Notes from the Studio

At Fluent, we work directly with founders, program leaders, and startup ecosystem builders across the United States. We’re developing and testing entrepreneurial training and support tools and methodologies to help founders everywhere beat the odds in their venture-building journey. We share what we’re working on and learning here.

The Machine: Making Customers

One of my founders at Velocity Accelerator joked this week that we need t-shirts for our cohort that say “Build the Machine.” I say it so often, in my workshops and coaching sessions, that it has become the mantra of this cohort. I say it so often, because it’s the most important part of the business for founders to focus on, once they’ve proven they are solving a problem people care about. Too...

What does success look like before we can measure jobs & fundraising?

But if your ecosystem is less than 10 years old, your startup landscape probably consists of a lot of very, very, very early stage companies. These companies are too early to have employees. They’re legitimately too early for funding. So how do we define and measure their progress?

Startups aren’t businesses. They’re speculations.

Once a founder is out on the road pitching their business to investors, they often face the harsh reality that the investors are “grading” them based on a set of metrics, milestones, and indicators that help the investor determine if the startup is investable, if it’s a good bet. Meanwhile, the founder has already gone all in — investing all of their time, energy, creativity, and money into their dream.

Learn more about the Fluent methodology

At Fluent, we are obsessed with pushing the state of the industry forward, specifically for community-based entrepreneurial support organizations.

In The Founder Machine, Fluent CEO Beth McKeon outlines her vision for how startup community leaders can move beyond optimizing for luck in our ecosystems to a model designed to produce predictable, repeatable startup success.

 

Available for purchase: Spring 2019

Learn more about the Fluent methodology

At Fluent, we are obsessed with pushing the state of the industry forward, specifically for community-based entrepreneurial support organizations.

In The Founder Machine, Fluent CEO Beth McKeon outlines her vision for how startup community leaders can move beyond optimizing for luck in our ecosystems to a model designed to produce predictable, repeatable startup success.

 

Available for purchase: Spring 2019 

For Founders

Go be awesome

Not everyone is going to love what you do, what you offer. Not everyone is going to share your values, your dreams, your vision for what could be. Go be awesome. Go do the thing you do, full out, as brilliantly as you are able. Share your values and dreams confidently. Seek out the people who do share your vision and believe in you and what you are building. (They are out there. I promise.) The people who don't get it, don't value it, don't want it don't belong in your world. And that's ok....

I hate pitch competitions

They glorify being certain in an industry that is all about creating value out of thin air, where nothing is certain. They don't differentiate stages, so startups that are very early are pitted against companies that have customers and a product. Often, judges don't even have or use a rubric for scoring. They pick winners based on their "gut", which we know is actually code for bias. They distract founders away from the work they should be doing - talking and selling to customers. It is...

What’s your personal productivity system?

For the past few months, I've been working at about half my normal productivity. There were good reasons for that, and while I didn't necessarily like working less, it was something that my mind and body needed. And I also knew that when I moved to Denver, I wanted to do a hard reset on habits and activities to enable me to re-enter full productivity mode again. Where I'm a beast at getting big, ambitious projects done. My two productivity systems - honed over many years of trial and error -...

One key metric

If I build it, they will come. If I get 300 people to pay $1000, I'll have $300k. That's enough to grow/raise capital/take a breath. If I just try things, something will work. These are all daydreams. Magical thinking. Your creative, disruptive, innovative business is a business. In business, you're looking for a repeatable, predictable machine. When you do X, Y should happen - every time. So... when you do X, what will Y reliably be? What does X need to be? This is your key metric. Each day,...

What’s your riskiest assumption?

Read enough startup advice content and you'll inevitably run across the advice that Focus is critical to success. Founders need to focus on one priority, one goal and relentlessly pursue it if they want to be successful. That advice is correct. In theory. Most startup advice is actually correct in theory. The question though is - what to focus on? What should be the priority? What mental model are we using in order to figure this out? What I've learned from working with founders (and...

Two years of growth in 90 days

The best accelerators operate on two levels - business development and founder development. The person you were the day before starting an accelerator isn't the same person you will be called toward during the three months of intense work, experimentation, feedback, success, and failure. If you are the same person at the end of the three months, you didn't do it right. If you come into an accelerator very product-focused, you'll probably be challenged to get out and talk to customers, sell...

Irrational, but predictable

In a recent post, I wrote that humans are irrational, but predictable. This is one of my favorite sayings. Because it's true! This is the basic reason we need to talk to customers before, during, and throughout the process of creating solutions and products. We can assume all day long that we know exactly why a customer would need our product, but people are irrational. Sometimes, they buy one solution over another because of the color or shape of the product. Sometimes, a fractional...

What can you not do?

It's Monday. What can you not do today? What can you not do this week? Not everything on our To Do list is created equal. Today's a good day to step back from the scrum board and ask the most important question - what can we NOT do. Maybe it's a task that's been languishing for so long, its urgency has passed. Maybe its a project that looks fun but is really just a distraction from the real work that needs to happen. Maybe its something you think you should do, but it would be ok if you...

Work is play

I used to host a big community event for families with lots of hands-on activities. And after each event, I'd look through the photos we'd taken to find the gems we could use to market the next year's event. I was looking for pictures of kids with wide, bright smiles, laughing and joyous. Instead, I had hundreds of photos of kids deep in concentration as they drew pictures, tried to fish a monkey out of a barrel, hop in a straight line, or make sure their balloon on a stick hit their brother's...

Tiny, fast experiments

I was watching Shark Tank this weekend and one of the entrepreneurs who pitched in that episode did not get funding for one reason only. He had a good product. He had a little bit of traction. There were promising signs this business could be successful. But when the sharks asked him what he would do with the money, he said he would put it toward marketing. And that was the full extent of his plan. From that response, the investors started to lose faith in this founder's ability to grow. He'd...

You can stop pitching now

What would it feel like if you could be completely honest about your business? What would it feel like if you didn't have to constantly live in pitch mode? Personally, I think our startup communities would be stronger and we, as founders, would be healthier. Because...

What can you not do?

It's Monday. What can you not do today? What can you not do this week? Not everything on our To Do list is created equal. Today's a good day to step back from the scrum board and ask the most important question - what can we NOT do. Maybe it's a task that's been...

Work is play

I used to host a big community event for families with lots of hands-on activities. And after each event, I'd look through the photos we'd taken to find the gems we could use to market the next year's event. I was looking for pictures of kids with wide, bright smiles,...

Real simple leadership tips

The October issue of Real Simple magazine has an article titled, "How to Raise a Problem-Solver." They give four tips: Make room for play - provide unstructured time for invention and "reasonable" risk-taking Support purpose - assign real work that matters and...

It all adds up

Years ago with my last business, I noticed how big video ads were going to become and started offering to make short videos for my advertisers as a bonus when they signed up for an annual package. Then, I had to teach myself how to shoot and edit videos in iMovie. I...

All good advice

Recently, I've started drinking a full Nalgene of water first thing when I wake up. And for the first time in a long time, I'm hitting my water consumption goals nearly every day. Thing is, I've heard this advice many times before, but never tried it for myself. But...

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