The Server-Side Pad

by Fabien Tiburce, Best practices and personal experiences with enterprise software

Fresh Thinking

with 3 comments

I really enjoyed attending a FreshBooks workshop today, held by Mike McDerment, FreshBooks’ co-founder and CEO.  FreshBooks is the leader in online billing, a rapidly growing category that FreshBooks essentially invented and is continually perfecting.  The workshop, Building a Web App Business, addressed the pre-launch phase any web startup faces and covered topics ranging from building to marketing, product management, metrics and financing.  I literally took ten pages of notes in four hours.  Mike is a wealth of information, candid with his answers and refreshingly transparent.   The session was truly inspiring and I will be drawing on today’s take-aways for some time.  In the meantime, I wanted to wet your appetite with a few tidbits, a number of quotes from Mike McDerment and the context in which they were given.  If you find them as thought-provoking as I did, you really owe it to yourself to get to know FreshBooks and perhaps attend a future workshop.

Freshbooks “We get paid to be an aspirin, a pain killer”.

Launch features “Build the least, you’re in a vacuum”. “You need to build the minimum number of features you need and engage people using it [the service]”.

Feedback “Make it easy for people to give it to you”.  “Make it easy for people to reach you, by telephone and email”. “You want to remove barriers”.

Ownership “I want people to act and behave as owners”.” Don’t stack chances against yourself by being a control freak or by putting up with one”.

Founding team “Trust, honesty, loyalty, openness”. “Passion is your fuel”. “If you call them at 3AM, are they going to answer the phone?”.

Lawyers “Lawyers get paid”. “Lawyers are risk reducers”.”If the dark clouds come, things break down gracefully”.

Office space “You do not need an office just because you have a business”. “Rent will increase your burn”.

Categories “Don’t underestimate the power of categories”. “What makes you unique?”.

Choosing a name “Easy to remember.  Easy to spell.  Describes the category.  Describes the benefit.  Describes the difference”. “A name is a vessel, you can build a lot of meaning into it”.

The story “Your story is going to influence your strategy more than you  know”.

The homepage “The home page must answer: what is it?  who is it for?  why it matters”.

Blogs “Outspend or out-teach”. “If you don’t have something interesting to write, don’t write”. “You want to build a network “. “Start sharing and teaching”.

PR “PR is a pretty hard thing to outsource”.

Support “Everyone [at FreshBooks] does support”.”When you are building a business, you are building a culture”.”Post your phone number” .”Use a forum, use twitter, be everywhere”.

Usability “If you want to be humbled, watch somebody use your application.  You will be floored, you will be shamed”.

Surveys “If you want stats, use an online survey, if you want insights, call people”.

Decisions “You are editor/curator”. “You can’t please all people all the time”. “If you do support, you’ll know”.”Remove the pain, stay true to vision”.

Funding “You need to know your formula before investing capital at the top”.”When you know your users better than anyone.  When you have a formula for the $.  When you’ve got traction.  When you know your market size”. “Angels do 27 times more investing than VCs”. “Can you increase your share price by more than dilution?”.

Competition “I never think about competition”.” I don’t believe customer service is going to get out of style”.”If you only look at your competitors, you are only reacting, not leading”.

Startups “You do stuff in a way a big company cannot”.

Written by Compliant IA

June 16, 2009 at 9:32 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Fabien: love the “Categories” and “Survey” quotes! People are ‘difference engines’, if you can articulate a delta in terms of a product or service, you are golden. Yeah, surveys are so misleading: if you can contact your customer-base directly, why not?

    Ian Mosley

    June 17, 2009 at 12:14 am

  2. Whoa, this is a great summary, Fabien! Now I’ll know how to describe the workshop when people ask ; )

    I’m so glad you had a good time and learned a lot! It was awesome to have you here. Get in touch anytime, Fabien. Consider me your newest BFF : )

    Rayanne Langdon — Queen of Hearts,

    Rayanne Langdon

    June 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm

  3. Fabulous summary Fabian. I really like what you say about doing stuff that big company cannot.


    June 28, 2010 at 1:31 pm

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