Monthly Archives: February 2016

careering

http://www.unixwiz.net/techtips/be-consultant.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/06/ben-bernanke-to-princeton-grads-the-world-isnt-fair-and-you-all-got-lucky/276471/

http://edorigami.edublogs.org/2009/01/18/updated-managing-complex-change/ Vision Skills Incentives Resources Action-Plan

http://www.kalzumeus.com/2009/10/04/work-smarter-not-harder/ – outsource, automate

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=184549 – deliberate practice

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1880096 – billing

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=121413 negative feedback

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2009043 winning isn’t normal

http://www.jasonshen.com/2013/17-essential-best-practices-for-making-things-happen/

http://www.ultrasaurus.com/2013/09/little-rules-for-working-life/

http://www.jasonshen.com/2012/how-to-be-relentlessly-resourceful/

 

marketing

Reads I Recommend:

Books I recommend:

  • High Output Management, Andy Grove
  • Confessions Of An Advertising Man, David Ogilvy
  • Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
  • Made To Stick, Heath Brothers
  • Influence, Robert Cialdini
  • Trust Me, I’m Lying, Ryan Holiday
  • Unleash The Ideavirus, Seth Godin
  • Predatory Thinking, Dave Trott

Tools I recommend:

  • Google Analytics
  • WordPress (unfortunately)
  • Trello
  • Ahrefs
  • keywordtool.io
  • SumoMe
  • Twitter
  • Buffer

Further reading: Tools I’ve used as a SaaS Marketer

101:

  1. Why I am a marketer & why marketing
  2. Learn marketing by analyzing what’s worked on you
  3. What is marketing?
  4. What is positioning?
  5. What is SEO?

How to:

  1. How to get better at marketing
  2. How to be a ‘world-class’ marketer
  3. How to distribute content as a marketer
  4. How to prioritize what to write for a company blog
  5. How to develop an online writing career
  6. How to deal with creative anxiety
  7. How To Write Good (For The Interwebs)
  8. How to social media (also see: A utilitarian approach to social media)
  9. How to start a content marketing effort
  10. How to become a content marketer
  11. How to plan a content marketing strategy
  12. How to hire content marketers
  13. How to run a content marketing team
  14. How to evaluate content marketing success
  15. How to make the most of existing content
  16. How to write good email subject lines
  17. How to write good emails
  18. How to curate stuff decently

Ideas

  1. Fictional Content Marketing Case Study: Selling Candy Online
  2. What it’s actually like to do content marketing
  3. The constraints content marketers have to operate in
  4. Can content marketing be artful?
  5. Content should be modular
  6. Consider the reader
  7. The customer is an abstraction
  8. The beginning of the end of ‘growth hacking’
  9. Prescriptive thoughts about social media
  10. The different vibes of different social media platforms
  11. People fixate on tactics too much
  12. The Marketer’s Curse
    • Marketers often care about things that regular consumers might not necessarily. (Curse of knowledge)
    • I’d then quote some successful people, touch on some psychological theories and outline a course of action to emphasize how marketers can do better jobs by focusing on what the customers want, and what the precise steps along that path are.
  13. The importance of taste
  14. GoPro vs Contour
  15. What motivates your customer?
  16. The role of marketing in a bleak, meaningless universe
  17. Help people figure out what they want or need
  18. Elon Musk’s marketing toolkit
    1. pick epic problems to begin with
    2. language usage (gasoline cars)
    3. superlatives (biggest, fastest, first, largest)
    4. referrals (PayPal, Tesla)
    5. Media attention (we live in a simulation)
  19. The history of listicles (and why people love them so much) – PG pointed out that they’re finite.
  20. What are my favorite marketing campaigns?

