Having a good network is one of the most important things for any business development person. You should always be one degree from every company that you need to get in front of.
One thing you need to make sure you don’t do is abuse your network. This can be anything from making a blind introduction without both sides opting-in to asking someone for something that is imposing or awkward. I’m guilty of doing it here and there and when someone calls you out about it, it makes you feel like garbage.
If you abuse your network too many times your network strength weakens and then you can’t be effective at your job.
I have always been fascinated by writing and tech press. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog and enjoy contributing to Forbes.
One thing I have noticed is the way some blogs attribute writers in tweets while others don’t. Since Twitter came out a few years ago, there is no denying that they are one of the top methods of distributing content. When a tech blog or content outlet tweets a post, they can either attribute the writer in the tweet by at-mentioning them or not. I think the ones who do are very smart.
From what I can tell, TechCrunch was the first, if not one of the first, to attribute writers in tweets. The logic makes sense. The brand is well known and TC also wants their writers and contributors to reap the benefits of getting new followers and building their writing brand via TechCrunch. This is a win for everyone involved. The blog or creator of content gets quality writing, the writer contributes or writes good content and gets recognized for it, and the readers know who the writer is and can follow them directly from the tweet.
I’m not going to call anyone else out by name, but I think other outlets should follow this model. I don’t see any downside.
As a startup, the only way to tell if anyone truly cares is if you disappear. You don’t need to disappear for long, but if your service or product is unavailable for a period of time and users or clients get upset or complain, then you know they care.
Think about Twitter. When it used to go down for a few hours (it doesn’t really do that anymore) people would freak the f out. People really care about Twitter.
So when building a business or thinking about the company you work for, make sure you are working on something that people, clients, etc would care about if it would disappear. This is another way to think about building something people want/love.
I received an email last week from a friend. She wanted my feedback on the best way to ask someone she knows if they would be open to accepting an introduction. Her friend, Steven, had asked her for an introduction to Rachel. This is what I shared with her.
First Step: Ask Steven for a fresh email with the ask so you can forward it along to Rachel and add a note.
Second Step: Once Steven sends the email to you, forward it along to Rachel with a note in the body saying something like (obviously depends on context):
I hope all is well! My friend Steven from Company X sent me the below note. He would love to connect with someone at Company Y for his brother. See the note and let me know if you are interested in connecting with him.
The context here is my friend was looking to connect Steven’s brother with Rachel and her company for a job. Sometimes the context is introducing someone to investors, press, partnership opportunities. Just tweak the note.
Third Step: Tell Steven you asked Rachel and to stay tuned. Rachel will either respond or not. If she responds and says yes then respond and cc Steven on the email saying:
“Thanks Rachel. Meet Steven!
Keep it short and keep moving.
Fourth Step: If Rachel doesn’t respond within four business days, hit her again asking if she saw the email.
If she says no (in a nice way obviously) to the original email or the follow up- say thanks.
And this is the proper way to ask if you can make an introduction.
Startups are depicted as a glamorous endeavor. But starting or joining an early-stage company has many pitfalls that can lead to the startup deadpool.
Here are 15 things that can go wrong at a startup.
1) Tech team and biz team don’t agree on vision
2) Investors give bad advice
3) Investors give you good advice but you don’t listen
4) You listen to every piece of feedback
5) You ignore all feedback
6) You and your team lack focus
7) You and your team lack synced working schedules
8) You sell the company too early
9) You can’t build a sustainable business but no one wants to buy you
10) You hire the wrong person for a key position
11) You raise too little money
12) You raise too much money
13) You prematurely set up to scale
14) You focus too much on making money (and sacrifice your product/experience)
15) You don’t focus on making money at all
Warning: Startups are not for the faint of heart.
To me, the perfect startup idea has the following three characteristics:
1) There is a big vision about how to do something new or better.
2) There is something you can build today that realizes a piece of that grand vision. The solution has at least one foot in today, but also a half of a foot or a full foot in tomorrow (i.e. magic, think Shazam). This allows you to get some immediate traction.
3) The business is revenue-generating in some way so you don’t have to depend on others (others being investors).
What else would you add to this?
In March 2011 I wrote a post titled “Things That Excite Me Right Now.” Then 9 months ago I wrote a post called “5 Companies That Excite Me Right Now Part II.” Here comes Part III.
Just to keep track, from the first one, one company got acquired, another company is silently killing it, and another shuttled and is now working as an EIR at GRP. From the second list, one company raised a crazy round with some of the biggest investors in the game, one was just featured in the print version of Vanity Fair, and the others are still unveiling and coming out of beta.
Without further ado: list #3
They just announced the product a week ago, but they’ve been working on it for awhile. One of the founders from Warby Parker is the brainchild (one of the co-founders) of this shaving startup. I’ve seen the product and it looks pretty solid, I think they can do is major damage to the big blade and razor companies.
They have the potential to be the Fab.com for technology. Every day they show me amazing looking devices that I want to buy immediately. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but I know it is coming soon.
Albumatic is what Color would have been if it had worked. I’ve been using Albumatic in SXSW and it is quite useful. Being a local, social photo sharing network, it’s interesting to follow and see what places are blowing up with photos. I’m curious to see now that SXSW is over.
I want super powers. Myo gives you super powers. So hence they excite me. Myo is a wearable gesture control technology. What does this mean? Telekinesis, yes. Myo is an armband that uses advanced sensors to translate your muscles’ motions and movements into wireless interactions with technology. This allows you to seamlessly control your digital world. You can manipulate your computer, play video games and more with simple gestures. GLORIOUS.
