Jeff Solomon5x founder, Velocify (sold for $128M), Amplify.la
Bio

Why take a call with me? I have deep experience in a lot of areas -- if I don't know, I'll tell you and won't waste your time, if I do know, I'll give it to you straight and quick. I speak firm and clear so you understand and I listen to what you have to say. I like taking calls on Clarity first because I genuinely enjoy helping people if I can; second because I get compensated for my effort. It's pretty much just like that. ----- My reviews are my bio and many will tell you that I'm good at helping other entrepreneurs think through problems and work out solutions. Specifically as it relates to my expertise: I have deep expertise in Saas, Mobile Apps, Startup Accelerators, Lead Generation, UX, Angel & Seed Funding, B2B Software, Enterprise Sales, ASO, Mobile Advertising and Bootstrapping. I co-founded Amplify, Startup Accelerator (3 funds, $15MM raised) and Velocify (formerly Leads360) sold for $128MM. Raised $35MM+ in venture capital. And I've had a startup fail miserably. I've angel invested in a dozen companies. I've seen over 3000 startups apply to Amplify and been pitched by hundreds of entrepreneurs. And have raised more than $50MM in aggregate seed and Angel funding for our portfolio companies. I live and breathe startups and have a lot of experience helping and advising them. Talk to me about accelerators, incubators and raising seed capital. I've started 4 companies (1 failed, 1 sold, 1 killing it, 1 active in it). I angel invest personally and have raised venture capital, built a SaaS company from 0 to 100 employees and I'm also a father of 5 year old twins -- so I've got some parenting skills to boot. I've also recently become quite knowledgeable about mobile advertising, both from a customer acquisition standpoint and from a publisher perspective.



Recent Answers


Good question, but my feeling is wrong time to ask it. It's hard enough to get users, period. Getting users in your home country is going to be much easier than a foreign country (I'm assuming you're a US based company/founders). Now, there is a time when I would absolutely look at language support for other countries, but there is so much to learn about your product, your users, your customer acquisition and all that jazz before you go and build out the code to handle different languages.

Now, if you are building a really basic app that is easy to translate, then maybe. But if the app is going to be a reasonably sophisticated social app, with at least a few bells and whistles, it may be more than you want to take on at first.


Hi, well this is extremely uncommon, or at least very uncommon in the realm of legitimate investors of any kind. The whole point of venture investing, which includes accelerators and incubators, is that it's high risk, and that it's totally unsecured investment. That's why we get a lot of equity for our money.

Now, there may be exceptions depending on the deal terms and structure, but it's something you would only do if there was a really big incentive to do so, like super low equity. But if I read this correctly, and you get 20K for 15% of the company, that's not nearly sweet enough to also be on the hook for returning the capital if you fail, which sadly is likely.

If you want to talk and go through the term sheet/docs, I'd be happy to setup a call to discuss more.


The best pitches tend be from teams that gel and roles usually aren't essential for that to happen. I would say that whoever is a better presenter should probably lead, thats usually the CEO but not always. Whoever leads, the other person will do well to jump in when the time is right. Those spots can be when you need to hammer home a point and the other person sees an opportunity to restate something from a slightly different angle to make sure all the people in attendance are "getting it". Read the audience and both members of your team can drive the velocity.

When it comes to the technical parts of the pitch, certainly your cto will want to shine and show that he/she has the chops for whatever it is your doing. One thing I've come to look for though is a team that knows each other's roles a bit. The "non-technical" co-founder who doesn't know the difference between PHP and HTML come across weak in my book. The best founder teams really compliment each other but also have a slight bit of crossover. It helps you counter balance and spot check assumptions, etc.

Hope that helps. We could talk for hours on this as I've both pitched dozens of VC's as a founder trying to raise money, as an investor trying to raise a fund and an partner in an seed fund looking to back companies.


Interesting conundrum my friend. Lots to comment on. First I can almost certainly guarantee that if you were to go into business with these "partners" it will not be a success for most of the reasons you're already stated.

I can also say from experience as the investor and as one who's had more than one portfolio company have a "founder" agreement issue, that an unclear legal structure is one that most investors will shy away from. So one way or another that needs to be clean if you go out to raise.

Next, I probably


Not necessarily, if at all. I'd say "optimizing" marketing will be difficult, but marketing and acquiring users is totally doable. The problem will be retaining those users, but that's ok too.

When your in the "hunt" (ala the search for product market fit) you need prospective customers to come and test your product in order to get feedback to find out what needs to be modified/created to hence find product-market fit... right?

So, spend some money marketing to get some users, hopefully you've got pseudo-product-market fit so customers will like what you have just enough to give you feedback to make it better, then iterate, market again, and see what they say. Eventually you can optimize marketing for cost and quality.


Traction. Traction of course differs from business to business, but the result from an investors perspective is the same... reduced risk. If you have a b2b saas its customers, preferrably paying. If you have a consumer mobile app its users and engagement, and so on.

DO go to meetings with a clear picture of your traction, metrics, etc. be able to explain and support that data.

DO NOT be wishy washy about your metrics, either know it or wrie it down. Investors respect the cheat sheet.

Finally, don't kid yourself with exaggerated metrics and tracking. Read this from Andre Chen if you arent sure - http://www.slideshare.net/andrew_null/zero-to-traction


Retention (aka churn). This is the most important because it drives all other decisions around sales, marketing and product. If churn is high it's because: a) sales people are not setting expectations properly (e.g. selling too much sizzle and not enough steak); b) your marketing is bringing in the wrong type of customer; c) your product doesn't solve a big enough problem/pain point for your customer.

It's also the key to forecasting; if you can accurately predict churn, you know how much you need to sell, how many leads you need to generate, etc. etc.

Don't wait, track this asap. And don't fake it (like Salesforce.com used to say, oh, we have less than 1% churn per year, when they were actually tracking the % of customers that don't renew contracts). That's not churn; people cancel or stop paying ALL THE TIME. As soon as you know you're not going to get money again from that customer, they've churned, track that end date right then and there.


The best sales people can very quickly identify the biggest pain point for a customer; if you do this it's easier for the prospect to associate money with that pain e.g. "how much it's worth to alleviate that pain".

If something is a nice to have it's not worth that much to them, if something is a must have, it's worth more... try to put your product in the must have, or at least in the "what a pain it would be without your thing" category.


If it's email, my experience has been keep the touches valuable and consumable. By that I mean, don't send them a 2 page email with all kinds of content about how awesome your company is and why they should use your product. Take the education marketing approach. Send them little nuggets of useful information or data. If you are selling an analytics platform, give them some insightful analytics they can immediately benefit from e.g. "did you know that 50% of people who walk on a car dealership lot end up buying a car in the next 30 days... be sure to capture contact information from EVERYONE that steps foot on your lot".

The recipient of that email drip feels they got a real valuable data point that is also actionable and they'll remember it came from you. When they're ready to buy, you'll be top of mind.

Links to articles are also great for drip campaigns e.g. "hey, we saw this interesting article on customer patterns for car dealerships and thought you might find it valuable" -- of course, if you guys did the analytics and produced the white paper that's good too.

Key is to mix it up. Frequency is ok, if it's useful.


Zillow and Trulia both offer lead generation products for realtors; you might be able to scrape, or pay, for leads from there using a combination of tech and pay-for services. You might also consider checking out what data sources @Factual has that can be tapped to reach the right audience... but yes, inbound is way better than cold calling fo sho


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