Sunday, December 30, 2012

Managing Startups: Best Posts of 2012


Here's my compilation of 2012's best posts about managing startups. I assembled similar lists at the end of 20112010 and 2009. Many thanks to all of the authors. The generosity of the startup community is amazing, and these insights are invaluable to those of us who teach and coach aspiring entrepreneurs.

Apologies to authors whose work I've omitted. Please use comments below to suggest additional posts. Happy New Year!

Lean Startup
Business Models
Customer Discovery and Validation
Marketing: Demand Generation and Optimization

Sales and Sales Management
Viral Marketing
PR Strategy
Branding/Naming a Startup
Product Management/Product Design

Business Development
  • John O'Farrell of a16z describes how quality trumps quantity and clarity regarding mutual objectives is crucial in doing business development deals, using Opsware's transformative distribution agreement with Cisco as a case study.
Scaling

Funding Strategy
Founding Process
  • My colleague Noam Wasserman published his book, The Founder's Dilemmas, that describes tradeoffs that founders confront when deciding when/with whom to found, how to split equity, how to divide roles, etc.
  • Blake Masters' summary of Peter Thiel's Stanford CS183 lecture on the importance on early founding decisions.
  • Charlie O'Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures on questions that co-founders must address ASAP and the concept of the "minimum viable team," i.e., the smallest set of skills needed to get traction in an early-stage startup.
Company Culture, Organizational Structure, Recruiting and Other HR Issues
Board Management
Startup Failure
Exiting By Selling Your Company
The Startup Mindset and Coping with Startup Pressures
  • Paul DeJoe of Ecquire on managing the pressure that comes with being a startup CEO.
  • Steve Blank on why it matters how co-founders fight.
  • Blake Masters' summaries of Peter Thiel's Stanford CS183 lectures on the role of luck in startup success and on "founder as victim, founder as god." Fascinating stuff! 
  • Steve Blank on the challenge of distinguishing between vision and hallucination in charting a startup's course.
  • Andrew Chen on dealing with the "trough of sorrow" following a big bump in traffic after a TechCrunch story.
  • Paul Graham of Y Combinator on "black swan farming," i.e., coping with the facts that: 1) the vast majority of returns are concentrated in a few startups, and 2) the most successful startups often don't look very good at the outset/
  • Graham on how to get startup ideas and on generating/coping with frighteningly ambitious startup ideas.
  • 50 startup lessons learned by James Maskell, founder of Vinetrade; startup lessons learned by Vin Vacanti.
  • Andreas Klinger of LOOKK on how/why founders lie to keep doing things in their comfort zones
  • Serial entrepreneur/angel investor Jason Calacanis on the two biggest questions founders need to ask: Will customers recommend my product, and will they remember it?
  • Investor James Altucher on how to survive your 1st year as founder/CEO.
  • Chris Dixon: once you take outside money, the clock starts ticking.
  • Jason Calacanis with advice for seed-stage entrepreneurs facing the "Series A Crunch" [Jason wrote this on Jan. 2, 2013, so it doesn't officially qualify for this "Best of 2012" -- but the advice is just too good and too important to wait a full year before including it next year's compilation!]
Management Advice, Not Elsewhere Classified
Career Advice (Especially for MBAs)
Startup Hubs
  • Brad Feld of Foundry Group and TechStars has published the book Startup Communities, a guide to building an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Tools for Entrepreneurs
  • Beyond Steve Blank's Startup Owner's Manual, a book he co-authored with Bob Dorf, here is a list of the fantastic resources Steve has made available to the startup community -- mostly for free.

43 comments:

  1. I'll bookmark this for the next time you say you're "too busy" for X :)

    Just kidding -- thanks for consolidating this.

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  2. Will: Maybe a kick-ass coder like you could figure out how to automate this so I can spend more time with my students? ;)

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  3. Awesome list. Tom, I hope you're kidding about the automation because it's your comments and "seal of approval" that make this a worthy list.

