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7 tactics lean startups need to build great products

7 tactics lean startups need to build great products
If you’re running a lean startup, “launch and learn” is undoubtedly a familiar mantra. But launching a new feature can take weeks or even months, and for a scrappy startup that’s a potentially make-or-break issue. Our design studio works with dozens of startups each year to help teams define their products and features. Through the process of doing this over and over again, we’ve collected a time-tested toolkit of methods for learning that are cheap, fast, and perfect for startups to find those crucial mistakes earlier and then adapt their plans more nimbly. Clickable mockups Most teams think they need to build an interface that functions and looks real before showing it to customers to get feedback. At first I thought these prototypes would be too rough to be useful. Customer interviews Instead of working in a vacuum, gather data to use as fuel for designing your product. It’s easy to get hung up on the details: How do you find people who will talk with you? Fake doors Recon Micro-surveys

Billion-Dollar Start-Ups Face Problems With Valuation and Acquisitions Zef Nikolla/FacebookFor start-up companies, going public isn’t very appealing considering what happened with Facebook’s lackluster initial public offering. Congratulations! Your start-up is now valued at over $1 billion! This might seem exciting, as though you’ve won a lottery. You see, being in the Billion-Dollar Start-Up Club limits how, and if, a company can get out of the Billion-Dollar Start-Up Club — at least safely. The Club is growing quickly. Dozens more companies are within arms’ reach, including Foursquare, WordPress, GitHub, Quora and Fab. They have a lot to worry about. Given that Apple rarely makes acquisitions, that leaves Google, Microsoft and possibly Facebook. And speaking of Facebook: after its lackluster initial public offering, when its stock dropped by half, going public isn’t very appealing. “As a start-up valuation increases, the options definitely decrease,” said Jon Callaghan, a partner with True Ventures who has been investing since the early 1990s.

Ads Disguised as Content Mislead, Annoy [Statistics] >Native, Schmative…its getting hard out here for a Brand Pimp…While “Native” advertising is the meme of the moment in publishing ad circles, recent data may show that today’s users aren’t too keen, or at the least, very confused by ads that blur the line on content and promotion. Now, surveys skim the surface…are there, perhaps burgeoning (and less visible) examples of GOOD native ads (like the ones that Fallon and Cadillac are experimenting with on HuffPo, Quartz and Windows8-XBox! )? Because in users’ defense – most “advertorials” are lame. No argument from me. Many Promoted Tweet Trends are weird and out of context. Sponsored Stories, Promoted Tweets found misleading by many Content marketing is a hot topic among both business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketers, who are using it to generate brand awareness, create an impression of industry thought leadership and engender loyalty among current and future customers.

Are You An Alcoholic Yet? Or, The Great Startup Rollercoaster This post has appeared as a guest blog on FounderDating, which brings together entrepreneurs with different skill sets to start innovative new companies. Startups are by their nature extremely stressful. At a large company, the company itself has momentum. With a few exceptions, if one person (or team of people) were to suddenly disappear, the company will continue to coast for (potentially) multiple years before the effects may become evident Thought experiment - imagine if the (multi hundred person (?)) In contrast, at a startup as the entrepreneur if you stop pushing, everything immediately comes to a halt. There are times when you need to push much harder then others to get over a hump that reminds me of activation energy from chemistry. Hiring the first employeeRaising moneyGetting the first N usersAcquisition talksGetting suedPivotingGetting N users for the new pivot productFiguring out a business modelEtc. etc. So how to deal with all the stress? Make it fun for everyone.

Themes, Insights and Advanced Landing PagesLaunchRock The goal at LaunchRock is to build an audience for your product, startup or idea as easily as possible, so we’re introducing a completely redesigned experience that does just that. Introducing new LaunchRock Themes, Insights & Advanced Landing Pages. Plus, we’re including a few other cool new features. Redesigned: Faster. Simply, we rewrote our entire product from scratch. Themes We think it’s important that you stand out, so we’re announcing LaunchRock Themes to build the webs most robust landing page available. Advanced Code Editor We feel passionately that all types of users can use LaunchRock, from novice to skilled engineer. Improved Insights It’s great when you get new users, but it can be frustrating not understanding where they came from. SEO, Additional Fields, Multiple Projects… We are also able to include repeatedly requested features made by our Customers in this major system upgrade. Ok, Why I’m So Pumped

Why Startup Founders are Always Unhappy — jessblog Startups are incredibly stressful. I know many founders whose companies are doing great, but they are still stressed and unhappy. Polyvore is doing great (growing fast and cash-flow positive!) The trajectory of a successful startup looks something like this, up and to the right: It’s not a smooth, straight ride though. If you’re lucky enough to have gotten from point A to point B on this graph, you should be happy, right? Unfortunately, humans are terrible at understanding absolute values. My theory is that a founder’s happiness is tied to the rate of change of their startup’s success. Even though point B is 2x better than point A in terms of success, it is a deceleration from the moment before. Some tips to keep from drowning when your happiness is below the line — 1) Remember where you came from. 2) Great culture and great people are your glue. 3) Don’t let your self-worth be completely defined by your startup. Strangely, this comforts me :-)

