How to start a company with little or no money

Starting a business without initial capital is a process of building a foundation while minimizing risk.

There are three things needed to start a company:

  1. Money
  2. Customers
  3. Product/Service

Since we’re doing this without money, we’re left with just Customers and Products. The easiest way to get this started is with a side-hustle. The idea is that you keep a stable job to provide you regular schedule and some financial stability and work on your business during the time you should really be sleeping.

Your side-hustle doesn’t have to be the exact business that you will start but it should move you in the general direction of your interests. If you think your business will be in the food space consider delivering grub-hub/instacart as a side-hustle. Want to get into transportation? Look into driving for Amazon. You get the idea. The side-hustle gives you some extra cash while letting you research your domain. Most people who start a business don't really research the market needs before jumping in so make sure you really understand the space.

There are a lot of examples of entrepreneurs getting started by side-hustling. Michael Dell was hustling computer for friends while he was a student.

Daymond John, the founder of clothing company FUBU, was hustling hats on New York street corners.

The founder of Mattel sold picture frames as his main thing and used the scraps of the picture frames to start building and selling dollhouses.

Lara Merriken, was working in Whole Foods stocking shelves working on her product the Lärabar, which gave her insight into how Whole Foods works and it also gave her access to store buyers willing to try her product.

Starting your business as a side-hustle gives you the advantage of financial stability but it also gives you a unique view of business problems. It may also give you access to customers.

If you’re trying to start a company with little or no money one thing you try to do to get initial cash flow is to get a customer to pay upfront. You can sometimes do this by building a prototype or a sample.

Prototypes don’t have to be expensive, they can be drawn on a piece of paper, cut out of cardboard, hand made models, or 3d printed. Certain businesses are harder to start without funding but most business ideas can be prototyped.

If you’ve built a prototype or sample of your product then test market the product. Ideally, you can put it in front of real customer/buyers to see if there is interest and at what price. Services like Kickstarter, Fiverr or Etsy can give you a platform to sell products. These types of services require very little or no up-front capital. You can get customers before committing to a lot of financial up-front risk. Some of these services won't scale well with a growing business but your initial goal is to get initial traction.

If you have a service business you may also be able to charge an upfront-deposit or down-payment giving you initial cash-flow. This is common in many consulting, construction, and subscription businesses.

Your early samples and prototypes can also give you customer feedback on what people like or dislike about your product.

Initial sales are unlikely to have a significant initial financial impact but they will help you continue to improve your product and they will get the initial flow started. Initial sales are sold one-by-one, so expect to get personal when you start the business. As your product or service gets out into the real world, you’ll start to develop word of mouth about your business or product.

For companies that have Money – they can spend money to get customers. But starting a company with little or no money, you need to make your products really great to get the word-of-mouth and attract more customers.

As the business grows, the revenue flow starts to flow and you’ll be able to spend more on growth and making your products, prototypes, and samples better and better. I started my consulting business with no capital, it was a side-hustle while I did other work. I grew it into a multi-million dollar business that I recently sold. Now I angel invest in startups and make videos on entrepreneurship.

Good luck on your journey!

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Former Lime exec launches Cabana, a company that merges #vanlife and hotels

Is it glamping on wheels? Hotel #vanlife?

It’s Cabana, a new startup from a former Lime executive that’s bringing tricked-out vans with all the amenities of a Holiday Inn hotel room to cities on the West Coast, starting in Seattle.

Because of Lime I spent 54 consecutive weeks on the road staying at hotels,” recalls Scott Kubly, the co-founder and chief executive of Cabana. “I got this bug that there needed to be a better way.”

So with the benefit of a few years of startup salary in the bank, Kubly launched Cabana. “The way I would describe it is vanlife meets car sharing meets a boutique hotel. It’s a hotel room packed into the back of a van.”

The vans come with showers, toilets, a slide out two-range stovetop that can serve as a kitchen and the freedom to hit the road after a customer crushes that last sales meeting, conference appearance, convention, or just needs to travel and experience the outdoors.

The vans cost $ 200 per-night plus tax to rent and there’s a fleet of several vans already available in Seattle. Booking a van is simple through the company’s app and everything is contactless — an important feature in the COVID-19 era.

Kubly estimates there’s around $ 15 billion spent on travel that he thinks he can unlock with Cabana, and the company is definitely tapping into a small, but not insignificant trend of glamping, vanlife and luxury experiences that investors are already backing.

Companies like Tentrr, HipCamp and even Airbnb have gotten in on the vanlife movement, and Cabana’s founder definitely thinks he can ride the wave.

Cabana has already raised $ 3.5 million from investors, led by Craft Ventures — the investment firm founded by David Sacks. Other investors include Goldcrest Capital, Travis VanderZanden (the chief executive and founder of Bird), and Sunny Madra, vice president of Ford X at Ford Motor Company.

“Cabana gives people an ideal combination of freedom, comfort, and convenience,” said David Sacks, co-founder and general partner of Craft, in a statement. “Despite the societal upheaval of the last few months, the human desire to travel and explore remains unchanged. Why shelter in place when you can shelter in paradise?”

