Product Market Fit Cycle

Found some interesting talks on startup growth and scaling.
So you’ve been thinking about creating a minimum viable product (MVP); have you thought about the minimum viable segment (MVS) of the market you are going to sell to?

Starting today, my approach changes. If I could start tonight what would I create that would get the customer to do something right away?

Find the full gist on Michael J Skok here.

Advertisements

New Start-ups: Here’s Your Digital To-Do List

I recently stumbled on this list from Inc.com on a few things that you should do as a new startup company. I personally feel a good number of these items are a must do and not everything here is compulsory but setting up transactional emails is a must!

Enjoy the post below and follow the link to the original post at the bottom for more interesting content.

 

I asked a number of entrepreneurs and experts for the essential things every new start-up must do to establish its Web presence. Here’s the digital to-do list they came up with:

1. Register the domain.
If you’ve seen the GoDaddy.com commercials, you know you shouldn’t wait long to register a domain. Someone might swoop in and steal the perfect dotcom. Just about every expert listed this first, knowing the domain is one of the easiest things to do, but also the one that can get you into a bind if you don’t get the one you want.

2. Create your LinkedIn company page.
You may already have a personal page on LinkedIn, but you’ll also want a LinkedIn company page. Start-up coach Anna Colibri says a company page lets you use a corporate logo on your resume. Bonus points if you add tons of links to your company page–to your own profile, to your company site, and to other social nets.

3. Google-ize.
It’s critical to start using Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools right away. Serial entrepreneur Ryan Alovis, the CEO and founder of interactive agency ArkNet Media, says these tools form the foundation of online marketing. You can analyze your new domain for traffic, SEO, bounce rates (how long someone sticks around), and much more.

4. Claim your Google+ business page.
Speaking of Google, you’ll also want to create a Google+ business page. You’ll get exposure on this more technically minded social network, but more importantly your customers will see a well-organized summary of your company (one you control) at the top of search results.

5. Round out your social networking.
For a new business, experts say LinkedIn is critical (it connects you with other businesses) and Google+ helps with search engine optimization. You’ll also want to establish your company on Facebook and Twitter. One trick I tell people: Go to Klout.com and register for all of the accounts they list, including Instagram and Foursquare.

6. Fill out local citations.
You not only own a company, you own an address. Jennifer Stagner, who does SEO for office supplier Tops, says you should always use the same format, spelling, and syntax for your physical address (e.g., 101 Main Street not Main St). Claim your citations at Yelp, Google Places, UrbanSpoon, and other local search sites. She says you can also use a local search service like Whitespark or Yext to speed up the process.

7. Start using MailChimp.
Most experts specifically called out MailChimp, the e-newsletter and mass email distribution service, as a critical step. For starters, Stagner says MailChimp is a great way to manage contacts and keeps your company compliant with spam laws. You’ll also start out with a professional image for email blasts and can track the success of these campaigns.

8. Pick an anti-virus tool.
Sure, it might seem boring–why would a hacker come after your new company anyway? But tools for protecting against malware and viruses such as the ones from companies like McAfee and Symantec are important right from the get-go (especially since some spambots check for recently registered domains). Sameep Shah, who runs a Web design company, says it’s also important to make sure your anti-virus software is always running the latest signature files and is installed on all computers.

9. Start blogging.
An extra step that could help with marketing? Yes, but early on it serves other useful purposes. Colibri says blogging is critical for search engine optimization and generating buzz. You claim your authority on a topic and add credibility to your presence on the Web. But the best reason is to create links back to that domain you registered.

10. Choose how to collaborate.
In-person collaboration is easy: Just walk over to the desk of an employee. For a distributed company with remote workers, or to connect better with customers and partners, you’ll need to pick a collaborative online environment. Michelle Lam, co-founder of RecoverORS, recommends tools like Teambox, Teamlab, and Basecamp. They help you keep up on overall company progress so you don’t rely only on email.

11. Install a router.
Some small companies can get by without a router, but not for long. Many new laptops like the Chromebook Pixel do offer a built-in 4G connection, but you’ll want to start thinking about network storage in the office, connecting a printer, and sharing files. The latest models like the NETGEAR R6300 use a wireless standard called 802.11ac, which runs at a speedy 1750Mbps. (Keep in mind that connected gadgets might not run at that speed… yet.)

