident belief that the pitch will magically flow when the time comes.

While I'm sure this sometimes works, the strategy is a mistake. Continue reading “Elevator Pitch” »

4 Anti-Lean Startup Archetypes

There are many reasons why entrepreneurs don't, or more accurately won't adopt lean startup principles.  In the last few weeks, I've encountered each of the archetypes described below.  In each case, the individuals have some awareness of #leanstartup, based on my discussions, as well as sharing Ries' and Blank's resources with them. Continue reading “4 Anti-Lean Startup Archetypes” »

Lean Start-up, Part V – MVP Fail

(To view prior posts in this series, click here.)

I think I've mostly failed to limit product development to minimum viable product (MVP).  The essence of MVP is counter-intuitive to entrepreneurs who know what needs to be built.  MVP is downright anathema to some  wh have actually confirmed suspicions by speaking to customers, e.g. through customer development. Why limit what is built if you've confirmed with customers they want it all?

The problem is that the fact that customers tell you they want a feature doesn't prove anything.  The proof is in the payment.  Continue reading “Lean Start-up, Part V – MVP Fail” »

China Online

Note: Originally published at SANDIOS.

What first comes to mind when you think of China: Communism? Cheap products? Knock-offs? Piracy?

I recently had the great fortune of accompanying a group of investors, bloggers, and entrepreneurs on a whirl-wind tour of East Asia to meet our Japanese and Chinese counterparts, and learn what's shaping their high tech industries. "Geeks on a Plane" traveled to Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai over a 10 day period, meeting with the locals and ex-pats building the Internet, Mobile & Gaming markets.

To say the least, it was an eye-opening experience.

The first day on the ground in Beijing challenged my preconceptions. Not that cheap products and knock-offs don't exist. They do. (One session we used plastic badges on which the left tab kept breaking off. By day's end, the floor was littered with them.) The point is that this is neither a complete picture nor an accurate summary of China's economy. China is teeming with entrepreneurship, innovation and believe me, only quality product can sustain the stunning architecture of Shanghai.

1 view of Shanghai's 360 degree skyline
Continue reading “China Online” »

How to find early adopters

The toughest part about practicing customer development is getting started.  You already know that customers are not going to magically find you because you have a great product, work hard and are good looking.  Now that you've realized how big the world is and that using a megaphone from your roof top is a poor method of user acquisition, what's next?

Presumably if you are committed to the principles of customer development, you are already committed to "getting out of the building."  Before you can interview potential customers, however, you have to find potential customers to interview.  Unfortunately, there are no magic bullets.   This is painstaking work.  Just as with other portions of the customer development model, to find early adopters you make assumptions, test, and iterate.  If you are having trouble getting started, try these steps: Continue reading “How to find early adopters” »

Who owns the vision?

I love the work Eric Ries is doing with Lean Startup.  (IMO, coupled with an investment model where funds are predicated on implementation of lean startup principles and achieving specific customer development milestones #leanstartup could revolutionize the start-up and investment landscapes.)

Words are powerful and and the intent of catchy phrases can be lost when removed from their original context.  I brought this up before a few weeks back, when the "Fail Fast" meme was cruising through Twitter and among some cheerleaders, it seems, failing itself had become the best means to success, as if it were the end objective, as if tripping your way to finish line will ensure you are the winner.

So it goes, IMO, with this quote about the customer's vision:

Early customers are often more visionary than the startup they work with for that product.

I'm not so sure.  Continue reading “Who owns the vision?” »

Lean Start-up Part IV

It has been awhile since I've updated the progress on a very lean startup I'm helping out.  Last time out I briefly discuss our first engagement with customers through personal interviews and surveys.

I am pleased to report our first failure.  : )

According to our surveys and interviews, our assumptions regarding who will be willing to pay for what appear to be wrong.  (I might add, too, that the feedback seems to be running exactly opposite of the expert advice the company heard while going through a local mentoring process.)

So now that we've got our answers, we're ready to go to market, right?
Continue reading “Lean Start-up Part IV” »

OK, fail fast, but fail smart!

While on my way home from buying a lottery ticket today (I am sure to buy from the store that has sold the most winning tickets), I got to thinking about failure.  We've been hearing a lot about it recently:

Failure breeds success. Fail fast, Fail often, or fail early, but just fail!  That way, you can be sure VCs will respect you in the morning.

It is interesting to me that a concept that seems precise -- failure -- can actually have a variety of meanings.  A story passed around a campfire loses its original meaning because words have different connotations depending on context.

Failing fast, early and often without learning from your mistakes -- without a process for learning -- is merely falling flat on your face.  The cheer "failure breeds success" is a self-help gimmick, typically called by MLMers leaning upon metaphysical beliefs Continue reading “OK, fail fast, but fail smart!” »

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