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How to Build Traction Starting from an MVP

How to Build Traction Starting from an MVP

A vision without traction is merely a hallucination. Cultivating and creating a successful startup is more than just offering a product or service, it’s a consistent effort of building, measuring, and learning. However, one of the most important factors to venture capitalists (VCs) is traction and measuring the potential success of your product. In regard to measuring traction for your startup, below is a list of what potential investors will value when looking for investments.

Minimal Viable Product

Let’s begin off with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This is not a beta or prototype you are launching it’s rather a product or service you make to see if there is a market for it. You are trying to learn what your users want and don’t want and minimize the amount of time you spend on creating features or aspects of the product which is not valuable. Believe it or not, many big companies we know today originated from an MVP.

Dropbox

A good example to represent this is cloud database company called “DropBox.” Their MVP product was essentially a video which showed what they wanted to do and a signup form for people who were interested in the idea and wanted to be early adopters. Almost overnight, there were over 75,000 signups all with only a 3-minute video of Dropbox and not even an actual product of the software. If you are very early in your startup, make sure there is indeed a market for your product or service using an MVP. This is a valuable aspect to present to investors if you haven’t created real customer data points yet.

Below is a list of more MVP’s which you may find very interesting and see how the actual product which has derived from this has changed.

1. Airbnb

Airbnb

Co-founders of Airbnb needed help paying their rent in San Francisco. They also noticed lots of business conferences around; hotels were very expensive in their area. They wondered if strangers would pay to live in someone else’s house for a night. They provided all the facilities and tested out their product assumption using the interface you see above. Creating a website like this especially in the type of technology we have right now would cost you couple hundred dollars max.. If you have no idea about coding then check out ShareTribe, it is great place to create a peer to peer marketplace website and they take of everything for you. You get to focus on building your customer base and they take care of everything that’s technical. Base plans start at $100 a month and this is definitely a great way to see your your product has a market fit without spending tens of thousands of dollars into something that hasn’t been validated yet. In addition to this, hiring university students in computer science is also a great cheap alternative as well.

(MVP is estimated to be $100/ month and 2–3 weeks of coding)

2.Groupon

the point

They first started off creating “the point” which was a platform for bringing people together for fundraising or boycotting a retailer. This platform failed and from this they created Groupon. They used a customized wordpress blog and didn’t invest any time in developing a coupon system or designing a new website. They just took whatever resources they had and made a MVP out of it. It definitely was not scalable but it did answer Groupon’s questions for them. To recreate this type of MVP a simple subscription to “WordPress” will work as well. Relaying information on your own customizable wordpress website is great and more importantly relatively cheap compared to investing in a dedicated server and a team maintaining the site.

3.Buffer

Buffer

What Buffer did for their MVP was create a landing page where they showed what it would do for potential users; if you were interested, you could sign up as a paying customer. If you still weren’t sure as to why you wouldn’t join, it you could still sign up for their email alerts and executives would reach out to to find out why you weren’t convinced to use the platform. Hundreds of people responded and the demand for Buffer was evident. This strategy helped give valuable feedback and find out what users really wanted out of the service. In today’s day and age creating a landing page to show potential users is very simple. The only real aspect of what is being invested is essentially your time to review and analyse what users are saying about your potential product or service.

You can use WordPress for $10–33 dollars a month and creating the static landing page will take a few days.

4.Zappos

Zappos

The founder began off by posting photos from the local shoe store and uploaded them to this website. He then checked if anyone was interested and if there was he would go to the store and buy the shoe and then sell it to the customer. Doing this overtime he found out there was indeed a need for this type of service and answered his question if his product would be accepted into the market. Only after that, he invested into infrastructure and inventory. Reselling is becoming very common in the 21st century and online commerce is almost everywhere around the world. To recreate this type of MVP it is very cheap, quick and easy. For example you can get a subscription on “Wix” for $5–10 dollars a month and use a premade template to upload photos onto your site. This process can take as little as a day. There are multiple website builders such as Wix, Shopify and SquareSpace and all with free and paid options as suited to your individual needs.

