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Rank #197 in Careers category


The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten

Updated 3 days ago

Rank #197 in Careers category

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Unfiltered insights and actionable advice straight from the trenches of startup and business life.

Read more

Unfiltered insights and actionable advice straight from the trenches of startup and business life.

iTunes Ratings

188 Ratings
Average Ratings

Fun and informative

By Lydander300 - Jun 05 2019
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Love the short bursts of great info and the transparency of the hosts. Would really be 5 stars, but I’m put off every time I hear the intro. Way too bro-y. Please consider recording something new.

Excellent and entertaining insight and truth

By ewewedd r55 - Jun 04 2019
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These guys offer unfiltered and entertaining truth and insights about pretty much any aspect of starting or running your own business. This podcast will add value whether you've been in business for years or only a few months. Listen to them, take notes, and take action. I've been listening to them for only a few months now and my only regret is not hearing about them before now.

iTunes Ratings

188 Ratings
Average Ratings

Fun and informative

By Lydander300 - Jun 05 2019
Read more
Love the short bursts of great info and the transparency of the hosts. Would really be 5 stars, but I’m put off every time I hear the intro. Way too bro-y. Please consider recording something new.

Excellent and entertaining insight and truth

By ewewedd r55 - Jun 04 2019
Read more
These guys offer unfiltered and entertaining truth and insights about pretty much any aspect of starting or running your own business. This podcast will add value whether you've been in business for years or only a few months. Listen to them, take notes, and take action. I've been listening to them for only a few months now and my only regret is not hearing about them before now.
Cover image of The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten

The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten

Updated 3 days ago

Read more

Unfiltered insights and actionable advice straight from the trenches of startup and business life.

Rank #1: 188: How to Create a Killer Pitch Deck

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In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about the bones of what makes a great pitch deck and how to use it to wow possible investors. Steli and Hiten give you tips based on real life stories and pitches that got their attention. Tune in to find out the importance of knowing and communicating your “WHY”, turning your pitch deck into a story, and how you can connect with your audience. Hiten also gives the inside scoop about his new pitch deck product to listeners for the FIRST time—this will definitely help you with your next pitch.
Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:05 – Today’s episode is about creating a killer pitch deck
00:41 – Steli spills that Hiten is launching a pitch deck product very soon

01:25 – People send pitch decks to Steli to be critiqued
01:53 – Where should people start?
02:22 – Pitch decks are the new business plan
03:10 – The common method today is creating and using a pitch deck so that you can raise money through angel investors
03:53 – Those who join Y Combinator already have a product to talk about
04:15 – There are still traditional people who do not understand how to get money without a business plan
04:47 – The biggest mistake people make is making the numbers up
05:01 – A pitch deck is a story of what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and what you’ll be doing in the future
05:17 – Investors are investing in the future
05:48 – The data and numbers should be used to support your story
06:14 – Investors need to buy into the storyline and be able to see that it has value in the future
06:55 – Tell a compelling story and stimulate the imagination and fantasy of the audience
07:25 – Hiten has worked with a lot of people in making pitch decks and storytelling
08:16 – Steli asks Hiten how useful is it when adversity is included in the storytelling

09:18 – Hiten says investors just want to invest in a great business
09:33 – Your whole pitch and whole story should show how great your business is
10:00 – Hiten talks about Close.Io—how it addresses the needs of people and how it has a compelling pitch
11:22 – Steli’s Close.Io story is awesome because he made it happen

12:20 – The investors do not care so much about the details, they care about the essence and how true it is
13:13 – Steli is surprised by how people have difficulty finding what is compelling about their story
13:26 – Steli shares a story about a meeting he had with a startup company
14:20 – There was a lot of traction in the company, but the guy he was speaking to had a  backstory that was even more interesting

14:34 – The guy had an older sister who was an overachiever whereas he did not get into a great school and wasn’t offer the same opportunities for work
14:51 – The guy had to work hard to get a job in finance and this backstory explained his overall business concept

15:33 – The WHY connects with many people
16:09 – Steli advised the guy to tell the story about his sister, instead of just saying it as a side comment
16:41 – The amount of businesses that start every year are increasing and investors are seeing a LOT; they are also able to discern what idea/company is good
17:06 – The investors need something they can remember you by
17:44 – If this guy starts with the story of his sister, he will get passionate about the rest of the pitch
18:25 – Start your story with your WHY
18:41 – To learn more about storytelling, listen to Episode 60
18:52 – Steli and Hiten’s entrepreneurial stories are found in Episode 15
19:30 – Pitch decks from Google search are already old
20:07 – Hiten shares for the first time the name of the pitch deck product and it is Dogo
20:33 – If the site is not live yet, email Hiten and he will give you access

Mar 14 2017


Rank #2: 426: How to Create a Successful Pilot Program for Your Startup

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to create a successful pilot program for your startup.

In the startup world, running a pilot program for your startup is a great way to fine-tune your solution and get in some early customers. Sadly, many pilots end up failing due to mistakes made during them, and this is something that Steli and Hiten explore in this episode.  

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how to do pilot programs correctly, why you need to be clear about KPIs, why you need to be as hands-on as possible during the pilot and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:46 Why this topic was chosen.

02:36 Why you need to be clear about KPIs.

04:46 Why clarity is super important.

04:16 Why you need to be as hands-on as possible during the pilot.

05:13 How you need to babysit the pilot.

06:36 How to get more advice about your pilot.

06:41 How to handle contracts and timelines.

06:50 Why want to learn from your customers past.

06:33 A question you can ask your customer during a pilot.

3 Key Points:

Find out from your customer what you’d need to do to get them to purchase your product.You need to babysit the pilot.You wanna learn from your customer’s past.

