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3 Most Common Legal Mistakes When Building a Startup

3 Most Common Legal Mistakes When Building a Startup

Launching a Startup

Launching a startup can be a very exciting yet hectic venture. While enthralled in building your company and generating ideas for a product, it’s easy to forget one of the most challenging components of the entire process: the legal side. This is often the trickiest part for entrepreneurs because navigating the multitude of complex laws and corresponding paperwork involved in starting and building your company can be quite difficult and time-consuming. As a result, it’s very easy for entrepreneurs to get caught in the middle of a heated lawsuit over a simple mistake, the consequences for which are often very severe. Here are three of the most common legal mistakes entrepreneurs make when building a startup.

1) Picking an Unoriginal or Semi-Original Name for Your Company

Who’s Here

When creating a startup, it’s important to carefully choose the name of your company and consider its potential legal ramifications. Every entrepreneur knows that your company’s name needs to capture the purpose or function of your product so that potential consumers will know what your company is about. It’s also well known among entrepreneurs that what kind of entity you choose for your business must be factored into your company’s name. This matters because it affects how much personal responsibility you bear for your company and its financial obligations, such as unpaid debt and taxes. But there’s another component to naming your business: ensuring that your chosen name is entirely original. This part of the naming process is where many startups who find themselves in trouble regarding their chosen name go wrong. Entrepreneurs want the name of their company and product to be as catchy, clever, and intriguing as possible. However, if you do not do your research to confirm that your company and product’s names are completely original, larger incumbents may notice and drag you to court. Unfortunately for you as an entrepreneur, they are very likely to win simply because they are much larger and have better legal teams, even if they do not have a particularly strong case.

In 2010, Brian Hamachek developed an app called Who’s Near Me Live, which enables users to chat and call others based on their current location. However, Stephen Smith and his company, myRete, who developed Who’s Here back in 2008, did not like the name of Hamachek’s new app and made it known to him. In order to avoid a lawsuit, Hamachek decided to change the app’s name to WNM and make sure all references to his app called it WNM. This appeared to resolve things for about a year, until Smith filed a federal lawsuit against Hamachek for trademark infringement. He then gave Hamachek a choice: either shut down WNM or hand over all of your assets. Hamachek refused and litigation continued for several years while Hamachek continued to make offers to Smith in order to reach a settlement.

Although WNM was ultimately able to survive the lawsuit, Hamachek felt the heat of the entire ordeal. He lost out on tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, which he otherwise could have put towards his product. Additionally, due to the length of the litigation surrounding trademark infringement, Hamachek had to spend hours on end every day for several months dealing with the lawsuit instead of spending it on further developing and improving the app. It is also worth noting that Hamachek consulted with Smith when developing Who’s Near Me Live to ensure that his app’s name was distinct and he still wound up in legal trouble. Therefore, when it comes to naming, complete originality is a must.

2) Not Being Fully Transparent with Investors and Shareholders

Closed financial records

When starting a business, entrepreneurs often will set goals in terms of sales (in units and/or dollars), revenues, profits, and annual growth. Some startups find that sales are slower than expected, they have a serious cash flow problem, or maybe they just want to keep more of the revenue they earned. Many entrepreneurs who engage in this behavior did so under the belief that they and their company would be able to benefit by hiding certain information from third parties, such as investors and shareholders. However, more often than not, their lack of transparency catches up to them later on in the process. As hard it can be to admit you have a money problem, it is crucial that you are upfront with investors and shareholders about where your company stands because the consequences of withholding pertinent information are much more severe than being transparent about your money problem.

In 2016, Domo, Inc., a fast-growing computer software startup based in Utah, found themselves in hot water when Jay Biederman, a company shareholder from Delaware, requested financial documents in order to determine how much his shares of the company were worth. Domo was able to remain a private company and thus avoid mandatory disclosures. It looked like a lost cause for Biederman, until he found out that Delaware state law required full financial disclosure if the plaintiff could prove that they owned shares of the company. Since Biederman had proof he owned 64,000 shares, Domo was forced to open its books. Financial records revealed that after a $200 million investment by a private equity firm, the company was valued at $2 billion and the shares Biederman bought earlier for 32 cents each were now valued at $8.43 per share. Afterwards, Domo had to cough up the amount they had cheated Biederman out of when they withheld financial documents.

