After taking a year to explore the Boston tech community and figure out what I want to do next professionally, I learned a lot about myself and the ecosystem as a whole. One big hole in our ecosystem is pillar companies - companies big enough to make large acquisitions, create enough wealth to spur new angel investors and serve as training grounds for people to grow their careers and then spin off and start new companies. We have a couple companies on the verge of being like this, but we need more and I want to help build another one. That is what I plan to do as CMO at Cybereason (official press release).
Last week was Growth Camp, where 200 people came together to share tips on how to grow faster and more effectively. Each presentation was just 15 minutes, forcing the presenter to boil down their talk to the most essential elements. Here is a list of all the presentations with links the slides on Slideshare for each one.
Today Attend is announcing that I have been elected to their board of directors. There are a lot of reasons I’m very excited about this new role - in many ways it is the perfect company for me to dive into - so I thought I’d share how I think about the opportunity for the company.
tl;dr: I'm not sure what I am up to, but I am all in on Boston tech and am launching open office hours with a diversity component.
After a pretty crazy summer I have been doing a lot of reflecting on what I want to do with the next decade of my professional life.
So, what's next?
Boston Business Journal has a “most admired” companies list that they compile, sort of a “people’s choice awards” of the business world. I thought I would share who I voted for and some of the reasons why. (You can vote today if you want. Please do, and please consider HubSpot for your vote.)
We have a pretty flat culture and organization at HubSpot. No vacation policy. No offices. Limited layers to the organization.
At the Atlassian Starter Day I had a chance to share some of my thoughts on startup marketing based on doing marketing at HubSpot and helping to grow the company from 5 people to over 160 people and nearly 3,000 customers over the past 3+ years.
Next week I am the day 2 keynote speaker at the Internet Technology Summit in Orlando where they have asked me to talk about how we have built HubSpot to 160 employees and 2,800 customers using the latest technology tools. I am going to talk especially about how the vast majority of our company activity is conducted in the cloud, and the cultural implications of that. I have blogged way back in January 2007 about the disruptive effects of Google Docs, and do feel that the availability of tools like these affects how you should start and build a company.
The key to having a successful business is to attract customers cheaply and then quickly monetize those customers at a multiple of what they spent to acquire them. At least according to David Skok from Matrix Partners (and investor in HubSpot) - that link is to an interview in the Wall Street Journal.
Too often startups make their strategy too confusing and complicated. This is because they don't have the answer yet. Most really successful businesses have a pretty simple model at the core. Google, Ebay, Salesforce.com. See?
Seth Godin is a smart dude. This article talks about how you should start marketing before you have a product. This is something I have talked about a lot at HubSpot on our blog, in webinars and in interviews.
For startups, you used to spend 1-2 years building a product and then hire a marketing guy or gal. Now a marketing pro should be part of the founding team. Build an audience of fans, beta testers, future customers. No product required.
Start Marketing Before You Have a Product
- Start blogging before you have a product.
- Start engaging in social media before you have a product.
- Start SEO before you have a product.
- Start building your database and capturing leads before you have a product.
- There is nothing stopping you, and it makes product launches easy.
HubSpot started marketing before we had finished the product. Its one of the reasons we got to 1,000 customers so fast. You should try it too.
PS - If you want to get started, there's a free trial of inbound marketing software at www.HubSpot.com (if you're lucky - it goes up and down as we test some things).
Flickr Photo credit: http://flickr.com/photos/learnscope/
Cuil is a new search engine that just launched with lots of buzz in the startup world. It is supposed to be a "Google Killer." I don't get it. I think it sucks. Here's why:
- They lie. They claim to have the "world's biggest search engine" yet when you search for some simple terms, Google returns a lot more results than they do. "Search Engine" yields 378 million results in Google and 165 million in Cuil. "Startup" yields 57 million in Google and only 40 million in Cuil.
- They are solving the wrong problem. I don't need my search engine to crawl more web pages. I need higher quality, more targeted results. I need less search engine spam. I need more personalization. Cuil does none of this. Crawling the last 0.1% of webpages Google misses is like including the microscopic dust particles under my bed during a search of my house. Who cares!!!
- Their results suck. Search for "Cuil" in Cuil and you Search in Google for "Cuil" and you get a bunch of results that make sense, including a news article and Cuil itself. Search for "Cuil" in Cuil, and you get results like "Properties for Sale in Cuil Mhuine, Ireland", "The Shire of Cuil Choluim" and "Download Chase Around the Windmill". What a joke.
What do you think? Is there anything about Cuil that is actually Cool? Leave a comment...
I have thought for a while that Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook Founder and CEO) is certainly a very smart guy for starting Facebook and bringing it to its current level of success. But I also think he is crazy for not selling at least a portion of his personal holdings - just to take some winnings off the table and make sure he is set for life. Zuckerberg could do this with about 1% of the company, and still have a gigantic stake in Facebook.
