Sunday, May 4, 2014

Are some people too stupid to realize their startup will fail and they are wasting their time and money?

There are two kinds of people in the world. 
  1. The people too stupid to realize that their startup will fail.
  2. The people too smart to ever start one.

How To Become A Customer Acquisition Expert by Brian Balfour (A Summary)

Know the basiscs of all the Sections in all of the layers, and then go deep on 2 of the third layer:

I personally need to brush up on Statistics and Behavioral Psychology from the Base Layer

Which channels should you go deep on?
1. Your preference and skills: Think about who you are and what you would enjoy.  Quant VS Creative.
2. Take a bet on emerging Channel:  Where is market going, and where can I become an expert.

Get Something to Experiment With
Find a product/company to try out what you learn as you take courses.

Learn from Others
List of awesome marketers who product content online:
Andy JohnsNoah KaganAndrew ChenRand FishkinAvinash KaushikDave McClureHiten Shah

Learn From Other Companies
Choose sections you want to go deep on and find companies executing in these sections.  For example, in content marketing I would pay attention to companies such as Moz, Hubspot, KissMetrics, and Buffer.  Use tools to research and follow their strategies such as Moz Research Tools, Followerwonk, SEMrush, WhatRunsWhere, and SocialCrawlytics.  

Keep a ScrapBook in Evernote
Keep collection of examples, resources of great marketing email, landing page, ad creative, info graphic, on boarding technique, etc.


Basic Statistics
All of digital marketing is going to have a quantative element.  It is important to understand the basics of statistics so you can make sense of the numbers.  At a minimum I recommend being familiar with, statistical significance, distribution analysis, confidence intervals, regression, and mean/median/mode. 
Introduction to Statistics via Udacity (course) 
Statistics One via Coursera (course) 

 Basic Programming
Programming should be required for anyone who is going to work in a technology company.  But specifically for a role in marketing you will find that the biggest resource constraint for any company is engineering.  So the more you know how to do on your own, the faster you can move and the more value you can add.   You don’t need to be a master programmer but it is very useful if you understand code and know how to hack specifically on front end technologies including HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.  Bonus for learning a language like Ruby on Rails or Python.  Courses I recommend:
Intro to Programming (base concepts)
Learn HTML and CSS via Treehouse
Javascript and JQuery via Treehouse
Simple Ruby on Rails via Treehouse 
Intro to Computer Science (for Python) via Udacity

Product Design & UX Principles
The past few years we have seen a greater movement towards design as a critical piece of communicating marketing efforts on the web.  So much so that in some cases design can be a competitive advantage (link).  You don’t need to become a designer, but you need to understand how elements of design interact with marketing.  
Design For Hackers (Book)
Lean UX (Book)
Dribbble (Resource for Inspiration)

Online marketing has become more and more analytics driven the past five years, and I believe we are just getting started.  Understanding the principles of analytics and how to integrate and use analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel, KissMetrics is vital.  
Analytics For Growth (Course)
Web Analytics (Course) 
Lean Analytics (Book)
Web Analytics 2.0 (Book)
Avinash Kaushik Blog (Blog)
Google Analytics Learn (Resource)

Behavioral Psychology
Statistics, analytics, and excel will help you understand what users are doing.   But a key to marketing is understanding why users are doing what they are doing.  To understand why, behavioral psychology comes in handy.  
Nir Eyal (Blog)
Influence (Book)
The Power of Habit (Book) 
Paradox of Choice (Book) 
Drive (Book)
Thinking Fast and Slow (Book) 
Predictably Irrational (Book)  

Most users/customers don’t respond to you selling features.  They respond to you selling a story.  Telling that story through branding and positioning is critical to standing out of the crowd in todays noisy market.  
Why, How, What Framework (Video)
Why, How, What (Resource Site)
Positioning (book)


Conversion Rate Optimization
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the process and tactics used to uncover why your users aren’t converting to a particular action, and the things you can change to improve.  A lot of the use cases will talk about Landing Page CRO, but a lot of these same techniques can be used to optimize other actions within products.  
The Big Picture of CRO by Rand Fishkin (Video) 
CRO Basics (Resource)
50 Posts on Conversions (Resource)
Unbounce (Blog)
Conversion Rate Experts (Blog)
Optimizely (Blog)

Whether you are writing full blog posts, or just two line Google Ads, copywriting and the consumer psychology behind copywriting is an essential skill.  A couple suggestions on courses
The Web Copywriting Bible (eBook)
The Only Copywriting Course You’ll Ever Need (Video)
Copyblogger (Blog)
Gary Halbert Boron Letters

Funnel Marketing
Funnel marketing is framework in how to map out journey from awareness to purchase/conversion of your customer and user.  Understanding this framework is vital for any online marketer.  
Startup Metrics For Pirates by Dave McClure’s (Presentation)
Startup Metrics For Pirates (Video)
See - Think - Do Framework (Resource)

A/B & Multivariate Testing
A/B testing teaches you how to properly test new ideas for copy, features, calls to action, everything.  You will start to understand why one of the base layer pillars is statistics :)
Always Be Testing (Book) 
Optimization and A/B Testing (Course)
A/B Testing Ideas (Blog)

Basic Photoshop & Wireframing Skills
I commonly find myself in photoshop/wireframing tools tweaking landing pages, calls to action, ad creative, etc.  This is similar to Programming and Database skills.  You can either wait around for someone else to do it, or know some basic skills and jump in yourself.  Bottom line recommendation, get familiar with Photoshop. 
Photoshop Foundations (Course) 

Note…There are TONS of photoshop courses online.  Here are some more on  You do not need to become a photoshop expert.  Take the first course I listed, and go further depending on your interest.    

