So I've crossed off two of my five goals for this month (http://sebastianmarshall.com/community/what-are-aiming-to-get-done-in-october), and I'm working hard on the third right now.
That goal is to start a consulting business. (My long-term goal is still to build a product business, but I realised for someone in my position, a decent chance at building a $million company is better than a 1% chance at a $billion company). Anyway, since many in this community are successful entrepreneurs (and unlike Hacker News, it seems like there's more consultants here), it'd be awesome to get some advice from you clever people :)
So far, I've built a basic website: http://thectonetwork.com/ (note: please don't link this elsewhere just yet, I'm not ready to publicly launch), and recruited some of my smartest friends. Right now my focus is on testing out the concept with potential clients.
1. Does the basic concept make sense? (Allowing business guys with money to 'rent-a-CTO'). Is it something you'd use?
2. Some people have said I should do programming as well - be like a development agency that's focused on building MVPs for startups. Others say 80% of the value is from the advice, not the implementation. Thoughts?
3. Any thoughts on how I can reach clients? My target customers are ex-management-consultants and MBA grads who want to do a startup but don't know tech very well. Any thoughts on how I could reach these people? I have a few ideas already, but I'd love to hear more suggestions.
You definitely have the skills to deliver something very valuable. I love the site.
As for reaching clients -- these ideas might help
-Try niching down to a specific profession of people, and perhaps consider a different subgroup than people who want to make startups.
-i.e Lawyers/accountants could equally use your skills for internal stuff, are willing to pay you a lot more, and can afford to do it. This will also make it easier to write your value proposition. Right now your site says you turn ideas into reality, but that's not how your customers might thing. It's more like "I really want to make [specific thing] because it will help me do [specific thing], and make me a lot of money. For example,
-If you choose to stick with startups, nicheing down in that might help as well. i.e Ruby on Rails MVP's might grab the attention of a certain group of people more strongly.
The main lesson that those 2 ideas come from is to reach a subset of people very strongly, rather than a lot of people vaguely.
You have the skills and the hustle, so it'll be fun to see how it goes!
Hmm, interesting suggestions.
I feel like the target market of "people who want to build startups" is promising, as it seems like such an important service that no-one is providing right now. (Look at all those desperate "how do I find a technical co-founder?" type articles).
The main issue with startup founders is they usually don't have much money, but I think that's not always the case. At least in the UK, it's become almost a cliche for people to leave jobs in the City to do a startup. MBAs are another target group.
But yes, your advice about a small group strongly over a large group vaguely is spot on. Cheers!
Hey Isaac, firstly like the biznas, an interesting take on the technical cofounder issue.
I will take a swing at your questions, but as way of introduction I am a sales & marketing consultant and started my practice last year. I am also a tech guy having spent 15 years in companies like Symantec, McAfee, and Network General as well as being a startup guy launching 2 start-ups and raising capital in '00 and in '06 so I have a decent grasp on your marketplace.
Now to answer your questions as best as possible:
1. I like the concept but you need to really determine target market(s) to better identify their specific pain points and be able to speak to how you solve their problems. e.g. your average MBA grad has a HUGE loan they need to pay off and are generally looking for plum, high paying gigs, if they are looking to launch they are looking for a "true" tech partnership where they can bring the strategy & management skills to the table. While an ex-management consultant would more likely have a decent runway and could be looking to bootstrap and needs specific technical skills at certain times.
2. Here comes the pitch... ;) So I started my agency last year, but that is a fancy way of saying I was a one man gang taking all sorts and sundry consulting gigs spanning the spectrum from offline direct response marketing to PPC campaign design. Six months ago, I decided to launch my third start-up, Linchpin, which is a Content Marketing Agency for Fast Growing Technology Companies. A couple of key points are that I "niche'ed down" in several areas of the business.
Firstly I decided that I would only do content marketing (copywriting, email marketing, blogging, etc.) and turn down other projects. Secondly, decided to focus on Tech companies to be able to craft a better offer and identify ideal clients for easier business development. We have two distinct target markets, early stage funded start-ups and older tech companies that are profitable but struggling to adopt the 21st century sales and marketing environment of "free", authenticity, and transparency. Thirdly, I brought on a team of talented individuals to help.
This clarity around who we are and who we serve has made all the difference, we can easily determine who & where to focus on and you start to establish authority very quickly. As it turns out our ideal start-up is a company that just raised a $2-5million series A and is in dire need of a marketing partner to help them get to their series B when they can hire a full-sized team. You need to niche down your target market and offering to the point that you say to yourself "is that too small", it won't be.
3. This is going to sound ridiculously simple but many people get it wrong. In order to be a successful driver of new business you have to go to where your prospects congregate, not where your industry does. In your case tech forums, groups, etc will be pretty worthless as a way to find your target audience. If MBA grads truly are your target market I would find out what alumni associations, linkedin groups, and online forums they hang out in. Get involved in those groups, give great advice, and have your content marketing funnel setup on your site when you start driving them there.
I hope that helps in any small way.
About three years ago, I read the excellent book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. At that time, I made a list of the top 5-10 people in my life that I was to and had similar goals with. I sent out emails to them every once a month with what I was working on.
Eventually, I fell off from this habit. Not sure why - I'd had gotten good advice, stayed in touch with people I like, and it was a positive experience. I started re-thinking building my counsel a little over a year ago.
The challenge is, I've got a diverse set of goals and ideas. I write, I do business, I travel, I create art, I adventure, I'm looking to establish a strong family, and so on. I have friends who are writers or artists that aren't interested in business. I've got friends in business that pretty much always stick to their one city. I know guys who are pretty simple, work a normal job, don't make any art or do any entrepreneurship, but have very strong and good families. I know very successful businessmen who travel and adventure, but aren't interested in having kids.
So I was thinking - how do I balance this all on my counsel?
And eventually, the idea hits me. I need multiple, relevant counsels.
And somehow we're done with 2011 already. Last year I made one goal (getting this site to the top 50k in Alexa), and I didn't make any effort whatsoever to reach it, so at this point I'm giving up on yearly goals. But I will say this-- if SETT isn't rocking and rolling by this time next year, I'd better be a famous rapper.
I may be blind towards the future but hindsight is 20/20, so I'm going to a quick summary of the year.