Startup COOs: What do they do?

I really enjoyed this post about what startupo COOs do. It was interesting because it wasn’t just opinion, there was also data. I particularly enjoyed the evolution of the author’s role over time, and the percentage of COOs that owned various responsibilities. To be fair, it was a small set of respondents in one geographic area, but still interesting.

However, the money quote was:

I actually have [simple way] of explaining what I do, and I would sum it up this way: taking things off my CEO’s plate, and figuring out how to thoughtfully scale the company.

Of course every company’s different, but I’ve seen the pattern of a visionary and an operator in a couple of companies, and it’s powerful.


(Links To) Advice For Someone Selling a SaaS Business

Sold signI ran into someone at a meetup recently who’d built a SaaS that had a pretty decent MRR. Enough to support one person. Which is a huge achievement!

He was wondering what options he had to either grow or exit the business. This is something I’ve been reading about for a number of years, so I had some advice. I thought I’d write it down so that others could benefit (or chime in). These are resources I’ve found insightful.

This is a great first hand account by patio11 of selling a software business (it wasn’t SaaS, rather a one time digital product sale, but I think there are a number of common themes). He mentions the broker he uses, the due diligence process, and what you can do now to set yourself up for success (have separate accounts, for one).

I can’t even talk about SaaS without telling folks to raise their prices. It’s a reflex now. Amy Hoy has two great posts on this: grandfathering and new features (with a lot of communication mixed in). I experienced this myself at a previous startup, where we almost doubled our monthly subscription price in 18 months.

Finally, here’s an interesting post from a venture capitalist about how private equity is a new exit option for SaaS companies. In that vein, I chatted briefly with one such PE firm, SureSwift Capital, about part time work a year or so ago. I don’t know how they are to work with (the position wasn’t a fit) but at the time they were focused on acquiring SaaS companies with good MRR and helping them grow.


Farewell Boulder New Tech Meetup

Girl letting go of balloonI, along with many others, received this email last week:

Participating and watching the Colorado tech community evolve has been an amazing experience. Over the past 12 years we have had so many people engage and support our efforts. This includes the attendee’s, presenters, organizers, and sponsors. Give yourselves a big hand, IMO you are the reason Colorado has such a vibrant startup ecosystem.

I’m saddened, but it is time for me step away and stop organizing/hosting the Boulder chapter of New Tech Colorado. I’ve attempted to find a replacement over the past year, but no one has stepped up. I think thats ok, we have many other pitch events happening throughout the front range, including other New Tech events.

The Boulder New Tech, starting with the June event will no longer accept reservations and I’m going to shut down BDNT.org.

Thank you for giving me your attention and for sharing your experiences over the past 12 years. See you around town.

It was from Robert Reich, the moving force behind the New Tech Meetups here in Colorado. After over a decade, there will be no more Boulder meetups (though it looks like other cities are going strong, at least from the meetup page). I totally understand where Robert is coming from. I’ve been to many of these meetups, but over the last couple of years attendance was definitely down. However, every time I attended I met interesting people and saw a different slice of the Boulder ecosystem. I will say that it seemed like BDNT was a welcoming initial introduction to that ecosystem, but once a newcomer understood the landscape, I think they were better served by a more focused meetup. I know Robert experimented with a number of different formats and concepts–I hope he writes them all down for future meetup organizers.

I also had the opportunity to speak a few times at BDNT. Once I presented on GWT, which was my first experience talking to a group of over one hundred people (note to self, don’t present a technology at a pitch night 🙂 ). I also spoke in Denver with Brian Timoney–that was fun because of the 3d google earth submarine navigation demo and because Josh Fraser met with us and gave us some tips. And in 2016 I presented the startup of which I was a co-founder. Each time the community was very supportive and helpful.

I want to thank a few folks:

  • Robert and all the other organizers over the years.
  • The speakers, who made the night interesting every time I went. I never left without learning something new.
  • The hosts. I know the event was hosted for many years by Silicon Flatirons, but also attended events at Galvanize Boulder.Also appreciated the snacks!
  • The community. Always supportive and present.

Institutions don’t have to live forever (especially those that survive on the efforts of volunteers). It’s OK for them to end. I will miss the BDNT event, but I know the community of support for entrepreneurship in Boulder and the front range is larger than ever.

