Four massive mistakes startups make that they’re probably not even aware of.

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Four massive mistakes startups make that they’re probably not even aware of.

I feel compelled to share four simple things startups can do to get more paying customers based on our search for a new web casting solution. They are really easy to solve. No engineering or product development required.

We’re looking for a new solution for online conversations with speakers and others so that BoS attendees and the wider community can join us for Q&A around BoS talks and other topics. We used to use Google Hangouts, then Google shut it down to be replaced with a infinitely less suitable YouTube centered system. Grrr.

As we look for the right solution, we have come across some very interesting potential solutions, some of which look brilliant at the moment. In the same way that investors invest in ‘lines’, not ‘points’, one of the biggest considerations that we have is to be comfortable that a company will be around for long enough to be worth working with.

Business of Software will be ten years old next year and we have built a library of very serious content over that time (you can see all the talks from previous years we have published publicly here). Getting the right video host has been an almighty pain. We used to spend over $3k per year with a company called Blip.tv It was OK, but pivoted one day and we recceived an email from them to tell us we had two weeks to download our content as they were focusing on something different. I was just heading off for vacation and was left with an almighty pain – we had to find a new host, we had to download some videos from Blip, upload all of the videos, plus indexing info and descriptions etc to a new channel, change all of the embedded videos in our blog posts, try to let other parties know that we had a new host and the links they were using on their own websites had to change etc. I was actually pleased to hear that they went bust sometime later.

We went with Vimeo as the new host. A year afterwards, we had a similarly impersonal note to say that Vimeo was going to specialize in arty stuff and our videos were too commercial. Here we go again… This time, I contacted Vimeo and pointed out that our videos weren’t the usual commercial stuff and arguably fitted within the broad terms of their new direction. Fortunately, they agreed and graciously deigned to keep taking our money. They were OK.

When I came across Wistia, a Boston startup whose founder, Chris Savage attended BoS Conference USA, that was doing video hosting I was very tempted to use them. Their analytics in particular were very, very impressive. I resisted the urge to move though. I didn’t want the hassle of redoing all the links, uploading the videos etc from Vimeo. As they were a startup, I was also concerned that they might fail, blow up, get sold, burnout, decide they didn’t want to host us etc. Eventually, as I got to know Chris, understood a bit more about his philosophy of business and followed Wistia for a bit, we took what was for us a big decision to move across to their platform. This has, so far, been a great call for us. I couldn’t be happier using them. (I hope this blog post doesn’t put a jinx on this and mean they end up selling to Yahoo tomorrow…).

All of this has made me much more cautious about adopting new technologies. We want to invest in lines, not points. I want to be comfortable that the people we work with are going to have longevity. Not just that on one particular day they have a solution that looks great. That is not enough.

Kathy Sierra, Des Traynor and many others have pointed out over the years at BoS that for a new offering in a market to be successful, it has to be significantly better than the existing solutions in the market. Business customers in particular will assess a business very differently if their business depends on that solution working and being around. That being said, we love entrepreneurs and we love startups. We love working with companies that have values aligned with ours and we try to when we can.

One company that we are considering for online discussions is Crowdcaster.io They look ideal at first glance, but I have a lot more questions about the business when I start to look at it in a little more detail. I want to share them here as I know that plenty of other people go through the same process when they assess potential tools. I am not suggesting that we will not use Crowdcast, we may well, but the questions we have may well be shared by others that put them off from using the company.

If you’re a startup, here are a few things you should think about when putting yourself online.

1 Names Matter

Crowdcast.io is a different business to Crowdcast.com which appears in Google search. This is confusing for people, particularly as the .com was sold a few years back.

The Twitter handle is @Crowdcst (no, ‘A’). This all seems messy and unnecessarily confusing.

Definitely not one for startups to obsess over but worth being in the database. Not in any sense the font of all knowledge but I tried looking there too. I got the one that was sold to Spigot and one that has had a whopping $255k in three rounds of funding based in Japan. Noting for Crowdcst. I can’t find the one I want. :-(

2 Make it easy for me to know what you do!

“Connect with your audience through live video

“Teach, share and connect over webinars, Q&As, live courses and summits.”

