A Letter to the Editor

Writing on the web is undergoing a renaissance. What started in the late 90s as mass-market adoption of blogging has given way to high production quality, curated magazines. Despite all the innovation in blogging, there’s one part of the magazine that hasn’t been reinvented: the Letter to the Editor. If you’ve ever read the Economist, you might have breezed past this section. Two pages long and full of small quips and challenges, the Letter to the Editor section has its own culture.

Boiling a Billion Frogs

Tracing the arc of Facebook’s user sharing model is to identify the biggest case of frog boiling in history. Contrast Facebook’s origins as a dating site limited to students attending a particular college to an exhibitionist’s dream syndicating every detail of a life across of 1000+ friend networks and potentially many more followers. The question for users is: what is the quid pro quo? What value am I gaining in exchange for my data.

The Relationship Between Margins and Acquisition Prices

Amazon operates its businesses at very close to break-even, zero net margin, to win the greatest share and prevent competition from undercutting them. This is as true for their books business as their infrastructure business, AWS. Bezos has explicitly stated this strategy and it’s the one that has led to Amazon’s massive success in many different lines of business. Over sushi, a friend explained to me that this strategy might also extend to the way the company views acquisitions.

Every Damn Day

“Blades square,” the coach yelled from the Boston Whaler as he increased the speed on his outboard motor, pursuing the eight man boat as we gained speed. I sat in four-seat, right in the middle of the engine room, the place for the taller, heavier rowers. The eight man team reluctantly complied with the coach’s order and rowed across the Long Island Sound, NYAC jerseys on our backs and the muggy, humid early summer morning sun reflecting in the water, practicing for national championships.

Matching Marketing Tactics to The Sales Funnel

Marketing is one of those words without meaning. Or at least a consistent meaning for most people. Recently, I met a very bright marketer who broke down a few of the different marketing disciplines and matched them to a freemium sales funnel. His framework is a stroke of genius. I’ve drawn it below. The Four Disciplines of Funnel Marketing The triangle on the left is a standard freemium customer conversion process.

The Five Key Dynamics of the Seed Market in 2013

Last night I spoke at the Enterprise Tech VC Panel. We discussed five trends in the seed market and the outlook for 2013. These are the five most important trends for 2013, in my view. MicroVC Funds Have Doubled Their Assets Call it micro-VC or mega-seed fund, there’s a new investor class which raises funds between $50 and $100M to invest in seed-stage companies. Felicis manages a $70M fund, Jeff Clavier at Softech invests from a $55M fund and Steve Anderson of Baseline has raised at two funds totaling $100M.

What SaaS Businesses Can Learn from the News Industry

If asked to describe the characteristics of a successful freemium business, I might highlight three things: effective community marketing, command of new distribution platforms, and a paid product users love that is priced by usage. Look no further than ZenDesk, Evernote, Expensify, Dropbox. Each of them has built a vibrant user base using freemium products. But what if instead of pointing to SaaS companies as the vanguards of this movement, I lauded The Atlantic, The New York Times and the Financial Times?

How Competition Strengthens Startups

In HBR this month, two British researchers reported on their study of the impact of competition on startups. In a study of over 2M companies spanning 10 years, the researchers determined that if a startup faced competition in its first year, it was more likely to fail. But if the startup survived its first year, it’s survival rate jumped nearly 30%. This data screams survivorship bias. Of course the startups who navigate hostile waters deftly in their first year will have a higher likelihood of success.

Salesforce’s Disruptor Won’t Be A CRM Company

For sales people, social proof is one of the most powerful forms of influence, as Robert Ciadini proved in his seminal book on the topic. It’s no secret that the best leads are referrals. Second best is the friend who is a customer in common: “Oh, Peter chose Salesforce for his CRM. Maybe I should consider them too.” Social proof confers the trust of a relationship to the salesperson improving close rates.