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9 Startup Lessons You Can Learn From Canva – Melanie Perkins

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It seems that everywhere I go people can’t stop saying how they think Canva will be the next billion-dollar company and how everyone loves their online design platform. Canva Co-Founders Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obercht have been able to convince the likes of Bill Tai, Lars Rasmussen and Guy Kawasaki to join their vision for a revolution in online design technology.

Canva only launched on the 26th of August 2013 and they now boast some amazing stats like:

Over 5 million users who have created more than 30 million designs,

– Nothing but word of mouth marketing (until recently)

600k of unique visitors to the site monthly

– Over 14,000 blogs have written about Canva

– More than 2000 videos have been made about the product

If that was not impressive enough, Canva has raised $12.6M USD to date and has gone from 2 million users to 5 million users in just 4 months. The reason Canva has been so successful comes down to a number of points, which Melanie shared with me in a recent interview.

The whole philosophy of Canva is best described by their Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki (former Apple Evangelist), who says that they are democratising design the same way Google democratised search.

The fundamental point that I drill into with Melanie is how an earth they were able to convince influential people to support them even when they hadn’t even built a product and Canva was nothing more than a cool idea.

Below are the nine startup lessons that Melanie taught me about Canva’s journey when I interviewed her.

 

1. You must have determination and guts

The strongest attribute Melanie has is determination. It takes a long time to create a company and there is a lot of rejection, failure and times where it would be a reasonable thing to give up. A great example of determination is the fact that it took Melanie three years from meeting their first investor to actually landing the first investment.

Let’s face it, most startup founders would give up after 12 months, but if you keep an eye on what you are trying to achieve and really keep focused on the vision (the vision is what people will rally behind in time), you will eventually break through and come to the right solution.

Canva Melanie and Bill Tai
Not only do you need to have determination but you also need to have guts. Melanie spoke to lots of people about Canva long before a product even existed, which takes real guts and belief in what you’re doing. VISION VISION VSION !!!

 

2. Influence one lighthouse person (the butterfly effect)

One of the sole reasons Canva has been a big success is that Melanie focused in the early days on finding one highly influential person in their space and getting them to help with their startup – stop trying to meet hundreds of people and just concentrate on a few big names.

The first person that Melanie was able to connect with was the very well-known venture capitalist Bill Tai. She met him in 2011 when he was in Perth for an event called inventor of the year and he told her to look him up when she came to San Francisco.

Like any clever entrepreneur, Melanie took action and six months later she arrived in San Fran where she planned to stay for two weeks. After meeting Bill there, Melanie ended up staying for three months. Bill told Melanie that for him to invest in Canva she must find a technical team to build the product because at this stage it was no more than an idea.

After raising the problem, he then introduced Melanie to Lars Rasmussen, who agreed to help find the technical team. One year later they had a technical co-founder that Lars referred to them. The beauty of this whole process was that Melanie was able to get some amazing people to buy into her vision even before she had any product at all.

Canva Investors Bill Tai And Lars Rasmussen

Left: Bill Tai Right: Lars Rasmussen

When I asked Melanie how she was able to influence so many high profile people, she said to me that she has a diagram, which she calls the butterfly effect. The diagram shows once she was able to influence one powerhouse person like Bill, her network followed a butterfly effect and she met everyone else through some sort of link to Bill.

Every single step along the way you could say “if that didn’t happen nothing would have happened” – that’s the butterfly effect. You don’t know what could have happened or would have happened. How do you find people like Bill? The same way everyone else does; through conferences, LinkedIn, email, telephone, along with persistence.

 

3. You don’t have to be a coder

Many startup founders have a limiting belief that you must be a coder of some sort to be a founder of a tech company. First of all, every new startup can be considered a tech startup because almost every product will be connected to the internet in some way.

Secondly, Canva Founders Melanie and Cliff had no coding experience what so ever. With their first startup Fusion Books, they outsourced all the technical part of their business to another company.

This was a great lesson for them because it allowed them to focus on learning how the technology works, educating themselves on product management, and it even helped them to develop project management skills.

They learnt on their second startup Canva that because the product was heavily reliant on technology they would require a technical co-founder. The genius of their startup was that they had a highly skilled person, Lars Rasmussen that was doing the hiring of software engineers.

This resulted in only the best engineers being hired and allowing both founders to focus on their strengths because the technical side was taken care of. When they eventually brought in a technical co-founder, they had someone who had equity in the company and who was then motivated to see the business succeed.

Also, keep in mind that highly skilled engineers are attracted to things that are very challenging and have never been done before so if you’re startup’s vision aligns with this, the odds are stacked in your favour.

 

4. Having a startup track record helps

If you’re attempting to convince investors to invest in you before you have a product, Melanie recommends that it’s preferable that you have some sort of track record in business beforehand. When Melanie and Cliff were searching for investment for Canva before they had a product, they were able to show a track record through their first startup Fusion Books that had already had success.

The beauty of Fusion Books was that Melanie and Cliff were able to start with a small niche, prove their skills, and then go wider with Canva. This is great advice for any startup that is in the early stages of executing on an idea.

Bill Tai wanted to invest in Canva even though there wasn’t a product yet because he was very surprised that Melanie and Cliff were able to build a profitable company beforehand (this is extremely rare). He also loved the vision, which is why he chose to help.

 

5. Don’t be obsessed with the drug called Venture Capital

A lot of startups suffer from the drug that can be venture capital funding. They become obsessed with raising capital and it becomes what they use to benchmark whether they are successful or not. Melanie explained that venture capital funding can be like a time bomb, once you raise, your startup must grow like crazy otherwise if it doesn’t, you will very quickly have no company at all.

The benchmark you should be using to measure your startup’s success is when customers give you their money, which is also a much better way to raise capital. This demonstrates that people other than yourself believe in your startups solution and that it’s solving a real world problem.

If you decide that you must raise venture capital then you should only do so when you know roughly how many people you need, you have a clear execution plan, you know what steps you need to take, and you have a product market fit.

