Founders Lessons Learned - Part 8: Marketing

  1. Post go live phase, you might need to give your product/project for free or with minimal cost, just make sure in the agreement this can turn to your benefit when your idea proves it is worth the money.
  2. Techniques for spreading your idea:
    1. Hire a small Press Release company.
    2. Word of mouth.
    3. Talking to journalists (They are always looking for something new).
    4. Press tour.
    5. Through the product you are actually selling, by having some link to main site, or encouragement for sign-up, …

Founders Lessons Learned - Part 7: Operations

  1. Your work is not finished when you go live, it actually started.
  2. It is common to feel worried / sleepless thinking of what will happen tomorrow when you are in charge of successful product.
  3. Statistics should be collected from going life day ONE.
  4. Proactively monitoring production is a MUST; it can:
    1. Reveal issues.
    2. Show user behavior using your idea, leading to improvements.
  5. Operational work requires lots of automation to save time, but in the same time you can never lose the human analysis.
  6. Pay attention to small (issues / bugs / fraud) as they can grow bigger day after day causing lots of headache.
  7. Stay focused all the time, don’t try to solve everything one shot, always prioritize based on the following (In order):
    1. Financial impact.
    2. Risk impact.
    3. Operational impact.
  8. Don’t waste time in politics, & people trying to distract you.
  9. Pay attention to what you say / reveal during production issues, it should be to trusted people ONLY otherwise, it might fire-back to you.

Founders Lessons Learned - Part 6: Project / Product development

  1. Work hard: You have to be very diligent. Normally you will find that you need to spend weekends, and evening working on your ideas, you will reach a point where you need to dedicate your time for your idea.
  2. Changes will happen all the time; avoid doing multiple massive changes in the same time.
  3. Users centered design is what is facing your customers, do take care and hire good people in this area. Your product/project should look GREAT.
  4. Don’t try to change user behavior once, but make it slowly.

Founders Lessons Learned - Part 5: Architecture

  1. Think of scalability from day one, how your system can grow in very short time, as if it is not taken into consideration in early design, you will face troubles maybe site down in production losing customer satisfaction. You can never imagine the number of customers you can get for a good idea.
  2. Reporting / Statistics requirements should be taken into consideration, this will be the real indicator for your success or problems after going live.
  3. Reliability & backups is major thing to be covered once you got the whole functional requirements in mind.

Founders Lessons Learned - Part 4: Venture Capitalists

  1. If you are presenting the business plan to VC you don’t know and you can’t trust he won’t get the idea and build it somewhere else; it is better to present a plan for something related to the idea not the whole picture to judge what is the reaction of VC and get to know him.
  2. Don’t get frustrated from VC when you present ideas, and they mention low experience, this is considered an advantage more than a disadvantage. For start-ups, VC looks into team spirit & idea more than experience.
  3. Expect the following questions from VC:
    1. What is your background?
    2. Too young, how many years of experience?
    3. Do you have management experience?
    4. How are you going to make money if you are going to give it away for free?
    5. What's the revenue mechanism?
  4. VCs always have deals and back-doors technical people don’t like, sometimes you might want not to share all ideas with your VC.

Founders Lessons Learned - Part 3: Business plan

  1. A business plan is nothing more than your own communication to a person not sitting in front of you—an imaginary person who will read it. Try to answer every possible question that that person could raise.
  2. Writing a business plan is a MUST, it will crystallize your thoughts to communicate your ideas with somebody else.
  3. Business plan is all about showing your momentum.
  4. Having a business plan for big scope, having complete vision distributed on several phases shows your strong vision for the idea and its growth.
  5. Business plan should tell:
    1. What the company is going to do?
    2. What problem it is going to solve?
    3. How big the market is?
    4. What the sources of revenue for the company are?
    5. What your exit strategy is for your investors?
    6. What amount of money is required?
    7. How you are going to market it?
    8. What kind of people you need?
    9. What the technology risks, marketing risks, execution risks?
  6. Funding in business plan, it is always better to prepare the figures before you present your idea, and you should be having multiple numbers in mind, i.e.:

    1. Required x, for completing the whole idea.
    2. Required y, for handling … number of customers.
    3. Required z, for making a POC to show your idea can actually work to VC.
    4. Required w, for covering specific region.

Founders Lessons Learned - Part 2: Team

  1. Succeeding alone is very hard, it is all about team work.
  2. Having a good team is half the way to success.
  3. Harmony between team members is a MUST for success.
  4. When you are searching for founders to share the idea with you; look for people that have skills you don’t have; don’t look for people who are the same like you.
  5. Own your team by:
    1. Treat them good.
    2. Treat them like family.
    3. Care / look after them.
    4. Always listen, maybe an idea from youngest team member be the company next hot product / feature.
  6. Acquisitions: It is a painful experience as merges cause lots of people to be laid off, this is the case all the time, and this is the whole idea of merges. If your company pass by this situation try to make it as short as possible to continue doing business.

Founders Lessons Learned - Part 1: Idea

  1. Uncertainty at the beginning is quite common; just try your best to make your vision clearer by time.
  2. Necessity is the mother of the invention: If you needed something & searched quite sometime to find it, and ended to build it up, why don’t you think someone somewhere is looking for the same thing.
  3. Idea; always search for added value of your solution (Why someone will buy / invest in your idea):
    1. Unique: Idea that is not implemented before.
    2. Idea that solves known issue in unusual way.
    3. Optimize something.
  4. When you feel sleepless; don’t waste this time trying to sleep, instead spend this time in ideas that you'd normally just throw out in creative thinking.
  5. You should feel that this idea is very important to you.
  6. You not only need to think how to attract customers, but how to keep them as well (Own your customer).
  7. Secrecy: You will need to share your ideas with some people, think more about this before you do it, take care that someone may steal your idea. At early startup, you only have the idea; nothing more, what will you do if you lose it?
  8. Failure several times is the common, no-one succeed without suffering multiple failures, just write down what you have learned from your failures.
  9. Adaptation:
    1. Modifying the idea / target or part of it might happen, just make sure to revisit your plans to comply with the modification.
    2. Switching from technology to another might happen, just learn to do the right thing with the right tools.
  10. Having multiple skills is a MUST: It is not always you do what you like to do, but you should do what must be done.
  11. Think of partnership, it will save you time, & money with lower risk.

Founders Lessons Learned - Intro

Learning from others is the best in order not to re-invent the wheel and fall in the same mistakes others already did. For founders, it is a MUST as lots can't afford bad start.

I have collected some lessons learned from my readings, & experience. I summarized them in bullet points in the following blog posts:

The following are the references for such tips:
  1. Book: Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days. ISBN-10: 1590597141 | ISBN-13: 978-1590597149
  2. Magazine article: Arrajol Magazine interview with Greg Booth, Zippo President and CEO.

I will keep this post and related posts updated whenever I read more books or learn new experience hopping this will help some founders / start-ups. Also, I'm open for input from readers as comments and I will update the posts as well.

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