Sacks may be on to something. According to Kubly, the RV rental business has exploded and is up 650% year-on-year. “People are going a little stir crazy,” he said.

Back in 2019 when Kubly and his co-founder Jonathan Savage, a former nuclear engineer for the Navy and the bassist in the Red Not Chili Peppers (a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band), launched the company, they weren’t expecting to have to deal with running a hospitality business during a pandemic, but they’ve adapted.

Image credit: Cabana

Cabana’s fleet of vans are cleaned and then irradiated with UVC light (the same treatment the president suggested, wrongly, for people) and then left to stand for six-to-eight hours between rentals.

The hardest part of the business hasn’t been handling the vans or disinfecting them for customers concerned about the novel coronavirus, but the more mundane task of cleaning out the toilets.

“There is a toilet and a toilet tank,” said Kubly. “At the end of every trip we swap that out. Just like scooters have swappable batteries we have swappable toilet tanks. It is the big downside of the business.”

He should know. He spent the first six months that the company was in business cleaning out the tanks himself on the retrofitted van that he and Savage bought to test the business idea.

“Ideas that utilize existing infrastructure and satisfy a previously unseen or emerging consumer need are often the genesis of companies that can establish and lead a new industry,” said VanderZanden in a statement. “Cabana fits squarely within this theory and provides travelers a new way to experience and explore destinations that might not otherwise have been available to them while also avoiding carbon-emitting flights.” 

Startups – TechCrunch

Is there a best place to apply for jobs at a Startup? I.e. LinkedIn vs. the company website?

It seems like there a ton of different job boards. I'm sure it varies by company but are all of these applications aggregated into the same output on the company side? I'm wondering if there is some advantage to applying through LinkedIn vs. the company's career page vs. Angel.Co or if you should just submit applications through as many portals as you can.

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature! : Details on the company that spent $50,000 dollars on it It’s very rare that we hear LLL .in domains selling for five figures, and sold on Sedo for $ 50,000 dollars. The Indian ccTLD is used since its launch as a “brand” enhancer, and in this case it creates a domain hack effect, for “hop in.” Which company spent $ 50k on a .in domain? As […] Copyri…

D-ID, the Israeli company that digitally de-identifies faces in videos and still images, raises $13.5 million

If only Facebook had been using the kind of technology that TechCrunch Startup Battlefield alumnus D-ID was pitching, it could have avoided exposing all of our faces to privacy destroying software services like Clearview AI.

At least, that’s the pitch that D-ID’s founder and chief executive, Gil Perry, makes when he’s talking about the significance of his startup’s technology.

D-ID, which stands for de-identification, is a pretty straightforward service that’s masking some highly involved and very advanced technology to blur digital images so they can’t be cross-referenced to determine someone’s identity.

It’s a technology whose moment has come as governments and private companies around the world ramp up their use of surveillance technologies as the world adjusts to a new reality in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic.

“Governments around the world and organizations have used this new reality basically as an excuse for mass surveillance,” says Perry. His own government has used a track and trace system that monitors interactions between Israeli citizens using cell phone location data to determine whether anyone had been in contact with a person who had COVID-19.

While awareness of the issue may be increasing among consumers and regulators alike, the damage has, in many cases, already been done. Social media companies have already had their troves of images scraped by companies like Clearview AI, ClearView, HighQ and NTechLabs, and much of our personal information is already circulating online.

D-ID is undeterred. Founded by Perry and two other members of the Israeli army’s cybersecurity and offensive cyber unit, 8200, Sella Blondheim and Eliran Kuta, D-ID thinks the need for anonymizing technologies will continue to expand — thanks to new privacy legislation in Europe and certain states in the U.S. 

Meanwhile, the company is also exploring other applications for its technology. The services that D-ID uses to mask and blur faces can also be used to create deepfakes of images and video.

The market for these types of digital manipulations are still in their earliest days, according to Perry. Still, the company’s pitch managed to intrigue new lead investor AXA Ventures, which joined backers including Pitango, Y Combinator, AI Alliance, Hyundai, Omron, Maverick (U.S.) and Mindset, to participate in the company’s $ 13.5 million round.

D-ID already sees demand coming from automakers who want to use the technology to anonymize their driving monitoring systems — enabling them to record drivers’ reactions, but not any public identifying information. Security technologies that monitor for threats are another potential customer, according to the company. While closed circuit television monitors a physical space, it doesn’t need to collect the identifying information of people entering and exiting buildings.

“The convergence of increased surveillance and individual privacy protection places enterprises in a position where they must either anonymize their stored footage or risk violating privacy laws and face costly penalties.” said Blondheim.  

The technical wizardry that D-ID has mastered is impressive — and a necessary defensive tool to ensure privacy in the modern world, according to its founders. Consumers are demanding it, according to D-ID’s chief executive.

“Privacy awareness and the importance of privacy enhancing technologies have increased,” Perry said.

