customer

From Zero to Thirty Clients in Less Than 3 Months

The journey of how a solo tech founder, Arvind, cracked sales and grew his client base at Infosec Future.

 

India is world’s fastest growing startup ecosystem where 3–4 new firms are born every day. We have grown significantly in the past five years and are expected to grow 10–12% YOY for the next five years till 2020.

This boom has also led to the evolution of many service-based companies catering to the requirements of the startups.

There are around 9k Indian companies on AngelList with the “Service” tag.(Its shocking right?)

Angel List

Angel List

Credits: AngelList

On top of this, you will find every second person calling him a freelancer these days. (The power of social media)

It has become very difficult for a company to differentiate and standout in this highly competitive marketplace.

Read through this interview to know:

“How Arvind found his niche, differentiated in the marketplace and cracked sales being from a technical background.”

This is the second interview of the series “PushInterview: Interviews that helps you Pushstart” powered by Pushstart.

Check out our first interview “How I built one of the most active startup community of India” if you missed it out.

Who are you?

My name is Dr. Arvind K. Singh, and I am an information security researcher, speaker, and consultant.

I did masters in Computer Science from IIT-Patna and pursued Ph.D. in Information Assurance and Security from Colorado Technical University-USA.

From the past 3 months, I have been working on building Infosec Future Pvt Ltd — a company providing complete cybersecurity services specifically designed for startups and SMEs.

Since our launch in August 2017, we’ve grown our client base from zero to thirty.

2. What’s the deal with Infosec Future?

Well, the deal is in its name. The most valuable asset at present is “Information”. It is the information, which holds our future.

Information stored in digital form, is accessible from anywhere in this world just by the click of a button. It is its security which matters the most to secure our future.

We, at Infosec Future, are trying to secure the future of our society, by securing information.

Our services include annual security audits, penetration testing, threat modeling, readiness awareness, application testing, software development life cycle security integration, security code review, and more.

3. What motivated you to start Infosec Future?

When I came back to India in March 2017, I was astonished by the scale at which data and processes were getting digitized. Digital India, a mission started in the year 2015, had turned into a revolution.

But no one was aware of the threat it possessed. The threat to information security.

A few months back, Aadhar card (unique and universal identity card for the citizens of India) data was hacked by a person in less than 6 hours.

Our whole economy can be shutdown, just at the click of a button, from practically anywhere in this world.

Two factors which play a vital role:

  1. Lack of awareness and resources.
  2. The high cost of security.

Being an entrepreneur myself, (I started a company called CyberInjection in the USA in Nov-2014, which was later acquired by Federal Government in mid-2016), I knew that startups are always tight on their budget.

With this domain being untouched by the leaders in cyber security, I saw an opportunity here to provide affordable cyber security. And this is how, the journey of Infosec Future Began.

4. What all went into building the MVP?

“Idea validation is the most important step in a service-based startup where MVP is the founder.”

For the month of May and June, I was out there meeting entrepreneurs, discussing about their startups, trying to figure out:

  1. What challenges are they facing in terms of information security?
  2. How are they handling it currently?
  3. What are their future plans?

I would tell them about my idea and offer my experience and expertise. I personally went to 13 meet-ups, in 7 cities, and met hundreds of Entrepreneurs.

Meeting and interacting with entrepreneurs greatly helped me identify the core problem and develop an enormous amount of market insights. Some of them were:

  1. Almost one-tenth of the entrepreneurs I met, had already faced attacks or have been a victim of hacking in the past.
  2. Half of them were completely aware of the risk but couldn’t proceed due to the high cost.
  3. While rest of them were not even aware.

After processing the insights and doing my homework, it was time to validate my idea. So, I reached out to people, on LinkedIn and Facebook (I personally don’t use any other Social media platform except these two), and introduced them to my idea.

As I knew that startups are always tight on their budget and security is an ongoing process, I kept the offering to be low-cost subscription based.

I got such an overwhelming response from the community that I instantly registered Infosec Future. Getting Startup India recognition within 72 hours of registration further bolstered my belief.

This was when, I realized that we have built our MVP, and it was time to go live, go practical, and go after securing the startup ecosystem.

5. How did you get your initial clients and how did it grow?

I am a complete techie and I had no idea about sales and marketing when I was starting out. So, I took the most logical step of feeding on social channels to get the initial clients.

