Category Archives: Validation

Google Analytics Academy

Google Analtytics copyMetrics are a very important part of the Lean Launchpad process. By keeping track of interactions with customers in a variety of ways you are building a convincing story about the viability of your business model; a story that will be invaluable when you start selling, acquiring users or raising money.

Some of the things you’ll need to be measuring can be tracked with a simple spreadsheet:

  • Customer conversations
  • Development milestones for your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • Customer roles and relationships

Interactions that take place online, via the Internet or mobile, are a different story. Google Analytics is free software activated by placing a line of code into your site or app. That line of code gathers a wide range of information about those interacting with your site or product including:

  •  Where, when and how (what device or browser was used)
  • Length of interaction and where you ‘lost’ them
  • Hotspots on your pages
  • Behaviors within apps and sites
  • Their ‘path’ through the experience you are providing

…and much, much more. So much, in fact, that even experienced users of Analytics often miss important stats and metrics or don’t understand how to use them to do testing. Fortunately Google offers a service called Analytics Academy that provides both structured and self-guided courses for both beginners and experienced users.  Find out more here.

This really isn’t optional, though many startups don’t take full advantage of it. The reason I say that, is it gives your startup an incredible advantage as you gain sophistication with these powerful tools.

How valuable is the accelerator experience for startups?

VentureBeat has coverage of a study done that seeks to quantify the value of joining an accelerator program like the HTRLaunchPad and it makes a pretty compelling argument for their value:

“Direct involvement may be the most important factor, even if it cannot be easily quantified. A 2007 Kauffman study found that angel investors can get outsized returns if they offer a high level of diligence and direct involvement. Thus, we think its critical that entrepreneurs and VCs consider an accelerator by whether its leadership has done their homework on their prosective members’ underlying markets, and by whether they have teams ready to dedicate time and resources to help their business.”

And

 “Based on these historical results, we found that companies in accelerator graduating classes from before December 2009 returned 11.3x on capital invested. These are fantastic returns for entrepreneurs, VCs, and accelerators.”

Bear in mind that the programs studied typically took an equity position of 6-9% in exchange for an investment of $15-20k. The numbers also reflect a couple of huge gainers (AirBnB, Dropbox). We don’t currently take equity positions in our startups.

Mentor Brainstorming: Identifying the most useful actions for successful mentoring

We held our first 2014 Mentor Advisor session last Friday Feburary 14th and one of our activities was an open brainstorming session facilitated by Charles Pfeffer of the 2014 Advisory board. Participants shared rapid-fire suggestions for useful (and non-useful!) mentor actions. Plus two experienced mentors from last year contributed insights:

HTR Mentor Group’s Brainstorm

Share wisdom:

  • Be a guide
  • Guidance
  • Consistent Guidance

Share Experience:

  • Transfer knowledge and experience
  • Convey experiences
  • Avoid mistakes someone else has already made

Share real life examples:

  • Share stories and experiences rather than just give advice

Share expertise:

  • Know your stuff

Share connections:

  • Connections
  • personal connections and network building

Understand deeply:

  • Understanding the “why” not the “what”

Don’t solve the problem:

  • Let the student lead the process and be supportive
  • Don’t do the work. Guide the student to do it.

Listening:

  • Be a sounding board
  • Someone to listen to ideas
  • Listen intently before giving advice
  • Let student come to the conclusions themselves

Humility:

  • Learn yourself
  • Learn

Coaching:

  • Discover potential
  • Provide Structure
  • Organize (regiment, accountability)
  • Challenge
  • Stretches me
  • Ask Questions
  • Think from the end
  • Truthful
  • Call “bullshit” diplomatically
  • Committed to success
  • Cares about my progress

Be available

  • Bring a fresh perspective
  • Provide an outside viewpoint
  • Suggest talking to multiple people to get unique perspectives

Emotional support:

  • Encouragement
  • Encourage teamwork
  • Encourage Collaboration
  • Caring
  • Respect
  • Compassion

 

David Cohen’s Mentor Manifesto – Courtesy of Richard Glaser

Be socratic
Expect nothing in return (you’ll be delighted with what you do get back)
Be authentic/practice what you preach
Be direct. Tell the truth, however hard.
Listen too
The best mentor relationships eventually become two-way
Be responsive
Adopt at least one company every single year. Experience counts.
Clearly separate opinion from fact.
Hold information in confidence.
Clearly commit to mentor or do not. Either is fine.
Know what you don’t know. Say, “I don’t know” when you don’t. “I don’t know is preferable to bravado.
Guide, don’t control. Teams must make their own decisions. Guide, but never tell them what to do. Understand that it is their company, not yours.
Accept and communicate with other mentors that get involved.
Be optimistic.
Provide specific, actionable advice. Don’t be vague
Be challenging/robust, but never destructive.
Have empathy, Remember that startups are hard.
Fred Dewey (offered in call prior to 2/14)
Hold regular weekly meetings
These are CRITICAL
If you have to move it, reschedule don’t cancel
Recommend Mon or Tue meetings
What homework did you get?
What are you doing this week to accomplish it?

