Category: Making it Happen

Important for New Business Founders

Its tough being a founder…

How do you learn the lessons you need to start, grow and get funding for your new business?

Sure there are thousands of blogs, education sites like Udemy and speakers on the Ted circuit but me..personally…I like watching and sometime modeling what other, successful entrepreneurs and founders do.

Take the Video Genesis launch for example…

Andy Jenkins and Mike Filsaime have successfully launched products making millions of dollars…

Why is that relevant?

Because if there are two people you should watch…in action…and learn from when it comes to launching a new product, service or company online. Its Andy and Mike…

So, I recommend you take a look at this launch. Sign up, take a step back and keep a careful watch of all the moving pieces. See how they do it. And when it comes to using video as part of a launch (which is what Video Genesis is all about…you’ll also lear some valuable lessons about that too…)

Sure you could go watch some really smart person on a Ted stage talking about product launch…or you could jump into one, and make sure you watch all the levers, the psychological triggers, the moving pieces and see it done for real.

Its you call. Video Genesis Launch.

All the best

Andrew

http://www.TheFundingGuru.com

PS – Video Genesis Launch Link

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Startup Techniques: Understand Yourself and What the Business Needs (3)

This is the third ‘Startup Techniques’ blog posting on creating and moving your own Winning Startup Idea into the real world.  The first posting “Startup Techniques: Creating Your New Business Idea” included techniques to create your own winning startup idea and the second post “Startup Techniques: Qualifying Your New Business Idea (2)” gave some tips on how to qualify the idea to make sure it’s really the one that you should be investing your heart, soul and time on.

So what do I do next when moving a Winning Startup idea forward? If the idea has really grabbed me my temptation is to start figuring out all of the pieces that are needed to move it from idea to real business.  To start thinking about the people I’ll need to find, figuring out how to test the idea, how much money it’s going to need and the 101 other elements.  It’s at about this time when you need to figure out a few things before you start getting carried away.

Normally at the top of my list is how do I fit in with this idea?

For a product let’s consider just a few of the different steps in the process from idea to real product:

  • Developing product drawings (Engineering Skills)
  • Developing a prototype (Engineering)
  • Prototype testing (Engineering)
  • Determining how to produce it in larger quantities (Engineering)
  • Testing the Market (Marketing)
  • Determining Price Point considering the margins required by the sales channel (Marketing)
  • Sanity checking the numbers (Production costs vs. price point to sales channel) (Finance)
  • Understanding and selling the product into the sales channel (Sales)
  • Marketing the product to retailers and the end consumer (Marketing)
  • Managing the invoicing, customer service, tracking cash (Finance etc)

These are just a few broad steps on the road to making a product idea real.  This list is by no means all inclusive.  The point here is that there are multiple component parts necessary to build a business whether it’s a product, service or website.  When you are sure this idea is the one, begin to map out what the idea needs and to overlay that with your own strengths and capabilities.  This will act as a pointer for you ~ it should help make obvious who you will need to find to join the team either actually or virtually.

Thankfully whether your winning startup idea is a product, service or website there are some relatively fixed ‘categories’ that need to be considered whatever the business. Here are some of the key categories and a few thought jogging questions, there are many more:

The Customer:

  • What are their needs?
  • What are they prepared to pay for? How Much?
  • How do they buy products like this? A store / website / telephone / television? 

Competition:

  • Where do customers currently buy or go to use products like this?
  • What products or services do they offer?
  • How much do they charge?
  • How do they sell and market their products?
  • How many competitors are there?

The Product:

  • What does it need to do?
  • How will it be much better than what the competition offer?
  • Who can prototype and build it?
  • How much does it cost to produce?
  • What is necessary to produce it?
  • Who will produce it?

Sales:

  • Where will you sell this product?
  • Who will sell it for you?
  • How will you pay them? Salary or commission or both? Yes, there are sales people who will work for just commission (Blog Post to come)

Marketing:

  • How does it meet the customer need?
  • How is it better than what the competition offers?
  • How much can we reasonably charge?
  • Are we looking for volume of customers or a select group of customers?
  • What do customers need to know that will make them want to buy it?
  • What are the ways to tell potential customers about the product?
  • How much do they cost?
  • Are there any ways of telling potential customers about the products cheaply?

