I’m a founder, not a seller. How do I get good at sales?

Q. I’m a first-time founder with zero sales experience, but I know I have to get good at it. How can I build my skills and confidence in this area?

 —Founder in the enterprise software space

We’ve often backed founders who are product-centered and would like to offload sales ASAP. However, CEOs should invest in getting good at sales, because they are always selling. Not only are they selling to customers in the beginning, but they are selling their vision when attracting new hires, motivating employees, and captivating journalists.

Oftentimes, founders are also the best salespeople the company can ever have. They are the one who had the idea, who knows the product, and knows how to solve for the problem it is addressing. Most companies don’t start out with a sales team, which means that a founder has no choice other than to get used to selling. The good news is that you will learn by doing it. You will get feedback from customers that will help you hone your product as well as hone your pitch. Read More >>

Don’t Confuse Platforms with Ecosystems

What’s even worse than ubiquitous business buzzwords? When those buzzwords are also used interchangeably. Case in point: the terms “platform” and “ecosystem”. Although often conflated, these words mean different things. Treating them as synonymous denotes either a lack of knowledge or imprecise thinking. But there is more at stake here than appearing smart. The distinction between platform and ecosystem has broad strategic implications that can make the difference between success and failure in today’s digital world.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a platform as “a vehicle used for a particular purpose”. A platform is an asset or business that removes friction from a market. The oldest examples of platforms are village markets that facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers. They do so by reducing the costs of transacting at scale by attracting a large number of buyers and sellers.

Transactions that take place in a platform share an attribute of similar nature, e.g. a purchase, and the platform facilitates this via the provision of scale. For example, Which.co.uk is a platform aggregating groups of similar offers, e.g. credit cards and loans, attracting consumers to credit card companies or lenders through the promise of convenience and the ability to better compare products. A platform generates value by facilitating the third parties’ transactions and not by taking part in the transactions themselves. Read More >>

Is There a Scientific Formula For Start-up Success?

Even in the best of times, starting a business is like running a marathon with the odds stacked against you. In a global recession, you also have to endure the headwinds of reduced consumer spending and more selective investors. If legs of steel were essential before, they are absolutely critical now. You may also need a new strategy.

Many startup founders swear by the Lean Startup method, popularised by serial entrepreneur and software engineer Eric Ries in a 2011 book of the same name and taught in business schools and accelerators around the world. The method entails finding out customers’ problems and needs, obtaining feedback and building a minimum viable product (MVP) to test demand. The idea is to learn quickly and iteratively through experimentation and feedback, and quitting or pivoting when the original idea falls through. But there is a way to improve the Lean method itself. Read More >>

Should Local Governments Be Offering Tax Credits to Angel Investors?

Most governments are eager to nurture promising startups with lots of growth potential. Such startups can generate new jobs, spur innovation and new patenting, and, in the best of cases, bolster an entire local economy.

It’s no surprise, then, that local politicians are often willing to offer up financial support. For instance, some cities and states have extended loans and grants to the startups they deem most promising. Yet this strategy requires that governments choose the right startups, which is a difficult task even for experienced investors, let alone for government agencies.

But do tax credits for angel investors actually produce the kind of broader economic boom that politicians expect? Read More >>

How Start-ups in Emerging Markets Succeed Despite Scarcity

2019 was a record year of venture capital funding for start-ups in emerging economies from Latin America, Africa to Southeast Asia. This year, well, it’s safe to say the money is not exactly sloshing around, and the pace is likely to remain depressed well into 2021. Even though Covid-19 has opened up many possibilities, in edtech and fintech for example, entrepreneurs in developing markets will have to work harder to secure the resources they need.

In a Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal special issue I co-curated with Maw-Der Foo and Brian Wu, researchers highlight how emerging market start-ups mobilise resources under conditions a world apart from those in developed economies. Entrepreneurs in developing economies – as well as developed ones – would find insights contained in the issue’s eight papers helpful in these lean times. What stood out in particular are ideas on how to do more with less as well as tapping community and other ties to obtain resources and reduce costs. Read More>>

4 major trends for digital marketing in 2021

This year — 2020 — was a year for the books, with COVID-19 throwing a gigantic monkey wrench into our personal and professional lives as marketers. As we look into 2021, we have to ask: Which changes in consumer behaviors and associated marketing strategies will have a lasting impact, once a vaccine is readily available?

There is reason, for example, to be somewhat optimistic about digital advertising’s future. While ad spend decreased overall in 2020, some ad channels (like podcasting) have already rebounded, while popular channels (like search) are estimated by eMarketer to benefit in the long-term from the pandemic.

Other digital channels also have benefitted from coronavirus (see Zoom’s stock price as a reference point). But what of the rest of marketing? This article takes a broader look at trends we predict will dramatically alter digital marketing in 2021 and beyond. Read More>>

VW-backed QuantumScape says its solid-state batteries will enable EVs to travel farther and charge faster

After nearly a decade in operation, QuantumScape, a San Jose-based startup backed by Volkswagen and Bill Gates, is finally breaking its silence. In a virtual “battery day” event for investors, the recently public company announced that its “solid state” batteries for electric vehicles will charge faster, hold more power, and last longer than traditional EV batteries.

Solid-state batteries have eluded researchers for decades. Most EV companies use “wet” lithium-ion batteries, which use liquid electrolytes to move energy around. But these batteries can be slow to charge, can freeze up in subzero temperatures, and contain flammable material that can be hazardous in the event of a crash.

QuantumScape claims to have developed a production-ready solid-state battery with cells that are made of solid and “dry” conductive material. And while most startups pursuing solid-state batteries remain mired in the lab, QuantumScape says it will be ready to go into production in 2024. Read More>>

The New Business Models (and Jobs) in Blockchain

Given the Bitcoin price craze in the face of the morose economy during the Covid-19 pandemic, one may assume that the distributed ledger technology (DLT)/blockchain bubble is ready to burst once again. However, new developments justify paying close attention to this sector.

The idea behind IOTA, launched in 2015, is to create an open-source public DLT fit for the IoT economy. Tomorrow’s digital economy will run on automated, distributed cyber/physical systems. New approaches to data management and sharing between citizens, organisations and IoT assets or machines must be designed around novel digital trust frameworks and a new type of e-infrastructure. IOTA wants to be for IoT what TCP/IP has become for the web. The vision is a machine economy where IoT assets, e.g. autonomous vehicles, participate in creating and exchanging value through machine-to-machine transactions.

Minimal usage fees and a low-energy consumption for running the overall decentralised network are needed to allow frictionless data sharing and the emergence of new data-driven business models such as “everything-as-a-service”. While conventional public blockchain protocols introduce fees associated with miners’ node operations and lead to controversial energy consumption, IOTA removes the need for miners and their operational friction altogether. Read More>>