Great work by Bridget Quinlan and Marci Haire of Growthink's Expert Market Research Team!

Awesome client testimonial for work done by Growthinkers Bridget Quinlan and Marci Haire! Great job!

"Thanks Bridget! 

Yes: you have made me a happy man indeed. 
This is my first time writing a business plan. I've found the process extremely educational. 
so glad we went in for another round with the global figures..... Paints a beautiful picture for my investors. 
Look forward to spreading the word about your company. 


Bridget QuinlanMarci Glasgow-Haire

Wisdom from the Best CEOs - How to Use Time Better

70% of Time Could Be Used Better - How the Best CEOs Get the Most Out of Every Day

Author: Bill Trenchard 

"The average tech CEO works about 300 days a year, 14 hours a day. That’s 4,200 hours a year. The stats for most other tech leaders and startup employees aren’t too far off. It sounds like a lot of time, but for most, it’s not enough. Nearly 30% of that time gets sunk into email. Another third gets spent in meetings — and studies show that half of those hours are completely wasted.

Looking at the schedule of a typical CEO, a full 70% of that time is sub-optimal, and I’ll back that up with my own experience. Prior to joining First Round as a partner, I served as Co-Founder and CEO for three companies, including LiveOps. Today, I meet with dozens of founders every week, helping them grow their teams and get more productivity out of themselves and the people they work with. They know they should be using every hour to move their companies forward, create great products, close deals and hire the best candidates. Many just can’t find the time. So, how do we get better?

This year, I spent several weeks leading up to our annual CEO Summit catching up with people I know who do a superhuman job at managing their time. My goal was to capture the tools, tips and hacks they use to make every work hour count. Below, I share eight strategies that have worked for them and for me, so we can all stop wasting time and missing out on opportunities."

1. SAY NO. 








"If you implement these simple hacks, you can get that 70% of time you aren't maximizing back. You can spend less time in meetings and your inbox. Most importantly, you can get back to leading, inspiring, closing deals and changing the world."

For the full article click here.

5 Distribution Experiments You Can Do For $10 Or Less

By Matthew Berman

One of the common reasons / excuses I hear from companies as to why they’re not focused on distribution experiments has to do with the fact that founders think they need a large budget to have meaningful results.

We get it. It’s understandable not to want to blow through precious seed dollars with haphazard distro experiments. Don’t do that!

But just because you’re on a budget (who isn’t) doesn’t mean you should put off distro experiments until you raise a lot of funds. If you wait that long, you might not be able to raise.

Successful experiments can net you results that you can use as a stepping stone to run more segmented experiments, and/or funnel back into product development. The point is to start gathering data immediately.

Just like the lean startup methodology, we’re going to launch our ads early (build), read results (measure), and focus on expanding the signals of success (learn). 

“We don’t know what we’re doing and don’t want to waste money.”

This is valid. Most companies starting out don’t have a distribution hacker on demand, and could very well be shooting dollars in the dark.

Here’s what happens when you throw out paid acquisition altogether:

a) you handicap your product by cutting out a potentially valuable acquisition strategy

b) your company misses out on a valuable mine of ongoing feedback and data that could be going towards product development and improved messaging

c) you miss out on learning about your messaging, value propositions, and landing pages.

At 500 Startups, we believe in starting distribution from day 1.

To get you started, here are 4 distro experiments & hacks that the 500 Distribution Team has used to help our 1:1 clients and accelerator companies run distribution experiments and improvements on $10 a day — or less. 

#1 Test your conversion funnel

We recommend Mixpanel to a lot of our companies because it gives you free events / people in exchange for you simply putting their logo on your site.

1. Set up events at each step of your funnel and find the weak points in your funnel. Work to improve the weak points first
2. Reduce registration friction by only requiring completely necessary fields. This will increase the amount of users entering your product but be aware this will reduce the overall quality of incoming users. The hope is the increase in volume will offset the decrease in quality.