12. Choose a cloud storage provider.
This is a tough one, because there are so many options. I’ve been testing a business-oriented storage service called Soonr, which is geared more for teams. Dropbox, Google Cloud Storage, and Carbonite are also good options. Shah says one of the key benefits to a cloud storage service, other than the easy remote access, is low-cost disaster recovery.

13. Think like a SurveyMonkey.
Several experts also called out SurveyMonkey.com as a critical tool for any new company. The site lets you create questionnaires you can send out to customers. But the reason this step is important is to create a feedback loop. By asking for feedback from customers, you can keep innovating and change direction as needed. Surveys also serve a different purpose: They’re a marketing tool. You can even ask current customers for referrals.

14. Get a virtual phone number.
You’ll need a way for people to contact you beyond email. In lieu of a cell phone or a business line, consider a virtual phone number from companies like RingCentral or Twilio. Mikhail Malamud, who started a cloud auditing company called CloudAware, says these services offer advanced call routing features and can provide a 1-800 number.

15. Choose your SEO keywords.
Early on, you’ll want to start thinking about SEO keywords–the search terms people will use to find your new business. You’ll add these to your site when you get one developed, and you might use them if you start buying Google ads. Kelsey McBride, a PR representative, says you should think about SEO before you pick your company name. She recently started a new company called Book Publicity Services because it is so Google-friendly.

16. Make YouTube videos.
Malamud also mentioned that a critical first step is to make YouTube videos, because these can help explain your company to the uninitiated and generate site traffic. (I know of one friend who generated almost all of his initial sales from a YouTube video.) Google, who owns YouTube, will analyze and associate your video keywords with your new company domain, helping people find your new company.

17. Create a back-up system.
Even if you do most of your business online or use cloud services, you’ll probably end up with some local files storage. Most of the experts said a back-up system–even if it is a simple USB thumbdrive or an external disk connected to your mac–is critical as a first step. I also like the Pogoplug for cloud back-ups.

18. Go online for CRM.
Choosing a Customer Relationship Management tool like Salesforce.com is a critical first step, even though it may not seem like a critical item for a tech to-do list. Most of the experts said CRM is a business process that has become more technical than ever. You’ll need to pick a tool that can communicate with the other services you use, like MailChimp. And, if you choose an open source tool like SugarCRM, you might need to hire a programmer to help.

19. Pick an email platform.
Before you click “activate” on your new company, you’ll need to pick a real email platform–unless you plan to stick with Gmail. Outlook.com is one good option, since it doesn’t have as many ads. But a full-on business email platform like BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 or Microsoft Exchange online provide admin tools, password resets, and better security.

20. Create a way to accept payments.
Oh, and one last technical step: People will need a way to pay you. You can sign up for a service like PayPal.com or use one of those nifty iPad credit card scanners like Square. Make sure whatever service you use fits in with your overall gameplan for tech. For example, if you use Square, make sure it will work on the tablets you’re using.

via Inc.com.

Policy Rambling – Needed Change for Growth in Nigeria’s Technology Startups

I have had to spend some time thinking about the steep path most technology startups in Nigeria are faced with.

Base don this conjecture I believe the government has a role to play in at least one aspect. One way I think would be of immense help would come in form of well structured tax-breaks for new technology startups.

A tax break for technology and software companies for the first three years of operation could be structured so that only those companied that meet a set of requirements would be allowed to participate.

We can include the conditions below, even as I must say that this in not an exhaustive set of requirements.

Companies that would benefit from a tax-break:

  1. Must have a staff strength of not more than 4 employees.
  2. Must be in the business of technology innovation or software development.
  3. Must be willing and capable of providing verifiable information about progress and business activities.
  4. Must provide bank account statements as evidence in cases where business has not commenced.

This is just one of my quick ramblings about the technology startup landscape in Nigeria and Africa.

See this report by the Omidyar Network on accelerating entrepreneurship in Africa results from a detailed survey.

What the Heck Can We do With Our GIS?

Reading this article on the Mindsumo blog I remembered not too long ago we had engineers in Lagos aggregating GIS information for the state.