As the Biederman vs. Domo, Inc. case demonstrates, attempting to hide financial records and mislead shareholders and investors, either intentionally or unintentionally, is something to avoid at all costs, particularly as you seek a new round of funding. Having a pending lawsuit under your company’s belt serves as a giant red flag for potential investors. This is particularly true if the case involves a lack of transparency, as this may permanently destroy investors’ ability to trust you. Losing the trust of investors may also mean losing your ability to receive additional outside funding, which could prove fatal for your startup.

3) Copyright, Patent, and Trademark Infringement

Trademark infringement

When starting a business, you need to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from unfair and/or predatory competition as well as infringement. To do this, your company will require legal protection, such as copyrights and patents for your products or trademarks for your brand (logos, slogans, etc.). Securing legal protection for your company and its products can take months or even years to obtain and is quite expensive, especially for patents, which can cost as much as $15,000. On the other hand, it is very easy to unintentionally infringe upon a name or product already legally protected. Therefore, you need to ensure that all your company’s products as well as slogans, logos, and content on your company’s products and website are entirely original in order to avoid copyright or trademark infringement. If anything of yours is too similar to copyrighted, trademarked, or patented content, even just a couple phrases on your company’s website, you may quickly find yourself in the middle of an infringement lawsuit.

Michael Glanz, founder of HireAHelper, Inc. knows this to be the case. In 2008, U-Haul sued Glanz and his company, alleging trademark infringement. U-Haul pointed to two phrases used on HireAHelper’s website, “moving help” and “moving helpers” and claimed they were too similar to two registered trademarks of U-Haul. Despite Glanz’s attempts to settle with U-Haul, they refused and brought him to court. After three years, U-Haul finally agreed to settle the case for an undisclosed amount, though Glanz claims the terms were almost identical to the ones he proposed at the start of the ordeal. While HireAHelper was able to survive and later continue to grow, significant financial damage was inflicted upon Glanz and his family as well as co-founder Pete Johnson.

When all was said and done, Glanz owed $250,000 in legal fees, Johnson had to sell his home and move in with Glanz and his family, and Glanz’s parents had to push their retirement back by an entire decade. As damaging as the consequences were for Glanz, they could’ve been far worse. Had U-Haul taken them to court and won, Glanz and his family could have had their personal earnings wiped out, which would have resulted in Glanz losing his home just after having a newborn and would have all but certainly been the nail in the coffin for HireAHelper. Due to U-Haul’s size compared to HireAHelper’s, the former would almost certainly have won the case had a settlement not been reached.

Conclusion

Startup growth

When you’re creating a startup, the legal side will likely be the most challenging part to deal with. The three cases discussed in this post demonstrate just how perplexing business law can be, but also how easy it is to run afoul of it. In all three cases, the end results were heavily damaging for the entrepreneurs involved and a settlement of some sort was the only thing standing between the legal system and their entire business. Taking the time upfront to ensure that you know and understand all relevant business laws and that you and your company are in compliance with all of them is a necessity in order to avoid these expensive but preventable legal pitfalls. Avoiding these mistakes will allow you to focus your time and attention on the health of your business and will increase the likelihood of success and stability of your business in the long run. Are you a startup seeking funding during Seed or Series A? Check us out here!

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VenturX is a web platform that helps entrepreneurs through their journey from idea to launch and beyond. VenturX uses data-driven analytics to score and connect startups and investors at Seed and Series A financing.

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How to Understand Your Term Sheet

How to Understand Your Term Sheet

What is a Term Sheet?