COST: Free

Wait, you don’t have an email funnel? You should really get on that. But don’t worry, it’s easy to get started with something simple, and still get results right away. 

#2 Capture / recapture abandoning users with funnel abandonment emails

This can be also done through Mixpanel.

1. Set up a people property for the “last step in funnel” that the user takes and email them a customized message when they drop out of the funnel.

2. You can also set up people properties for your best customers to reward them for hitting certain retention goals.

COST: Free 

#3 Test FB ads at minimal spend

If you don’t know what you’re doing, spending on FB ads can be scary like a runaway train. Luckily, there are a few techniques to mitigate risk and limit spend while still getting most of the key benefits of advertising on Facebook.

When you don’t have a large budget to spend it is best to start with broad targeting. It may seem like starting very targeted is the best path to take with a low budget, but there’s a needle-in-the-haystack problem with this approach. If you have 100 factors you can test and you are only testing 1 at a time, you’ll need get lucky with picking the one that is successful first. With broad targeting, your highs won’t be as high, but you’ll be able to test more general assumptions — which is how you need to start. You can also look for signals of potential success.

  1. Always test male/females separately. Gender segments will typically perform differently.

  2. Always test different age ranges separately. Different age segments will also usually perform differently.

  3. Test different value propositions, copy, and images.

    COST: You can get valuable results with a spending cap of $10 a day. 

#4 User Interview

One cheap method that garners valuable insight is the in-person interview. Aaahh! Talking to real people! We know, we know, but for $5, the insights you’ll learn are worth any potential awkwardness. And it’s never awkward to WIN, at UX and distribution that is.

Go to a coffee shop, buy people a cup of coffee, and watch them use your product. You can observe people’s natural interaction with your product, or suggest specific goals / actions for them to achieve.

  1. Focus on your onboarding flow. It will be painful to watch because things that are obvious to you as the creator are sometimes not obvious to users. But good-painful.

    COST: $5 or less 

BONUS: Learning The Tools

One final important reason to get started with distribution early is so you can learn the tools now (before you go big time)! This will save you time when you’re ready to scale your distribution strategies. 


Even if you’re not Whatsapp (and you’re not), or an amply funded startup, you don’t have to sit on your hands and wait for distribution to come to you. There are LOTS more experiments beyond what we’ve briefly outlined here, all at varying levels of spend.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that distribution should be a core focus for your company, now. Start early, start small, but START.

The Art of Following Up (Without Being Annoying)

I once sent a pitch to a former client. I hadn't worked for this client in several months, but she paid well and I was eager to get another piece of business. I was certain I had a proposal she would be interested in. But my contact didn't respond to my first email. Or my second one, a couple of weeks later, or my third, a couple of weeks after that.

We had a strong history together and I really wanted to work with her again. And so, instead of my usual practice of giving up after a couple of tries, I kept at it. After yet another email went unanswered, I called her office and left a message. A week later, I left a message again. (I was feeling more and more like a stalker, but I really wanted the job.) A week after that, I called one more time--and she happened to pick up the phone.

She hadn't read or didn't remember my emails or phone messages, so I explained once more what I had in mind.

"That's interesting to me," she said. And gave me the job.

As soon as I got off the phone and got done whooping for joy, I pulled out a little yellow sticky note. "Persistence pays!" I wrote with a red felt tip, and stuck it to the side of my computer. For years--until I changed computers a couple of times and the stickum wore off--that little note stayed in place as an important reminder that what can feel like obnoxious pushiness might actually be the appropriate behavior needed to get a customer's attention in this busy world. It's a lesson I've often forgotten, but when I've remembered and made the effort to follow up and then follow up again, I've rarely been sorry. More than once, it has led to an unexpected sale.

On the other hand, as someone who receives a lot of pitches, and more than my share of follow-up emails and phone calls, I know that there are effective ways of doing it and ways that will only annoy.