There are tons of startup communities out there on Facebook. Become part of them and connect with your target audience.

would start the conversation by talking about their startup and giving ample amount of time to express themselves.

“People like talking about themselves, it is human psychology. Just give them what they like.”

And then, it was always the other person who would ask about me and my startup. Since I had patiently listened to their idea, they would happily give me time, and thus, none of my conversations went into vain.

We either ended up signing a MoU or becoming friends. Either way, my network was increasing day by day. I got the first few clients even when I didn’t have a proper website.

In September, when we started our operations as a team, this cold-reach out helped us get 10 clients in the very first month. By mid-October, we had on-boarded 20 clients.

The thing which has helped us grow rapidly is our unconventional approach of starting a two-way interaction and genuine conversations rather than up-selling.

The strategy we implemented was simple yet effective :

  1. Start the conversation by talking about their idea.
  2. Listen to them patiently and provide your valuable feedback. Tell them what you like about their initiative.
  3. Try to figure out the core problems that they are facing currently.
  4. Never sell directly, rather try educating them about the depth of the problem.
  5. And then offer your experience and expertise as the solution.

Some screenshots to make things more understandable:

How I usually start a conversation:

How I usually start a conversation

How I usually break the first barrier to a fruitful introduction:

How I usually break the first barrier of a fruitful introduction

Do note that this strategy worked well for us because our product was unique, affordable and solved a core problem.”

6. What is your business model and how have you grown your revenue?

Our business model is similar to any other company catering in the service industry which is to deliver satisfactory services to the client in return for a monthly or annual fee.

We provide an annual subscription for our security packages targeting different segments in various industries.

Our package starts with securing a single website to a whole network of websites, which grants us the opportunity to work with a startup throughout their growth journey.

Growth in revenue till now has been largely dependent upon the growth in our client base.

“Our unique and affordable offering, core-problem solving service, and an unconventional approach to on-boarding clients have helped us in growing our client base and thus the revenue.”

How our revenue has grown in the last 3 months:

August: Rs 9000

September: Rs 27000

October: Rs 84000

7. What are your future goals and how do you plan to achieve them?

Our long-term goal is to secure data of every startup and SME of India and capture 50% of the market share in the next 5 years.

The immediate short-term goal is to secure data of 2000 Indian startups and SMEs by the end of 2018.

We have opted for balanced outbound and inbound strategy with upfront value to the market by quality content and free reports to achieve this.

Further on the product front, we are in the process of automating the complete process of the security audit, job allocation to teams, and report generation for various tests. Currently, this is in its prototype stage and will hopefully launch in the first quarter of 2018.

We are also building a free security audit tool, which will be embedded on our website, so that people can check the basic security details of their website, without even interacting with us. This will help us in capturing precise leads at scale.

Growing average revenue per client is also one of our major goals.

“For growing revenue especially in the service industry: It is all about maintaining healthy retention, as acquiring a new customer is comparatively costlier than retaining the current one.”

Therefore, to grow retention for Infosec Future, we have laid down a separate client servicing strategy which even includes remembering our clients’ birthday and we soon will be hiring relationship managers for the same.

8. The biggest challenges you have faced till now and how did you cope with them?

The first challenge I faced was to get a decent website developed for Infosec Future. I worked with two freelancers and an agency for three months, but nothing really kicked-off. I was not at all satisfied with their work.

In the end, I decided to work on my website. I designed a good looking website in just 2 days with the help of WordPress.

“If you can’t find a person with the required skill, learn that skill and become that person.”

The biggest challenge I have faced till now is to onboard quality like-minded folks in my team. Sadly, the first three people I employed, left within the first month of joining. I coped with this challenge by hiring interns for every function of my company.

My background and profile have helped me in hiring interns from some of the top Business Schools in India. You will be shocked to know that I am currently working with 27 interns and it is somehow working out for me.

Team @ Infosec Future:

Team @ Infosec Future

9. What is your advice to Pushstarters starting out?

“Focus on giving rather than taking. Give all you have to offer to your clients, without expecting anything in return. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.”

Don’t go around hunting for clients, rather build a strong network of friends.

Innovation is about “How you do things rather than What you do”. Being an entrepreneur, you are the biggest innovation. Believe in yourself, things will fall into place eventually.

10. How can we reach out to you?

You can visit infosecfuture.com to learn more about us.

Connect with guest blogger on LinkedInFacebookEmail or Skype if you want to geek out about startups.