Term Sheet

A Term Sheet just to be specific is an agreement between you as an entrepreneur and an investor — a series of terms you think that matter. Some key values of the term sheets include what the valuation of the business is, how much investment the company is getting and for what percentage. Early Term Sheets are for entrepreneurs who are raising seed and angel capital, which is what we will focus on this article. Personally, I like to keep them simple, not a lot of bells and whistles, not a lot of rules.

However, Term Sheets can vary depending on what type of funding round you are in, and how much is at stake, as well as who is involved. If you decided to go for Series A & B rounds, your Term Sheet is going to get more complicated which includes who’s going to be on the board and how many board seats are there, what happens when the board voted for you as a CEO to step down. Yes, I know right, if it’s not for the movie I recently watched, I always thought the CEO represents the top of the ladder and they exercise full control over the company.

There is a great set of templates available online put together by Fenwick & West (National Law Firm) and Andreessen-Horowitz (Silicon Valley VC Firm).

Breaking Down the Term Sheet

Term Sheet

Pre-Money Valuation

According to Investopedia, Pre-Money Valuation refers to the value of a company not including external funding or the latest round of funding. Pre-money is best described as how much a startup might be worth before it begins to receive any investments into the company. This valuation doesn’t just give investors an idea of the current value of the business, but it also provides the value of each issued share.

To calculate the value of your shares for the current round using Pre-Money Valuation, it’s not rocket science. Let me walk you through this, assuming the Pre-Money Valuation is at $3,000,000, we will divide that by the existing number of shares (10,000,000 for example)=price of shares at which new investors will buy. Hence, $3,000,000/10,000,000=$0.30. Each share would cost $0.30.

Post-Money Valuation

On the other hand, post-money refers to how much the company is worth after it receives the money and investments into it. Post-money valuation includes outside financing or the latest capital injection. It is important to know which is being referred to, as they are critical concepts in the valuation of any company.

To put it simply, Post-Money valuation is Pre-Money valuation + Amount Raised. Let me walk you through the calculations, given the same amount of Pre-Money valuation as the previous example, at this round your company raised $1,000,000 and hence your Post-Money valuation would be $3,000,000+$1,000,000=$4,000,000.

However, if the calculations get more complicated as the company grows, this is a great online Post-Money valuation and Pre-Money valuation calculator to generate the numbers for you.

Preferred vs Common Shares

When a business wants to raise money by attracting investors, it can do so by issuing stock: common stock or preferred stock. There are many differences between preferred and common stock. The main difference is that preferred stock usually does not give shareholders voting rights, while common stock does, usually at one vote per share owned.

Common stock allows its holders to make a profit through rising share prices and dividend payments. Holders of common stock also get to vote on corporate issues, such as electing new directors to the corporation’s board. For example, Detour Gold Corp. interim CEO Michael Kenyon resigned 3 months ago following a vote by shareholders and hence the company took an entirely new direction because of common stock shareholders.

However, should the company end up in bankruptcy, holders of common stock are last on the list to get their money back. Putting it simply and plain, if you hold common stock and the company goes bust, you are unlikely to get any of your capital back. For more in, see The Motley Fool.

Preferred stock also represents owning a share of the company, but it works a bit differently than common stock. Preferred stock pays a predetermined dividend, whereas the dividends paid to common shareholders tend to vary according to the company’s fortunes. Dividends on preferred stock are often larger than those on either common stock or the company’s bonds. Holders of preferred stock do not get a vote on company matters. And if a company’s assets are liquidated, the preferred stockholders get to redeem their shares before common stockholders do, giving them a better chance of getting at least some of their money back.

For most investors, common stock is a better deal. It’s slightly riskier than preferred stock but will usually show a slightly higher return as well. If you want to enjoy the potentially high returns of a stock investment but want to minimize your investment’s volatility or your exposure to company-specific risk, the preferred stock might be a better choice. Preferred stock may also be better if you’re looking for a source of income you can depend on, as the dividends paid on such stock are fixed. But whichever class of stock you choose, be sure that it’s an investment you’ll feel comfortable holding over the long haul.

