I'm the cofounder & CEO of Trakio, a customer analytics platform with a powerful mobile dashboard to connect your team to your customer data. I've successfully raised multiple investments from insitituions/funds and individual angels in Europe and Silicon Valley. And we have paying customers! As CEO, I've been responsible for many areas in the company. I can help with practical data-driven approaches to Marketing (with a specialism in content marketing!), outbound sales, Customer Success (Onboarding, Retention, Experience), Recruiting, Strategy, raising investment and of course, analytics! I also have an engineer background and have implemented Lean Startup methodologies in multiple teams. So I can help with challenges such as early customer development, product management, developer resource planning and recommend SaaS tools and workflow. As a personal passion, I focus on data-driven customer acquisition ("growth hacking") and retention ("customer success management"). I wrote the book on applying Pirate Metrics ("Growth Pirate!") to startups and have also been consulting around applying advanced analytics in larger enterprises. I'm comfortable working with callers who are pre-launch, early stage or later stage. I have a particular focus on B2B SaaS and thats where most of my recent experience and focus has been. Other stuff I've done: I've raised angel and early venture funding. I've founded and sold a coworking space. I've founded and sold a digital agency. I've built 2 B2B SaaS startups. I also occasionally give lectures at local universities. I travel between San Francisco, London or Barcelona. After a call request, I'll message to schedule a mutually convenient time if I'm in a distant timezone from you.
You should first change your mindset about what you currently have, and don't have:
- You have a brand
- You have an audience
- You have a new customer acquisition channel
- You do not have a product
A business needs a product to sell. Adding a wiki is not adding a product, it's only increase the customer acquisition channel.... something you probably don;t need any more of yet.
What you need to do is create a single simple product, and then use your blog and brand as a channel to that product.
If you're really keen on writing, it could be an ebook or training course (adding videos to your case makes a huge difference). There are many resources online specific to one of these avenues.
I know a lot of friends and fellow entrepreneurs who make full time incomes from books, courses and other info products that are 100% powered from their blog. Happy to dive deeper on a call.
While working as a promoter at my University campus (quite a few years ago!), I can promise you that your best options are:
- A popular facebook account
- Campus reps (usually attractive female students)
- Society/club presidents
For this to work, you'll find it much easier to start somewhere hyperlocal where you can physically get face-to-face with people. Once you've established strategies and processes, you can start scaling out locally. However, the promotions team I worked with *still* physically visit each University campus around the UK and Europe at least once a year to keep the relationships going with their regional managers.
It's not coincidence that Facebook started at Harvard, and it's where the founders attended...
Honestly, bank loans are the cheapest capital you'll ever get in your startup and while the cashflow burden of paying them back is a bitch, the small % interest rate is far more favourable than the equity cost of an investor.
Also, having the loan repayments factored into your business plan will enforce good practices and targets. Planning to bootstrap is the best bet (i.e. making enough sales to pay back the loan, and pay salaries), as then you'll have the *option* of whether to raise any angel/venture capital rather than having it forced upon you.
In my first two startups, I launched the businesses entirely on commercial debt. In my 4th (and current) I've used a mixture of investment and loans. Happy to talk further about both scenarios.
Are you also a developer?
If you aren't a developer, you will probably need to offer 50% as a minimum and actually you're talking about a cofounder here. i.e. as soon as you can pay yourself $1,000 /mo, you both take $1,000 a month.
This is quite normal - it's how most 2-3 person teams startup. And don't worry, even if you've been working on your idea for months and feel like you've created loads of value - it's nothing until it's been executed correctly into a working product.
If you've invested any cash of your own so far (into anything other than your own salary) then there's an argument to convert this into debt on the company books or potentially adjust the 50/50 equity share *slightly*. As a rule of thumb, ask yourself how much equity you'd have given to an investor for $100k investment, and then use that as a scale to determine how much additional equity you should gain for the cash you invested.
I'm not saying you are but... if you're one of those guys who thinks you can offer a mobile developer 5% equity to build your entire product for free then you're going to get a harsh reality check when you go out into the talent market. There are startups in London who will pay the first 1-3 iOS developers £55,000 and 3-6% each (vested over 4 years).
