Founder of http://moonmarch.com , a storytelling & fundraising agency. Previously: Founder of Earmark, CNNs 'Top 15 Financial Products' of 2013-2014. Global Strategy Advertising lead on Reebok at Tribal DDB NYC.
I have built multiple teams including bringing on cofounders, and being brought on as a cofounder. I also once brought on a cofounder who was responsible for doing the legal/financial/accounting. I wouldn’t do that again (we’re still great friends - just not enough value). I hope my experience can help you out.
Having a cofounder is like having a business spouse. Accordingly, much of the same aspects of relationship building apply, including the pitch and the subsequent “dating.” As you move forward in your relationship, your goal should be removing as much ambiguity as possible, as quickly as possible. A business litigator friend of mine used to say that 99% of breakdowns in partnerships occur because the relationship developed a high tolerance for ambiguity.
1. What you focus on in your first meeting depends on whether or not that person has been a cofounder and/or part of a startup in the past. If they have, they will likely want to start poking holes as quickly as possible, allowing you to be more granular in your discussion. If they haven't, you'll probably stay higher level at first. Both are fine, just be prepared for both scenarios.
2. You have to capture people's imagination with energy and a great story right off the bat. I have made the mistake of ‘just presenting the facts’ in our first meeting, and that generally doesn't go as well. You have to be honest, but you need people to get excited when pitching before they're able and willing to process the details and logic. This is so very important. Don’t overdo it, be humble and point out your gaps, but be excited!
3. The more you can show progress the better. After you capture the imagination, if you can show off the goods that's ideal. This helps them catch the vision, and it also helps them know you’re not full of it and could pull this off =)
4. Take your time. Don't ask them to cofound things on day one. Just like dating, just keep getting to know each other if things continue to progress positively.
5. Help them see where they fit, and define a clear path to on-boarding. By doing this, you’re removing ambiguity and risk, which helps them process the important things. At minimum, this includes 1) discussing ownership, and 2) defining a trial run. 1) Even if you just say, “I’ll take 60% you take 40% and we’ll dilute equally” and put that in writing, that’s a good start. Don’t wait on that. 2) Then, define a specific period of time that you'll test working together. Put a date on the calendar to address whether or not you work well together, and then be honest about it.
Ok…I have lots more to say (clearly) on partnership; but to your other questions:
You can grab templates for much of the more lightweight financial stuff. And/or, partner with a company who does these services vs. bringing on a cofounder who does “the business.” A great cofounder needs to be able to dabble across the business. If they’re a lawyer who can also do UX, marketing, customer service, etc. that’s great! Bring them on. But, that person is rare in my experience. A more CFO/accountant/legal type of person may be more of a post-funding/growth hire than a cofounder. So, I generally prefer to pay a one-time fee to get incorporated, get my books set up, and get my financial modeling done rather than take the risk of losing equity on someone who might not add enough value early on. I work with some partners who do this if you’d like more info.
Lastly, I have only ever found/been found via word of mouth. I have seen some sites who are geared towards helping find a cofounder, but I haven’t used them or had success when trying to find people online. I’m sure some others will have a different opinion, so hopefully you can get some more advice from other Clarity members.
Let me know if you’d like to chat more. I hope that helps!
Hey - I have been in creative client services for most of my career, ranging from running global strategy for fortune 500 companies to building websites for tiny non-profits. Hope these thoughts are helpful:
Use freelancers as much as possible until you get your feet under you. The main reason: no fixed costs to drain your cash during down months.
That being said, try to get one partner/hire early on who can pitch in across a number of categories - marketing, design, development, project management. It helps having a friend, and having another committed person can help scale/stretch drastically.
Present as a cohesive company, but don't be afraid to expose your financials to clients. This has been a selling point for me: "World class talent without paying for overhead" is attractive to clients.
Do fixed fee 99% of the time. No hourly.
Process is everything. All these services are so commoditized these days, that great customer service and a clear process can go a long way.
I would be in charge of the client relationship almost all of the time if you can. But, I would need to know more about your company. Generally speaking, relationships are the most valuable asset you have in creative services.
Hope that helps!
If you have experienced growth, you feel like you're solving a real problem, and your main challenge is a marketing funnel...
You're not alone =) Awareness is a huge problem for just about every startup. Unfortunately, the only answer the Lean Startup movement has to offer is kind of, "Build it, and they will come" which doesn't work for most companies. Hence the emergence of "growth hacking."
So, before pivoting, definitely test a few marketing strategies and try and get a general understanding of your cost-per-user. It takes time to optimize that number, but I would definitely try understanding the cost and difficulty/ease of acquiring users before ditching a potentially successful idea!
Hey there, I have raised a few rounds myself, got my butt kicked on others, and helped raise over $11MM for other startups.
