There is a lot of pressure for businesses to create apps for their customers, but what is one reason why a company should NOT build an app right now?
There is no reason to have an app just for the sake of saying you have an app. Business should come up with their mobile strategy first and then decide if having an app is the best course of action. If you create an app just to say you have one then you run the risk of creating a mobile experience that feels like a disjointed afterthought, which will disengage and alienate people more than cause them to love your product.There is no reason to have an app just for the sake of saying you have an app. Business should come up with their mobile strategy first and then decide if having an app is the best course of action. If you create an app just to say you have one then you run the risk of creating a mobile experience that feels like a disjointed afterthought, which will disengage and alienate people more than cause them to love your product.
What’s one way to sniff out a potentially toxic employee during the interview process?
Behavioral interviewing is the best way I know to weed out toxic employees. This technique involves asking situational based questions and having candidates give you concrete examples of how they behaved when there were in certain situations. It is next to impossible to fabricate a story from your past, especially when the interviewer drills down deep to get to the bottom of the situation. It’s never failed me!
What sort of things (parties, white elephant exchanges, etc.) does your office do during the holidays? Why (or why don’t you) do them?
CoachUp organizes and participates in the Holiday Tech Co-Party every year. The premise is simple: when you start a company, you get to know a lot of other entrepreneurs and startups. But most startups are small and can’t afford large holiday parties. So instead of having a bunch of small holiday parties with just your company, CoachUp organizes an event in December where all startups in Boston are invited to come Co-Party. It results in everyone being able to have a larger party in a bigger venue with more people … and it’s way more fun!
Do you ever tie your marketing to the seasons? Why or why not (and if you do, how do you do so)?
Absolutely! In fact, almost all marketing we do is tied to the seasons. Private coaching, and sports in general, is a seasonal business. So each year before the start of the athletic season, we tailor our email campaigns and SEM keyword bidding towards the sports we know are going to be starting. Now that we’ve been around for a while and have a couple years worth of data, we can actually pinpoint exactly when our customer base will change sports/seasons and begin looking for coaches in different sports.
What is one thing you should considering adjust about your pitch for different investors?
Every pitch you make should be tailored specifically to your audience and also tailored to the medium you are using. For example, the slide deck you email an to an investor to read through should be much different than the deck you use when giving a presentation in person. We had about 8 different decks at any given time while starting CoachUp, depending on if we’re giving a 3 min pitch vs. 10 min pitch, whether the pitch was in person or not, and how knowledgeable the investor was about our industry.
What is your top tip for staying connected to your customer?
Call them! It goes without saying, but the best way to stay connected with your customer is to speak with them as often as possible. I’m always surprised at how few entrepreneurs are willing to just pick up the phone and call their users. Customers don’t bite and you’ll be astonished at how much you learn about your product after speaking with an actual user for 5 minutes.
What is one thing you wish your employees would talk to you about, but usually don’t and why?
How to build your business! Most employees of early stage companies have brilliant insight into how you can improve you daily processes to operate more efficiently, or how to make your product better. I’m always shocked at what good ideas people have but fail to vocalize. There are a multitude of reasons why employees don’t speak up, ranging from never being asked all the way to fear of rejection. I’ve found for the most part it’s because they’re really just never asked. To solve this problem, I recommend setting up weekly or monthly 1 on 1 closed-door meetings with employees just to give them the forum to open up and speak their opinion about what the company can do better and how the product can be better (keep the meetings quick).
When considering building new technology to serve his or her business vs. using an existing SaaS product, what is the most important factor an entrepreneur should consider?
The easiest way to answer this question is to truly understand your business needs. The build vs. buy question is easily answered by determining if the technology is core to your business. You should always build technology that is core to your business. After all, it’s this technology that sets you apart from every other company out there…it’s what makes you unique. Never outsource core components of your business. If the technology is ancillary and it’s purpose is to make your business operate smother or more efficiently, then you should not waste time building these services and instead go with someone else’s SaaS solution. Remember the adage ‘Stick to what you’re good at’. Build your core competencies yourself and use others’ products to make up for areas in which you do not specialize.
Name one legal issue that most entrepreneurs don’t consider when starting a business, but should.
Using open source components! The number of startups that grab open source components to whip something together is growing by the second. However, startups need to consider the licenses that govern these components. I’ve taken the engineering department at CoachUp through two rounds of Venture Capital and each time the licensing issue has come up during our due diligence process. It is your responsibility to understand what your technology does under the hood. It’s great to just plug new tools and libraries into your codebase and be off and running, but remember that comes with a price. The worst thing possible is to get deep in the due diligence process with a VC firm and then have your deal fall through because you based your technology on a tool or library in a way that does not give you ownership of it.
What field or industry do you believe could benefit from more technological innovation? Explain why.
Education, without a doubt! Our entire education system in the U.S. is antiquated! Everything from the curriculum taught to the technology used hasn’t changed since my parents were kids! The world is evolving at an exponential rate, but our education system isn’t designed to keep up. We’re teaching outdated subjects to prepare our youth for our parents’ world, which doesn’t exist anymore. I’ve invested in QuickKey and Edtrips, two startups in the education space that aim to solve some of these problems directly and I hope that more investors realize the growing problems our nation is going to face if we don’t act soon.