This is a curation network for people to create, discover, and share videos. They have been quietly building a little empire. The content is divided into three components: original content (10%), curated content (70%), and user generated content (20%). The team is pretty ridiculous (in a good way) and I think in 2013 we will be hearing a lot more from them.
When working in business development and partnerships at a startup, with a product integration solution, you are always looking to the next deal. There is never time to rest. You typically have an API and you need to hand hold the next partner to get their integration up and running.
This is not to say you can’t enjoy the wins as they come. Enjoy them. But remember with every new deal the expectations get higher, the numbers need to continue to go up, etc.
For all the glamour and sexiness that comes with working on the business side of a startup, the reality is that you are only good as your last deal and there is very little time to rest and enjoy current success.
Distractions, from what you need to do to be awesome at your job, come in many forms. It could be in the form of emails, it could be in the form of helping others. But once you get distracted during the day, it is hard to get back into the groove.
I have been trying to be more efficient recently, like responding to emails at night (non-day/internal) and moving all non-core meetings to Fridays or off-hours. But I can be better. I want to be better.
What do you do to help eliminate distractions?
If you haven’t seen Andrew Mason’s Groupon farewell memo, then you should check it out here.
After this came out, New York startup Rap Genius added the farewell memo to its site.
Investors, Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen, added notes/explanations of what the letter really means. It is pretty epic, and you can read it here.
There are very few startups with no ceiling and Rap Genius is one of them. Annotating the internet is going to be amazing in the next few years. I’m excited to see where Rap Genius goes.
I do think they will need to change their name eventually :D
Dwolla Biz Dev Intern, Brian Kil, has put together a Skillshare class called “Can’t Knock the Hustle: The First Steps To Breaking Into Startups.”
Brian’s story is a good one and if there is someone who can talk about the persistence and determination behind getting in the startup space, it is him.
I’ll be taking the class and I recommend you sign up as well. Only 10 slots are left so sign up now.
In other Skillshare news: I’ll be teaching a Hybrid online class after SXSW this year. It will all be online and you can take an updated Introduction I to Biz Dev and Partnerships at a startup from anywhere in the world. Stay tuned.
This past week I welcomed a little one into my family. His name is Bartolomeu Taub and he is a 4 pound, 11 week old Havanese puppy.
Taking care of a puppy is not a small task and Bart is most definitely a handful. We are crate-training him, so the first few nights were no fun. Now he is sleeping most of the night but it’s still not perfect. At this age there isn’t much time he is allowed to be out of sight. He can’t go outside yet and he is very delicate.
This has reminded me about having others depend on you. Like Bart depending on me, companies, employees, partners all depend on people every day. I’ve been on both sides of the equation. There normally isn’t a life (human or puppy) at stake, but rather trust and business.
People want to work with dependable people. If you say you are going to do X, you do X. If you say you will be at a meeting at 3pm, you get there at 3pm (or 5-10 minutes before). The dependability list goes on and on.
I think having Bart will help me become even more dependable in all aspects of my life.
If you’d like to follow Bart and his adventures you can find him on Twitter.
One of the hardest things to do at a startup is strike a good balance between what you need to get done today versus what you need to accomplish for “tomorrow.”
I’ve begun trying to break down my time and spend 80% on the here and now and 20% on preparing for where I’d like our business to be in the future. It’s not an easy task to determine how much I am truly spending on each, but I’m trying to get my head around quantifying it.
How have you learned to balance today vs. tomorrow? Leave any good tips below.
Last year I wrote a short post asking if there is room for a Deadline.com-like tech blog for the tech space. This past week Alexia from TechCrunch wrote a similar post. I wholeheartedly agree with her post and think it is long overdue.
It will be hard, but to do this right the person or tech blog would need to have a deep network, be anonymous (up for debate), and fearless.
I would love to read about investor deal terms (valuation, etc.), partnership deals, board meetings, and more. I don’t think this person/tech blog needs to ruin peoples lives or talk gossip. Rather it should be focused on valuable information, as well as keeping the startup/vc space honest.
Alternatively, it can be approached as a Gossip Girl style anonymous tip in. Pick a good domain, link it to a tumblr, and let it rip.
It’s time that someone pulled back the curtain of what really goes on in the startup space.
So… anyone up for the challenge?
I’ve cut down on how many networking events I attend. The past 3+ years I have been to at least 1-2 events a week, ranging from events I organized (BD Meetup, Digital Learning Series, Speaker Series for VCs, etc.) to just enjoyable events in NY startup scene.
I am not recommending that everyone cut down on how many networking events they go to. On the contrary, when you are looking to break into the startup world, attending networking events is your lifeblood. For me, though, I have found other ways to network without attending meetups and spending 2-3 hours after work running around NYC.
At this point I am very selective with the events I attend, and try to make up the networking by doing a few things:
1) Writing four times a week and contributing to Forbes
2) Being active on social media (Twitter being the biggest one)
3) Skillshare classes: I haven’t taught one since the end of 2012, but Skillshare is a great networking tool to meet like-minded individuals. I will be releasing a hybrid online skillshare class fairly soon. So stay tuned.
I have found that doing these instead is giving me more time to spend with my wife and focus on the business at hand. Networking is great, but spending a few hours at events after a long and exhausting workday can take a toll. This plan helps me balance my life.
Do you have any tools on building your network that doesn’t consist of physical networking?