You can get this website running in 1 day and $5-$10/month on Wix

5.Twitter

Twttr

It was first used as an internal messaging system for Odeo employees and it picked up so much that the monthly bill for the messaging system went into the hundreds of dollars. They noticed the demand and prepared to take Twitter large scale and release Twitter publicly. Creating an MVP like this is more expensive than the other options available. Creating a whole messaging system for internal use requires some capital equipment which many startups may not be able to afford. However if you do have a reasonable number of assets and capital equipment then you should consider creating something for a specific group of people then expanding once you see the validation. Another way to overcome this issue is getting a developer on your team who can use today’s available tools to create a messaging system more efficiently and cheaply.

6.Zynga

Zynga

Zynga uses landing pages and adword MVP tests to direct available resources into developing projects. What this means is that they launch ads for games in existing games and if the user clicks on it and seems interested in the new game, then they would continue developing the new game and put more attention towards it. Farmville, Yoville, etc. are all games that were developed this way and based of users interests. This type of MVP is essentially placing ads whiles users are playing games or browsing through Zynga. Sending ads to your own users are virtually free but placing ads through the Google Search Engine costs about $0.58 per CPC.

Creating and launching your own ads take a few days.

7.Foursquare

Foursquare

Foursquare began with a single featured MVP which is essentially a version of the product where design and features were minimal. They started off with user check in and offering gamification rewards. Once they realized users like this they added more features and then tested those out. It was a very repetitive process but in the end it creates a product completely sculpted by users. Although it is still very pricey to outsource work in the creation of making an app as an MVP (50,000–1,000,0000) it is strongly advisable to have a experienced coder who has coded apps before. This saves on a lot of money and you make it completely customizable towards your needs. The whole app making process however takes a number of months. If you are still insistent on hiring a company to create your apps there are few who are great at that (247 Labs, Openxcell, etc.)

This MVP takes 3–4 months to build.

8.Pebble

Pebble

Pebble actually was actually able to get money from investors; however, over time, the money ran out and they needed funding to showcase their research in E Ink displays in watches. They really wanted to find out if people would be interested in a smartwatch that had an exceptional battery and could connect to your phone. They started a kickstarter which had a video explainer describing the product and reached their goal of $100,000 in 2 hours. At the end of the fundraising they had raised 10.2 million for the project and then finally they went to manufacture the product after the evident market demand. Kickstarter is a great way to really see if your product has a market fit without starting to mass produce the product. It’s free to launch on Kickstarter but there is one catch. You need to get all the funding you submitted for, if not you lose the funding you raised. In addition to this there will be a certain percentage kickstarter will take away from each successful fundraising effort. Furthermore, you need to have pictures and a live demonstration of your product in order for you to be valid for kickstarter. This whole process will take a number of days and it will be for. More specifically the Kickstarter team spends 30 hours reviewing your submission and will reply back in 2–3 business days.

If accepted, this costs $0 and 1–10 days to make the graphics/ video. (This does not include promotional campaigns.)

9.Spotify

Spotify

Spotify has a 4 step cycle when it comes to creating and testing out its MVP. “Think it, Build It, Ship it, Tweak it.” Spotify is made up of many small teams and they have many ideas, the way they get this idea validated is by first creating the MVP based off their idea. Then they release it to users very slowly and take in a mass amount of reviews from their MVP. After, they tweak the MVP based off the reviews and users’ thoughts. They used this very process to scale from bottom up. While Spotify’s MVP product was very expensive because of its strong software background, Spotify was still able to minimize costs by creating a complete roadmap of early and cheap prototypes. They only completely launched when baseline of quantity was met.

The next sign of traction I would like to focus upon is customer acquisition. How are you going to reach out to customers? What’s the cheapest way to reach them? How much customer growth have you had? Different traction channels works for a variety of startups and can cause a chain of explosive growth for your venture. A few examples of channels for traction is through targeting blogs and search engine marketing.

