Traffic Growth for a New Blog With Frequent Content

Recently two entrepreneurs in town started new blogs to document their thoughts, share their theories, and help other people. As part of that process one of the common questions is how many people will read it? I don’t have many sources of data but I’m happy to provide some monthly visitor stats from this blog as a baseline for others to get a feel for how things might work.

Monthly stats at six month intervals since the start of this blog:

  • Jan 2009 – 739
  • Jul 2009 – 1,115
  • Jan 2010 – 2,565
  • Jul 2010 – 3,591
  • Jan 2011 – 6,197
  • Jul 2011 – 8,628
  • Jan 2012 – 13,430

So, from a standing start with a clean slate, this blog went from less than a thousand visitors in the first month to over 13,000 visitors exactly three years later with 1,072 blog posts published in the interim. I don’t know how this compares but assuming it’s average then it takes an impressive amount of time and effort to get a modest of regular traffic (most traffic comes from Google with social media being the second major source).

What else? What other traffic growth pattens have you seen from blogs and sites with frequent content?

Two Requirements for Success from The Advantage

Patrick Lencioni’s most recent book, The Advantage, is one of the best business books published in the past year. Early on he argues that there’s two requirements for success in business:

  1. Smart – strategy, marketing, finance, and technology
  2. Healthy – minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity, and low turnover

Most executives focus on the “smart” side of the equation because it is easier to deal with, taught in school, and believed to be the differentiating part of running a successful business. The reality is that the “smart” requirement is now much more of a given due to the availability of information, educational background of executives, and competitive nature of most markets in the Internet age.

The “healthy” side of the equation is the one that isn’t given enough attention and over the next 10-20 years will become just as top-of-mind and worked on as the “smart” side. Entrepreneurs and executives that don’t embrace the “healthy” side will have more limited lifespans and outcomes compared to those that do. Some people will deride it as being fuzzy and a corporate culture ploy but in the end a strong corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage completely within the control of the company’s leaders.

What else? What are your thoughts on the two requirements for success from Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage?

Entrepreneurs Should Focus on One Startup and One Idea

Last week I was judging the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards at the EO Nerve Atlanta 2012 conference. One of the student entrepreneurs presented his business and at the end said he was working on two other startup ideas the same time. Ouch, there a was big subtraction of points for lack of focus.

Earlier today I was on a panel titled Startups Are Not Businesses Like Caterpillars Are Not Butterflies at the TiECON Southeast 2012 conference. One of the first questions from a guest in the audience was a conundrum about her two related startups and whether or not she should do one or both simultaneously. My response was direct: focus on one startup and one idea at a time.

The risk for most startups is not whether or not you’ll fail, but rather will you fail fast enough to keep going if the idea isn’t the right one. Most initial ideas aren’t right, even though the area or market might be right, and not giving it enough attention means you won’t make enough progress to realize it won’t work and to find a related iteration or more comprehensive pivot that will work. More focus equals more progress which equals more chance for success.

Now some people will point out successful parallel entrepreneurs that have multiple multi-million dollar businesses and say that they aren’t focusing on one startup and one idea. The reality is that they are focusing on one startup and one idea, but they’ve achieved enough scale with their organizations that they have senior executives 100% focused on an individual venture. So, while the entrepreneur might have multiple businesses, people within each business are exclusively focused on their respective business.

What else? What are your thoughts on entrepreneurs focusing on one startup and one idea?

Extracting Talent from Large Companies to Work in Startups

There’s a serious talent shortage right now for strong analytical and technical people. It’s a shortage for startups and established companies alike. Startups, inventing the future, are a much better place for the talent but it’s difficult to convince people that there’s a better, more exciting opportunity when things are good enough. People are generally averse to change.

