Category Archives: Startups

Customer Ethnography for Tech Companies

“Ethnography is the branch of anthropology that involves trying to understand how people live their lives. Unlike traditional market researchers, who ask specific, highly practical questions, anthropological researchers visit consumers in their homes or offices to observe and listen in a nondirected way. Our goal is to see people’s behavior on their terms, not ours. While this observational method may appear inefficient, it enlightens us about the context in which customers would use a new product and the meaning that product might hold in their lives.” (source: HBR)

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Why bootstrapping sucks

When I meet with other entrepreneurs and they learn CB Insights is bootstrapped (or more appropriately ‘revenue-funded) and going to be 30 or so folks in the near future, the reaction is generally “that is awesome” or folks will say stuff like “no investors to deal with must be nice”.

I think like many things entrepreneurial, bootstrapping also gets romanticized.

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Sometimes, it makes sense to STFU

Mark Vadon of Zulily which is worth $4.5 billion and which has made him a billionaire talked about being a low profile company.  In a recent interview, he says fast growing startups should avoid the limelight.

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Awesome bootstrapped company – ScheduleFly

If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I take pride in CB Insights being bootstrapped.

And so I also love reading about and learning more about bootstrapped companies. 37 Signals and Mailchimp are two of my favorite examples.

Today, I came across ScheduleFly. They help restaurants with staff scheduling. They charge $30-$60/month and have 4500 customers.


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Our content team works hard and so when I feel like someone is using the product of their work without attribution/credit being given (it happens more than I’d like), it irritates me. Usually, I don’t say anything to the offending party as it’s not worth the time.

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Wayfair – How To Build a Business

Until we started decorating our office, I have to admit I didn’t know much about Wayfair at all.  But I’m slowly falling for the company.  Not its home decor items but with how it was built.

This week, Box said they are delaying their IPO until 2015 because of “volatile market conditions”. Companies often seem to blame bad performance on headwinds or the always nebulous “market”.

Interestingly, Wayfair is seeing a different market. The eCommerce company went public yesterday and is doing well so far.

Greg Bettinelli of Upfront Ventures (CBI client #humblebrag) penned a monster post about the company which is worth a read.  It’s 3443 words btw.

Rob Go also penned a shorter post about Wayfair.  Parts that stuck out from each post:

  • From Greg’s post, the co-founders of Wayfair will have 56.6% of the voting power and 49.8% of the economic interest in Wayfair.  They were bootstrapped until $500 million in sales.
  • From Rob’s post, this passage was great “While others loudly beat their own drums about vanity metrics, lavish perks, or bold claims of grandeur, Wayfair has allowed their results and execution do the talking.”

Great stuff.

Bad SaaS Economics

I’ve been enjoying the recent burn rate angst. For SaaS companies (like CB Insights), Jason Cohen of WP Engine offers an often unstated but very valid counterpoint:

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The Oak Tree – Celebrating Longevity

I’ve previously written about building a business the Bloomberg way.  I still think building an enduring, impactful and big company deserves more celebration, but we like shiny and new, especially in tech, so sometimes, it seems that building a company that solves a hard problem, has a great team who like what they do, makes customers happy, etc seems boring.

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So you’re saying businesses need to make money?

I have been enjoying all the chatter about burn rates recently. Bill Gurley, Fred Wilson and Marc Andreessen all have had good, interesting and necessary perspectives and warnings about it. It’s good that people are discussing the current overheated state of the market.

But one thing that baffles me is why we have to have this discussion at all.  People talk about new entrepreneurs not having a memory of the dot com boom and hence the reason they don’t think burning cash is a problem.

That’s bullshit.

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Don’t Hire Fast

There is so much work to do now and so much opportunity ahead of us at CB Insighs that I do sometimes feel pressure to get our hiring done sooner than later so we can move on with life and just start executing faster.
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