Startups – TechCrunch

Where to find marketing/sales talent for SaaS B2B company

I built a webapp that groups employees at a company in to small groups, invites them to an online meeting, and plays a fun video with question prompts for them to all answer and get to know each other. It's company networking made fun with a focus on remote companies. Obviously, there is a market for this now more than ever. But, I just don't know where to start when it comes to marketing and selling this thing as a SaaS business. Where do I find people that know how to do this?

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

A step-by-step guide of how I would build a SaaS company right now – part 2

This is part 2 of 5.

Part 1


Big thank you to everyone that upvoted and commented on the last post.

I’m pumped, this is part 2 of 5 for those keeping track at home.

  1. Start with your revenue and monetization plan (are you targeting a sector that has money and can/will pay – Part 1)
  2. Align yourself with others in your space (cheapest way to get traction/credibility)
  3. Work on road mapping your product to align with what complements your partnerships (cheapest distribution)
  4. Work on building a marketing strategy that can help expose and align your brand while strengthening its recognition with your partners (will this make us both look good)
  5. Build customer advocates along the way, tell their stories (lead with examples)

Early traction, everyone wants it, very few people know how to do it effectively. Hell I’ve seen it all, run all the experiments, all the tests and I can tell you from experience if you have the patience, slow, steady, and surgical is the way to grow. Especially in the beginning.

In part one we spent a lot of time asking some basic fundamental business questions. Including, an exercise in the importance of being able to niche down.

We’re going to expand on the niching down because it’s how you gain clarity and find people to align yourself with early on.

The goal of this will be to understand:

  1. How to niche down
  2. How to use this to target a market and recognize opportunity
  3. How to position within that market
  4. How to give yourself the biggest chance of success

I’ve chosen to outline these in all our steps for niching down.

You’re going to see these steps move from research to market evaluation to list building stopping just short of outreach. We’ll touch on this in part 3.

Last week I took a call where someone told me their target market is males 25-45 that like sports.

This is the most important part of your entire business. I’m serious.

Let’s rock through this together so we can get you super focused and know where and how to spend your time and money.

(The below was laid out in part 1 and was the layered niching exercise)

LEVEL 1: We’re a helpdesk product.

How to niche down

The big question is “for who”?

So you’ve picked the type of product you are building and a use case, the problem is there are lots of people like you out there and this doesn’t tell me much about your market, it’s too broad.

How to use this to target a market and recognize opportunity

Because this is so broad, it’s impossible to actually target a market and without being able to do that, it’s not possible to recognize opportunities, there’s just too many of them.

How to position within that market

Competition is good and bad, but it’s always better to be a big fish in a little pond, the best way to reduce the size of your pond is to niche down as much as possible while still understanding a large enough TAM (total addressable market).

How to give yourself the biggest chance of success

No wasted effort. Every idea, concept, must have a small goal attached to it.

It’s too expensive to try to be everything for everyone and when you take this approach you end up failing at doing any one thing well enough for people to switch.

Let’s build on this.

LEVEL 2: We’re a helpdesk product for eCommerce companies.

How to niche down

Pick an industry or trend that is on the rise – look towards a shift or something that relates to changes people are making in their daily routine.

In this case we picked eCommerce because it’s on track to hit over $ 7 Trillion worldwide this year and has steadily been increasing across all brands. So we have an industry with a large enough economic driver to let us start niching down.

How to use this to target a market and recognize opportunity

We now buy things online that we never would have thought to do so even just a few years ago. Amazon is selling Tiny Homes now, seriously, if you can buy it, odds are you can do it online. There are massive opportunities to bring goods and services to people through convenient online shopping. And with that increase they will all need a help desk platform to provide the best experience for their customers.

Customers today don’t want to speak with people, they want answers quickly and easily. It’s all about reducing friction.

How to position within that market

Narrow down within the market. eCommerce is a good starting point, there are different industries, subsets, and categories. Go narrower. Start thinking about where the friction exists in the industry and for what subsets.

How to give yourself the biggest chance of success

In the beginning, it’s going to be an uphill battle, picking the right trending industry will give you the best chance of success. Something that is rising up to the right in popularity is way easier to sell into than a trend that is declining.

Know your competitive landscape.

Everyone has a competitor, whether direct, partial, or mildly related. Spend a lot of time on understanding this and knowing that your product is part of a very large landscape or landscape of potential competitors. Any one of the existing partial or mildly related competitors may be building something to more directly compete with you down the road.

Practical advice

Most companies stop here and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a go to market plan or a sustainable business model.

There’s an important bit worth mentioning here as it will become a theme of this entire post.

Great products enhance workflows through features, the focus isn’t on the product but what the product enables people to do. Success in the software business is all about understanding existing workflows and simplifying the experience.

As you do this exercise to niche down ask yourself:

What does the current workflow look like?

What are they currently using?

How are they currently using it?

Where are the gaps?

What are the best practices for creating workflows?

Always seek to understand how your product works in a workflow – what role it plays, how it best optimizes – this is the data play referred to in Part 1.

What are the things that matter most to people in the eCommerce space?

