I'm a partner at Redpoint. I write daily, data-driven blog posts about key questions facing startups. I co-authored the book, Winning with Data. Join more than 20,000 others receiving these blog posts by email.

Great Startup Product Design Is Telepathic

I never thought learning how to write better might help me understand product design but it has. Great literature and well designed products share one defining attribute: they create a telepathic connection between the creator and the consumer.

Before you chuckle and write me off as a palm reading gypsy, hear me out. The idea isn’t mine, but Stephen King’s. Over the weekend, I read King’s blunt and inspirational autobiographical narrative, “On Writing.” In this book, Stephen King accomplishes two things. First, he tells the story of his struggles ...

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The 3 Different Strategies of Venture Funds

As I wrote about in a post on aligning founder and VC incentives, it’s important for entrepreneurs to understand their own ambitions and the ambitions of investors. The most important part of that is understanding the financial motivations and the dynamics of the industry VCs face.

Typically, VCs adopt primarily one of three strategies with a fund [1]:

  1. Small fund, small ownership positions, many investments in markets that will consistently generate sub-$100M acquisitions.
  2. Medium fund, sizable ownership positions, a moderate number of investments in markets ...

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Community Marketing: Starting A Movement For Your Product

How should a successful marketing initiative for a startup operate? It’s possible to jump right into performance marketing immediately after launch, optimizing conversion funnels and squeezing every cent out of ad spend. But I think there’s an important step that precedes performance marketing: community development. 

Yesterday, I met with an entrepreneur who was researching how best to build a marketing team for her business. After having spoken to many other founders, she decided to prioritize community management before traditional marketing. She wanted to build a community of people who she ...

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How CrowdFunding Embodies Amazon’s Product Management Process

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Crowdfunding platforms solve three key problems for startups, two of which are obvious. Kickstarter and Indiegogo, among others validate demand and provide short term financing by marketing product ideas and accepting pre-payment for future delivery. Consumers vote with their dollars to catalyze product development.

The third, less obvious benefit, is the platforms cajole startups to follow a product management process similar to Amazon’s process, described below by Ian McAllister in his Quora post What Is Amazon’s Product Management Process?


For new initiatives ...

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Maximizing the Value of Investor Referrals

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From time to time, entrepreneurs ask one investor for referrals to other investors. After all, investors network frequently, work together and have long term relationships with each other so a referral should go a long way. But not all introductions are equal.

The most successful investor-to-investor referrals are those where the referring investor is investing in the business and is seeking to fill out the round with complementary capital. By investing, the referring investor sends a strong signal to others about his/her excitement about the company. ...

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Why Support Software Is the Future of Work Email

In 2005, I started as a customer support rep in the AdSense team at Google. Over the next few months, I was trained in the art of handling hundreds of emails per day.

My training focused on using a customer service tool called Trakken that Google had acquired and heavily modified to enable AdWords and AdSense teams to manage the torrent of inbound support emails from customers. In AdSense, a team of fewer than 100 people supported a few hundred thousand customers almost exclusively through email with customer satisfaction scores ...

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Framing Your Startup’s Sales Pitch: Focus on Value, Not on Cost

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Sales pitches ought to frame a product in a way to maximize the chances of success of a sale. One trend I’ve been seeing in pitches is to talk about how software can save costs by reducing a customer’s head count. A pitch that focuses on cost savings by reducing staff should be delivered only after much consideration because of a few objections created in these pitches that might slow or halt the sales process.


First, the pitch immediately provokes opponents to the sale. ...

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Product Market Engagement: The Missing Step in Lean Startup Methodology

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Atul Gawande, the American surgeon known for his book “Better”, wrote an article in this week’s New Yorker called “Slow Ideas: Some innovations spread fast. How do you speed the ones that don’t?” He describes the challenges faced by healthcare institutions all over the world: despite the advances in research, the most difficult part of improving care isn’t availing doctors and nurses to these breakthroughs, but changing their behavior. Some doctors simply won’t wash their hands no matter how many times they ...

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Your Startup’s Office Is Missing a Room

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This week, I visited a startup whose office had a very unusual feature: a usability lab. There I was in a soundproofed room with a table in the center flanked by two chairs, one for a user and one product manager or UX researcher. On the table, a constellation of web cams record a user’s facial expressions and interactions with a mobile phone or laptop while a microphone captures the user’s voice.

It had been years since I had been in a similar room at ...

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The Three Phases of Startup Sales

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Earlier this week, I met an experienced head of sales. During our meeting, the candidate shared a simple way of thinking about a startup’s sales process that resonated with me.


A startup’s sales evolution contains three phases: beta, reference customer, ROI calculator.

Beta: A founder of the startup develops relationships with a handful of customers who will work in tandem with the company to design, tune and improve the product. Typically, beta customers use the software for free or at heavily discounted rates. These customers benefit ...

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