Today we were lucky enough to get some time with Mike Cassidy at Google. He was far from the expected big tech management speaker. Mike’s a veteran leader of four successful startups (Stylus Innovation, Direct Hit, Xfire, and Ruba) and came to Google by way of acquisition. Now he’s part of the clandestine Google X Labs which works on big picture projects like the driverless car.
Mike is the rare person that carries himself and his interactions with urgency. Everything from his presentation to conversation style screamed “Lets get going!”. Quite appropriately the theme of his (well known) talk was on the role of speed as a central business strategy. My takeaways:
- Raise before an inflection point in valuation – it lowers closing cost/time
- Move fast and get all decision makes in the room before pitching
- Get contracts and LOIs from enterprise customers
- If you haven’t built it at least have a plan down to concrete actionable details before pitching
- Hire experienced people – no amount of all-nighters can make up for the speed 5-10 years of experience programming will bring.
- Make an offer same day. Draft the offer in the morning, complete a reference check at noon (if the interviews are going well), and hand the candidate an offer letter on the way out. Ask for an answer the next morning – you don’t want to let them shop it around.
- Set up all the infrastructure an employee needs day one so they can hit the ground running.
- Probability of a deal closing falls 10% every day in doesn’t close. Put pressure of the other party to close or cut your losses early.
- Pivot hard and fast. 3/4 of Mike’s companies were very different from the original idea.
- Find great people with great ideas. 3/4 of Mike’s companies were initiated by his co founders (housemate/fellow alum/industry expert). He also mentioned scanning the MIT 50K (now 100K) site for interesting projects: http://www.mit100k.org/accelerate/2013_semi_finalists/
- Start small – his first market was only $20M (telephony). You learn the ropes of a business and can build great personal value in that space.
- CAC < LTV. The CAC (Cost of Acquiring a Customer) must be less than the LTV (LifeTime value). This seems obvious, but it’s important to plan for and have a good feel for how this metric is evolving in your business.
From the launch timeline Mike laid out (above) I feel pretty good about BuildAFlock. On a small/prefunded scale we’ve follows this pretty closely to get from ideation to launch in about 3 months. However, I’m very curious to see if we can maintain this pace at a Series A scale. If you’d like to take a look at his slides I found an old version here (content looks very similar):