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Traction: How Startups Start | NextView Ventures

In this story-driven show from seed-stage VC NextView, tech startup founders, executives, journalists, and investors share how they gained initial traction against the odds. Every startup hears that they should do things that don't scale -- scrappy, atypical, whatever-it-takes things. Traction asks a simple question: What ARE those things? With a unique sound that avoids the boring, typical talking head format, Traction features some of the most interesting early-stage stories, tactics, and theories from some of the best entrepreneurs today. For all episodes plus exclusive resources for early-stage startups, subscribe at nextviewvc.com/blog.
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Aug 2, 2016

What happens when you and your co-founder experience conflict or strife but don't address it up front? When something festers and is ready to boil over, how do you bring it back down to a good place?

 

This is Part 1 in a series of Traction episodes about the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. Specifically, we'll tackle issues of communication, leadership, and mental well-being.

 

Dan Putt of Reboot joins NextView's VP of platform Jay Acunzo for this series.

 

Check out the Reboot podcast: reboot.io/podcast

 

Subscribe to the NextView blog: nextviewvc.com/blog

 

Follow the guys on Twitter @danputt or @jayacunzo

Jun 29, 2016

NextView's Rob Go talks with Yoav Shapira, a longtime tech leader in the Boston startup community. Yoav was first employee at CarGurus, a founding executive of HubSpot, CTO at Happier, CTO at Jana, and more. Today, he shares the evolution of what it means to lead a startup from the technical side.

Jun 8, 2016

In the second episode of our NYC Tech-focused series, NextView principal Tim Devane and VP of platform Jay Acunzo talk about the tech companies most likely to ascend to the status of "pillar" tech company. They also explore why many we consider pillars may not be, and what makes such a company in the first place.

 

At the end, the name of our NYC tech podcast is revealed.

 

Say hi on Twitter: @tdevane and @jayacunzo.

 

Subscribe at nextviewvc.com/blog

Jun 2, 2016

Startups are exciting for any number of reasons, not least of which are all the fresh new ideas for products and various approaches to doing the work. But we forget that building successful startups is not actually about coming up with ideas. Instead, it's about finding problems, figuring out whether they truly matter (and to how many people), and working hard to solve them.

 

So what happens when you're obsessed with solving a problem? What does that do to your work, your team, your product, your success? Nadia Boujarwah, co-founder of Dia&Co, shares her story to answer those questions and more.

 

Plus, 3 special announcements about the future of the show.

 

SUBSCRIBE FOR MORE CONTENT FROM NEXTVIEW:

bit.ly/nvsubscribe

 

GO BEHIND-THE-SCENES:

Follow Jay on Snapchat: snapchat.com/add/jayacunzo

May 3, 2016

Go inside the thinking behind a $16B startup -- worth more than Twitter, Pinterest or Dropbox as of this recording. Today's guest, Jesse Middleton, is a co-founder of WeWork Labs, the company's global startup incubator, and currently the head of WeWork X, which includes Labs and also the new WeWork investing and M&A activities. Jesse was also among the first to join the co-founders of WeWork when it started. 

 

Jesse shares insights on everything from mission and hiring to community development to the scrappy and clever tactics they used early on at WeWork. We also peer ahead to the future of what WeWork could be doing globally.

 

Follow Jesse at twitter.com/srcasm and visit wework.com to learn more.

 

Follow Jay at twitter.com/jayacunzo and check out his new weekly show for creatives and makers, Unthinkable, at Unthinkable.fm, soundcloud.com/unthinkablepod, or on iTunes at bit.ly/unthinkablefm

 

Lastly, you can subscribe to the NextView weekly newsletter about startup traction at bit.ly/nvsubscribe

Apr 19, 2016

In the first episode of our NYC Tech-focused miniseries, NextView principal Tim Devane and VP of platform Jay Acunzo talk about the biggest problem and opportunity facing NYC Tech -- namely, successful and liquid entrepreneurs fleeing tech for other industries.

 

Follow @tdevane and @jayacunzo on Twitter and help us give this miniseries a name - tweet #NextViewNYC

 

Subscribe at nextviewvc.com/blog

Apr 13, 2016

Oli Gardner is the co-founder of Unbounce, a platform that helps you build, test, and optimize landing pages to convert customers. Today, he spends most of his time writing and speaking and is arguably the best source on the planet for learning about how startups can create landing pages that convert, whether you're drumming up pre-launch demand or trying to keep growing meaningful revenue.