How do you do follow-up right? Here's what works for me:

1. If you haven't followed up, you haven't really pitched.

This seems like it should go without saying. But too many people will send one email or leave one phone message and never get in touch again if they don't get an answer. If something's worth going after, it's worth trying more than once.

2. Follow up at least two times more than you think you should.

In another case, I sent a pitch, then one follow-up, and then gave up. Four months later the customer got back to me--very apologetically--to ask if I was still interested. I was, and that company has since become one of my best clients. It was sheer dumb luck that this particular customer remembered my pitch or else found it again in her inbox. If she hadn't, I would have missed a really good thing by giving up too soon.

3. Assume your customer has forgotten your pitch.

You'll have the best chance of success if you figure on starting over from scratch every time you get in touch. If your original proposal was an email, include that email in your follow-up. If you have a prospect on the phone, or are leaving a message, remind him or her in as few words as you can what you proposed.

4. Don't act like you're owed anything.

It can be tempting to get peevish the third or fourth time you've followed up and gotten no response. Keep in mind that no matter how many times you've gotten in touch or how perfect your offer is for that client, no one there is obligated to respond to you in any way. Your fifth follow-up should be as polite in tone as your first one was.

 5. Try multiple channels.

Not getting a response to your emails or phone messages? Try an @ message on Twitter, or a message on LinkedIn or Facebook. If you have multiple contacts at a prospective client and one isn't answering you, try someone else. (Make sure to let each contact know who else you've contacted, though, or this can backfire.)

6. Your objective is an answer.

If you've set yourself a "no" quota, you know that an answer, even a turn-down, is much better than getting a non-answer such as "I'll get back to you." (If you don't have a "no" quota, you should.)

But some people are uncomfortable saying no, so they'll try to put off the inevitable. Fight that tendency by giving the person a reason to give you an immediate answer, such as a limited-time discount. And if your contact says something like "I'll get back to you," set a time when you'll get back to him or her instead.

7. Have a plan.

What happens if and when you get that "no"? Have an immediate plan. What other customer can you pitch to next? What other product can you pitch to this client? Getting turned down should just take you to the next step along your planned path. By the way, you should also know what your next step is if the answer turns out to be yes.

8. Say thank you.

Whatever answer you get, someone took the time to read your proposal, or speak with you on the phone. They gave you some of their time and attention, which is a scarce commodity for every professional these days. They may have given you information that can help you make your product better, or some ideas about how to sell it elsewhere. And if you thank them, they're likely to remember how gracious you were--and want to do business with you in the future.

U.S. Private Equity and Venture Capital Funds Earned Positive Returns for Q3 2013 and Improved on Their Q2 Results,

U.S. Private Equity and Venture Capital Funds Earned Positive Returnsfor Q3 2013 and Improved on Their Q2 Results, According to CambridgeAssociates

Returns for Venture Capital Investments Moved Ahead of Private Equity Year-to-Date

BOSTON, MA, Mar 05, 2014 (Menafn - Marketwired via COMTEX) --In the midst of a strong period for public equities and a healthyIPO market, U.S. private equity and venture capital funds generatedpositive returns for the third quarter of 2013, with venture capitaloutperforming private equity for the period. Over short and mediumterms ending on September 30, 2013, both alternative asset classescontinued to struggle against the public markets. Over the long termthe opposite remained true, as both private equity and venturecapital funds delivered returns that easily bested those delivered bypublicly traded equities, according to Cambridge Associates.

Quarterly returns for both indices were more than two percent greaterthan in the prior period. In the third quarter, the CambridgeAssociates LLC U.S. Private Equity Index rose 5.1%, bringing itsyear-to-date return to 13.3%. For comparison, the S&P 500 gained 5.2%and 19.8% over the same periods. The Cambridge Associates LLC U.S.Venture Capital Index returned 6.5% and 14.0%, respectively, for thequarter and year-to-date. Its closest public market counterpart, theRussell 2000, gained 10.2% and 27.7% for the same periods.

