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    Startups, Brands and IPOs


    After successful IPOs, companies add dough to the coffers, members to their boards, and oversight from investors. Near term, they are often given time to catch their collective breath. Funding a round is hard work. And depending on the size of the company and the raise, everyone needs a big exhale.  But within a year or so the pressures to grow start to mount. Where will growth come from? How will we accelerate? And don’t forget to watch the runaway – the burn.

    Typically post-raise, lots of new server boxes show up. Popcorn machines. Software. Desks and Beats headsets. But when the accountants start asking about returns, the business hats come out.

    Spotify, it was reported today, is looking to be more than a streaming music service. They are making two podcast purchases. And they won’t stop there. More forms of content are on the horizon for Spotify. Don’t ask me what. Pressure’s on. It’s what happens to highly funded startups.

    Startups need a brand strategy to help them understand their value – to themselves and customers. It also helps with focus. When Netflix went from DVDs in the mail to streaming movies, 5 years after their IPO, they stayed “on value,” on brand claim. Nice evolution.

    Startups without an understanding of brand claim and proof, looking to grow in non-endemic ways, are apt to wander the desert.

    Study the care-abouts and good-ats, baby. 



    A Startup Thought.


    Read a post today by Andrew Chen on mobile app start-ups which likened their success rate to those of 1999 – bubble time. I participated in a web start-up in 2006-2008, called Zude, when Facebook had only 18 million users.  Zude had $10 million in funding (2 rounds) and shut down in less than 2 years.  I was thinking over the weekend, before I read Mr. Chen’s post, how if we had stayed the course with Zude and stretched that money out, we would have succeeded. We would have learned like school kids what was working and what was not. We would have course-corrected, not given up because we faced an unsustainable burn rate. We chose not to learn, it seemed.

    The technology was good. The vision was good, albeit a little bifurcated.  The drunkin’ sailor spending approach, however, was crazy. At one point we had two CFOs.  Even the marketing dude (me) could have looked at the ledger sheet and known changes were needed.

    In his post Mr. Chen suggests “don’t burn half of your funding to get to v1.” I agree. Perhaps this is the foundation of the agile approach – never read the books.  My take?  Learning works best over time. If you stick around long enough – stay alive long enough – you have a good shot. Start-ups that quickly discard and move onto the next thing aren’t always giving themselves the best chance for success. Just sayin’.  Peace. 

    Blogger Turned Entrepreneur.


    I first ran into Marshall Kirkpatrick in the blogger’s room at the Web 2.0 Expo in 2007.  At the time he was writing for ReadWriteWeb and one of technology’s top 10 bloggers; in the rarified air with Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble, Malik Om, Erick Schonfeld and Jeremiah Owyang.

    Sitting in on start-up product pitches for a living must have been hard.  Then under deadline, having to write about it, explain it and prognosticate — even harder. One would imagine that people like this would have at some point aspired to be involved in a start-up. But not so much. Mr. Kirkpatrick is an exception.  His company is called Little Bird.  If I got the Is-Does right (I sat through a webinar yesterday) Little Bird is a Social Monitoring 2.0 tool designed to help find category Posters rather than Pasters. The tool feels really smart at first pass.  

    Seeing hundreds of start-up presentations over the years has prepared Mr. Kirkpatrick for the “life.”  The funding period(s), naming, first hires, code-fests, Beta testing and pitching. And more pitching.  His tech blogging background does not insure a successful tech startup, though it certainly should give him a leg up. I applaud his derring do and look forward following Little Bird’s progress.  (Nice name by the way.) Peace.