SXSW 2008 IV – Startups, Pirates, Secrets and Bootstrapping

Bruce Henry | March 10, 2008

left Image

SM SXSW 6My morning started off with a bang. Thunder. Yes, it is raining like hell. Big fat drops and lightning strikes.

The first panel was good too.

Eric Hellweg of Harvard Business Journal Online moderated a great panel on “The Care and Feeding of a Startup“. He was the most dynamic moderator I’ve seen at the conference yet. He did it “Jerry Springer style”, walking up and down the aisles with a mic. I actually found this very effective and would recommend it to confident moderators in the future.

One of the key points that I got from this panel was that the founding team needs to focus on building out a strong core product feature (or small feature set) and that VC funding can be quite distracting if you let it. In particular, Blair Garrou from DFJ noted that early stage VC funding for web startups can distract from listening to your audience.

Then it was “Startup Metrics for Pirates: AARRR“!


While tempted to write the rest of this post in Pirate Speak, I think I’ll continue in more modern parlance.

This was a very entertaining and fairly informative too. The deck can be found here and is well worth your while to read.

The key take away from this was that you want to find a small set (like say… one) of actionable metrics to gather and monitor. If you can’t make a decision with a particular metric then it is not actionable.

They talked a bit about tools for metrics. Of course, Google Analytics was in there but there was also CrazyEgg.

SM SXSW 5Okay, maybe I’m the last to the party but CrazyEgg is just incredibly cool! It does click tracking on your pages and allows you to slice them by traffic source. They has some really good examples of using the CrazyEgg data to redesign a webpage for a gaming video site. Totally sweet (and you know I’m a data visualization junkie).

Unlike yesterday’s keynote (the social media reaction to which was actually called out by the conference organizers before this keynote) Frank Warren rocked the PostSecret presentation. Totally inspiring. Totally uplifting. His speaking style is perfectly fitted to the subject and the message. He is a master of handling questions (some of which were only kinda questions) and setting everyone at ease even when you were quite uncomfortable. Amazing.

Thence to the “Boostrapping 101” panel. Damn. Philosophically interesting, but practical and useful as ice skates on a pig.

Now I’m just waiting for the “Stories of Failure: Surviving Start-up Mistakes” presentation.