The table below details the performance of the Cambridge Associatesbenchmarks against several key public market indices. Returns forperiods of one year and longer are annualized.

Fundraising Mistakes Founders Make

There’s a lot written about what you should do when you raise money, but there hasn’t been as much written about the common mistakes founders make. Here is a list of mistakes I often see: 

• Over-optimizing the process
A lot of founders try to get way too fancy with tricks that they think will help them raise money.  It’s actually quite simple; if you have a good company, you will probably be able to raise money.  You’re better off working to make you company better than working on fundraising jiu jitsu.
The process is simple:
  1. Get intros to investors you want to talk to and reach out to them, in parallel, not in series - this is important, see (3).
  2. Explain to them why your company is likely to make them a lot of money. This usually includes the company’s mission, the product, current traction, future vision, the market, the competition, why you’re going to win, what the long-term competitive advantage will be, how you’re going to make money, and the team.
  3. Set up a competitive environment. You'll (unsurprisingly) get the best terms when multiple investors compete with one another for space in your round.  This is the one rule of "the game" that is really important--I'll talk about it more later on.
Some founders try things like carefully timing news articles, casually mentioning to one investor that they'll be having dinner with another investor, claiming their schedule is really packed except for one specific hour, and other tricks - but if you just build a good company, you generally won’t need to.
Many little things simply don't matter very much--for example, the "signal" sent when an early investor chooses not to participate in a later round. If the company is doing well stuff like this is easily overlooked, and if the company's not doing it will struggle to raise money anyway.
Unless you do it perfectly, game-playing will hurt you with most good investors. And you should be trustworthy and honest no matter what. Investors won't back you if they can't trust you.
• Over-optimizing the terms
Startups are usually a pass-fail course -- either you succeed or you don't.  If you fail, maybe you get acqui-hired, but that's happening less frequently and is usually little better than just getting a job at the acquiring company instead.
The important thing is to get good investors, clean terms, and not spend too much time fundraising. The biggest problem comes from chasing high valuations. Contrary to what many people think, at YC we encourage companies to seek out reasonable valuations. Valuations are something quantitative for founders to measure themselves on, and there are lots of investors willing to pay high prices, so they don’t always listen. But I’ll say it again: trying to get really high valuations is a mistake.

