- David Aycan of IDEO on the value of prototyping multiple MVPs in parallel.
- Vin Vacanti on excuses that kept Yipit from launching early.
- Entrepreneur Graeham Douglas on lean techniques for rapid prototyping of physical products.
- Emre Sokullu of GROU.PS on software that is well suited for building MVPs.
- Ben Yoskovitz of GoInstant on the value of focusing on “one metric that matters.”
- Ash Maurya published his book, Running Lean; he describes the Lean Stack – tools for managing hypothesis testing — in a two-part post.
- Joel Spolsky on the costs of different types of software inventory.
- Glenn Kelman of Redfin on how running lean without deep product convictioncan lead entrepreneurs to pivot too quickly and build mediocre products.
- Dan Milstein of Wingu in a video from the 2012 Lean Startup Conference on conducting a “5 Whys” session.
- Trevor Owens of Lean Startup Machine on different approaches for validating assumptions.
- A video from the Lean Startup Conference of Lean Startup Machine SF 2012 winner, Chef’s Table, discussing their pivots and hypothesis tests.
- Other videos from Eric Ries’s Lean Startup Conference.
- Bill Gurley of Benchmark, David Beisel of NextView Ventures, and Seth Rothman of Greylock on key factors for success in building online marketplaces.
- Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures on revenue models for online commerce sites.
- Rishi Shah of Digioh on optimizing freemium pricing for SaaS; David Skok of Matrix Partners on why churn matters so much with SaaS models.
- M. Wensing presents a taxonomy of different types of freemium offers.
- Entrepreneur/angel investor Brian Balfour on solving the chicken & egg problem with network effects businesses; Sangeet Choudary writes about platforms and network effects, e.g., the impact or reverse network effects on social media.
- Tristan Kromer shows how to use a business model canvas based on “Puppies-as-a-Service” as an example.
Customer Discovery and Validation
- Cindy Alvarez on applying customer development techniques with different types of customers and on when to NOT use surveys.
- Laura Klein on how to use personas, how to overcome reservations about shipping an early product version, and the importance of validating a problem, not a product.
- Brent Chudoba on using surveys to validate pricing, messaging, and other key decisions.
Marketing: Demand Generation and Optimization
- Blake Masters’ summary of Peter Thiel’s Stanford CS183 lecture ondistribution, marketing and sales.
- Rob Go of NextView Ventures succinctly summarizes marketing fundamentalsand their relevance for startups.
- Renee Warren of Onboardly offers comprehensive coverage of marketing basics in KISSmetrics’ “Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing.”
- Sean Work of KISSmetrics and Zach Bulygo describe best practices of high-converting websites.
- David Skok of Matrix Partners on adapting marketing and sales tactics to stages of the customer buying cycle.
- Entrepreneur/angel investor Brian Balfour offers tips for testing user acquisition methods.
- Eric Siu offers tips for structuring A/B tests; Lance Kidwell on the same topic with specific application to landing pages.
- Tyler King offers tips for monetizing a blog.
- John Koetsier shares pointers for marketing a mobile app.
Sales and Sales Management
- Bootstrapper Robert Graham offers advice on cold calling early customers via email.
- Steve Blank on the challenges of closing a complex B2B sale with multiple decision influencers; Mark Suster of GRP Partners on the same topic.
- David Skok provides a link to a Bridge Group report on metrics and compensation data for SaaS inside sales.
- Mark Suster on when to hire sales people in an early-stage startup and how to choose them.
- Mark Roberge of HubSpot on how to use analytics to build a scalable sales team.
- Brent Adamson et al. on how/why the best sales reps avoid “talkers” who superficially show enthusiasm but are unable/unwilling to mobilize organizational support for a purchase.
Branding/Naming a Startup
- Cezary Pietrzak offers tips on naming a startup; Andrus Purde of Achoo on the same topic.
- Robert Laing presents a case study of rebranding his startup, Gengo.
- Mike Troiano offers startup branding tips.
Product Management/Product Design
- Laura Klein on dealing with customers’ aversion to feature/interface changes.
