Respect the Game, Love the Grind!

You have David saying we can’t all be founders, you have Jevon being honest about why he’s a founder, and then you have me ranting about vomiting on your footwear and then there’s Debbie Landa‘s “club of crazy“. Start reading the comment sections on those posts and things get even muddier…..You have to love problems or not, know your role, find your motivation? If you’re considering being an entrepreneur and starting your own business, how do you decide whether to make the leap?

There is a game to this entrepreneur deal. It’s a thing, you can point at, and you have to respect that game. In my opinion, it is the greatest game out there, period.

Creating something from nothing is the most difficult thing you can do. In business, I have the utmost respect for anyone who is able to create a viable business out of nothing. A few stories to add some colour….

In a previous life I rock climbed. It’s likely the coolest sport I’ve ever participated in. Few other sports require the mix of physical requirements, mental fortitude, training, preparation, and ability to deal with plain old fear. I know lot’s of folks who consider themselves climbers. They bought nice gear at MEC and hit the indoor gym every week.

Those people don’t love climbing, they love the idea of climbing. They love the way it looks in a magazine and on tv but that’s not climbing. There’s a filthy grind to climbing. It’s constant cardio work, training in the indoor gym, stretching. It’s packing up all your camping gear every Thursday night in order to leave town as early as you can Friday to get to the crag and setup camp before it gets dark. It’s getting up with the sun, climbing all day. It’s getting home late Sunday night, dropping your gear on the kitchen floor and crashing. Then Monday night you spend the evening cleaning ropes, gear and tents. And on and on.

Pick another sport, ice hockey. Yes we all dream about raising the cup, skating in front of massive crowds, making millions but that’s not hockey. Hockey’s being in the gym five days a week, 6 am practices, lost teeth, chipped elbows. Very few people have the raw skill but even less have the determination required to survive the grind.

What do NHL players say when they retire? Almost universally they say something along the lines of “I still love the game, I love coming to the rink, I love my team, my fans. But I realized I couldn’t put my body through another off season of preparing”.

Creating something from nothing isn’t about TechCrunch, billion dollar exits, multi-million dollar acquisitions and launch parties. Those may come and when they do, the best will enjoy the moment and then sneak away from the party, head back to the office to return to the grind. If you’re going to do this, remember to respect the game we play and love the grind!

Engines for Massively Scaleable Startups

I was excited to attend MeshU (maybe a little too excited). I love it when events over deliver. MeshU was a fantastic conference. I saw two of the best in-the-trenches startup sessions with Sean Ellis and Dan Martell. They both presented ideas that are changing how I think about product design and go-to-market activities. April Dunford then added an updated framework  for product marketing which was a great evolution of traditional product marketing. Sean Ellis added his model for Key Elements of Massively Scaleable Startups that presented a new idea of the marketing basics that need to be present for high potential startups.

Key Elements of Massively Scalable Startups - A Marketing Framework based on April Dunford & Sean Ellis

The breaking down of 4 elements coupled with traditional strategy and tactics make for a very effective marketing evaluation of most startups.

Gratification Engine

The Gratification Engine was a new piece of the marketing activities. What differentiates must have products and services? How do you reward your customers? How does your application turn “cold prospects into highly gratified customers”? This is a change in my thinking about the role of making your users feel like rockstars.  

“you can’t force customers to want, need or like what you have created.  Building an effective gratification engine is an iterative process driven by a lot of prospective customer feedback.  Once you get the basics right, your process of gratifying users can be optimized with tools like Performable for landing pages and KISSmetrics for full funnel tracking/improvement (I’m an advisor to both).” – Sean Ellis

 It builds upon seminal work of Kathy Sierra about engaging users. The Gratification Engine pushes this out beyond the existing experience but treats the conversion and effectiveness of new users.

Making a Bestseller

Making a Bestseller by Kathy SierraHow fast and how far can you take your users? by Kathy Sierra

 Where this hit home for me was starting to think about the game mechanics used for upsell and cross sell offers for new customers. Dan Martell, Dave McClure, Marc Gingras and I had breakfast at StartupCampMontreal and discussed how to build effective offers for existing customers to invite their friends to an application. There was a great discussion about using game mechanics around the offer. You have existing users that if they invite new users, i.e., their friends, where if the friends sign up that both the friend and the user get new unique functionality. It changed my thinking about many times I’ve received an offer to sign up from a friend for a service, and how the effectiveness of this would change with some basic game mechanics:

“Jevon has invited you to join X. Jevon is 1 sign up away from enabling the super awesome next level feature. Sign up now and enable the feature for both you and Jevon”

This all has to be done in an open, honest and unintrusive manner. But it’s about how do you enhance the lives and experiences of customers and potential customers. There are great opportunities to use game design and mechanics to help improve the experience and conversion rates in web and mobile applications.