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The most important entrepreneurial lesson I've learned.

March 28, 2012 in Expert Advice

I've enjoyed recreational fishing since I was a kid. Over the years I've had the chance to fish and associate with some top anglers, and I've noticed something about them - they don't waste time in an unproductive location. If the fish aren't biting, they quickly move to a new spot. 

This applies to startup ideas too. Finding out if the market will respond positively has to be as early in the process as possible, and you should move on if it's not a fit. 

I've poured emberassing amounts of time into terrible ideas that I thought were brilliant, so please learn this principle from me, it will save you unspeakable time, money and shame if you do:

The market does not care how long you worked on something or how well you did it. Effort is not rewarded. The market cares only if what you've done is a fit for their needs.

This can be a crushing truth, especially for a craftsman. We take our startups very personally, and the more time we invest in them, the more personally we take them. But if we're serious about turning our venture into something that pays the bills, and grants us freedom, we have to accept and embrace this truth. There is no reward for sticking to something for a long time, if it's the wrong thing. If it's the wrong thing, if there is not a market fit, you fail. And unfortunately, there is no correlation between time invested and market fit.

And very often we have no idea what's going to resonate, and what's not, even when we think we do. This is why building an MVP, and validated learning are so important. Before we get too carried away, we have to find out if the market wants what we're building. 

I leave you with a multimedia nugget for thought from the great Derek Sivers. (Incidentally, I highly recommend his book. Short and sweet, and full of similar insights, including the one shown in this video). 


Side note: An interesting benefit to the KickStarter (and similar) phenomena is that folks are pumping out ideas, and using KickStarter not just to raise money, but to validate their idea. This seems like a big deal, especially for hard goods that require a larger capital investment to get started. 

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March 19, 2012 in 3 out of 5 stars, Free, Landing Pages, PR and Publicity

What is it?


LaunchRock: A service that provides a pre-launch page for your startup (you know, the "signup to be notified when we launch" type of site).

Heres the one I created for a project I'm working on for startup founders (and those aspiring to be).

Who makes it?


Why is it the killerest?

In addition to a nice pre-launch page, it has good social integration, encouraging those who sign up to share it with their friends via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr or email. 

FireShot Screen Capture #013 - 'Are you a founder of an internet startup_ - We're looking for startup founders who have launched (or are launching soon) and are willing to share their story_' - signup_launchhappy_com

There are also some modest stats telling you your conversion rate, which can be helpful.

FireShot Screen Capture #012 - 'Insights I LaunchRock' - app_launchrock_com_insights

It's fairly easy to use, and they've thought of a lot of details like a confirmation email, social integration where you can pre-seed what they say when they share, an ability to export all of your subscribers for easy loading into your favorite email sending system, and domain mapping (i.e. you can point your own URL to your page).

If you feel too constrained by their limited template, you can embed the form on your own site, where you have more latitude.

What could be improved?

They offer a very limited ability to customize the design and layout for the fully hosted version. They have custom CSS "coming soon" which should help immensely. I was able to work around some of these limitations by using inline HTML and inline styles - which seem to be supported. It's fairly amenable to a little lightweight "hacking."

How much does it cost?



Reviewed by Carson McComas

p.s. see also: Launch Effect which I liked a bit better. It's a WordPress theme with the same purpose.

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List of the best online payment alternatives for entrepreneurs.

March 12, 2012 in e-Commerce Solutions

There are few segments more exciting right now than alternative payment systems. Earth's collective contempt for the entrenched payment tech industry is ardent. This industry has abused users, built regulatory walls to competition, made things insufferable for customers, and as a result, put payment processing options nearly out of reach, especially for bootstrappers. Overcoming these hurdles is a huge barrier to progress.

But the alternative payment world is red smoking hot right now, and I'm more excited about it than any other segment. The possibilities that are unlocked by this are exciting for entrepreneurs, especially bootstrappers. 

No merchant accounts. No gateways. No exorbitant fees, or draconian setup processes. 

Here are the most exciting ones:

2.9% + $0.30

Free for transactions under $10, $0.25 for over $10. 

$0.50 for bank payment, 3.5% for credit card payment

The exciting ones for meatspace businesses.