Principles of Content Marketing

  • Utility – it has to help you do something
  • Simplicity – it should be easy to understand, at least better than competitors
  • Resource-sensitive – it should be mindful of the limitations of the reader/user

Content Marketing Mistakes

  1. Not specifying the audience
  2. Not specifying the problem
  3. Repeating what others have written
  4. Misallocating limited resources (wasting time)
  5. Not working backwards from keywords and search terms
  6. Not working backwards from distribution
  7. Not quoting existing relevant material
  8. Wasting too much time researching each piece
  9. Not hiring freelancers / interns sooner
  10. Not collecting leads sooner

Stuff to edit

  1. cmv (break into subposts)
  2. perverse incentives in marketing
  3. What I’ve learnt about marketing
  4. The most important thing about marketing [12
  5. Different scales of marketing (ants vs elephants)
  6. People overcomplicate things
    1. entrepreneurship = problem-solving
    2. business = customer-serving
    3. customer = pattern of human behavior
  7. It all begins with product-market fit

Notes

    • Faster Horses
    • Steve Jobs- “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology – not the other way around.” – [1]
    • UserOnboard- what superpowers will your product give people? Once you figure that out, I think you have to figure out- what are the fundamental human things that we care about? And
    • people to tweet
  • How I approach writing and creating content.
    • Why is ecommerce worth caring about?
      • Because commerce is worth caring about. Ecommerce is just a new way to do one of the oldest things people have ever done. And it’s exciting because now the barriers are much lower and anybody can start their own business.
  • social media as a utility, and how my approach to navigating it has changed over the years. Also, different responses from different audiences in different areas.
  • 4 Types of Social Capital (reply/read of T.T.)
  • Many Kinds Of Marketing (P&G)
    • I never understood in the past why people might market something like P&G
    • it’s about the employees, and the shareholders, the stock, the brand
  • 1 year at work. What I’m proud of. What I’ve learnt. Questions to ask. What is ecommerce? What are ecommerce platforms? What is marketing? What is b2b? What are startups?
  • Social Commerce
  • Rant about terrible curation
  • Social Media “Secrets”
    • “Hi I’m @visakanv and I’ve helped ReferralCandy’s Twitter account grow organically from about 100+ followers when I first joined the team, to almost 2000 now. I’m especially proud of this, because we’ve been growing this very organically, by doing things that don’t scale. I’ve chatted with folks about their bathrooms, I’ve chatted with X about metal music, all sorts of things.”
    • Look for opportunities to delight. “Yes, and”. Amazon rep pretending to be Thor/Odin. SkyScanner rep joking about 47 year layover.
  • Personal Intro stuff (for marketers are weird)
  • Statement
  • Post mortems at work – what mistakes have we made? what would I have don’t differently

todo:

  • Stuff people share
  • Viral studies
  • Reddit studies
  • Post tailored for GH
  • Vertical-specific marketing/WOM posts
  • best of seth godin / seth godin examples
  • cindy gallop marketing / examples
  • al ries
  • clay christensen examples
  • malcolm gladwell examples (pitchman, ketchup, writing style)
  • leo burnett marketing examples
  • ogilvy marketing examples
  • marshall mcluhan
  • hero’s journey in marketing

Earning word-of-mouth by… (based on existing body of work)

  • being best-in-class
  • creating new class
  • Great positioning
  • Solving a hyper-specific problem
  • Reaching out to people 1-1
  • Influencer marketing
  • Joining communities

Customer Acquisition Calendar

  • How X fashion ecommerce businesses acquired their first customers
  • Crafts? Jewels? Books? Saas? Software businesses? Boeing?
  • How the largest companies in existence got their first customers
  • Kickstarter,  indiegogo, crowdfunding?
  • Customer acquisition lessons from the largest social movements- KONY? Civil rights?
  • Customer acquisition models: hunter or farmer?
  • First few customers vs at scale?
  • Identify your best customer acquisitoon channel and doubling down
  • Studying your own customers? Spoil them silly.
  • List of customer acquisition tools, apps, plugins?
  • Things to do before you start acquiring customers at scale

Mcdonalds rebrand, Why Coke advertises, the psychology of faces on cars, things I wish someone told me when I was in college,

Lessons from my first year as a content marketer (2014)