 

6. The problem you solve must be ambitious

A factor that helped Canva stand out from other startups was that their solution was ambitious. The reality is that highly successful people are attracted to ambitious, challenging and world transforming ideas.

Guy Kawasaki Canva Investor And Chief Evangelist (Apple)

Guy Kawasaki

If you want to attract amazing people like Guy Kawasaki to your startup, then your startup must meet this criteria and that’s exactly what Canva did, which is why they attracted great talent. This great talent then attracted more great talent and the success cycle compounded again and again.

Ambitious problems take time to solve and take a long time to build momentum, but when you do solve these types of problems, there will be no shortage of successful people desperate to help you with your vision.

“Solve customer’s problems and make sure that the customer is representative of a large market and then you will have a pretty good formula”

 

7. The pitch deck needs to be all about the problem

Part of the journey whenever you are trying to sell your startup idea to people is to be able to use a quality pitch deck. Given the number of times Melanie had to pitch to investors, I asked her what advice she would give other startups when putting together a pitch deck.

Melanie explained to me that before Canva’s first investment, they had revised their pitch deck over one hundred times. The feedback that Melanie got consistently was that investors didn’t know much about the design landscape so this had to be addressed in the deck.

It’s a good idea to address anything that is tricky or confusing about your product right up front. When you are putting together your pitch deck, you need to start from a macro perspective and begin with the problem you are solving first. You need to be spending 80% of the deck on the problem and only 20% on the solution.

Your pitch deck needs to explain to investors the huge opportunity that exists, the large market for your solution and the macro landscape that exists. Instead of telling your solution right up front, focus on demonstrating its importance first. The other key point is to make sure your solution is a problem that people care about and want to be solved.

“Anyone can have a solution but if no one cares about it, unfortunately, you are not going to have a very big company”

 

8. Understand the risk appetite of the person your pitching

One of the most powerful lessons Melanie taught me is around knowing when to pitch to certain investors based on your startup’s life cycle. Different investors have different risk appetites so as your startup hits each milestone, different investors barriers to risk are removed.

If we look at Canva’s life cycle, they started with a strong vision, then they had a skilled team, then they had a great product, then they had a highly engaged community, then they had very strong performance graphs and now they have a strong monetisation model (thanks to Canva for work).

As Canva hit each milestone, Melanie said that different types of investors wanted to be a part of their vision. In the early stages, the only box that Canva ticked was a great vision and so this didn’t meet many investors risk appetite, although it did interest a few.

The Canva pitch to investors was rejected many times but what Melanie realised was that when investors said no, what the investor was really saying was that the current phase of their startup didn’t meet his or hers individual risk appetite.

“The rejection is often not because of the reasons you think they are rejecting you”

 

9. Regular contact after the pitch is crucial

I think that anyone can get in contact with an influential person at least once, but to keep in touch with someone who is high profile, takes real skill. When I presented this challenge to Melanie, she described how she was able to overcome this.

She explained to me that after the initial contact with an influential person, she would tell them what the next milestone was that Canva was going to achieve, and then when they achieved it, she would let them know.

In-between key milestones she would send influential people a copy of any Canva press to help keep her startup front of mind. The key Melanie says is that when you tell someone you are going to do something then just do it.

If you continue to do what you say you’re going to do, and you’re persistent, it will build up your credibility over time with the influential person. The other key trick is to send updates of your startup every few months – don’t overdo it with weekly updates.

 

***Melanie’s Recommendations***

Favourite Book – Designing the obvious (product design book) – Robert Jr Hoekman

Best Venture Capital Advice – The Venture Hacks Bible (Melanie used this PDF to learn what was involved in raising capital)

Favourite Quote – “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony” – Gandhi

Favourite Startup Tool – UserTesting.com (understand how users are using your site)

Melanie Perkins Canva Founder - Addicted2Success Picture Quote

If you have any of your own startup tips then please comment below and make sure you visit Melanie’s latest creation Canva For Work here.

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared millions of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around personal development and entrepreneurship. You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Esther Mellar

    Oct 2, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Tim,

    What strike me is the following:
    ‘The Canva pitch to investors was rejected many times but what Melanie realised was that when investors said no, what the investor was really saying was that the current phase of their startup didn’t meet his or hers individual risk appetite.
    “The rejection is often not because of the reasons you think they are rejecting you”’
    Do you know Tim, did she actually ask for clarification/guidance, or it was only her positive attitude and belief in herself and her product?
    Thank you!

    • Tim Denning

      Oct 19, 2015 at 11:33 pm

      Esther, Melanie asked for feedback but it was mainly her belief in what she was doing that drove her. Melanie and her co-founder Cliff both had success with their first startup Fusion Books so that helped them have the optimism they needed. None the less, all entrepreneurs need to be able to visualise their vision before it’s real – Melanie did this beautifully.

  2. Lawrence Berry

    Sep 30, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    I love stories where other people kept pursing their dreams until it eventually paid off, and one thing that I have learned is that almost everyone who never gave up on their dream eventually made them come true. You learn from your failures and plant enough seeds over the years, you will eventually plant a fruitful seed. I love this young lady’s advice and her story.

    I agree with her statement that you don’t have to be a coder in order to achieve success with something techy, but you do need to know how to delegate tasks. You want to learn how to hand off the jobs that you don’t know, or are not the best at, but keep this vision intact. This vision and plan will make help you achieve success.

    • Tim Denning

      Sep 30, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      I love these stories too Lawrence. It’s so cool that they didn’t even have a product yet they were able to convince one of the most well-known venture capitalists to invest in them. This just shows you how important a compelling vision is.

  3. denny

    Sep 30, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Great insight on a contemporary path to wild startup success. I suppose identifying a short list of key industry influencers should be a part of early startup planning. Likewise, a focus on clearly communicating the market, the need and the vision to meet that need are all first steps – prior to technical design.

    • Tim Denning

      Sep 30, 2015 at 7:50 am

      Thanks Denny and appreciate you sharing your startup tips with us.