2.75% for swipes, 3.5% for keyed entries 

$0.20 + 2.75%

Intuit GoPayment
2.7% for swipes, 3.7% for keyed 



I call myself an entrepreneur, but to be honest, a lot of times I don't.

March 7, 2012

I call myself an entrepreneur, but to be honest, a lot of times I don't. When someone asks me what I do - I often punt. I feel like if I'm going to describe myself as an entrepreneur, the next sentence needs to explain what that means - what I've done, what successful business I've launched. And I don't have a good answer for that. Oh I've cobbled together a series of modest successes, and I'm managing to feed my family, but I haven't yet built something that I can point to with pride and say yes - that, I built that, and that is now what I do for living.

The term "serial entrepreneur" always sits a bit odd with me too. Or maybe I'm just reluctant to call myself that. I mean, I've had numerous entrepreneurial ventures. Numerous! But the truth is that if one of them had been the success I thought it would be, I'd be doing that, not launching another one. There would be no serial succession to the next one. At least not for a long time. Serial entrepreneur sounds like a synonym for serial failure. Not always of course, there are plenty of examples of successes there (Mark Cuban, Jason Calacanis, Evan Williams). But Bill Gates wasn't a serial entrepreneur. Neither was Mark Zuckerburg. Or Jeff Bezos or Jason Fried. They're entrepreneurs. They built something and that thing is what they do now. They don't define themselves by serially starting companies. My goal isn't serial entrepreneurship, it's successful entrepreneurship. 

So where am I going with all this navel gazing? I've been thinking a lot about this lately. Maybe it's because I'm growing pensive on the verge of launching my next startup (I really do believe this is the one!), or because I regularly get emails from folks who have gutted out that first hard part of getting something out there and now they're trying to make it work. But I want to start a community of those of us who have gotten this far. I want to create a community of launchers. I just have this sense that there's a whole group of us out here in the trenches trying to make this work - and there are a whole bunch of us who have made it work, and are making it work, and another whole bunch who haven't made it work, but are destined to, because they won't settle for anything less, no matter what it takes.

These folks? These launchers? These, I feel like, are people I can relate to. And I want a way to learn from them, and talk with them, and hear their stories, and I bet I'm not the only one, I bet you do too. And if I'm right about that, I hope you'll come over and sign up for my latest project. It's called Launch Happy, and with your help, I think it can become something really good. At a minimum, it'll help you expose your business to more people. But I'm hoping for even more than that, I'm hoping it'll help you make connections, and friends, and customers. I'm hoping that wonderful things will spring from it, and that the net result will be more entrepreneurs proud to call themselves that because they've made it work, they've achieved success, they've connected, and learned, and grown, and been cheered, and helped, and challenged, and taught and can point with pride to what they've done and say yes - that, I built that, and now that is what I do for a living. 

I think it can be something really good, and I hope you'll be a part of it.


p.s. if you're not a launcher yet, but still want to follow along, please follow us on Twitter at @LaunchHappy or on Facebook and we'll keep you abreast.

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March 5, 2012 in 3 out of 5 stars, e-Commerce Solutions

What is it?

Gumroad-logoGumroad: A service that lets you "sell anything you can share" which is to say - anything you don't need to collect shipping information for. Each purchase ends with a download link.

You create "links" that send you over to a Gumroad page where customers can enter an email address, credit card number, and boom - download what they purchased. (Here's an example I set up to sell one of my photos).

Who makes it?

Gumroad, Inc

Why is it the killerest?

It's not PayPal.

Everything is elegant, simple and quick.

For entrepreneurs, I could see using it to sell stuff like advertising slots, access to a beta release, an ebook, software, stuff like that.

Here's a nice demo they put together so you can see how it would work.

What could be improved?

Your customers don't have to hassle with PayPal, but Gumroad does use PayPal to pay you what you earn. Direct deposit in my bank account would be a lot better. They also ask for a $10 minimum owed, and 60 days to pay you (I assume they pay quicker than that though).

It's a touch buggy still (I created a link, and it created two for me - easy enough to delete one though).

I'd love an embed option. Let me just drop a button on a page that opens up with this Gumroad goodness. Every PayPal button on the internet tied to an intangible could be replaced with it.

It's a little pricey.

How much does it cost?

5% + $0.30 per transaction


Reviewed by Carson McComas

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