 

Oli also shares FIVE specific elements that all well-optimized landing pages contain, and he shares some hilarious stories and examples from his life and career -- including why he almost legally changed his name to help build Unbounce.

 

Follow Oli at twitter.com/oligardner and visit unbounce.com to learn more.

 

Follow Jay at twitter.com/jayacunzo and check out his new weekly show for creatives and makers, Unthinkable, at Unthinkable.fm, soundcloud.com/unthinkablepod, or on iTunes at bit.ly/unthinkablefm

 

Lastly, you can subscribe to the NextView weekly newsletter about startup traction at bit.ly/nvsubscribe

Mar 23, 2016

Last time, we heard from a CEO about how startups can sell to big brands and enterprises. This time, Angus Davis, the founder and CEO of Upserve (fka Swipely) shares stories and tactics around selling to Main Street businesses. As a startup that sells to later adopters of technology or very small businesses, how do you think about product, marketing, and sales?

 

Angus also shares some lessons learned from an impressive entrepreneurial career that spans Netscape, TellMe (which he co-founded and sold to MSFT), and Swipely/Upserve.

 

We also go inside his management meetings, which are impressive and amazingly collaborative.

 

Follow Angus at twitter.com/angusdav and visit upserve.com to learn more.

 

Follow Jay at twitter.com/jayacunzo and check out his new weekly show for creatives and makers in business, Unthinkable, at Unthinkable.fm, soundcloud.com/unthinkablepod, or on iTunes at bit.ly/unthinkablefm

Mar 8, 2016

The prospect of selling a new product from an "unproven" business into a large corporation can seem daunting. But startups launch all the time as enterprise-focused entities. Still, that doesn't make the situation any easier, so in this episode, Joe Coleman, cofounder and CEO of Contently, gets way into the weeds of selling into the enterprise.

We also hear some valuable lessons around marketplace businesses and what it's like to be educating the market at the same time you're selling into it.

Follow Joe at twitter.com/joedcoleman and visit contently.com to learn more.

And let me know what you think of the show — tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @jayacunzo. You can also subscribe to receive every episode plus weekly insights and resources about gaining startup traction: bit.ly/nvsubscribe

Feb 17, 2016

Oh what's in a name? Your startup's name and branding become objects that represent your passion, pride, and determination. But startups change their names more often than their founders or teams might like, despite all the love for their current incarnation.

So ... why? What causes that? What influences should you listen to as a founder? And how the heck do you DO it?

That's what we'll explore today.

Follow twitter.com/LizWessel and visit wayup.com to learn more.

For WayUp's hilarious announcement video after their rebrand, check out this video:www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGK5-lVLwjU

And let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) twitter.com/jayacunzo.

You can also subscribe to receive every episode plus weekly insights and resources about gaining startup traction: goo.gl/4eP9Ch

Feb 9, 2016

NextView's Rob Go, Tim Devane, and Jay Acunzo break down the key findings, themes, and stories from the firm's new report, The State of NYC Seed.

Find the full report and SlideShare here: http://nextviewventures.com/blog/state-of-nyc-seed/

Twitter handles from the show: @RobGo, @TDevane, @JayAcunzo

Topics discussed:

  • The general climate in early-stage startups and VCs in New York City
  • The tech landscape across four key sectors: consumer goods and services, food logistics and on-demand, media and publishing, and fintech
  • The effects of legacy industries and companies to NYC tech, as well as those of recent fast-risers like Warby Parker, Buzzfeed, Vice, Vox, and more.
  • The talent surplus and where the next wave of top-tier founders will originate
  • And much more...

 

Feb 3, 2016

When looking back at the seed stage of their companies, lots of guests on Traction will cite the same regret: "I wish I started content marketing sooner."

Today, we talk to the man who coined the term, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, an education and training organization serving thousands of customers and millions of readers a year.

Joe's latest book, Content Inc, details how smart entrepreneurs are starting to grow an audience through content first, then unpack a product second. In this episode, you'll also learn...