Participating or Non-Participating Preferred

Non-participating preferred typically receives an amount equal to the initial investment plus accrued and unpaid dividends upon a liquidation event. See more at STARTUP COMPANY LAWER. Holders of common stock then receive the remaining assets. If holders of common stock would receive more per share than holders of preferred stock upon a sale or liquidation (typically where the company is being sold at a high valuation), then holders of preferred stock should convert their shares into common stock and give up their preference in exchange for the right to share pro rata in the total liquidation proceeds. Non-participating preferred stock is favoured by holders of common stock (i.e. founders, management and employees) because the liquidation preference will become meaningless after a certain transaction value.

“Participating Preferred” also typically receives an amount equal to the initial investment plus accrued and unpaid dividends upon a liquidation event. However, participating preferred then participates on an “as converted to common stock” basis with the common stock in the distribution of the remaining assets.

Participating Preferred stock is favoured by investors because they will receive a preferential return over both low and high exit transaction values.

A perfect example by founders workbench to illustrate what is going on is the following. Assuming company A has one series of non-participating preferred stock with a liquidation preference of $6 million representing 50% of the capital stock of Company A. If Company A were to be sold for $10 million, the investors would receive $6 million (as the $6 million investment amount is greater than the preferred’s 50% share of the $10 million sale proceeds) and the remaining $4 million of proceeds would be distributed to management. Company B also has one series of preferred stock with a liquidation preference of $6 million representing 50% of the capital stock of Company B, but its preferred stock is participating. Upon the same $10 million sale event, the investors would receive $8 million (the $6 million liquidation preference plus 50% of residual $4 million of sale proceeds) and the remaining $2 million of the proceeds would be distributed management. Thus, in the same $10 million sales, the difference between participating vs. non-participating preferred resulted in a $2 million shift in economics away from management to the investors, which represents one-half of the return that management would have received had the preferred stock been structured as non-participating.

Potential Red Flags in a Term Sheet

Red Flag

After breaking down various important key terms in a Term Sheet, let’s dive into what red flags to look out for in a Term Sheet.

1) Review Period

Some Term Sheet will include a Review Period that allows them to pull the Term Sheet after it’s been signed. Including this is like saying your investors assume there’s a high chance that the deal will fall through, which is ironic since it’s counter to investor norms. That being said, reputable investors would not issue a Term Sheet with a review period if their business diligence is done and they are confident towards the deal.

2) Change in Management

As discussed earlier, your board of directors could replace the CEO if they deemed the CEO to be not a fit. However, these can be done without specifically including it to the terms. If this term appears in your Term Sheet, remove it. Investors would rarely willing to invest in a company where they immediately hope to remove to CEO, and of course, frankly speaking, this is quite rude as well.

3) Guaranteed Exit (within 5 years)

Last but not least, guaranteed exit. This basically means the founder legally commit that they would find a buyer for investors’ shares within 5 years. Startups have unproven economic business models. More likely than not most startups are still experimenting or pivot in the initial years. It is unknown how long this could take because it differs from case to case. 5 years is perhaps when they figured it out what worked and what does not. Lots of opportunities for capital to be returned will arise organically over the life of your company and hence if the investor wants an exit within 5 years, no doubt this is a huge red flag to look out for.

Conclusion

Image result for term sheet for startup
Investor Meeting

As you can see, the Term Sheet can be really quite scary and exciting for new startup founders. If you are pursuing Seed or Angel round funding, Term Sheet is usually less complex and provided by the investors whereas if your company is more mature in the future and decided to go for Series A & B funding, the Term Sheet is usually created by the company. Are you a startup seeking funding during Seed or Series A? We are here to help!

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VenturX is a web platform that helps entrepreneurs through their journey from idea to launch and beyond. VenturX uses data-driven analytics to score and connect startups and investors at Seed and Series A financing.