What I’ve learnt

  • 1: Quantity breeds quality. 
    • When I first started out, I spent a lot of time agonizing over what to write. I tried to think about what people would want to read. I would spend weeks on blogposts, and they wouldn’t really fly. I realize, on hindsight, that it’s better to just write as much as you can and ship as quickly as you can (as long as they meet your minimum standards, “Oh, this isn’t entirely horrible. There’s something in there.”) It’s hard to predict what will take off. You can’t improve your batting average, so you’re better off taking more swings. It’s likelier that you’ll hit something out of the park. And that’s all that counts, really.
  • 2: Don’t try to say too much at once. 
    • This was part of why I was agonizing so much. I felt like I had to qualify every statement I made, and provide broader context for everything. This is a problem I have in my personal life and conversations, too. The idea of leaving stuff out is painful to me, because then the reader doesn’t get the full picture… but trying to include everything inevitably dilutes the point that you’re trying to put across. You have to light fires, not fill buckets. If the point you’re making is a complex one, break it down into parts, and write separate posts for the separate parts. Then you can weave them together in a summary later. That way, if people feel a need to get more context, they can click on the hyperlinks. Also, this process makes you a better writer.
  • 3: Edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite.
    •  I had a horror-story of a blogpost that grew into this massive, mythical beast that was just all over the place. I spent nearly 3 weeks on it, and when I looked at it, it was clunky and messy. I was emotionally attached to all the work I had put into it. So attached that I kind of just lost the heart to do anything about it. On multiple occasions since, I’ve found it helpful to write a huge, clunky post, then share it with someone else (cringe). They’ll then typically ask, “Uh, what exactly are you trying to say? What’s the one-sentence summary?” And then I’d summarize… and discard the entire blogpost. I’ll then expand on the one-sentence summary. The result is always far more readable.
  • 4: Be concise, write for scanning. 
    • Ain’t nobody got time to read walls of text. Most people will scroll quickly through a blogpost to get a vague sense of whether it’s worth their time. You have to write for those people.