Raising capital is very hard. It's emotionally draining, and it's a full-time job for awhile - the average round takes over three months. Which means... it's hard to do when you're not passionate about what you're doing.
I might consider this approach:
1) Fine-tune your pitch. Make it incredible! Exciting, passionate, and highlight your growth (I/others can help with this).
2) Then, take that pitch to two different audiences:
2.A) A potential COO/CEO/etc. See what kind of talent you can get to phase yourself out.
2.B) A few investors in your network you trust. Try and get a gauge on how difficult this round of funding will take.
You can use that "data" to help inform your decision.
Last note: some investors might actually be happy to transition you out of the CEO role. Not all, but some.
Hope that helps!
I'm with Jeff. If you're not quite sure which idea to pursue filter it by 1) passion, 2) by the biggest problem that needs solving, 3) market timing.
Find a super fast way to test the above three, then choose. Once you start, it is practically impossible to "run" more than one idea as a startup.
First, I'm a dad and an entrepreneur. Kudos to you! It's a big deal doing this with kiddos.
Second, it's hard to say entirely without knowing more details. But, I won an entire startup competition without my day job knowing (six months). It was completely legal, I just didn't want the hassle of talking through why I was doing something on the side. If you're no legally allowed to, that's a different ball game.
Third, for what it's worth, online customers may not need to know much about *you* for quite some time. You can attend physical events without having to put your name on your site or social profiles just yet. You can blog as the company and fill your 'about' page with company mission and vision info. If the product isn't a consultancy, podcast, etc. you might be able to stay anonymous for longer than you think.
Fourth, there is always a fear someone else could steal the idea. It doesn't happen often though!
Fifth, I would advise waiting until you absolutely *have* to say something - preferably when the company is at a point you can jump ship.
Sixth, keep all your personal files off your work computers. Or, use a password protected partition for all those files. It's just a smart way to operate with this stuff.
I hope that helps! If you want to chat about it let me know. I'm easy to find on Twitter if a phone call doesn't make sense.
What is it?!
You can go for big PR, but that's generally only great for spikes of traffic.
Focus on who your customer is. Determine where they spend their time (online and offline). Then, create advertising and marketing campaigns based on their interests and where they spend their time.
Clarity suggest I tell you why I know what I'm talking about before answering your question... so...I have run dozens of these tests from early stage prototypes to global research projects. Here are a few generic tips for you:
1. Break the ice
2. Open ended exploration
3. Hypothesis testing
* Avoid using the word "Would" as it generally results in inaccurate responses.
* Reassure them that you want brutal honesty.
* Start by warming them up. Ask them to tell you about the context in which they used your product. That will usually break the ice and get them spilling the beans without realizing it. In other words, "What was going on in your day when you were using this?"
* This weekend, focus on a few key assumptions you want to learn about. Frame a few open ended questions around those.
* "Did this solve any problems for you?"
* "Did you enjoy anything in particular?"
* "Did anything frustrate you?"
* "Would you tell your friends about this? If so, which part? If not, why not?"
* "Was there anything missing?"
* "Any ideas on how to improve this?"
* Then, enter in with some more pointed questions.
Hope that helps!
Hi there, have you read this already?
It's generally done via filters at the profile level. Set up one profile without this filter, set up another with it, and then examine the differences to see if it's performing as expected.
Hope that helps!
I had my second daughter three weeks after publicly launching my last company. Four months later, I was under so much stress I broke out in hives when attempting to fall asleep, and then proceeded to have such a hard time breathing I had to take benadryl and a cold shower. I woke up the next morning confused, frustrated, and very aware of a need for a change. Here are some lessons I learned - most of which can be summed up with the word "routine:"
1. Schedule just about everything (like Kris said).
2. Establish work hours. By creating a hard stop/start time on your work day, you'll begin to train your brain to stop chewing on incomplete tasks even when away from your work. I'm still bad at this, but getting much better. My brain would much rather work on a task until it's done. This is also why I/we gravitate towards wasting time on lots of small things vs. the important big things. Which leads me to...
3. Complete the hard, intimidating tasks in the morning. Avoid the false sense of accomplishment that comes from busy work.
4. Find something to quit on a monthly, if not weekly, basis.
5. Ask a few friends to call you regularly to hang out. You need people pursuing you.
6. Don't sleep with your phone in your room. Put your phone on a routine - plug it in outside your bedroom in the same place every night.
7. Take a digital "sabbath" - one day a week without your computer or phone.
8. Exercise!!! Even just a walk a day...
9. Pick a night to hang out with friends/spouse/partner every week and stick to it no matter what.
10. Remember very little is actually in your control. You can work your butt off and still see a company fail - it happens all the time.
11. Be happy with your best - even if you don't feel like it's good enough.
12. If you can, establish a specific location where you will work. Again, related to routines, this helps your brain compartmentalize.