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3 Effective Methods to Get Customer Referrals

“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.” — Mark Zuckerberg, CEO

A customer referral is one of the best signs of success. It’s what fuels many entrepreneurs.

Customer referral is a fancy way of saying “word of mouth.” It is the oldest form of marketing and it is still the most powerful. This why startups need to pay attention! Every good marketer understands that people have busy schedules and sometimes they just need a gentle reminder (or trigger) to give you that golden referral your business needs.

The power of customer referrals

Here are three easy and effective methods about when and how to ask for customer referrals.

Method #1

When: During customer discovery interviews

Even early stage startups can use the referrals they get from Day 1. After you survey about your target audience’s pain and benefit, see if they have other friends/colleagues that are in a similar. Remember to take every opportunity to expand your customer base early on!

Leave no stone unturned

Method #2

When: After closing a happy customer

Take advantage of that rush or good feeling that the customer has after you have closed that deal/provided them value. For example, when our startup users went through our platform and closed their first Seed round with the help with of VenturX, we took that opportunity to get customer testimonial and ask for referrals. One founder said that his experience was easy and efficient for him so that is a good time to ask for recommendations. Beware, though: this is momentary. It will fade fast in today’s noisy world; also be watching for those opportunity moments. Timing is key.

Method #3

Referral link on website/application

For some industries, referral links on your company website or mobile application is second nature. Successful companies such as Groupon or Uber expands their network by five-fold just by:

  1. making it easy to refer people
  2. giving users an incentive to refer people (ie. Uber credit)

The less the effort and the better the incentive, the more effective this method would be.

Invite a friend

*Customer referrals are among the best things you can do for your business. At VenturX, we consider it a bonus factor in our “engagement metric” for startups; so the more referrals they get, the better their overall engagement becomes and the closer they are to entrepreneurial success.

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How do Startups Keep Customers Loyal?

Startups can find it hard to build their product and keep customers loyal at the same time! While studying the startup industry across the country, we have noticed that one thing is always true… customer loyalty remains a key part of any startup’s success. There are many techniques for building customer loyalty, but we are going for focus on the three most effective ones that every startup should use.

Customer Loyalty

There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer.” — Shep Hyken

Tip #1: Hold feedback sessions with customers (on a regular basis)

How:

  1. Keep track of who you talked to during customer discovery and market research, especially those who are interested in your solution.
  2. Contact them individually for feedback sessions (that way, you know you have their undivided attention during those moments).
  3. Schedule a meeting online, in person, on the phone, etc..
  4. You can even offer to buy them a coffee or beer for their input.

Benefits:

  1. They know how much you care about their opinion.
  2. They feel they had a say in building the product with you so they feel connected and familiar with it.
  3. It brightens the sense of product disposition and awareness in the customer’s mind. You remind them of your solution and benefits. Each feedback session is another opportunity to market to them.
  4. Customers get the VIP experience of seeing their ideas come to life.
Customer feedback

Tip #2: Create the waitlist of future customers

How:

  1. Start early!
  2. Some startups may not be ready to sell right away but you can still create that waitlist of people who are ready to buy when your solution is ready.

Benefits:

  1. Organizing a simple waitlist will save you a lot of time in the long run when your product is actually ready to sell. You don’t have to go back and rumble through your notes to find those leads.
  2. Great for investors! If you are running a startup that has not yet generated any revenue, you need to show that potential customers are demonstrating interest. This is the best way to show early stage investors that your business is viable.
Waitlist

Tip #3: How to regular updates

How:

  1. Create a monthly newsletter to show consistency and progress to your fans. Here is a quick video on how to create a newsletter.
  2. You can create multiple segments in the newsletter. For example, VenturX has a newsletter for startups that is more product-focused, and one for investors. The newsletter for our investors gives a bigger overview of VenturX’s market penetration across the country.

Benefits:

  1. This keeps your company at the top of mind.
  2. Founders can reflect back on what was accomplished the past month and analyze what worked and what didn’t work. This reflection is often overlooked by startups.

Here is an example of our last newsletter.

VenturX newsletter example

These tips may vary from business to business. One thing that doesn’t change, though, is how important customers are. Loyalty is something that takes years to build and minutes to destroy. Like any relationship, it takes a effort but with these 3 tips you’ll be better equipped to tackle this business challenge! And trust me, the relationship you have with your customers is definitely worth every ounce of effort — and then some.