That’s a lot of questions with even more answers, when you peel everything back it becomes very clear that it’s not possible to answer all of them without going deeper.

Too many people to talk to, too many industries, too much everything.

Let’s take a different approach – how I got to Shopify in the next niche down.

No successful new SaaS company today launches without an integration.

So let’s find an eCommerce platform to integrate with.

We have to look for a stable player that has an app store and is a market leader.

As a starting point, my goal is to be a help desk for ecommerce companies.

  1. I need a list of all eCommerce platforms
  2. I need to understand which help desks they already integrate with
  3. I need to understand what people like and don’t like about them
  4. I need to find out which platform is going to be the best fit for my product

There are lots of sources for this and even more articles, google and read.

If you’re looking for numbers though and data, use BuiltWith and run a search on the platforms after you have your list to figure out which is the most popular.

Ok so we have our list of eCommerce platforms, we’ve analyzed the data, made sure they tick all the boxes and we’ve run our reports and found that Shopify powers 1.2 million stores.

Let’s lock it in as our next step in niching down.

LEVEL 3: We’re a helpdesk product for eCommerce companies using Shopify.

How to niche down

It’s more than just market size. Going with a market leader is always a safe bet but it also provides the most competition. Sometimes going with a smaller platform that doesn’t get all the attention is a worthwhile research project.

How to use this to target a market and recognize opportunity

There are two sides of the opportunity and this is something that I didn’t touch on in the original niching down. Shopify and BuiltWith categorize the types of stores that are on the platform, so you can niche down to a certain type of store, for example just cosmetics or just apparel.

The other side of the opportunity is putting together your list of companies currently operating in the ecosystem.

How to position within that market

Smart people are really good at collecting data and interpreting it.

Let’s get some data.

  1. Go to the shopify app store
  2. Type in “Support”
  3. Click paid on the left margin and click the “Support Category”
  4. Use something like Simple Scraper ( a great chrome plugin, no affiliation)
  5. Get your scrape on, this shows 87
  6. Time to get busy – categorize them
  7. Pick the ones most similar to your offerings
  8. Click on them, look at their reviews – all of them on shopify Scrape them
  9. Go to G2 and Capterra and look through all those reviews as well
  10. Put them all in a spreadsheet, read them all, highlight those that stand out
  11. Find the ones that are popular, others that have features people like etc.
  12. Document, and integrate the baseline features into a trello board on your product roadmap
  13. Take all the bad reviews and complaints – look for gaps that you can fill

How to give yourself the biggest chance of success

So take a look above, we went from a bunch of questions to being able to do a ton of market research to do product research and understand the current market offerings and where we might be able to gain some ground and offer something people might be interested in and ARE PAYING FOR.

How do you stand out?

You need to have a workflow that is 10x better than a current competitor in the market with a strong roadmap that lays out how you intend on optimizing this workflow. Features are built to augment the workflow and simplify the work of your clients employees, less work, more data, better understanding.

Ok so we’ve narrowed it down to eCommerce and Shopify and we have a list of other products that are currently playing in the space. We’re now looking at workflow – let’s figure this bit out.

LEVEL 4: We’re a helpdesk product for eCommerce companies using Shopify and Shipstation.

How to niche down

Add another variable – it doesn’t have to be Shipstation, but it’s a good example as for eCommerce you’re likely shipping products places. By adding another variable, we’re shrinking our population to target.

How to use this to target a market and recognize opportunity

The biggest problem for all companies these days is combining different one off services and getting them to play nicely together. Stand alone products usually outclass all in one products as stated above because the focus is better. This is generally always going to be where you can find a gap in the market as the integrating of products is an afterthought rather than something contemplated in the very beginning.

How do you decide on the technologies you want to work with?

How to position within that market

Don’t guess. Understand the workflow of an eCommerce company and how it relates to support. For instance, most support tickets relate to order status, tracking, and returns. These all involve the store, transaction, the service desk, and the shipping carrier. Look for ways to streamline the experience for the service rep – for instance if refunds require approval, build a system that allows for all those tickets to be queued up with an easy interface for approvals or different color tagging to allow for them to be easily sorted by type.

By focusing on two technologies you can start by creating a better visual collaboration between tools to improve overall experience.

How to give yourself the biggest chance of success

Stack the deck in your favor.

Focus on where you can drive early alignment between your product offering and the audiences of your now two products. When you reach out to both companies especially the smaller ones like a Shipstation, you can collect more information about who they are catering to, volumes etc.

Most companies have a partner program – look into connecting with the lead.

When the time is right you might even get a shoutout on their social or blog or you can decide to co-publish some research report together. Lots of options.

Let’s double down on what being niche allows us to do:

  1. Know our audience
  2. Research with purpose
  3. Personalize outreach with early feelers
  4. Better understand a realistic TAM (total addressable market)
  5. Understand overlap between products
  6. Early alignment with bigger names

This whole topic is about alignment, alignment with partners, customers, and your product.

We have a list of potential customers now, but we need to segment them down further.

LEVEL 5: We’re a helpdesk product for eCommerce companies using Shopify and Shipstation that have less than 100 skus.