VVmarketing

VV marketing blog

  • The most important thing about marketing
    • The most important thing about marketing
      • intro- how I think everyone is fucking dumb and talks stupid shit that doesn’t matter (say it nicely)
        • I have a confession to make, and one I’ve been nervous and anxious to talk about, because the most likely outcome is that I’m wrong. But I still haven’t shaken this intuition after years, so I figure I’ll just come out and say it, and then deal with the consequences:
          • I think most people have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about when they’re talking about marketing. I read a lot of blogposts, even things by really good writers, and I feel like everyone tends to focus on the details. On how to arrange deckchairs on a cruise ship when we haven’t yet talked very much about how to build boats, and how to make sure that ships don’t sink.
          • I think we interview success stories, and they just list out what they’ve done- and the implication is that if they’re successful, whatever they did must have gotten them successful. I think of this as the Spray Tan Fallacy- if all bodybuilders have great spray tans, will getting a great spray tan make you look more like a bodybuilder?
          • Yet somehow we feel like- oh, if those guys did those marketing tactics, they must be right. They must know what they’re doing. But that’s not necessarily true! The only thing that matters is product market fit.
          • There are a few people I’ve read who make sense about this to me. Seth Godin approaches it from a nudgey perspective. He doesn’t try to tell you what to do, he tells you to seek out what is most compelling, what is most remarkable, what is most important. Some people describe this as flakey, but fuck it. It is what it is.
      • product/market fit.
        • Marc Andreessen wrote an essay once about Product/Market fit. Businesses that successfully reach… https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marc-andreessen-product-market-fit-startups-marc-andreessen
        • there are a few people who seem to make sense about this- marc andreessen talked about product/market fit. when you have product market fit the market pulls the product out of the team, there’s feedback, etc
        • engineers/innovators/creators/designers, they focus on innovating the product. marketers, we focus on making sense of the market. understanding what people want
      • understanding what people want- what does that mean?
        • the most critical part is identifying the internal, intrinsic motivations that people have
        • “if I asked ppl what they want, they say they want faster horses”- well- what they want is to go across the state as quickly as possible
        • why do they want to do that? maybe they’re speed demons. they want to feel powerful. maybe they’re explorers, they want to see more of the world. or maybe they’re hungry for connection, and they want to cover distances to connect with other people.
      • that’s the highest order bit. the critical insight that dramatically influences everything else you do. every perfect-length blogpost with clickbaity headline. every perfectly-scheduled tweet. every piece of marketing collateral.
        • it’s good and important for marketers to have all these tools in their toolkits- but the marketers that win big are those who figure out what those tools are actually supposed to be used FOR. Why are you building that computer? Why are you building that camera? (GoPro vs Contour)
      • and ultimately, when you fucking zoom all the way out, marketing is about helping people creating pleasure and utility in our brief, desolate existence (lol)
      • part of the ills and sins of marketing in the old days was when we directed this towards things that harmed us in the long run
        • cigarettes, unsustainable consumerism, unhealthy foods, etc’
      • but the job of the marketer is to listen, to pay attention, to see where people are trying to go and then help them get there faster, better. to create meaning where there previously didn’t seem to be any.
      • so some test conclusions/insight to work backwards from:
      • Conclusion: the most important thing about marketing is figuring out Why. What makes people do what they do. What would give people pleasure, relief, respite.
        • the most important thing about marketing is helping people get more precise about what they want’
      • we don’t buy what we need. we buy what we want. but we aren’t super clear about what we want. we know what we want when we see it, but most of us are too busy, too tired, etc to sit down and figure out for ourselves what we want. (This is an excellent exercise, by the way, which everybody really ought to do.)
      • when we figure out what we want, the next step is to figure out what we need to do to get there. but that’s relatively trivial, in my opinion. if you do nothing else as a marketer, you should figure out why. and the rest almost takes care of itself. (Almost. Actually it’s a ton of work. But if we don’t figure out why, we’re chipping away randomly in random places at random things and the net result is mediocre.)
      • I would love it if we preceded all our conversations about marketing with why. I work for X company- why? Why does the company exist?
    • What is the most critical, important thing about marketing? About customer acquisition, about building a brand? There are all these books to read. there are all these blogposts. all these case studies. I have 100s of case studies, dozens of books. I’ve been doing marketing for a couple of years. What’s The Most Important Thing?
      • I googled “The Most Important Thing About Marketing”-
        • 8 things- nope, nada.
        • How To Show Undeniable Proof
    • The most important thing is aligning yourself and your offering with the intrinsic motivations of your customer. Of somebody. Anybody.
    • There is an old saying in marketing: A great product will sell even if the promotion is poor, but a great promotion cannot sell a bad product. It isn’t always true, but the fact remains that the most important factor in marketing is whether your product is a good fit with the needs, concerns, and desires of your customers.
    • Examples
      • What did GoPro get right that Contour get wrong? Marketing.
      • What does Coke do better than Pepsi? Marketing. Santa Claus wears red, damnit. http://60secondmarketer.com/60SecondArticles/Branding/index.html People look at a coca cola truck and think Christmas. Coke belongs in a museum, but somehow not Pepsi. http://adage.com/article/news/pepsi-tackles-identity-crisis/234586/ Why do people drink sugary drinks? (lol). I’d like to buy the world a coke. Coke is about sharing precious moments together, about celebrating an occasion, about relief on a hot day, about connection. What is Pepsi about?