A) Targeting blogs is one of the most effective ways to reach out to your first wave of customers and create your presence.

  1. The first step is to find a blog which is in the similar field as your product or service and ensure there are an appropriate number of followers on that blog suited to your needs.
  2. Secondly, reach out and offer your product or service to its readership to develop and build traction. Popular startups such as Code Academy , Mint and Reddit all got their start by targeting blogs. Mint actually gained initial traction by reaching out to mid sized blogs and ensured the bloggers were a good fit for their service. The famous bloggers used to exemplify the service and showcase it while Mint gave them VIP service in return through the service. This essentially grew the customer database.
Search Engine Marketing

B) Another channel to gain traction is through “Search Engine Marketing.” This term refers to placing ads on search engines such as Google and Bing and because SEO is so broad it will be applicable to any startup. This whole SEM process works by finding high-potential keywords which leads to your website or business online. The page that a potential customer lands on is called a landing page, and this is one the most important pages on your website. Key SEM metrics to reflect upon are CTR and the CPC. CTR (Click-Through Rate) is the percentage of people who clicked on your ads compared to the amount of people who actually saw your ads. The CPC (Cost per Click) on the other hand is the amount it costs to buy a click on an advertisement. What this means is how much are you willing to pay to get a potential customer on your website.

www.ancestry.com

A good example of a company that used this method to generate traction is Inflection, this is the company behind Archives.com which was soon to be acquired by Ancestry. They spent over $100,000 a month and dedicated several employees to customer acquisition through this method. Obviously very early startups don’t have this type of resources, but Monahan’s input on SEO is that “even if you decide to send less than 5,000, do it, because you get to have an early base of customers and users and it will create a whole bunch of things that are important in terms of regular metrics.”

The harsh reality is that majority of startups fail, and investors know that, that’s why traction is very important to them and making sure there is a market for that product or service. A MVP (Minimum Viable Product is a great way to see whether or not a business opportunity exists and ensures your long run potential. There are many ways to gain traction and I have showed many examples of it from successful startups who have all taken very different routes. Ensure there is a product market fit and traction will follow. The more traction you have, the greater the chance to catch an eye of an investor and finding external investment. “Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have are enough customers”- Gabriel Weinberg (CEO/Founder of DuckDuckGo)

To learn more about examples of traction feel free to head on over to the article written by us on how letters of intent can increase your startup’s funding success.

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The Art of the Ask

The Art of the Ask

Have you ever someone say, “Well, you should have asked.” The lesson learned that those who don’t ask, don’t get. This article will tell you about top reservations why people don’t ask for things, what business opportunities can be missed, and how to structure the Art of the Ask!

The art of asking questions

The art of asking questions

The Art of the Ask could be anything such as inquiring questions to which you don’t know the answers, sharing where your company is really at and what you are looking for, asking for help, etc..The ask isn’t always a favour but it can make people feel that way.

For startups that means there are many missed opportunities over their journey because they didn’t ask; they know they could have asked; ultimately, they didn’t get the opportunity. Sometimes, these missed opportunities mean they missed meeting an investor, meeting a potential customer or learning about a new resource that would make their business more productive.

When you are running a lean startup, your main advantage is speed. Startups are all about catching opportunities at an accelerated speed! As they grow, new opportunities arise every day and it is either a gain or lost.

So then why are people so afraid of asking for things? Here are some top reasons why people don’t ask and how to master those reservations.

1. Fear of bothering or annoying others

As people, we want to be liked. So it is natural to not want to bother others. This is also a fear that the other person will say no. A simple and collaborative way to ask for help with something is to prepare to offer something in return. When we offer our expertise, services, etc., we get the opportunity to meet the needs of others. In turn, it helps limit the fear of bothering or annoying others.

For example, when our company was going through UX testing, I wanted to find a way to repay a user for going out of his way to meet us and give feedback. I found out that he was hosting an event so I knew how I could help. I lead a group of entrepreneurs within the Internations.org organization and I could help him promote his event in our community. So my promotion efforts filled up his remaining seats at his event.

