Week 12 of 13: Launch

We're open for business.
"It requires a special touch," begins the interviewee. "Each situation requires mastered skills that allow for the proper unraveling of each client's potential". I wondered whether we were still talking about sales. We launched our website this past week, www.prescouter.com. For a web/email business, this is significant. We're effectively ready to operate. With the focus shifting to revenue development, I've been interviewing for a sales person to work on bringing in customers. The folks I've been interviewing for the sales role certainly have had interesting things to say.

"But you don't really want to charge everyone the same amount, do you?" continues another interviewee. "You want a model where for a customer like Ford, you could sell for four times the price. You need a pricing standard." Yet another interviewee challenged my route to market, "Why restrict yourself to medical device companies? Hit everyone who has R&D departments! And what's your upsell strategy?". While I have a lot of experience interviewing people for technical software development roles, this was the first time I was interviewing outside that remit. Given that I am learning a lot from each interviewee, I clearly have no idea of what I'm doing.

The process of interviewing for a sales person has been turning into free consulting on the marketing and sales side of the business. For example, one interviewee suggested using a webinar to show people what the technology did. "Showing up at trade shows reaffirms your presence," said another. This was tactical information beyond anything taught at school. There were even some ideas that were more within my budget and means. "On the website, if we could get people to submit the keywords they'd use for the reports, that would be a real live lead". Wow, that is a good idea! Another suggestion was to create a group on LinkedIn for the type of people I'm looking for as clients.

Armed with just some advice from the internet, I had posted my job ad for a sales person not only on the university's career board, but also on Craig's List. People flocked to the ad on Craig's List - people from all walks of life. The problem I have with many of the candidates is one of trust. Given that I'll have a full course load next quarter, I'm not going to be able to provide a lot of supervision. I really need someone who can get a grasp of the product and take their own initiative. It's time I sought some advice from people who know a little more about this.

While interning at a venture capital firm last Summer, I learned of a model that some firms use to evaluate business. The model measures businesses on three axises: market risk, execution risk and team risk. Later stage companies have more of these risks mitigated, while earlier stage companies still face many risks on some or all axises. Getting customers will reduce the market risk of my business and prove that there is a market for what we're doing. Execution risk relates to the product. We've now launched a product. In doing so, we've reduced the execution risk. For me, this is the achievement of the Summer.