David CrowI <3 emerging technology & new buying behaviours

Currently Director at OMERS Ventures. Previously founder of Influitive. Employee at Microsoft, Reactivity, Trilogy. I am an angel investor in StreetContxt, Send With Us, Upverter, AnalyzeRE, Maintenance Assistant. I am an advisor to GetGifted and others.

I love emerging technology. I love the emergent customer behaviours and business modes that new technologies enable. I focus on early customer acquisition and growth. This manifests with product, marketing, sales, and development.

Focus on marketing, customer segmentation, customer acquisition, product development and metrics. No nonsense advice about corporate structure, product teams, relationship between product, engineering, marketing, sales, etc.

Brutally honest. To a fault.

Recent Answers

Typically for founders and employees you assign options that vest (an option to buy a common share at a given price).

The basics of venture math is described by Brad Feld:

* http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/2004/07/venture-capital-deal-algebra.html

The preferences that an investor can put in deal structures change. See http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/2004/07/liquidation-preferences.html

You should talk to a lawyer that has experience with share holder agreements, employee stock option plans and the tax implications of the different decisions based on your jurisdiction.

You can read about Zaarly, which was a 2-sided reverse Craigslist, and their struggles with pricing and the ultimate impact it had on their decision to change to a storefront only tool.

* http://techcrunch.com/2013/03/09/zaarly-shutters-its-reverse-craigslist-marketplace-goes-all-in-on-virtual-storefronts-as-co-founder-exits/

A better read is "If You Think 10% Is A Good Transaction Fee For Your Marketplace, Then It Will Struggle" by Sunil Rajaraman

* http://techcrunch.com/2013/03/16/marketplaces-businesses-are-tough-to-build/

"it would be to start your transaction fees higher than 10 percent. I understand that companies start here to deter competition and provide a better deal for suppliers. But imagine having to build a business that completes $1 billion in annual transactions within five years in order to build a $100 million top-line business. Start much higher than 10 percent. You can move down eventually, but you cannot move up"

And Bill Gurley's "All Markets are not created equal - 10 factors to consider when evaluating marketplaces"

* http://abovethecrowd.com/2012/11/13/all-markets-are-not-created-equal-10-factors-to-consider-when-evaluating-digital-marketplaces/

Pricing is key to proving your revenue model.

There are a lot of tools designed to help "sketch" business ideas and business models. You need to be able to define and refine your ideas with a pencil and paper at the best. Other tools like Business Model Generation are great at sketching and documenting business model assumptions. I'm a huge fan of Bill Buxton's Sketching User Experiences and you can find his talks at http://www.billbuxton.com/#talk

For UI work check out:

* http://www.onextrapixel.com/2010/09/29/40-brilliant-examples-of-sketched-ui-wireframes-and-mock-ups/
* http://webdesignledger.com/inspiration/18-great-examples-of-sketched-ui-wireframes-and-mockups

You goal is to be able to effectively communicate your ideas, your business and the next steps.

It depends. The length of time a company has been incorporated has very little to do with the value or contribution to value creation. If there has been a third-party valuation event, things change. But if you're still slogging away and this person is a key hire to moving to the next stage, it's probably more.

Back in 2009 I wrote about the compensation for founders versus early employees http://startupnorth.ca/2009/09/10/founders-versus-early-employees/ and http://thinkspace.com/how-to-divide-equity-to-startup-founders-advisors-and-employees/ are great sources.

Both of these articles include distributions of bringing on talent post Series A (raised from an institutional investor). If you've raised this capital, you should be thinking 0.5%-1.5% for a senior developer. If you haven't, it might be higher like 10-15% or more, i.e., are they really a cofounder...

"Equity is like shit. If you pile it up in one place it just smells bad. If you spread it around then lots of good things grow." - @joshbaer

It is possible but difficult.

There are some structural issues that are unrelated to your company. Many venture funds have limited partnership agreements that restrict the geographies of their investment. You'll often see that many venture firms create geographic specific funds, ala, Sequoia which has funds in the US, Israel and China see http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/17/sequoia-raises-700m-for-global-growth-fund/ for more details. It does depends on the specifics of the specific fund. There are funds like 500startups that have been looking specifically at Latin America and South America as regions of growth for investment.

Looking towards individual angel investors maybe easier. Using tools like AngelList http://angel.co/ access to both accredited and non-accredited investors that can help you raise funding.

Traction is king.

Your goal is to communicate traction over a period of time. Check out Brendan Baker's quora answers:

* http://www.quora.com/Brendan-Baker/Posts/Startups-How-to-Communicate-Traction-to-Investors
* http://www.slideshare.net/brendanbaker/how-to-communicate-traction-to-investors-with-brendan-baker-and-hiten-shah

"Traction is your story of momentum, communicated through quantified evidence of market demand for your product" Brendan Baker & Hiten Shah.

At different stages of corporate development you can convey different levels of traction. Early, it is about vision and the ability to build a team and early product. But the story needs to evolve. If you are still talking about vision after 4 months, you should go back to the drawing board.

I like giving them "status" on the site or in the app. This is things like "Mayorships" in Foursquare or "Verified" on Twitter. The goal is to create a simple, exposed way that people can earn status. (This is similar to the "LinkedIn Connections game" that was played back in the day, you have to get to 500 connections but you don't want to be the person with their email address in their Name).

You want to be able to give them "superpower". See Kathy Sierra's Designing for a Badass User http://craftedresonance.quora.com/Kathy-Sierra-on-Designing-for-Badass

I have seen great marketers come from product and technology. Completely agree with Jason about the faulty premise of this equation.

It depends. You do different things for an enterprise product than you do for a consumer product. Beta is not just a flash in the pan moment. You are trying to gather different feedback from users with varying levels of risk and reward. Gathering feedback is key. You need to make sure that you have an engagement and feedback process that is very explicit. Participants might choose to not participate which is ok if you app is well instrumented. But it probably means the CEO/Founder is dialing and smiling to talk to every single user and gather their input.

Basically you need to create a set of different phases:

1. Phase 1 - Friends and Family
You're checking to make sure the code works. Don't let everybody in. Make sure your stuff works. Beyond your nerdy engineering team.

2. Phase 2 - Private, Highly Segmented
Segment the hell out of your audience. You only want people that are part of your primary segment and that are very early adopters. Make sure to slowly invite more people.

3. Phase 3 - Targeted but Open
You may be able to test the virality of you customer acquisition. Most of these users won't provide real feedback. You can test your acquisition, virality, fall out points, messaging, etc.

Check out https://blog.serverdensity.com/running-a-successful-beta-trickle-effect-and-phone-feedback/ for more.

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