Category Archives: Business Building

Do You Have to Be Excited by Your Startup?

I read the great annual report by SaaS entrepreneur Patrick McKenzie (known on hacker news as patio11) and he talked about challenges he’s had with not being excited by the problem his startup is solving (note: his startup is called Appointment Reminder and reminds clients of service providers, think doctors, nail salons, etc of their appointments via automated calls as people not showing up is opportunity and revenue lost for those service providers).

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The Benefits of Being Promiscuous in Business

One of the things we’ve done well at CB Insights is have certain principles about the growing importance of data vs pundits in making decisions and  the importance of building a business that is fundamentally about customers.  We’ve however, been very open to how our data can be used and the customers it can serve. At times, not knowing which market to go after has made me feel like we were being too promiscuous chasing markets.

The adage of having strong opinions which are weakly held is what has served us well.

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Wow – That Was Awesome

Last night, we had our company holiday party. I suspect it’ll be the last time we’ll be able to find a venue with a private room that can accommodate a group of our size so I knew it was going to be a special night before it even began.

As expected, it was a lot of good conversation and laughs.

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Look mom! Look dad!

I turned 41 a few days ago. So while I may still act 21 at times, I’m no longer there.
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Hacking Culture

We held an internal demo day at CB Insights a few weeks ago where folks presesented experimental ideas they spent 3 days working on. It was as I mentioned before a highlight for me of my time working at CB Insights.  Mike on our team did a great blog post about the Pitch & Demo day and its impacts on our culture.

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Kids Just Want Venture Capital

I really like Chris Dixon’s ideas. In fact, his bowling pin strategy post is one of my favorites of all time (I know the idea is not his but I learned it by reading his blog so he gets credit in my book).

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50,000+ Newsletter Subscribers

cb insights newsletter

Today, the CB Insights newsletter hit 50,000+ subscribers. I’m super proud of our research & data team for churning out killer content that serves as the engine to grow our newsletter and attract new subscribers. More importantly, these people stick around as they trust us to not abuse their inboxes or to send them shitty content and data.  We agonize over every newsletter quite a bit so that we don’t disappoint.

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The Help of Others

This post originally appeared on the CB Insights research blog.  I’ve added some additional commentary to the beginning.

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I read a great post by John Scalzi entitled A Self-Made Man Looks at How He Made It. He talks about all the people and organizations that have had an impact, directly or indirectly, on the direction of his life. I couldn’t find his post when the aforementioned CB Insights post was published, but it is such a good piece, I spent some time this weekend looking for it, and I finally did.

You should read it. One of my favorite passages is below:

I know what I have been given and what I have taken. I know to whom I owe. I know that what work I have done and what I have achieved doesn’t exist in a vacuum or outside of a larger context, or without the work and investment of other people, both within the immediate scope of my life and outside of it. I like the idea that I pay it forward, both with the people I can help personally and with those who will never know that some small portion of their own hopefully good fortune is made possible by me.

The point that his article underscores is that self-made success is bullshit. Beyond it being a lie, I was reading an academic paper that said that the idea of self-made success is “destructive to the social and economic infrastructure that fosters wealth creation.”

So besides being a lie, it is destructive to society.  Fantastic.

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Why Your Startup Should Go After a Small Market Opportunity

One of the things I struggled with initially at CB Insights was how to talk about our market so that people would think it was big. I’m not sure why I gave a shit about this but I did. Maybe because I wanted investors to be super interested in us or to just sound good when talking about CB Insights with other founders who always seemed so polished and chasing some massive Google’esque opportunity.

It was 100% ego driven which is never a good reason to do something.

Then, I stumbled upon Chris Dixon’s post on the bowling pin strategy, and it changed my perspective on this.

Here’s how I think about market sizing today.

If you know your market is large (because of existing comparables for example), you are good to go. You can probably stop reading this.  As Hunter Walk points out talking about the “is this a billion dollar opportunity?” question:

…sometimes they are clearly going after a marketspace that’s already defined: CRM 2.0 replacing CRM 1.0 but there are other paths to riches. Billion dollar companies often create new markets by tapping into unmet demand. Billion dollar companies can start out looking like toys.

However, if you are not sure because the market is new or if the comps are tackling the market differently than you are envisioning, it is harder to see or justify that bigger market opportunity. In my view, if you have a loose idea that it could be a big market eventually, that’s enough.

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$1 Million for 51% of Equity? Hells No

I saw this question on Quora and had to respond.   Here’s my answer.

It fits nicely into the current obsession with giving away equity it seems.

The question was:

Is it reasonable to give a seed investor 51% equity for $1M?

If you want to be an employee working for your investor, you should take this deal.

Or said another way, hells no.

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