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.

Why To Do Lists Are Failing Us

If you’re like me, you switch task managers every six months at the point that you have added a bunch of items in your list that you’ll never get around to and can’t bear to be reminded of them again. At which point, you conclude that the app has failed you. It must have because you haven’t completed any of these tasks!

Task management tools fail users because they operate without context. How many times have you been to the grocery store and forgotten the dill pickles ...

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The product qualified lead (PQL)

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Many of the SaaS companies I work with are buzzing about a new concept: product qualified leads (PQL). It’s typical to see outbound sales teams create new leads by cold-calling - think Glengarry. And marketing also qualifies leads (MQL) using online advertising, branding, content, email and other channels. But the PQL concept is novel.

PQLs are potential customers who have used a product and reached pre-defined triggers that signify a strong likelihood to become a paying customer. A hypothetical example at Expensify might be if a ...

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What my high school chemistry class taught me about startups

Photo: flickr/nemabix

I don’t remember much of junior year chemistry class except the lab experiment in which we made fireworks. My lab partner and I doubled and tripled the amounts of strontium, potassium, calcium and other explosives specified in the instructions. Our firecracker dwarfed our classmates' in size and when we lit them after two unbearable weeks of baking, there was no question we misunderstood chemistry. We expected an inferno and were rewarded with a pathetic fizzle and a C-.

We made one critical mistake ...

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The startup hardware M&A market will be vibrant in 2013

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Hardware competition is cut-throat. Walking through the halls of CES, every Android phone is identical. LG has copied each Samsung model. Because of the competition, tablet prices are plummeting - I saw a $49 7inch tablet (and some were giving Nexus 7s away for free with subscription. Not constrained to large competitors, startups like FitBit and Jawbone launched competing (and nearly identical) products within weeks of each other: the FitBit Flex and the Jawbone Up Even newer segments ...

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A CEO’s epitaph

There is no prouder boast, but also no better prescription, for executive leadership than the words Andrew Carnegie, the father of the U.S. steel industry, chose for his own tombstone: “Here lies a man who knew how to bring into his service men better than he was himself.”

Amen.

This epitaph captures succinctly so much of leadership: the ability to articulate a vision and convince others of the importance of that mission; the self awareness of knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses; the desire to be the dumbest guy in ...

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Observations of the LinkedIn Influencer program

In December, I was lucky enough to be asked to become part of the LinkedIn influencer program. I jumped at the opportunity to bring my writing to a broader audience. And the experience has been eye-opening.

The influencer program asks a few hundred LinkedIn members to write periodic blog posts which are highlighted on the home page and in email marketing campaigns. LinkedIn staffed a fantastic editorial team who assists writers with content creation and editing, but most importantly, content marketing.

The editorial team delivers relevant content to ...

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The new marketers

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In the last 12 years, marketing has been reinvented. No segment has benefitted more from this transformation than startups who have both created the new marketing and leveraged its skills to transform industries. These new marketers creating this wave have been so effective they can delay or even obviate the need for outside sales teams.

Historically marketing has been pseudoscience - an undisciplined hand-wavy concoction of story telling and a “throw stuff on the wall and see what sticks” mentality protected by unmeasurable results ...

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To Sell is Human

Daniel Pink, former speechwriter for Al Gore, has written an unconventional book on sales called To Sell is Human. In this well researched book, Pink observes a few surprising evolutions in society and their impact on sales.

The hard sell is dead. Enabled by the internet, prospective buyers know more about a product than a salesperson. This is true for cars as much as enterprise software. As a result, the salesperson no longer leverages an information asymmetry to sell a product. Instead, the salesperson must negotiate from the very ...

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We should be living in the future already

We should be living in the future already. I should be controlling my home lights from my phone. My coffee machine should reorder coffee from Amazon automatically and my washing machine should schedule its own maintenance.

This kind of future demands that machines act with human intelligence. I’m asking my coffee machine to think like me, so that I don’t have to.

But we aren’t living in this world yet because it requires the synchronized deployment of three of the most advanced technologies developed in ...

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Fundamentals of communication

Communication is essential to the success of every startup. Startup teams collaborate in product and engineering conversations, in general management, and in recruiting. Externally, startups sell customers using marketing and sales. Startups also pitch investors during fundraising conversations.

Clearly, great communication makes demands of the audience. But effective communication is challenging.

One of my favorite communication tools is a framework created by management guru Peter Drucker of three fundamentals: perception, expectation and clear demand.

Perception means understanding the audience: their worldview, the language they use, their motivations and their ...

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