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.

Changes in the rules of the [startup] game

The famous global macro hedge fund manager George Soros once said,

“I don’t play the game by a particular set of rules; I look for changes in the rules of the game.”
Inside the House of Money

Soros' insight is equally well applied to startups. Successful startups discover and leverage changes in the rules of the game.

Discovering the changes in the rules of the game is one of the hardest things about starting a company, but understanding precisely the change and developing a hypothesis ...

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Email and meetings aren’t work

Email and most meetings aren’t work. We all know this to be true. But huge swaths of our days are allocated to meetings and answering email. It’s impossible to accomplish much aside from information dissemination.

A close friend, who like me is a productivity nut, asked me a question that made this point clearly:

What fraction of your day is spent in meetings you asked for compared to meetings that were asked of you?

I didn’t know the answer but I calculated it. I was disheartened ...

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End of the year startup checklist

I call the last working week in December Board Week because it’s packed with board meetings. These board meetings are often the most important of the year. By virtue of their place on the calendar, everyone in the room is thinking more strategically, less tactically. These meetings set the tone and strategy for the company for the upcoming year.

I’ve assembled a checklist below of top 5 things I’ve seen founders do in and around the end of the year that position their companies for success in the next ...

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Great startup management teams are built with interlocking parts

Great teams accomplish amazing things. But it’s rare for any founding team to have all the constituent parts on the day they start the company. Most startups will need to build a strong management team whose strengths and knowledge complement the founding team. Finding the right people to help starts with being honest.

As Swizec of Zemanta wrote yesterday, there simply isn’t enough time in the day for founders to manage all the key parts of a startup: BD, hiring, fundraising, goal setting, product management and company management in ...

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The software customers don’t see

Tech startups write a ton of code. Broadly speaking, most of that code base is customer facing. But to be successful, the product must be supported by a litany of great “invisible” technology - the internal tools and products that help a company scale. They are the skeleton of the startup.

At Google, there were hundreds if not thousands of small internal tools built to solve problems. CRM tools, email automation tools with canned responses, lead prioritization tools, project databases, weekly snippets for reporting, email lists, and so on. ...

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Performance marketing for startups with R

Performance marketing is a skill every startup should hone as a core competency as quickly as possible. Performance marketing creates a process where $1 invested in the business creates greater than $1 in output - a growth machine.

Building a growth engine

The goal of performance marketing is simple: to determine, as precisely as possible, the expected value of every current and potential user. This data enables the marketing team to know exactly how much they should be willing to pay to acquire the user. Or how much to ...

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It all starts as a hobby

Believe it or not, this pig has a Twitter account, @impeePiggy. Whenever someone drops change into the pig, the pig counts the change using an optical sensor, increments the savings and tweets the value of its contents using an electric imp.

This deceptively intelligent pig has a lot to do with disruption:

In a conversation with renowned Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen about the newspaper industry, Joshua Benton remarked, “The perception of the incoming disruptors is that ...

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The one ideal characteristic of your startup’s first customers

Over lunch last week, a good friend who is an entrepreneur and I were brainstorming about the features of his optimal initial target market. His product hasn’t yet launched so he still had some decisions to make about which users and use cases to target. We wondered if there were a rule of thumb about initial target customer segments.

We took out a blank sheet of paper and came up with this:

Ideal Customer = max (DAU / MAU)

Rapid iteration from informed feedback

The best first customers are ...

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Willing to be misunderstood

Jeff Bezos appeared on Charlie rose two weeks ago and spoke about Amazon’s history, future and best of all, its culture.

In the interview, Bezos discussed Amazon’s core values:

  1. We are willing to be misunderstood
  2. We are obsessed with customers, not competitors.
  3. We are long term thinkers

While all of them are critical to Amazon’s success, my favorite is the first because it combines three critical concepts for startups.

First, it requires knowing a secret, in the Peter Thiel sense of the word, ...

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The dumbest guy in the room

I rowed crew in college. I walked on to the team and fell in love with the sport the very first time we pushed the boat from the dock and took a stroke. Looking back on those four years, I often draw parallels between rowing and entrepreneurship.

My freshman year, Joe Holland, who had raced for the national team in the eighties had taken a sabbatical to coach the freshmen team. He was a master and he loved the philosophy of rowing as much as the sport.

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