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Startups

Why You Should Use Pinterest to Grow Your Business

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pinterest for business

Raise your hand if you’ve been snubbing Pinterest. If your hand is raised, know that you’re not alone because also I used to. Mind you, about two years ago I did actually take the time to set up an account, yet that’s where my Pinterest relationship began and ended. I took a few minutes to look around and checked out. I felt like a squirrel on acid. Too chaotic, too many recipes and so much mom and baby stuff!

This isn’t for me. I’m a personal development blogger and an inspirational/motivational Facebook page owner. I thought Pinterest was no place for me because I post quotes and self help blogs. Due to this, I closed my mind off to it until December 27, 2017.

With the constant urging of a friend, I cautiously opened the Pinterest door again, almost like I was expecting some casserole to come out and smack me upside the head.

I looked around and much to my surprise and delight, there were other bloggers and business peeps just like me on Pinterest. I was instantly hooked. With a new appreciation for this beast, I dove in and got to work. I had 15 followers and no boards. After a few weeks of burning the midnight oil, getting Pin ready images for my blogs, resizing quote images from my Facebook page, creating boards, and joining tribes and other group boards, this happened.

Pinterest statistics

It’s not just babies and crafts

If you are a blogger or business owner, Pinterest has a place for you. Let’s talk a bit about what it is and isn’t.

First and foremost, Pinterest is not a social media platform, it’s a search engine like Google but more colorful and fun. The great thing about Pinterest is that it has its own search engine within it. You can see what your people are searching for. 

Another thing to note is people buy things on Pinterest. Lots of things! Check out this link for Pinterest stats! Now that you know what it’s not, let me tell you what it is. It’s a powerhouse traffic driver.

There’s power behind using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog. Just take a look at these astounding facts:

  • A pin is 100 times more spreadable than your average tweet
  • Each pin can drive up to 2 page visits and 6 pageviews
  • Ecommerce sites benefit from pinning as each pin can generate 78 cents
  • The life of a pin is one week! Compare that to 24 minutes for Twitter and 90 minutes for Facebook. (source bloggingwizard.com)

In February of this year, my organic reach was just over 1.2 mil views! Remember, I started working it at the end of December with nothing.

pinterest business

It’s not as hard as you think!

It’s time consuming but definitely not hard. Take a minute to think about this, you work hard on your business. You want to reach people, sell things, inspire others, and teach through Pinterest. Don’t you think it would be worth your time and effort to work at something that will actually produce mind blowing results? Of course it would be!

Here are a few tips to get you started on Pinterest:

  • Create a business account. 
  • Have a look around to see what other people in your niche are pinning. Take a look to see what pins attract your attention. 
  • Head over to Picmonkey or Canva and create some pins for your blog or your products. Images are everything! Take extra time on these, you want them to be engaging and you definitely want repins.
  • Create boards and keep them secret until you have enough pins in them to go public. I usually wait until I have about 15 (as I’m creating new boards).
  • Find groups to join so you can share your stuff and repin others. Groups and Tailwind tribes (you should join Tailwind-tons of my traffic comes from there) are key! Think of them as an online networking/marketing event. You need them. I checked out big pinners in my niche, had a look at the group boards they belonged to and then asked to join. 
  • Get active. Pin from other people’s boards, connect with others, join Facebook groups for pinners. Aim to pin 20–50 times a day. It’s really up to you how often you want to, I’ve settled for 30 a day. Don’t let those numbers frighten you. Tailwind takes care of that for you!
  • Keyword your descriptions, boards, pins, everything! Remember, search engine.

Now get going!

Obviously there’s a tad more to it than that but once you get set up and get going, you will quickly become addicted to Pinterest (as I have) and be blown away at the growth of your business.

When you think about it, how much time are you spending (wasting) on social media platforms that just aren’t doing it for you? You’re pulling your hair out wondering why things aren’t working. Stop running the hamster wheel and head on over to Pinterest. It’s not just home decor, breastfeeding pumps and tuna salad recipes. There’s a whole other world you need to explore. If you discount it, you are leaving precious clients and money on the table.

“Social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology” Brian Solis

Have you used Pinterest for your business before? If so, did you like it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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5 Steps to Turn Your Business Into a Well Oiled Machine

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how to automate your business
Image Credit: Unsplash

A lot of online business owners that I interact with run “one man” operations. They spend most of their time delivering to their clients, leaving little room to bring in new ones, and generally grow their business. I’ve been there myself, and it’s incredibly easy to get stuck on solopreneur island, because in order to get off you have to jump into the unknown water and swim.

There are a two main problems with being a solopreneur, and if you are one these it may seem very familiar to you. First of all, as mentioned above, it’s easy to get busy delivering to clients, but that doesn’t actually grow your business, getting NEW clients does. The other big problem is that everything depends on you. You can’t get sick, tired, or go on a holiday, because as soon as you take your foot off the gas pedal, everything stops. Funnily enough, many of us start our own businesses in order to get freedom, yet many just end up creating another job for themselves.

The good news is that you can get off solopreneur island. I’ve done it, and here’s how to do it yourself:

Step #1 – Get clarity & package your offers

A lot of solopreneurs offer a wide range of services. They talk to prospects from all angles, and tailor make their services to fit each unique client’s needs. Sounds like a noble thing to do, but it’s not sustainable. A better approach is to look at the common denominator of the clients you’ve already worked with, and see if you can turn that into a front end offer.

I used to talk to prospects, listen to their needs, and then create a proposal, which usually got rejected. Since we sell video production, I told myself that every video is different, and you can’t turn that into a package. That was simply a limiting belief, and we eventually started offering 30, 60, and 90 second videos with either template or custom graphics.

Look at all the things you’re offering, and see if you can turn your offers into a menu, just like at a restaurant.

“Time = life; therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” – Alan Lakein

Step #2 – Start treating your website like the asset it could be

Your website can get you new clients on autopilot. Don’t hold your website back by having 3 portfolio items and a contact form. Turn it into a salesman.

