Startup Questions Answered

When starting a company, you are bound to have hundreds of questions, wondering if you’re doing it right or if you could be doing it better. Being a startup is hard, especially when you don’t have a mentor or a team with widespread business knowledge. And more often than not, you’ll feel like you have no one reliable to ask your most important startup questions to.

Luckily, Dan Martell, a Canadian entrepreneur and the co-founder of Flowtown, as well as a mentor at 500 Startups and GrowLab compiled a list of his best questions and answers on Sprouter. He gave a lot of great advice, ranging from startup mistakes to how to turn things around after failure.

Here’s what we took away from his insight, our favourite questions and answers:

5. What is the best advice you can give for finding a business partner? Especially if you need to quickly choose someone.

Don’t quickly choose any business partner. That’s like quickly choosing a wife. Instead, find someone and work with them for a month. Do something together .. figure out a project with a goal and end date and see how that goes. Date before you get married. Just like finding a girlfriend, go to where the all the hot girls are (the best club in the city). If you’re looking for business talent – go to the business meetups. If you’re looking for technical talent – go to the dev meetups.

13. How do I stay motivated?

Surround yourself with motivating people. Help others stay motivated. Read great books / especially business biographies. Talk to your customers. Exercise every day – even if it’s for 20 minutes .. walk, bike, run – anything but everyday.

15. What are 3 things that make a startup team successful?

The specific skillz don’t matter… you can hire for those.

18. What is your advice for dealing with criticism when starting/launching a new business or coming up with an idea? Should the idea or business be kept secret?

No, never keep it secret. The key is to ask the right people what they think – not your friends, parents or partner. The right people are potential customers – ask them if they have the problem. Don’t sell your solution, first validate that they feel the pain of the problem you’re solving. Once you’ve confirmed there is a pain, then discuss the way you think it could be solved and judge their reaction. #1 thing, don’t keep it a secret – tell the world.

34. How can we reward our top users without money and without appearing too big brotherish?

You can start by personally emailing them and saying thanks. Doing something public without their permission isn’t cool. I send DM’s, emails, all day thanking people.

37. What advice can you give us to avoid the fear of start our own company and not stay working for someone else?

I don’t know … you might not be entrepreneurs – and I would hate to tell you to quit your jobs, have you end up depressed in a hospital because you couldn’t handle it. That being said, if you really think you can handle it (failing) then quit your job tomorrow – there isn’t a right time. Today is that day.
ESPECIALLY if it’s just you (no family you’re supporting) – you have no excuse what so ever.
Trust me .. even if you fail, and have to get another job, you’ll have had a lot of fun, learned a bunch and be ready for the next one.
I “failed” at the first 2 companies I tried. I just didn’t stop ;)

49. What mistakes do you see companies make when trying to use Twitter?

They don’t think about the customers problem. You should find and share content (and engage with others who do the same) that talks about your customers problems.

Don’t talk about you and your company, talk about the problem. If I ran an airline, I wouldn’t talk about flights, I’d talk about vacations & travel.

58. What are the top 5 reasons entrepreneurs fail?

They give up
They don’t talk to their customers
They hire B players
They can’t sell
They get shitty advice

73. Whats the best startup advice you’ve ever received?

Wow. Just one piece of advice? Can’t pick just one. A few nuggets. 1) Hire A’s. A’s hire B’s, B’s hire C’s. So build a strong base. 2) Co-Founders are the largest form of dilution (if you’re raising) 3) Everything around LeanStartup / Customer Development 4) Understand the micro economics of your business early. Acquisition / Lifetime Value, etc. 5) Competition is good. 6) Always ask for money when you don’t need it. 7) If you don’t speak you won’t be heard. If you don’t write, you won’t be read. 8) The bigger the “Why”, the easier the “How”. 9) Think big, HUGE! You won’t work anymore per se, and it’s just more fun. 10) Metrics. “What you measure, you manage).
Most of that advice come from others (Authors, Entrepreneurs, etc) .. google the originator, they aren’t my originals.
Hope that helps.

75. What questions should I be asking my customers to learn how I could increase my sales?

Ask them “What do you do 3 minutes before and after you use our product / service?” Then decide if you can build more value on either end of that process to demand a higher premium. The more value you add, the more you can charge.

82. What mistakes do you see people make when pitching their company?

The number one thing (for me) is they don’t start with the Why? Why are they solving this problem. Why do they care? Why are they passionate about it?
It blows my mind how often this happens.
If it’s true that most investors care about the person, then shouldn’t the founder quickly establish why they (the person) is solving this problem, and how I can relate.
Tell me the story.
Everyone loves a good story.

94. Whats the most common mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Buy an office dog. (kidding) In reality, there’s a few things I see them do. – Don’t measure the amount of time they have left. (i.e. run out of time and/or money) – They don’t hire the best, it’s typically the easiest person. (friends / family). – Don’t have clarity. Specific / measurable goals. Those are the top 3 most common.

97. What are the top three most common rookie mistakes founders make when dealing with VC’s?

1) They don’t make the problem they’re solving the investors problem. Use relevant analogies and questions to accomplish this.
2) They can’t explain why their idea is a big idea
3) They have too many slides

116. What do you look for in companies you may invest in?

It’s never one thing – but here’s what I like to see. – Product, launched with users. – Thoughts on how they’ll make money. – Ability to clearly communicate. – Domain expertise

139. How can I find a good sales person?

Read the book the Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes goes through the steps and process. It’s what I’ve used to hire any sales person.

Dan gives some really great advice, the whole blog is worth reading – what startup question have you been dying to ask?

@UWVeloCity