The Hustle

Many friends have contacted me during the last couple of weeks and asked how I got so many high-level entrepreneurs involved in the upcoming book The Path to Product/Market Fit. In this blog post, I’m going to tell you how I did it.

First of all I have to tell you that it is really hard. I had a hit list of 150 founders. Many of them have built billion dollar businesses. So far, I’ve gotten around 15 people involved. That’s only 10%. The really important point is that it is a numbers game. If you reach out to enough people some of them are going to say yes. However, it is really important to know how to approach these founders. In Silicon Valley, it is all about the network and introductions. Also, it doesn’t hurt that you book flights and commute 20 hours to meet founders in person. I believe that doing so shows a really high level of commitment and is definitely something that many of the founders appreciate. I used a lot of time on LinkedIn checking who might be able to do warm introductions and to whom. Then I approached the people with an email where I asked them to do a couple of introductions. It’s important to note that you should give them an opportunity to say no. If they say no, it is completely alright. The email template I used:

—-

Hi xx

Long time no see. I hope all is well 🙂

I started a book project & thesis a while ago (http://custdev.io/). I will be interviewing founders in the Bay Area next month. I wonder if you would be able to do a couple of introductions? The intro’s you might be able to help out with: xx and xx. 

I wrote an intro email you can forward to them if you feel comfortable doing so. Feel free to edit.

Thanks in advance 🙂 

Hi xx,

I hope all is well 🙂 

Meet Riku (cc’d). He is working on an eBook and MSc (Engineering) thesis about customer development at early stage software startups. Similar to Founders at Work, but focusing on the time before Product/Market Fit. 

Riku will be doing interviews in the Bay Area between 8th and 26th of April. Would you have time for a chat with him during that timeframe or perhaps a short slot when he could call you? 

I’m sure you’d have some excellent pointers that this book should not be published without 🙂 

—-

Most of the people who I approached were happy to do the introduction and I’m really grateful to all of you who have helped out. Without you this project would not have been possible. Thank you, you know who you are! 🙂

Secondly, I built a nice-looking website using Squarespace. It took like 4 hours to build a nice site. Also, I used startupstockphotos.com that is a free startup stock photo gallery. The good thing about doing things online is that you can make things look way bigger and legit that they actually are. Fake it till you make it!

Thirdly, it’s all about following up. I have sent up to seven follow-up email to some of the people who I have wanted to interview. Think about it. Most of the people I’m trying to reach out are really busy and their inbox is filled with unread emails. Follow-up until they say no, yes or stop sending me these emails. Also, keep these follow-ups short and sweet. Do not forget to give them an opportunity to say no. The standard follow-up emails have looked like this.

—-

Hi xx, 

Just checking in. Would be fantastic to have you onboard but I also understand that you are really busy building xx 🙂

—-

Many people say no but it is alright. Again, it is a numbers game! If you get a yes answer it is really important to close an interview as soon as possible. It might be really hard to get these founders to answer again if you lose the momentum.

Finally, when I got some well-known names onboard. I started just cold emailing people with whom I did not have any mutual connections with (tip: firstname@company.com or firstname.lastname@company.com usually works. You can actually bcc both). In these cold emails, I used some of the well-known names as a reference. Most people have not replied to these cold emails but again it is alright. Some founders have replied and I have been able to get them onboard which is fantastic.

Also, along the way I have published some podcasts and blog posts on my site in order to make it look more legit. Furthermore, it is as of extreme importance to give value to the people who might want to pre-order the thing you are working on. Think about it. If you add value to the people who visit your site they are more intrigued to know more and that is where the book comes in.

Lastly, I want to thank all the wonderful people who have given me some valuable insights and tips along the way.

This is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more updates and remember to check out my book project at http://custdev.io/ and share it with your friends.

Ps. If you are a founder, you can get a free copy of the book by filling out this customer development survey by the end of April: http://goo.gl/forms/Q7rwf7BZb1

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