The Stupidity of Entrepreneurs

Giff Constable startups

I was hanging out tonight with a bright young man who said, “A great entrepreneur always bets on themselves.” Context: we were talking about hedging. I asked the question: what if founders could hedge themselves against other startups so that if your company failed, you still had a chance for upside? He disagreed. He felt that a great founder would …

Do Market Sizing Early, Before You Jump Into “Lean”

Giff Constable innovation, startups

Powerful new ideas often start with a spark insight: “Carpooling sucks! How can we fix it?” Or “Wow, these new smartphones might allow me to disrupt the entire taxi industry in a way never before possible!” Lean is great, but before you jump ahead with customer development, experiments and MVPs, it is worth taking two preliminary steps: 1. examine the …

Startups: Don’t Wait to Build Exit Relationships

Giff Constable startups

Paul Graham’s latest essay warns of losing time and focus to “corporate development” staffers out there sniffing for companies to buy. I agree with him on the corp dev side. But I wouldn’t want people to think that you should ignore potential buyers until “you want to sell your company right now.” It’s a question of whom you talk to. …

Fighting Our Own Biases

Giff Constable lean, startups

In 2010, I became minorly Internet-known as an early adopter of lean startup. I blogged as I went. I made plenty of mistakes. One was not defending adequately against my own biases. I have a soft spot for entrepreneurs of any kind. That’s one of my big honking biases. Liz Crawford and I were working on problems around product discovery. …

Predicting Failure from Failure?

Giff Constable startups

Shane Snow’s new book Smartcuts is is a master class in weaving anecdotes together to make a point in an interesting way. He’ll take A, add B, weave in C, to get you to D. I’ll write more on the highly enjoyable book later, but the tricky part is if one component in the mental journey gets taken out of …

Startup Marketing Is Dead. Long Live Startup Marketing

Giff Constable startups

Marketing has become a dirty word in some startup circles, with the name of the day now being “growth hacking.” And frustrations over traditional marketing’s failures to adapt to a new hyper-connected, hyper-communicative world are valid. But demand generation is as important as ever. Stewart Butterfield, the co-founder of Flickr and founder of Slack, understands this and has made public …

What Lurks Beneath the Surface

Giff Constable startups, technology

I’ll believe it with my own two eyes Humans have a tendency to focus on what they can see to the exclusive of other things. Many years ago, my wife and I lived in a shoebox in Manhattan. We couldn’t afford to buy a place in the city, but ironically we could afford to rent and buy a small getaway …

Should you write unit tests for experiments and MVPs?

Giff Constable lean, startups, technology

This question came up again recently. Good software engineering is rigorous about tests because they reduce bugs both in the code’s present state and with code changes, ultimately improving quality and speed. When you are at the early stages of an idea, just trying to test out whether it holds water, should you bother with tests at all? Speed of …

When do you hit the gas pedal?

Giff Constable innovation, lean, startups

“Unfortunately, the pendulum rarely swings halfway” — Eric Paley Eric Paley has a great post about founders hesitating to invest in growth, even when he thinks they should. Now, I’ve been in startups where either the CEO or the VCs tried to force growth too early, and had it backfire in a big way. Thus I’ve been very responsive to …

Good founders can get capital anywhere?

Giff Constable startups

“Good founders can get capital anywhere.” I like both Pando and Erin Griffith, but I have to call out that sentence from an article the other day. It is one of those easy phrases that people trot out, but experienced founders know better. *Famous* founders can get capital from many places. Not even anywhere. Good founders struggle. Fund raising is …