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The Importance Of Customer Service To A Startup

As the owner of a young startup or business, your goal is to get customers by the droves. The type of business your startup is into makes no difference. As long as profit and not loss is the goal, your business is dependent on the presence of customers.

In the same vein, every business owner wants customers to keep coming back to do more business. Every company wants customers to advise friends and colleagues to do business with them. This is the cycle that the whole profit and loss industry runs on. This cycle has been around for centuries, yet it is still doing the trick.

Building a network of happy and satisfied customers doesn’t just happen overnight. It is a complicated network that thrives on awesome customer service. Just as strikers are to a football team, so is customer service to a startup business. Without it, there is no focal point.

With the advent of the digital age, the impact of customer satisfaction has increased drastically. Nothing spreads faster than rumors. With the internet, they spread faster than the speed of light. One tweet or a blog post from an irritable or dissatisfied customer can potentially mar your startup business. As the owner of a new business trying to break into a highly competitive market, you can grasp the importance of reputable customer service.

Essentially, customer service is a personal interaction with customers that becomes a pipeline to invaluable feedback, insight, and advertisement. Notice the use of the word “personal”. Most startups make the mistake of outsourcing their customer service needs. It is supposed to be a two-way communication that brings you and your customer closer together.

There have been some huge success stories due to excellent customer service by huge brands. Today, Nordstrom is one of the biggest retail companies out there. Back in the seventies, Nordstrom allowed a man to return his tires and even gave him a refund.

This was done despite the fact that Nordstrom did not sell the tires to the man. It had only moved into a shop which was previously used by a tire business. That story is still talked about and has played a massive part in the popularity and success of the company.

Today, Nordstrom continues that fine tradition by using Groupon deals to attract and communicate with its extensive customer base.

Another company that has benefited from impressive customer service is Target. Today, Target is the second largest discount store retailer in the United States. That is no mean feat, and it came about through one of the most impressive acts of customer service.

A young man walked into a Target store a few decades ago looking to buy a clip-on tie for an interview. Target didn’t sell clip-on ties at the time. The young man later left with a knotted tie and some advice on conducting himself during an interview. He then got a job at Chick-A-Fila, and great tales have been told of Target ever since.

Customer service is a vital cog in the machinations of a startup business. In case you are confused about the tenets of impressive customer service, here are a few tips to start you on your way:

  • Let your customers know everything your business entails
  • Answer the newest electronic mails and digital inquiries first
  • Shorten the line and process for getting across to your customer care representatives
  • Make use of personalized emails
  • Use human touch to deliver delightful surprises to your clientele
  • Inspire your customer base, make them feel special and part of something bigger
  • Always be ready to provide solutions to every inconvenience no matter how inconsequential it may seem
  • Learn from customer inquiries and issues to improve your customer experience
  • Finish with a smile.

Check out these examples!

Target

Target

Nordstrom

Nordstrom

 

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VenturX is a web platform that helps entrepreneurs through their journey from idea to launch and beyond. VenturX uses data-driven analytics to score and connect startups and investors at Seed and Series A financing.

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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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VenturX is a web platform that helps entrepreneurs through their journey from idea to launch and beyond. VenturX uses data-driven analytics to score and connect startups and investors at Seed and Series A financing.

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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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VenturX is a web platform that helps entrepreneurs through their journey from idea to launch and beyond. VenturX uses data-driven analytics to score and connect startups and investors at Seed and Series A financing.

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3 Reasons Why Every SaaS Startup Need to be Consultants!

3 Reasons Why Every SaaS Startup Need to be Consultants!

As a super busy startup in today’s world, it seems impossible to be doing anything extra. Today, we want to tell you why that extra added service will go miles for your new SaaS (Software as a Service) business.

1. Research on Your Customer’s Needs

Customer-centric companies win. Getting there, however, requires getting to know customers so well that there’s not only understanding of what they do, but why they do it. This is the mentality that Founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, always understood.

