Food For Founders #39

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Founder Education

This section is meant to help you grow as a leader, manager, or entrepreneur.

Minimum Viable Failure

I’ve previously mentioned that newer entrepreneurs don’t take enough time to “study the dead,” they only watch the highlights of other founders and become enamored with the stories. It reminds me of children and comic books. When you read about Batman, you want to do the things that he did to get where he is when you “meet” him.

In this piece, Phin Barnes speaks about why It is more advantageous for a startup to find out what doesn’t work in the business. I like this approach; he names MVF (minimum viable failure). It ties into the infinite optimization loop of the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, that if you refine the 80% of activities that produce 20% of the results, your results move in an upward trajectory.

Extinguishing the activities that are failing is one fundamental way that a startup can iterate on its core value proposition to delight customers and grow their impact. Optimizing for MVF also means that you are not straying from the levers that can really speed up the velocity of growth. You pull one lever and see that it doesn’t reveal the results you need to grow, so you move on and continue testing hypothesis at a rate of iteration that puts you ahead of your competitors.

Business Strategy

This section is designed to help you improve your skills as a strategist and tactician.

Secrets of having world class customer service

This wasn’t intentional, but this is the only piece in this newsletter not written by a venture capitalist (what does that say about my reading habits over the past week?). Also, in a move that’s not common for this newsletter, I placed an anthology post in this issue.

Many of these are very common-sense customer service tactics, but I feel like it’s good to get reminded of practical strategies when it comes to building companies. Since we are fundraising at KnowCap, I continuously wonder “who in their right mind doesn’t think that 50x more at-bats to invest in the next unicorn makes sense?” It’s good to get reminders that they aren’t rejecting me when it sure feels like it.

When it comes to having excellent customer services, intentionality is the name of the game. No company wakes up and says, I want to offend and disrespect my customers all day today. They prioritize where they will invest their capital and usually (unless you are Zappos) customer service is at the very bottom of the barrel. This article should serve as a reminder of ways to show your customers that you care about their experience, which will go a long way. They say if you retain your customers by offering excellent customer service,  

Mental Snacks

This section was created to introduce ideas that may not related to starting a company, yet is important to your success as a founder.

Repeat founders and the risk of false positives

I’m glad I stumbled across this article from Rob Go. I’ve always wondered if founders, who have had previous exits under their belts, skip crucial startup steps when it comes to raising significant funds early.

When you have the winds of success at your back, you can begin to attribute that success to the wrong activities. Did you win because you received that critical piece of funding? Did you become wealthy because you were able to get major partnerships? This article makes me wonder what’s the ratio of repeat founders with previous success that fail because they build products in search of a problem.

It’s the same disadvantage that many wealthy children experience. When they have had it easier for their entire lives, they find it really difficult to compete post-college. I will even guess if that’s why immigrants make such great founders (half of the billion-dollar companies have immigrant founders -

So if you are reading this and you are a through and through entrepreneur, do not forget how important things like customer development and rapid product iteration of products is a great launching pad for ideas. There is no substitution for getting down in the trenches with your customers.

Around The Startup Ecosystem

This section was built to update you on important events, opinions, or pieces happening in the world of startups.

LinkedIn is the new Craigslist

If you haven’t seen the picture below before, you may be in for a shocking realization. Almost every considerable consumer startup today can be attributed to a piece of Craigslist. It’s as real as playing the game “six degrees to Kevin Bacon.”

In this post, Jeff Fluhr posits that LinkedIn may be the new form of the fragmentation of Craiglist. Think about it…there is no real LinkedIn for Hairstylist. Jeff even brings up the idea of LinkedIn for blue collar workers. I can see it.

Hyper-verticalization, as Jeff puts it, is coming. Matter of fact, I bet if you built hundreds of websites all for the top 50 (by member count) LinkedIn group, you would probably have a pretty big audience to start a community. The "groups" feature is so lacking that someone could sweep in and be the second coming of trade magazines/groups.