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One of the amazing characteristics of an entrepreneur is seeing potential all around. Every problem is a new opportunity. Every challenge is a new learning experience.
As part of seeing new opportunities, entrepreneurs most often pitch investors to fund tomorrow’s idea. Tomorrow’s idea is a new product, a new direction, or some other aspect that is unproven. Most investors, save for angels and the occasional micro VC, pass on funding tomorrow’s idea.
Instead, investors want to fund today’s business that is working well with the belief that it can work even better tomorrow. With more time, talent, and money, the business that is good can become great.
Entrepreneurs would do well to work towards a viable business today. While this is the more practical route, it’s the route that most successful entrepreneurs take.
What else? What are some more thoughts on funding today’s business or tomorrow’s idea?
Earlier this week I was talking to one of the top SaaS entrepreneurs in town about his experience from a simple start at the Atlanta Tech Village five years ago to raising $75 million last year. We got into a discussion about team, stream, and not a meme and I realized my previous definition of the team element was incorrect. Before, I characterized it as a heroic sales person and a heroic product person.
The heroic sales person brings in deals with lots of passion and vision, yet has an incomplete product. The heroic product person builds the product on the fly while delighting customers all the while. My phrasing it as the heroic sales person was wrong.
What’s the right way to describe this person? They’re the amazing go-to-market leader. Acquiring customers happens through a variety of channels. What matters, especially early on, is finding one channel that works. The go-to-market leader could be great at selling directly, generating demand through road shows, or generating quality leads through search marketing. In the end, the result is a steady flow of people that want to buy the product.
Pair the amazing go-to-market person with the amazing product person and you have the most successful founding team combination. The ultimate co-founder complement is combining someone who can attract customers with someone who can delight them.
What else? What are some more thoughts on the best co-founder combination being a go-to-market person and a product person?
TechRepublic’s Steve Ranger visited the startup scene in Paris to find out how entrepreneurs are cutting through government bureaucracy to make it easier for global companies to launch in France.
The City of Light is cutting through a long tradition of government bureaucracy to make it easy for global companies to launch in France. TechRepublic went inside the phenomenon.
Of the tech giants, Google is the biggest investor in AI by billions.
Early on in life I was lucky to find my true passion: being an entrepreneur. Everywhere I looked there were opportunities to create new products and solutions; most of my ideas failed but a few succeeded. As I developed my passion for entrepreneurship, I also realized my passion for helping other entrepreneurs.
In college I started an entrepreneurship house course called Internet Startups and Entrepreneurship with an amazing faculty sponsor. Over the course of three semesters I had the chance to teach — really, learn with my peers — some of the things I’d already been working on for years.
At Pardot, we started an accelerator for idea stage startups called Shotput Ventures where we hosted the entrepreneurs for a weekly dinner, speaker, and idea sharing. It was a labor of love and a great learning experience. After Shotput, we incubated a number of startups in the Pardot office to help the next generation of entrepreneurs. Some of those startups included Clickscape, Rigor, and SalesLoft.
After selling Pardot, we dreamed big and built the Atlanta Tech Village. At 103,000 square feet and over 1,000 people, it’s one of the five largest tech entrepreneurship centers in the United States. There, we helped launch Calendly and Terminus.
Now, with the launch of Atlanta Ventures, we’re serving SaaS entrepreneurs through community, content, and capital:
- Community – Regular events and programs for SaaS entrepreneurs ranging from idea stage meetups to curated SaaS forums to exclusive scaling SaaS dinners
- Content – Fresh stories and lessons learned from some of the fastest growing SaaS companies in the country
- Capital – Investments from $100,000 to $2 million in idea, seed, and growth stage SaaS startups
We’re here to serve entrepreneurs; it’s what we do. Nothing less, nothing more.
Please reach out and let us know how Atlanta Ventures can help.
We started Pardot in 2007 building a marketing automation platform around the ideal first customer: Hannon Hill. Hannon Hill, my first company, was a small, fast-growing content management software company focused on colleges and universities. As marketing automation was a new concept, there wasn’t an existing set of expected modules. First, we built form capture and CRM integration followed by lead tracking, automation rules, and email marketing. Every new feature evolved directly from feedback and ideation with Hannon Hill.
In hindsight, there were a number of benefits of building the business around an engaged, and ideal, first customer:
- Quality Feedback – One of the hardest things about a new company is getting quality feedback from customers regarding all aspects of the relationship: product, service, support, etc. Having one ideal customer from the beginning that meets the desired profile is hugely valuable.
- Informed Iterations – Customer usage is oxygen for new products. Too often entrepreneurs build new products in a vacuum and come up for a beta customer when it’s too late. Product iteration speed is critical, yet a customer is required to go with it.
- Demonstrated Usage – With SaaS software, it’s easy to know if people are using the product with tools like FullStory and simple tracking of items like number of sign ins. Being able to sit next to a person using the product and watching it live, face-to-face makes for an even stronger process.
- Marketing Stories – As the product gets used by the ideal first customer, more marketing stories emerge as well. These stories about how the customer benefit are then incorporated into the website, emails, sales collateral, webinars, and more. The better the stories, the better the message reaches the market.
Starting a startup? Start with an ideal first customer that fits the long term vision and make that customer successful and happy as quickly as possible.
What else? What are some more thoughts around building a startup around an ideal first customer?
Everyone should be doing backups, right? Especially if you run a SaaS business and store customers’ data.