How to niche down

Why less than 100 skus?

This means they are small enough to try a new product. It also means you can see what works and what doesn’t work on a potentially smaller store. When you’re managing a store with more than 100 skus, things get a little complicated, it’s an arbitrary number but changing internal processes and workflows when you get to that level means that your staff is coming from a place of having used a system before that could handle the volume and trying out something newer or unproven is a tall order.

This process can be applied to anything, if your product does better project management look for people that run less than 20 projects at a time or projects that are less than 6 months, whatever it may be. We’re starting small.

Always default to the path of least resistance. Work smarter, not harder.

How to use this to target a market and recognize opportunity

I’m sure this could be automated, but in lieu of it being automated, you should start by manually figuring this out for yourself.

That list you have from BuiltWith that has urls, yeah we’re going to use that one.

Put the websites in the spreadsheet you downloaded, then create a new column and add “products” to the url – so you have the website in cell A, the word “products” in cell B then in blank cell C write “=CONCATENATE(A:B)” congratulations now you have cell C that will take you straight to the product page to see how many skus they have.

Update this hack doesn’t work on all shopify websites like I had hoped and after some research it seems like this is a bit of a struggle point for others as well.

I’m sure someone could write a script to scrape this information.

Go find an intern or hire someone to do all the lookups for you or find someone to write a script to automate the results – remember always work smart.

Run this and you’ll come up with your go to target list.

How to position within that market

The best helpdesk for stores on Shopify using shipstation with less than 100 skus – all of a sudden this starts to sound like something someone would almost search for. That’s the point.

We’re working our way down where it becomes a simple checklist if someone was searching for things.

Shopify – check

Shipstation – check

Built for smaller stores – check

How to give yourself the biggest chance of success

Remember you’re not building a product for everyone yet, your goal is to dominate a niche. You can always expand from there.

So we’re about half way through and we have figured out our potential partners and now we’re working on narrowing down this customer list. Before we dive in and start reaching out we need to really understand who we’re targeting and we need to start small.

Let’s narrow this down even further.

LEVEL 6: We’re a helpdesk product for eCommerce companies using Shopify and Shipstation that have less than 100 skus and do less than $ 10 million in annual revenue.

How to niche down

Why the less than $ 10 million in annual revenue? The only reason I would say this in the beginning is that they won’t have as much traffic and ticket volume, they make for better early clients, you can learn a lot more from their use cases and improve the product without worrying about something going wrong and a larger client really getting mad and churning. You also usually have greater access to work with their staff to improve your product.

How to use this to target a market and recognize opportunity

Unless you’re currently on the front lines, you need to find some early providers of feedback that are on the front lines. In essence, this is the starting point of a community and information play.

There aren’t a lot of data points available about companies in the early stages. People always have questions and there are limited resources in the early days, even across similar companies.

(Just look at reddit there are tons of repeat answers and questions.)

Someone answering tickets all day is the last person that wants to provide feedback, as much as they would like their job made easier, they don’t have the time.

How to position within that market

“But I need a big logo to let people know that I’m real.” You don’t, not in the beginning. All you need is a few good customers that are open to lending you the feedback you need to get better. A lot of smaller brands do a good job of branding, play the long game, find brands that are growing and try to get in early – grow with them.

Logo hunting has its place but you need to find product market fit before you can really make that happen.

By now you have probably figured out that whenever possible you should automate things. The way you do this is through data collection.

Using logic, math, and a spreadsheet you can do enough to be dangerous.

Use a service to figure out what their unique traffic is, take a look at their products and assume that their cart value is around 2-4 products per order then take the conversion rates by industry – you can find these online they are openly listed.

Your sheet will look something like this:

Company, Traffic, Conversion Percentage, Order Value, Sales Percentage, Revenue

eCommerce blended average is 2.2% – go use a spreadsheet and some formulas and bam you now have the revenue numbers. We’re not looking for exacts here, but more generally a good estimate.

I’ve actually run these numbers, if the products are sold through other channels, Amazon, retail, etc, then a rough estimate would be around ~33% of the revenue will come from the ecommerce store.

Factor in a range based on the size of the brand and it’s channels this should give you a rough estimate of the revenue even if they don’t publish it.

How to give yourself the biggest chance of success

Provide value – the most overhyped phrase but still true – the question then becomes, with something as subjective as “value” rather than just create, instead ask and create. This part is coming up, we’re almost ready to turn this on.

We’ve started to move from who are partners are to who are our potential customers. This is on purpose – my stance is that your first customers are really your partners and you should work on aligning yourself with those that are the best fit for your product.

You want your first clients to buy into your vision and invest the time to help shape it.

Ok on to the next –

LEVEL 7: We’re a helpdesk product for eCommerce companies using Shopify and Shipstation that have less than 100 skus and do less than $ 10 million in annual revenue with support teams less than 5 people.

How to niche down

So now we’re getting into the easier stuff – this is just a simple LinkedIn Search – small teams are usually before the real deep process point, they are also really good at providing feedback on tools that can actually help them out.

