The case for a phat startup

phat startup launch tomorrow

No confrontation with day to day reality, Just Execute!

Lean Startup is so overrated and trendy. All these acronyms like MVP, ARRRR, P&L just get your head in the wrong place. Who wants to be pirate anyway? They all had scurvy.

I think Lean Startup causes more problems than it solves. I’d rather run a fat (phat) startup. I’ve done it many times before, and I liked it while it lasted. So, I’m going back to doing that.

  1. My favorite reason for running a phat startup was that I could delude myself. As much as I wanted. I could paint visions in my head, without actually needing to think. I think self-delusion is a great experience. Somebody should productize that. Unparalleled.Why hire a PR company? You can spin your own yarns, since you believe so much more in your own vision than some–hired guns. Yes, delicious delusions are the best, with lots of delicious money. You don’t need to confront day-to-day reality then. Or learn anything. Just execute.
  2. Speaking of delicious, the next reason I like running a phat startup is the hors d’oeuvres at cocktail parties and events. If you’re running a phat startup, you can go to these events and hand out designer’y business cards.Those cards have your name, phone number, and the title “Founder” on them, or even better, “Co-Founder”. That means you’re part of a hip team.It’s lots of fun to show off and make friends, even though they aren’t your customers, in your industry, or potential funding providers.I still hang out with some of those friends from my phat days…even became a godfather for one of those friend’s children.
  3. Another reason to create a phat startup: you can build anything you want. Ignore those pesky customers and what they want. After all, who are they to tell you what you should build? What do they know?Customers or prospects have a well-meaning way of deflating your vision. They all say they want something different than what you do.I mean, they’re good people and all, it’s just better to avoid them when you’re working on your idea. You wouldn’t want them to screw it up.
  4. On to the next part. Since you’re out building your idea, you get to play with lots of techie toys. That’s my favorite part of being a phat founder. Nobody tells me what technology I can’t play with. I can sign up for lots of websites and software.I can tweak things so that I really get my product to be polished and perfect before showing it to anyone.Even though I probably spent a lot of time playing Xbox as a phat founder, nobody needs to know that. My cocktail friends thought I was trying out the latest javascript framework, the one that makes coffee and writes a book for you at the same time.
  5. If you’re running a phat startup, you can just focus on raising investor and shareholder money. Fund a lavish startup lifestyle. If you run out, you can always raise more. Diluting your stake doesn’t really matter, as long as you can find someone else to give you money.Some founders just don’t get it. Why try to keep as much equity as you can? I mean, you wouldn’t want to be risking your savings or anything. That’s not the point here. You want to be living the good life now, not after your exit.

So that’s my case for a phat startup. I hope you see that I’m onto something, and that these Lean Startup guys have it all wrong.

Stop getting canvassed. Go phat.

[image: Kevin Harber]

Miniskirts, Mad Men, and a lengthy landing page

landing pages

landing pagesIn the TV series Mad Men, the story of mass market advertising itself gets put on the limelight. Despite being the epicenter of trendsetting, the fictional advertising agency SCDP gets sideswiped by social changes. Like the civic rights movement, feminism, and the hippies. For any serious student of marketing and Madison Avenue, it’s a great watch.

You want to be taken seriously? Stop dressing like a little girl.
–Joan Holloway to Peggy, from the early 1950s Mad Men

The Mad Men styled-answer to the question of how long a landing page needs to be, which you’ve likely heard before: a sales letter should be like a miniskirt…long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to remain interesting.

The sales letter’s (or landing page’s) goal is to convince your reader of the attractiveness of your offer. So that they buy the product. Once they’re driven by the ad to the landing page, each sentence needs to reel in the reader:

  1. Inform them about the benefits they will receive, and tie them back to product features.
  2. Make the reader increasingly excited about your solution or product, as they read each sentence.
  3. Anything which knock them off that path (words, pictures, or graphics) must be sliced off immediately.
  4. Guarantee and provide certainty that your product will deliver.
  5. Explain exactly how to buy the product you’re selling, to minimize any friction in the sale.

At the same time, there is conflicting tension. The shorter the sales letter is, the more likely it is the reader will finish reading it. Get the same message across in less words.

Mark Twain once quipped, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Particularly when you’re trying to persuade someone, tight writing is essential.

Your riskiest assumptions are probably related to your prospects and customers. Establish empathy quickly with your target prospect, figure out what's valuable, and get your innovation into the market.