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  4. Shameless self promotion... http://enlaistartup.blogspot.com/2012/12/magic-formula-for-startup-launch-success.html?m=1

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  5. Great list. The automation will not have high quality of content compared to hand curated list.

    fyi,
    I run http://www.founderweekly.com/ which sends out the best hand curated content related to startups and entrepreneurs every week.

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  6. This is a kick-ass list. Thank you. Please don't wait another year for the next one. How about a quarterly update? Happy New Year!

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  7. This is just flat awesome. I'll be staying up nights for the next six months!

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  8. Thanks so much for the links - what a fantastic list! I've sync'd most of them to my kindle so that I can read them for the next month or so!

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  9. Great stuff Tom, one for the bookmarks. Big fan of Steve Blank's work on open source entrepreneurship. I think you can reach a lot more people if you can reproduce the post on Quora and LinkedIn. Thanks again for taking the time and making the list.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the suggestion Sudarshan. I've been in touch with LinkedIn about this.

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  10. Hey, great list. I really appreciate you including me on it. Thanks.

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  11. TOM : Great stuff. Great service by pulling it together. @margaretmolloy (HBS Class 2000).

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Margaret: we've all come a long way since Marketspace!

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  12. Amazing list-- love it. Under "Lean Startup" you might add a recent TC article, "The Maximum, Beautiful Product" as a good alternative voice / counterpoint. http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/31/the-maximum-beautiful-product/

    Jason Goldberg of Fab.com has been writing some great articles on viral marketing, pivots, and scaling a fast growing ecommerce business: http://betashop.com

    Under "Tools" keep an eye out for Foundersuite.com...clever tools for startup founders (fin, ops, IR, etc.)...launching in 2-3 weeks. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Nathan: I added Glenn Kelman's "Maximum, Beautiful Product" post. The message that founders need a strong vision to guide their pivots is an important one, and one that Eric Ries would agree with 100%. Thanks as well for pointing us to Jason Goldberg's blog. There's some fantastic, very useful data on Fab.com's performance there.

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  13. Tom - thank you for including my post on the One Metric That Matters. This is a great, and very valuable compilation.

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  14. awesome list! missing advice on advisors, best series of posts i know is here: http://marcoullier.com/blog/2011/09/date-your-advisor-before-getting-married/

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    Replies
    1. BB: thanks, the advice to use a trial period for advisors is good, and holds for other venture participants, too, including many employees.

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  15. Nice list of startup posts. Will go through the other years to see what is similar and what is not to try to spot some trends. Question to you - what is your criteria to determine what is a good startup post and what is not.

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    1. There's no science behind the choices; e.g., they aren't based on traffic. I read a bunch of blogs regularly, and follow links to posts on blogs that I don't follow. I capture posts I might want to refer back to in Instapaper. Then, I spend a day sorting through the best stuff. My criterion, essentially, is: Did I learn something that seems worth passing on to my students and other aspiring entrepreneurs?

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  16. Great list, Tom. Thank you for including me.

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  17. Great list Tom...you are clearly really organized as this was a ton of work to pull together. I wish more women were writing things you find worth sharing...to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs. Maybe we are all too busy building our businesses and haven't graduated to VC/Board/Advisor world. :)

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    Replies
    1. Jules: I do share your concern -- fewer than 10% of the posts are by women. But that may reflect the demographics of the startup community. A study by VentureSource showed that women represents only 7% and 3% of senior managers at successful startups (IPOed or sold) and unsuccessful startups, respectively http://buswk.co/Uobt7F Likewise, according to Kauffman, women represent fewer than 10% of VC partners http://bit.ly/UobPen So, we have a long way to go. But there's some good news at the top of the funnel: in the last few years, the % of HBS MBA grads joining startups has been about the same as the overall % of the class that's female, i.e., about 40%.

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  18. Great list, thanks for sharing!

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  19. This is an exciting list, Tom, and I intend to read or re-read each post.