2. Fear of showing your vulnerability

Sometimes an ask is indirect such as a description of how the business is going and what you need. When you express your need, you may be surprised how often others try to help. Because our clientele are startups, whenever I ask someone how business is going, the first automatic answer is “things are going really well.” This is because we are so used to saying it and so used to feeling the need to protect our “baby” (which in this case is the business). People tend to not let others in because they are afraid of any potential criticism. An easy way to perform the “tell others what your need is” would be to structure your sentence this way, “Things are going well. We just hired a new developer and we are just starting to look for funding.” It gives a realistic sense of how things are going and gives a peek about what you might need. When performing this one, just remember to keep an open mind. Don’t expect that others will suddenly know an investor to refer you to. However, when you keep an open mind, you may find opportunity in the unlikeliest of places.

Don’t be afraid to share things that you need. It takes a lot of strength to own your vulnerabilities. You would be surprised about the opportunities it open up when you share your truth. Like a child, it takes a village to build a company and startups need to grow as fast as they can. Unforeseen opportunities from unexpected sources can help you alleviate some of those “growing pains.”

3. “Oblivion is Bliss”

Oblivion

Oblivion

When we don’t ask for help or insights from others, we will be sure to stay on the same path. At the time same, we will also be sure to protect our egos. When people start companies, the market does not care about your ego; therefore, living in blissful oblivion will not help your startup in the long run. Startups need to ask, learn, and reiterate. It all starts with the ask.

When we were doing our market research when we first started, I met an entrepreneur who told me that his biggest fear was to be copied by competitors. He didn’t show me his product. It was ok. He told me that he was so afraid of being copied that he spent 3 years building it and never talked to a single potential customer. He did not want feedback and did not welcome it. It was very surprising to me that even though there were best practices on how to do product market fit and why market research was important, there are many startups who choose to build businesses their way.

Ultimately, there are always going to be new reservations about why first time entrepreneurs will not ask for things such as help, insights, and perspectives. When you do, you get the chance to uncover the possibility of the good, the bad, and the ugly from others. But here is the key thing, at least you get to uncover A POSSIBILITY that wasn’t there before! I want to leave you with a quote from my grandfather who said, “Those who ask the most questions, get the most answers.”

Asking Questions

Asking Questions

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Should First Time Entrepreneurs Pay for a Startup Consultant or Not?

Should First Time Entrepreneurs Pay for a Startup Consultant or Not?

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” — famous Chinese proverb

With entrepreneurship becoming so popular nowadays, it is certainly overwhelming to know which resources are right for you (ie. investor platform, incubators, accelerators, startup consultants, etc..)

As our business who mainly targets startups, we devote a lot of time keeping our ears to the ground and finding interesting startup problems, solutions, and ideas to explore. Here is a post that inspired this post. It was from a popular Facebook group.

Facebook
Facebook Post

This post was from a first time entrepreneur who received 54 comments in 24 hours from startup consultants, entrepreneurs who have used consultants, people who have not used consultants, etc.. (This post has been edited several times and we cannot find the original post.)

The most detailed and interesting comment was this one:

“I started my business with $100 and a hunger to create freedom in my life.

At the time I couldn’t afford coaching or programs and guess what?

I didn’t buy any.

I did market research by talking to people (that costs me nothing).

I then created a membership program (in the B2C space) on WordPress (had to learn how to use WordPress) — that costed me the $100 of Siteground hosting and nothing else.

I had a Facebook group I was running the community in. That cost me nothing.

I then went on and started doing live videos and promote my membership (costed me nothing).

I sold 60 memberships, that replaced my banking job. So I quit.

I then with the money I made bought a new MacBook so I can work faster.

I then sold more memberships and more memberships and here I was making $5000 a month.

And that’s when I decided to invest $2000 in the 90 Day Year.

This year (1.5 years later) I am on track to have a 7 figure year by the end of 2018.

