Signing a Deal is Like Dating & Other Startup Metaphors

Drop it like it’s hot

-Lil Wayne

I’m a huge fan of metaphors. In fact, they are so prevalent within Card Gnome and the wider startup scene that it’s easy to forget that you are even using them. Has anyone else caught themselves projecting a metaphor onto reality? Literally imagining “getting up to bat” before a presentation?

In any case, it seemed fitting to write a post about a few of the ones that fit startups well:

Startups are like rock bands: Much like a new company, a new band needs to find its product market fit, communicate with fans and find repeatable ways to build their base. If they want to make their band something more than a “lifestyle” enhancer, they must be able to scale it.

Entrepreneurs are like surfers: Each wave is an opportunity. You need to learn how to pick your waves and be comfortable that even if you do everything perfectly you still may get absolutely pummeled by it. You can’t ride every wave and once you’ve committed it’s not easy to bail without some pain.

Signing a deal is like dating: There is a highly choreographed dance that happens with each potential deal. When do you call? What do you say? How should you say it? Who initiates what? Just like dating the girl/guy of your dreams, all of these things are extremely important to how things work out and how power is eventually leveraged in the resulting relationship.

I know there are a ton more, drop them like they’re hot in the comments.

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Signing a Deal is Like Dating & Other Startup Metaphors

Greeting Cards Aren’t Dead

In most conversations that I have about our company, a question comes up about the viability of the card market. Aren’t cards going away? Isn’t that market dead? It’s not surprising because that’s the story line in the media, but it’s so completely wrong that I feel compelled to defend it.

The simple truth is that cards are a gift, and connecting meaningfully with other people through gifts is not going away. Last year 6.5 billion cards were purchased in the United States. That represents a steady no-growth environment for the last 3 years since we started. No growth isn’t something to celebrate, but it’s not a hemorrhaging market by any stretch of the imagination.

What we are seeing is a channel shift reminiscent of what happened to other content businesses since the early 2000s. Online sales are increasing as a percentage of total sales and brick & mortar sales are declining (particularly at specialty retailers). Whereas online sales represent only 8% of total sales today, by 2016 it will almost double to 14% and by 2018 it’ll be 32%. By 2018 almost $2.3B in card orders will be done through the internet if current trends to continue.

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 9.31.28 AM

The average american family buys 31 cards a year. Roughly a third are Holiday Cards, another 1/3 are Happy Birthday Cards and the remaining 1/3 are everyday cards and non-Christmas holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

Bottom line, the card market isn’t dead.

Greeting Cards Aren’t Dead

Mentorship Isn’t Just For Accelerators

Here’s a thou’ (Jay-Z)
A G? I ride with you for free
I want the long-term riches (Memphis Bleek)

Jay-Z & Memphis Bleek (Coming of Age)

If you follow no other advice about startups, follow the advice about finding mentors. It is the single most important thing you can do for your company’s success, your own personal growth and most importantly for your mental health. The minute you start a company your signing up for a ride on Space Mountain, a roller coaster that is in complete darkness. As tough as you are, as smart as you are, dealing with this level of stress and uncertainty is not natural and you need support. The kind of support you’ll want comes from those that have been through the startup grinder before and have come out on the other end intact.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have some truly amazing individuals helping us through the ups and downs. They give selflessly simply to give back to the community that has given to them. I wanted to briefly thank a few of them now:

Tom Higley – You have been through seemingly every situation a startup can go through. Your thoughtfulness, strategic thinking and kindness never ceases to amaze me. Thank you.

David Mandell – We literally would not have been able to create a brand without you. Your creativity, eloquence and understanding of what drives decision making is truly special. Thank you. P.S. I’m so incredibly excited for Pivot Desk!

Holly Hamann – You helped us understand “what women want” and taught us what influencer marketing is all about. Thank you.

Jake Nickel – At the very beginning you told us “it’s all about the community”. The company’s entire model is based on that. Just like your website says, you are one of the “coolest guys on earth”. Thank you.

Mentorship Isn’t Just For Accelerators

What’s Entrepreneurial Resilience?

What’s beef? Beef is when you need two gats to go to sleep
Beef is when your moms ain’t safe up in the streets
What’s beef? Beef is when you make your enemies start your Jeep

– Notorious BIG (What’s Beef)

They say that all learning and growth comes from “the struggle” but the the vast majority of things I read are about seemingly overnight successes. Over the last few years I’ve come across so many stories of resilience, struggle and growth in my entrepreneurial friends and I wanted to share a few of them. This is for all of you out there, waist deep in shit, trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents and looking for some inspiration.

What’s resilience? Resilience is keeping your business running after your partner, and close friend, steals all of your company’s investment money.

What’s resilience? Resilience is being forced out of your company because the sale you proposed to the board wasn’t enough of a return for the investors. Resilience is watching the company go bankrupt and still starting 5 more companies.

What’s resilience? Resilience is your corporate job offer being rescinded after a short pre-job vacation. Resilience is starting and selling your own company 4 years later.

What’s resilience? Resilience is being turned down by 45 Venture Capital firms and other investors only to watch another team replicate your product idea and sell for >$100M.

What’s resilience? Resilience is watching one of your companies sell for far less than the initial investment, being sued by your business partner and starting yet another company.

Share other short stories of resilience in the comments and then go kick some ass.

What’s Entrepreneurial Resilience?