Here's my compilation of 2011's best posts about managing startups. I assembled similar lists at the end of 2010 and 2009. Please use comments to suggest additional posts. Happy New Year!
- Eric Ries's book, The Lean Startup, is a must-read for entrepreneurs.
- Elad Gil outlines the pros and cons of staying in stealth mode.
- Andrew Chen unpacks the concept of product-market fit.
- The Startup Genome Project presents research on thousands of startups in a pair of reports. Be sure to read their report on premature scaling, the leading cause of startup failure.
- Alex Osterwalder, coauthor of Business Model Generation, which introduces the business model canvas widely used by entrepreneurs, lists eight questions you should ask about your business model.
- David Skok analyzes key factors for success with the SaaS model.
- Mark Suster gives advice for startups with applications that face a substitution threat from in-house versions developed by big platforms.
- My 10-part series on business model analysis covers a range of topics.
Naming a Startup
Customer Discovery and Validation
- Laura Klein describes five fast/cheap/easy approaches to user research and usability testing.
- Josh Porter of HubSpot explains why A/B testing shouldn't be limited to small changes.
- Brant Cooper reviews biases that managers from different functions bring to the customer development process.
- Rob Walling on ways to use inexpensive advertising to improve a site and learn about visitors.
- This infographic from FormStack (via Boston Innovation) analyzes the anatomy of a perfect landing page.
- Ben Yoskovitz describes how and why to use the "day in a customer's life" technique.
- Elizabeth Yin offers advice on how to find and interview potential customers.
- Three posts by Cindy Alvarez: 1) on how to cope with the fact that research respondents' answer to "Do you want...?" is always "Yes!"; 2) how and why to use personas in product development; and 3) "10 Things I've Learned" about customer development.
- Mark Suster reflects on how and why startups should use metrics.
- Fred Wilson describes conversion metric targets for social media companies.
- Presentation by Cindy Alvarez of KISSmetrics on conversion rate benchmarks for different types of web businesses (big download, but worth the wait!).
- Andrew Chen collects retention rate metrics from several sources.
- Avinash Kaushik on key metrics for small, medium-sized, and large ecommerce sites.
Demand Generation and Optimization
- Fred Wilson and Mark Suster each offer general advice on startup marketing.
- Cindy Alvarez on how to analyze reasons for low signup rates.
- Avinash Kaushik offers three techniques for analyzing website conversion rates and describes why and how marketers should use controlled experiments.
- Mixergy's Andrew Warner interviews Miguel Hernandez on how to produce videos that drive customer acquisition (scroll down for podcast transcript).
- Akshay Arabolu offers a great compilation of posts on startup marketing.
- Mark Suster on how startups should use PR.
- Joel Spolsky and Charlie O'Donnell each discuss the pros and cons of launching at a conference like SXSW.
- Erica Swallow offers 10 tips for managing startup PR.
- Mark Suster interviews Buzzfeed's Jon Steinberg, discussing strategies for building website virality.
- A presentation by David Skok on the science behind viral marketing.
- Sharad Goel on why virality is more rare than one might expect.
- David Skok discusses how to build trusted sales relationships and interviews HubSpot VP-Sales Mark Roberge on SaaS sales best practices.
- Mark Suster reflects on excuses offered by startup salespeople and interviews Vince Thompson and Mo Ali, who discuss startup sales best practices.
- Steve Blank on the often contentious relationship between sales and marketing in startups.
- Michael Woloszynowicz on managing the risk of feature creep when sales offers input during the customer development process.
- Chris Dixon on the Goldilocks Principle of business development, that is, how a big company may view partnership opportunities with a startup that is "too hot" vs. "too cold" vs. "just right."
- Fred Wilson on how an orientation toward users versus brands should drive business development and other priorities at a startup.
- Curtis Smolar on the legality of content scraping.
- In Venture Deals, Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson offer a terrific, in-depth explanation of term sheets, funding strategy, VC motivations, etc.
- Fred Wilson discusses working capital financing and customer financing.
- Dan Weinreb discusses the pros and cons of working with angel groups in seed rounds.
- Ty Danco reviews reasons why an angel will walk away from a funding opportunity.
- Jason Calacanis and Fred Wilson each discuss how much money a startup should raise.