You see… all these programs you see.. you don’t have to buy them.

Also.. the people that sell them.. they don’t need to change their pricing to accommodate “people who can’t afford it”.

Coaching IS NOT a right.

It’s a privilege.

Programs and courses are NOT a right.

They are a privilege.

And Iike any privilege, you either

1) make money and work to deserve it (and reward yourself with it)

2) don’t make money and don’t buy it.

3) look for organizations that offer free mentorship for startups (lots of them in the World)

Sooooo

I don’t understand what the issue is.

Work hard.
Make money.
THEN invest.” — Anonymous

There were also other comments from the post explaining how startups who are new to the world of entrepreneurship have reservations about investing because of these following reasons.

Why People Don’t Pay for Startup Consultants

  1. Insecure feelings about their business- or the consultant
  2. Not 100% sure about their own ROI from the business enough to pay for a consultant
  3. Lack trust in the consultant
  4. Feel that there are enough free resources about certain areas on the internet
  5. They do not understand the long term value of the business and how a consultant can make a difference (ie. spending $1000 to make $20,000)
  6. They cannot find the right fit for the exact field of expertise that they need

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

You don’t know what you don’t know

You don’t know what you don’t know

This famous saying rings true in entrepreneurship. This boils down to whether this million dollar idea is worth the risk you are taking or not. For most first startups who come to our team and ask for investment money, it tends to stop right here and they will tend to go back to their full time jobs or take our advice to ponder about whether or not they go forward for another 4–6 months.

Since we run a startup platform, VenturX, that helps prepare and connect early stage startups for investments, we have the opportunity to see with our own eyes what success and failures within startups look like everyday. Even though they come from diverse backgrounds, the checklist of startups we can accept in order to maintain a high level of successful launches and investments are still the same. We can quickly tell a) if they are in our target market and b) what their next step would be in order to best be prepare for big investors like ours.

Time VS Money VS Quality

Time, Money, Quality

Time, Money, Quality

From working with over 300 startups and hearing their stories of successes and failures, there are only so many things you can invest into your business if you don’t have the luxury of quality. Quality stems from knowledge and experience. Every investor who has been an entrepreneur in a previous life always talks about getting your hands dirty. That is where your “je ne sais quoi” value comes from and therefore enhancing your overall “quality.” If it is your first time, you really only have the options of investing your time (known as sweat equity) or your money (known as hiring people or purchasing resources).

Even though we have a platform where potential clients can already see there are startups using our platform and getting investment, they have valid questions before signing up or hiring our consultation services. Their questions are ones that all startups should consider when investing any amount of money into their business.

Why Should First Time Entrepreneurs Hire Startup Consultants? (What do potential clients ask?)

  1. What is your field of expertise? Why should I choose you?

Answer: Helping prepare you for your first big round of funding and helping get to you launch with business intelligenceFrom working in the startup industry, we get to see the ingredients of success and failures on a daily basis that we use to benefit our consultation clients so they don’t have to suffer with their time and money in the long run.

2. Do you have referrals from other startups?

Answer: Yes — some are on our website: www.venturx.ca and others can be sent to you privately. We strongly recommend our best practices such as developing good positive relationships with clients in order to collect those success stories!

3. How does the consultation services work?

Answer: You can purchase specific packages such as “Review my investor’s pitch deck” or purchase a set of 5 or 20 hours of consultation. We meet on a call to help you with specific goals and come up with a structured plan of implementation and we make sure this plan is executed in the best manner possible.

4. Do you connect us with contacts?

Yes! As an added bonuses are connections and contacts when applicable. We know that not all consultants, coaches or mentors do that; however, it is part of our practice. There are some that are exclusive to only VenturX platform users.

4. Can I get a discount?

Answer: Discounts are available to all VenturX platform users or those who purchased larger set of consultation hours (ie. over 20 hours).

There you have it! The reasons why first time entrepreneurs opt to hire or not hire help. We hope this article helps you make informed decisions that can help your startup in the future years to come! For more startup tips, check out our other blogs!

