Bothsides of the Table


Many of you will know that Twitter unexpectedly cancelled it’s contract to allow DataSift to resell Twitter data to 3rd parties. I read the declarations by industry analysts on Twitter that this was “proof that you can’t build a business on somebody else’s platform” and perhaps DataSift should have known better.

This misunderstands the situation so I want to clarify things a bit. DataSift was never built on a single platform and never desired or expected to be Twitter’s re-syndication provider as its sole business.

Let’s start with the most important fact that wasn’t discussed. DataSift was selected as the topic data supplier for Facebook, which allows companies to analyze a data feed that is > 20x larger than the entire Twitter feed and creates privacy-safe insights from a network of 1.4 billion people.

We never built our product on one partner’s data platform but on many (20 primary data sources plus 100+ smaller ones) and Twitter’s move doesn’t “shut down DataSift” it simply takes 1,000+ customers who consume Twitter data through DataSift and makes their life more difficult. We plan to work with Twitter to migrate these companies to work directly with Gnip (Twitter’s in-house data supplier) and for those that want value-added processing on top we plan to ingest Gnip data for our customers who request this.

But of course customers will have to do some technical work to migrate products and will lose DataSift functionality that Twitter / Gnip does not possess directly.

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We built MakeSpace’s logistics systems and customer applications (to see all of your items in storage in beautiful photography) in the first year. Then we launched our service in NYC and in just one year captured 2% of all new storage customers in our target demo in just one year with almost no marketing budget.

How did we achieve these initial results? We offered a service that has a net promoter score of 87 placing us higher than such great brands as USAA, Costco, Apple and Amazon. Our churn is incredibly low giving us a projected lifetime customer value that extends multiple years.

We have now announced that MakeSpace is available in Chicago and Washington D.C. with further markets being announced later in the year but plans to expand our facilities are already under way. In year one we cracked 7-figure ARR (annual recurring revenue) and we plan to approach 8-figures this year.

This has been a great start we wanted to push harder. If you’re already at 10 – where can you go from there? Where? What if we could turn the dial to 11?

We started by beta testing ephemeral photos.

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Last week Fred Wilson and I sat down in Santa Monica for an hour+ discussion with the video cameras rolling.

One of the questions we discussed was, “How much capital should a startup raise?” Fred & I are both in agreement that there is a tension between capital constraints and creativity. In his words,

[in some instances] “because lots of capital is available, the company takes on the capital and that ends up resulting in no constraints on decision making and so the company decides to do five things in stead of just one.”

Here is a three-minute video with Fred answering this question. I promise it’s worth watching.

We also spoke about what it takes to be an effective board member. On the one hand, I often find that some board members are seemingly reading the board materials on the fly and don’t have a firm grasp of the business fundamentals. On the other hand some board members like to tinker in the running of the business.

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I love Twitter.

So far I’m loving Meerkat, too. It’s brand new but the enthusiasm that’s been seen for such an early product is truly awesome. I ran a VC AMA (ask me anything) last Monday on Meerkat and had > 1,000 simultaneous people asking me questions. The energy was electric so I’m going to do it again this coming week.

You may have read that Twitter has now made it harder for Meerkat to operate. As a user I felt immediately frustrated by this move and said so, in stead wishing that Twitter would win based on innovation.

If Twitter believes @periscopeco is a better product why not just try to win on that basis? They already have home court advantage

— Mark Suster (@msuster)

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I write about sales often both because it’s the lifeblood of any organization and because in my experience it is the area in which more startups are least experienced or inclined. I also write and talk about it frequently because raising capital is a part of sales and this is important for entrepreneurs to understand.

To make it simple and easy to remember – there are three basic rules of sales:

1. Why Buy Anything?
2. Why Buy Me?
3. Why Buy Now?

This post will cover the first.

If you ask any experienced sales leader they’ll tell you there are three things to know about being effective at sales: Qualify, qualify, qualify. This is simply because sales people have limited time and  can’t afford to waste time with anybody who isn’t likely to buy from them in the near term.

But how do you qualify?

Do you have a problem I could solve?

The starting point is to ask yourself whether the person you’re dealing with has a problem that is solved by the solution you offer. If they don’t – you simply won’t sell anything. That’s why many great sales starts with generating inbound marketing leads.

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