An excellent way to do it is to simply ask. Work with them on the solutions directly. Help your target market to achieve their goals so you can benefit from key takeaways to that will benefit your technological solutions. Find out what not only what the solution should be but how customers want to use it and any other extra features that would make it more valuable.

When startups are close with the customers, that relationship will act as an insightful competitive advantage. (This rings true if the target market for your SaaS is the same as your consultant clients.) For us for example, it would startups who are first time business owners looking for their first round of funding (Pre-Seed — Series A). If you are very specific with your target, the more you will benefit in the long run.

2. Use it as Your Side Hustle

Get some revenue coming in from the side hustle. Depending on how much you charged, your startup can still reinvest that money into things such as Facebook or Instagram ads like we did. If your consultancy packages enough for you to invest in automation softwares or salaries, even better!

This would also be play a helpful hand when you are applying for government grants where they require you to show some form of revenue.

3. Use It to Build Your Startup Brand

To utilize the customer feedback and questions to build your brand will show community engagement as well as branding your company as an expert in this industry. It is always hard for startups with no money to build a brand so utilizing as much content in a consistent format as possible is a big step in the right direction.

For example, VenturX, has free monthly Health Checks for subscriber users. This takes place on Skype. Because I have a close friend who is a startup on our platform, I asked if our Health Checks can be recorded. This recording would show her asking questions about our VenturX metrics, why these metrics are important to investors and what other considerations she needs to think about before submitting to investors. She agreed it was a good idea. So starting March 4th at 8PM EST, we will have our first Health Check session. This is ideal for branding because her questions may be the same as others in our target market when it comes to investing and it gives a sneak preview of what to expect as a VenturX user. If you want to catch the video, please follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Youtube.

In addition, we will be writing a Medium blog and Youtube debrief on how the first session went. We expect there to be at least 2 sessions so you would be able to see a typical startup user’s improvements and added value.

Resources on how to get started on branching out your consultancy services

  1. Post your services on your website

2. You will need a consultancy package to send to potential clients so the understand what your field of expertise is and the price.

Here is a sample of how ours look like:

 

Pricing Package

Pricing Package

3. Other places to post your consultancy services:

a) ME University

We put ours under Raising Capital and Funding. You can see ours as an example of a typical description of the services:

 

ME University

ME University

b) Freelance Service Sites: FiverrUpwork, and Guru.

c) Post it on your social media as announcements of your new services

d) If you have a newsletter, make sure your audience is aware.

The main thing startups should beware of is contributing too much too little time. If your SaaS company is your main operation, be sure to devote the necessary care and time to it. When startups do not have the history of clients and built up a reputation yet, a lot of clients may have a lot of questions in order to feel more trusting and secure about taking that next step with you. This could take a lot of time to “nurture” new leads. From our experience, we help answer some of those questions on our website and our latest blog post to explain the pros and cons of hiring startup consultants here!

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About VenturX

VenturX is a web platform that helps entrepreneurs through their journey from idea to launch and beyond. VenturX uses data-driven analytics to score and connect startups and investors at Seed and Series A financing.

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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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About VenturX

VenturX is a web platform that helps entrepreneurs through their journey from idea to launch and beyond. VenturX uses data-driven analytics to score and connect startups and investors at Seed and Series A financing.

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Comment trouver son Product Market Fit en 24 heures

Comment trouver son Product Market Fit en 24 heures

Parmi les notions à la mode dans le monde de l’entreprenariat; venture capital, accélération, growth hacking, etc. il y en a toujours une qui laisse les entrepreneurs perplexes, le PRODUCT MARKET FIT!

J’ai trouvé ce sujet si intéressant, que depuis 2016, j’en étudie tous les aspects afin de mettre au point un outil capable de le mesurer pour les startups. Voilà comment VenturX a vu le jour, une startup exploitant les données dans le but d’aider les entreprises, en phase de démarrage, à passer du Product Market Fit au financement. Nous nous concentrons sur les indicateurs-clés de performance (ICP) essentiels pour les jeunes entreprises, comme le Product Market Fit.

Chez VenturX, nous offrons les outils qui permettent aux jeunes entrepreneurs de réussir; nous leur recommandons toujours de commencer par déterminer leur Product Market Fit. C’est non seulement une des principales raisons d’échec chez les startups (selon un rapport de CBInsights), mais aussi la plus compliquée à atteindre en raison du travail colossale que peut représenter la collecte de données afin de prouver que son idée répond à un réel besoin.

Cependant, l’évaluation initiale de son Product Market Fit ne nécessite pas forcément beaucoup de temps ou d’argent. Nous allons vous détailler quatre étapes essentielles à suivre pour avoir une vision claire de l’adéquation entre votre idée et son marché.

Top Reasons Startups Fail

CBS Insights

Que signifie le Product Market Fit?

Le Product Market Fit désigne une rencontre et un accord parfait entre un produit et son marché. Le premier à employer le terme, Marc Andreessen, le définit ainsi :

« Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy the market » — Marc Andreessen, Entrepreneur & Co-fondateur de Silicon Valley Venture Capital (Source: http://web.stanford.edu/class/ee204/ProductMarketFit.html)

4 étapes pour déterminer le Product Market Fit

1. Déterminez votre public cible

Si vous ne savez pas par où commencer, demandez-vous: à qui est-ce que vous vendez? Qui a besoin de votre produit/service ?

Après avoir rencontré de nombreux entrepreneurs cette année, j’ai appris que le plus difficile était d’interroger les 5 premiers clients. Pour l’accomplir en 24 heures, pourquoi pas trouver un évènement ou un lieu où se trouve cette clientèle cible? Mais rappelez-vous, vous n’êtes pas ici pour lui vendre quelque chose mais simplement mener votre enquête.

Exemple: Concernant VenturX, une partie des clients ciblés sont les investisseurs en capital-risque. Il me semblait évident que ces investisseurs seraient présents à des compétitions de startups où ils servent généralement de juges. Je savais que participer à un tel évènement serait l’occasion idéale pour collecter un maximum de données en 24 heures.

« Si vous pouvez en faire 5 (interviews clients), vous pouvez en faire 35 » — Robert Bennett, Viatec Accelerator

Astuce: Tout le monde n’aime pas parler à des inconnus, alors pourquoi pas le faire avec un ami qui adore ça! Si vous êtes à Montréal, envoyez moi un message ou laissez un commentaire et je m’occupe de vos 5 premiers répondants!

2. Posez les bonnes questions

J’ai interrogé beaucoup de startups sur leur manière de chercher leur Product Market Fit et ont toutes répondu qu’elles intégraient leurs informations dans un fichier qui ne sera plus jamais réutilisé.

Le problème est qu’elles ne collectent principalement que des données qualitatives et ne savent donc pas comment les comparer. Le recours à des données quantitatives leur permettrait de mieux cerner le niveau de difficultés et d’avantages du marché ciblé.

La solution? Au lieu de poser des questions ouvertes comme « Que pensez-vous de cette idée? », faites en sorte que votre répondant décrive les difficultés et avantages de votre idée en les notant sur une échelle numérique. Voici un exemple de ce à quoi devrait ressembler votre questionnaire. Si vous souhaitez bénéficier d’une copie de ce questionnaire, envoyez moi un courriel à l’adresse sydney.wong@venturx.ca avec comme objet intitulé « Product Market Fit Survey » et je vous l’envoie!

Exemple de Difficulté: Les startups qui ne sont pas prêtes pour un financement font perdre beaucoup de temps aux investisseurs entre les présentations initiales et les due diligences. Les investisseurs finissent généralement par expliquer aux startups qui ont atteint leur Product Market Fit de rester en contact car ce n’est pas le bon moment ou bien de les contacter ultérieurement.