Work

Work

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3 Erreurs commises par les Startups: Sur quoi se concentrent les jeunes startups à part leurs Métriques?

Les startups en phase de démarrage ont énormément de choses à faire. Au fil de leur progression, leurs jours semblent de plus en plus courts. J’ai trouvé que beaucoup d’entre elles consacraient beaucoup de temps dans des choses à moyen et long terme plutôt que de se concentrer sur le présent. Lorsque je leur demande quelles sont les métriques sur lesquelles elles se concentrent, ce qui est important pour elles, etc… la variété de réponses obtenues est surprenante.

Cet article passe en revue les 3 erreurs les plus commises par les startups et explique comment un recentrage sur ses métriques remet les choses en perspective. Gardez à l’esprit que nous nous concentrons sur les startups en phase de démarrage et qui viennent seulement de créer leur entreprise.

1) Pas assez d’ACTION!

Les gens vous recommanderont toujours de lire ce dernier livre sur les startups ou bien les dernières tactiques de marketing pour atteindre des sommets.

Ce n’est pas pour vous décourager d’apprendre mais l’expérience de vos actions déterminera davantage ce que vous aurez appris que vos lectures. La stratégie marketing de quelqu’un d’autre, les canaux de distribution et la négociation commerciale ne sont peut-être pas adaptés à vous. Puisque chaque entreprise est si unique, vous ne saurez jamais quelles sont les meilleures pratiques à moins que vous sortiez et expérimentiez votre activité.

« L’ambition repose sur vos actions » — Gary Vaynerchuk, Entrepreneur, Animateur du AskGaryVee Show

POINT D’ACTION: Réservez-vous un ou deux jours dédiés à la lecture, la recherche, etc. Et consacrez les autres jours à la mise en pratique. (Je peux vous dire, par expérience, que si vous lisez un livre sur les startups, vous n’avez pas besoin de le terminer pour vous entraîner).

J’aime personnellement m’informer sur le marketing des réseaux sociaux car c’est un complément à ma formation de marketing en ligne. Je consacre généralement mon Samedi à apprendre de nouvelles choses. Pour atteindre mon public cible composé de startups, j’essaye tous les réseaux sociaux afin de voir où ma clientèle cible est la plus active et engagée. Je réalise des vidéos éducatives, des retransmissions en direct et des blogs sur Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter et Medium. Je cherche quotidiennement les canaux de communication qui fonctionnent les mieux afin de décider quels seront mes futurs investissements en marketing.

2) Se projeter trop loin dans le temps

Les fondateurs sont tiraillés dans tous les sens à cause des nombreuses sources d’influence qui les entourent, que ça soit l’effervescence des évènements de startups, des retours d’amis ou de la famille, des recommandations de partenariats potentiels ou encore des « tu sais à qui tu devrais parler? ». Je suis sur que vous avez des exemples en tête!

Il est peu judicieux de concentrer son énergie sur des partenariats à moyen et long terme, plutôt que de se concentrer sur le prochain essai ou projet pilote.

Exemple: N’attendez pas pour embaucher la personne parfaite qui vous aidera à mettre en place votre projet pilote ou votre test bêta plutôt que de le faire vous-même.

Je l’admets, je suis parfois tombé dans le piège mais une chose m’a encouragée à me concentrer sur les partenariats à établir maintenant, les recommandations à suivre ou bien où allouer mes précieuses 24 heures, l’analyse de mes métriques en temps-réel! (Voir diagramme ci-dessous).

POINT D’ACTION: Marquez vos futures tâches sur une durée de 1 à 3 mois. Si vous pouvez rapidement identifier les missions ou les partenariats possibles à exécuter en un mois, alors inscrivez-les dans votre calendrier sur un délai d’un mois à compter d’aujourd’hui. Vous n’avez pas besoin de tout faire d’un coup et être dépassé par la quantité de choses à faire. Quand tout cela commence à s’empiler, un tas d’opportunités peut facilement devenir un tas de distractions. Une chose pratique à faire est de trouver un rythme. S’il y a une nouvelle ressource ou un nouveau canal à explorer, mettez-le de côté jusqu’à ce que vous ayez complété ce qui est important pour le moment comme faire de votre premier projet pilote un succès!