    • There are several scales of marketing, so it’s actually pretty disingenous and unfair to talk about marketing as if it’s one big homogenous thing. Marketing a startup is different from marketing a publicly-listed company. It’s literally a completely different game. Ants have to worry about surface tension, elephants have to worry about gravity. Entirely different concerns.
    • How do we get people to think or talk about referral marketing?
    • “if I asked ppl what they want, they say they want faster horses”- well- what they want is to go across the state as quickly as possible (reference the intercom.io post)
      • why do they want to do that? maybe they’re speed demons. they want to feel powerful. maybe they’re explorers, they want to see more of the world. or maybe they’re hungry for connection, and they want to cover distances to connect with other people.
    • Steve Jobs- “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology – not the other way around.” – See more at: http://blog.topohq.com/buying-experience-important-thing-sales-marketing/#sthash.JMcvzMDO.dpuf
    • UserOnboard- what superpowers will your product give people? Once you figure that out, I think you have to figure out- what are the fundamental human things that we care about? And
    • similar
      • http://www.earlytorise.com/the-most-important-part-of-marketing/
      • http://smallbusiness.chron.com/key-things-marketing-22970.html
  • Things I’ve Learned About Marketing, Writing, etc at ReferralCandy
    • 1
      • Immediately smack them in the face with the meatiest bit.
        • Tell it straight. People don’t have time for smartassery. Smartassery is for smartasses trying to impress other smartasses, and it’s a circle jerk that doesn’t make the world a better place. What’s the single most useful thing that smartassery has ever achieved in the world? Oscar Wilde was a smartass, and he was very entertaining. He used his wit to poke holes in the bullshit of elites and ruling classes, and he helped to reveal the circus nature of reality. And that’s awesome, that’s great. But if you want to create real, lasting value, smartassery doesn’t help very much. Elon Musk can say things like “93 million miles” and “0 degrees Kelvin” and “Newton’s Third Law”, but the point is that he builds rockets that can land and relaunch, and he builds electric cars that can drive across the US while recharging quickly at free charging stations.
      • Create real value and tell it straight. The smartassery is tedious and a waste of time.
      • Know exactly what you’re going to say, and know exactly what you want people to take away from something. Figure out the exact action you want them to take and work backwards from there.
      • I once spent two to three weeks- I think maybe even four weeks writing a blogpost about Oreo vs Nutella. And it was a train wreck. I tried to talk about the entire history of chocolate and about Hershey and Mars. I tried to talk about how Oreo’s advertising and promotion was great, while Nutella’s was lukewarm. I tried to argue that Nutella was a better product because it had a crazier fan base that was more addicted to the product. My problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted the reader to take away from all of that. Was I going to help you do a better job? Does it actually matter that it’s interesting that Nabisco, the holding company that runs Oreo, is short for National Biscuit Company?
      • Headlines aren’t just about getting clicks. They’re also about helping you figure out what you want to give people, what you want to tell people.
        • And again, smartassery isn’t useful. Can you tell something to a person in a headline that’s interesting and useful by itself? If you can, do that. If you can’t, can you get them interested or curious about something, and then give that to them? Then do that.
      • We once discussed the nature of listicles. Should we use listicles, or should we not? We changed our mind when we discovered that all of the posts that we had written that were most widely shared were listicles. We have a few posts that have over 1,000 shares, and they’re all listicles. Why? I’m guessing it’s because the value of a listicle is easy to communicate. They’re kind of like the fast food of articles. here, a list of things. I’ve personally always been a fan of listicles of great photos, etc. It’s just a format that people are familiar with and like, and the creative challenge for the writer is to figure out how to repurpose that in a way that’s interesting, to populate it in a way that communicates some real value.
      • Here are some of our listicles that are performing pretty well by our standards:
        • 6 ways to acquire customers with your about page
        • 13 companies
        • 10 things
      • why do people love listicles so much?
        • People want light content that’s easy to digest, easy to share, and that stuff gives you a lot of exposure really quick. But we also know that that’s the high-fructose corn syrup of content. How do we get to the really good stuff that’s wholesome and good for us?
      • Headlines should tell people what the product is about, and what the benefit will be.
        • In a blogpost, a headline is to tell you about what the next paragraph is about, and what the benefit will be. Sometimes you don’t know what the headline should be until you’ve written the paragraph. And after that when you condense it into a headline, you find that the paragraph is redundant, and can be eliminated altogether. When that happens, eliminate it! You just saved the reader a bunch of rubbish that they didn’t have to read. That’s great. Now you can add actual meaningful context. This is how you build value, layer by layer. It involves summary and reinforcement, summary and reinforcement.
    • 2
      • I think it’ll help me clear up my thoughts about why I do what I do, what I ought to be doing, and how to best do that.
      • Measure.
      • Keyword intent / Search
      • Social
      • Skyscraper
      • follow your curiosities
      • GOOD lists of examples
  • my approach to writing and creating content. I should have good answers to all of these questions.
    • Why is ecommerce worth caring about?
      • Because commerce is worth caring about. Ecommerce is just a new way to do one of the oldest things people have ever done. And it’s exciting because now the barriers are much lower and anybody can start their own business.
    • Why is referral marketing worth caring about?
      • Conventional advertising is a pain in the ass. Everybody has a megaphone today. Everybody has the opportunity and the ability to communicate with tonnes of people everywhere.
    • Marketing itself?
  • 1 year at work. What I’m proud of. What I’ve learnt. Questions to ask. What is ecommerce? What are ecommerce platforms? What is marketing? What is b2b? What are startups?
  • Post mortems at work – what mistakes have we made? what would I have don’t differently?