I've hired a lot of developers before and I successfully recruited my own 'technical cofounder' (even though we're both developers) so happy to share more personal experience over a call.
A few points (and as someone who has sold a digital agency, I have some experience here)
1) "This is the biggest decision of my life"...
No it isn't. Not even close. I mean no disrespect but, agencies are easy to start back up. You build a team, build a client base, maybe take investors, scale it, sell it. Sit on your hands for the non-compete period, then start another one. Don;t sweat this too much, you aren't facing a decision that you can't work your way out of in a year or two.
So my tip number one: relax!
2) This investor is taking you for a ride
Giving yourself a minority ownership in an early-stage company or startup is a very, very bad idea. You need to feel like you have a "big win" ahead of you. A CEO shouldn't own a minority stake in the company she or he founded until you're doing $Millions in revenue
3) This guy is bringing very little to the table
He has no background in your area. If he's bringin money, sure. On £30k run rate you aren't hugely investible but hey, a £20k injection of cash at 20% equity might work for you. But seriously, right now you have a very early stage business and it's too early to see how his flower shop expertise would help.
4) It's really, really early for you
Taking investments into agencies is usually a bad idea until you have some solid revenue. £30k is very admirable and you should be proud to be more successful than a LOT of small business owners. But honestly, just keep selling and hustling.
Hire SLOW and fire fast. Move your sales reps to a basic and give them quotas. Use contractors to scale out delivery without taking on as much risk.
It sounds like you have the beginnings of a great agency. but from the information you've provided and from remembering my very early days where I transition from freelancer to agency, an investor right now would be a bad move for you.
Happy to jump on a call to discuss my specific experiences and how I scaled out my team and client base and then moved everything to SWEET retainers so we could sell the biz.
"Cold calling is dead"
Sure. But look deep inside any major B2B SaaS startup and you'll find a ratio of sales people to developers of about 2:1
So if these companies aren't cold calling, what are they doing?
Well - they are making calls. They're doing a LOT of outbound sales calls actually. The difference is, they aren't cold. They're warm, they were developed through relationship development and referrals.
C++ developers will never feel comfortable picking up the phone and making 10 high quality calls a day, which means the sales professional is as valuable in tech startups as ever.
Because we know that sales skills are critical to scale a tech startup, your personal development should focus on the skills required for the earlier stages of a startup.
Good marketing (copywriting being 90% of what you'll need to master), public speaking, project management (agile literacy), technical literacy.
Happy to chat further on a call
Firstly, bravo for having the courage to post such an honest question. Only a true entrepreneur would be able to dig deep to find the courage to be so honest, particularly when the perception (and expectations) of entrepreneurs is to always "Put on a positive face and say everything is going great!"
1) You had $2M in annual revenue at some point, so you did *something* right and found a measure of p/m fit. This means there is a great chance you can recover this. But it might mean ripping your product and whole business functions apart and rebuilding just the best bits and the parts most relevant for today. Prepare for potential layoffs and new hires, as the business may look very different.
2) While the patent-troll issue sucks, I'm assuming there have been no permanent damages to the product or market-shifts that have affected you. So it could even just be a cashflow-gap that needs to be plugged with a bit of debt-financing
3) I've yet to discover a company making sales that isn't attractive to at least 1 investor. Every investor has different portfolio goals, personal goals and personal interests, flaws, strengths and traits. While the terms may not be super favourable because of your exposed position, there will be investment options if you can repackage and re-position the company correctly
4) Emotionally, I strongly recommend you find a few really close entrepreneur connections you can rely on for emotional support. Founders have *very* few people we can be emotionally open with, and it's important you find some people now so that they can be a part of creating the solid, rock hard foundation that you will need for the journey in front of you.
5) Winding down companies is easy (technically). The emotional problems are the hardest. Be sure to have a personal plan B in place (house payments, family maintenance). To start you off, know that entrepreneurs who have taken a journey such as yourself will *always* be in high demand for bigger startups willing to pay fat salaries. Just be sure you have the personal cash to survive for a few months while you find that job (and get your personal expenses in order NOW in case that happens.)
