My Favorite Things

Where I write about some of my favorite things, mostly around startups, innovation, and accelerators.

Your job is to build the machine

Your job is to build the machine

What’s the difference between a business and a startup? A business has a business model – customers, product, revenue. A startup is a protean organization that doesn’t yet have a clear business model, but is working to figure it out.

Your job as a startup founder is not to create a business. It’s to create the machine that runs the business.

What is the machine?

The machine is the repeatable, predictable, measurable action and results that turn into impact or value for your customers that can be reflected in value.

Nothing else is important until you can explain your machine.

 

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out some of my other Favorite Things here.

There are no magic numbers

There are no magic numbers

There is a pernicious and harmful belief in the startup world that financial models are worthless. A founder toils away, wasting time putting in a bunch of magic numbers into a spreadsheet, with the end goal of showing exponential growth over the next three years. Every financial model has a J-curve showing success, so what’s even the point.

This kind of thinking overlooks the simple fact that financial models are exactly designed to demonstrate how a startup will win. It’s a model for growth and success. So of course it shows exponential growth.

The value of a financial model isn’t in the outcomes, it’s in the inputs.

What are the assumptions the founders are making to reach that kind of growth? How many of those assumptions have they tested and validated already? What is their plan to test and validate the rest of the assumptions? Where are the greatest risks in their model? What kind of backup plans or alternative scenarios have they modeled, in case their assumptions are incorrect?

THESE are the questions that a financial model should be able to answer. The work put into identifying, describing, and measuring those risks is exactly why financial models are critical to the early stages of venture building.

Assumptions clearly outlined in a financial model aren’t magic numbers. They are a plan.

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out some of my other Favorite Things here.

Start as you’d like to continue

Start as you’d like to continue

I just moved to Denver over the weekend. My furniture is scheduled to arrive later this morning, so I’m sitting on the floor in my dining room writing this. And in a minute, I’m going to go for a mile run along Cherry Creek Trail. Not because I feel like going for a run, but because I want to be a runner.

New beginnings, of all kinds – new homes, new jobs, new cities – are a fantastic time to introduce or strengthen a habit. You’re already out of your comfort zone in so many ways, new sounds and smells, new routes to the grocery store, new places to store the extra paper towels. Adding a new habit comes easily.

One of the perks of my new place in Denver is living right next to Cherry Creek Trail, with a beautiful stream and lush gardens and wild places…all right in the city. Today will be Day 3 of running a mile along this trail. It’s going to take more days and more miles for this habit to lock into place, but there’s literally no better time to start.

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out some of my other Favorite Things here.

You want them to chase you down the street with cash

You want them to chase you down the street with cash

Today, I responded to a common founder question on Facebook:

Q: I need suggestions for selling my product.  Every client I talk to has the same problem that they are not convinced that the technology would work as they have never heard about it and to their knowledge no other company is offering such a solution. Has anyone else faced the same issue while selling? Any thoughts/advice on how to convince a client to try a new technology (I am already offering one-month free trial) ?

This is the classic case of a founder recognizing a big problem and solving it…and then doing the work of figuring out who their customer is. Here is how I coach founders through this stage:

Right now, your job isn’t to sell your product to everyone who has the problem you solve. Your job is to identify your early adopters – or as I like to describe them…the people who will chase you down the street with cash. You don’t want to spend precious time and energy right now trying to convince people they need your solution. You want to work closely with people who definitely 100% know they need your solution and are excited to be one of your first customers, hopefully willing to co-create with you as you continue to refine, iterate, and build on the solution over time.

Early adopters have specific characteristics that help you find them. They HAVE the problem you are trying to solve. They KNOW they have the problem. And they are ACTIVELY SEEKING A SOLUTION. Sometimes that looks like them using a competing (but less awesome) solution. Sometimes it looks like a jumbled hack (using spreadsheets in not convenient ways, duct-taping two other products together etc).

The hard work you put into identifying these observable, huntable behaviors will help you in so many ways. You’ll have deep insights into your early customers and you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache from trying to convince the wrong people to love your thing.

 

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out some of my other Favorite Things here.

The Blindspot

The Blindspot

Earlier this year, an investor in San Francisco said to me, “The thing is – all of the problems have already been solved. I can get food delivered to my house, a car to drive me anywhere I want to go. What is left to invest in?”

My response: “Then you need to start investing your money in people who don’t look like you so they can invest in solving problems you don’t have.”

He was surprised by my suggestion, but agreed with me. I was surprised I even had to say it.

There is a huge opportunity in recognizing these blindspots and empowering new voices and new perspectives to find and fund new solutions.

 

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out some of my other Favorite Things here.


I'm Beth McKeon, Director of Fluent.

I provide on-demand accelerator management and entrepreneurial program development consulting. Some of the programs I've worked with recently include Velocity Accelerator in Birmingham AL, Valley Venture Mentors in Springfield MA, and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department in Lincoln NE. Prior to this, I led NMotion in Lincoln NE and founded Kids Calendar, which I sold in 2017.

I combine my passion for product & business design with my education background to deliver hyper-targeted and customer-focused training and product/program development for accelerators, startup ecosystems, and entrepreneurs.

You can reach me at beth@fluentstudio.co.