Notes from talk by Baidu pioneer Eric Xu

Baidu – Eric Xu

Introduction / Story

  • I was trained as a scientist before I decided to do business in 1996
  • First part of my learning process – SV – 98 to 99, co-produced TV documentary called Journey to SV.
  • Robin and I – Shared value to do something
  • Started operation in Beijing, Jan 2000
  • Learning as we grow
  • None of us had management roles in the past. Hadn’t managed people before. Learning process. We figure out what things work, what things don’t.
  • IPO 2005 on NASDAQ. US$40m revenue. Broke records. Single IPO day gain in terms of stock price, 350% gain on the first day. By 2007 Baidu was included as first CHI firm in NASDAQ 100 Index.
  • Revenue grew to US$468M. Company has been doing fantastic financially.
  • What did we do right? Reflection process.
  • Disclaimer: Baidu is a public company, whatever I say is my personal view. Baidu is an Internet tech company based in China. What I share may or may not work elsewhere. But I believe in these fundamentals.

Defining a successful startup

  • From financial performance, investment POV. Market valuation.
  • Baidu– 2 persons to multi-billion-dollar co. $9.5B market cap. We’re offering our investors huge return. SG govt invested in two separate VC funds which invested in Baidu in the early stages. Offering 100x to 800x return, depending on when they exited.
  • How to increase market value, from VC standpoint and startup standpoint? Increase chance?
  • There’s no guarantee.
  • Long term competitive sustainable advantages. And of course there are outside factors. These are inside things. Things you can control.
  • I believe you have to be striving to become the best in a combination of areas. Huge business success. One area of superiority is not enough.
    • Several variables working together consistently over time.
    • Successful companies are rarely the first ones to do what they do. No first mover advantage. They figure out a way to do better. (Amazon, Google, Ebay…)

Equity structure

  • How the shares are distributed– founders, investors, stock options. These are more relevant to high-tech companies. Very critical.

Founders and Culture

  • Founders are critical. They’re responsible for 3 things:
    • Ultimately responsible for company culture
    • Strategic vision
      • The direction of the company. You can change, but eventually you have to pick the right way. That’s the key. Founders are responsible for that.
    • Building the right founding team – not the smart team.
      • Always a question– Baidu at the time– all the way to IPO and all the way to the current status– I don’t think we are having more talented people than our competitors, than Google in China, than Yahoo. Those bigger companies have better resources, they can hire even more talented people. They can offer better packages. We have many local companies, some the founders are super smart. In terms of IQ, I don’t think we are better. A lot of people are better than us. This is true for many companies which are successful.
        • Why?
          • Startups always have a chance to succeed – because the bigger companies can make mistakes, big mistakes. Yahoo at one time was trying to buy Google. Google offered a price, Yahoo didn’t buy, Yahoo said it was too high. We can do the same thing as Google.
  • Independent thinking + open-mindedness is very important.
    • Shared values are very important. Attract people who have agree with the same culture.
    • EQ.
  • Candor – learned from Jack Welsh, talking about how he manages GE, in his book Winning. 3 things.
    • Frankness + Constructive confrontation
    • Confront the brutal truth/facts of the situation. We’re facing so much competition. What are the competitors doing better than us? Be very, very frank. At any level of company meetings. Discuss why we did poorly in certain areas compared to our competitors. How can we do better?
    • Best idea wins, doesn’t matter where it comes from. So everyone can make a difference.
    • “Any organization that brings more people and their minds into conversation has an advantage” – Welsh
    • One of the key reasons startups can defeat bigger companies is that they build a mechanism/environment where they can attract the proper talents and build long term sustainable competitive advantages– more minds.
  • Execution – mentioned many times in MBA courses and talks. It’s really about people. You want to find the people who can execute and are accountable. Take full responsibilities.
    • When someone is not doing his job, project is not done properly, those people do not blame and do not come up with excuses. It’s my fault. Fire people who give us excuses for not getting things done. Those people are gone, period.
    • Strongly result oriented and never give up mentality.
    • John Doerr – Kleiner Perkins – ideas are important but execution is everything. John started in Bay Area in Intel, then joined Kleiner Perkins. Top tech VC firms in the world, in the US at least.