How to use this to target a market and recognize opportunity

If you have less than 5 people on a team, it’s a small enough number to target the entire team – multi prong approach to product awareness.

For customer support they are often the least paid and they have the most stressful jobs – it’s an all around shitty position to be in, so if you can provide them joy, you’re going to make fans quick. Also, they aren’t usually sold into, they are rarely asked their opinion, etc.

How to position within that market

Give them a voice. The same goes for any lower level positions as well by the way. When people are getting started in their careers they are looking to hear about the jobs people have even at the lower levels but the resources just aren’t there. Even for more senior roles, it’s hard to get a beat on what the current status is of their projects, people don’t like sharing – I still don’t know why.

We’re seeing communities around Sales popup SalesHacker, r/sales, Bravado etc. We don’t see as many for other roles, there is a wide open space in this. I don’t see any places for people to better understand customer support/success which is THE ONLY INBOUND TOUCHPOINT WITH CUSTOMERS POST SALE.

How to give yourself the biggest chance of success

This is part of the philosophy and psychology of understanding human dynamics. Find a persona that you can relate to immediately and build your product around fixing their problems, be obsessed with this.

They get paid nothing, but they’d like less tickets, how do you reduce that ticket count, how do you bring other parts of the business that they may need to have access to more prominently in your support system so they don’t have to have multiple windows open. How do you build something to maximize their efficiency?

Better yet, how do you tag someone in the CRM and flag it over to the sales system to see if they purchase more product as a result of a good interaction with support – this is how you turn a cost center into a revenue generator. This is a killer feature that I’m not aware of out of the box.

This could unlock a commission structure and reward system for what is arguably becoming a dealbreaker for most companies.

Which is a great segway to the next drill down – you should be starting to see how this all really blends together if done correctly.

LEVEL 8: We’re a helpdesk product for eCommerce companies using Shopify and Shipstation that have less than 100 skus and do less than $ 10 million in annual revenue with support teams less than 5 people who are looking to automate their processes.

How to niche down

They have to be looking to automate their process or improve their workflow. When people find a tech stack that works, oftentimes new technology doesn’t stick around very long, we’re all creatures of habit.

How to use this to target a market and recognize opportunity

You’re only looking for people that are talking about processes or a company that has something related to the pride they take with their process – you can check out BuiltWith and see a list of products they have tried over the last 18 months.

When a company is testing a bunch of different products it means they are looking for a better process. This is your sweet spot.

How to position within that market

You’ve seen me sprinkle “workflow” into this post. This is pretty much a preview of Part 3 and the importance of product design.

Your product must improve someone’s existing workflow. If it doesn’t it’s not a viable product.

There are two parts to this, does your product improve an existing workflow AND how easy can your product be inserted into that workflow?

Remember, this is their business and they need to make a transition as smoothly as possible with as little disruption as possible. This goes for any product you’re selling. Change is hard.

Understanding a company’s process really is everything.

If people aren’t looking to automate or improve their process, there’s a good chance you should change your approach immediately and work towards more of an education campaign and double down on what it would take to let people quickly switch over from an existing platform. Focus on reducing friction.

How to give yourself the biggest chance of success

Looking for people that are interested, not those we need to educate early on.

Data migration and implementation is one of the main reasons people don’t want to switch or entertain new products. There is always a fear of lost productivity.

Everyone is looking to automate right now, but the price has to be right, and that includes not the subscription amount, but the training, the migration, the new workflows, the time to adopt, the willingness to adopt, etc.

During almost any transition, the company will be paying for two systems at the same time during that handoff. This is rough, not enough companies actually address this in a meaningful way.

The argument is that a pure SaaS play doesn’t exist or shouldn’t exist for an early stage company, there should always be a service and consulting component. Hold everyone’s hand, understand their problems and make them feel like you’re building a product just for them.

Ok we’re almost there –

LEVEL 9: We’re a helpdesk product for eCommerce companies using Shopify and Shipstation that have less than 100 skus and do less than $ 10 million in annual revenue with support teams less than 5 people who are looking to automate their processes who are currently using Zendesk.

How to niche down

Let’s spearfish.

Zendesk – great platform – but has its limits that only show up based on workflows. Zendesk will work great until you have a workflow that incorporates other tools – then it starts to struggle.

This is true of most large legacy platforms. As legacy platforms moved up market to Enterprise for revenue reasons, they usually forget about smaller teams. Instead relying on dev house partners to do customizations.

This is where industry experience really comes into play – knowing the goals of a company or team, their workflows, and where you can create a better solution for those with those workflows for things that the legacy platforms prefer to source out to their dev house partners.

How to use this to target a market and recognize opportunity

Your calls can now go from generic to focused with questions that can hone in on workflows and gaps. For example, Zendesk’s UX/UI sucks for partner integrations, we’ve seen companies like Kustomer, Gorgias, and others become more popular because of a better UX/UI that supports the whole customer experience and journey. This is a fundamental switch in approach.

