Thursday, July 11, 2013

10 Internet Startup tips from the Silicon Valley trenches (Part II)

4. Shape your startup's perceived value through stellar entrepreneurial relationships building

Building a business, its brand, and down the road its reputation, starts with working on its perception, building the key stakeholders' perceived value.

By and large, contrary to a lot of inexperienced startup CEO thinking that I have encountered, it is much more rewarding and beneficial to all startup CEOs to think inclusively and not exclusively. In other words, I believe it is of prime importance to build solid entrepreneurial relationships with other CEOs as opposed to seeing them as competitors, competing for the same venture capital money for example.

This cross-pollinating approach allows the startup ecosystem's leaders to navigate the turbulent startup grind waters in a more serene fashion.

First, cross-pollination allows to avoid many obstacles through the common "knowlege base" of startup life (E.g: avoid those who do business on the startup dream), and second, it helps tremendously shape perception.

As you connect in the ecosystem, you will meet inspiring entrepreneurs from well known startups who broke through the IPO stage to become your official advisors in exchange for a small amount of equity (1% post seed round is a good order of magnitude but check out, or their competitors to see benchmarks).

You will gain invaluable insight to scale your venture and will boost your intangible value in key stakholders' eyes (investors, clients, new teammates etc...) many folds.

5. Embrace our sharing economy

As you operate like most Silicon Valley Internet entrepreneurs on a lean budget, you need to find creative ways to stretch every penny. One great fairly new way to do that is to make the most of the advent of our sharing economy.

On airbnb, you can find homeowners who do not have the time to manage their property to run their bnb buisness in an optimal way. Do it for them. That's what I did on several occasions (it's easy, changing sheets, responding to prospective clients requests, doing the check in/walk through) in exchange for an even cheaper rate per night that defided any competition in the Valley.

On top of that, airbnb is also an amazing entrepreneurial cross-pollination hub.

I would say that I have learned even more from meeting other startup CEOs on airbnb than from my official advisors with C-level experiences at well known startups including Pandora and eBay.

Don't hesitate to venture out into the sharing economy of other under-utilized assets such as cars (Lyft, Tickengo for social rides, zipcar, getaround or their competitors for carsharing), and I am sure, many more to come in this rising, distributed, value cloud society of ours.

6. To win your new startup should rise in and with the value cloud

Being a bit more exposed every day to our new sharing economy, we get a feel as consumers for a much stronger phenomenon that is gaining momentum with the new breeds of digital startups emerging from the Silicon Valley. Namely, the distribution of value in a societal "cloud".

High-growth startups in the Silicon Valley, more and more, seem to have understood the value stemming from a distributed, cloudsourced, far-flung organization.

Startup life is about achieving business growth results in the realm of extreme uncertainties on lean resources. As such, finding the right balance that unleashes each teammate potential to fully resonate with the business goals is key, and certainly not easy.

My tip here is to challenge your thinking with the way you interact as a team. I would advocate for a blended approach where a tested mix of in-person and immersive remote collaboration is permeating the startup's operational processes.

I am not sure this has been figured out yet by anyone.  Even well known large high-tech organizations are still trying to crack the code, and I believe there is tremendous potential yet to be unraveled here.

We actually took this approach to the extreme in our startup, using a behavior-based gamification layer to discover the best social e-commerce talents out there, think "remote experts", and hire them based on the shareholder value created through purely far-flung remote collaboration, or co-creation to highlight a favorite HBS term. We had astonishing results and were able to drive key behaviors at no cost but we didn't strike the right balance of traditional/remote organizational design so far to claim that we cracked the code. We feel the code will be discovered by this new breed of extremely agile Silicon Valley digital startups very soon.

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