A step-by-step actionable breakdown for first-time founders.

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Thanks to Chris Liverani for the image.

Launching a B2B startup is fraught with distinct challenges. Chief among them is defining, approaching, and closing your first set of customers.

Why are your first ten customers so important?

This cohort provides a foundation to test, iterate, and substantiate your product and go-to-market hypotheses.

Or, maybe you’ll pivot and find a new direction as a result of your learnings from shipping and supporting a product actively in the marketplace.

I’ve experienced both scenarios personally and built successful B2B companies from them.

Either way, achieving this is a complete game-changer for your startup.

You’ll have a client base to build exponentially upon, and, greater leverage to hire amazingly talented people or close investment. …


One person “almost single-handedly invented the modern cigarette”.

Thanks to Prateek Katyal for the image.
Thanks to Prateek Katyal for the image.
Thanks to Prateek Katyal for the image.

With the inescapable presence of cigarettes amongst society throughout the entirety of living memory, it’s natural to assume they’ve always played a major role within the tobacco market since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

But, you’d be wrong.

I’ve been reading a book authored by Allan M. Brandt, Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, that details the extraordinary rise of cigarettes in the 20th century from obscurity to ubiquity.

It’s titled The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America and is a totally fascinating read.

Of particular interest to me were the underlying set of changes and mechanics of society and industry that combined together to create the perfect set of conditions for cigarettes to explode in popularity. …


Investors look for this critical attribute in founding teams.

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Thanks to Slawek K for the image.

In recent years the term unfair advantage has been thrown around a lot by early-stage investors.

From what I can tell it’s pretty much synonymous with competitive advantage but is more specific to people — founders — than a company holistically.

It’s widely known companies with sustainable competitive advantages deliver the best returns for investors. For example Facebook with network effects, Amazon with economies of scale, Google with technology and brand.

These competitive advantages compound over time and generate exponentially increasing value. The companies eventually become monopolies within their markets as competitors’ fail to compete against the unstoppable momentum.

The advantages are easy to see in hindsight, but, at the earliest stages of a startup’s journey, investors have relatively little information to make an informed decision with. …


The difference between nothing and millions of dollars.

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Thanks to Kevin McCutcheon for the image.

One of the most powerful attributes a founder can have is resourcefulness. Creating something with little or unobvious material resources.

How can you achieve the same, similar, or better results with a lower quantity of enabling inputs such as time, money, or skilled-labor?

At any time, this is incredibly important. In times of existential change, it’s critical.

As a serial founder, on numerous occasions, I’ve faced existential business changes that required me and my team to be super resourceful and lean in order to survive or thrive.

What do I mean by an “existential change”?

Here are some personal examples:

  1. Quitting my 9–5 job with $8,000 in savings to work on a 3-month-old website and growing it to become a top 1,000 most visited site worldwide in a year. …

Uncover blind spots cost-efficiently, thoroughly, and quicky.

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Cybercrime is fastest growing criminal activity.

Set to cost businesses $5.2 trillion worldwide within five years (Accenture).

Median cybercrime attack costs companies $369,000 per incident (Hiscox).

43% of cyberattacks are aimed at small or medium sized businesses, but only 14% are prepared (Accenture).

Large firms lose millions of dollars and risk long term reputation damage.

I’m writing this article from the perspective of a serial founder who has launched numerous successful businesses online for over a decade. As someone who has been the victim of cybercrime through these ventures.

I know firsthand how painful it is. Both emotionally from watching your livelihood attacked, and, financially from losing a ton of money as a result of business disruption. …


They would’ve avoided numerous costly mistakes.

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Thanks to Christian Erfurt | Unsplash for the image.

I founded my first company back in 2009. At the time I had a 9–5 job. It was a side hustle that blossomed into a full-time, fast-growing startup.

I had never done anything like that before. My job wasn’t even in the startup world or tech, but corporate banking.

In short, I was naive in many ways, and this transferred through to how I approached product and business model ideas.

Sometimes this naivety manifested as a strength. For example, I had no preconceived notions or “burden of knowledge” holding me back from trying new product initiatives.

But, other times, it manifested as a weakness. This had a negative impact on productivity and opportunity, I'm sure of it. …


Avoid making this common mistake.

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Thanks to SCREEN POST | Unsplash for the image.

If you’re anything like me you spend a lot of time on video calls. Talking to your team, meeting new people, catching up with old acquaintances.

But, no matter who you speak with, the same general behavior seems to play out in the first moments of conversation:

“Can you hear me?”

“Can you see me?”

“One moment please”

Bad start. It’s just not how we, as humans, usually build relationships with others. This is even more potent if you haven't spoken to that person before. First impressions matter.

Imagine if you were to meet someone in a coffee shop and the first thing you said was “Can you hear me?”. It sounds ridiculous in that context. Is that really the basis upon which you’re going to seize the moment and build a flourishing new relationship? …


Here’s how I did it, step-by-step.

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Image supplied by author.

As a founder of numerous businesses, over the years I’ve generated a lot of press coverage for my companies.

Since I’ve launched both B2B and B2C products, the specific approach and reasons why are different in each case, but, the underlying common ground is the same. To raise awareness and credibility of a product or service amongst a target customer base.

In the earliest stages of these ventures I’ve overseen the process personally, without using a PR firm, because I’ve bootstrapped them. I had no choice but to be resourceful and generate press coverage from zero budget. A lean methodology was key. …


Lesson #5: Can I make $10,000,000?

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Thanks to BP Miller | Unsplash for the image.

My first full-time job was a steady and comfortable position within the investment division of a tier one global bank, HSBC.

After just one year of employment I got an itch to found my own business. Not a side hustle, but a venture that I could work on full-time.

The trigger for the sudden new direction came in September 2008, when the global financial crisis started to hit hard.

One lunchtime I found myself strolling passed the Lehman Brothers building.

It was the day they collapsed and there were dozens of just-fired employees strolling out through the lobby entrance carrying cardboard boxes full of their belongings. …


But, there’s a catch.

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Thanks to Clarinta Subrata | Unsplash for the image.

Many people in society have a desire to become a millionaire. You may be one of them. Since you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you are.

It’s perfectly natural. Whilst wealth doesn’t solve all of your problems and neither does it make you intrinsically happy, it does alleviate stress, make life more comfortable, and provide freedom to pursue interests and hobbies with greater resources.

I anecdotally classify people that harbor a desire of becoming a millionaire into two distinctive groups: active and passive. The difference?

Active people work towards becoming a millionaire by taking a structured approach like building a business or pursuing an especially lucrative career. …

About

Martin Delaney

I write about entrepreneurship and building startups. Founder for 10+ years (sold 2 companies). Newsletter: http://foundershustle.net.

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