So I wonder today, where is this information and how can we (residents) leverage it or build innovative solutions that would solve some of the city’s pressing challenges?

 

Following below is an excerpt of the post:

According to the worlds greatest source of knowledge, the legendary Wikipedia, a Geographic Information System (GIS) is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data. Put a little more simply, a GIS is the merging of cartography, statistical analysis, and database technology. Put even more simply, it tells you the stuff that’s in an area, bro.

A GIS contains a record of the geographical information in an area, details on what occurs there, and can predict what the consequences of changing the geography would be. For example, engineers use a GIS before deciding to build a new road to determine if it will even have a positive impact on traffic flow in an area. One could also be used to find a suitable location for a construction project by searching for an area with 5,000 square meters of free space, soil types appropriate for the scale of the building, and within 500 meters of a road. A wide variety of information about traffic habits, elevation levels, population density and socio-economic factors can be recorded and put to use in a GIS.

The question we want answered at MindSumo is: What would you do with one? How would you build a more prosperous and industrious city using all the different types of geographical information available? Build windmills to provide power in large flat areas? Gather the largest construction projects in the areas least prone to an earthquake? Place housing at the top of hills to avoid flooding? There are infinite ways to use the vast amounts of data we are now able to gather about the areas we live in, so how will you work them to your advantage?

via The Mindsumo Blog

Building and Bootstraping a Software Company from Scratch

I have had some time working and building my own company. Short to say it has been the most interesting and also most precarious time I have ever had. Celebrate your successes, you’ll likely not remember them in dark times, so make a memory for them while they are within view.

Starting out early 2011 I had a few worries that got me struggling in my mind as to how to “just do it”.

Here is an excerpt from a couple of guys who did it without looking for huge loans and venture capital for their “brilliant” software company / idea.

“One of the great advantages as a software company is that you have a product that has a price tag. From the first days of forming the company, we would get in our cars, put our laptops in the backseat, and drive around trying to sell our idea.”Tableau’s founders were upfront when sharing their prototypes with potential clients, disclosing that the product hadn’t been tested, was missing a few basic features, and didn’t come in a shiny box. “But it did a few magical things that could really help someone,” says Chabot.

Today, I still have some of those fears that keep me from taking a bold dive into the deep blue sea of business. But that’s going to change in a few weeks as long as I consciously and diligently manage myself (not my time) with the will to “JUST DO IT”.

via Forbes.

Hooking Users In 3 Steps: An Intro to Habit Testing | Nir and Far

So I was surfing through some friends posts and saw a link to this blog that talks a lot about building your online business, and I believe these things are not taught to most fresh entrepreneurs.

We easily think our new idea is going to revolutionise the whole world, only to have our world come crashing down when we get only a few users on our new “world-changer” site.

Below is an excerpt from a post on Nir and Far.

The truly great consumer technology companies of the past 25 years have all had one thing in common: they created habits. This is what separates world-changing businesses from the rest. Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter are used daily by a high proportion of their users and their products are so compelling that many of us struggle to imagine life before they existed.But creating habits is easier said than done. Though I’ve written extensively about behaviour engineering and the importance of habits to the future of the web, few resources give entrepreneurs the tools they need to design and measure user habits. It’s not that these techniques don’t exist — in fact, they’re quite familiar to people in all the companies named above. However, to the new entrepreneur, they largely remain a mystery.I’ve learned these methods from some of the best in the business and put together an amalgamation of them that I call “Habit Testing.” It can be used by consumer web companies to build products that users not only love, but are hooked to.

 

HABIT TESTING

Habit Testing fits hand-in-glove with the build, measure, learn methodology espoused by the lean startup movement and offers a new way to make data actionable. Habit Testing helps clarify three things: 1 who your devotees are; 2 what part of your product is habit forming, if any; and 3 why those aspects of your product are habit forming.A prerequisite to Habit Testing is having some kind of product up and running. Of course, before launching even a minimal viable product, it’s a good idea to take a stab at your business model hypotheses and how your product will create user desire.Once you have a site or app live, you can begin collecting data. Habit Testing does not necessitate collecting data about everything — just the right things — so setting up the appropriate analytics is critical. In order for Habit Testing to be successful, you need to date stamp the path users take while using your site.

via Nir and Far.