Resurfacing Old Blog Content

gull

The most frustrating thing about writing blog content is that it typically “disappears” after a couple days. Some very popular posts last much longer (I have a couple that are near the top of Google for common searches), but most don’t get a lot of long tail attention. In some cases the content does get out-of-date, or your opinions may have changed and you don’t want the content to be front and center. Generally though, I find a lot of “old” content (written 1-2 years ago) is still very much relevant and worthwhile for readers.

Now that I’m writing daily (who knows how long that will last!) I catch myself writing the same thing over again (or something similar) having forgotten about a previous post. If I can’t even remember what I’ve written, how can I expect readers to find the content and synthesize all the ideas together? Then again, if there’s no good way to resurface old content, maybe rewriting posts (w/ additional thinking or a new twist) isn’t such a bad thing…

I have yet to find a solution to this problem.

Disqus, which I use for comments, shows four articles at the end of each blog post. Often they don’t seem super relevant to the main post though.

Part of the problem may be the nature of my content versus something that’s more entertaining/fun, which catches your attention and gets you clicking through (say Buzzfeed, for example). But I’d love to find a way to get people exploring the blog more, digging deeper, and discovering more of the content.

One thing I’m working on is categorizing content more effectively and highlighting some key categories in the sidebar. I suspect that most people ignore sidebars, but it’s a way for me to focus people’s attention on the key topics of the blog. You’ll see what I mean in Startup & Investor Resources.

Recently I added Angel Investing and updated Building Awesome Products and Raising Capital. These are three broad categories that I’ve blogged about a lot lately, so I wanted to create appropriate summary pages for them. Each of these pages has a brief introduction and a list of articles (roughly organized by date). My hope is that people discover these resources and use them to dig into the blog’s content more than before.

Organizing content in the sidebar is far from a fantastic solution, but we’ll see what happens.

In the past I used to highlight a post’s category inside the post, but rarely saw that lead to additional traffic through the site. So I took that out, along with tags, to reduce clutter on individual post pages.

I’m curious to learn from others if they’ve found ways to get people exploring their blogs/sites further? Or do you even care about it?

One trend we’re seeing is others doing more curation of the Web and aggregating relevant content together on other sites. This makes sense, but it still doesn’t help someone discover the depth of content on a particular site when they get there.

I think there’s a treasure trove of “old” content on a ton of blogs/sites that’s still insanely relevant to people, which disappears too quickly after a few days. And I think that’s a shame for a lot of people out there looking for great content.

Photo courtesy of beginasyouare.


How to Avoid the Post-Funding Trough

trough

Yesterday I wrote about how the size of seed investments impacts the likelihood of raising a Series A round. The data shows that raising a seed round under $300k gives you a very small chance of raising a Series A. I’ve always thought that small seed rounds are risky, because it doesn’t give you enough time to get the traction you need to raise more capital.

One of the things I see quite frequently when founders raise a seed round (typically smaller rounds, but it happens with larger amounts too) is what I’ll call the “post-funding trough”.

Raising money always feels like a big win, so there’s a short amount of celebration time, often followed by trying to use the money quickly to do a lot of things. Too many things, really. Some of them feel like necessary parts of ramping up–hiring for example–which can consume tons of time. There’s a lot of operational investment that takes place after fundraising: setting up an office, recruiting, etc. — essentially turning the startup into a “business”. Some of this work is necessary, but it’s also hugely distracting. And after spending a good chunk of time raising money (which is also hugely distracting from growing your startup), it’s time you can’t waste.

Along with the operational efforts that kickstart post-fundraising, I see a lot of startups that try to chase too many things at once. With money in the bank they “ramp up” and suddenly there are more initiatives and projects on the go than ever before. This frenzy of activity might look positive and feel exciting, but when things don’t pan out as expected, as quickly as planned, you hit the post-funding trough.

In later rounds (Series A, etc.), when there’s more traction and better clarity around what’s going on (hopefully!), raising money is a genuine accelerant put towards things that are working well. But in an early seed round, funding is an accelerant into “let’s do a bunch of stuff and see what happens,” risking the loss of any focus that existed.

There’s nothing wrong with experimenting. It’s a requirement to figuring things out. Early on there are more unknowns than knowns (no matter what you say!), so your job is to tackle risky areas of your business, experiment and find solutions. But you’ve got to be careful about losing focus and taking on too much. You’ve got to minimize the operational todos that aren’t absolutely necessary, and avoid distractions (e.g. funding celebrations, press about the funding, etc.)

The post-funding trough is at its worse around 4-6 months after raising a seed round. You’ve “ramped up” the business, you’ve tried a bunch of things, but the traction isn’t where you expected and now there are tons of loose threads all over the place. It becomes overwhelming. And now you’ve only got ~6 months of funding left and you know you need to start fundraising quickly, because it takes months to raise a round. Without the traction in place, raising a follow on round is going to be tough. Disillusionment takes hold. It can be extremely frustrating and emotionally draining.