Some of these questions may not work for your idea but most should.  As you go through them more questions should pop up. And don’t worry if you don’t know all of the answers, you won’t. Fact. But you will probably be able to make some really educated guesses in the areas that relate to your personal strengths and won’t have a clue in those areas that are too far out of your own skills and experiences ~ another good pointer the types of people you will need to flesh out the idea and really start the tactical planning of “How to Launch Your Winning Startup Idea”. But again, that is the subject of another blog posting.

I hope this posting helps. Again, questions, comments, relevant rude remarks always welcome and ‘Yes’ this posting could have included much more, in fact, it could have gone on for at least another 50,000 words but like most entrepreneurs I have a tendency towards ADD. Let me know where I should dive deeper and I’ll do my best!

Andrew
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community

NOTE: I grant permission for every reader to reproduce on your website or blog the article you are now reading. But copy this article ONLY, without any alteration and please Include the copyright statement. (NOTE: I am giving permission to host on your website this article AND NO OTHERS. Reprinting or hosting my articles without express written permission is illegal, immoral, and a violation of my copyright.)“Copyright © 2007, Advisor Garage LLC. Advisor Garage Blog. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint this article on your website without alteration if you include this copyright statement and leave the hyperlinks live and in place.”

Startup Techniques: Creating Your New Business Idea (1)

I’ve have never tried to get this very personal process down in one place before.  From idea through to a real business step by step with as many of my own personal techniques and suggestions thrown in as we go.  There are rainforest amounts of books printed about people’s startup experiences – what I’d like to try here is to write about the real techniques and steps I have been through many times before when taking a new business idea and working to move it through to a real product or service.  Hopefully a more grounded approach than some of those ‘How to’ or ‘My experience as an Entrepreneur’ books. Well, we’ll see. Questions and comments very welcome!

So, want to start a business? Have the necessary passion to start a new business but are unsure where to start? Looking for that new, innovative, winning new business idea? Or perhaps you’re waiting for divine inspiration to serve up that winning idea like money from heaven before you actually get up off that sofa and GO FOR IT.  Sorry to burst your bubble – waiting won’t make it happen.  You have to ‘create’ it yourself.  But maybe it’s closer and easier to get than you think, maybe you can come up with that idea today.

Here are a few ways that work for me – so much so that they’ve become almost unconscious processes that happen on autopilot and better yet, their easy. Give them a try.

When asked where my ideas for new business come from I often joke that it’s a ‘disease’, something which is uncontrolled, being delivered in the grey matter between my ears without conscious thought or a process.  That’s close, but not exactly how it happens.

During my first interview for a role at Procter & Gamble fresh out university one interview question still sticks with me.  The interviewer passed a glass across the table and asked me to name ten uses for it.  Use number 1 was…a glass, she was unimpressed. Use number 2 was a paper weight, (better but still no cigar), number 3 was a lens to read small print in a document and before I knew what had happened, ten different and increasingly creative (read – crazy) uses had spilled out in the interview room.  That process is not too dissimilar from the process you could try. This redeployment of one product idea (in my case stackable Pringles) into another product category (Fire Escape Ladders) helped me come up with the idea for my first company, X-IT Products to produce an idea I’d had for the world’s smallest, safest, strongest fire escape ladder.

A refinement on that creative free thinking is what we’ll call ‘What if’.  Find a product, web service or business that is in the space that you are passionate about and really impresses you.  Thought of it? 

What’s great about that business? What do you really like about it?  Now think about what would make it even better? That would take it from being a great business and make it a world class business.  Write down every idea that comes to you….when you feel yourself drying up, read through the list and see if that squeezes any more ideas out of you.  Take a read through that list and see if any light bulbs go off in your head – any really obvious improvements or refinements to that already great business?

The third approach that might work even better for you is what I’ll call the ‘Pissed Off’ brainstorm.  Has a product, service or business failed to live up to it’s promise?  Maybe they over sold you or your expectations were mis-aligned with the reality of the business.  Maybe they screwed up or the product was faulty. Perhaps they don’t exactly meet your need.  But who cares? You do, because this is an opportunity to figure out what the business or product needed to do to deliver on it’s promise, to meet and exceed your expectations.  And if they aren’t meeting your needs because of some flaw, figure out what needs to happen to solve it. 