3) Éviter ses Clients

« La vente est le remède de tous les maux » — Mark Cuban, Shark Tank de ABC, Investisseur, Entrepreneur

Comment les startups peuvent avoir ce remède si leurs clients ne sont pas le centre de leur attention?

Éviter ses clients peut être expliqué de deux façons:

a) Découverte Client: Certains entrepreneurs en phase de démarrage connaissent des cycles de procrastination avant de faire quelconque étude de marché ou enquête sur leur Product Market Fit.

POINT D’ACTION: Pour apprendre à enquêter sur votre Product Market Fit en 24 heures, référez-vous à cet article: https://medium.com/@VenturX_team/comment-trouver-son-product-market-fit-en-24-heures-c00d07c77820

(Il va vous guider à travers les différentes étapes avec des exemples concrets). Si vous voulez un modèle de questionnaire, envoyez-moi un courriel, et je vous en enverrai un!

b) Ignorer les retours de nouveaux clients et réitérer

En tant qu’être humain, nous faisons ce que nous voulons faire et non pas ce que nous devrions faire. Si c’est plus simple pour certains de travailler sur la création d’un beau site internet plutôt que de récolter des retours clients, vous pouvez être sur qu’ils concentreront leurs efforts dans l’option #1.

POINT D’ACTION: Planifiez des rendez-vous avec vos clients pour avoir leurs retours de façon régulière. Essayez de les programmer en avance. Même si vous avez de nouvelles distractions telles que des évènements de startups, embaucher des nouveaux membres dans votre équipe, etc. ces rencontres régulières vont vous assurer de rester au contact de vos clients et montrer que vous ne les évitez pas.

Afin d’avoir des retours pour le lancement du produit VenturX, je programme des appels Skype toutes les 3 semaines avec des amis en startup pour leur montrer la refonte du site et avoir leurs retours. Je contacte aussi une startup, tous les après-midis entre 14H et 16H, pour lui parler de ses Métriques VenturX. Il m’a dit qu’il préférait les notifications SMS. Pour lui montrer ma gratitude, je lui envoie ces rapports individuels journaliers depuis mon téléphone.

Sur quelles Métriques devrais-je me concentrer?

C’est une très bonne question. Une question bien détaillée dans ce livre:

« Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster » — Alistair Croll et Benjamin Yoskovitz

Ils expliquent que les startups devraient se concentrer sur une métrique à la fois, et que cela dépend du type d’industrie et de leur phase de développement. Voici un diagramme détaillé provenant du livre:

Avez-vous découvert dans quelle phase vous vous positionnez?

Génial!

Pouvez-vous déterminer quelle métrique est la plus importante?

Excellent travail!

Maintenant vous pouvez inverser la formule pour vous débarrasser de ces 3 erreurs commises par les startups en phase de démarrage!

Gardez en tête que même si ces informations proviennent principalement de nos observations de startups en phase de démarrage et de jeunes entrepreneurs, de nouvelles informations sont amenées à venir!

Il pourrait y avoir plus qu’une métrique que vous allez pointer du doigt comme un faible Product Market Fit ou des finances trop basses.

En tant que chercheuse dans le monde des startups, je souhaitais vous partager mes observations sur cette industrie fascinante. J’espère qu’avec ce simple guide, les débuts de votre entreprise seront sans heurt! Si vous avez des questions concernant vos métriques, envoyez-moi un courriel à l’adresse sydney.wong@venturx.ca et nous jetterons un coup d’œil ensemble!

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5 best free apps for startups for 2018

5 best free apps for startups for 2018

5 best free apps for startups for 2018

Here is a countdown of the top must-have apps that startups should have on their phones or computers to start 2018 on the right foot. As a startup in this digital age, you can bet that there are very creative solutions out there to help savvy entrepreneurs save time, money, or headache. Here are our top picks.

