The NewsWhip Guide To World Domination… Time Matters

Time Newswhip Guide to World Domination DublinGlobe.com

The story continues… Dublin-based startup NewsWhip achieved speedy growth in 2014, with revenues past the €1 million mark, and customers including BuzzFeed, BBC and the Guardian. The company focused from the beginning on sales in the US and Europe, and specifically in selling to the new media companies of New York City. In the NewsWhip Guide to World Domination, CEO and Co-founder Paul Quigley shares some tips on growing an internationally focused SaaS business from Dublin. You can read Part One here, and Part Two here

Once you have some kind of cash cushion under your bum at a startup, you’re left with only one currency that matters. Time. How will you spend it?

Almost all activities can be neatly split into two parts: you’re either improving decision quality via information and discussion (product debate, market research, customer meetings) or producing output (product development, blogging, building ads, spreading the word).

Some activities can become real time sucks. A time suck happens where you’re working hard – like really pushing – but nothing is getting done. As your only currency is time, the more you avoid these, the more time you have to spend on the right things.

Product Debate

For technology companies, the product largely defines the company – Facebook the company is, for most people and for themselves, completely linked to Facebook the product. For that reason, product decisions can be extremely important – and sensitive.

A sales team might pay attention to user feedback and push for maximizing the current user experience, as they see users on the front line. A product manager, on the other hand, might have a pre-existing plan of where the product should go and be less concerned with incremental improvements. And of course, every new thing must be designed and built into the interface, often with unexpected compromises. And all of this must be done with customer success in mind.

In a passionate company, the whole team team can feel extremely strongly about questions of priority, UI and roadmap.

Early on in developing NewsWhip we spent a lot of time with product discussion, which turns into strategic discussion, which turns into marketing discussion, which eventually turns into lunch.

Today we spend more time on execution. We spend time doing deep research and planning. But when it comes to resolving all the questions that arise there, we have simple rules – “What Would the Customer Want?” is a great one. Or for interface: “What Would the Customer Expect?” “What would the high value customer we want next year want?” Then there’s a variation on “What Would Jesus Do”, called “What Would Des Do?” which I’m sure anyone who has read the excellent Intercom.io blog will sometimes ask. (Des is co-founder there and blogs fantastic ideas on product and customer success.)

But then, with feedback gathered, questions asked and decisions made, we get back to the building.

‘Bear’s Favour’ Introductions

A ‘Bear’s Favour’ is a Croatian expression for the situation that arises when someone tries to do you a favour but inadvertently screws you over. A bear’s favour can be made with the very best of intentions, and is extra poignant when it is.

People will try and be helpful to you when you launch your startup. They will make introductions to family friends, academics, consultants and other people they think you should meet. You’ll drink a lot of coffee. People will tell you a lot of stuff.

Eventually, you’ll develop a nose for which meetings will be useful. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start respecting your own time. Depending on your energy, most people have 6 – 10 good hours work in a day. Spending one of them in a fruitless meeting is not time well spent.

Potential investors will bestow plenty of these introductions – especially the ones that only half understand your business, and want to outsource their thinking. They will introduce their portfolio companies to you and suggest you bounce ideas together.

This is often a kind of vetting – they want to know what the other founder thinks of your company, and they’ll call them after the meeting to find out. They rarely turn into something fruitful, and personally I think that kind of second degree vetting is not a good sign for an investor’s ability to understand your business.

Early on, your ideal partners and introductions are people further down the road who have customers that could benefit from your technology. Plus you can visualize a straight up business proposition. If you’re right at the start of the road, there’s seldom much point imagining partnerships with someone else with no market share. 0 x 0 = 0.

Focus On Conferences Your Customers Are At

Ever pitched your company to someone who’s just waiting for you to finish talking so they can pitch their company to you?

Time is your most valuable asset as a company founder. After you’re past a certain point, don’t invest too much of it at startup circuit events and meet-ups, unless you’re there to hire staff, make sales or have another specific networking objective. Get to the conferences your customers are at.

Other Time Sucks

That’s a really brief and unscientific list based on my own experience. Your own might be completely different. The important rule for a startup founder or any entrepreneur stands anyway: pay attention to how you’re spending your time, and try to make sure you’re getting things done.

In fact, the book Getting Things Done is a great primer on productivity, and you can absorb most of it over an afternoon in a lounge chair on the second floor of Hodges Figgis, something I (ahem) might or might not have done. Time well spent.

To be continued…

 

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