Let’s try an example, I’m driving from New York to Philadelphia – it’s lunch time and I’m hungry.  Watching the signs as I travel, what are my options?  Ah, here we are – McDonalds, Wendy’s, Dunkin Donuts and a few no-brand obscure Italian restaurants. More often than not if I’m hungry enough, I’ll drive through and buy something.  But just once, wouldn’t it be good if I could get something that was healthier.  It’s true that most of these places sell salads but then the light bulb goes off!  Before Whole Foods selling organic and more ‘wholesome’ food, most supermarkets were similar. Whole Foods changed the supermarket ‘game’ – what about a motor way food joint that changes the game in the same way as Whole Foods?  A quick, drive through that offers freshly prepared, all organic, non-greasy, non-salad food?  As of today, at least on the routes I drive, they would be the only food chain of its type. Talk about cornering an underserved market. Surely not everyone want’s a burger or a slice of pizza? Is this a winning idea? Who know’s but it could make someone a lot of money if it takes off. Don’t forget my percentage if you make this one a reality! -)

So, there are other ways that these ideas are created but hopefully these few are good as a start, so:

  1. Product Design New Application: Think of how one product or design can be re-deployed to solve other problems
  2. What If?: How could a great product or business be a ‘world class’ business? How does it need to change or improve?
  3. The Pissed Off Brainstorm: If only X did it this way….why couldn’t they just do Y?

Try these approaches and see where they take you.  Feel free to come back and post how you get on.  Maybe then I can write an article on some ‘what to do next’ steps for your new winning idea.  When you find your winning idea then you are already further along than most ‘would be’ entrepreneurs, now to go an make it a reality. Let me know if there’s any interest in those thoughts.

Andrew
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community

NOTE: I grant permission for every reader to reproduce on your website or blog the article you are now reading. But copy this article ONLY, without any alteration and please Include the copyright statement. (NOTE: I am giving permission to host on your website this article AND NO OTHERS. Reprinting or hosting my articles without express written permission is illegal, immoral, and a violation of my copyright.)“Copyright © 2007, Advisor Garage LLC. Advisor Garage Blog. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint this article on your website without alteration if you include this copyright statement and leave the hyperlinks live and in place.”

You’ve Created Your Winning Startup Idea ~ First Steps (2)

Hopefully you read the previous post “Create that Winning Startup Idea” and tried one of the following suggestions for coming up with your personal ‘Winning Startup Idea’.

Just as a reminder:

  1. Product Design New Application: Think of how one product or design can be re-deployed to solve other problems
  2. What If?: How could a great product or business be a ‘world class’ business? How does it need to change or improve?
  3. The Pissed Off Brainstorm: If only X did it this way….why couldn’t they just do Y?

Great!  Have you found that idea that makes sleep near impossible? THE idea that is now starting to bloom and grow in your brain whether you want to think about it or not?  If you are reading this and even now the idea is demanding attention then maybe you’ve found your own ‘Winning Startup Idea’.  Is that all there is too it?  Of course not. This is just the beginning but it is one of the most challenging elements…

The frank reality is that the idea you’ve just conceived is at the start of it’s life and I can promise you that as you move it forward, it will shift and change to the point where when it becomes ‘real’ you probably won’t even recognize it as the same idea.  That’s OK. Every winning startup idea grows up eventually when it hits the real world and spends some time with it’s initial customers. These initial steps are what this post is about.  Initial steps to take a fantastic and very personal winning startup and make it ready to be shared and experienced by it’s customers.

So here it is, your very own winning startup idea – what’s next?

At this stage I normally take a look at myself and examine whether I’m passionate enough about the idea to really grab a hold of it with both hands and push it forward no matter what.  No matter what! Any obstacle, any person telling me that it won’t or can’t happen.  There are always people who will tell you 101 reasons why your idea will fail.  If I’m only half hearted about it now then sooner or later I’ll run out of steam and waste time. My own time (forgivable) and other people’s time (unforgivable).  So this is usually the point where I decide to sleep on it.