5. Vidyard

Vidyard is a Google Chrome extension that captures videos and uploads it for you. From there, you can share the link to the video or upload it directly into gmail email or your Youtube channel. With just one click, you can capture video and audio on what is happening on your screen. You do need strong internet to in order for this to work. As a technology software startup, we mainly use this for demonstrations to clients to showing bugs to the development team.

A video tells a better story about what the user is seeing or should be seeing than screenshots with text. To see an example of how it works, here is an example of a video we made recently for a prospective startup customer: https://share.vidyard.com/watch/Qwm9VwRj5udCNZ74Evwd86

4. Hellosign

HelloSign

This is a digital way to sign contracts. You can use the web version for free at www.hellosign.com. The neat thing about this fan favourite is that you can sign your own signature and email it to others to sign too within a few clicks. Not only do we not have to find an old school printer somewhere in the city…but it saves us a lot of time and money! Make sure this is marked down as one of your must have’s. Personally, I use the web version to do this.

 

 

 

 

3. Paperspan

PaperSpan

Paperspan is a very interesting app that instantly downloads webpages/articles to save offline and reads it out loud to you later. This is particularly useful when I was flying a lot this year from Montreal to Vancouver to run beta tests with incubators for our startup success tool. This came in handy because I got to read up on different Facebook campaigns, eBooks, etc..It is perfect to catch up on reading and research during transport such as in airplanes, subways, or even just walking.

Voicealoud is a similar app that reads out loud but you require internet.

These audio apps are what I used to read one of my favourite eBooks, Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk, Entrepreneur and CEO of Vayner Media. Voice is dominating because it gives the concept of saving time. Here is a great segment on Gary Vaynerchuk’s take on voice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgGllljdC-k&t=1698s

That means that these audio apps are the ultimate “time saving” apps especially for people who don’t like read. I put it on the startup list because we have to learn so much in such a short time. We put on many hats during the day. Any time we want to find research on best practices can be done here.

2. Crowdfire

Crowdfire

A lot of first time entrepreneurs know they should use social media but don’t know how. They either don’t know what content to put, when to publish or what channels would be most effective. Crowdfire has a long free trial (about 100 posts) that helps you post cross Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. It can include other mediums as a part of the premium paid package. We used this and saw instant success that helped VenturX grow:

400–900 followers on Twitter

from 0 to 500 followers on Instagram,

boost engagement on our Facebook.

It also teaches users how to do it and what to look for. For example, the app encourages users to like similar topics, when to repost your latest Youtube video or Medium blog post, etc.. It helped us maximize exposure to our startup fans and it drove traffic to our website.

One thing that really stood out about Crowdfire was how user-friendly it was. They had a unique chatbox technology combined with their AI algorithm to maximize its effective interaction with the users. Even though VenturX used it for B2B, I expected it would be even more successful for B2C startup businesses.

1. Shapr

Shapr

Welcome to the “Tinder for LinkedIn.” You can swipe left and right on people’s profile and get matched. It is especially great for B2B businesses like VenturX because it targets keywords and job titles. For example, VenturX would interested in these job titles: “CEO, Founder, or investor” and we scroll through 20 daily picks with those related job titles as close to our geographical area as possible. Just like the hot in market dating mobile applications, you can only talk to each other when you match. Also, users can get suggestions such as “ask them for a coffee meeting” in order to encourage more offline meetings.

I loved this app so much that I tweeted a customer testimonial video to them directly.

This is how you know your work is really changing the market.

The forgotten app of 2018:

Saying goodbye to Hunter.io app.

Hunter.io

This Google Chrome extension was a stellar business development assistant that helps you search email addresses on Linkedin. They had to shut down or got acquired unfortunately. Otherwise, this would be on the list of top 5 too.

So there you have it! You are well on your way to boost your startup with a bang in 2018!

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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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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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