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daily articles for founders

Here are 10 quality posts from the Founder's Library:

How to evaluate a non-technical cofounder  

Nathan Hurst on how to evaluate a non-technical cofounder:

If you're joining someone else's company, the team has to be good enough for you to give up [100 - (your equity share)]% of the company. Let's consider the situation where there is a sole non-technical founder approaching you to be the other member of the founding team. How should you evaluate that person/startup?

The key points to look out for, according to Nathan, are:

  • Traction (measured differently for different kinds of startups);
  • Domain expertise;
  • Marketing ability;
  • Fundraising ability;
  • Product skill;
  • Respect for development;
  • Startup experience;
  • Relevant connections/following.

Really, joining a startup as a cofounder is like being a major investor in that startup. You should use many of the same metrics as any investor (as a bonus, this will teach you how to pitch your startup).

One meta-metric that comes to mind, in addition to this list, is whether or not the startup/founder really needs you to succeed. If the startup needs you specifically in order to have a ghost of a chance, then you're not joining it - it's joining you. And so the negotiations about share percentages should reflect that.

Kapil Kale's underground guide to PR for startups  

The six keys, by Kapil Kale from GiftRocket:

  • Have a story
  • If you don't have a story, engineer one
  • Pitch your story to journalists (via warm intros or cold calls)
  • Change your story for different types of blogs
  • Use press to get more press
  • Be determined

Having a story is definitely essential. If you're pitching news bloggers, I'd add that you need to create some kind of event. News bloggers only report on stuff that's up to about 12 hours old. After that, it's stale. If you launched yesterday, don't bother talking to news bloggers. If you're launching in a week, though, they'll be interested.

Don't forget to read this article too.

Why blog?  

Gabriel Weinberg on why and whether he should blogs:

It's not an easy decision, and one that is constantly in your face, simply because blogging takes a lot of time. A good post may take 3-5 hours when all is said and done. That time (for me) is often directly taken away from other professional activity, so the opportunity cost is quite high. In other words, I must have a good reason for doing so or else I really shouldn't be doing it.

Gabriel lists 4 key reasons:

  • Writing leads to understanding: writing things down forces you to think through them more logically.
  • Writing blogs helps you get over your fears of putting your opinion out there: in this, it's very much like public speaking.
  • You can reach the right people: building a following will help you reach an audience with other things you have to say.
  • You can stand out: having a popular blog is a great way to stand out in your field.

I agree with all these reasons and they are great reasons to blog. Personally, I have a few other reasons:

  • I just enjoy it. I love writing, expressing thoughts in the written medium. Throughout my life, I've always spent a good amount of time each day writing things. Whether it has been fiction writing, posting on message boards, commenting on HN, chatting on IRC or even blogging, writing my thoughts out is something that I can't help doing each and every day.
  • Blogging is an opportunity generator. A lot of really excellent opportunities have come my way because of blog posts I'd written. This ranges from coverage from sites like LifeHacker, Slashdot or TechCrunch, to essential business deals that made a big difference to one of my business ventures.
  • It serves a purpose. I like to share useful lessons with others. I'm a big believer that when good ideas spread, we (humans) all benefit. It makes sense to take part in the spreading of good ideas.
  • It's as essential as having business cards: although this is changing these days, with Twitter taking the place of a blog, I still feel like an entrepreneur without any kind of personal or startup blog is a bit strange and incomplete.

I'm sure there are many other reasons to blog. Fundamentally, I think the best reason is because it's just fun.

Progressive signup  

The folks at QuietWrite propose a better way to do sign-up forms: don't.

Basically, we eschew the typical signup wall for a more gradual process over a longer period of time. As the user plays with our product, we gently prod them at certain checkpoints to give us more info. This results in a better and more natural user experience.

Of course, this is nothing new, and Posterous has been a, dare I say it, poster-child of this no-signup or low-touch-signup movement. Every application benefits from allowing the user to stick themselves in as far as possible before being asked to fill in a details form.

This must be carefully balanced against your business's needs, however. Perhaps your business depends on leads capture to such an extent that it needs to capture emails immediately or lose the customer forever. In my experience, those aren't the most thrilling of businesses, but still, this is another decision that you should make deliberately, not by default.

Cheapium instead of Freemium  

Under the moniker "cheapium", Jared Brown proposes a simple and useful idea:

Freemium is the most popular business model among web startups and it's broken. Freemium is a money burning business model (...)

Cheapium works by offering basic features for a nominal cost, usually a dollar or less, while charging a premium for advanced features. This can be in the form of a one-time or recurring fee. Cheapium creates a low, but not trivial, barrier to entry. All users in the system are paying. It might sound like a small difference but this has several advantages over freemium.

It's a very good point. As Jared points out later, price is not just a signal, but also a selector. The people who are willing to pay even $1 for your app are often a different set of people from those who are willing to pay nothing.

Case in point (as anecdotal as it might be), when browsing the App Store, I tend to look mostly for paying apps. I'm willing to pay for the right app and unwilling to spend my time on an app that probably isn't right for me.

Be sure to read through the whole article for Jared's other thoughts.

Best practices for raising a VC round  

Chris Dixon:

Once you start pitching, the clock starts ticking on your deal looking "tired." I'd say from your first VC meeting you have about a month before this risk kicks in. You could have a great company but if investors get a sense that other investors have passed, they assume something is wrong with your company and/or they can wait around and invest later at their leisure.

Read the whole article carefully if you are thinking of raising a round.

Why transparent salaries make sense  

Following up on my recent post about developing a good culture, I noticed Joel Gascoigne posted a brave article exposing the open salary structure at Buffer.

I felt Joel's article missed out a bit on the "why" side, so I wrote a response article to that on the GrantTree Blog: Why transparent salaries make sense

This was posted to HN, and did reasonably well, until the controversy detector flagged up that there were too many comments (apparently this is a very interesting topic for discussions) and then it sank without a trace, so you might have missed it then.

Time-saving web design generators  

This will be useful to someone - particularly when trying to put together a decent design to test an idea quickly. Generators are listed for:

  • loaders
  • colour schemes
  • favicons
  • striped and dot patterns
  • miscellaneous backgrounds patterns
  • tabs, badges, buttons and ribbons
  • CSS3 effects.

Enjoy.

Even Steve Jobs does it  

Jesse Maddox on why CEOs should answer support emails:

Reason #1: Direct Feedback From Customers

Answering support emails and chats is the best way to get direct feedback from customers. As someone responsible for guiding the product vision, this feedback is invaluable to understanding what your users expect and how you're meeting those expectations.

Jesse goes on to list some other reasons:

  • Reason 2: you aren't shielded from product issues
  • Reason 3: your engineers' time is more valuable than yours
  • Reason 4: it forces you to be up-to-speed on technical issues
  • Reason 5: customers appreciate
  • Bonus reason: it's the right thing to do

While I'm not necessarily convinced about all the arguments in the article, I do think it makes a lot of sense for everyone who's building the product - including the CEO and the developers - to be answering support queries. Everyone wins when that happens - especially the users.

Ultimately, the more layers there are between the product people (technical or not) and the users, the worse things go for both the product and the users.

Advice for ambitious 19-year olds  

Great read from Sam Altman, well rounded and sensible advice, providing enough context to help someone make a good decision:

No matter what you choose, build stuff and be around smart people. "Stuff" can be a lot of different things—open source projects outside of class, a startup, a new sales process at a company you work at—but, obviously, sitting around talking with your friends about how you guys really should build a website together does not count.

Can't disagree with that or, indeed, anything else in this article. If you're an ambitious 15-19 year old, have a read.

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