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Four intesting startup advice

November 24th, 2009 No comments

Hacker News | Tell HN: Four (hopefully) unique and useful start-up tips

== 1. Learn to say “no” gracefully == A lot of tips stress the importance of saying “no”, turning down projects that you can’t do, and focusing on your core competencies. This is all great advice. However, in my experience, saying no is not always an easy task. Often times, you’ll be saying “no” to an existing partner, or someone with whom you might want to develop a business relationship in the future. It’s important to learn how to say “no” gracefully, burning no bridges in the process. By all means, be clear in your response, but don’t be a jerk about it, and leave the option open for future discussion at a time of your choosing.

Most online industries have relatively small social circles, and it’s important to be respectful, even if you can’t possibly understand why you might want something that another person is offering. Situations and circumstances change; you might need those connections in the future.

== 2. Negotiate everything == Get in the habit of negotiating everything. “You don’t ask, you don’t get”. Remember that phrase and repeat it to yourself. Revenue shares, commissions, server costs, bandwidth costs, CDN costs, software costs, marketing costs, conference ticket prices and contracts are all negotiable. At first you might feel weird asking for a discount, but pretty soon you get used to it, and it will become natural. Contrary to what you might assume, most people won’t find your request offensive, and you wont sound like a jerk. You don’t ask, you don’t get.

You’ll find it changes your life, not just your business. I negotiate everything now, and it’s probably saved me thousands of dollars this year alone, all for a few minutes of work. Car repairs, hotel prices, restaurant reservation times, and most recently an engagement ring from a high end jeweler that supposedly “didn’t negotiate” ;) Remember: you don’t ask, you don’t get.

== 3. Don’t obsess over stats == If you run an online business, it is easy to get caught up in the habit of checking your stats repeatedly throughout the day. Maybe you check your revenue reports every hour. You know how it’s “supposed” to look at 11AM on a Friday, and if it isn’t hitting your past targets you get discouraged and distracted, searching for a reason. Maybe your traffic is slightly down from what it was a week ago.

The problem with this is three-fold. First, it’s a huge distraction. It takes your attention away from other tasks you could be doing. It distracts your focus from long term, strategic thinking. Second, day to day (or even hour to hour) data is unreliable and unpredictable. There are seasonal trends. There are 500 other factors outside your control. Third, it accomplishes nothing. Checking your stats isn’t going to change them.

Start checking your stats only once a day, at most. That way, you’ll be alerted to any potentially significant changes (i.e. your ecommerce engine is down), but still be able to keep focused on your daily tasks and the big picture, which is going to make more of a difference in the long run.

== 4. Make money == Ok, so this one is pretty obvious. But it’s shocking how often it is ignored. There are plenty of reasons to justify starting a business. Maybe you want to work for yourself, maybe you like the challenge, or maybe you really want to change the world. But it won’t matter if you aren’t making any money. Trust me.

A lot of times you will be faced with hard choices. Should I put this ad up here? Will this feature make my app/site look too commercial? Should I charge? If you don’t have a proven business model, you need to make figuring it out your NUMBER ONE priority.

If you’re only getting 1,000 visitors a day, it might seem hard to justify putting up an ad to get what might seem like chump change. But, by doing so, you’ll understand where your money is coming from, and what kind of traffic levels it will take to get you to where you really want to go. Most importantly, you might find that your business model doesn’t really scale, and it will force you to think of a new one. Better now than later. Don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise, or you’ll just be delaying the inevitable.

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Product development and innovation

November 10th, 2009 No comments

Why Apple doesn’t do “Concept Products” « counternotions

In my opinion, product development is about building knowledge – about a lot of things: technology, end-users, behaviour, processes, infrastructure, interoperability… Good companies, like Apple, has the ability to build this knowledge into their products. They also organise themselves to facilitate this kind of learning.

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