As a startup you want to do one thing better than anyone else– you want to choose the right thing – the core business.

  • In order to do that, you need to identify the drivers for your business. Getting to more details– usually we’re talking about operation drivers like how you’re going to evaluate your market share. What’s your driver for the top line– Your revenue/output? What’s the driver for your bottom line? Constantly evaluate this. Have a high predictability in terms of your future, in terms of your financial performance. As a founder, you should start getting these ideas from the very beginning.
  • Throughout the course of this startup– you have to stay focused. Say no to big opportunities. Eg– in Baidu’s case, we were at one time (2002-3), building up market share, have a lot of search traffic. At the time there were different models evolving. You can do SP business, Social Network, other things with all that traffic.
  • Our board asked us to try. We actually turned down many businesses. We even shut down one search-related business, which is enterprise search. Baidu is a consumer brand. But once upon of a time, we had a business that provided internal enterprise search. But we shut it down in order to really have the focus. In our mind, Search is so critical to the Internet, that given China’s market growth, if we maintain and grow our search market share, given our keyword based advertising model, it’s growing faster than any potential acquisition or any other business. It turned out to be true.
  • James Collins – Good to Great. Focus on what you can potentially do better than any other organization. ONLY path to greatness. Collins was talking about Enterprises evolving. He did some systematic studies. Key conclusion, also applies to startups.

Capital is kind of simple, but critical for startup success.

  • In Baidu’s case, we closed our Series B right before the tech bubble burst. That $10M really carried us running through different business models and eventually we found the one that really work.
  • My suggestion would be never run out of cash, raise money wisely.
  • I believe in conservative spending. No matter how much you raise– in 2000 when we raised $10m– we didn’t want to mention it in public. There are many companies raising $20m, $30m, etc. $10m is really nothing. But eventually we found many of those companies with big fundraising successes just vanished.
  • The size of a CEO’s office in a startup is inversely proportional to the success of the startup.
  • When we started- me and Robin were in the States for 10 years before moving to China. We were trying to rent all these offices– asked my friends, my father to look for office buildings. We picked one next to a University, we really liked it. The rental is okay, so we move in. Then I realized– the number of the office is 14-14. Inauspicious. The other is 14-17. Then I realized, that’s why those two offices are always empty.
    • As long as you do something fundamentally well, you still get a chance.

Independent growth

  • Never count on others for your success. You can and should collaborate, but in the bottom of your heart, you have to tell yourself that you are responsible for the long-term and bigger success of the company. This is so true. I cannot really elaborate.
  • Organic growth vs M&A. I personally believe that as a startup, you should go for organic growth. There are M&A opportunities– if you look at Baidu, we have never done any official announcement for any major M&A. It’s not that we’re not looking for opportunities for acquisition… there are many many issues, the integration, the culture, many things. If you go into MBA courses and management books, you’ll find out. I personally believe there are more failures than successes.

Summary – to build a sustainable long term competitive advantage

  • Mentality of competency in multiple areas, very important
  • effective company culture
  • focus and achieve market leadership
  • handling financing and money intelligently
  • grow independently