Plus marks Crowdcast.io for a simple, clear, value proposition on the website home page.

Compared to the ‘We proactively leverage strategic solutions in the multi-dimensional communications channel space’, type guff that appears with a stock photo chosen when someone has typed something like, “Global family collaborating” into a stock picture library, this is really good.

I watch a video. all seems good. In all situations, the next thing I will click on is, ‘About Us’. There is nothing at the top of the page to help. The company stuff is at the bottom of the web page.

3 Make sure the ‘About Page’ tells me something I want to know.

This is the text of the ‘About Us’ page.

Hey there ?-
What if you could have a real conversation with your audience over a live video event you can set up in just seconds?
What if “webinars” were no longer clunky and time-consuming but a seamless way to teach & connect? And what if building a following around who you are and what you teach became easier than ever?
Crowdcast isn’t just a webinar tool. Sure, we do webinars. But we’ve also created a whole new kind of live video experience that’s never been possible before. Crowdcast makes it ridiculously simple: you can create your event in just seconds, invite your audience, and start to connect, teach—and yes, sell.

What we’re about:
Authenticity
Truth is powerful. That’s why we value being honest and open as a company and are committed to helping you teach & share with the same authenticity.
Community
Technology doesn’t have to bring people apart. We’re here to use live video to connect people with each other more deeply and meaningfully.
Learning
Progress begins with shared learning. Our mission is to remove any barriers between teachers and learners online for open access to meaningful knowledge.

We’re excited to share this mission with you. We hope you like using Crowdcast.

Sincerely,
Your friends at Crowdcast
Created with ♥
in San Francisco.

If you got the chops, tweet at us to join the team. Extra points if you find the secret hashtag to get our attention.

All lovely but I have learned literally nothing new. Literally all these words appear on every startup website somewhere and I don’t think there is a startup in San Francisco that isn’t ‘Built with love’. Won’t stop them disappearing overnight though. Not only that, I have not found anything I want to know – who is behind the company, what their background is, how is the business funded, are there external investors I know etc?

Literally no one in the world ever has gone to an about page in search of some words. They’ve gone to know whether you are people you can trust. Head off their potential concerns. Don’t make them ask more questions. Spidey sense on alert.

This makes me feel bad that I might not have clicked on the right link but as far as I can see there is nothing on the site with this information. By clicking on the blog, I work out that the founder is Cy Hossain but there is nothing about him or the team I can find. On LinkedIn (why make me work so hard?!), it looks like he is a smart guy, recent college leaver who has also done a lot of freelance coding on the side. The reason I am looking him up is I want to have some sort of indication that the company is going to have legs. It may have, but there is nothing on the site to give me that sense. I have had to work.

4 How do you make money?

It is pretty obvious, though not explicitly so, how Crowdcast makes money. It doesn’t, apart from an initial single, free-trial webcast, have a free model. Yes!

Too many things that are free aren’t worth paying for if you care about longevity. Make this explicit. If you are venture backed and offering a free thing in the hope that you build a huge network and then monetise it, then make it clear too.

I’m sure we have all walked away from doing business with some interesting companies who you can’t work out how they will survive.

Conclusion

It’s OK to be small. It’s OK to be a startup. (This talk from Jason Cohen (ASmartBear) on ‘Naked Businesses‘ is still great). I really like the look of this particular company but am nervous we could start using them then have to find someone else. Cy, if you read this, get in touch. I thought twice about picking on a single company here but you are getting a link from a well read blog and that helps your Google juice. You’re absolutely welcome to disagree with, or ignore, my comments. I think you may find that you can get more customers without adding any new features to the product though, just by changing some words.

The 12th Business of Software Conference USA, October 1st-3rd 2018. Boston, MA.

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One response to “Four massive mistakes startups make that they’re probably not even aware of.”

  1. These are some things that you should have thought of before taking the business incorporation steps or incorporation process, this where having a business plan would be helpful.