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Founder Spotlight: Jennifer Chan (Preview Careers) – #1 Career Platform for Students

Founder Spotlight: Jennifer Chan (Preview Careers) – #1 Career Platform for Students

This week, I had the lucky opportunity to follow and engage with a Vancouver-based entrepreneur who is a true Lead by Example type! Jennifer Chan, Co-Founder of Preview Careers opens the door into her startup world!

Jennifer Chan, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Preview Careers

Jennifer Chan, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Preview Careers

I knew that this startup was definitely someone to watch out for when she scored over 140+ personal customer discovery interviews in a matter of DAYS with just 3 people hustling like warriors; these are results that other entrepreneurs take a year to accomplish. Preview Careers’ passion is predicated by their actions and their impact. There is no doubt Jennifer Chan was the perfect choice to highlight as someone who truly stands out! Not only did we get to see the next big thing being built, but we also got a lot of great startup tips from Jennifer Chan that you can check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmpTxB8ZsSg&list=PLCZnT5ANSu9ZxOGg-dcyc9sqYXFWaw7eC

Preview Careers is the second product to come out of Appfabriqa, the parent company. Being education focused, Preview Careers took their mission back on campus. Jennifer took the bright initiative to personally survey students on campus one on one to understand their pain points when it comes to careers. She quickly built out a sign up page on Wix and starting building out features that the users wanted.

Jennifer’s customer-focused attitude is something that came from her previous startup experience and drove much of how the startup was run. It was a major influence on hiring decisions, product features, task management, etc..

What does a typical week look like for this founder?

She works from 9am-9pm consistently. (It’s pretty impressive!)

Preview Careers’ scores on VenturX’s Entrepreneurship Tool

Preview Careers’ scores on VenturX’s Entrepreneurship Tool

Mornings:

· Starts work at 9AM

· Design creative assets for marketing content in order to acquire new student users

· Send emails and update her team

Afternoons:

· Track user sign ups and send them over to product manager

· Customer research via online forums, social media, feedback from users to further identify the pain points and analyze in depth research of this market

· Attend afternoon meetings: check out new office space, interview new brand ambassador for student user recruiting at UBC, etc..

· Film mentor videos for website all around Vancouver

Evenings:

· Review marketing content from Marketing Intern

· 9PM meetings with her international team

What is Preview Careers?

The PREVIEW mission is to help driven, ambitious, young people explore and discover which career paths will lead them to doing work they love. PREVIEW believes that one of the key ways to exploring the career opportunities that exist, understanding the competitive landscape of the job market, and knowing the nuances of specific roles/titles is through connecting with mentors/advisors that can share their experiences, insight, and wisdom.

www.previewcareers.com

www.previewcareers.com

What is the next big milestone?

The next milestone is preparing for Back to School! If you are a university student in Vancouver, check out Preview’s student activities and giveaways on campus coming September 2017! Don’t miss out! Sign up today at www.previewcareers.com!

Get connected to your next mentor!

Preview Mentors

Preview Mentors

That is all for today! If you are a student or mentor and have questions for Preview Careers, we added her contact info at the bottom!

Contact info: Jennifer Chan

Email: Jennifer@appfabriqa.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenchanbarnes/

Website: https://www.previewcareers.com

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Success Doesn’t Just Happen, It’s Planned For!

Success Doesn’t Just Happen, It’s Planned For!

Success Doesn’t Just Happen, It’s Planned For!

Startups plan and plan and plan…but where does it all go?

We wanted to find out how many startups like to draw out plans so we sent out a survey across Canada and the US to 175 startups. A whopping 68% of startups still like to use Post Its and visually draw it out. Nowadays, we have so many amazing business tool that we can use to make sure that your plan is:

  1. Improving your metrics (ie. conversion, engagement, etc..)
  2. Thorough (so not a single note gets lost)
  3. Visual (65% of people are visual learners according to Forbes Magazine Article — https://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2013/01/08/what-is-an-infographic-and-ways-to-make-it-go-viral/#6452cd047272)

So check out how your startup is planning for your success!

Old and New Ways to Build Your Strategic Plan

Old and New Ways to Build Your Strategic Plan

For more ways to make sure you are planning SMART, check out this great read: http://blog.venturx.ca/2017/08/23/smart-startup-goals/

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this article,

Say Hello On: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube | LinkedIn

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4 Reasons Why Startups Should Take Advantage of Business Intelligence

4 Reasons Why Startups Should Take Advantage of Business Intelligence

What is Business Intelligence?