OK, so I’ve slept on it and the first thought that pops into my head when I wake up is my winning startup idea…even while mentally sweeping out the cobwebs of sleep my brain starts to turn over the idea and look at it from different directions.  As I mull it over I start to see how it can be made better, how it could be not just a winning idea but Great one.  Yippee, this is one of those ideas – one of the one’s that even if I wanted to, I can’t push side.   That mental shot of near caffeine has happened again. Isn’t life great?

Next, I write the idea down and I don’t worry if its rough…I’m not going to use this document to raise money…just as a tool to develop the idea and test it out.  After getting every part of the idea down on paper I promise to give myself 24 hours before coming back to it. I cheat…I can’t help it, a few really interesting elements come to my mind an hour or two later and I have to add them to the document in case I lose them.  OK.  That’s it. 24 hours. Right.  So next day I read it through and see what other refinements or ideas come to mind. 

Yep, the document makes sense. So who do I know that has expertise relating to this type of business or perhaps know someone who does?  Let’s take the drive through whole food deli idea from the previous post.  Who do I know that has some business experience in restaurants?  Scratching my head the honest answer in my case is ‘no one’.  Damn! 

Lucky for me the internet has websites and forums such as Advisor Garage (http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community) with advisors with experiences across multiple industries.  So, my next step is to find someone that really understands this space and connect with them.  Keep your own reach out at a high level, give them enough information that they can get the gist of the idea without giving away the crown jewels. Remember, not everyone is ethical out there. But likewise, without some risk, this idea will remain in your head and will never become a reality.

OK, now it’s your turn – you’ve run your winning startup idea by someone who understands the space and if you’re lucky, they’ve given you some more ideas, some contacts, told you about potential competitors and if there aren’t any, have probably told you you’re mad.  Don’t sweat ‘mad’, so was Thomas Edison and Marconi in their early days. These are your early entrepreneurial days, take pride in mad…mad is better than bored and boring while watching TV. Sorry NBC!

If there was chemistry between you and your advisor, start cultivating that person as your mentor.  Be appreciative of their experience, let them know that they could be the key to your success – they actually might be.  If they have helped you identified similar business models or competitors, make it your first business to know everything about them. What do they do, how do they do it, what do they charge and most important, what do their customers think of their product or service? See any chinks in their armor? If so great!  This tells you what you’ll need to do better to start pleasing your customers, making money and building your market.

But one person, a winning startup idea and a rough idea draft is not a business.  You’ll need some critical elements and no surprises for what they are:

  • People
  • Money
  • Product
  • Initial Customers
  • Business infrastructure

But securing those elements is material for the next few posts…if you have thoughts, questions, comments or rude remarks about the above, let me know.

Andrew
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community

Create that Winning Startup Idea (1)

Want to start a business? Have the necessary passion to start a new business but are unsure where to start? Looking for that new, innovative, winning new business idea? Or perhaps you’re waiting for divine inspiration to serve up that winning idea like money from heaven before you actually get up off that sofa and GO FOR IT.  Sorry to burst your bubble – waiting won’t make it happen.  You have to ‘create’ it yourself.  But maybe it’s closer and easier to get than you think, maybe you can come up with that idea today.

Here are a few ways that work for me – so much so that they’ve become almost unconscious processes that happen on autopilot and better yet, their easy. Give them a try.

When asked where my ideas for new business come from I often joke that it’s a ‘disease’, something which is uncontrolled, being delivered in the grey matter between my ears without conscious thought or a process.  That’s close, but not exactly how it happens.

During my first interview for a role at Procter & Gamble fresh out university one interview question still sticks with me.  The interviewer passed a glass across the table and asked me to name ten uses for it.  Use number 1 was…a glass, she was unimpressed. Use number 2 was a paper weight, (better but still no cigar), number 3 was a lens to read small print in a document and before I knew what had happened, ten different and increasingly creative (read – crazy) uses had spilled out in the interview room.  That process is not too dissimilar from the process you could try. This redeployment of one product idea (in my case stackable Pringles) into another product category (Fire Escape Ladders) helped me come up with the idea for my first company, X-IT Products to produce an idea I’d had for the world’s smallest, safest, strongest fire escape ladder.

A refinement on that creative free thinking is what we’ll call ‘What if’.  Find a product, web service or business that is in the space that you are passionate about and really impresses you.  Thought of it? 