From one of our earlier research steps we found 87 companies that people were using for support with shopify, we have them in a spreadsheet, we then could take those and put all the competitors in builtwith to run some reports to understand market penetration (you can do this with number of reviews as well by the way if you’re lazy – don’t be lazy).

Download your list – populate your CRM – you now know what people are using, how long they’ve been using them.

Narrow down your list to the top 20 clients – yes only 20.

Even if you have 100 clients or a thousand clients at this point, this process works for every single Sales rep you have – and I’m going on a 95% chance none of them are doing this stuff. And if you tell me they are, I know from the amount of generic ass emails I get regularly spewed out to me they aren’t doing it well and I guarantee you money is being left on the table. (Topic for another day)

How to position within that market

You know what software they are using, you know their tech stack, your goal is to figure out their workflow. If you don’t know, ask. You should understand the general business workflows for the industry – again industry knowledge is required.

Engage them with conversation and find out. Base your questions on conversations you’ve had with other people in the space and be a source of information about how other people are doing it.

The above is completely able to be put into a human measurable process, one based on quality over quantity, relationships over transactions, and geared towards long term growth.

Be about the things that other platforms are not. Focus on changing the narrative from cost center to revenue generator.

The helpdesk for Shopify and Shipstation customers looking to streamline their processes and free up their support teams to become revenue generators in an organic and measurable fashion.

How to give yourself the biggest chance of success

It’s all about workflows, data, and automation.

Niche down, learn from the inside out, follow the trends and work on being able to tie back data to creating more revenue no matter what your product does and you’ll be able to start conversations with people actively looking to create more optimized workflows.

Focusing on a legacy product and small businesses usually allows you to find a sweet spot, they don’t find value in all the features because they won’t use them all. But they do want the more advanced features like automation and workflow help. These are usually cost prohibitive in the platform.

This is why you focus on workflow over features, you’ll never catch up with the big guys in terms of features, but there are always ways to compete on workflows, because everyone has their own independent goals around them. There aren’t standards, only best practices.

Side note – there are entire companies that are hired to implement systems like Zendesk and build integrations on top of it and it’s a market leader. The same goes for any market leader.

LEVEL 10ish: You can add location to the end of our narrowing down. A company physically local to you (at least this was the case prior to COVID-19) can allow for an in person visit which has been massive in building trust with early clients. Makes it easier to have a conversation as well.

That’s it. Go through this process, substitute your values, keep drilling down and recognize opportunity along the way. When you do it correctly you’ll see massive improvements for your initial outreach.

Emails go from:

We’re a new helpdesk company.


We’re a new helpdesk company for customers that use Shopify and Shipstation. We help agile support teams that are looking to better automate their workflows. Our integrations also allows your support team’s interactions to be directly tied into future revenue generation.


I can tell you from experience I’m visiting the url for the second email even if I’m not looking to make a change.

This is a good place to stop, we hit question 2 of 5 and we’re almost at the halfway point.

If you have more specific questions about this part just drop them in the comments and I'll respond to them.

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Bolt, the European on-demand transport company, raises $109M on a $1.9B valuation

Bolt, a rival to Uber and others providing on-demand ridesharing, scooters and other transportation services across some 150 cities in Europe and Africa, is today announcing another capital raise as it weathers a difficult market climate where, because of COVID-19, many are staying in place and avoiding modes of transport that put them into contact with others.

The Estonia-based company is today announcing that it has picked up an additional €100 million ($ 109 million) in a convertible note. Bolt also confirmed that is now valued at €1.7 billion (or nearly $ 1.9 billion at today’s rates).

The money is coming from a single investor, Naya Capital Management, which was also a major backer of the company in its last round, a $ 67 million Series C in July 2019.

The funding is one more example of how investors are continuing to support their most promising, and/or most capitalised, portfolio companies as they face drastic losses of business during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can only be more complicated for a startup built on a business model that — even in the best of times — is very capital-intensive.

Before this round, in April we were hearing that Bolt was running out of runway and that they were in discussion also with the Estonian government — a big supporter of the country’s tech industry — to underwrite debt in the company.

Bolt has confirmed that this whole funding is in the form of a convertible note (that is, debt), with no additional equity at this point. “We have no plans that we can discuss at the moment,” a spokesperson said, so it sounds like a further equity round is something it’s working on regardless, given these take more time to close.

Bolt — which says it has 30 million users in over 35 countries globally — says that the worst of the lull in business was two months ago and that it’s been slowly recovering since. A spokesperson said that the company was closing in on breakeven at the end of last year, and it was preparing an equity round “mostly for food delivery and micromobility.”

Now, the picture is somewhat different, with ride-hailing and recovery measures putting more financial need into the business model.

Altogether, however, the company is still on the relatively smaller side when it comes to capital raise for its on-demand transportation model. Bolt has now raised over €300 million including debt and equity, with other investors including Nordic Ninja — a new fund out of Helsinki backed by a number of Japanese LPs to invest in Northern European startups (Bolt is based out of Tallinn) — Creandum, G Squared, Invenfin (a fund out of South Africa backed by investment holding company Remgro) and Superangel, a fund out of Estonia that has been backing the startup since its earliest days, as well as Didi (and, by association, SoftBank and Uber), Daimler, Korelya Capital and Spring Capital.