Since starting my customer discovery, I have noticed that a lot of startups do not track their metrics. I don’t just mean the metrics that VenturX focuses on (Product Market Fit, Real-time Runway, Conversion, and Engagement); I mean most startups do not look at any metrics on a weekly basis. At first, I thought it was because some people may be less analytical types than others. But one day, a startup finally told me the answer.

I don’t have enough data to track! [It is not reflective of my business.]” — Local Montreal Startup

What do we mean by data?

Data is a collection of facts and quantities used for analysis. In this case, we mean tracking your customer interviews and meetings, revenues and expenses, industry metrics, how many customers signed up this week, how many customers are retained, etc.. All data is good data as long as it is tracked accurately and updated regularly. Business intelligence is the process of analyzing data to make business decisions. 

1. I don’t have enough data to input!

Quality over quantity. Keep in mind that 2 early adopters who love your product is far better than 100 surveyed people who are only so-so about it. Those 2 that really felt the problem your startup is trying to solve should definitely be tracked.

What to do next: Investors want to see how much you have evolved over time. Tracking early is the only way to show improvement!

2. I am too busy to input my data

Time is Money! If you don’t start tracking from the very beginning, you might end up losing running into dead ends without even knowing it!

What to do next: Spend 10 mins/day to track your data with VenturX and save yourself months of pursuing the wrong path. Almost all startups who ignore data tracking don’t see how much time is wasted. It is just a way for founders to be very conscious of where they invest their time and money.

Time is money

3. I won’t want investors to see my metrics

Investors do want to see that startups are using business tools to monitor their customers, finances, teams, and project. Not only do you need to have intimate knowledge about how well your startups is doing but you also have to be able to prove it. There is nothing better than seeing a visual of how your business is doing. Investors are keen on data driven results and decisions which is a great habit to form for all startups. Don’t worry if your progress at that stage looks bad, the improvement is the most important part. If you only track when you are rising, it doesn’t look like you improved by very much. You need to show how much you have learned.

“It is not about how much you fall, it is about how quickly you get back up.” — Barbara Cocoran

What to do next: Sign up today www.venturx.ca to get into the good graces of VenturX’s list of investors.

4. It is not reflective of my business

Business intelligence focuses on the business as a whole, not just one particular part. The business includes customers and users, finance, product,etc.. Some founders are technical product managers while others have team management skills. All founders need to be focused on the overall well being of the business, not just the parts they are comfortable with. This is a big reason why some founders feel discomfort when seeing that their metrics are low regarding some parts of their business. The good news is that modern business tools also come with hints on how to improve on weaker parts of the business!

VenturX Startup Dashboard with Hints

What to do next: Make sure to use a credible and well-rounded tool like VenturX to get the most benefit!

The bottom line is why wouldn’t startups want to use every resource in their toolbox including tracking their data to make smart decisions? Corporations have been using business intelligence with all their C-level executives forever so wouldn’t startups want to model after those best practices?

VenturX is a startup success tracker that focuses on early stage startups who want an operational view of their Product Market Fit, Conversion, Real-Time Runway, and Engagement. Its unique SMART scoring mechanism will provide hints and daily SMS notifications when you reach danger zones in your scores to help you quickly improve. As an added value, you can also submit your metrics and application directly to Seed and Series A investors on the platform with just one click! For more info, go to www.venturx.ca

Why Venturx? In comparison to corporate business tools that are not customized for startups, this is is only a fraction of the price. So this is a very affordable tool with credible value, real time metrics, and even connect to investors who favour analytics and metrics at the startup stage.

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VenturX is for ALL early stages of Entrepreneurship

VenturX is for ALL early stages of Entrepreneurship

Did you know that 90% of startups fail in their first year? VenturX’s goal is to help early stage entrepreneurs beat the odds! VenturX uses benchmarks and metrics from granters and investors across Canada to help guide startups with a SaaS tool. There are different types of “Early Stage” Entrepreneurship broken down as follows. Let us show you how we can help!

 

1. How VenturX helps in the Idea Creation Stage:

Definition:

· You have thought of a name and what you want to build or maybe a couple of ideas of different potential startups

· You may have recruited interested co-founders

· You may even have business cards!

· You haven’t talked to potential customers in your target market and haven’t invested a lot of time and money yet.

