Start Up Blog

The clock is back

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 28, 2011

The good people at Native pointed me to Made in the now which is an interesting web t-shirt company. They make and sell one limited edition t-shirt every 24 hours inspired by the news of the day. One thing they do is have a count down timer in the top right hand corner of their home page. A lot like we are seeing on group buying sites.

It’s an interesting way to add urgency to a store that is always open. A way to get people to act now, when they know they can usually come back whenever they choose. It’s not a new idea, the whole concept of a real estate auction isn’t to get the highest price, but to force a sale date. As the real estate agents only make their commission when the property sells. So bringing a sale forward is in the commercial interest of any business.

One could argue that forcing someone to buy is slightly unethical. But the flip side is that it gives us a way of finding out if we have our marketing mix right sooner than we normally would without have an expiration date.

The question for startups is what will our clock be?


Our writing really matters

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 26, 2011

This guy put some effort into writing the words that appear on his website. The result of his writing is around 10,000 people shared it with their friends. Read it.

The words we publish matter a lot.


2 horse race

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 10, 2011

If you haven’t already read the 22 Laws of marketing – then you should. It’s a short book which really should be called the 22 laws on entrepreneurship. It seems that most of the laws are true on a category scale – the type of scale that startups with big dreams should pay attention two. recently I’ve been reminded of the law 8: The law of duality.

The Law of Duality says that “in the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.”

The most recent example of this is Twitter and Facebook. it seems as though they’ve won the social web race. Every brand or advertisement is now tagged with ‘find us on Twitter & Facebook’. We have to look pretty hard to find any of the other 400+ social networking sites. It seems the Law of duality is still true almost 2 years after it was written. It seems that certain power laws of dominance still exist, even though we all like to believe the market has fragmented and opened up for everyone….

The truth is there is only so much space in the mind. We can’t carry the baggage of too many ideas with us. So we simplify by limiting what we participate in. There’s lots new world industry examples of the law of duality.

Social: Facebook  & Twitter

Search: Google & Bing

Mobile: iPhone & Android

Computers: PC & Mac

The question for internet entrepreneurs, is which new categories are still to get their number 2 player. That is where the opportunity lies.


How to build a community

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 2, 2010

We all want to build a web and or brand community. But we forget the most important fact. We need individuals first.

Only we please one individual can we please two. Only when we please two, can we please three….

There will never be a community unless we love our orginal individuals unconditionally. It’s the love we give someone that makes what we do worth talking about. There is never a community unless love is shared at the most personal level. One to one. It’s something we should remember in startup land.


Why scoreboards matter

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 20, 2010

Humans are compelled to count. We count everything. Days, weeks, months, years, birthdays, money in the bank, salary levels, years of experience. It’s part of the human condition, maybe it helped us evolve to a civilised existence .

As startup entrepreneurs we need to let our people count something. Whether it’s the savings they made or they friends they have, there needs to be a way for them to keep track. So our people know they have made progress. Commerce is an anthropological game of football. So we must keep score. But it must go beyond the corporate scoreboard of profit, share price, turnover, number of employees… it has to be an audience focused score. Like followers on twitter. It has to be about them, not us, it’s how humans roll.


Feature Creep

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 11, 2009

The art of adding features to any product or service is this:

Those who need or want the new features can find them easy.

Meanwhile those who don’t need or want the features don’t even notice them. They are invisible.

Sounds impossible to do, but I think the team at twitter are doing a pretty good job of it. The way I’d try and achieve this would be by making sure the visual structure doesn’t change, and the sequence of events to use it is not interrupted.

shhh – here comes the controversy.

International team & Time zone issue

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 9, 2009

I’ve always been an evangelist for international outsourcing. Especially as it pertains to digital work. I was asked recently if it has added complexity because of time zone differences. I had never consider the issue before, so I stopped to think about it for a while.

And this is my answer:

Having staff work on the other side of the world is usually an advantage. It feels like we have double the amount of business hours in a day. For example, when it is 5pm and something important comes up, I don’t have to wait for the next day for it to get started on. I can brief it out, and have it on my desktop by the next morning. For small startups getting things done quickly is what matters, and this process is a bit like inventing time.