Facebook Tests Ranked Comments to Boost Engagement Facebook is testing a new comments format on brand and subscriber pages by placing the most engaging comments up higher on posts, the company confirmed on Monday. "We are testing a new format for comments on Page posts," Facebook said in a statement to Mashable. "As part of this test, the most engaging comments appear higher up. You will also be able to reply to individual comments as well as the original post."' SEE ALSO: Facebook Testing Sound Notifications This means brand pages in the test, which range from journalists such as Fareed Zakaria and New York Jets player Tim Tebow, include ranked comments based on Likes, responses and hides. If the test sticks, it would allow Facebook to promote more interesting and engaging content, as well as enable more conversations about posted content across the site. The concept is similar to how users on Reddit rank posts by "upvoting" and "downvoting" content. Image via iStockphoto

Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas March 2012 One of the more surprising things I've noticed while working on Y Combinator is how frightening the most ambitious startup ideas are. In this essay I'm going to demonstrate this phenomenon by describing some. Don't worry, it's not a sign of weakness. There's a scene in Being John Malkovich where the nerdy hero encounters a very attractive, sophisticated woman. Here's the thing: If you ever got me, you wouldn't have a clue what to do with me. That's what these ideas say to us. This phenomenon is one of the most important things you can understand about startups. [1] You'd expect big startup ideas to be attractive, but actually they tend to repel you. 1. The best ideas are just on the right side of impossible. The point when it became clear to me that Microsoft had lost their way was when they decided to get into the search business. Microsoft : Google :: Google : Facebook. The way to win here is to build the search engine all the hackers use. 2. Whatever you build, make it fast.

Schafer: Cash in the bank makes risk easier to stomach Think about how an entrepreneur's behavior would change if the company had $1 million in the bank. Or maybe $5 million. Not that the founder intended to spend it, but would knowledge that the money was there get the company to take more risk? Would it grow faster? For Matthew Dornquast of Code 42 Software Inc., having money does let him be more aggressive. It's been 10 months since Code 42, based in Minneapolis, announced a $52.5 million investment by the venture capital firms Accel Partners and Split Rock Partners, the first capital the company has ever raised. "This capital isn't here to be burned through," said Dornquast, Code 42's co-founder and CEO. Code 42 sells software used to easily back up data produced by computers and other electronic gadgets, for homes as well as big companies. It grew from about $1.4 million in sales in 2008 to $18.5 million in 2011, so the team has enjoyed a good run. Dornquast likens the situation to a blackjack player on a hot streak. That's the problem.

Four African Girls Created Urine-Powered Generator 7 November '12, 04:58pm Follow What have you built lately? 14-year-olds Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin, and 15-year-old Bello Eniola have created a urine powered generator. All over Africa, young men and women have missioned across the country and arrived in Lagos, Nigeria. All they want to do is show off what they have made. These four girls may not end up doing that either, but their efforts definitely stand more of a chance than yet another hyper local social cloud app. Here’s how it works: Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which cracks the urea into nitrogen, water, and hydrogen.The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder.The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas.This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.1 Liter of urine gives you 6 hours of electricity. More great finds from around the Web: TNW Shareables

Killing Your Startup on a Thursday Night Editor’s Note: Lucas Rayala was the cofounder of Altsie. This is what you do when you close down your startup: you call Rackspace and cancel the Windows SQL server plan. You email SendGrid and give them notice on your Silver SMTP Service Package. This is what I told them: “I’m folding up Altsie. I put three years of my life into building and running Altsie, a bootstrapped startup funded out of my back pocket. As we approached launch last May, I started to understand what buzz was. That’s the nice side of the story. Elon Musk said that running a startup was like eating glass and staring into the abyss. I was confronted with my own limitations and began to see myself in the harshest, most honest light ever directed on me. Two years building and eight months running Altsie took its toll. Then everything I actually wanted to say suddenly boiled up, and I started to talk — really talk. I talked about success and failure. And at the same time, was it possible I could say Altsie was a success?

For A Stranger In Silicon Valley, Success Isn’t Only About Who You Know Editor’s note: Cherian Thomas is founder and CEO of Cucumbertown, a recipe-publishing platform. Follow him on his blog and Twitter. For entrepreneurs, it is now both easier and harder to raise capital: easier because of powerful platforms like AngelList; harder if you’re not part of an accelerator or don’t have a strong network. Silicon Valley has more startups than ever before. My startup, Cucumbertown, raised its first round a month ago, and during the course of this journey, I realized that, as a first-time entrepreneur without any solid Valley footing, my run toward raising funds as a non-American co-founder was somewhat unique. Valley funding used to be an impenetrable fortress that opened up only by way of introductions. So here’s how my month of experience as a non-accelerator, non-American fundraiser translates into advice. Make Friends Fast I was scheduled to meet 500Startups Partner Paul Singh on the second day of fundraising. Meet With Companies Who Have Raised Get On AngelList

Instagram's Mike Krieger Shares How To Do Better Product Design App and mobile design has come a long way in the past few years, with many popular services shifting their focus more towards to improving the way their apps look. At 500 Startups’ Warm Gun conference, an event focused on design problems in the tech industry, the theme that design and user experience are being treated as “second class citizens” in the community — if you’re not focusing on usability and response time, then “you suck”. “Do it for the puppies” Those words came from 500 Startups co-founder Dave McClure. In his opening remarks, he stated that most app designs suck — take a look at the most popular ones out there, like Twitter and Facebook: their mobile experience “sucks” and McClure questioned why that is. Refreshing the design process To show how a company can succeed in the design front, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, gave his thoughts about how the company got to a point where they managed to ship a product that they were proud of. Designing the right thing

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