Are you ready for VenturX? YES!

How VenturX can Help:

· VenturX can help you test out your early ideas! Check out this article for 4 MUST-DO steps while in the Idea Creation stage: https://medium.com/@VenturX_team/how-to-survey-for-product-market-fit-in-24-hours-2f79571ea5d4

2. How VenturX helps in the “Pre-Revenue” Stage

Definition:

· You are passionate about the idea and don’t know all the opportunities that are out there

· You don’t have any sales yet (sometimes said as no revenue yet)

· You might be busy building out your product or having a hard time finding those early adopters

Are you ready for VenturX? YES!

How VenturX can Help You Save Time:

· We help you prioritize which new features to build

· We track your early adopters’ pain points

· We free you up to work the other things on your plate!

· VenturX provides industry benchmarks to guide you along the path of success and increase your chances of earning trevenue!

3. How VenturX helps in the Funding Stage (Seed Round or Series A)

snoopy

Definition:

· You are trying to gain funding from investors

Are you ready for VenturX? YES!

VenturX Entrepreneur Dashboard gives real time Runway

How VenturX can Help:

· We calculate your runway time so you know how much money and time you have to get funding and make that first sale!

· Gives you benchmarks and requirements for funding to best prepare you for success for investor presentations

4. How VenturX helps in the Ramen Profit Stage

ramen profitDefinition:

· You make just enough money to eat Ramen Noodles every day

· Officially launched startup but want more customers

· Already have your early adopters on board

Are you ready for VenturX? YES!

How VenturX can Help:

· Score test results from your market for early majority customers

·After helping you identify early adopters, VenturX guides you to your next target. you don’t want to waste too much money investing in the wrong market. We are here to help!

5. How VenturX helps in the Late Funding Stage (Series B-D)

Product Adoption Lifecycle

Product Adoption Lifecycle

Definition:

· You have closed Series A and are looking into more funding

· You are focusing on your innovative R&D and scaling your growth

Are you ready for VenturX? YES

 

How VenturX can Help:

·You can still use VenturX to test out new product extensions to make sure you are not cannibalizing your own market

“The reality is the Lean Startup method is not about cost, it is about speed. Lean startups waste less money, because they don’t use a disciplined approach to testing new products and ideas.” — Eric Ries, American entrepreneur, blogger and author of The Lean Startup, a book on the lean startup movement.

Let VenturX help you accelerate your startup today. Sign up @ www.venturx.ca

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What is the difference between VenturX and HockeyStick and LaunchPad?

What is the difference between VenturX and HockeyStick and LaunchPad?

VenturX is a startup success tool that tracks and benchmarks startups across all industries until they are ready to be connected to funding. VenturX leverages data to optimize the entrepreneurial journey.

We have made a helpful chart to help us demonstrate!

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3 Startup Mistakes: What do young startups focus on besides their metrics?

3 Startup Mistakes: What do young startups focus on besides their metrics?

Early Stage Founders have a massive amount of things to do. As they progress in their startup, their days feel shorter and shorter. I found that a lot of them put a surprising amount of effort into things in the medium and long term instead of focusing on the now. When I ask them about what metrics they are currently looking at, what is important to them, etc.. it is surprising the range of answers they gave.

This article will go through some of the most common 3 examples of early stage startup mistakes and how focusing on their metrics can bring them back to reality. Keep in mind that we are just focusing on early stage startups who have recently started building their new business.

1) Not enough DOING!

People will always recommend you to read this startup book or learn the newest marketing tactics to “hack” your way to the top.
This is not to discourage you from learning but your experience through your actions will dictate how much you will learn more than any amount of reading can. Someone else’s best practice for marketing strategy, channel distribution, and business negotiation may not be yours. Since every business is so unique, you will never know what your best practice is until you go out there and try it out for your business.

“Ambition is predicated on your actions.” —Gary Vaynerchuk, Entrepreneur, Host of AskGaryVee Show

ACTION ITEM: Set aside one or two day as week to reading/researching/ etc.. and commit the other days to actually putting it into practice. (I can tell you from experience that if you are reading a startup book, you don’t have to finish the whole book to start practicing.)
I personally love learning about social media marketing, as it is an extension to my online marketing background. I usually take Saturdays to learn new things. To reach our target audience of startup companies, I actively try out every social channel to see where our audience is most engaged and active. I execute educational videos, live stream, and blogs on Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Medium. On a daily basis, I track to see which channels perform the best in order to decide where to invest our future marketing investment.

