How to judge your output, why “good” companies aren’t interesting and what most VCs see coming

Happy Friday.

Hello from Ashburn, VA today where it’s good to be in one timezone for a little longer than usual. I’m planning to dial things up in a huge way this year (think: giveaways, contests, meetups and more) for the Results Junkies community — that’s you — so read through to the bottom of this week’s email if you’re interested.

1. “startups don’t attack existing players head-on.” [Link] [Tweet]

It’s interesting to watch the blockchain-powered companies slowly — but steadily — building solid businesses in the FinTech space. It seems obvious that one of the big publicly traded banks will make the first large acquisition of a “BlockTech” company but I wouldn’t be surprised if a large credit union or small local bank makes the leap first.

Regardless, this is yet-another-reminder that startups should tackle large markets by solving specific problems first — this is your wedge in the door and, assuming your initial product solves a problem, will keep you alive long enough to tackle the next problem. And the next problem. And the next problem. Before you know it, you’re not a startup anymore.

2. “Whether or not this should happen or does happen is besides the point – the point is that most VCs see it coming.” [Link] [Tweet]

Two important takeaways here:

  1. Founders shouldn’t worry about whether we’re in a bubble or not, just know that raising your first round will be the easiest money you ever get. The bar is rising for companies seeking later stage funding.
  2. Increasing revenue by 5X yearly or 15% month-over-month is the right goal. Hit those numbers and you’re going to be fine.

3. “rating systems have turned customers into unwitting and sometimes unwittingly ruthless middle managers” [Link] [Tweet]

Rating systems have been around us for quite a while now. You’ve used Zagat and Yelp to decide where to eat — most probably by reading the ratings and reviews of others that have dined there. You’ve used Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to gauge someone’s background, experience and network before interviewing them for a job. You’ve even asked your friends for recommendations on a Realtor or car salesperson.

The difference is that Uber, Lyft, Handy and many of the other on-demand platforms — through the ubiquity of mobile devices and beautiful UX/UI — have finally made it incredibly easier to provide feedback on service providers (read: they collect more reviews) and easier to manage those same service providers (example: Uber deactivates drives if their score drops below 4.6 in some regions).

You are the customer and the performance manager. You hold the keys to someone else’s future and, like me, you probably don’t take it seriously enough.

4. “Fundraising is somewhat of a game, and to do it you need to learn how to play.” [Link] [Tweet]

Fundraising is an art, not a science. With that being said, this is a good overview of the process. TLDR: fundraising takes time.

5. “Realize no one cares as much as you do, and that’s OK” [Link] [Tweet]

A lot of people want to be the founder (or the CEO), few of them realize what is actually involved. Read this.

6. “If you’re judging your output by your tiredness, you’re sure to be misled.” [Link] [Tweet]

If you’re in a blue collar / production role, you’re absolutely going to be judged by the amount of time you’re standing on the job site. I know this personally, I used to lay brick and pour concrete. (Note the story of the locksmith in this piece as well.) Changing the perception of the client is nearly impossible. If you want more money, do more visible work.

If you’re in a white collar / knowledge worker role, you’re going to be judged by your output rather than “seat time” at your desk. If you want more money, produce more measurable results.

7. “Don’t ever just show up to a meeting without knowing what it is going to be about.” [Link] [Tweet]

People are careful about spending money when they can see/feel/touch it (eg, “I’m not spending $200 on that shirt, that’s crazy!) but they don’t think twice about calling a 45 minute meeting with 3 people that could effectively cost $1,000 in payroll and overhead. Get it together.

8. “In the VC model, moderate success is almost as big of a risk as bankruptcy.” [Link] [Tweet]

Look, I’d invest in restaurants, car washes and other brick & mortar businesses if I wanted to invest in a “good” company. I don’t want a good company, I want a go-big-or-go-home company.

Counterintuitive: the easier it is for founders to get to their first revenue, the harder it is to make money as an angel or VC.

9. “If you go at it alone, you’re better off angel investing or doing syndicates over AngelList.” [Link] [Tweet]

If you’re considering raising a fund that will end up under $10M, save yourself the hassle and consider AngelList Syndicates or other alternatives. OK,

10. “And it was a revelation to look at the phones. All Android. Most lower cost devices like Moto G.” [Link] [Tweet]

For those of us that have spent the majority of the last decade within the United States, we generally take the costs of our smartphones lightly. Outside the US — where the dollar is more expensive and the median incomes are lower — smartphones and connectivity are much, much different.

Facebook’s experimenting with “2G Tuesdays” to force their engineers to feel the realities in order to build a better experience for users outside of the US. If you’re selling to customers outside the US, you should consider something similar as well.

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I put a lot of time and money into this newsletter each week and I’m planning to dial things up in a huge way this year (think: giveaways, contests, meetups and more). If you’d like to help, fill this out and we’ll hop on a quick call to discuss. First come, first serve y’all — as you know, I only send one newsletter each week so you better get on it.

Firehose

You can get the full stream of the things I read, it’s all on Twitter — follow me: @paulsingh. Sometimes I write stuff too. You can always find me on Slack, apply to join.

Have a great weekend!

-P

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