Down for the cause

by Suhail Doshi

Founder at Mixpanel

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2014: The year data becomes a company’s secret weapon

This year, we’re going to see data go from an opaque, untapped, and mystifying asset to a hyper competitive, I-can’t-believe-you-don’t-use-it weapon for businesses. I don’t mean big data; I mean data of any size: big, medium, and small. In fact, it’s not about the amount of data, it’s about the kind of data you have (and, of course, being smart enough to use it). This is all starting to happen because software is being built specifically to analyze lots of data – and it’s no longer cost-prohibitive to use this software, and the insights can fundamentally change the trajectory of your business.

Think of it this way: If you’re chasing after a $10-billion market and your competitor has a way to leverage the data generated by their customers – and you don’t – the odds aren’t in your favor. Chances are, you’re going to fall behind.

The taxi industry is being upended internationally, due to...

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How to learn about bitcoin

I finally took the time to learn a little bit about Bitcoin–this was long over due given all the hype. Here are the top links from around the Internet that I found valuable to aid me in my understanding and that really shaped my thoughts:

  • http://www.michaelnielsen.org/ddi/how-the-bitcoin-protocol-actually-works/

    What you’ll learn: Michael does an excellent job helping you build your understanding of Bitcoin. His post starts off by describing a hypothetical yet basic crypto currency that has obvious flaws. As he progresses, he describes clever solutions that build off each other to solve each problem. Ultimately, all the solutions described make Bitcoin what it is today.

  • http://bitcoin.org/en/how-it-works

    What you’ll learn: This is how you’ll learn about the most basic terminology. I really liked this page because it was fairly succinct.

  • ...

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Getting your first few customers

When you’re just starting out building a SaaS company, getting your first few customers is astoundingly difficult. Pretty much everyone we asked to try our product wouldn’t give us the time of day and gave us a flat “no.” There simply seemed like there was no market in sight. Harder even, we had to differentiate from a non-competitor that was ubiquitously used - we had a marketing problem too!

We could’ve easily given up but we soon learned “No” doesn’t mean “no”, it just means “not yet.”

Here are some tips to get your first few customers:

  • Give away your “paid” product away for free - people will value it more.
  • Rather than trying to close a sales prospect, ask for help in the form of trying out your product - people are willing to do favors for others.
  • Be willing to consult your customers instead of just providing them a product - do something that won’t scale for now.
  • Find a common...

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Choosing your price points

Here’s my simple pricing strategy when you’re just starting out building any SaaS/B2B company:

  • Keep it simple - don’t make people have to overthink it too much
  • People will pay a premium for price clarity
  • Start with very low prices. Your product sucks and getting early customer feedback is worth paying for.
  • Gradually, increase your prices as you add more features that benefit your customers.
  • Once you find the complain point (the point where a few customers think your product is too expensive), stop increasing your prices. Your next step is to continue to build things that add lots of value to overcome the complaining.
  • Customized pricing will allow you to price larger customers out in the long-run. Don’t worry about price maximization - that will come later.
  • Always have a big-tier that you don’t expect anyone to buy (it helps people think that you scale and sometimes people just buy...

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The rise of engagement

The Internet is ever evolving. It is no longer just a series of pages that are linked together. It is no longer a place where we “surf the web.” It’s rich, dynamic, and engaging. Today, we’re using applications. The same applications that could be installed via CD-ROM on your desktop, are made available through your browser and mobile phone.

This shift in how we use the Internet has made me realize over the past few years that page views are becoming less relevant. The most innovative companies in the world have realized that building interactive and engaging experiences for their customers are going to make them more loyal. So why are some companies measuring views of a page?

Page views have long bamboozled people in and out of the tech industry. After all, advertisers just care about eyeballs right? What easier way to convince advertisers of those eyeballs and how often people come...

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The point of Bullshit metrics

I think we’re starting to miss the point of bullshit metrics.

Liz Gannes, from AllThingsD, recently called bullshit on LinkedIn reaching a new milestone: 200M registered users total. She made a great point: “The reality is, people can sign up for your site and never return, or become frustrated and quit, or just stop caring at some point.”

Josh Elman, from Greylock Partners, recently wrote a post defending LinkedIn’s metric claiming that “for LinkedIn, I believe that what matters for the size of their business is exactly the number of registered users.” He also claimed that “the only thing that matters is how many people are available to be contacted and are likely enough to respond.” My first instinct was to pull LinkedIn’s quarterly earnings reports because I knew they likely segmented their revenue into at least 3 different categories that were all significant. Next, I was going to...

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Bullshit metrics

Every day feels the same. A fledgling startup tries to appear like the up-and-coming market leader while the market incumbent aims to protect its dominance. It has become exhausting to keep up with how fast everyone seems to grow: 100,000 new users per week here, 20 billion monthly pageviews there, and let’s not pass up a watershed moment like 3 million members total. These are the industry’s most praised metrics.

Sadly, we haven’t moved forward over the past decade despite our whole industry becoming smarter about how it measures and analyzes data. Companies still pitch investors with a cumulative user sign up graph, sell advertisers on how many pageviews they get, and bamboozle reporters with the biggest numbers they can find regardless of whether they correlate to success. We can do better as an industry. We should do better because collectively we’re not benefiting–we’re all just...

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The enterprise strikes back

2013 is going to be the most significant year yet for enterprise companies. Get ready for it. With lackluster public offerings from just about every hyped up consumer oriented tech company, investors are losing faith. It’s all out in the open now: Groupon hit its all-time low, Zynga’s stock plummeted below the value of its assets, and Facebook is oscillating above and below 50% of its initial IPO price. Meanwhile, Salesforces’ $20B market cap has been climbing for nearly a decade–amazing. Workday’s sustained pop to $7-8B is probably surprising to the founders themselves. And, put your seat belts on for the impending Box IPO–Aaron Levie is fierce.

Breaking the sales barrier

The time is ripe for the uninnovative “dinosaurs” of enterprise to be disrupted. Salesforce started it by displacing Siebel’s software that had to be installed. Box is doing it to Microsoft’s Sharepoint by making it...

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