2) Focusing too far ahead

Founders are getting pulled in every direction these days due to many sources of influence whether that be from buzz going on at startup events, feedback from friends and family, or referrals to potential partnerships or “you know who would be great for you to talk to?” I bet you can think of some examples!

It is unwise to focus your energy on partnerships for medium-long term instead of focusing on upcoming pilot project or trial. Example: Don’t wait to hire the perfect person to help run your pilot project or beta test instead of dong it yourself. You can learn so much more from that experience.

I admit that for myself, I fell into spirals at times but one thing that kept me focused on which partnerships to pursue now, which recommendation to follow and where to allocate those precious 24 hours, were my Lean Analytics Metrics! (See diagram below.)

ACTION ITEM: Mark future tasks for 1–3 months from now. If you can quickly identify tasks or budding partnerships that should be implemented in a month then set that in your calendar to start 1 month from now. You don’t have to do everything at once and become overwhelmed because there are too many things in your plate. When these things start to pile on, a plate of opportunities can easily start to look like a plate of distractions. A practical thing to do is to pace yourself. If there is a new resource or future channel to explore, then put it off until you have completed what is important now such as making your first pilot project a huge success!

3) Avoiding Customers

“Sales cures all” — Mark Cuban, ABC’s Shark Tank, Investor, Entrepreneur

How can startups get that cure if their customers are not the forefront of their attention?

Avoiding customers can be classified into two ways:
a) Customer Discovery: Some early stage entrepreneurs go through cycles of procrastination before doing any kind of market research or product market fit surveying. Many first time startups will explain how they feel their product is not ready to show or they fear competition.

ACTION ITEM: To learn how to survey for product market fit in 24 hours, refer to this article: https://medium.com/@VenturX_team/how-to-survey-for-product-market-fit-in-24-hours-2f79571ea5d4
(It will guide you through all the basic steps with concrete examples.) If you want a template of survey questions, send me an email and I can send you one!

b) Ignore incoming customers to get product feedback and iterate
As human beings, we do things we want to do and not the things we are supposed to do. If it easier to for some to work creating a nice website rather than get feedback from their customers, you bet they will mainly put their efforts into option #1.

ACTION ITEM: Schedule appointments with your customers to get feedback on a regularly basis. Try to schedule them in advance. Even if you have new distractions such as startup events, hiring new team members, etc..you will ensure that your regular meetings will make sure that you are always in touch with your customers and you are not avoiding them.
To get startup feedback for VenturX’s product releases, I schedule Skype calls every 3 weeks with startup friends to show them the revamp and get their feedback. I also contact 1 startup about his VenturX Metrics every single afternoon between 2pm-4pm. He said he preferred SMS notifications. To show love, I send those individual daily reports from my phone.

What Metrics Should I Concentrate on?

That is a great question. One that I believe was well written in the book

“ Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster” — Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz

They explain that startups should focus on mainly one metric at a time and it would be dependent on your type of startup and what stage you are in. Here is a comprehensive chart from the book:

lean analytics

Lean Analytics Book: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster

Did you find out what stage you are in?

Great!

Can you see which metric is the most important?

Excellent job!

Now you can reverse-engineer the formula to get rid of those 3 startup mistakes for early stage entrepreneurs!

Keep in mind that even though this article was mainly from our observations with early stage, first time entrepreneurs, there may still be more information to come! There may also be more than 1 metric that will yield a red flag such as low product market fit and finances.

As someone who studies startups, I wanted to share with you my learnings about this fascinating industry. I hope that with this simple guide, your early stages in your company will go much smoother! If you have any questions about your metrics, send me an email at sydney.wong@venturx.ca and let’s take a look together!

 

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How to Survey for Product Market Fit in 24 hours

With all the buzzwords surrounding entrepreneurship like venture capital, acceleration, growth hacking, etc., there is always one phrase that stumps most entrepreneurs in their track! PRODUCT MARKET FIT!

This topic was fascinating to me to the point where I have been researching it since 2016 and built a startup tool to measure it. That was how VenturX was created, a startup that focuses on leveraging data to help early stage startups get from product market fit to funding. We focus on the most important KPIs for young companies such as product market fit.