We get anywhere from 5-20 new clients every single month through our website. The way to accomplish this is to first and foremost realize that people cannot make a purchase if they have unanswered questions. Put all the information they need to make a decision right there on your website. If your prices are less than $1,000 for what you offer, I believe you can make the sale right there on the website. If it’s higher than $1,000 I generally recommend to get people on a phone call first.

These are some things you should do to your website: describe the problem your audience has, describe your solution, show lots of previous work, and tons of testimonials. You should also answer all the frequently asked questions, offer a guarantee, show pictures of your team and most importantly, go for the sale/phone call, not a contact form. Don’t hold your website back, let it work for you.

Step #3 – Build a high quality team

People freak out about hiring. They think hiring means you have to be able to pay someone $60,000 a year, but that’s not true. Like anything else, you can and should, start small. I hired my Project Manager for 3 hours per week when we started.

You’ll also note I wrote “high quality” above. This is crucial. When you hire a $3/hour graphics designer from India, I promise you’ll get $3 quality work. The problem with being cheap when you hire is that you get people that aren’t good at what they do, and can’t solve their own problems. When people can’t solve their own problems it’ll be up to you to do that. You’ll end up working just as much as if you didn’t hire them in the first place, therefore you are effectively paying money to give yourself stress. Does that sound like a good deal to you?

It’s better to hire a $25/h person for 3 hours than a $5/h person for a month. Once I decided to try hiring a high quality freelancer instead of a cheap one, I instantly saw the benefits and have never gone back.

Step #4 – Build systems and procedures

You should have a process in place for everything that is done in your business, especially the stuff that is done repeatedly. Use project management software so that your client facing work always follows the same structure. Use Trello for internal processes. Create documents and checklists showing how to do things.

If you’re training a new employee, record a video rather than doing the training live as you should expect to have to train another person on the same exact thing in the future.  This way a ton of the training will already be ready to go if your employee quits on you (this happened to me and I was able to successfully replace a project manager and have the new one up and running within one week!)

“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.” – Albert Camus

Step #5 – Automate when possible

Make a list of every task that happens in your business from when a prospect finds you to when your product is delivered to them. Then, look at how many of those things can actually be done by a computer, and get to work using Zapier and all your other tools. I even recorded a video series where I educate the client along the way.

If you find yourself having the same conversations over and over again, just record a video and save yourself the time! Every automation you put in place is going to save you minutes and eventually hours every single week. This frees up your time so that you can focus on growing your business, instead of just delivering to your clients.

Summary

Getting off solopreneur island is not rocket science. You’ll need to get clear on what your packages are, put your client acquisition on autopilot, get a high quality team in place, document and checklist everything, and finally automate what you can.

Once you actually go through with this you’ll find that your business can run without you, but more importantly you’ll be able to spend your time on growing the business, and not being forced to do the day-to-day operations.

What’s your main takeaway from this article? Comment below!

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Why Your Business Should Focus on Effectively Outwitting Competitors

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business competition
Image Credit: Twenty20.com

It shouldn’t be a case of getting out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat, it should rather be the case of not venturing into the kitchen. Any brand which was set up with the outlook that there won’t be competitors was started on the wrong premise and will be plummeted into oblivion.

Any road to success is thorny but paved with advantages, which may be fair or unfair. It borders on putting in personal sacrifices which are prone to constant uncertainty, existential threats, and taking a headlong plunge into making terrifying decisions. It’s definitely not a place for the Lilly-minded and nitwits because you are setting out to engage in a fierce competition with the best minds in the business world.

What you should work tenaciously upon is your competitive advantages. Ensure the things you have going for you are brought to the forefront. You will require the right mix of guts, tactics, timing, and the knack for hitting the rod when it’s red hot because opportunities coming your way should be quickly utilized.

Dilly-dallying will be highly disastrous and very devastating. Your brand may not be a pacesetter and you don’t have a carte blanche to do whatever you fancy, yet it behoves on you to gear up to face competition from the onset.

Amazingly, however, you can effectively outwit your competitors in the global market. You just need leveraging on the following steps:

1. Research other winning brands

A lot of people may consider this to be absurd but that is the joker you have. What you do must be entirely different from other brands in the same industry as your brand. When you concentrate on researching your rivals in the same industry, you may only come up with something akin to what they do.

You, however, need to come up with something completely new and stunning, a whole set of nouveau innovations and the only way to get that is by going out of your industry completely. Your ideas must be mind-blowing and eye-opening not minding that you are possibly a newbie in the industry.

It’s of utmost importance that you build with the future in mind, before launching your product into the market. This singular action of yours will quadruple and ironclad your chances of surviving the onslaught in the market.

“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” – Otto van Bismark

2. Spin your obvious weakness into your strong point

You definitely will have some weak points and your competitors will seek those out to backstab and whip you silly in the market. You shouldn’t, however, be deterred by this. You can swivel this supposedly bad fortune into a huge arsenal for your brand with the attendant result of leaving your competitors on the turf.

A brand’s weak point could be the price. It’s possible your price is on the high side in comparison with others in the market. This is an opportunity to showcase your ingenuity by adding domestic customer service, home delivery, extended warranty, or any other incentive which you know your competitors will chicken out on.

The initial venture will definitely pummel your finances but by the time your prospective customers come to identify these advantages which were supposedly weak points with you, your ROI will skyrocket sensationally. Your competitors who had set out to tailspin you will be wondering what hit them.

3. Stay glued to your clients

The customer is the king and this must be your brand’s watchword. Your taste may be the best in the world but it’s absolute balderdash if it doesn’t resonate with the customer. You must learn to maximize the values your customers hold high and play down other money-grubbing wastes.

To effect this you must stay glued to your customers. Find out what they have going for your products and how you can enhance them. This effort may be a time suck and you may be required to put in odd hours tracking down your customers but it will pay off handsomely.

John C. Maxwell, aptly described this situation when he said “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” Make your customers off-limits to your competitors. You can enhance this by making sure you are constantly in contact with your customers.