What’s great about that business? What do you really like about it?  Now think about what would make it even better? That would take it from being a great business and make it a world class business.  Write down every idea that comes to you….when you feel yourself drying up, read through the list and see if that squeezes any more ideas out of you.  Take a read through that list and see if any light bulbs go off in your head – any really obvious improvements or refinements to that already great business?

The third approach that might work even better for you is what I’ll call the ‘Pissed Off’ brainstorm.  Has a product, service or business failed to live up to it’s promise?  Maybe they over sold you or your expectations were mis-aligned with the reality of the business.  Maybe they screwed up or the product was faulty. Perhaps they don’t exactly meet your need.  But who cares? You do, because this is an opportunity to figure out what the business or product needed to do to deliver on it’s promise, to meet and exceed your expectations.  And if they aren’t meeting your needs because of some flaw, figure out what needs to happen to solve it. 

Let’s try an example, I’m driving from New York to Philadelphia – it’s lunch time and I’m hungry.  Watching the signs as I travel, what are my options?  Ah, here we are – McDonalds, Wendy’s, Dunkin Donuts and a few no-brand obscure Italian restaurants. More often than not if I’m hungry enough, I’ll drive through and buy something.  But just once, wouldn’t it be good if I could get something that was healthier.  It’s true that most of these places sell salads but then the light bulb goes off!  Before Whole Foods selling organic and more ‘wholesome’ food, most supermarkets were similar. Whole Foods changed the supermarket ‘game’ – what about a motor way food joint that changes the game in the same way as Whole Foods?  A quick, drive through that offers freshly prepared, all organic, non-greasy, non-salad food?  As of today, at least on the routes I drive, they would be the only food chain of its type. Talk about cornering an underserved market. Surely not everyone want’s a burger or a slice of pizza? Is this a winning idea? Who know’s but it could make someone a lot of money if it takes off. Don’t forget my percentage if you make this one a reality! 🙂

So, there are other ways that these ideas are created but hopefully these few are good as a start, so:

  1. Product Design New Application: Think of how one product or design can be re-deployed to solve other problems
  2. What If?: How could a great product or business be a ‘world class’ business? How does it need to change or improve?
  3. The Pissed Off Brainstorm: If only X did it this way….why couldn’t they just do Y?

Try these approaches and see where they take you.  Feel free to come back and post how you get on.  Maybe then I can write an article on some ‘what to do next’ steps for your new winning idea.  When you find your winning idea then you are already further along than most ‘would be’ entrepreneurs, now to go an make it a reality. Let me know if there’s any interest in those thoughts.

Andrew
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community

Sorry Guy It’s Not So Easy: The Flip Side of Entrepreneurship

This is a guest posting by Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin, a company that enables people to buy homes online. He offers a counterpoint to my posting about how easy it is to make millions of dollars with “user-generated, long-tail, Web 2.0, social-networking, open-source content.”


Last month, Guy called James Hong and Markus Frind heroes for running multi-million dollar websites like Hot or Not and Plenty of Fish in their underwear. Their stats are jaw-dropping: twelve billion page views, 380 hits per second, two hours of work a day.

Lately I’ve been thinking how hard, not how easy, it is to build a new company. Hard has gone out of fashion. Like college students bragging about how they barely studied, start-ups today take care to project a sense of ease. Wherever I’ve worked, we’ve secretly felt just the opposite. We’re assailed by doubts, mortified by our own shortcomings, surrounded by freaks, testy over silly details. Trying to be like James or Markus has only been counterproductive.

And now, having been through a few startups, I’m not even sure I’d want it to be that easy. Working two hours a day on my own wasn’t my goal when I came to Silicon Valley. Does anybody remember the old video of Steve Jobs launching the Mac? He had tears in his eyes. And even though Jobs is Jobs and I am nobody, I knew how he felt. I’d had the same reaction–absurdly–to portal software and more recently to a Redfin, a fledgling real estate website.

“The megalomaniac pleasure of creation,” the psychoanalyst Edmund Berger wrote, “produces a type of elation which cannot be compared with that experienced by other mortals.” Jobs wasn’t just crying from simple happiness but from all the tinkering, kvetching, nitpicking, wholesale reworking, and spasms of self-loathing that go into a beautiful product. It was all being paid back in a rush.