If you’re clearly in a position of leverage, it’s fine to push for a high valuation, but don’t jerk investors around. Just say what you want and don’t get into a lot of back and forth or term complexity. Also remember that very high valuations often push out good investors.
And don’t forget the prime directive of fundraising strategy: set things up so that you never do a down round. The badness of a down round is difficult to overstate; in fact, the threat of that is the best reason not to take a super high price when you’re offered one.  If you raise at such a price, everything has to go perfectly in order for your next round to be an up one.
• Failing to create a competitive environment
Ok, here is the one part of the game I really believe is critical.  You generally need to set up a competitive environment to get a good outcome in fundraising (or, for that matter, any big deal).
The hard part is getting the first offer. Once you have this, you have the leverage -- if other investors don’t act fast, you have an offer you can take, and they risk missing a potentially great opportunity (and maybe looking stupid to their partners, etc etc.) Until then, they can procrastinate and wait as long as they want. It’s remarkable how long it can take the first offer to come in, and how quickly the next ten can materialize.
So sometimes you have the hack the process a little bit to get this first offer. The best way is to find someone who loves what you’re doing and is willing to act. Although it’s ok to use that offer to get others, you should be nice to anyone willing to act first by prioritizing their offer, finding a way to get them into the round even if someone else leads it, etc.
There are a lot of other tactics for this that I should write a separate post on at some point.
Beware, though, that saying things like “our round is closing really fast” when you have no offers usually backfires. Investors talk and will call your bluff.
When you have a good competitive environment the leverage shifts to you - you will be astonished at how much things change. Firms that previously couldn’t meet you for three weeks will suddenly be able to schedule full partner meetings on a Sunday. And when multiple bidders really want to invest, a lot of the "non-negotiable" terms like 20% ownership and board seats go away.
• Coming across as arrogant, antagonistic, disrespectful, etc.
Somehow, a myth got started that investors like this and nerdy founders sometimes put on an affectation.  Don’t do it.  Be respectful (which includes things like not asking investors to make a decision after a first meeting unless you really are about to close your round).
Remember that investors are people too. They want to feel loved. The first time I raised money, I was hesitant to tell the investors I really liked that I really liked them because I thought I was giving up leverage. But it turns out telling the investors you really like that you especially want to work with them makes them more positively inclined to you, not less.
• Not hearing no
Investors don’t want to kill option value; founders are optimistic people.  This leads to investors saying a very nice version of "no" and founders hearing "with just a few more conversations, I may get to a yes."  Anything other than a term sheet is a "no", and all the reasons don’t matter.  Move on and talk to other investors.
• Not having a lead investor
A lot of founders put together party rounds comprised of dozens of investors and congratulate themselves that no single investor has much power over them.  But in practice investors have little power over companies that are doing well anyway, and what they actually have is no investor that is super invested in their success.
It turns out it’s really valuable to have one investor that you meet with every month and report progress to. This forcing function creates an operational cadence in the company that is a big net positive. It’s remarkable to me how much more frequently the party round companies go off into the weeds.
• Pitching poorly
A lot of founders get caught up in trying to follow a perfect template, and drone on and on about their competitors, the market evolution, etc.  They’re bored and it shows.
The way to pitch well is to focus on the parts of the business that truly excite you. That will shine through, and it will get the investors excited. Conveying your passion for the business is almost as important as what you say, and it’s almost impossible to fake.
Even if you’re an introvert, it will usually come through to a sophisticated investor. So start with the parts you’re really excited about.
Investors want to hear a good story, and that includes things like how you decided to work on this idea, why it matters, how you met your co-founders, etc. So don’t leave those parts out of the pitch.
Also, remember that smart investors are looking for the really big hits. So don’t do obviously dumb things like talk about potential acquirers in a seed round pitch - that will suggest you’re not trying to build a really big company.

• Not reference-checking major investors
Great investors can add a huge amount of value; bad investors can make your life miserable.  Before signing up to work with someone for the better part of a decade, spend an hour calling founders they have worked with to get a sense of what's in store for you.
• Lacking a clear vision
If you don’t seem to have any strong feelings or conviction, and you agree with every suggestion the investor makes about your business, you'll risk coming across as lacking a clear vision.  You should always listen to what someone smart has to say, but you should be firm on the things you really believe.
Founders with a clear vision can usually explain what they’re doing and why it matters in just a handful of words. Clear vision also usually entails at least one big new idea. Even if it’s a familiar problem, there should be something important the investor hasn’t heard before.
It’s ok to have some big unknowns, of course. You’re not expected to have all the answers, but you should have clear theses to start with.
• Not knowing key metrics
There are two questions I really look at in early stage investments:
  1. Does the team know what to do?
  2. Can the team do it?
The first question is addressed by the bullet point above.  The second is addressed by showing that the team cares about operational quality.  I’ve found that teams that execute well always know their numbers (or current status if in R+D mode) cold, and that it’s one of the best predictors of execution quality.  It’s surprising how many companies pitch investors without knowing this information.


This is a great idea.

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Date: Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Request to Meet RE: JurisClerks' Fractional General Counsel and In-house Counsel Solutions



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February IPO Activity Highest Since 2007

From Needham & Company:

U.S. equity markets staged an impressive turnaround in February. Despite a prolonged slump at the start of the year on concerns related to prospects for growth in China and the U.S., along with uncertainty in the emerging markets, domestic equity markets rallied to new highs at the end of the month on the back of Janet Yellen's testimony which voiced a potential decrease in tapering as response to recent disappointing domestic data points. On the final Thursday of February, the S&P 500 index rose 9 points to 1,854, surpassing its previous record high of 1,848, eventually closing out the month at 1,859. Furthermore, the Dow finished at 16,322, just short of its 16,576 record, and the NASDAQ added 1.0% on the week to finish at 4,308, short of its record close of 5,049.