Understand key principles of the Launchpad methodology and organize your mentorship around that
What are we here to do?
We’re here to let the customer tell us what to build.

Come to as many Friday afternoon meetings as possible
make them sacred
Be there to here the feedback
Record the presentations and the feedback

 

Excerpt: Stay in The ‘Problem Space’ for As Long As Possible

(this is an excerpt from The Customer Discovery Matrix; A Concise Guide To Starting Anything)

Listen closely. This is the key takeaway for the entire Customer Discovery Matrix:

Stay in the ‘problem space’ for as long as you can.

When you go through your twelve weeks of Discovery, you are basically looking to learn and flesh out three aspects of your business model:

a) The problem you are solving,

b) The nature of your solution,

And

c) The ultimate value gained by the customer.

All of these are critical to the success of your endeavor, but the first is far more important than the others, since finding solutions and ascertaining value are completely dependent on getting the problem right.

Most businesses, products and initiatives that fail do so because they are solving the wrong problem. The ones that are successful have discovered that all-important ‘product/market fit’, which stems from an intimate knowledge of the problem they are solving, from a customer perspective. This fit must be pursued much like the work required for the fit of a good suit. The tailor measures everything. He knows the way the fabric will respond, where to build in movement and what is best for your physique. Only then does he ‘productize’ this knowledge and cut you a suit – one that fits like it was made with your personal needs in mind, because it was. Get your fit right before you start cutting and sewing.

This means that you need to be relentlessly thorough about uncovering your customers’ real problem, the one whose solution will make them eternally grateful (or at least until the next problem pops up!).

Don’t solve multiple problems at the beginning. If there are multiple problems you could solve, work on the one that represents the biggest pain point for your customers. When you see what we in the software business call ‘feature creep’, you’re seeing someone trying to solve multiple problems. They are adding bells and whistles to add value, but the reality is that they are usually causing distractions and delays, and this is something startups can ill afford.

When you read the stories of successful businesses, you almost always find that they started with one problem and focused on it. Google’s founders wanted to find a way to search the research data at Stanford when they were grad students. They spent their first years, all the way up to their IPO, refining their approach to search until it worked. Everything else followed on from there. Oxo Good Grips started with a potato peeler. If you’re old enough, you remember the stamped metal potato peelers that hurt your hands. Peelers had not changed for 50 years, until Oxo came along. They made a comfortable potato peeler, and then leveraged that success to hundreds of related products and a great brand reputation.

Google solved the search problem.

Oxo solved the comfort problem.

There are endless examples of this and few exceptions. In fact, when you read about the companies that got off track, it is usually because they became distracted with adding features and solving a universe of problems before they mastered the one problem that was within their grasp to solve.

The Problem Space is an interesting place. We believe that immersion in it will make product development much more successful. Simply identifying the most important solution for your customer, the one that solves a pressing need, will get you started as a business. Knowing as much as possible about the Problem Space will give your new business legs.

Utilizing Google Analytics for your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

While our team sifts through the 33 applications we’ve received for the HTRLaunchPad 2014, I’m going to jumpstart the thought process they’ll need when setting up their Minimum Viable Product (MVP). At this stage, prior to customer discovery, your MVP should be as simple as you can get away with- a sketch, a story, a video, a simple user-interface design. As you learn more about the problem you’re solving you’ll refine your solution as demonstrated by the MVP. And when your solution is out there where users can play with it analytics will be very important to understanding how to improve it.

In this week’s AlertBox, usability guru Jakob Neilsen covers five Essential Analytics Reports for UX (user experience) Strategists. It’s a great intro to setting up and understanding the power of Google Analytics when analyzing web and mobile apps.

He covers:

  1. How Fast Is Mobile Access Growing?
  2. How Much Do Social Networks Impact Our Ability to Meet Goals?
  3. What Sources Drive the Most Conversions?
  4. How Many Visits Does It Take for Visitors to Convert?
  5. What Desirable Actions Do People Take on the Site?

If you don’t understand what these things mean or why you should understand them, the article is required reading. But even if you think you know this stuff, read it- there’s a ton of very useful information that will help you get the metrics part of your lean startup off on the right foot.

Finally, I highly recommend you sign up for his weekly Alertbox newsletter. I learn something every time I read it.