Startups, as a community, need a more concerted effort to extract talent from large companies. Here are a few ideas to start extracting more talent:

  • Work harder to target and invite developers to meetups around certain technologies or programming languages — one of the best ways to convince someone to change jobs is to talk to them in person about some common bond
  • Additional content marketing around tech talks, best places to work, and more so that people will be exposed to other corporate cultures that get them excited
  • Better articulation of the value of startups having more autonomy, mastery, and purpose
  • More highlighting that large companies aren’t as safe as people believe, with the recent Google office closing and Yahoo layoffs as prime examples

Extracting more talent from large companies to work in startups will be hard. Very hard. For startup communities to thrive, especially in markets that are still aren’t mature, extracting more talent from large companies is one of the best things they can do.

What else? What are some other ways to extract talent from large companies to work in startups?

Billboards and Startups

Driving up and down the 101 in Silicon Valley you’ll see a highway littered with billboards for startups and established technology companies. Some of these billboards are advertising products and some are advertising job openings (“you could be at work now and commute less…”). With all the talk of moving off-line spending online, billboards in my city seem to be doing fine as there is no shortage of advertisers for them.

Last week RippleIT put up a new billboard in a prime part of town to increase brand awareness in an area dense with attorneys and creative types. The goal isn’t necessarily to directly produce leads, although that would be nice, but rather to educate people on the brand so that they’re more likely to respond to an outbound call or referral.

Interestingly, very few billboards have unique web addresses on them to track how many times people typed in the value.  Yes, some have QR codes, which is even crazier, but I would think short web addresses would be common by now. Perhaps billboard advertisers are less savvy or they know more than I do and don’t bother with unique URLs since no one types them in anyway.

With the talent war and talent shortage in certain areas I suspect that we’ll start seeing more billboards for startups outside of Silicon Valley. Startups need to make a more concerted effort to extract smart people out of large companies so that they have the opportunity to be a part of something much more exciting. Billboards aren’t the only answer but they can be part of a comprehensive solution.

What else? What are your thoughts on billboards and startups?

Business Idea: Career Fairs at Trade Shows and Industry Events

Hiring A+ team members that fit your corporate culture is a serious challenge. In fact, talent is the most pressing challenge for almost all successful startups I know. Earlier today I was talking to an economic development person brainstorming ideas to help with the talent shortage and came up with a simple one:

Business idea – A service that runs career fairs outside trade shows and industry events.

Since the trade show and industry event attendees are already in the physical city for a specific event, it’s much easier for a local employer to try and sell them on the area and the position in person. Now, some interaction would need to be discrete as people that are gainfully employed don’t want to have their co-workers seeing them talk about a new job. The economics are easy based on the fees paid to recruiters to fill positions, especially specialized skills in high demand.

Economic development agencies should be supportive as well since it’s much better for a company to employee someone locally instead of a in a different area so that all the taxes paid and money spent by the person go into the local economy. Yes, economic development is a zero sum game but it’s a game that’s still played on a regular basis.

Trade shows and industry events have a unique, captive audience that should be tapped for talent by local firms. It isn’t the easiest or most direct form of recruiting but getting great talent is never easy.

What else? What are your thoughts on the idea of a business that runs career fairs at trade shows and industry events for markets with sought-after talent?

Gathering User Feedback For An Established Product

User feedback is critical for building a successful software product. As the product matures and becomes established, user feedback is easier to get, but can also become overwhelming with requests from so many different constituents. Here are some ideas for gathering user feedback for an established product:

  • Quarterly check-in calls by a client advocate or account manager to find out how things are going
  • Idea exchange with single sign-on so that customers can post ideas and vote on other ideas
  • In-app net promoter score where you ask once per quarter how likely they are to recommend the product
  • Regional user groups with a company team member facilitating
  • Annual users conference with significant customer interaction
  • Customer advisory board that does a quarterly conference call with the VP of Product Management

Gathering user feedback with these methods is the easy part. The real challenge is organizing the information and combining it with your own vision and opinion for the product. Then, clearly communicating the direction and future functionality with the key stakeholders.

What else? What are some other ways to gather user feedback for an established product?