“When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.” – John Wanamaker

You should be in tune with those things that can make or break your business as well as having the metrics to measure how well you are doing. It’s absolutely necessary that you know your brand’s fundamental metrics like the average customer value (ACV), cost per acquisition (CPA), return on investment (ROI), and break even.

Business is like the art of war and the best form of defence is to attack.

How to you make sure people stay loyal to your brand? Let us know some tips and advice below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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Enough With The Word ‘Startup’

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The word ‘startup’ has created a false reality.

When we think of startups we now think of the following:

  • Cool kids wearing their startup t-shirts
  • Co-working spaces
  • Lots of lattes with a picture drawn in the froth
  • San Francisco and how perfect it is (I’ve been there and it’s not perfect:  #HomelessPeopleEverywhere)
  • Unicorns (not the ones you see on kid’s shows)
  • Made up valuations (a GFC fixes this problem nicely)
  • Accelerators (an overload of opinions that are just that)
  • Pitch nights where investors are made to look like Fortune Tellers and experts when the reality is nothing more than this: they’re guessing

 

It’s time to bin the word startup.

The word has no meaning. Day one is the start and then everything after that is just business. By continually using the word startup we’re implying we’re still at the start when we’re not.

“The word startup makes us feel crappy because it puts us in the amateur, early stage, “I’m still learning” category which never expires”

We never know what we’re doing in business completely and that’s a good thing.

Everything is constantly changing and so we’re going to be lifelong learners in the business world whether we like it or acknowledge it.

 

The word ‘Startup” means business so let’s call it that.

Just like a penis, big or small, it’s a fucking penis. Let’s call it what it is.

Maybe you’re a small business with one employee.

Maybe you’re a large corporation with 35,000 employees

Maybe you work one day a week on a side hustle.

Maybe you have two freelancers working for you one day a month.

It’s all just business. Sorry cool kids, the word ‘startup’ doesn’t make business any easier, different, simpler, funkier or any other description you can give.

 

Can everyone really be an entrepreneur?

I’ll give it to you straight amigo: no, they can’t.

“Some of you suck at entrepreneurship even though Instagram sells you on the dream that you can sit on the beach with your laptop, sip a cocktail, take a selfie and do one hour of work a day”

This is all a lie designed to mess with your head and force you to suffer FOMO thus resulting in social media engagement for someone with a landing page that leads to a digital product where there’s a payment wall for you to insert your credit card number and add money to a bank account that’s not yours.

Many of you can’t handle:

  • Risk
  • Stupid amount of stress
  • 12-hour days
  • Managing other people
  • Having to be creative
  • Customers whose demands never stop
  • The game of money
  • Soul crushing failure

The list could go on forever. There are so many components to entrepreneurship.

Only about 1% of people are truly cut out for it. Just like not everyone can be a leader - otherwise there would be no followers - not everyone can be an entrepreneur. And that’s okay.

You’re human - you’ll be okay.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try entrepreneurship. Sometimes giving it a shot and doing it is the only way to find out.

Life is not all about startups and entrepreneurship - there’s more to it than that.

 

When does the ‘Startup Phase’ end?

It doesn’t.

Some people say Stripe is a startup even though they do billions in revenue now. Some people call my side-hustle a startup even though it’s just me.

The word ‘startup’ keeps getting used because somehow it puts you in a different league where growth hackers (I call it sales), dev-ops, UX designers and a whole bunch of other words that describe a team that does sales or builds software exists.

 

A startup is not a startup; it’s called a business.

No more buzz words.

No more unicorns.

No more thinking you’re smarter than your competitors.

No more BS valuations.

No more naming and shaming people who don’t want to be a founder of a startup like you.

Not everyone is in love with startups and not all of us want to be founders. Some people want to be stay-at-home dads or stay-at-home moms.

Some people want to raise their kids instead of being on the front of Startup Daily with a bunch of cool kids.

There’s more to life than fucking startups and #StartupLife.

 

Business is business. 

  1. You build a product or service with you or a co-founder.
  2. You attempt to see whether it solves a problem
  3. You continue validating the idea beyond your mom & dad, friends and work colleagues
  4. You make some money - $1, $100, $100k - it doesn’t matter
  5. You continuously improve the product to make your customers happier
  6. You make them happy and the business makes more money
  7. You build out a team so you can grow the business to be bigger
  8. Then you either stop at where you are and be bloody happy, or you raise money in some form - VC, bank, angels, parents, ICO (insert trendy way to borrow more money)
  9. You hi-five everyone, sell the business and sit on a beach or you keep going because it becomes about more than money

THE END.

 

Final Word On Startups. 

If you want to create a business, then do it. If you don’t then that’s fine too.

Find a problem, solve it and be humble as hell about it if you succeed. There’s more to this world than the ridiculous label that is startup.

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Motivation

7 Powerful and Inspiring Words of Encouragement to Help Lift You Up

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Image Credit: Twenty20.com

When you’re going through tough times, all you need is sympathy. You just need someone to tell you how strong you are and how you can cope with the situation. Essentially, you’re waiting for a soothing voice that can calm your inner storm and genuinely help with your troubles. (more…)

I am Eliana Jags, Co-Founder & Author at beinginsightful.com. I'm passionate about writing motivational and inspirational articles. Before I became a full-time blogger, I was a Software Engineer but left the job to fulfill my dream of becoming a writer and thus I've committed myself completely to my passion of writing. You can connect with me on my Facebook page here.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Esther Mellar

    Oct 2, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Tim,

    What strike me is the following:
    ‘The Canva pitch to investors was rejected many times but what Melanie realised was that when investors said no, what the investor was really saying was that the current phase of their startup didn’t meet his or hers individual risk appetite.
    “The rejection is often not because of the reasons you think they are rejecting you”’
    Do you know Tim, did she actually ask for clarification/guidance, or it was only her positive attitude and belief in herself and her product?
    Thank you!

    • Tim Denning

      Oct 19, 2015 at 11:33 pm

      Esther, Melanie asked for feedback but it was mainly her belief in what she was doing that drove her. Melanie and her co-founder Cliff both had success with their first startup Fusion Books so that helped them have the optimism they needed. None the less, all entrepreneurs need to be able to visualise their vision before it’s real – Melanie did this beautifully.

