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Founder Failure Sprinkled with Success

14e994e97ca12c94cb7f870f969686c6?s=47 twanlass
June 22, 2012

Founder Failure Sprinkled with Success

Slides from a talk I gave at the Wellington, NZ Hackers & Founders meetup. Some of the failures (and a few successes) I've had w/ my 3 startups.



June 22, 2012


  1. [...] in a startup you flip rapidly from day-to- day

    – one where you are euphorically convinced you are going to own the world, to a day in which doom seems only weeks away and you feel completely ruined, and back again [...] -Marc Andreessen
  2. Heaps of failure (sprinkled with success)

  3. Hi. I'm Tyler. • Entrepreneur, designer & hacker from the

    states • Currently Entrepreneur In Residence @ CreativeHQ • 3 startups - Web SaaS & indie game dev studio • In a previous life was an artist / designer for AAA games Tyler Wanlass / Hackers & Founders / 2012
  4. The Business(es) Fuel & Spark Games - 2007 - 2008

    Xbox Live Indie Games - (XBLIG) RocketBall - launch title for platform The Laboratory - 2009-2010 App Store / iOS Flipn' Monsters! - ~125,000 downloads
  5. The Business(es) 3dmotive.com May 2010 - 2012 Subscription business (SaaS)

    Sells Premium video tutorials for creative software Terabytes of video content streamed / month Hundreds of hours of tutorial content Utilizes external content producers (contractors) ~1 1/2 years to break 100k revenue run rate
  6. The Business(es) Smolio.com 2012 Lets creatives build awesome portfolio websites.

    Still in 'private beta' - sign-up today :) Launching sometime this year Still in search mode
  7. Everything is against you when you try to start something

    new. If you want to change people's habits or routines be prepared to exert an extreme amount of energy to make that happen. People are averse to change.
  8. Team & Founder Conflict Extra Reading: 'The Founder's Dilemma' -Noam

    Wasserman • Single largest reason new ventures fail • Didn't avoid skill overlap with initial team • Didn't check expectations at the start • Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur • Social relationships are bad for co-founders - hard to talk about tough issues if you're friends!
  9. Quick MVP's Extra Reading: 'The Lean Startup' - Eric Ries

    • Utilized outsourcing to quickly build our MVP's • Leveraged off the shelf tech to validate assumptions • Conscious that product will undergo a re-build later • If you're proud of the product you're shipping too late
  10. You're a search party in a blizzard, not an assembly

    line at McD's. In the start you're looking repeatable patterns and fit. You're NOT an assembly line making cheese burgers. Search and execution are distinctly separate phases.
  11. Search vs. Execution? Extra Reading: '4 Steps to the Epiphany'

    - Steve Blank • Switched from search to execution too soon • Premature scaling • Didn't find our product market fit • Didn't embrace failure as an essential part of loop 3dmotive
  12. Search Then Execution! • Continue in search mode even when

    It's hard! • Focusing on product market fit • Embracing failure - it's constant but gets 'less worse' • If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough Smolio Extra Reading: '4 Steps to the Epiphany' - Steve Blank
  13. Test test test - results can often be counter intuitive.

  14. Not Data Driven • You can't improve what you can't

    measure • Didn't set expectations or meaningful KPI's • Not everyone was committed - without that it will fail 3dmotive Extra Reading: 'The Lean Startup' - Eric Ries
  15. Data Driven • We measure & track everything... • ...

    But don't obsess over data • Everyone is committed, everyone tests • Have a framework for rigorous testing Smolio Extra Reading: '4 Steps to the Epiphany' - Steve Blank
  16. ABT - Always Be Testing • Split testing customer surveys

    was a huge win • 129% increase in response rate - reciprocity - read more: tdub.co • Test everything - retention emails, upgrade opportunities, etc. Extra Reading: 'Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive' - Robert Cialdini’s
  17. Don't compare your insides to someone else's outsides. Don't compare

    your business idea to another business that's been running for years. Your day 1 product won't be anywhere near there.
  18. Waited to Pivot • Pivoted a year & half in

    - business was a walking zombie, had already plateaued • Should have pivoted sooner while risk was lower • Change was abrupt for customers • Didn't listen to customers, slow to address issues post- pivot 3dmotive
  19. Success Post Pivot • Big improvement in revenue and profit

    after 1 month • Began a more data based approach • Rapidly increased content production • Too little, too late? 3dmotive
  20. Be proactive - not reactive. If you're worrying about what

    your competitors are doing you'll always be following. Be proactive and make the change you'd like to see - don't react to what your competitors are doing.
  21. Followed the Competition • Began shipping physical DVD products •

    Were afraid to be left behind by competitors • Customers and data said otherwise but we continued - DVD sales did not justify the costs or effort 3dmotive
  22. Have a Strong Vision • Core values agreed upon by

    team, written down • Interview and really listen to customers • Don't be phased by what the competition is doing • Stay true to your vision but listen to the data Smolio Extra Reading: 'The Startup Owner's Manual' - Steve Blank
  23. Revenue means you're doing something meaningful. Profit means you're doing

    it wisely. Great quote / concept / idea from Derek Sivers, Sivers.org.
  24. Focused on Bottom Line • Revenue is important... • ...But

    Profit is more important • Aggressive with expenses • Large reserves of cash means you're wasting opportunities - reinvested in biz, R&D, content, etc 3dmotive
  25. Don't stick to what you're good at. Get out of

    the comfort zone. It's too easy to keep your head down and just work on the product. That isn't always the most important thing you can be doing though. Product is 1/3 of the picture. Biz dev, marketing, relationship building, etc are hugely important.
  26. Product is Only 1 Part • Majority of focus placed

    on building the product • Marketing & Advertising suffered (not the same thing :) • Product launch was slow, mainly word of mouth • Day 1 sales sucked. 3dmotive
  27. Focused on Non-Dev Tasks • Quickly built our customer list

    & social channels • Engaged w/ niche communities • Creative advertising oppertunties • Aggressive SEO strategy 3dmotive
  28. Beta Ramp Up • Creative non-paid ways to acquire testers

    • Going to niche communities pre-launch • Trying aggressive viral strategy • Thinking about customer acquisition and monetization together before launch Smolio
  29. Quantity is better than quality (sometimes). Don't worry about making

    it perfect. Build as much as you can as quickly as you can. You'll learn the full extent of your abilities and be able to address any faults much sooner.
  30. Thanks! Questions? www.tdub.co / hello@tdub.co