Database Querying 
There will always be a set of data you want to look at that isn’t available through your analytics or in house tools.  Especially in the early days when you probably don’t have the resources to invest in in-house tools.  You can either wait for engineers to pull the data for you, or learn a little SQL and jump in yourself.  
SQL Database for Beginners (Course) 

Excel & Modeling 
No matter how many analytics tools you have within a company you will always resort to excel at some point to analyze data.  Knowing your way around excel will become very valuable. Course I recommend:
Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Excel via Udemy (course)  

CHANNEL EXPERTISE LAYER: Know the basics of each but then go deep on 2 of them:

Virality and WOM is core growth component to most online B2C companies.  While there are few resources on the topic, you should understand two things.  
1.  The different types of viral distribution.  
2.  How to measure, model, and analyze viral distribution.  
Viral Marketing Is Not A Strategy by Andrew Chen
What’s Your Viral Loop 
The Science Behind Viral Marketing 
How To Model Viral Growth Part 1(Blog Series) 
How To Model Viral Growth Part 2
How To Model Viral Growth Part 3

Search PPC
Search PPC is a very crowded channel, but can still be one of the most effective due to its high intent.  
PPC Training (Course) 
Learning Adwords (Course)
Google Adwords Essential Training (Course)
Wordstream Blog (Resource)

Facebook Ads
Facebook Ads is becoming one of my favorite channels due to the unique targeting.  The channel is still changing quickly as Facebook tweaks their optimization algorithm and launches new ad formats.  
Starters Guide to Facebook Ads (Resource) 
Profitability With Facebook Ads (Course) 
Traffic Black Book 2.0 Facebook Section (Course)

While SEO is another crowded channel, it is still driving growth for many recent high growth startups such as Quora and AirBnB.  SEO is a very valuable channel to learn and harness. SEO Learning Center (Resource) Blog
SEO Training (Course)
The ClickMinded SEO Optimization (Course) 
Distilled Training (Resource)

Social is an extension of almost all marketing strategies today.  There is a growing list of social publishers (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube, Vine, the list goest on).  Understand which publishers and tools to use for which strategies.    
Social Media Marketing w/ Facebook and Twitter (Course)
Social Media Market Training (Course)
Content Marketing
Content marketing is the latest rage especially among B2B startups.  Content marketing paired with a high powered social or SEO strategy is extremely effective.  If you think it just involves blogging and info graphics, then I highly recommend digging deeper into the resources below.  
Inbound Marketing University (Resource) 
Content Marketing Institute (Resource) (Community)
52 Content Marketing Lessons
Display & Retargeting
While most marketers turn their nose up at display ads, it is still one of the highest volume channels available.  The display world can be massively complicated ( , so take the time to learn the details.  
Media Buy Academy (Course)
Traffic Black Book 2.0 (Course)
Mobile is an emerging channel still.  The number of resources is slim, and the ones that exist don’t go very deep.  Many of the other channels I have listed here (Facebook, Display, Google) have mobile components.  The best way to learn is to dive in.  
Market Motive Mobile Marketing (Course)
Mobile Marketing by (Course)
Hacking App Store Growth (Course) 
Efficient sales models are still a leading path to growth especially for anyone focusing on B2B companies.  
Building A Sales & Marketing Machine by David Skok (Blog Series)
Ultimate Sales Machine (Book)
I have to admit, PR is probably one of my least favorite marketing initiatives.  It is not a marketing strategy in itself, but it is an extension of a strategy with another channel at its core.  My personal recommendation is to become an expert in one of the other channels I have listed here.  
How To Get Media Coverage For Your Startup (Blog Post)
Jason Calacanis On Startup PR (Blog Post)
Media Training Starter Series (Course)
Startup PR (Course)  
Email Marketing
Email is still one of the most (if not the most) effective communication channel with customers and users.  Mobile and the use of data is changing how companies do email marketing.  Here are some suggested resources to get started:
Mailchimp Blog 
50 Posts About Email Marketing
Email Marketing Statistics and Benchmarks
Advanced Email Marketing 
See my post - From 0 to 2 Million DAU: A Guide To Growing Your Startup via Partnerships where I cover this channel at length.   

How we got our first 2,000 users doing things that don't scale by Ryan Hoover (A Summary)


MVP - ProductHunt began as a mailing list using Linkydink.