Before you get caught in this situation (or if you’re already in there), here’s what I would suggest. Go back to your original vision. Go back to why you started the company in the first place and put that front and center. It wasn’t to get a lot of press. It wasn’t to spend time at conferences talking to people about how to raise money. It wasn’t to “run a business” — it was to build something meaningful and solve a real problem in the world. Go back to that vision and get re-energized by your original mission. Then scrap everything you’re doing that doesn’t help you achieve that vision, and focus. Find the one or two things you can do immediately that you believe put you back on the path. Everything else is noise.

You will have to make hard decisions. For example, get a little bit beyond six months, into the post-funding trough, and you might have to let people go. You have to reduce burn. It’s incredibly painful, but if you’ve over-hired based on the expectation that certain things would happen (and they didn’t), you can’t wait. Step up and make the hard choices.

I believe that a big vision–something you truly believe in even if you’re nowhere near achieving it–can help you get through the post-funding trough. It’s the foundation atop which everything is built. And then you need to simplify like crazy. Cut everything that’s a distraction. Give yourself the opportunity for small wins, to build up your confidence (and your team’s confidence), so you can claw out of the trough. It’s not easy, but lots of founders go through it. Maybe you’ll be more aware (if you read this) about the risks and mitigate them beforehand. Even if you don’t, you can pull yourself out. After all, you’re an entrepreneur–that’s what we do.

Photo from maisonbisson.


Size Matters in Seed Investments

big and small

Tomasz Tunguz has done a great analysis of the likelihood of follow on financing based on the size of your seed round. You need to check it out, and just read his blog in general, it’s awesome.

What Tomasz has found from analyzing thousands of deals (from Crunchbase) is that there’s only a 12% chance of raising a Series A if your seed round is $300k or less. If you raise between $300k and $600k, you double your odds of raising an A round, and if you raise between $600k and $900k you raise your odds to 33%. After that, there’s a diminishing return on raising more capital.

So what does this tell us?

In the Fall of 2011 I wrote, The $250,000 Funding Trap. I didn’t do any scientific research, but I had seen a lot of startups fail because they ran out of money too quickly. My experience was that $250,000 was enough to give founders the impression that they had a lot of money (and a lot of time), so they spent too liberally, and subsequently never got the traction they needed to keep going. If you give an entrepreneur $50k (say in an accelerator) they pinch every penny and get very creative. When you give them $250k they suddenly have a nice office, fancy chairs and catered lunches. I saw (and still do) a lot of startups that were Startup D.O.A.

As Tomasz points out, “The data indicates that larger seed rounds substantially increase the odds of raising a Series A. More runway implies better odds of success.”

This just makes sense. Startups almost always take longer and cost more money than expected. And raising a Series A round means having legitimate traction, which you won’t get in a few months after raising too little money. When you raise too little, you’re forced to get back out on the roadshow too quickly, which is a further distraction from building your business. It’s a death spiral.

Unfortunately, a lot of founders start by trying to raise too little. It’s particularly true in Canada (and I suspect other places outside of Silicon Valley and New York). The thinking is that it’s easier to raise a smaller amount (which is far from universally true!), and you can prove what you need to pretty quickly. Of course, you then hit some kind of snag, things don’t work out quite the way you wanted, and a few months in you realize you have to start fundraising again. But you haven’t proven enough and you’re stuck. I also think too many founders don’t have the guts to ask for more. Most of the time when I meet entrepreneurs about fundraising I tell them to raise more. Even if they don’t get what they’re asking for, it forces them to think bigger and act braver. Investors can tell when you’re hedging your bets, and they’re going to hedge theirs too (by not investing).

One thing that’s not clear about the research that Tomasz did is whether or not it includes the money that (some) startups receive after leaving an accelerator. That can amount to $100-$200k depending on the accelerator and the deal they have with investors. I don’t even look at that money as a seed financing–it might be the start of it, but it definitely shouldn’t be the sum total you raise at that stage. If you can’t get more than the guaranteed amount you get from leaving an accelerator, there’s a problem.

As an angel investor, looking at this data, it reemphasizes my interest in only participating in deals that raise enough capital. The risks are simply too great if you invest in a startup that’s only raising $200-$300k. There’s a very strong likelihood that the startup won’t make enough progress and they’ll come back too quickly for more money. So as a simple criteria — startups need to raise at least $500k for me to be really interested.

Tomasz has done everyone a valuable service by doing the research. If you raise too little (specifically < $300k) you've got a very small chance of raising a Series A. Financing doesn’t equal guaranteed success by any stretch of the imagination, but most startups need at least a couple rounds before they even have a chance of winning. If you can’t get to the starting line (e.g. raising enough seed capital, and then a Series A), why even bother? You need to ask for more capital. And I’ll re-emphasize this point for Canadian entrepreneurs. You need the vision, plan and team to believe that you’re worth more than a small seed round, which is likely dooming you before you’ve even started.

Photo courtesy of marinacast.


Ben Yoskovitz
I'm VP Product at GoInstant (acq. by Salesforce).

I'm also a Founding Partner at Year One Labs, an early stage accelerator in Montreal. Previously I founded Standout Jobs (and sold it).

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