Fare thee well, Boulder New Tech.


Hipster Hosting at BSW, Tomorrow Only

Lady with computer mouse

She doesn’t look like she needs hosting, does she?

I’m doing a short presentation with a few other people at Boulder Startup Week on hosting. Tomorrow, Thur, at 10am MT.

Would love to see you there. Feel free to heckle.

If you can’t make it, here is the salient point of my presentation: startups are hard, so you should host your code and infrastructure at the highest level of abstraction that you can, so that your developers can focus on delivering business value through new features rather than doing ops. In practice, prefer hosting options in this order:

  • serverless
  • platform specific hosting (wpengine, etc)
  • general purpose PAAS (heroku, elastic beanstalk)
  • cloud VMs
  • colo
  • server in the closet

Of course, all advice is context dependent; my advice is aimed at small startups and the more flexibility your developers need around aspects of technology the lower on the list you’ll have to go.

Anyway, looking forward to a good discussion.


Boulder Startup Week Begineth!

Thumb upBoulder Startup Week is this week. If you haven’t been, it’s a great opportunity for a number of reasons. You can get a flavor of the Boulder tech community (though it’s worth remembering that there are numerous firms that don’t play in the startup world that are in Boulder). You can learn a lot about startups from folks who are actively building one, or have built one in the past. You can learn about new technologies and trends that are up and coming, including data science, blockchain and cannibis. And you can meet a lot of great folks.

I’m a bit burned out on startups at the moment, but am still planning to attend a few sessions, mostly on the development track. I’m especially excited for the Boulder Ruby Meetup on Wednesday, where experts will speak about interviewing. I’m also speaking at a session on hosting.

My tips for Boulder Startup Week:

  • go to at least one session in a different area of focus than you normally would.
  • arrive 5-10 minutes early and plan to stay 5-10 minutes after. Use this time to chat with folks. (This is hard for me, but I’ve found that having a canned opening line like “what interesting talks have you seen” or “is this your first time at BSW” is a good way to break the ice.)
  • the above tip will prevent you from trying to attend too many sessions back to back to back. This is a Good Thing(tm).
  • bring business cards, or prepare to exchange emails.
  • thank a volunteer and/or sponsor when you see them. There’s a tremendous amount of effort that goes into this week.
  • be prepared to help someone you meet out, with an intro, feedback on an idea, or even just an interesting article.
  • if a session is full, I’d get on the waitlist and then I’d show up anyway. Because every session is free, I’ve found that oftentimes folks are … over committed and there’s often space for other people.

If your interest has been piqued, please check out the schedule. Hope to see you out there.


What can you cut out?

Fractal image

Perhaps we could have made the site map a bit simpler?

“I have made this [letter] longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” – Blaise Pascal

I was a mentor for Go Code Colorado over the weekend (mentioned previously). It was a good experience. About 10 teams, 30 mentors, and a couple of hours. I had a lot of fun chatting with the teams, which were all using open data provided on the Colorado Information Marketplace to build an app that will serve a need. They divided the mentors up into functional areas (data science, marketing, developer, startup vet, etc) and let us wander amongst the teams. Sometimes I felt a bit useless (one team was trying to debug a Meteor app that would run locally but failed when deployed to a web server) and other times I felt like I was a bit of a bother (since the teams were also trying to get stuff done while being “mentored”). But for the most part I had interesting conversations about what the teams were trying to accomplish and the best means of doing so from a technical perspective.

One thing that came up again and again was “what can you cut out”. The teams have a fixed timeline (they are only allowed to work until the final competition in early June) and some of the ideas were pretty big. My continuing refrain was:

  • capture all the big ideas on a roadmap (you can always implement them later)
  • cut what you can
  • build a basic “something” and extend it as you have time
  • choose boring technology

For example, one project was going to capture some data and use the blockchain for data storage. I totally get wanting to explore new technology but for their initial MVP they could just as easily use a plain old boring database. Or frankly a spreadsheet.

Lots of developers don’t want to hear it, but when you are in the early stages of a startup, technology, while an important enabler, can get in the way of what is really important: finding customers, talking to them, and giving them something to pay for.

PS This is a great read on all the hardships of building a startup and how it is so so so important to minimize any unnecessary difficulties.



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