Everyone is busy.

In the context of a landing page, it’s almost that simple. Yet not quite. Length is in the eye of the reader, dear reader.

If your salesletter directly targets that reader’s need, they’re much more likely to want to continue reading it. Until the end.

If someone complains that a letter is too long, it’s a strong sign that you’re off mark. They aren’t the ideal recipient. Alternatively, the letter isn’t focused enough on their actual needs.

Which brings me to the main point here. What’s on the landing page doesn’t drive that much in sales. There’s two other factors which influence sales even more than what’s on the landing page.

They’re both in Launch Tomorrow. Buy now.

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Over here.

At the moment, it’s 184 pages of exactly what you need to know, in order to run experiments with landing pages.

Create an explainer video for your complicated new product. Make sure your audience understands it, without being overwhelmed by technical details.

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Figure out whether your market is saturated.

Or not.

There is no try…only do.

If aren’t sure if you’re up for it right now, just grab a sample chapter in the sidebar.

The myth of the startup garage

startup garage launch tomorrow

Rigorous experiments & hard work is a hidden truth behind tech star stories.

When I started college, the whole web was about 360 servers in September 1994. By December, it was in the tens of thousands. I can say this with a straight face, only because I was lucky enough to have good timing to get a front row seat to this explosion of the web. Hint: it’s called the Internet nowadays.

In the early days of the web, the first real-world newspaper which made it online was the San Jose Mercury News. By reading news via email, I was able to get an Associated Press feed on world news. A San Francisco take on everything going on in the world was mind blowing to my still-teenage mind.

As the dotcom era heated up, there were more and more fantastic stories which the media caught onto, usually along the same lines:

  • 2-3 young guys
  • a garage
  • an idea

A few months later they were millionaires. A few years later they were billionaires. Unfortunately, as a student, I didn’t have a garage.

Your riskiest assumptions are probably related to your prospects and customers. Establish empathy quickly with your target prospect, figure out what's valuable, and get your innovation into the market.

While the fantastic stories kept ringing in my head for years after the dotcom crash, I later realized the stories glossed over a few critical elements:

First of all, most of these early stage tech ventures fail. The ones who hit the news were not representative of the typical tech founder experience. That’s a bit more mundane. It’s much more likely for a tech venture where you’re creating something completely new with a new business model to fail, than setting up a restaurant on a busy corner. Certainly back when it cost millions to get good enough servers to scale the business.

Second of all, the press coverage doesn’t include what founders actually do, on a day to day basis. There’s just this predictable narrative leap from a garage to billions. For some reason, I eventually learned to question what was missing from that picture.

Third of all, it’s perfectly understandable that this story has become a stereotype based on media incentives. The media want to sell advertising. People love to read these kinds of romantic stories about changing the world and making billions in the process. Even people who have no interest in trying it themselves.

I’m sure that most of these stories were well researched and accurate. It’s just human nature filling in the gaps and distorting the overall picture (well at least that was true in my own case).

After reading the Lean Startup, I’d figured out what was missing. Experiments.

About to start a greenfield project?

Have Launch Tomorrow run an in-house "riskiest assumption workshop". Remote delivery options also available. Discover where to prioritize your validation efforts, to get to market fast.

Contact Us

or call us now at:

US/Canada: +1 202 949 4478
UK: +44 773 952 7708
EU: +48 692 870 297

That’s what founders actually do, on a day-to- day basis. Printing up a stack of business cards and going networking to impress people you’re a founder? That makes you indistinguishable from everyone else with the same strategy.

If you want to refine an idea and turn it into a business, experiments will get you there. Real tech founders use the scientific method, meticulously testing their assumptions. It’s no coincidence that many of the first round of founders were computer scientists. They were trained to think like scientists, in addition to feeling comfortable with their word processor. Rigorous experiments were the hidden truth behind these tech star stories.

Create an explainer video for your complicated new product. Make sure your audience understands it, without being overwhelmed by technical details.

or call us now at:

US/Canada: +1 202 949 4478
UK: +44 773 952 7708
EU: +48 692 870 297

If you want to be running your own experiments, and want some help with getting started…give me a shout. I can help you construct your first experiments. Get advice on any experiment-related question you might have.

Grab a triangle audit or a copy of Your First Startup Experiment, my book on how to get from idea to your first step in the right direction as a founder.

[image:Brian Fling]