Returned at 1:30am this morning from San Francisco and the True Ventures founders camp, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Especially dinner with Abinash, Ben, Toni, Dave, and Zach.

I love being around entrepreneurs because they have an insatiable desire to learn. Otherwise, they cannot succeed. The market has a way of humbling you and making you constantly strive to learn. I love this environment.

State of the Valley

John Callahan opened the camp and talked about the state of the startup world in Silicon Valley. He said that there is a lot of seed capital, but very little B and C round capital. It’s going to be a tight time for seed startups for the next 12 months. (Note: if you’re struggling to find talent, make lots of connections with the startups because stats say that 60 percent of them will become available in 6-12 months)

Interestingly, in 2011, we introduced ourselves with a small handful of companies (maybe 4-7, I can’t remember). This year, there were 39 new companies! That reflects both the growth of True Ventures and the state of the seed market. Only the hotest companies are going onto B and C right now.

True Ventures has invested over 100 million in the last 12 months and the companies have created over 500 new jobs :)

Finally, one of my favorite take-aways from the camp was a session by Sean Ellis (from Qualaroo) on how to determine if you’re ready to scale. Or, better said, how to get ready to scale. Sean has a post called the Start-up pyramid that is a high-level version of his session.

Qualaroo – Sean Ellis

1. Understand the must-have experience (MHX)
2. Macro optimization of conversions/engagement
3. Micro optimization of lifetime value/engagement
Desire – Friction = Conversion Rate


  • combos of hooks and promise
  • address conversion issues
  • front load aha moments


Who loves it?
How do they use?
Why do they love it?
How do they share it?
How do they find you?
Questions for developing promise (email survey)
  • What is the primary benefit that you have received? (multiple choice – is step 2)
  • Why was the benefit important? (open ended survey)
Balance the higher chosen benefit with the one that is chosen most from those who are most disappointed if they didn’t have the product.
e.g. Drowning in email? Find things faster with Zimny.
Question for developing hook…
1. Open ended
2. Multiple choice
3. Disappointment levels, Cohortly, Qualaroo are all tools that can help in this process.
Identify Aha moment and frontload it (like Pandora and asking for your artist before account creation)
  • User testing (live or online)
  • Query to correlate action to long-term engagement
  • Survey with activity filter
Default on macro, then segment
Micro all about segment of individual
Individual targeting
Context and timing essential
Personalize on individual user needs: Enhance then Harvest
Other tools
LeanPlum does A/B for iOS
Apptentive helps for love or hate app. Reviews for love and support for hate.
Channel building much easier when…
  1. Product/Market Fit
  2. Optimize Conversions
  3. Optimize Macro/Micro Engagement
  4. Maximize LTV

Net Promoter Score – big brands? A mistake for startups, he thinks. He invests in the NPS companies that are not overpriced.


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