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,
James

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


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


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


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?


Web Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Job Description

August 30, 2008

A web startup client recently asked me for a CTO job description to paste into a business plan. Eager to oblige, I googled “Web CTO job description” and “web chief technology officer” anticipating it would take me five minutes to find what my client wanted. You’d think there would be a adequate boilerplate job description somewhere on the Net. But no, there’s no sharable, standard description of the work we do to run a web startup.

Here, then, is my first draft of a job description for the work I’ve done as a chief technology officer for web startups. You can find the entire article here: Job Description for a Web Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

After you’ve read the article, if you have anything to add or refine, you can leave a post, and I’ll update the article.