6) I'd love to do a call with you to see if I can offer any perspective about the current business. Message me and I'd be happy to help out ("on the cheap")
Always default to SaaS and only offer one-off licenses in exceptional circumstances.
Is your product for individuals, SMB's or larger enterprise?
I've spoken with many entrepreneurs who have sold products on a per-license and all of them are either in the process of transitioning to, or are already, selling their product under a new SaaS model.
The cloud infrastructures in place today make launching a SaaS product much, much easier for the average developer. The common term for these is "PaaS" or "Platform As A Service" and they vary from very 'generic & flexible' cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Digital Ocean, to more specialised services like Heroku (Ruby on Rails), MongoHQ (MongoDB databases), PagadoBox (PHP).
All of these services have some kind of free tier for getting a new app started and for development, and then have very granular pricing for slowly scaling the cost of your cloud hosting with the size of your offering.
Nearly all platforms offer redundancy once you're on a paid tier, meaning if their physical hardware has a failure, your app will automagically be moved to a new piece of phsyical hardware and thus you'll have minimal/zero downtime. As you scale up, you can make this even more sophisticated with the right sys admin team working on it for you.
If you're launching a pretty simple B2B SaaS app like a project management or invoicing app, then your hosting costs will be negligible compared to your scale & revenue (excluding employee cost to manage). If you're launching something that involves media (pictures, videos, MP3's) then even on cloud PaaS, your hosting costs will still be quite significant, and you should have a chat with someone to estimate your costs first.
Speaking very broadly, startups tend to offer equity to engineers at around 2-4x the rate of marketing hires.
So straight away, you're likely to get a pretty bad deal on equity.
Realistically as employee #5 and in a marketing role, you're probably not going to get a deal on equity that will mean anything significant unless the company exits BIG. Like, $100m+ big. And does so without a stupid amount of liquidation. Anything beyond C round and employee options are basically 0 (the founders wont be great either, if it's any consolation)
But anyways. It really boils down to the salary discount you're taking. You need to realise this is basically you investing personal cash into the business - so what is that investment worth?
If you have been offerred a job at $100k and a startup offer you $70k, they're very simply saying "Please take $30k out of your pocket and put it into our bank account as an investor. Oh and you need to do that for a few years, because your equity vests over the next 4 years".
I'm a tech entrepreneur who has an employee equity pool in his company, but I'm very cynical about the standard practice of giving out options and how much motivation they actually provide to early hires. I think ownership as an intrinsic motivator can be done in more effective ways than a tiny fragment of financial ownership. And there are companies out there you will provide you with a great salary (120%-140% market) AND give you a sense of ownership and shared success in the company.
I think my question would be have you looked back into the strategy of physical rewards for health motivation? Rather than recommend services offering gym discounts, health supplement discounts etc. I'd rather go back into the reasons why you want to offer rewards in the first place.
From most industry best practice and studies into motivation, if you make the process transactional (do good thing, get spa discount), you'll actually lower motivation in the long run and damage any possibility of turning the healthy activity into a habit.
Example 1: Studies where patients were paid money for adherence have repeatedly shown poor results, as patients begin to cheat the system and created something transactional.
Example 2: CrossFit started from day 1 with an idea of standardised measurement (i.e. quantified self) and competitive leaderboards (i.e. feedback loops). Even though there are no mechanisms to stop an athlete from lying about their own time, the organisation has created an entire culture and international business off of the idea of people competing with themselves and baselining against strangers around the world. Standardisation, feedback loops, and gradual difficulty progression are all key ingredients to how CrossFit achieve this.
Instead, I'd focus on how your rewards program can be intrinsically rewarding.
I wont say "gamification" for the sake of dropping a b-word but if you pick up a book called 'Drive' you'll get a good primer into the underlying psychology of how/why game/reward systems can improve a positive behaviour.
I've passively been around the health tech industry for the last few years so happy to follow up on a call, I also have a few contacts who might be helpful.