    Given my work, I went straight to the posts on recruiting and hiring and wanted to mention a couple more. One of the most memorable posts on hiring that I read this year was by Steve Blank: "Hiring: Easy as Pie" http://steveblank.com/2011/08/22/hiring-easy-as-pie/

    Also, you mentioned a couple of excellent posts from Fred Wilson's MBA Mondays series on "People" including posts by Fred and by Chad Dickerson. Although there were several other great posts from that series, there is one that I believe deservs special mention, by Dr. Dana Ardi: http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2012/08/mba-mondays-guest-post-from-dr-dana-ardi.html

    Again, thank you. This is a remarkable resource!

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  20. Thanks, Donna: I missed the Steve Blank post in my 2011 roundup. And I like the emphasis on looking for candidates' emotional commitment and self-awareness in the Dana Ardi post.

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    1. Sorry, Tom, missed that the S. Blank post was from 2011 -- thought I had read it this past year! Well, it definitely made an impact if I still remember it so vividly.

      Again, thank you for this gem of a list.

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  21. Fantastic list Tom, thank you. Surprised however that there isn't much on engagement and user habits.
    Here's a quick video: http://www.nirandfar.com/2012/09/desire-engine-in.html
    and my posts on Techcrunch on the topic: http://techcrunch.com/tag/nir-eyal/
    Thanks again!

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    Replies
    1. +1 to that. Very insightful article on engagement Nir. Read it several times actually!

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  22. That's a great list. Too much to read :)
    I would say gapingvoid.com also provides really inspiration stuff for entrepreneurs. Though Hugh MacLeod draws cartoon but they hit soul of every entrepreneur.
    In addition to that I feel there are several entrepreneurs who have done 1 or 2 not startups and when they blog they write ground level wonderful experiences without too much jargon. StackOverflow.com founder's www.codinghorror.com is another asset.
    thanks a lot again.

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  23. Great post Tom. Thanks for sharing!

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  24. Speaking of automation, I would just use Delicious to tag suitable candidate content and then export it as a list.

    Instapaper is great, but it seems to be similar to starring a post in Google Reader. You can add content to only one folder at a time.

    Delicious lets you add classification tags, which means adding a post to an unlimited number of folders simulateneously.

    Use the notes field as the excerpt.

    The best content tends to have multiple Delicious saves.

    A quarterly digest would then be trivial to implement.

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    Replies
    1. Leonid: thanks -- I've run into the "one folder at a time" limitation you mention. I'll investigate Delicious.

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  25. Great list, and thank you for including my post!

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  26. The best blog post i read in years, Thank you prof for this awesome list.

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  27. Looks like Mark Suster won 2012! Some quick stats:
    Mark Suster 7
    Ben Horowitz 4
    Chris Dixon 4
    Fred Wilson 4
    Paul Graham 3

    Not to say that quantity wins over quality but its amazing to see that Suster had so much to say about sales, hiring, negotiations, scaling. Pretty amazing.

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    1. Prateek: Since you like to count things, I'm guessing that you're a lean startup guy ;) And that you're not from Boston, since your count excluded investors here on the list: David Beisel, Jeff Bussgang, David Skok, each with 5 posts and Rob Go with 3.

      With my additions to your set, these nine investors account for 40 of about 150 posts on the list. Impressive, and fascinating if you consider how much harder it was -- without blogs -- to channel insights like theirs to the entire startup community just 15 years ago.

      And yes, Mark Suster's writing is terrific. This isn't the first year he's had the largest number of posts on my compilation. I've learned a lot from his work -- especially about entrepreneurial sales.

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    2. Tom, I do lean towards the lean :) Thanks for pointing out the Boston folks, will add them to my reader.

      I completely agree about the value that these blogs are bringing to the startup ecosystem. Infact, I built a small hack, where I created a custom google search engine on top of the blogs of all these cool people. Whenever I have a venture question, I go to my search engine, and always find a a few great answers. You can give it a spin here - http://www.google.com/cse/home?cx=009897421366134535228:goughaltqui

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  28. Adding my seed round article on TC in case helpful to anyone raising their first round! http://techcrunch.com/2012/10/14/one-founders-perspective-on-how-to-raise-a-seed-round/

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    Replies
    1. Anth: thanks, and sorry I overlooked your terrific post. I've added it to the list above under "Funding Strategy."

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    ReplyDelete
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