Mr. Clean Cost me $111.88 on Super Bowl Sunday

Adwords is a giant auction.  You tell Google what search keywords you’d like to bid on and then provide ads associated with those keywords.  If someone searches Google for one of the terms that you’re bidding on, your ad may show in one of the designated spaces for ads (above Google’s normal “organic” search results).  Of course to be successful on Adwords, there are hundreds of other settings, parameters, limitations, best practices, pitfalls, etc – but that’s basically how it works – bid on a keyword and show your ad.

Along with Dozen Digital, I’ve been running Evening Janitorial’s digital marketing for the last 4-5 years.  A large component of their ad spend is devoted to Adwords; when someone is searching for “commercial cleaners in oakland”, that person could be searching for the exact service that my parents’ business provides – we want to be in front of them for that search.

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Here’s an example of an Evening Janitorial “branded” ad – this one should show up when someone searches for EJ by name.

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AdEspresso on What Startup M&A Looks Like

AdEspresso recently announced that it had been acquired by Hootsuite.  If you aren’t familiar with the service, AdEspresso is an awesome tool for Facebook advertisers to AB test massive amounts of ad variants in order to see what resonates.  The have some great ancillary tools as well – analytics, rule-based ad settings, visualizations – that can all save time for advertisers, especially when dealing with complex campaigns.


After the deal closed, the people at AdEspresso put together a guide on how it all went down.  This is a very helpful read for a) startup folks who have never worked on a sale transaction and b) corporate M&A folks who haven’t worked with startups.

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Catherine Hoke of Defy Ventures and Brad Feld of Foundry Group on the Reboot Podcast with Jerry Colonna

My friend Catherine Hoke, founder of Defy Ventures, was recently a guest on the Reboot podcast.  I’ve shared a lot about Defy over the years, but this is your chance to hear the Defy story straight from the horse’s mouth.  Cat was joined by one of her board members Brad Feld of Foundry Group in a great conversation with the CEO whisperer, Jerry Colonna.

Here’s an excerpt from Reboot’s episode summary:

Almost all successful entrepreneurs will fail – if not fail, fail, fail, and fail again – on their path to success. Every human being made choices in their lives which they regret, are embarrassed of and have caused them deep shame. What would your life be like if you were known only by the worst thing you had ever done?

If you like what you heard from Jerry and wish you could hear more about his story, look no further.  Dave and I had him on Venture Studio as a guest a few months ago:

Red Flag: “…and we haven’t spent a single dollar on marketing yet!”

In the first phase of company building, founders focus on product. They go “heads down” on making something that someone, somewhere will find useful. Generally this product-building phase is followed by (or run in tandem with) months of customer development. Founders pound the pavement and tell everyone who will listen about that killer use case for the awesome product that they’ve built. They get a few users/customers/downloads/subscriptions/views/whatever. Time to scale. Continue reading

“What’s your CPA?” is a trick question

If you’re an early stage company, you care about two numbers: cash and burn rate. How much money do you have (cash)? When do you run out (burn rate)? CPA and LTV are overrated.

In today’s competitive, crowded, aggressive fundraising environment, traction has become more and more important to a company’s story. One of the ways that I’ve seen founders display traction is by showing some sort of growth (revenue, # of deals, # of customers, etc) alongside CPA and LTV numbers for context. But here’s the thing- until you’re at massive scale, your CPA and LTV are pretty meaningless as standalone numbers. However if understood properly, CPA and LTV can be indicators of the health of the business – demand for your product, your effectiveness at targeting early adopters, your future customer acquisition strategy, etc.

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Takeaways from First Round Capital’s State of Startups Report

Note: I wrote this for the Dozen Digital blog.

First Round Capital is one of the best, if not the best, seed-stage venture capital investment firm in the world.  First Round was an early investor in many notable exits including, OnDeck and Square, and is currently invested in a handful of so-called unicorns such as Uber, Blue Apron and Warby Parker.


Where First Round differentiates from the rest of the VC pack is by investing in its platform.  A typical venture capital firm might have a few partners and a handful of junior associates, with each teammate responsible for monitoring and helping the 5-10 companies that they “own.”  With 6 investors and 25 staff running platform, operations, finance and administration, First Round takes a different approach.  First Round has formalized the support that its portfolio companies can access, from shared resources, to institutional knowledge, to other private community building events.  First Round’s “platform” approach is responsible for many events, conferences and other programs every year, as well as innovations like Dorm Room Fund and, of course, their annual holiday video.

First Round Capital is one of the thought leaders in the startup and VC landscape.  Through its newsletter First Round Review (subscribe here- it’s great), they spread the knowledge, experience and lessons that successful founders, operators and advisors have shared with them.

Last month, First Round published a report called State of Startups, an in depth survey of over 500 venture-backed startup founders and CEOs.  Only 25% of the companies surveyed were part of the First Round community, so this report provides “an in-depth snapshot of what founders across the entire ecosystem are thinking and doing, what they’re excited about and worried about, and how they’re seeing the market — things that could very well change dramatically over the next several years.”

Findings in three areas really jumped out at us:

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