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 Ten out of Ten, 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 Ten out of Ten, 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

It’s gonna be uncomfortable

You know how terrible it feels that you don't know exactly how your startup is going to make money? Or get more customers? And sometimes, you're not even sure if you're solving a real problem? This is the discomfort of building a startup. It's supposed to feel this way. I want to invite you to practice getting comfortable with the discomfort. Lean into it. Embrace the absurdity of how herculean of a task you have in front of you. You are literally creating something out of nothing. Of course,...

Don’t jump off a cliff

You know what's dangerous? Daring new, first-time founders to take crazy risks in the name of being true entrepreneurs. Reid Hoffman is famous for saying, "an entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down." As an entrepreneur myself, this quote speaks to me - the hustle, the nerve, the willingness to do hard and dangerous things. I resonate so much with all of these sentiments. And yet, as someone who coaches founders, I also hate this quote....

Do you need a little break?

I was catching up with a close friend and very successful entrepreneur yesterday, and she shared how unproductive she has felt for the past few weeks. She was still getting the basics accomplished each day, taking care of customers etc, but also spending a lot of time on fun stuff like checking out new music and bingeing on Netflix. My response? You must have needed it. And I've said this enough, to her and about myself, at various times over the years, it's almost a life motto. We often feel...

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...

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 do you need to learn today?

Entrepreneurs are great at learning and teaching themselves things. Need a website? Learn to code. Need more customers? Learn to sell. Need capital? Learn how to pitch and fundraise. The best entrepreneurs also know how to focus and learn only what they need right now. With the crazy glut of content and information on entrepreneurship available on the interwebs (this blog included), it's easy to get distracted, to fall down a rabbit hole reading and learning. But right now, you only need to...

Listen, then sell

So you get an opportunity to pitch your product to someone important at a big company. It's your first time meeting them and you want to make the most of your big chance. What should you do? Should you put together a slick presentation? I think the stronger approach is to go in and interview him or her to find out what their goals and motivations are. What problem can you solve for them with this? If you don't know that before the meeting, you could end up trying to sell them on an idea they...

Are you product-focused or business model focused?

At Fluent, I'm obsessed with helping first-time founders build startups like serial entrepreneurs. I think we can do a LOT better than one out of ten startups succeeding and a big part of that is equipping first-time founders with the mindsets and skills of an experienced founder as they navigate the early risks of their venture-building. And here is the number one difference I see between first-time founders and serial entrepreneurs... First-time founders are product-focused. They saw a...

Can you picture each foothold?

Champion athletes win because they have spent years of their lives practicing for the big game. And not just practicing to develop muscle memory, which makes sense for physical activities, but also to visualize each move, each scenario. Recently, I watched Free Solo, the story of Alex Honnold's no-ropes climb of El Capitan, a physical feat that would not have been possible without extreme mental preparation. Over the course of the film, we watch Alex spend YEARS practicing and testing...

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...

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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