Startup blog says: having a team in different time zones is rad.

Consumer language & leadership

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 27, 2009

It’s one thing to be clear and succinct in our copy writing, and it’s another thing entirely to create language which means something to consumers. Language which paints a clear picture in the consumers minds that you can solve their problems. The best way to do it is to relate numbers to something we are all very familiar with…. ‘Join for the price of a coffee a week.’

In recent times some of the world leading websites have done this beautifully. Web businesses where scale matters to the end users, websites where this type of language can be the difference between a click out, and instant confidence. – A new job loaded every 30 seconds (Great this’ll have the job for me for sure…) – $201 million in provider earnings. (Wow, I will make money using this site…) – 2744 uploads in the last minute (This is a safe place to store my photos…)

As soon as we read information like the examples presented above we know we are in the right spot. That we can do our business right there, right at that moment. And I know what you are thinking, this is the type of language that is limited to the successful few – not so, all it takes is a little bit of creativity to find some numbers which mean something….

We just need to work out what we are the most, best, biggest, quickest at, and there will be something. Maybe your site is the hyper local expert. Has more X from your city. The most members in Y community or the lowest click out rates for the industry? Even a micro website does something the best. And as soon as we work out what we are the ‘most’ at, we need to put it right there on the home page, no better yet, the top of every page on our website.


Set up costs

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 19, 2009

When starting out in business the first thing we often do is set up the relevant legal structures:

  • Partnership agreement
  • Logo design
  • Business name registration
  • Operating company
  • Holding company
  • Non disclosure agreement
  • Holding company trust
  • Member terms & conditions of product / web usage
  • Specific bank account
  • Small business book keeping software
  • insert other legalese business recommendation here

Startup blog advice is this: Don’t waste your time or money. Get revenue first, register later.

With the only possible exception being a .com registration – which if you’re in the on line world may be an actual requirement to simply operate. No doubt this is contrary to all you’ve read in business guides. Sure, keep accurate cash flow books, run things professionally and stick to project deadlines. The reason for the recommendation is pretty simple. Most startups never get to revenue. If you’re like me you have a hard drive full of business ideas, half written business plans, and a spare room full of product prototypes. Until we have revenue (which doesn’t mean a couple of orders, it means thousands of dollars) we have nothing to protect. It also adds a strong reporting and administration burden which startups could well do without.


So why waste time and money building a fence around nothing? Build the castle first, or at least get the foundations in place. If we follow the lawyers advice, they may be the only people who ever make money from the venture.


The Feedback Trap

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 23, 2009

I recently heard an interview with the Drummer from band Midnight Oil, Rob Hurst. He was asked how he felt about a particular record which made it to number 1 on the US charts. His response was this:

‘We were too busy touring, putting on shows to follow the bands progress.”


It sounded as though serving the fans they already had was more important than gaining new ones. And guess what happens when we do that? Our reputation grows and more fans arrive, they find us because we are delivering something special to those who already appreciate what we are doing.

The formula for success is to continue to focus on delivering good stuff to those who already believe in you. To improve our delivery to them. Just like Midnight Oil was continuing to perfect the live performance of it’s songs. They weren’t worrying if their songs were good enough, they weren’t focused on external feedback from sources like sales revenue or chart positions. They ignored all feedback, except that from existing fans (customers). They didn’t get caught in the feedback trap.

So what are the feedback traps of the modern entrepreneur?

–    Website traffic
–    Google analytics
–    Facebook friends
–    Twitter follows
–    AC Nielsen data
–    Market share statistics
–    (Insert feedback mechanism here)

These tools can be useful, but they also tempt us to change tack.  They tempt us into believing we are strategically wrong, because the feedback is so instant. Where as the benefits of our strategy is never so instant. Strategy takes time to work, it takes belief and patience, more over it takes ‘the real feedback’ cycle to spread before we can truly know if we have something. And the real feedback cycle is what our current customers have to say, and if they spread the word.

Startups out there – don’t fall into the feedback trap.



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