6 min read

68 points to remember when building your company

68 points to remember when building your company

You might have heard about CB Insights. I was always wondering what CB stood for. In today's CB Insights newsletter I saw a link to one of their earlier posts, from 2017, titled as "Don’t Do These 68 Things in Your SaaS Company". Within that 68 points, I discovered that CB is for Chubby Brain.

Besides this fact, reading through the list I realized that hidden in the referenced video presentation and the transcript, these 68 learnings Anand Sanwal, CEO of CB Insights, points out are not only relevant for SaaS companies but should be read by many more.  To get similar gems from him right to your email as well, subscribe to  CB Insights newsletter.

Anand's presentation at SaaStr

If you don't have time to watch the whole presentation video, I've extracted the whole list of those 68 points here below:

Don't do these 68 things in your SaaS company

This will be useless for wantrepreneurs, people who believe VC is required to build a biz, folks who can’t grind, or folks selling $9.95/month SaaS products (and many others)

1 DON’T take advice from non-customers

“Only take advice from those who have to live with the consequences” (quote by Mark Cuban)

2 DON’T tolerate high-performing assholes

They might provide short-term benefit but are cancerous to culture long-term.

3 DON’T fall in love with pedigree

There are plenty of smart folks who aren’t Google or Stanford alums.

4 DON’T half-ass onboarding of new teammates

Teammates make decisions to stay quickly. First impressions matter.

5 DON’T believe you have to raise VC

This narrative is great for VCs but is BS. Revenue is the best funding.

6 DON’T be pressured into raising VC

Just because a competitor did doesn’t mean anything.

7 DON’T let them call you a lifestyle business

You can revenue-fund a giant (Mailchimp, Atlassian)

8 DON’T waste money on PR to get customers

Especially early, do it on your own. Know what PR is good for.

9 DON’T chase press in sexy but irrelevant media

It’s easier to go after niche media which is less sexy and more useful.

10 DON’T believe your own hype

People are saying your co is amazing. Enjoy & forget. Stay paranoid.

11 DON’T get fixated on losses

If you’re doing it right, you’ll probably lose a lot. It sucks but try to forget.

12 DON’T think you know your end-market from day one

Be promiscuous in the early days. Sometimes, customers show up you didn’t expect.

13 DON’T be promiscuous about your market forever

At some point, you have enough data. Pick a market and attack it.

14 DON’T hire smart people and “figure it out later”

People do better with clear goals and priorities especially early on.

15 DON’T hire under pressure

Every time we’ve rushed a hiring decision, we’ve regretted it.

16 DON’T fire slow

Easier said than done TBH but culture is driven by people you hire and fire.

17 DON’T inflate people’s titles

When your startup scales, the inflated title holders get demoted. Not good.

18 DON’T be afraid to hire expert advisors

We did too much non-core stuff on our own in the beginning. Made mistakes.

19 DON’T be afraid to fire expert advisors

Sometimes, people/firms coast by on reputation. If you find this, run.

20 DON’T do what Slack, Dropbox, Evernote do

Everyone is super smart until they’re not. Do what is good for your biz.

21 DON’T believe the easy hype BS

You can’t growth hack your way to $100M in revenue.

22 DON’T don’t believe being outfunded matters

Money buys you time. It doesn’t buy you the ability to execute.

23 DON’T only celebrate big wins or sales wins

Highlight big and small milestones and recognize folks behind them.

24 DON’T sell to startups

No money. High churn. They die. The definition of SaaS hell.

25 DON’T be the lowest priced product in the market

This path generally sucks. Trust me.

26 DON’T get cute with pricing

It’s confusing and nobody is buying your important, awesome product cuz of this.

27 DON’T be afraid to ask if your product idea sucks

Customers will tell you if it’s something they’d pay for. They want you to win.

28 DON’T respond to trolls

Obvious but don’t. (TBH, I still do this to F with them from time-to-time)

29 DON’T worry about perfecting your tech too early

Revenues > technical debt. This will change as you scale.

30 DON’T be boring

So much software marketing is boring. Have a voice. Be interesting.