- Cindy Alvarez on what you will/won’t learn from usability testing.
- Martina Lauchengco of Silicon Valley Product Group on the role of product marketing.
- Marty Cagan of SVPG on time-boxed product discovery and on continuous product discovery as a natural extension of continuous software deployment.
- Cagan on the difference between old and new school product management, and on the difference between live-data prototypes and production software.
- Adam Nash of Greylock on the responsibilities of great product leaders.
- Eric Ries on the product manager’s lament with waterfall software development.
- Jacques Murphy on the challenges of introducing product management to a startup.
- Ben Yoskovitz on the product manager’s role.
- Andrew Chen on Square’s concept of product leaders as “product editors.”
- Jayson DeMers of AudienceBloom on outsourcing pitfalls.
- 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.
- Blake Masters’ summary of Peter Thiel’s Stanford CS183 lecture on themotives/methods of venture capitalists.
- Jeff Bussgang of Flybridge Capital on passive vs. active VC seed investors.
- Rob Go of NextView Ventures on trends impacting seed funds and why VCs have a 20% equity ownership target.
- Rob’s partner David Beisel on how to select investors in a seed VC syndicate and on the motives of different types of angel investors.
- Mark Suster of GRP Partners offers a primer on fundraising, discusses when investors in the same round should get different share prices, and reviews thepros/cons of convertible debt
- Suster on super pro rata rights; Beisel on the same topic.
- Attorney Scott Edward Walker offers a primer on convertible note terms.
- Dave Balter of BzzAgent offers advice for angel investors.
- Blake Masters’ summary of Peter Thiel’s Stanford CS183 lecture on how to pitch VCs.
- 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
- Ben Horowitz of a16z on the concept of “management debt” (i.e., bad people decisions with long-term consequences — the HR equivalent of technical debt) and on how accountability separates good companies from bad ones.
- Horowitz on how to integrate “old people” (i.e., senior executives from big companies) into a startup.
- Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital on the risk of promoting managers too quickly.
- Blake Masters’ summary of Peter Thiel’s Stanford CS183 lecture on company culture: where it comes from/why it is important.
- Horowitz on building company culture.
- David Beisel of NextView Ventures on the importance of office spaceconfiguration in building a startup.
- Tips on hiring developers from Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot; Avi Flombaum of the Flatiron School; Iris Shoor of Takipi; and a great Quora thread.
- Recruiting best practices discussed by Fred Wilson of USV; Charlie O-Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures; Ben Yoskovitz of GoInstant; and David Beisel.
- Chad Dickerson of Etsy on the link between recruiting and company culture.
- Thoughts on firing employees from Chris Dixon and Fred Wilson.
- Fred Wilson of USV on managing startup boards.
- Mark Suster of GRP Partners on the board observer role.
- Jessica Livingston of Y Combinator analyzes reasons why startups fail, as does Andrew Montalenti of Parse.ly.
- Startup Genome infographic on causes of startup failure.
- Michael O. Church on the ethics of “failing fast.”
Exiting By Selling Your Company
- Chris Dixon of a16z on the economic logic behind talent acquisitions: when/why “make vs. buy” decisions favor buying; he also offers these notes on the acquisition process.
- John O’Farrell of a16z on deciding when to sell.
- Tobias Peggs on what life is like inside a big company after an entrepreneur sells.
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 hallucinationin 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)
- David Beisel of NextView Ventures offers advice for incoming MBAs who want to launch a startup upon graduation.
- Andy Rachleff of Wealthfront provides data on startup compensation levels and advice on negotiating pay packages.
- Entrepreneur Bryan Goldberg offers advice on building personal wealth in Silicon Valley startups.
- From Naysawn Naderi, the case against aspiring entrepreneurs pursuing an MBA, and a counter-argument from Mike Gozzo.
- Reflections from entrepreneur Ryan Allis on what he’s learning at business school.
- A personal account from Michelle Wetzler on why she left consulting for a startup job.
- Brad Feld of Foundry Group and TechStars has published the book Startup Communities, a guide to building an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Tools for Entrepreneurs