In total, there have been 42 IPOs raising $8.2bn so far in 2014, the highest YTD activity since 2007 (also 42 IPOs). February activity saw 24 deals raise $2.3bn, the most active February since 2007 (27 IPOs). Of the 24 deals which priced in February, Varonis Systems (VRNS) was the only technology related deal. The VC backed company, which priced on February 27th, opened up 77% and eventually closed up 100% from its offer price on its first day of trading.

The technology IPO backlog remains very robust, however, with eleven companies filing their initial S-1 statements in February: GrubHub (GRUB), a developer and operator of an online food-ordering website, seeks to raise $100M; Everyday Health (EVDY), a provider of online consumer health solutions, seeks to raise $115M; 2U (TWOU), a provider of higher education degree programs online, seeks to raise $100M; A10 Networks (ATEN), a network equipment manufacturer, seeks to raise $100M; King Digital Entertainment (KING), an interactive mobile entertainment & gaming company, seeks to raise $500M; Borderfree (BRDR), a provider of international ecommerce solutions and cross-border expertise, seeks to raise $86M; Aerohive Networks (HIVE), a manufacturer of a cloud-managed mobile networking platform, seeks to raise $75M; Q2 Holdings (QTWO), a provider of cloud-based virtual banking solutions, seeks to raise $138M; Castlight Health (CSLT), a provider of software designed to make health care pricing options transparent, seeks to raise $100M; Amber Road (AMBR), a provider of global trade management products and solutions, seeks to raise $75M; and Rubicon Project (RUBI), an internet advertiser which automates the buying and selling of ads, seeks to raise $100M.

Also of note are two companies who filed their S-1 on March 3rd: Five9 (FIVN), a provider of cloud software for contact centers, seeks to raise $115M; and Opower (OPWR), a software company that helps utilities meet their efficiency goals through effective customer engagement, seeks to raise $100M.

The closely-watched, CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) fell to 14 by the end of February. Despite the index's stint in the high teens and twenties, we have not seen the spike meaningfully halt activity in the equity markets and have enjoyed healthy market activity throughout 2014. That said, as the calendar turns to March, investors will remain focused on the developments in the Soviet bloc given the mounting geopolitical concerns over the sovereignty of Ukraine.

*         The IPO Thermometer, measuring returns on IPOs in the last 90 days, was +95%, while the NASDAQ saw returns settle at +6% over the same period. Four companies remain in the 90-day look-back: Autohome (ATHM) is trading up 142% from its offer price; Nimble Storage (NMBL) is up 129%; Varonis Systems (VRNS) is up 96%; and (CRCM) is up 9% from its initial offering price.   (pg. 1 as of 2/28/2014)

*         The IPO Scorecard shows the issuer's first day trading results in comparison with its initial filing range. In February, Varonis Systems (VRNS) priced 22% above the midpoint of its range ($17 - $19) and traded up 100% on its first day. (pg. 2)

*         Page 3 is a linear version of the IPO scorecard. Note that data in September and October of 2011 was limited due to inactivity. (pg. 3)

*         The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) is the most widely followed gauge of uncertainty in the market. The volatility charts track the CBOE VIX volatility index and its correlation to the rate of new issuers. The VIX closed February at 14. We view a reading below 20 as generally favorable for near-term capital markets activity. (pg. 5 -6)

*         The technology IPO backlog grew in February: one company completed its initial public offering (VRNS); eleven companies filed their initial S-1 (GRUB, EVDY, TWOU, ATEN, KING, BRDR, HIVE, QTWO, CSLT, AMBR, RUBI); and no companies withdrew their registration statements. (pg. 10)