  2. Lawrence Berry

    Sep 30, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    I love stories where other people kept pursing their dreams until it eventually paid off, and one thing that I have learned is that almost everyone who never gave up on their dream eventually made them come true. You learn from your failures and plant enough seeds over the years, you will eventually plant a fruitful seed. I love this young lady’s advice and her story.

    I agree with her statement that you don’t have to be a coder in order to achieve success with something techy, but you do need to know how to delegate tasks. You want to learn how to hand off the jobs that you don’t know, or are not the best at, but keep this vision intact. This vision and plan will make help you achieve success.

    • Tim Denning

      Sep 30, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      I love these stories too Lawrence. It’s so cool that they didn’t even have a product yet they were able to convince one of the most well-known venture capitalists to invest in them. This just shows you how important a compelling vision is.

  3. denny

    Sep 30, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Great insight on a contemporary path to wild startup success. I suppose identifying a short list of key industry influencers should be a part of early startup planning. Likewise, a focus on clearly communicating the market, the need and the vision to meet that need are all first steps – prior to technical design.

    • Tim Denning

      Sep 30, 2015 at 7:50 am

      Thanks Denny and appreciate you sharing your startup tips with us.

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Startups

Why You Should Use Pinterest to Grow Your Business

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pinterest for business

Raise your hand if you’ve been snubbing Pinterest. If your hand is raised, know that you’re not alone because also I used to. Mind you, about two years ago I did actually take the time to set up an account, yet that’s where my Pinterest relationship began and ended. I took a few minutes to look around and checked out. I felt like a squirrel on acid. Too chaotic, too many recipes and so much mom and baby stuff!

This isn’t for me. I’m a personal development blogger and an inspirational/motivational Facebook page owner. I thought Pinterest was no place for me because I post quotes and self help blogs. Due to this, I closed my mind off to it until December 27, 2017.

With the constant urging of a friend, I cautiously opened the Pinterest door again, almost like I was expecting some casserole to come out and smack me upside the head.

I looked around and much to my surprise and delight, there were other bloggers and business peeps just like me on Pinterest. I was instantly hooked. With a new appreciation for this beast, I dove in and got to work. I had 15 followers and no boards. After a few weeks of burning the midnight oil, getting Pin ready images for my blogs, resizing quote images from my Facebook page, creating boards, and joining tribes and other group boards, this happened.

Pinterest statistics

It’s not just babies and crafts

If you are a blogger or business owner, Pinterest has a place for you. Let’s talk a bit about what it is and isn’t.

First and foremost, Pinterest is not a social media platform, it’s a search engine like Google but more colorful and fun. The great thing about Pinterest is that it has its own search engine within it. You can see what your people are searching for. 

Another thing to note is people buy things on Pinterest. Lots of things! Check out this link for Pinterest stats! Now that you know what it’s not, let me tell you what it is. It’s a powerhouse traffic driver.

There’s power behind using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog. Just take a look at these astounding facts:

  • A pin is 100 times more spreadable than your average tweet
  • Each pin can drive up to 2 page visits and 6 pageviews
  • Ecommerce sites benefit from pinning as each pin can generate 78 cents
  • The life of a pin is one week! Compare that to 24 minutes for Twitter and 90 minutes for Facebook. (source bloggingwizard.com)

In February of this year, my organic reach was just over 1.2 mil views! Remember, I started working it at the end of December with nothing.

pinterest business

It’s not as hard as you think!

It’s time consuming but definitely not hard. Take a minute to think about this, you work hard on your business. You want to reach people, sell things, inspire others, and teach through Pinterest. Don’t you think it would be worth your time and effort to work at something that will actually produce mind blowing results? Of course it would be!

Here are a few tips to get you started on Pinterest:

  • Create a business account. 
  • Have a look around to see what other people in your niche are pinning. Take a look to see what pins attract your attention. 
  • Head over to Picmonkey or Canva and create some pins for your blog or your products. Images are everything! Take extra time on these, you want them to be engaging and you definitely want repins.
  • Create boards and keep them secret until you have enough pins in them to go public. I usually wait until I have about 15 (as I’m creating new boards).
  • Find groups to join so you can share your stuff and repin others. Groups and Tailwind tribes (you should join Tailwind-tons of my traffic comes from there) are key! Think of them as an online networking/marketing event. You need them. I checked out big pinners in my niche, had a look at the group boards they belonged to and then asked to join. 
  • Get active. Pin from other people’s boards, connect with others, join Facebook groups for pinners. Aim to pin 20–50 times a day. It’s really up to you how often you want to, I’ve settled for 30 a day. Don’t let those numbers frighten you. Tailwind takes care of that for you!
  • Keyword your descriptions, boards, pins, everything! Remember, search engine.

Now get going!

Obviously there’s a tad more to it than that but once you get set up and get going, you will quickly become addicted to Pinterest (as I have) and be blown away at the growth of your business.

When you think about it, how much time are you spending (wasting) on social media platforms that just aren’t doing it for you? You’re pulling your hair out wondering why things aren’t working. Stop running the hamster wheel and head on over to Pinterest. It’s not just home decor, breastfeeding pumps and tuna salad recipes. There’s a whole other world you need to explore. If you discount it, you are leaving precious clients and money on the table.

“Social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology” Brian Solis

Have you used Pinterest for your business before? If so, did you like it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Startups

5 Steps to Turn Your Business Into a Well Oiled Machine

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how to automate your business
Image Credit: Unsplash

A lot of online business owners that I interact with run “one man” operations. They spend most of their time delivering to their clients, leaving little room to bring in new ones, and generally grow their business. I’ve been there myself, and it’s incredibly easy to get stuck on solopreneur island, because in order to get off you have to jump into the unknown water and swim.

There are a two main problems with being a solopreneur, and if you are one these it may seem very familiar to you. First of all, as mentioned above, it’s easy to get busy delivering to clients, but that doesn’t actually grow your business, getting NEW clients does. The other big problem is that everything depends on you. You can’t get sick, tired, or go on a holiday, because as soon as you take your foot off the gas pedal, everything stops. Funnily enough, many of us start our own businesses in order to get freedom, yet many just end up creating another job for themselves.

The good news is that you can get off solopreneur island. I’ve done it, and here’s how to do it yourself:

Step #1 – Get clarity & package your offers

A lot of solopreneurs offer a wide range of services. They talk to prospects from all angles, and tailor make their services to fit each unique client’s needs. Sounds like a noble thing to do, but it’s not sustainable. A better approach is to look at the common denominator of the clients you’ve already worked with, and see if you can turn that into a front end offer.

I used to talk to prospects, listen to their needs, and then create a proposal, which usually got rejected. Since we sell video production, I told myself that every video is different, and you can’t turn that into a package. That was simply a limiting belief, and we eventually started offering 30, 60, and 90 second videos with either template or custom graphics.

Look at all the things you’re offering, and see if you can turn your offers into a menu, just like at a restaurant.

“Time = life; therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” – Alan Lakein

Step #2 – Start treating your website like the asset it could be

Your website can get you new clients on autopilot. Don’t hold your website back by having 3 portfolio items and a contact form. Turn it into a salesman.

We get anywhere from 5-20 new clients every single month through our website. The way to accomplish this is to first and foremost realize that people cannot make a purchase if they have unanswered questions. Put all the information they need to make a decision right there on your website. If your prices are less than $1,000 for what you offer, I believe you can make the sale right there on the website. If it’s higher than $1,000 I generally recommend to get people on a phone call first.

These are some things you should do to your website: describe the problem your audience has, describe your solution, show lots of previous work, and tons of testimonials. You should also answer all the frequently asked questions, offer a guarantee, show pictures of your team and most importantly, go for the sale/phone call, not a contact form. Don’t hold your website back, let it work for you.

Step #3 – Build a high quality team

People freak out about hiring. They think hiring means you have to be able to pay someone $60,000 a year, but that’s not true. Like anything else, you can and should, start small. I hired my Project Manager for 3 hours per week when we started.

You’ll also note I wrote “high quality” above. This is crucial. When you hire a $3/hour graphics designer from India, I promise you’ll get $3 quality work. The problem with being cheap when you hire is that you get people that aren’t good at what they do, and can’t solve their own problems. When people can’t solve their own problems it’ll be up to you to do that. You’ll end up working just as much as if you didn’t hire them in the first place, therefore you are effectively paying money to give yourself stress. Does that sound like a good deal to you?

It’s better to hire a $25/h person for 3 hours than a $5/h person for a month. Once I decided to try hiring a high quality freelancer instead of a cheap one, I instantly saw the benefits and have never gone back.

Step #4 – Build systems and procedures

You should have a process in place for everything that is done in your business, especially the stuff that is done repeatedly. Use project management software so that your client facing work always follows the same structure. Use Trello for internal processes. Create documents and checklists showing how to do things.

If you’re training a new employee, record a video rather than doing the training live as you should expect to have to train another person on the same exact thing in the future.  This way a ton of the training will already be ready to go if your employee quits on you (this happened to me and I was able to successfully replace a project manager and have the new one up and running within one week!)

“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.” – Albert Camus

Step #5 – Automate when possible

Make a list of every task that happens in your business from when a prospect finds you to when your product is delivered to them. Then, look at how many of those things can actually be done by a computer, and get to work using Zapier and all your other tools. I even recorded a video series where I educate the client along the way.

If you find yourself having the same conversations over and over again, just record a video and save yourself the time! Every automation you put in place is going to save you minutes and eventually hours every single week. This frees up your time so that you can focus on growing your business, instead of just delivering to your clients.

Summary

Getting off solopreneur island is not rocket science. You’ll need to get clear on what your packages are, put your client acquisition on autopilot, get a high quality team in place, document and checklist everything, and finally automate what you can.

Once you actually go through with this you’ll find that your business can run without you, but more importantly you’ll be able to spend your time on growing the business, and not being forced to do the day-to-day operations.

What’s your main takeaway from this article? Comment below!

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Why Your Business Should Focus on Effectively Outwitting Competitors

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Image Credit: Twenty20.com

It shouldn’t be a case of getting out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat, it should rather be the case of not venturing into the kitchen. Any brand which was set up with the outlook that there won’t be competitors was started on the wrong premise and will be plummeted into oblivion.

Any road to success is thorny but paved with advantages, which may be fair or unfair. It borders on putting in personal sacrifices which are prone to constant uncertainty, existential threats, and taking a headlong plunge into making terrifying decisions. It’s definitely not a place for the Lilly-minded and nitwits because you are setting out to engage in a fierce competition with the best minds in the business world.

What you should work tenaciously upon is your competitive advantages. Ensure the things you have going for you are brought to the forefront. You will require the right mix of guts, tactics, timing, and the knack for hitting the rod when it’s red hot because opportunities coming your way should be quickly utilized.

Dilly-dallying will be highly disastrous and very devastating. Your brand may not be a pacesetter and you don’t have a carte blanche to do whatever you fancy, yet it behoves on you to gear up to face competition from the onset.

Amazingly, however, you can effectively outwit your competitors in the global market. You just need leveraging on the following steps:

1. Research other winning brands

A lot of people may consider this to be absurd but that is the joker you have. What you do must be entirely different from other brands in the same industry as your brand. When you concentrate on researching your rivals in the same industry, you may only come up with something akin to what they do.

You, however, need to come up with something completely new and stunning, a whole set of nouveau innovations and the only way to get that is by going out of your industry completely. Your ideas must be mind-blowing and eye-opening not minding that you are possibly a newbie in the industry.

It’s of utmost importance that you build with the future in mind, before launching your product into the market. This singular action of yours will quadruple and ironclad your chances of surviving the onslaught in the market.