- David Hornik and Fred Wilson each discuss the pros and cons of convertible notes.
- Mark Suster and Fred Wilson each discuss strategy for pricing follow-on rounds.
- Chris Dixon on best practices for raising a seed round and a VC round.
- David Beisel discusses the importance of having VC partner buy-in for a Series A round.
- Mark Suster offers practical presentation tips, a primer on how to pitch to VCs, and thoughts on how/why to pitch without a deck.
- Matt Rosoff summarizes a panel with five VCs describing best practices for pitching.
- Brendan Baker on how to communicate traction to investors.
- Jason Baptiste on best practices for demo day pitches, and Jason Cooper on the downside of demo days.
- Robin Wauters/TechCrunch describes Adeo Ressi's one-sentence approach for pitching a startup; a list of pitching resources from Ressi's Founder Institute.
Are We in a Bubble?
- Commentary on startup valuations and whether we are in a bubble from Eric Ries, Steve Blank, Fred Wilson, Mark Suster (via Alexia Tsotsis), Mike Arrington, Keven Lin (analysis of Crunchbase data), Dominic Rushe/paidcontent, Wade Roush/Xconomy, and KISSmetrics/FeeFighers (infographic via Jolie O'Dell/Mashable).
- Errant on the logic behind Color's high valuation.
- Brad Feld on founders agreements and equity splits and on the cap table impact of hiring a CTO.
- Mark Suster on why a startup doesn't need a COO and why the advantages of having a cofounder are often overstated.
- Fred Wilson on the strengths and weakness of 1st-time vs. serial entrepreneurs.
Recruiting and HR Policy Issues
- Steve Blank offers a radical proposal for reinventing the startup board meeting.
- Jeff Bussgang summarizes best practices for running a startup board meeting.
Management Advice, Not Elsewhere Classified
- David Beisel on how to do due diligence calls for recruiting, biz dev, fund raising, etc.
- Mark Suster on the value of cutting out middle-men in different types of startup negotiations.
- Ben Horowitz advises startup managers on how to avoid being misinterpreted by employees.
- James Altucher and Ben Horowitz each give advice to startup CEOs on the decision to sell their company.
- A 4-part series from John O'Farrell giving advice to startups on going global.
- Fred Wilson on target burn rates at different stages in a startup's life cycle.
- Jason Cohen on startup problems that cannot be solved with money.
- Analysis by ChubbyBrain of the top 20 reasons for startup failure.
- Rid Empson/TechCrunch description of Startup Genome research on premature scaling as the leading cause of startup failure (scroll down for infographic).
- Quora thread on why startups fail.
- Thoughtful post-mortem from former head of biz dev for OneTrueFan.
- Vin Vacanti offers advice on when to shut down a startup.
The Startup Mindset and Coping with Emotional Pressures
- Ben Horowitz gives advice to startup CEOs on managing their own psychology and the fine line between fear and courage when making difficult decisions.
- Steve Blank on why entrepreneurs are like artists and how aspiring entrepreneurs can fail from lack of nerve.
- Dharmesh Shah on 23 questions that keep entrepreneurs up at night.
- Jason Cohen on what to do when the emotional pressure of founding a firm makes you want to throw in the towel; Spencer Fry on coping with this pressure.
- James Altucher offers 100 rules for being an entrepreneur.
Career Planning Issues
- Charlie O'Donnell on how to switch careers and join a startup.
- Randall Bennett on what you can gain from working at a startup with low survival odds.
- Simeon Simeonov offers 10 reasons to join a startup and gives practical advice on how to find the right startup position.
- A 3-part series by David Beisel on how to find the perfect startup job.
- Jason Cohen on why it's important for entrepreneurs to blog, and how to get started.
- Brad Feld shares the TechStars Mentor Manifesto: great advice for anyone coaching startups.
- Rob Go on the downside of a career in venture capital.
- Alex Krupp: "How I got into Y Combinator as a Non-Technical, Single Founder."
Tools for Entrepreneurs
- Lists of tools for startups from Steve Blank, Startup Weekend, PBworks, NashCoding, Shyam Subramanyan/List.ly, and Jaret Manuel.
- List of online survey tools from Eric Leland/ideaware.
- List of resources for designers and developers from Brian Hernandez.
- A guide to getting started with iOS development from withoutfriction.