More Food for Thought from Failure
Mark Goldenson, a co-founder of a failed startup called PlayCafe, has a guest post at VentureBeat where he discusses lessons learned from his experience. The whole column is worth a read, but here are a few things that popped out at me as being worth further comment:
- “Content is an order of magnitude harder than technology with an order less upside.” As someone who has done both technology and content myself, I can wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Good content, whether written or in audio/video form, requires more resources than you expect. Essentially, I would double whatever your initial expectation of people and costs may be before you are likely to even be in the neighborhood of what it will take to be a success. At the same time, revenues are a challenge if you are a content-oriented startup. You need traffic before you can get good ad deals which means you need a long runway. None of this is to say that content cannot be successful … it absolutely can, but you probably need to think more creatively about how you monetize it and how you sustain the momentum of quality, regular content before you reach break-even.
- “A metaphor I like is that a chess novice can defeat a master if moving
twice each round. This generally increases bugs and offends
perfectionists, but I agree with Reid Hoffman that if you review your
first site version and don’t feel embarrassment, you spent too much
time on it.” In other words, build your web site/product fast and be prepared to keep changing it. Anyone who works for me knows that I love to say, “never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” You don’t want to turn out crap, but at the same time you should be willing to start with something that is “good enough” and keep plugging away at improving it.
- “the best marketing is controlled and calculated. If you know exactly
how much it costs to acquire a user and you control the entire process,
you then know how much capital and revenue you need, reducing your
marketing plan from fuzzy guesswork to a clean formula.” I’m a huge fan of metrics, perhaps to a fault. I want to know what everything costs and what the ROI of every activity is. I’m not sure I agree anything is a truly “clean formula” because there are many assumptions and allocation decisions that must go into metrics, but you can certainly get a damn good idea of the cost and return. And you should.
- “Plenty of useful advice conflicts for this reason: Know Your Customer vs. Build For Yourself, Don’t Raise Too Much vs. Don’t Raise Too Little.
The better answer to these questions is It Depends. Advice isn’t like
code that’s easily executed, but like map coordinates that require
skill and context.” Ah, yes. The famous “It depends” rule that I think I first heard in a political campaign management seminar I attended when still not yet of (legal) drinking age. It’s no less valid today, though, and is worth considering even as you read my opinions here.