Write Your Equivalent of The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan

Exactly 11 years ago from tomorrow Elon Musk famously published The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me). Few people read it then and most that did didn’t take it seriously. Only, now, over a decade later, it’s come to fruition. And, from that, entrepreneurs should learn an important lesson.

But first, from the post, the master plan is:

  1. Build sports car
  2. Use that money to build an affordable car
  3. Use that money to build an even more affordable car
  4. While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
  5. Don’t tell anyone.

Entrepreneurs should take this concept — a simple long term master plan — and write one out for their startup. Make it clear, concise, and easily understood. Then, share it with everyone.

The best way to see the future is to invent it.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the Secret Tesla Motors Plan and entrepreneurs building their own plan?

Atlanta Startup Village #49

Atlanta Startup Village #49 just finished up at the Atlanta Tech Village. The event is free and open to the public. Join us.

Here were tonight’s presenting startups:

  • Fetch: Truck Rental Made Easy
  • Leadkit: Real Estate Technology & Lead Generation for the Modern Agent
  • Zenway: Data analytics for the next generation of super-efficient clean vehicles
  • Profound Studio: Expert home recording help
  • BashBlok: Make your Bash a Smash

Visiting Atlanta in the future? Join us at an Atlanta Startup Village event.

Entrepreneurs that Can’t Sell

Last month I was talking to an entrepreneur that lamented he can’t sell. No matter how hard he tries selling his prototype to prospects, his idea to investors, or his vision to potential employees, it’s just not clicking. After hearing this, I asked a few questions about his strategy and approach. It became clear that a little feedback was in order.

Here are a few thoughts for entrepreneurs that are having a hard time selling:

  • Go with Passion – Emotion and passion are critical for entrepreneurial selling. Figure out what’s energizing and ensure it’s shared with the audience.
  • Know the Audience – Prospects, investors, and potential employees all warrant a different pitch. Think through what the audience wants to hear and map it out in a simple Google Doc. Ask a friend for feedback and constantly refine the message.
  • Read up on Sales – Start with the classic sales books like How to Win Friends and Influence People as well as many others. In addition, there are a number of excellent sales articles online.
  • Find a Co-Founder – Look for a co-founder that has a complementary skill set — plenty of people out there love to sell and are good at it. Take a look at The Co-Founder Complement.

Entrepreneurs that can’t sell need to improve their skills to get them up to a modest level and find a partner that can help. Selling isn’t easy but with effort can always be improved.

What else? What are some more thoughts for entrepreneurs that have a hard time selling?

Feature Death March

Last week I talked to a pre-revenue startup that felt if they could just hire another developer and add one more important feature to their product, customers would start buying. In the book Angel by Jason Calacanis, he describes this as the “feature death march” where the entrepreneur has had limited success to date and feels if they just add one more major feature, customers will start buying.

Prospects saying they’ll purchase the product when it has one more feature is often an excuse. If the prospect is serious, and the feature fits the entrepreneur’s vision, get the prospect to commit to buying the product now with a timeline for when the feature will be done. Ask for a signed contract. Once a contract is involved, and terms are negotiated, it gets serious. Too often, entrepreneurs go on a feature death march only to bring the new feature back to the prospect and have them still say “no” and ask for another, different feature or outright say they won’t buy it.

Missing an important feature can be a legitimate reason for a prospect to say “no” but more often than not, it’s an excuse and they’ll never buy. Figure out the difference and don’t go on a blind feature death march.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the idea of a feature death march?

Video of the Week – Zach King: The storyteller in all of us

For our video of the week, watch Zach King: The storyteller in all of us. Enjoy!

From YouTube: Zach is a filmmaker, born and raised in Portland. He started his film journey at age seven when his parents gave him a camera at a wedding. After being rejected from film school, he started the YouTube channel “FinalCutKing,” where he posted video editing tutorials. Zach has garnered more than 400,000 subscribers to his channel. In September 2013, he launched a Vine account based around his “magic” editing and has grown an audience of nearly 1 million fans.

SaaS 1,000 for Researching SaaS Startups

Tom Blue and his company published a cool little micro-site today called SaaS 1000. From the site:

The SaaS 1000 is a list of the top SaaS companies according to employee size growth. We have created a simple algorithm that tracks a SaaS company’s 6 month employee size growth and overall employee size to come up with the SaaS 1000 ranking.

One of my recommendations for entrepreneurs researching competitors, prospects, etc. is to go on LinkedIn and check out the respective employee count for the company. This SaaS 1000 list has that data and goes one step further showing the six month employee growth rate, which is great for understanding how fast the business is growing.

For entrepreneurs researching potential business ideas, this is a great way to understand companies that are hiring fast, and thus potential markets to build a competitor.

For entrepreneurs looking for peer groups of other entrepreneurs in their city, this is an excellent starting point (e.g. it lists 25 startups in Atlanta).

Interested in Software-as-a-Service? Check out SaaS 1000.

Desired Proof Points to Raise a Seed Round

Over the last few weeks several entrepreneurs have reached out asking for advice on what’s required to raise a seed round of several hundred thousand dollars. Now, most seed rounds are still a huge leap of faith, but with enough validation some of the risk can be reduced.

Here are a few desired proof points to raise a seed round:

  • A Must-Have Product – In the nice-to-have vs must-have product debate, it needs to be a clear must-have product (see 5 Questions to Determine a Must-Have Product).
  • Modest Metrics + Revenue – The seed stage is all about proving product/market fit and the start of a repeatable customer acquisition process. Progress with simple weekly metrics is important combined with low six-figures of recurring revenue.
  • Strong Weekly Growth – With modest metrics and revenue, the key is showing that they’re moving in the right direction on a weekly basis. Weekly revenue growth of at least 5% is ideal (see Recurring Revenue and Week Over Week Growth).

Raising a seed round is done based more on belief than hard facts, but having these three proof points greatly increases the chance of success.

What else? What are some more proof points to raise a seed round?