31 DON’T chase startup fads

Badges, AI. Big Data. Does it help customers?

32 DON’T think biz dev / CS will learn through osmosis

Not investing in training as you scale will hurt you.

33 DON’T wait to hire customer success

Even if churn is low, hire CS folks to ensure customers love you.

34 DON’T believe in the one hire messiah

If you’ve got a mess, someone may fix it. But don’t bank on it.

35 DON’T half-ass reference checks

Whether it’s a new teammate, investor or important advisor, vet them hard.

36 DON’T meet with VCs unless you’re ready to raise

If you meet them, even casually, it’s a pitch.

37 DON’T price based on competition

If you’re indistinguishable from competition, that’s a problem.

38 DON’T think channel partnerships will save you

It’s hard to get someone else to do the selling for you.

39 DON’T dominate conversations w/ customers

The more customers talk during conversations, the better.

40 DON’T try to delegate product management too early

In the beginning, the product managers are the founders & engineers.

41 DON’T forget to ask for the sale

A quick yes is amazing. And a quick no is also pretty good. Don’t get strung along.

42 DON’T listen to people w/ no $ who want to “integrate”

99% of time, these people are collosal wastes of time. Show me the money.

43 DON’T fear non-scalable work

Elegant solutions are often not worth the effort. Love the grind.

44 DON’T worry about competition

Focus on the customer night and day. (Hint: Read Jeff Bezos on this topic)

45 DON’T give a shit about Hacker News

God – we wasted so much time trying to get on the HN front page.

46 DON’T try to innovate in HR

Focus your innovation efforts on your product.

47 DON’T give perks you can’t give forever

If the market turns downward, and the perk wouldn’t survive, don’t give it.

48 DON’T hire salespeople till you can sell it yourself

If you’re the founder and can’t sell the shit out of it, nobody else will.

49 DON’T think all leads are created equal

Double down on best ones. Some will never buy. Forget them.

50 DON’T try to please everyone

You’ll build a crappy product that doesn’t get anyone fired up.

51 DON’T worry about your personal brand

Unless it helps recruit teammates or customers, why bother?

52 DON’T try to act like a “salesperson”

There is not one way to sell. Do what’s comfortable.

53 DON’T ignore sales advice

There is a lot of wisdom out there. Use it.

54 DON’T do ‘demos’. Have conversations

You’re not a tool with buttons and features. Position yourself as more.

55 DON’T be lazy after your first conversation

People are busy and aren’t fixated on you. You have to keep them interested.

56 DON’T buy whole grape / piece of watermelon thing

Focus on the narrative that works for you. Not one foisted upon you.

57 DON’T believe the media/VC survivorship bias

79% of exits are < $200M. Google and Facebook are freaks.

58 DON’T always look for new channels

It’s better to be killer at a few channels than suck at many

59 DON’T pointlessly network

If you’re emailing to pick people’s brains, swap notes, etc, stop it. Now.

60 DON’T be a ‘conference ho’

See earlier slide on pointless networking. Don’t mistake activity for progress.

61 DON’T hesitate to ”flood the zone”

Once you find something works, milk the hell out of it.

62 DON’T deceive yourself on the size of your market

Build a product and price with your market in mind.

63 DON’T fetishize failure

Failure blows. Don’t make it ok and say it was a learning experience.

64 DON’T worry about your name & logo too much

Cuz you will never do worse than us. CB Insights began as ChubbyBrain.

65 DON’T expect clients to tell you what product to build

First, it is not their job. Second, their feedback will often be incremental.

66 DON’T do feature demos

Nobody really cares. They want to know why it makes their lives better.

67 DON’T ever forget WIIFM

Nobody gives a shit about your product. They care about What’s In It For Me?

68 DON’T blindly follow this advice

There is no playbook. Anyone who tells you there is one is stupid and/or a charlatan.

While the last point is true, then these are Anand's learnings on scaling to $10 million in ARR completely bootstrapped. And that's impressive!

I've been reading a bunch of books on the matter as well, but if you'd need an absolute quick course on building startups without any BS, it is a very good summary what you need to know.

Cover photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash