20-year startup veteran. Currently Chief Marketing Officer for Bosch-backed kitchen startup Chefling. Been through three acquisitions. Former founding CEO of Y Combinator-backed Earbits. $1.7M raised from Y Combinator, Charles River Ventures and 30+ angels. Grew the company to 15,000 artists and 500,000 mobile app downloads before our acquisition in 2015. I can add value around strategic partnerships, marketing, seed stage fundraising, product optimization and not killing your startup. I've built a startup from concept to acquisition, as well as taken over a company and grown it from $19M to $48M in two years.
The best and only real tool for defining a customer avatar is speaking to actual customers in one on one interviews. There are so many ways to interpret data and misreading what it means that using any tool without speaking to customers can lead you in the wrong direction. Imagine that FB insights tells you that your audience is mostly single. Why are they single? Are they single and looking or are they happily single? This kind of information is not available in FB or any 3rd party platform.
Long before you create an avatar, you should have brainstormed all of the markets your potential solution or product might serve. You want to do this with the end users in mind. If you are targeting teachers, different segments would include primary school teachers, high school teachers, subject-specific teachers, special needs, you name it. To the extent they are likely to have different needs from a product or service, they are different markets. Most people focus on too broad of a market with too many types of end users.
Once you have a healthy list of possible markets, you want to narrow it down to the 6-12 that seem the most promising. From there, you want to conduct primary (first-hand) research by speaking to 3-5 end users from each market segment. Check out CustomerDevLabs.com for great info about how to conduct these interviews. Find out who seems to have the greatest need for a solution, can afford one, and is adjacent to other markets. You want to narrow your markets down to one beachhead that consists of only one type of end user. The market should be as narrow as possible but be sufficiently big that, if you captured 100% of the market share, you would surpass break even and have a full solution developed. This allows you to stay narrowly focused on a simple set of customers and get to the point that prevents startup death as easily as possible.
Once you know your beachhead market, you will interview several more customers and begin to compile the customer avatar. You will find out what they all have in common and what is different. You will find out where they congregate offline and online, how they speak about the problem, what their top priorities are when considering a solution, and much more. This kind of information would never be gathered by using FB Insights or something similar. You can only know it by talking to the end users.
Once you feel like you really understand the end users you will be serving in your beachhead market, you want to pick one actual customer who most exemplifies the end user. Literally, pick a customer who is the perfect customer for you, and then take the customer avatar one step further by finding out all of the details you can about this one person. Even things that seem irrelevant - what kind of car they drive, how to do they dress, where did they grow up? You want to know this customer like you know a good friend. As you think through product decisions, sometimes you will simply say, "Would Sam want this feature or find this value proposition compelling?" And, you'll often know the answer because you know Sam well. When you don't know the answer or there is internal debate, you will literally ask Sam for the answer. What they say is final.
This process is outlined in a book called Disciplined Entrepreneurship. I highly recommend reading it and doing this the right way. If you feel like chatting about it, let me know.
This is not a question you should ask experts. You should be having this conversation directly with your potential customers and clients.
Before you build anything more, you should check out the book Disciplined Entrepreneurship, which outlines the steps to take to answer questions like these in the fastest, cheapest way possible, by conducting a very specific type of customer interview. You can also find a lot of information on a website called CustomerDevLabs.com.
Additionally, building a two-sided marketplace is far more challenging because you have to solve a problem for two parties at once, and most startups fail to solve an adequate problem for even one set of customers. If there is any way at all to do so, I would focus on solving the problem for one side of your market first. Rather than have half bookable, half unbookable, make a directory of resorts or providers that is focused on a narrow niche, like yoga retreats, or something similar, and make it as easy as possible for the customer to book themselves through the provider's website. Once you have created a website that is very useful to tourists and they are using the site to go 90% of the way to a booked reservation, then you can go to the resorts with customers in hand and immediately provide considerable value to them.
I have built a lot of two-sided marketplaces and solved the chicken and egg problem many times. Let me know if you want to talk through strategies for this, but first I would suggest reading at least the first nine steps in Disciplined Entrepreneurship.
Lots of partially good ideas here but many of them still skip steps or suggest spending money you shouldn't. There is an MIT-based framework outlined in the book Disciplined Entrepreneurship that combines Lean Startup principles with other proven best practices to tell you exactly how to do this without spending much of anything.
It starts with identifying as many markets as you think might be yours based on what your proposed solution is. If you have a solution for teachers, your end users could be high school teachers, elementary teachers, private school, subject-specific teachers, special needs, etc. To the extent that these people will have different needs or will use the product differently, they are different markets. You want to identify all of the markets you can think of, then narrow it down to the 6-12 most promising.
Then, you want to conduct customer interviews with 5-10 people in each of your top markets. Your goal is to find out what their pain points are, what they currently do to solve their issues, whether they have the budget to pay for a solution, the most important needs for a solution, and more. Your goal is to narrow your markets down to one beachhead market that, if you dominated it, could get your startup to break even. That allows you to build a very specific solution meeting the needs of only one narrow set of users and, if successful, prevent startup death. From there, ideally, the next market only requires mild changes or additional features to expand into.
Once you narrow your markets to a beachhead, you would do more interviews and start finding out where these users aggregate online and offline, what solution they need exactly, what features are the most valuable to them, how they describe those features (specific keyword phrases that resonate with them) and so on. By the time you're done, you should know exactly what to build first, how to describe it in a way that the users will respond to, and exactly where to market to them online and offline.
Next you could design a solution using a prototyping tool and conduct interviews to see if people understand the product, whether it's intuitive and so on. By the time you actually start spending any money on developing the actual product, you should all but know that it's exactly what you need.
Hit me up if you want to chat.
I typically end up doing this in Excel in order to get more granular.
Although your KPIs are supposed to be the most important overall metrics of your company, each major source of candidate leads, each of your sales teams, the role types, all ultimately drive these KPIs. Monitoring the health of the most important segments you have independently can help you identify changes in performance or help you allocate resources to better performing areas.
For that reason, I usually create a spreadsheet that calculates all of my KPIs, then duplicate it onto additional tabs and plug in the individual data for my most important segments. In your case, segments might be teams (or individual reps if there aren't too many), certain role types you're trying to fill, candidate leads that came from particular sources, etc.
Then, I usually create one tab of graphs that show me how my overall KPIs are trending, and then a long tab with graphs for each KPI broken down and showing me how my most important segments are trending vs one another.
This allows me to see my big picture numbers easily, and also monitor the underlying performance that affects them. Without it, I have found that you can get wins in an area while performing poorer in another and not even notice that your business has started to fare worse with leads from certain sources, or in filling certain roles.
Based on other answers here, it seems Home Depot has a standardized process for considering new products, but there are always ways to increase your chances. Do you know leaders from other companies that have their products there? Do they work with a buyer closely who they can introduce you to? Would their endorsement help your application chances? If you are not already connected with someone whose products are sold there, can you build a relationship with someone?
Although I am sure their decisions are made mostly by the numbers, it never hurts to have the endorsement of someone they trust, or to be the partner who established a relationship today and is remembered when a need arises tomorrow.
As for other partners like builders and developers, your strategy to that would depend a lot on your market. Are you nationwide, with many thousands of companies to target? You might need a solid advertising or content marketing strategy. You may need a lead generation strategy with a solid and optimized follow up process.
Are you local with only 30 companies to target? You need a more refined strategy for approaching them and building relationships, probably in person.
Interviewing your existing customers is a good way to find out how they think, where they go to locate information when they're buying a service like yours, what made them want to work with you, whether they know anybody else who might benefit from your service, etc.
Happy to talk partnership strategy anytime.
I had a fantastic board of advisors with some heavy hitters. Unless you know for a fact that someone will be very involved or they plan to introduce you to a ton of clients, partners or investors, the standard is pretty much 0.5%.
The most important thing I learned was that the people who wanted more ended up being the least helpful. Two people on my BOA negotiated for 1% and, although one of them provided a catalog of content that was super valuable, he was difficult to get much out of after that and not more valuable than the many people who accepted 0.5%. My most valuable advisor would not accept equity until we basically forced him to.
Look for people who dive in and help without any incentive. They should be doing it because they like you and think your business is super interesting. If they are in it for the equity, run the other direction.
I am not a lawyer but I have had multiple businesses and been through many trademark exercises. Glamr should not be a conflict with those trademarks you referenced, especially if you are not competitive with those businesses. If you are a magazine super similar to Glamour, you may have more of a problem. But as long as the business is different, that name is plenty different than those two.
You can search the US patent and trademark office's database at this URL:
I searched for Glamr and it didn't return any results. It defaulted to looking for Glamor results and nothing looked like a conflict. Glam also returned no results that should be a problem for Glamr.
Obviously, it would be ideal to check with a lawyer but, in my non-expert opinion, you should be fine.
Much like negotiating a salary or company valuation, your objective is not necessarily to assign the perfect value. Your objective is to add a highly motivated partner to your business, feel great about it, and get to work on the important stuff. You want to mitigate the possibility for resentment or the need to revisit this in the future.
There are so many things to consider, how can you find the perfect number, anyway? What is their target salary? What is yours? You've put in two years, but are they super charged up and going to bring new energy into the company that you badly need? What about their professional network? Will they bring future customers, team members or investors to the table? Was the investment you put in chump change for your situation while the new person is investing their kids' college fund?
If you try to solve this problem from the standpoint of determining the perfect value, you could spend weeks crunching the numbers. To Assaf Ben-David's point, this is a psychological problem of how to motivate two people and create a relationship that both people value. Today's company value has little bearing on that unless it's super important to your own motivation and sense of fairness. You could be fine with 60/40 and so could your new partner, and you're off to the races without all the headache.
Just try to find the number and vesting terms you can both live with no matter what happens. If you're both happy and motivated, you've achieved the objective. If you pick the perfect value but neither of you is very happy, you've failed.
There is a lot that goes into picking a co-founder. If you want to chat about this, please reach out.
Working for six years on my own startup, and collectively many more in other startups, while never having the personal financial outcome I wanted makes me feel left behind by people who worked jobs, saved money and invested. I am not sure how I would do it differently but I won't be starting another company where I have to put everything on the line again.
One of the side effects that I most regret is that you're so busy and probably broke when you're doing a startup that you can't really go out with your friends anymore. They don't see you at the office and think to invite you out. If they do remember, you probably can't go. The number and quality of friendships you have at the start of a startup and at the end can be quite different. If I had known that I would have made more of an effort to nurture those relationships, even if it's difficult to do. If anything, I'd probably just trade in some hours I'm working for time with friends and I'd almost bet it wouldn't negatively impact my outcome. We entrepreneurs almost always work too much.
Save money. Spend time with friends. Your two big, unexpected startup tips.
First, you need to determine two things.
Who are your end users? These are the people who will actually take the workshop or use your product/service. It sounds like those are students.
Who are your buyers? These are the people that will pay for your service. As an example, parents are the buyers of toys but kids are the end users.
Who is paying for these workshops? Are schools your buyers and students your end users? Are parents the buyers and schools necessary to involve? Why? Selling to schools is very hard. Are you sure you need to? Why not go to students directly? If you're using schools as a way to reach students, would a student organization be a better, more approachable organization?
You need to start with your objectives and look for the path of least resistance. If you're just trying to secure students and a place to host a workshop, there are easier ways than working with schools unless the school benefits greatly.
Lots to think about. Let me know if you want to have a call and discuss.