The other thing that I find surprising is that he, and the investors, think he is the best CEO for the company right now. They have hundreds of employees and are thinking about going public. Now, when I was 23, I certainly thought I was capable enough to lead a huge company through and IPO and manage all of the employees. But, I was wrong.
4 Reasons Why Mark Zuckerberg Should Hire a New Facebook CEO
- Mark Zuckerberg will have trouble building a team. The job of the CEO is to build and hire a great team. Many really qualified VPs will have trouble working for a 23 year old. No matter what your knowledge of social networking, there are just larger corporate issues you have zero experience with, and I think being 23 makes it a lot harder to hire a great management team.
- Mark Zuckerberg will have trouble pleasing Wall Street. Wall Street (those folks you need to deal with after an IPO) can be hard to please. One thing that they value is experience and seniority. The current Facebook CEO has neither. Having a gray-haired person in charge makes Wall Street feel good, and makes IPOs smoother.
- Mark Zuckerberg will lose touch with the customer. Facebook is no longer for college students. It is growing by over 250,000 users per day, and the biggest demographic is people not in college. This is a very different audience with very different needs from college students. One very valuable skill that marketing and product development people hone over many years is the ability to understand customers that are not like themselves. I do not think a 23 year old can do that. And it is critically important that the CEO has the pulse of your target market.
- Mark Zuckerberg has the wrong skills for the next phase of Facebook. Facebook has crossed the chasm. It is now going into the mainstream and has well over 60 million members. Facebook is not about innovation, being scrappy and developing cool new stuff anymore. Facebook is now about monetizing page views, a proper management structure for growth, and building profits. Mark is clearly a good founder and startup CEO. That role almost never overlaps with the roles of a mid-stage growth CEO.
Disclaimer - I have not met Mark Zuckerberg. I have no idea how truly smart/stupid, mature/childish he really is. This article is an opinion based on a little work experience and watching an episode of 60 minutes. And of course, I am also jealous!
- There are no huge launch parties spending VC/investor money on booze - I went to a bunch of really expensive "launch parties" for all kinds of dot-com startups in 1999, which were basically booze and appetizer fests paid for with VC money (the VCs went and thought it was a great time)
- No one is spending millions on stupid advertisements - No one is buying SuperBowl ads like Pets.com (let's ignore GoDaddy.com) and no one is spending millions on 'partnerships' with AOL, Excite/@Home, etc. People are paying per click with Google instead, whichi has no long term committment and is infinitely scaleable
- There are no huge Series B VC rounds - One of my old startups (gazoontite.com) raised $26m in a Series B From Hummer Winblad and Oak Investment Partners, with very little revenue and no profit. While there is a lot of angel and serties A activity, the investments seem to max out at $4-6m, which is far less that the frothy investments and crazy valuations of the real bubble in 1999.
- http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/10/24/ilike-brings-free-indy-music-to-itunes-recommendations/ In Michael Arrington's coverage of tons of music reccommendation engines such as Pandora, iLike, Last.fm, MyStrands, and Qloud he never mentions in any of his articles a company called Goombah, which is based on the east coast. While it is not clear if what Goombah has is that much better or different than all the rest, at least mention them
- http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/the_race_to_beat_google.php In this article Richard McManus neglects to mention ZoomInfo (Alexa ranking of ~1900, a pretty big company) in his article about potential Google competitiors. ZoomInfo has been around longer, developed cooler stuff and is much larger and more established than most of the other companies in the article.
- The article missed a bunch of companies, of course, since it is not possible to name everyone, especially in the Web 2.0 world where things seem to pop up overnight like mushrooms. One notable company (Alexa ranking of ~1900) missed in the vertical search space is ZoomInfo. They are building some nifty stuff and the ability to search on people, rather than documents that mention people is useful since many times different documents are referring to the same person, and you want to find all information related to a single person. And many times this with the same or similar names to others. Just try to find yourself or some business colleagues on ZoomInfo... and then try the same thing on Google. The problem gets worse if you want to find your friend Jane Smith or Dave Jones...
- Google's strategy in search should not be to be an innovator. Their innovative activity should be focused on things like spreadsheets & documents, Gmail, and other services that could unseat Microsoft. In search, they should just focus on taking the best of what these upstart companies produce and copying it. They have a huge market share in search and a really powerful brand. As long as they do not fall too far behind, they will not lose much ground.
I was reading OnStartups, Dharmesh Shah's blog, and thought there were some really good comments about startups needing to find customers that are similar to each other is right on. Too many startups try to hedge their bets and be all things to all people, and end up spending a ton of time creating features and solutions to serve a large diverse group of customers and are really more of a consulting company than a product company.
Focus on a specific market segment, serve that one well, and then grow from there. Certainly, if you are a believer in the Innovator's Dilemma, then you will say that startups rarely begin with the right strategy and need to evolve business models over time, which is also true. However, this does not mean you pursue multiple business models at the same time. It means work hard on one model and one type of customer, and them make small changes over time as you get feedback from the market.