Lee von Kraus, PhD.Clarity's top expert on early stage startups
Bio

Mentor @Techstars @Urban-X @Startup Institute @Protohack | Founder @Halo Neuroscience @Nebulab NYC @rOcean | Wired, Verge, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, TechCrunch noted. Feel free to send a Google Doc link with questions or background info before our call.



Recent Answers


While a direct phone number is helpful in terms of getting to talk to who you want to talk to, even more valuable is a 'warm intro' from someone that the person knows. Warm introductions depend on a personal relationship with someone, so that kind of service can't be as easily automated and would be extremely valuable. Because it would inherently be impossible to effectively pull off for the long term at a large scale, you'd have to charge a lot for that service though.

One possible way to make it more scalable is to have a lower priced option which involves a warm intro to a gatekeeper, instead of the final target. Gatekeepers might be easier to befriend, and might even be open to helping occasionally in exchange for a cut of your revenue.

I have several ideas on how you could pull this off in a psuedo-automated way, that would let you quickly implement the idea in a low cost way. If you'd like to discuss it further let me know,

best,

Lee


Since you've already been on Linkedin Sales for a while, and know the landscape, a good first step could be to try to further optimize the efficacy of that outreach (unless it's already extremely effective). Anything learned there should be translatable to other channels as well. I can't give advice on that kind of optimization without seeing what you're already doing.

In terms of other channels:

1) you can look on job posting websites for any companies looking to hire someone to do what your IT solution does. For instance, Angellist, etc. Reach out to them with a solution that is presented as obviously cost saving and efficient relative to having to hire someone to do it.

2) if your product could work for small companies, maybe pair up with a local 'startup accelerator' and offer your services free for some time (e.g. 1 week?) to all of their participants.

3) look on relevant online forums for people asking for help with the problems your product solves

etc.

Let me know if you'd like to discuss your product and potential outreach options and optimizations in more detail,

best,

Lee


The answer is "it depends". It depends on the following:

1) Your current 'runway': [How much money you have saved + Your current recurring income - Your current expenses].

2) How much money it would take to develop a 'minimal viable product' (MVP) that would allow you to test your idea. (i.e. would it require 0.1% of your savings + income, or would it by 50%)

3) How much potential you think your idea has.

Usually, the cost of #2 is something that can be made _much_ cheaper than you might initially imagine. This can be done by truly understanding what the core 'value proposition' is that you want to test, and understanding very affordable, minimalist techniques that will allow you to develop a product capable of testing it with potential customers. I've done this many times in the past, and it has allowed me to rapidly test out and iterate many ideas with very small capital investment needed.

Again, the answer depends on understanding the details of the previously listed issues #1, #2, and #3 above. If you'd like to discuss the specifics of your idea and whether an MVP could possibly be quickly and cheaply created and tested, either do some online research on potentially cheap and easy tools that might help out, or let me know, I'd be happy to help,

best,

Lee


First you'll need the 'sellers'.

To get them to sign up you'll first need a website set up that looks professionally made to the extent that one could conceivably believe that it would attract 'buyers' to use its services.

Then, do research on how best to find sellers that would be appropriate for your site. You'll have to do grunt work to reach out to them individually at first. For instance maybe you're looking for experts on certain topics, you could check out slideshare.net and find the most popular decks on relevant topics, and then reach out to those authors. Or maybe you check out Linkedin or Quora and find the right people there. Help them with the sign up process as much as possible, and give them some extra early-sign up incentive, like maybe say that you'll feature all early sign ups at the top of the website for 1 week after you go live, or maybe you'll actively email market for them for several days each.

Once you've gotten sellers to populate the site, start advertising to buyers. Give the sellers easy ways to do advertisement too. For instance give them text and/or photos for social media posts, etc. If you onboarded some already-popular people as sellers, they will be able to help a lot in terms of generating their own traffic.

Although eventually P2P marketplaces can be somewhat self-perpetuating, initially you'll have to do a lot of manual work behind the scenes to get everything going.

best of luck,

Lee



Without any more details only very general advice can be offered. But that general advice would be to build an 'MVP' (minimal viable product) and start testing it.

Test it with yourself, then friends, then family, then strangers, then more strangers etc. You'll be making changes to it along the way to make it fit closer and closer to what people want and find useful, and you'll be refining your knowledge of who your target market is.

When you have enough data showing people like and will pay for your product, you can get investment if you want, to grow faster, or grow more slowly and organically without investment.

If you can't build your 'disruptive tech idea' yourself, there are several options that will still let you make and deploy and test an MVP version of it.

Feel free to send more background info if you'd like advice better tailored to your actual idea,

best of luck,

Lee


Are you doing 'maker classes' for kids, or are you making and selling toys that help them learn on their own?

If you're doing classes, the only way to sustainably scale up is to make sure that a majority of your classes are using digital maker tools, instead of physical ones. For instance, using https://scratch.mit.edu instead of Lego Mindstorms. This is because scaling up with digital tools will be enormously easier than dealing with physical inventory: No need to buy / keep track of / store / transport, etc., no need to do on-location training of new instructors (they can train at home), etc.

If you're not doing classes, but are instead making toys for kids, again a software product would allow easier scaling, but if that's not possible for you, then you're going to have to work on getting into retail shops and/or increasing your online presence in the maker space.

Feel free to send more background info if you'd like advice more tailored to your specific problem,

best of luck,

Lee


Feel free to schedule a call. I'd be happy to help you go over the idea and map out how best to make an MVP in the fastest an cheapest possibly way. I'm a mentor at several accelerators, and you're right that they'd all want some form of MVP.

Depending on the idea, there are potentially many ways to implement an MVP, some of which wouldn't require writing any code at all, and many of which would minimize the amount of code that would be needed.

best,

Lee


Don't worry about the fact that you "failed". What you presumably did is work hard, and learn a lot, and probably created some quality stuff, regardless of whether it ended up being published. That's usually all your potential employers will care about.

The people that work for companies that end up going out of business aren't considered failures. They generally produced quality work but their company may have just not been able to find / convince the right customers, which is equivalent to you not having found the right publisher. This is an optimistic way to look at it, but that doesn't mean it's not true in your case.

I would publish whatever unfinished books you have on Amazon as e-books. Make a title and cover image. That way they're 'published' immediately, and each book will even get a DOI and/or PMID #. Then you can continue to edit them and finish them whenever you have time (see: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/A2KRM4C8E91086).

Meanwhile, if you have other non-book writings, try publishing them as guest-blogger posts on other people's existing blogs.

best of luck,

Lee


In the long term you want people to add themselves, or be added by others to your website. However, to start things off you're going to have to do a lot of work yourself to seed the site with people yourself.

1) Go to existing institutes where those things are taught (programming, financial modeling, etc.) and ask the students coming out the door how they would rate their instructors. These institutes might be tutoring agencies for standardized tests, etc.

2) Professors at universities might be interested in teaching / tutoring on the side, so ask university students to rate their professors.

3) Then go to all of the instructors that you have the names of, and ask them if they know anyone else that they think might like to be added to your site. Find where those people work, and keep expanding.

Once you've got a big enough seed of people that you've added, start spreading the word. Put up fliers at universities, post on internet forums, etc.

Note: It might be best to initially start with a more well defined type of instructor. For instance, maybe only programming instructors. Choose the one category that there would be most demand for. This will help you during your initial stages because you'll be able to better learn everything about where they hang out, how to get them to contribute to your website, etc. Once you've got that initial core group you can slowly start expanding out to all types of instructors.

Let me know if you'd like more specific advice relative to the specifics of your idea,

best,

Lee


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