Competitive Research for Startups

September 7, 2009

Competitive research is an essential early task in launching any startup. This article will tell you how to do it.

You’ll learn about five web sites that are your best source of competitive insight about new web startups. Chances are, you’ll want to bookmark these sites and add them to your collection of essential resources. But first, let’s consider why competitive research is important to any startup.

Why Do Competitive Research?

Billboard in Cienfuegos, Cuba

Billboard in Cienfuegos, Cuba (credit: Alice Kehoe)

Conventional wisdom suggests that you should do competitive research for two reasons. First, as part of your business plan, to show your investors you’ve considered risks of competition and are justified in anticipating success. Second, by looking at what others are doing, you’ll refine your mission, your market positioning, and your product’s feature set. But there’s a third reason to do competitive research. One that’s more important than the others. A reason that is so important, you must do it as early as possible in your planning.

If you’re going to launch a new business, you need to find similar established businesses. Here’s why.

If you can find an existing business that others know about, it’ll be easier for others to grasp your idea without seeing it fully deployed. Whether investors, business partners, or anyone else, it’s easier to explain what you want to do if you’ve got a common reference point. Are you launching an online auction site for the produce industry? Tell them, “It’s eBay for truckloads of tomatoes.” Find a way to define your objective by describing it in contrast to others.

The best reason for doing competitive research is to make it easier to describe your project to other people.

Read the full article here:
Competitive Research for Startups

The full article (with detailed instructions and links) has been moved from this blog to my web site.

Finding a Technical Partner for Your Startup

July 6, 2009

Today I received an inquiry from a student at an Ivy League university who wants to launch a web startup. Maybe you’re facing the same challenges as James; he’s got a great idea but doesn’t know where to find a technologist to help build it. And James doesn’t have any money to pay for development. I gave him some advice; maybe you’ll find it useful, too.

Hi Daniel,

I recently ran across your blog. I found your suggestions in the article “Startup Mistakes: The Partnership Gone Sour” especially useful.

I have a related dilemma. I have an interesting project idea, but it requires seasoned programming skills. None of my friends and I are able to do this ourselves.

I’ve managed to contact two serial entrepreneurs by email, give them the pitch, and both of them agreed with me but commented that it would be a challenge to set up. I’ve also contacted my university’s entrepreneurial director who also said it was a feasible and interesting idea. Then, through SCORE (the nonprofit association of volunteer business consultants), I contacted a professor with experience in a related field and he liked it as well.

So you see my dilemma. How can I go about looking for a (very) good programmer willing to do this as sweat equity? Which avenues would you suggest I should take?

Best regards,

How to Find a Technical Partner

Here’s what I wrote in reply to James’s query:

(read more) Finding a Technical Partner for Your Startup

How to Find the Top Blogs For Any Topic

June 16, 2009

This article has value for anyone using the web, not just readers who are launching startups. It is especially helpful for anyone doing Internet marketing. I’m going to tell you how to find the best blogs in any subject area. Why? Because blogs are your best source of current information on the web. If you can find the top bloggers for any topic, you’ll be guided to the most relevant and useful information for any area that you’re researching. Follow the top blogs and you’ll quickly get up to speed and stay current, even if a subject area is new to you. And if you’re doing marketing, the most popular blogs are the best places to solicit “ink and a link” to get traffic to your site.

The top blogs are not easy to identify. You’ll want to find the bloggers who have the most readers, who are recognized as authorities, and who get the most interesting discussions started among their readers’ comments. How will you find them? Many people assume Google is all you need. Google can get you started but Google isn’t much help in identifying the best blogs. That’s why I’m going to share with you sophisticated techniques for identifying the top blogs for any topic.

(read more) How to Find the Top Blogs

How to Get Started with Twitter

April 19, 2009

Most people read this blog because they are looking for advice about launching a web-based business. But this article isn’t about methodologies for development or strategies for a web launch. It’s about something more basic: Twitter. If you’re not using Twitter, it’s time to get started. This article will explain how.

Whither Twitter?

twitterWhy Twitter? Every few years, there’s an important new way to use the Internet. There was a time when I’d ask someone for their email address and I’d hear, “My computer’s not set up for that, but you can fax me.” That changed all of a sudden, around 1996, when everyone discovered that email was really useful. The Internet works like that. BBS’s, USENET, email, the web, Google, instant messaging, blogs, social networking. Things that are dweeby, geeky, or an apparent preoccupation of youth suddenly go mainstream. Guess what’s next?

