Loves innovative software & services. Passion for meeting new people. Entrepreneur with a global network in many industries.
I have been at C-level, as well as co-founded, founded, and advised many startups at various stages of their maturity cycle. What I have discovered (not just in startups) is a "good deal" depends on what you "really" want out of this deal. There's no quick answer to this and requires some examination of how you got to this situation and what you want to get out of it, both short and long term.
Is control of something that's not growing fast enough and needs more resources and expertise the key? Is the new equity investor bringing value that will increase the value of the entire company? And most important, what kind of partner do you want? Read the Founder's Dilemma, figure out what you want and then negotiate around that as equity/control and ownership aren't the only thing of value.
Separately, having done investment banking back in the day, there are lots of capital structures where you can maintain control whilst still bring in a partner.
Reach out if you need more advice.
I have launched lots of cutting edge technologies into the market and here’s what I would add to what others have said:
(a) Understand what your target audience is using now and how they are making do with the current solution. I am always surprised by what people use and their lack of will to change despite incentives and a much easier life.
(b) People always say they want a better solution but when presented with one, are unlikely to bite for a myriad of reason. Sometimes it’s time or money but there are lots of hidden factors that affect implementation and adoption. Follow around your potential customers. Have a look at your contacts - see how they are "making do" with less than satisfactory solutions (in many areas of life) even if they have the money to buy/trade in for a newer, better one.
(c) Someone else said ease of use but I would say that ease of onboarding/getting started/sharing/ describing the product and its benefits is really important.
(d) Know that the hurdle is retention and continued positive NPS, and not just adoption, so build that into your UX
(e) Listen to your customers and capture their feedback
I have done this into enterprise but I would say this advice also follows for B2C. It is hard, slow but very interesting. I would suggest a couple of things: (1) there are so many “experts” on social media to follow and get up to speed. Use this to build a casual network, ask questions on the group boards on LinkedIn, and make LI connections but ask for calls for 20 minutes to pick their brains. (2) I would partner with one or two people who can fill in the gaps in terms of expertise. You can tripped up by industry norms that you don’t know about and make no sense; obscure regulation and jargon; silent influencers and just a general understanding of how an industry moves in terms of adoption etc.
Having done this into a highly technical "expert mindset" industry, which was mature, I ending up looking for a partner who could fill in the gaps. I found someone on LinkedIn that became my partner in this and was extremely helpful once I got in front of sales prospects in terms of technical language, regulatory information and experience in implementing technical solutions. By the way, as I find with all early stage sales, the things that tripped us up were not industry knowledge related but as always, how much energy your champion could into it; how much political capital they had to push stuff through and whether they’d been successful before doing this. Happy to talk to you more about my experience if that’s any help.
How would you describe this app to a friend? Who would you recommend this app to? If the app wasn't working, what would you use instead? And observation! Just watching people use the app, you can see from their faces/hands which bit is working for them or not. Great to hone in those areas of delight and frustration and ask "you seem frustrated right now, is something not working for you" or the opposite? Do these rather than asking about a magic wand. I worked at the forefront of streaming video and consumers asked for everything and then once they got it, didn't use the features etc. You will find similar stories elsewhere. Share the resource if you find it. Thanks
Hi, I have done this numerous times at both concept/pre-product stage but also once a product is built and trying to figure out "the problem it solves" (this generally happens after someone has tried to take it to market and no one is buying).
Do you understand how your future users "solve" this problem right now? Observation is a great tool to understand this and then asking to talk to people about their lives in general, and gently leading them to talk about the area you think you solve. If you ask them if something specific is a problem (such as in a FB post, ads etc.), psychologically people feel the need to give you some feedback etc. and you end up basing everything on false assumptions. The other thing is if you ask users if they want certain features and technology, the answer is always yes because people think they want choice, but actually only want limited choice. Your choice of platform should be according to easiest way to solve the problem for end users but also the quickest way for you to build an MVP too and test these assumptions.
This early stage of problem market fit can help inform your marketing pitch, MPV/roadmaps etc. so it is good to listen and learn. I am happy to give you some time free of charge if you want to talk further.
I agree with what everyone else is saying but would add a level of detail. I have spent 20 years developing and launching innovative technologies and business models in enterprise/B2B with some many lessons learnt. My key lessons would be:
(a) Having a product that the customer really wants (or has been actively looking for), that the buyer will pay/commit resources (time, personnel etc.), even at pre-product level. You can do this for both B2C and B2B
(b) Finding potential customer(s) that you build a relationship with where they give you a lot of feedback beyond the product because you need to understand the ecosystem you are selling into
(c) Knowing that the buying decision process and timeline in advance - ensuring that your buyer can get this purchase done
(d) Estimating 2x more for everything – double the amount/time etc for costs, delivery, decisions etc.
(e) Understanding that the stress and emotional journey levels are going to be very high and can be isolating. Free remedies include meditation, exercise and finding a group of people you can talk freely with about what’s going on
(f) Figuring out whether your risk and timing tolerance matches your product’s sales cycle
(g) Listening well and asking questions – reflective listening is really helpful with customers, providers etc.
(h) Don’t assume anything – sometimes the “pain point” or question you think you are solving isn’t so bad for the customer or that they frame it in a different way – be ready to learn all the time
(i) Read “the Lean Startup” - it is very helpful
You can do all this without spending hard cash but it takes a lot of time and patience.
Happy to jump on a call if that is helpful.
Hi, you are correct about advertising standards esp. around health claims. I have been through this before and tried to find work around etc. but found getting a lawyer that specialised in FTC standards before launch was the best way forward. This is a good explanation: https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/attachments/training-materials/substantiation.pdf
Email me and I can give you the name of someone I used.