Exemple d’Avantage: Et si vous aviez une solution vous permettant de remplacer votre processus actuel d’inscription aux financements et simplifier vos due diligences? Vous verriez les meilleures startups ayant atteint leur niveau de Product Market Fit avec des notes plus élevées que leur industrie de référence.

Astuce: Toujours poser la question des difficultés avant celle des avantages. Si vous ne faites que parler de votre solution, il ne s’agit plus de recherche mais d’une présentation commerciale!

Astuce: Si vous n’êtes pas certain de votre affirmation concernant les difficultés et les avantages et que vous avez peu de temps, simplifiez-vous la tâche en recensant au moins deux affirmations de difficultés et avantages afin de comparer leurs réponses.

3. Suivez vos réponses

Pour le moment, la plupart des startups ont tendance à suivre et enregistrer manuellement leurs réponses sur un fichier. L’avantage de cet outil est qu’il est familier, facile d’utilisation et vous permet de créer manuellement des graphiques à présenter à votre équipe, à partir de vos données.

L’autre option, c’est d’utiliser notre outil conçu pour les startups. VenturX va vous permettre d’enregistrer les données de vos questionnaires et de calculer automatiquement votre Product Market Fit Score.

Cela ne prend alors que 30 secondes pour avoir votre score comme dans l’exemple ci-dessous ! Essayez vous-même sur www.venturx.ca.

Trouvez votre niveau de product market fit sur le site www.venturx.ca

VenturX

Voyez l’exemple de ma note lorsque j’ai interrogé les investisseurs spécialisés dans les entreprises en démarrage sur leurs Difficultés et Avantages.

Astuce: Ne surtout pas laisser votre clientèle cible voir les réponses des autres, cela pourrait influencer leur jugement.

4. Recommencez !

C’est tout à fait normal de ne pas avoir beaucoup de 9 ou de 10 lors de votre première enquête, il faut simplement rester cohérent. Ne commencez pas à modifier votre affirmation de difficultés et avantages après seulement quelques réponses. Vous saurez si vous êtes sur le bon chemin lorsque vous aurez constamment de bonnes notes (9 et 10) dans vos enquêtes.

Exemple: J’ai dû affiner mon marché cible aux investisseurs de capital-risque spécialisés dans les startups en démarrage plutôt que de m’adresser à tous les investisseurs. Si je souhaite enrichir mon offre avec davantage de caractéristiques, je vais devoir recommencer ce processus avec une nouvelle enquête sur mon Product Market Fit pour une nouvelle clientèle!

Une fois ces étapes complétées, prenez du recul et analysez vos résultats. Que vos notes soient élevées ou basses, vous avez tout de même accompli quelque chose. Vous avez désormais une note quantifiée vous permettant soit de valider votre idée, soit de tenter un nouveau marché cible ou bien d’ajuster votre angle d’attaque. Quoi qu’il en soit, restez fort, motivé, persistant et continuez à quantifier!

Voilà! Vous avez désormais les étapes nécessaires pour déterminer rapidement et efficacement votre Product Market Fit en disposant réellement d’une analyse sur ce que recherche votre marché. Le Product Market Fit est un des ICP sur lequel VenturX aide les startups à progresser en temps réel. Pour plus d’information sur ce sujet ou bien d’autres ICP, visitez notre site www.venturx.ca.

Contactez l’auteur à l’adresse sydney.wong@venturx.ca

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About VenturX

VenturX is a web platform that helps entrepreneurs through their journey from idea to launch and beyond. VenturX uses data-driven analytics to score and connect startups and investors at Seed and Series A financing.

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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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About VenturX

VenturX is a web platform that helps entrepreneurs through their journey from idea to launch and beyond. VenturX uses data-driven analytics to score and connect startups and investors at Seed and Series A financing.

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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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About VenturX

VenturX is a web platform that helps entrepreneurs through their journey from idea to launch and beyond. VenturX uses data-driven analytics to score and connect startups and investors at Seed and Series A financing.

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