1. The 6 steps startups can use to grow an audience with content.

2. Why you should consider growing an audience (and, specifically, a subscriber list) before building any product -- even when thinking venture-backed and venture-scale

3. The history of CMI, one of INC's fastest-growing companies (including the pivot Joe had to make that was so obvious, he missed it at first)

4. The biggest mistakes marketers and founders make when doing content marketing.

Follow @JoePulizzi on Twitter and visit contentmarketinginstitute.com to learn more.

And let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @jayacunzo.

You can also subscribe to receive every episode plus weekly insights and resources about gaining startup traction: goo.gl/4eP9Ch

Jan 21, 2016

There's no denying the sheer creative power of the internet, but too often, it turns into a race to the bottom -- more clicks (and therefore more clickbait), more pageviews, more impressions, more ads.

When Tony Haile first became CEO of Chartbeat, the analytics startup based in New York City, he faced this massive problem of an internet teeming with clickbait headlines and short-term thinking. He also faced challenges like competing directly with Google Analytics (and the annoyingly competitive price point of "free"). It was his first experience in analytics, too, and he wound up selling his product to a user base (writers and others in editorial) that historically strayed away from data.

Easy, right?

This episodes also includes…

  1. The tradeoffs Tony made to compete with a goliath like Google
  2. Tips for media and other content-driven platforms (including blogs) for rethinking its key metric from clicks and pageviews to something else -- and the tech breakthrough that helped Chartbeat create it
  3. What the future holds for an internet that's becoming increasingly divided between gaming systems and refreshing creativity

Follow Tony @arctictony and visit chartbeat.com to learn more.

And let me know what you think of the show — tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @jayacunzo. You can also subscribe to receive every episode plus weekly insights and resources about gaining startup traction: bit.ly/nvsubscribe

Jan 6, 2016

Justin Robinson, co-founder of mobile startup and liquor delivery app Drizly, talks about some of the ridiculously non-scalable things they had to do just to get their business off the ground in the right way. In addition, he'll share some tactics and stories around being a location-based startup and all the challenges that come with trying to gain traction anew in each market. This episodes includes...

1) The huge (if stereotypical) mistake Justin and his co-founder Nick made when they started, and how that ironically helped them

2) Why they spent six months working for a liquor retailer and the comical but powerful things that led to

3) How expanding from your home city to other locations differs

4) How to gain credibility in an industry populated by traditionally-minded partners

Follow Justin @glassrobinson and visit drizly.com to learn more.

And let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @jayacunzo.

You can also subscribe to receive every episode plus weekly insights and resources about gaining startup traction: goo.gl/ybmG2V

Dec 10, 2015

Hilary Mason, founder at Fast Forward Labs and Data Scientist in Residence at Accel Partners, debunks some of the myths around startups being "data-driven." In addition, she tackles some complex but critical topics and translates them for the rest of us. This episodes includes...

1) A clear definition of what data science actually is (and should be)

2) Hard truth about how much a startup should actually value its data

3) The evolution of the field of data science, who should use it, and where it's going and why

Follow Hilary @hmason and visit fastforwardlabs.com to learn more.

And let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @jayacunzo.

You can also subscribe to receive every episode plus weekly insights and resources about gaining startup traction: goo.gl/4eP9Ch

Nov 24, 2015

Ben Einstein, Founder/Partner of BOLT, an early-stage VC investing in hardware startups, shares the stories of several connected devices and hardware companies and their tricks and challenges. We compare and contrast software to hardware in this episode, examining three core aspects of building any company:

1) Building early products (customer dev, prototypes, etc.)

2) Acquiring initial customers (including one "magic" number Ben proposes for a hardware startup to reach)

3) Raising seed capital. (In a fun rant, Ben addresses his fellow investors and tells them how they need to change their approaches to hardware startups and their founders.)

Follow Ben @beneinstein and visit bolt.io to learn more.

And let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @jayacunzo

You can also subscribe to receive all NextView projects focused on helping startups gain initial traction, as well as episodes of the show. Click here: goo.gl/4eP9Ch

Nov 12, 2015

Sandi MacPherson, Founder of Quibb, a private community of tech tastemakers sharing professional content and discussions, tells the story of creating an application-only social network. She also shares her vision for an important project helping address the lack of women in tech: the 50/50 Pledge. In this episode, you'll hear...