Formerly known as Taxify, Bolt rebranded last year as it expanded beyond private car rides into other areas like electric scooters and food delivery — and the plan will be to use this funding to expand all three business areas in the coming months, along with newer product categories like Business Delivery in-city same-day courier services and Bolt Protect for people to continue to use its ride-hailing services by kitting out cars with plastic sheeting between driver and passenger seats.

Uber, Bolt’s publicly traded business rival, has laid bare just how painful the pandemic has been for business. The company, which had raised billions of dollars as a privately-backed startup, has laid off nearly 7,000 employees in recent weeks, and while we currently have little visibility of the impact this has had on the contractors Uber engages to move people, food and other items in its network, its next quarterly earnings (which will cover the full brunt of the pandemic) should more clearly spell out the drop-off in overall business.

Bolt notes that so far, it hasn’t had to let people to as Uber and others have, and while it doesn’t go into financial details, it does acknowledge that business is not business as usual.

“Even though the crisis has temporarily changed how we move, the long-term trends that drive on-demand mobility such as declining personal car ownership or the shift towards greener transportation continue to grow,” said Markus Villig, CEO and co-founder, in a statement.

“We are happy to be backed by investors that look past the typical Silicon Valley hype and support our long term view. I am more confident than ever that our efficiency and localisation are a fundamental advantage in the on-demand industry. These enable us to continue offering affordable transportation to millions of customers and the best earnings for our partners in the post-COVID world.”

A lot of people have talked about how fundraising has become more complicated in the current climate. Not only are founders and investors not able to meet in person and get more embedded in evaluating an opportunity, but many are unable to see what the future will hold in terms of market demand and the overall economy, making the bets all the more laden with risk.

That’s left a lot of the activity spread between startups that are seeing business lift precisely because of present circumstances; startups that have businesses that are continuing to enjoy a lot of trade despite present circumstances; and startups that are strong enough (or already so highly capitalised) that investors want to support them to make sure they don’t go under. More typically, startups that are securing funding are falling into more than one of the above categories, as is the case with Bolt.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to invest in Bolt at this stage in the company’s growth story,” Masroor Siddiqui, managing partner, CIO and founder of Naya Capital Management, said in a statement. “Under Markus’ leadership, Bolt has established itself as one of the most competitive and innovative players in global mobility. We believe that Bolt is helping drive a fundamental change in how consumers interact with the transport infrastructure of their cities and look forward to the company’s continued execution on its strategic vision.”

Update: Bolt confirmed after we published that this is actually all in the form of a convertible note, so this is not a Series D. Also updated with more information about the state of the business.

Startups – TechCrunch

Will sending a proposal to a retail company receive any kind of response?

One response I received to this question was “no, just like you can’t send a movie director your script and expect it to pan out”. It seems an alternate would be to be an affiliate marketer for a bit but that is a far cry from what my product does, and yields a new vast hurdle. If sending a proposal is worthwhile, where can I learn about how to write it? I know government proposals but this is obviously different. I’m looking for interest, not even a letter of intent

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

5 Non-Traditional Reasons Start Out A Home Based Company

Carpe diem much? No, of course not, none of us do. However, despite the impracticality of living each day as it is your last, you can’t always live like it’s first. A simple have a profitable business idea that we’re can bet could work if we only had chance to. Well, if you’re breathing you do get the chance, so seize it. The only thing worse than failing is not trying.

But, thankfully, there has been an answer discovered to such a large and often heart wrenching problem for mothers. Is just working within your own. You can create very own in home business or use the internet to have a very job a person work strictly from reduce at all times and never need to leave home to do any of your work. This may be a guarantee that you may be at home all almost daily for your kids, which means you won’t must pay a sitter or send them to daycare in the near future. You can also take the any activities they community forums and be there to determine them.

Your home business will have the means to encourage their promoters to stay. You need a which compels not just the purchaser to be deemed a promoter but also the promoter to turn into a purchaser.

It’s almost cliche, but aren’t quite all work at home has to be able to a responsibility. You can start a business, whether you join a network marketing opportunity, make and sell your own crafts, go into a daycare, commence a website or something like that else at the same time. Starting an organization of any style is risky, but it might be worth the risk.

These include “home business, start a house business, work home opportunity, best business to begin from home, work at home”, and many others. As more people become comfortable using the net and simple . need get ways drugs money, these numbers will develop.

Yet there are some that find it very hard work from home. Constant distractions at the TV or even Internet could be a big downfall for self-employed companies who work from home. There are also unannounced visits from as well as family family who think you’re just hanging out at natural. And what’s worse is: they will disrespect the fact that you’re actually working.

Deduct the fee of household office this file your taxes. Taxes can drain a new business; however, most business owners can never predict that space is a write-off. Place write off a portion of utilities, mortgage, rent, as well as other bills – they are often real business expenses.