Startup Product Development Tips

Written by Paul on October 22nd, 2010

I spoke at a Founder Institute DC event last night along with Gabe Zichermann (by the way, you’re missing out on some seriously good stuff if you haven’t seen Gabe speak elsewhere) and Matt Howard. If you’re in the startup trenches, these tips are for you.
FI: Product and Service Development

On building awesome business applications

Written by Paul on October 13th, 2010

As recently as five years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see startups raising hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, before they had a customer-ready product. Mostly, this was due to the high costs involved with internet startups (servers and bandwidth weren’t cheap). Things were expensive and you had to obtain permission from investors (via funding) to do any of it.

Today, that barrier is almost non-existent. Many founders are focusing on ramen profitability, …

What is Smart Money anyways?

Written by Paul on October 12th, 2010

If you’re an investor, simply having money isn’t doing it anymore:

I was talking with one of my favorite entrepreneurs the other day, who was trying to choose a lead for his next financing round. This is a guy who had plenty of options. Facetiously, sort of, he said he was planning on picking the VC who had the most unique visitors to his blog. That, of course, sent a chill down my under-publicized spine. Again, i

The Purpose of Raising Money

Written by Paul on September 25th, 2010

Paying yourself is not a reason to raise early stage funding:

The purpose of raising money is to accelerate the progress from Point A to Point B. That means you need assumptions around what Point B is and how you’re going to get there.

Well said.

Back Office Exposed: Bingo Card Creator

Written by Paul on July 30th, 2010

If you spend just a few minutes on Hacker News, you’ll come across Patrick McKenzie in one way or another (I’m convinced that he must comment on every single HN post). He lives in Japan and recently left his cushy full-time job to focus on Bingo Card Creator — something he created as a side gig four years ago. Patrick’s always sharing tactical tips on HN but I wanted to know more about how BCC actually worked. If you’ve built …

More on the “Thanks BP” project

Written by Paul on June 30th, 2010

A few days ago, I quietly launched a way for people to donate to the Gulf cleanup while taking a jab at BP. We sold ten letters in the first few minutes and it’s steadily grown over the past few days — yesterday, we won the #bpcarescontest.

I started the MailFinch “Thanks BP” project because I wanted to do something more than just donate …

Back Office Exposed: ReTargeter

Written by Paul on June 29th, 2010

I signed up for ReTargeter a few weeks ago after meeting their founder, Arjun Dev Arora, through a few mutual startup friends. They send me a weekly report that shows the number of conversions I get each week and, frankly, it’s a non-zero number. ReTargeter helps me focus my marketing dollars on traffic that has already been to my site and, since MailFinch is a relatively niche site, the majority of my traffic is people that are interested …

For startups, effectiveness > efficiency

Written by Paul on June 17th, 2010

Chris Dixon makes an important point about not over-engineering your product in the early days:

Many products can be built much more quickly and cheaply by settling for good technology plus a bunch of hacks – human editing, partnerships, using 3rd party software – versus creating a perfect technology from scratch.

To this day, most of the work at MailFinch is still manual. Someone has to make sure a document gets printed, folded and stuffed into a …

Back Office Exposed: ZippyKid

Written by Paul on June 3rd, 2010

A few weeks ago, I realized that this site was running slow. Really slow. On average, it took ~3 seconds for any page to load. It was killing my SEO juice and I noticed that I was starting to lose readers left and right. I called my friend Vid immediately and he pointed me to his new service, ZippyKid. The results speak for themselves: I saw a 300% performance improvement once he took over this site.

Startup Market Positioning: Less is More

Written by Paul on May 28th, 2010

Looking back at the recent growth of MailFinch, most of the success can be attributed to what the product can’t do. We do very few things but we do those things better than anyone else in the game and we make it drop-dead simple to get started. Now Thomas Thurston, a researcher and consultant based in Portland, Oregon, has come up with a formula that predicts startup success with an 85% accuracy …

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