Like the souls in Dostoevsky who are admitted to heaven because they never thought themselves worthy of it, successful entrepreneurs can’t be convinced that any other startup has their troubles, because they constantly compare the triumphant launch parties and revisionist histories of successful companies to their own daily struggles. Just so you know you’re not alone, here’s a top-ten list of the ways a startup can feel deeply screwed up without really being that screwed up at all.

  1. True believers go nuts at the slightest provocation. The best people at a start-up care too much. They stay up late writing Jerry Maguire memos, eavesdropping on support calls, snapping at bureaucracy, citing Joel Spolsky on Aerons, and Paul Graham on cubes. They are your heart and bones, so you have to give them what they need, which is a lot. The only way to get them on your side is to put them in charge.
  2. Big projects attract good people. If you aren’t doing something worthwhile, you can’t get anyone worthwhile to work on it. I often think about what Ezra Pound once said of his epic poem, that “if it’s a failure, it’s a failure worth all the successes of its age.” We’re not writing poetry, but it matters to us that we’re trying to compete with real estate agents rather than just running their ads. You need a big mission to recruit people who care about what you’re doing.
  3. Start-ups are freak-catchers. You have to be fundamentally unhappy with the way things are to leave Microsoft, and yet unrealistic enough to believe the world can change to join a start-up. This is a volatile combination which can result in group mood swings and a somewhat motley crew. Thus, don’t worry if your start-up seems to have more than its fair share of oddballs.
  4. Good code takes time. One great engineer can do more than ten mediocre ones especially when starting a project. But great engineers still need time: whenever we’ve thought our talent, sprinkled with the fairy dust of some new engineering paradigm, would free us from having to schedule time for design and testing, we’ve paid for it. To make something elegant takes time, and the cult of speed sometimes works against that. “Make haste slowly.”
  5. Everybody has to re-build. The short-cuts you have to take and the problems you couldn’t anticipate when building version 1.0 of your product always mean you’ll have to rebuild some of it in version 2.0 or 3.0. Don’t get discouraged or short-sighted. Just rebuild it. This is just how things work.
  6. Fearless leaders are often terrified. The CEO of the most promising start-up I know of recently used Hikkup to anonymously ask his Facebook friends if we thought his idea was any good. Just because you’re worried doesn’t mean you have a bad idea; the best ideas are often the ones that scare you the most. And for sure don’t believe the after-the-fact statements from entrepreneurs about how they “knew” what to do.
  7. It’ll always be hard work. Most start-ups find an interesting problem to solve, then just keep working on it. At a recent awards ceremony, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tried to think of the secret to Microsoft’s success and could only come up with “hard, hard, hard, hard, hard, work.” This is an obvious cliche, but most entrepreneurs remain fixated on the Eureka! moment. If you don’t believe you have any reliable competitive advantage, you’re the kind of insecure person who will work your competition into the ground, so keep working.
  8. It isn’t going to get better–it already is. In the early days, start-ups focus on how great it’s going to be when they succeed; but the moment they do, they start talking about how great it was before they did. Whenever I get this way, I remember the Venerable Bede’s complaint that his eighth century contemporaries had lost the fervor of seventh century monks. Even in the darkest of the Dark Ages, people were nostalgic for…the Dark Ages. Start-ups are like medieval monasteries: always convinced that paradise is just ahead or that things only recently got worse. If you can begin to enjoy the process of building a start-up rather than the outcome, you’ll be a better leader.
  9. Truth is our only currency. At lunch last week, an engineer said the only thing he remembered from his interview was our saying the most likely outcome for Redfin–or any startup–was bankruptcy, but that he should join us anyway. It’s odd but the more we’ve tried to warn people about the risks, the more they seem to ignore them. And since you have to keep taking risks, you have to keep telling people about them. You don’t want to be like Saddam Hussein, who never prepared his generals for invasion because he couldn’t admit he didn’t have nuclear weapons.
  10. Competition starts at $100 million. A Sequoia partner once told me that competition only starts when you hit $100 million in revenues. Maybe that number is lower now. But if you do something worthwhile, someone else will do it too. Since you can’t see what’s going on behind a competitor’s pretty website, it’s natural to assume that all the challenges we just went over only apply to your company. They don’t, so keep the faith.

