Monday, November 19, 2012

Find and Talk to other Startup Founders of Similar Startups

One of the recommendations I make all the time to startup founders, is to find other founders who have tackled similar problems as yours and talk to them about how they solved these problems.

As an example, I'm working with two sets of founders who are both going to be dealing with Getting Started with a Two-Sided Market Business - they are variants of two sided markets, but have similar characteristics.  They have both chosen to launch first in a particular geography.  Because their audiences are different, they will take very different approaches to how they do their geography specific launch strategy.

My suggestion to both of them is that they should talk to founders (or maybe early employees) who have launched startups with similar characteristics.   You should consider:

  • Audience
  • Product
  • Strategy
  • Business Model
  • Competitive Set

You probably can't talk to someone at a direct competitor (although ex employees may work), but it is generally easy to find parallel businesses.   Who has launched a similar kind of business?  Ideally they've launched these fairly recently.

So who has launched businesses with local focus initially?   Well, there are going to be a ton of these.  Come up with various ideas.  Ask around about others.  But let's just say you came up with Groupon as one of them.

First Stop CrunchBase

Here's the link to the Groupon Profile on Crunchbase.  Here's some interesting things I can find:


You can find Founders listed here.  Former people can be a wonderful source of information as well.  See below for tracking down these folks through LinkedIn.


Acquisitions and competitors can often yield startups that took similar approach to how they rolled out, had some success.  Worth looking through these for some interesting parallels.  Again look for founders.  And save names of of companies that match your criteria.

Second Stop LinkedIn

Advanced people search in LinkedIn is a beautiful thing.


In this case, I'm looking for:

  • Company - put in the related startup
  • Title - "founder" or "marketing" or nothing

You will come back with some very interesting folks.   My suggestion would be to not necessarily target Groupon itself, but more of the competitors and acquisitions.  In some cases, you can target people who were at one point at Groupon and now have founded something else.

Once you've found some people, now its time to reach out.  I've talked about this before in LinkedIn Conversations.  Here are the keys:

  • Show that you are real and serious.  Funded is a good word to use.  As is being specific about your issue.
  • Be brief.
  • Ask for a brief conversation.
  • Don't use the words "pick your brain"

As an example:

Hi Joe,

I'm the founder of an pre-launch, funded startup that will be doing a couple local launches to get early traction and determine whether our business model holds.  We have some ideas on how we will launch this.  It looks like you've been through this exact thing before for a parallel kind of business so I'm hoping you can help me. 

Would you be open to a brief conversation around this?


I like to send these directly, but will do it indirectly through an intermediary when necessary.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

CMO CTO COO Equity and Compensation

I was just asked about a particular startup situation (seed stage, CMO hire, non-founder) and particularly what compensation and equity is appropriate.  I know a lot more about CTOs specifically CTO Salary and Equity Trends 2009-2011, Visualization of Startup CTO Equity and Salary Data, Startup CTO Salary and Equity Data, but I've previously written about the issues with Equity for Early Employees in Early Stage Startups.

To find the equity numbers that were relevant for the particular person here, I went back through my prior post and looked at

Wilson Sonsini and DFJ Gotham Ventures


The Option Pool Shuffle


Employee Equity How Much

How much equity for investors and employees?

Seed Stage Compensation

What are typical compensation numbers?


Quick & Dirty How-To: Employee Stock Option Allocations