Private Beta - Email link to supporters and product influencers for feedback on wireframes and get them excited.

Quiet Beta - Iron out bugs and keep getting feedback with high interaction

Public Launch - PandoDaily, and FastCompany articles came out and ProductHunt emailed all early adopters with two specific asks:

Post a Product - have a healthy level of activity when upon launch

Share the Article - To maximize exposure, we asked early adopters - many who have a large following and influence - to share the article. To make it even easier, we provided a “click to tweet” link that opened Twitter with a pre-created message. 

The Manual Slow Growth - Found influencers and good contributors to community via Rapportive and and reached out to them personally to open lines for future feedback, referrals to product people and funding.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Startup = Growth by Paul Graham (Summary)

Startup = Growth - everything else is ignored.

Startups are all about growth and can scale.  A barbershop is not a startup b/c it can’t scale.

Growth of a successful startup usually has 3 phases:
 a) There’s an initial period of slow or no growth while the startup tries to figure out what it’s doing.
 b) As the startup figures out how to make something lots of people want and how to reach those people, there’s a period of rapid growth.
 c) Eventually a successful startup will grow into a big company.  Growth will slow, partly due to internal limits and partly because the company is starting to bump up against the limits of the markets it serves.
(these together produce an S-curve)

Calculating Growth Rate = Ratio of new customers / existing ones.

A good growth rate at YC is 5-7% per week, if you hit 10% a week you’re doing exceptionally well.  If you’re at 1% then you haven’t figured out what you’re doing.

If pre-revenue, the next best thing to measure is number of 'active users’

At YC, they pick a growth rate they think they can hit and then just do that.  This becomes an optimization problem, and this narrow focus can be very effective, because you don’t have to think about what the program should do, just make it better.  For most programmers, this is very satisfying work.  The narrow focus makes it a sort of puzzle, and you’re generally surprised how fast you can solve it.

Focusing on hitting a growth rate:
 - narrows startup down to a single problem
 - use growth rate to make all of your decisions for you (should i spend 2 days at a conference, hire another programmer, focus more on marketing, spending time w/ big customer?)


weekly growth yearly company size
1% 1.7x
2% 2.8x
5% 12.6x
7% 33.7x
10% 142.0x

Founders, investors and acquirers form a natural ecosystem.

The reason Facebook bought Instagram was that it was valuable and dangerous, and what made it so was growth.

Understanding growth is what starting a startup consists of.  

"A startup founder is in effect an economic research scientist.  Most don’t discover anything that remarkable, but some discover relativity.” - Paul Graham

Do Things That Don't Scale - by Paul Graham (Summary)

Summarizing Paul Graham's Post - Do Things That Don't Scale

1) Recruit users manually like crazy (ie. Stripe and Airbnb)

2 reasons why founders resist going out and recruiting:
 a) shyness
 b) laziness

Example: - aggressive early user acquisition

2) Fragile Ask yourself: “how big could this get if we did the right things?”
 - the right things seem laborious and inconsequential

3) Delight your first customers 
Finding early types of users - Pinterest - Ben Silbermann noticed that a lot of the earliest Pinterest  users were interested in design, so he went to a conference of design bloggers to recruit users and that worked well.

4) Experience - Engage your earliest users and talk to them and watch them use the product.

5) Fire - focus on a narrow initial market and really learn what it is.

6) Meraki - did thing that didn’t scale : assembling routers themselves (this section was not too worth reading)

7) Consult - for a single person and fit the product to do exactly what they want.

8) Manual - do things manually at first, and then gradually automate the bottlenecks

9) Big - the big launch never works, you need to get users, learn from them and then get more.  How many successful companies “LAUNCHES” do you remember?  It’s about making your customers happy months after they sign up.

10) Vector - recruit users manually and give them an overwhelmingly good experience—and the main benefit of treating startups as vectors will be to remind founders they need to work hard in two dimensions.

In the best case, both components of the vector contribute to your company's DNA: the unscalable things you have to do to get started are not merely a necessary evil, but change the company permanently for the better. If you have to be aggressive about user acquisition when you're small, you'll probably still be aggressive when you're big. If you have to manufacture your own hardware, or use your software on users's behalf, you'll learn things you couldn't have learned otherwise. And most importantly, if you have to work hard to delight users when you only have a handful of them, you'll keep doing it when you have a lot.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cameesa Sold to

Hey guys,

We recently sold to and I plan on writing posts back on my blog as before.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cameesa - 99% done

So i've been working on a startup company for the last year and a half...actually since january 2007 (since I got back from Costa Rica). Many things have happened and we are still planning to launch very soon...our original date was March 1, 2008....we know how startups work though.

We have recently finished our Teaser page (
) and are now working on our Marketing campaign....which I will write about very soon. We are planning to reach out to design/t-shirt bog sites and get their advice on our approach.

Cameesa is 99% done. But the last 1% takes 99% of the time (IT joke)