1) The mission behind the great 50/50 Pledge (visit 5050pledge.com to learn more)

2) How an application-only model for a social network affects your model and early traction (and why it's CRUCIAL that Quibb use this model).

3) How Sandi has been able to build a social network where thoughtful, meaningful, and human conversations actually happen in the comments. (Are we sure this is the internet?)

Follow Sandi @sandimac and apply to join Quibb at quibb.com.

And let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @jayacunzo.

You can also subscribe to receive all NextView projects focused on helping startups gain initial traction, as well as episodes of the show. Click here: goo.gl/4eP9Ch

Oct 29, 2015

In this episode, Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of Duck Duck Go and author of Traction, the book (no connection to this show), shares the story of building a search engine to compete with Google, battle privacy concerns, and gain initial traction with an atypical product. You'll also hear...

1) The framework behind the popular book, Traction: How to get traction and seek explosive growth for your startup ... with an actual plan and purpose. The framework is called "Bullseye."

2) Common pitfalls to avoid when testing various channels and moving through this traction framework, including what timeframe and dollar amount to focus on while testing.

Follow Gabriel @yegg and learn more about the second edition of the book, Traction at tractionbook.com

And let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @jayacunzo.

*NEW: Check out the NextView platform of resources for startup traction. Visit nextviewventures.com/platform or subscribe

Oct 9, 2015

Exciting times ahead! Just a quick preview. Send us feedback anytime by tweeting me @jayacunzo

Sep 23, 2015

Danielle Morrill, CEO of Mattermark -- In this episode, Danielle shares her company's origin story, including how they created an addicting, ubiquitous newsletter read by VCs and entrepreneurs everywhere. You'll also hear...

1) Why a TV show inspired Danielle to launch a media company, not software startup, and why she was disillusioned with Silicon Valley.

2) The domino effect of thinking and operating that way at first and how this led to the SaaS startup success that is Mattermark today.

3) Why Danielle would outright argue with almost every VC she called to sell early on in the company's history. 

 

Follow Danielle @DanielleMorrill and subscribe to the Mattermark Daily newsletter at mattermark.com/app/newsletter

Let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @jayacunzo

Sep 2, 2015

NYC's Vin Vacanti of Yipit -- In this episode of Traction, we tell the story of Vin Vacanti, co-founder/CEO of Yipit (daily deals aggregator) and YipitData (analyzes web data for institutional investors). This episode features a really great story with some very tangible lessons and tactics that Vin willingly shares, including...

1) Why Vin and his co-founder taught themselves to code long before it was common -- and well before any tools existed to shortcut your learning the ropes. As a result, Vin has a great framework for deciding if this is a viable path for your product.

2) Exactly how Vin launched Yipit.com and built his list to the initial 10K and 50K users.

3) Why Vin decided to pivot the business (read: launch a second startup) and what he learned going from B2C to B2B.

Listeners should also check out Vin's blog, ViniciusVacanti.com

BONUS: Subscribe to nextviewvc.com/blog by September 10, 2015, for a special mini-episode with Vin's framework for non-technical founders to decide whether they need a technical co-founder, featuring a special guest!

Let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @Jay_zo

Aug 20, 2015

Scott Belsky -- co-founder/CEO of Behance.

Brand. Mission. Emotion. These are things that, perhaps surprisingly to some, are still not widely preached, taught, accepted, or built around by investors and tech entrepreneurs alike. But in this episode, Scott Belsky talks about their critical importance and exactly how he built the popular creative portfolio platform, Behance. And, really, this is a story about how he sparked a bigger, medium-agnostic movement across the globe among creatives ... all on the backs of those things that some in tech too easily brush aside.

Scott's thought leadership is popular and widely followed, and you'll want to hear some of the things he did to bootstrap Behance and gain initial traction, not least of which was creating and selling a paper notebook as his very first product. From his description of the resulting digital movement, it doesn't seem possible that a notebook is where they could have started. Credit goes to the power of a passionate mission combined with an entrepreneur hellbent on gaining traction.

LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

Scott's Company: Behance.net

Scott's Twitter: @ScottBelsky

DESIGNER CONTRIBUTORS (IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE)

Dan DiGangi (@dandigangi, http://dandigangi.com/)

Tyler Littwin (@tblittwin, https://dribbble.com/TBLittwin)

Kyle Mitchell (@jaggedlines, http://jaggedlines.com)

Renessa Ciampa (http://ciampacreative.com/)

Bobby Kane (@bobbyjkane, http://www.bobbyjkane.com/)

Ariel Simon (@arielsimonsays, http://arielsimon.com/)

>>> Let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @Jay_zo 

 

Aug 3, 2015

DraftKings' Jason Robins -- In this episode, NextView partner Rob Go talks to the CEO of the newest unicorn -- Jason Robins of DraftKings. Jason is generous with his storytelling and tactical tips for fundraising when VCs aren't receptive, partnering with larger players in your industry (as DraftKings was able to do with brands like Disney/ESPN, the MLB, the NHL, etc.), and building a company that's capable of being truly analytical -- not just driven by data but obsessed with it.

So ... how does a unicorn gain traction anyway?

STARTUP LESSONS YOU'LL LEARN:

- A clever question to ask VCs to ensure you get a firm answer.

- Tactics for fundraising when being met with some resistance.

- How young startups can partner with massive brands.

- Why and how you should build a data-obsessed team.

- Marketing and user acquisition advice for those in hot, competitive markets.

STORIES YOU'LL HEAR:

- The early struggles Jason experienced while raising fundraising (and the way they overcame this pushback).

- The surprising companies that breed highly analytical minds and user acquisition geniuses.

- The hiring process at DraftKings and other data-obsessed companies.

LINKS MENTIONED:

- Jason's company: DraftKings.com

- Jason's Twitter: @JasonDRobins

Let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @Jay_zo

Jul 22, 2015

Kathryn Minshew, co-founder and CEO of career platform The Muse, shares tactical details from her scrappy founding story. Today, The Muse generates over 4 million monthly views and offers job postings from and visual windows into hundreds companies, ranging from Uber and Facebook to HBO and Adidas.

 

STARTUP LESSONS YOU'LL LEARN:

- Tactics to build audience for a startup

- What the very FIRST step to building an audience of millions should be

- Clever uses of channels blogging, email, social, and more

 

GREAT STORIES YOU'LL HEAR:

- Kathryn's fight for early traffic through some very non-scalable means

- How the first promotion discussion of her career led to an uncomfortable moment and, in a positive twist, some national press for The Muse

 

LINKS MENTIONED:

- Kathryn's company: TheMuse.com

- Kathryn's Twitter: @kmin

- Snow Fall (New York Times): http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/

 

COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM:

- Casey Henry, Growth Expert & Marketing Analyst, Wistia - @caseyhen

- Andy Crestodina, Author & Co-founder, Orbit Media - @Crestodina

- Giuliano Iacobelli, CEO, Stamplay (500 Startups) - @Giuliano84

 

Get all episodes of Traction, plus exclusive resources and advice for seed-stage startups at ViewFromSeed.com or follow @NextViewVC.

Let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @Jay_zo

Jul 6, 2015

Bootstrappin' CEO Patrick Campbell, cofounder of SaaS startup Price Intelligently, shares his story of leaving Google, bootstrapping a startup, beating cancer, and more. 

STARTUP LESSONS YOU'LL LEARN


  • What tradeoffs a bootstrapped startup's CEO must make
  • How to price a software product correctly to maximize revenue and avoid leaving money on the table early on
  • A definition of content marketing that actually makes sense
  • Tactics to build an audience using limited resources and content, which you can then use to validate your product idea, get feedback, and convert

GREAT STORIES YOU'LL HEAR


  • Patrick and team validated the market and built their initial business around one educational ebook written for their customers
  • The lunacy of Patrick and host Jay Acunzo leaving Google and staying in Boston tech (crazy at that time)
  • The moving story of Patrick beating cancer and the surprising way that changed him as a founder


LINKS MENTIONED:


[ Get all episodes plus other useful content for startups: Subscribe at ViewFromSeed.com and follow @NextViewVC ] 

Let me know what you think of the show -- tweet me (Jay Acunzo) @Jay_zo

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