At VenturX, we’re creating tools to help early-stage startups succeed; the first thing we always suggest is assessing the product-market fit. Not only is it the number one reason why startups fail (according to a report by CBInsights), but also the hardest to achieve because it can seem daunting to collect all the data in order to prove that their idea addresses a real need. The initial assessment of product market fit doesn’t necessarily require huge amounts of time or money. In this post, we’ll lay out four straightforward steps that you can follow to get a solid first look at how well your idea fits a market need.

top 20 reasons startups fail

What exactly is product market fit?

“Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.” — Marc Andreessen, Entrepreneur & Co-founder of Silicon Valley Venture Capital Firm (Source: http://web.stanford.edu/class/ee204/ProductMarketFit.html)

4 steps for assessing product-market fit

1. Determine Your Target Audience

If you don’t know where to start, ask yourself who are you selling to and who needs your product/service?

From researching entrepreneurs for the past year, I learned that the hardest step is surveying those first 5 customers. To do it in 24 hours, can you find an event or location where your target audience happens to be? Remember you are doing research and not selling to them.

Example: For VenturX, part of my target audience is venture capital investors. I knew that they could often be found at startup competitions where they serve as judges. I knew that attending an event like this would be ideal to get the most amount of research done in 24 hours.

“If you can do 5 [customer interviews], you can do 35” — Robert Bennett, Viatec Accelerator

Tip: Not everyone likes talking to strangers, so why not bring a friend who LOVES it!! If you are in Montreal, send me a message or comment below and I’ll take the first 5 people to go surveying for their startups!

2. Ask the Right Questions

I asked multiple startups how they were currently researching product market fit and they all told me they input information into a spreadsheet and never used it again. Their issue was that they were collecting only qualitative information and had no way of comparing answers. If they had quantitative information, they would be able to compare the target market’s level of pain and benefit.

The solution? Rather than asking purely open-ended questions like “What do you think of this idea?” get them to describe the pain your idea addresses and the benefit it provides and asks participants to rate them on a numerical scale. Here’s an example of how your survey might look. If you’d like a copy of the survey, shoot an email to sydney.wong@venturx.ca with the subject line “Product Market Fit Survey” and I’ll send it your way.

Example of Pain: Startups who are not ready for funding take up a lot of the investors’ time with everything from initial pitches to due diligence and follow-ups. Investors often end up telling these startups to keep in touch, that it is not a good fit at this time, or to come back later.

Example of Benefit: What if you had a solution that would replace your current application process and cut your due diligence in half? You would see the best startups who have reached their product market fit level and score higher than their industry benchmarks.

TIP: Always ask about the pain before the benefit. If you only talk about your solution, it is no longer research, but rather a sales pitch!

TIP: If you are unsure of your pain and benefit statements and only have limited time at one event to get all those responses, then bring two different pain and benefit statements, and compare responses to both.

3. Track Answers

Currently, most startups are manually tracking their answers on a spreadsheet. The benefit of spreadsheet tools is that it’s familiar, and you can manually create graphs from the data and present them to your team.

Another option is to use the startup tool that we’ve created at VenturX, that takes in your survey data and automatically calculates a product market fit score. It takes 30 secs to get a score like the one below! You can try it out at www.venturx.ca.

Example of my score when I interviewed Early Stage Venture Capitalists regarding their Pain and Benefit:

Find out your product market fit score @ www.venturx.ca

TIP: Do not let your target audience see other people’s answers or else it might influence their answers too.

4. Rinse and Repeat

It is normal that you do not get a lot of 9’s and 10’s on your first iteration, but the important thing is to stay consistent. Do not change your pain or benefit statement after just a few responses. (You’ll know that you are on the right track when you consistently get high scores (9’s or 10’s) when you survey.

Example: I had to narrow my target market to only early stage venture capitalists, rather than all VCs. If I expand my product with more features, I will have to rinse and repeat this process all over again with a new product market fit survey for a new audience!

Once you’ve completed these steps, take a step back and look at your results. Whether your scores are low or high, you’ve certainly achieved something. You now have a quantified score that either validates your idea or tells to you to try a different target market or tweak your angle. Either way, stay strong, motivated, and persistent, and keep on quantifying!

So there you have it! Steps on how you can quickly and efficiently get your product market fit and get a real analysis of what your market is really looking for. Product Market Fit is one of the key KPIs that VenturX helps startups track and improve on in real time. For more information about this topic or other startups KPIs, please visit www.venturx.ca

Or contact the author sydney.wong@ventux.ca

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