“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” – Otto van Bismark

2. Spin your obvious weakness into your strong point

You definitely will have some weak points and your competitors will seek those out to backstab and whip you silly in the market. You shouldn’t, however, be deterred by this. You can swivel this supposedly bad fortune into a huge arsenal for your brand with the attendant result of leaving your competitors on the turf.

A brand’s weak point could be the price. It’s possible your price is on the high side in comparison with others in the market. This is an opportunity to showcase your ingenuity by adding domestic customer service, home delivery, extended warranty, or any other incentive which you know your competitors will chicken out on.

The initial venture will definitely pummel your finances but by the time your prospective customers come to identify these advantages which were supposedly weak points with you, your ROI will skyrocket sensationally. Your competitors who had set out to tailspin you will be wondering what hit them.

3. Stay glued to your clients

The customer is the king and this must be your brand’s watchword. Your taste may be the best in the world but it’s absolute balderdash if it doesn’t resonate with the customer. You must learn to maximize the values your customers hold high and play down other money-grubbing wastes.

To effect this you must stay glued to your customers. Find out what they have going for your products and how you can enhance them. This effort may be a time suck and you may be required to put in odd hours tracking down your customers but it will pay off handsomely.

John C. Maxwell, aptly described this situation when he said “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” Make your customers off-limits to your competitors. You can enhance this by making sure you are constantly in contact with your customers.

“When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.” – John Wanamaker

You should be in tune with those things that can make or break your business as well as having the metrics to measure how well you are doing. It’s absolutely necessary that you know your brand’s fundamental metrics like the average customer value (ACV), cost per acquisition (CPA), return on investment (ROI), and break even.

Business is like the art of war and the best form of defence is to attack.

How to you make sure people stay loyal to your brand? Let us know some tips and advice below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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Startups

Enough With The Word ‘Startup’

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The word ‘startup’ has created a false reality.

When we think of startups we now think of the following:

  • Cool kids wearing their startup t-shirts
  • Co-working spaces
  • Lots of lattes with a picture drawn in the froth
  • San Francisco and how perfect it is (I’ve been there and it’s not perfect:  #HomelessPeopleEverywhere)
  • Unicorns (not the ones you see on kid’s shows)
  • Made up valuations (a GFC fixes this problem nicely)
  • Accelerators (an overload of opinions that are just that)
  • Pitch nights where investors are made to look like Fortune Tellers and experts when the reality is nothing more than this: they’re guessing

 

It’s time to bin the word startup.

The word has no meaning. Day one is the start and then everything after that is just business. By continually using the word startup we’re implying we’re still at the start when we’re not.

“The word startup makes us feel crappy because it puts us in the amateur, early stage, “I’m still learning” category which never expires”

We never know what we’re doing in business completely and that’s a good thing.

Everything is constantly changing and so we’re going to be lifelong learners in the business world whether we like it or acknowledge it.

 

The word ‘Startup” means business so let’s call it that.

Just like a penis, big or small, it’s a fucking penis. Let’s call it what it is.

Maybe you’re a small business with one employee.

Maybe you’re a large corporation with 35,000 employees

Maybe you work one day a week on a side hustle.

Maybe you have two freelancers working for you one day a month.

It’s all just business. Sorry cool kids, the word ‘startup’ doesn’t make business any easier, different, simpler, funkier or any other description you can give.

 

Can everyone really be an entrepreneur?

I’ll give it to you straight amigo: no, they can’t.

“Some of you suck at entrepreneurship even though Instagram sells you on the dream that you can sit on the beach with your laptop, sip a cocktail, take a selfie and do one hour of work a day”

This is all a lie designed to mess with your head and force you to suffer FOMO thus resulting in social media engagement for someone with a landing page that leads to a digital product where there’s a payment wall for you to insert your credit card number and add money to a bank account that’s not yours.

Many of you can’t handle:

  • Risk
  • Stupid amount of stress
  • 12-hour days
  • Managing other people
  • Having to be creative
  • Customers whose demands never stop
  • The game of money
  • Soul crushing failure

The list could go on forever. There are so many components to entrepreneurship.

Only about 1% of people are truly cut out for it. Just like not everyone can be a leader - otherwise there would be no followers - not everyone can be an entrepreneur. And that’s okay.

You’re human - you’ll be okay.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try entrepreneurship. Sometimes giving it a shot and doing it is the only way to find out.

Life is not all about startups and entrepreneurship - there’s more to it than that.

 

When does the ‘Startup Phase’ end?

It doesn’t.

Some people say Stripe is a startup even though they do billions in revenue now. Some people call my side-hustle a startup even though it’s just me.

The word ‘startup’ keeps getting used because somehow it puts you in a different league where growth hackers (I call it sales), dev-ops, UX designers and a whole bunch of other words that describe a team that does sales or builds software exists.

 

A startup is not a startup; it’s called a business.

No more buzz words.

No more unicorns.

No more thinking you’re smarter than your competitors.

No more BS valuations.

No more naming and shaming people who don’t want to be a founder of a startup like you.

Not everyone is in love with startups and not all of us want to be founders. Some people want to be stay-at-home dads or stay-at-home moms.

Some people want to raise their kids instead of being on the front of Startup Daily with a bunch of cool kids.

There’s more to life than fucking startups and #StartupLife.

 

Business is business. 

  1. You build a product or service with you or a co-founder.
  2. You attempt to see whether it solves a problem
  3. You continue validating the idea beyond your mom & dad, friends and work colleagues
  4. You make some money - $1, $100, $100k - it doesn’t matter
  5. You continuously improve the product to make your customers happier
  6. You make them happy and the business makes more money
  7. You build out a team so you can grow the business to be bigger
  8. Then you either stop at where you are and be bloody happy, or you raise money in some form - VC, bank, angels, parents, ICO (insert trendy way to borrow more money)
  9. You hi-five everyone, sell the business and sit on a beach or you keep going because it becomes about more than money

THE END.

 

Final Word On Startups. 

If you want to create a business, then do it. If you don’t then that’s fine too.

Find a problem, solve it and be humble as hell about it if you succeed. There’s more to this world than the ridiculous label that is startup.

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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