(read more) How to Get Started with Twitter

What To Do When There’s No Venture Capital

January 13, 2009

It’s agreed. We’re in the biggest economic downturn we’ve ever seen. So why would anyone want to launch a startup?

1937 photo by Dorothea Lange

1937 photo by Dorothea Lange

Maybe because a downturn is the best time to launch a startup (see “6 Reasons Why This Economy Is Good For Startups”). Or maybe, “Why not?”, because what else are you doing that’s truly worthwhile? Or maybe, finally, because startups are the only way to create prosperity when established businesses are failing.

Whatever your motivation to launch, some of the rules for success just changed (along with everything else that got broken with the collapse of 2008).

(read more) What To Do When There’s No Venture Capital

Taking Responsibility: Backing Up Is Hard To Do?

January 3, 2009
Crashed Hard Drive

Crashed Hard Drive

Another horror story. This from TechCrunch, “All Data Lost Without Backup, Company Deadpooled” (also discussed on Slashdot). Briefly, a blogging company named JournalSpace was put out of business when their web site database was erased. The company speculates it was the victim of a malicious act from a disgruntled ex-employee. But the real culprit was poor management and the victims were its thousands of customers who lost years worth of creative work.

Responsibility and accountability have to be built into every startup’s company culture and business policies. What can you do? Read on for some advice.

(read more) Backing Up Is Hard To Do?

How to Work with Developers: Avoiding Stockholm Syndrome

November 10, 2008
Stockholm syndrome

Stockholm syndrome

Have you experienced “Stockholm syndrome” in working with a developer? That’s the psychological condition where a victim becomes loyal to a powerful abuser, to the point of defending them despite obvious danger. It seems crazy to say an entrepreneur might act like that after hiring someone to do programming or web design, but I’ve seen it, and I think it’s more common than you might think.

What are the tell-tale signs and what can go wrong? Read on.

(read more) Avoiding Stockholm Syndrome

Startup Mistakes: The Partnership Gone Sour

October 8, 2008

What makes a startup fail? I’ve been collecting startup horror stories, hoping to share some lessons learned.

This week brought a story with three classic elements of a startup “tale from the crypt:” technology, money, and people. This time it was technology (with attendant uncertainty and doubt), money (lack of it), and people (the dark side: their personalities). I hesitate to tell this chilling tale because it’s not over (and may yet have a positive outcome). But hearing it may save readers from a similar fate.

(read more) The Partnership Gone Sour

How to Do Keyword Research

September 22, 2008

This article, on How to Do Keyword Research, introduces a keyword research methodology every web entrepreneur can use.

The methodology I describe is unique; you won’t find this approach described in all the ebooks and articles on keyword research you’ll find on the web. My approach doesn’t require expensive membership subscriptions; it combines free data from a social bookmarking site, a web traffic measurement service, and Google user data to create a comprehensive inventory of your keyword universe.

How Effective Is It?

I developed this approach when I worked as a consultant and Internet marketing mentor for my friends Joe “Mr. Fire” Vitale and Jerry and Esther Hicks. Joe Vitale is now well-known as an “Internet marketing guru” and Jerry and Esther Hicks have become NY Times best-selling authors. Keyword research has been a foundation for the success of all my consulting clients. Over time I’ve refined the approach and I describe it in detail for the first time.

Read the full article here:
How to Do Keyword Research

The full article (with detailed instructions and links) has been moved from this blog to my web site.

Startup Advice: Should You Attend TechCrunch50?

September 13, 2008

What’s the value of the TechCrunch50 conference for an entrepreneur? I attended the 2008 show and here’s my thoughts.

If you don’t know, TechCrunch is the most active publication focused on investment in the web startup community. In an earlier century, it would have been the leading trade magazine for Internet entrepreneurs and investors (that is, it would have been Red Herring). It’s 2008 now, so it’s a blog. The publisher of TechCrunch, Michael Arrington, has organized a series of events to showcase outstanding web startups, with the collaboration of the Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis. The two day event in September 2007 was named TechCrunch40; the three day event in September 2008 was named TechCrunch50. In 2009, TechCrunch50 will be held September 7th to 10th.

(read more) Should You Attend TechCrunch50?