Cruise

My name is Mike Jirout and the image above is my view as I write this blog post. It’s three weeks after the close of my first successful tech exit. My company developed Ship Mate, an application to help cruise-goers get excited about and prepared for their vacation.  Our motto is “let’s get shipfaced,” and I’ve been aggressively reinforcing the brand this week.

Over the past three years, we’ve had over 600k mobile downloads and reached #2 in Apple’s Top Paid Travel Apps (behind Kayak), bootstrapping the company the entire way. And by bootstrapping, I mean cooking Hot Pockets on irons bootstrapping. Here’s my advice for fellow entrepreneurs:

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customerfight

Half the battle of a start-up is simply getting started, but once you have an idea and a team, there comes another hurdle: finding the right product-market fit.

The quest to product-market fit or ‘PMF’ is often filled with false positives, failed features, and trying to figure out the fastest possible way to generate revenue.

But what does that look like in real life? How do you measure your path to PMF? How do you validate along the way? These are questions that I hear time and time again from entrepreneurs, so I thought it was high time to share the lessons that we learned (the hands-on way) at ConsumerBell on our journey to PMF.

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StartupBus-BeNeLux1

“He that is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else”.
– Benjamin Franklin

Starting a company nowadays is pretty easy. You just need a designer, a hacker, and someone doing the marketing. Give three people an internet connection and they are off to go, right?

The answer to this question seems to be divided. Lean startup enthusiasts will typically chime in with a big ‘yes.’ But the rest of us? We’re convinced that it should take years to get up and running.

We come up with excuses like “I’m not experienced enough,” “I can’t find a co-founder”, “I don’t have an idea” etc. Yeah, some of those excuses are valid. But most of the time, we’re wrong. We end up wasting time waiting for a jump that never happens.

This was something that I wanted to prove — that the ‘jump’ seems much crazier than it actually is. So, I joined the StartupBus, which is exactly what it sounds like — a bus ride where entrepreneurs get together and launch companies. Within 72 hours, I was part of a team and bringing a business concept to life. On paper, it was crazy. But in reality, it was one of the sanest things I’ve ever done.

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Couple Holding Hands

I founded Frog2Prince, an online dating consultancy that helps people perfect their online dating profiles. You know what running a company and working with daters has taught me?

Well, finding is a date is not all that different than starting a business. Both require confidence, sticking your neck out, and being willing to fail.

Entrepreneurs are in a unique position. They work a lot and feel others don’t understand their bustling lifestyles. But ultimately, entrepreneurs want to find love like everybody else.

That’s why I’m here to help.

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Web

Caroline McCarthy consults for clients like Gawker Media, Mashery, and Social Media Week. In past lives, she was a journalist at CNET. Her experiences include:

  • Serving as managing editor for Google’s marketing insights journal, Think Quarterly, and industry partnerships manager for Google+.
  • Appearing as a commentator digital trends on TV and radio news ranging from NBC’s TODAY show to NPR’s Talk of the Nation.
  • Executing event and sponsorship strategies at SXSW, Social Media Week, Advertising Week, and the Sundance Film Festival.
  • Ranking on the Forbes top 30 under 30 list for media. 

Ah, startup PR. The uncertainty. As if it wasn’t difficult enough to get a functional product ready, there’s the added stress of making your work visible.

I’ve been on both sides of the table as a journalist for CNET and as a consultant. Here are the most common questions I’ll see.

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Volcano Jess 1

The daughter of FBI agents, Jess Pelaez was destined for a life of adventure.  As a volcano researcher, she’s been on expeditions to Hawaii, Peru, and Wyoming. The nonprofit entrepreneur has dodged cartel shootouts in Mexico, ridden the Mongol Derby horse race, and crashed an $8M remote-operated submersible into the bottom of the ocean.

Today, she and her co-founder (and husband) Carlos Pelaez are building Blueprint Earth, a California based nonprofit that helps scientists work collaboratively to replicate the world’s environment.

In today’s interview, she shares:

  • The power of execution – how far you can take can idea in just a few months
  • The experience of working with her husband as her co-founder
  • Why she’s tackling a scientific problem much bigger than herself
  • How she views her role as a woman in science and as a female nonprofit entrepreneur
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Clarity - Answers - iPhone - The Future of Reputation and Monetization

After 16 months of steady growth, we’re proving that the future of consulting looks a lot like Clarity.

For those who don’t know us, Clarity is a micro-consulting platform that enables the exchange of high-impact business advice, on demand, over the phone. There are currently over 20,000 experts on Clarity and over 30,000 calls have been completed to date.

Today we’re announcing one of the biggest releases we’ve made to Clarity since launching in May of 2012 and it starts with a new feature called Answers.

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email-marketing-header

I don’t know if you noticed, but marketers are in a tizzy: GMail’s new tabbed inbox has thrown everybody who does email marketing for a loop. GMail now automatically sorts incoming email into four categories (primary, social, updates, promotions), which makes everything that’s not marked primary a lot harder to find and less likely to be read — by about 25%, according to Tomasz Tunguz of Redpoint. And Tunguz points out that the GMail change is just one of two big changes underway. Look at how much of the action in web apps happens on mobile now: Read More…

panda

Whether you’re running a startup or leading an established company, getting your brand noticed in today’s increasingly “noisy” digital environment can be a challenge. Old marketing paradigms – which focus on traditional media buys and banner ads – simply don’t get the traction they used to, emphasizing the need for new promotional strategies.

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seanellis

Growth hacking is what happens when street smarts join forces with technology, operations, creativity, and revenue. The goal is to create a customer acquisition engine that essentially runs on autopilot.

That’s what you do. Here’s what you get:

If you move forward with a clear strategic vision:
A steady, sustainable, and robust user acquisition stream.

If you’re not smart about what you’re doing:
Shitstorm.

What’s amazing about growth hacking is that the concept is timeless. It’s a marketing practice with roots back to the earliest days of entrepreneurship.

That’s good news. In building your growth engine, you have hundreds of years of experience to draw from. Here are some of my favorite lessons that dating back as far as 300 years ago: Read More…

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