read more | digg story

Andrew
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community

PlanHQ: A $750K Virtual Investment

PlanHQ.com is an online Business Planning and startup development tool.  Doesn’t sound very sexy does it but you’d be wrong. Having been crazy enough to start three different businesses, I can painfully testify that writing and even more challenging…sticking to the thinking within a good Business Plan is extremely tough.  Plan HQ is an innovative web application that helps entrepreneurs and startups not only create a business plan, but allocate tasks and track progress across the key players. If Plan HQ gets the kind of traction it should then Plan HQ will be a great little business with any number of service and product extensions for the entrepreneur.  Move over 37Signals!

Business Model:
Plan HQ has a nice and simple business model…all elements of the application are hosted by Plan HQ. No downloads, no maintenance, no hosting, no contracts – If Plan HQ does work out for you or you stop needing their service, just leave.  Think ‘Salesforce.com’ for business planning.  Plan HQ offers a 30 day free trial (http://www.planhq.com/signup/) and then the fees are based on number of users on a monthly basis.  So membership types and prices:

Mini   = $9 month / 3 users / 5 active goals
Small = $24 month / 5 users / 10 active goals
Professional = $49 month / Unlimited Users / 10 active goals

Some Core Functionality:
The Plan HQ Product is sub-divided into some management categories that are usually ‘key’ for most startups and early stage companies and of course there’s a ‘Dashboard’ so you can manage and track the imperative tasks. Management ‘uber’ categories include:

  • The Dashboard – Covering main tasks, actions, upcoming goals, financials
  • The Market  – Your Markets, the Competition, Customers and basic market and customer analytics
  • Goals – Actual Goals, Add new goals, confidence of achievement and more
  • Financials – Performance, Indicators, graphs 
  • The Business Plan Document itself
  • Team – Who have you got, who do you need

Likes:
I really like the Plan HQ business model and the product itself, it’s especially relevant for those businesses that are focused on moving towards significant growth and the Venture Capital route.

  • The Product seems to cover the key elements of what a young company needs to focus on and allows enough configuration that the users are not ‘locked in’ to Plan HQ already good business management methodology
  • I hate to put it like this but for those ‘new’ to building businesses from just a plan, the product can really help ensuring the key team members focus on what’s important to any business but especially the ‘young’ business…Customers, revenues, the team and fund raising.
  • As its a web ap, this product is especially helpful for a distributed or virtual team and also for bringing angels, other investors and advisors easily into the key decision making process.  It could actually help get Advisors pulling their weight by locking them into real trackable actions. Wow! Could this product really do this?

Dislikes:
Not so much dislikes as potential questions and ‘like to sees’:

  • Paypal as a form of payment.  As a small business owner I don’t like adding my credit card to ongoing online services.
  • The positioning is ‘Create, update, track and collaborate around your business plan’. Business Plans eventually fall by the wayside as the business scales and grows beyond a certain stage or size.  As a ‘virtual’ investor, I’d like to see how all the data captured through initial usage and the service ’scales’ with the business. i.e. beyond the business plan and becoming an ongoing discipline and tool for managing the business ongoing.
  • I’d like to see a referral program and a ‘Reseller’ model.  For example, a startup I’m involved with ‘Advisor Garage’ (http://www.AdvisorGarage.com)  has 1000+ entrepreneurs, angels and VCs onboard.  This is a service many of our members would probably like to use – can our company ’subscribe’ and offer the Plan HQ service to our members for a fee?  I hope so! Let me know if any Plan HQ folks read this…

What’s unclear:

  • how the data exports or integrates with other systems – i.e. quickbooks etc
  • Are the ‘Permissions’ configurable? Will all signees be able to access all data? Would a CEO want that?

My Virtual Investment:
With my virtual $1M, I would ask PlanHQ to include me in their ‘Virtual Investment’ plans to the tune of $750K. Once they establish this market, their are so many obvious product extensions that driving great revenues will be easy and hey…they have the tool to manage those new businesses.  Great job Plan HQ!

http://www.planhq.com/

Andrew – Founder
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community

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