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah and today we're going to talk about sales but what we're going to talk about sales is how to do pilots correctly so that they lead to successful outcomes and basically close deals.
Steli Efti: Yeah, this is one of the biggest heartbreakers. Whenever I talk to startups that have A, pilot or multiple pilots going on usually with either larger customers or maybe if it's very early in their development phase where the product maybe doesn't work yet or is very rudimentary. Startups like to do pilots, right? It's these agreed upon times where a potential customer in a startup will come together and they'll agree that they're going to run a certain amount of tests. They're going to try to use the product or implement it or integrate it and if it goes well the idea is at the end of pilot, once we've tested this out, we would buy. The company would become a customer. The heartbreaker is that a lot, the vast majority of the time, especially startups that are not super experienced in sales, they'll put these pilots together in a way that's destined to fail and they will work so hard and have such high hopes. Then at the end of a one month or three month period when they were hell bent on needing this pilot to turn into a successful customer relationship, it doesn't, right, and it doesn't just crush the morale. It doesn't just deplete the funds and the money but it's also wasting the biggest resource the startups have which is time. So let's unpack a little bit of the mistakes that startups do, how to do avoid them and how to do this well in order to save some people a lot of trouble and a lot of wasted time.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, pilots are so key, especially to get the kind of deals that you're looking for. They also help companies get really comfortable with your product and your technology and help you actually sort out how to make something that actually provides something that they actually need and want and help them get ramped up on something. I'm going to let you lead the way because I'm sure you have more tips than I do on this.
Steli Efti: I have a million of them. All right.
Hiten Shah: Go for it.
Steli Efti: After all, a few simple things and I know you'll pepper and salt it with your wisdom around it. One of the most important things when you set up a pilot is to create clarity on what the key KPIs are that will indicate that this is going well.

Jun 28 2019


Rank #3: 268: Encore Episode – How to Get Your First 10 Customers

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Today Steli and Hiten talk about how to get those first few customers when your business is just getting off the ground.  The key to that initial traction is to connect with potential customers as soon as possible.

Hiten’s first course of action is to set up a landing page that allows you to collect email addresses.  There are a bunch of tools out there that allow you to do this well.  Pick the one that’s easiest for you to set up today and start getting those email addresses.

If you don’t already have an audience or traffic to the site, start blogging about what you’re doing.  Driving traffic to the site this way is a great way to start getting interest in your project.

Steli used a tactic that is actually one of Hiten’s favorite approaches:  doing consulting around the problem you’re trying to solve, then build tools to solve the problem that your consulting did initially.  In Elastic Sales Steli’s team they validated the concept of on demand sales teams, and within two weeks they had a pipeline 7 potential customers, and 2 that were actually paying.  Check out the script for Steli’s initial cold call.

The reason this was successful is that Steli was able to leverage his unique advantage.  Whether it’s sales, content marketing, or some other specific consulting knowledge, use your Authentic Competitive Advantage as the way you can overcome objections in sales situations.

Stop the recording right now:  Write down what your Authentic Competitive Advantage is and how it can help you get your first few customers.  If you need help figuring this out, send Steli and Hiten an email.

When you get that Authentic Competitive Advantage down, start doing customer development to better understand what the problem really is.  Don’t lead people down a specific path with this and let them freely tell you what their problem is.  Then you’ll need to figure out how to best solve that problem.

Next step is to get people to actually pay you money.  How much to charge?  Steli says charge 3x what your initial instinct tells you.  Get paid what you’re worth.  Offering lifetimes discounts for initial customers is a great way to get people on the line early.  What you charge can easily be changed later.  This is just an indication that the problem you’re solving is actually one that people are willing to pay for.

Today’s Tips:

Steli: In the next 24 hours, ask 10 people to be your customer.  Doing this will get you over the mental hurdle of asking people for their business.

Hiten: Stop thinking about how to do this and go do it.  Take action today and start trying to get customers.

Join our Facebook group to be able to talk with each other.  This is an exclusive group for our listeners and a place to build a community around.

As always, you can hit us up on Twitter @Steli or @hnshah, #thestartupchat. Let us know where you get your motivation.

The post 268: Encore Episode – How to Get Your First 10 Customers appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Dec 22 2017


Rank #4: 216: How to Make Your First $1k as an Entrepreneur

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In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how you can generate your first thousand dollars in revenue. Steli and Hiten talk about the importance of doing the math to reach your $1000 goal. Do you charge less and try to reach several customers? Or, do you charge more and aim for fewer customers? Either way, setting your price point will help inform the steps you take to achieve that goal. Also be sure to share your plan with Steli and Hiten and they’ll be happy to give you their two cents.   
Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:04 – Today’s episode is about how to generate your first thousand dollars in revenue with your startup
00:36 – Steli and Hiten have an ebook: 0 to a Thousand Customers and Beyond
01:42 – To earn your first thousand dollars, do the math
02:12 – Know how much can you charge and do the math that will help you get the price point to reach your goal
03:16 – You can either get a customer to pay you a thousand dollars or get 50 people to pay you $20 for a product or service and this takes two different approaches
04:26 – Deciding the price point or the mass appeal is going to restrict your game plan and your customer acquisition channels
05:01 – Setting the thousand dollars as a goal is attainable and once you get there, you can do it again
05:50 – Hiten thinks setting the timeline is NOT as important as setting the revenue goal
06:18 – Set a goal for how many customers you can get in a week
07:45 – The mechanisms to get money from your customers:

08:38 – Hiten likes using Stripe
09:02 – If you are in e-commerce, use something like Shopify
09:29 – Steli says people should not spend too much of their time thinking about the payment mechanisms as you could just ask customers to send you a check

10:15 – Figure out the payment process as you go along
10:38 – It is not a customer when you don’t get money from them and they are different from users
11:40 – Start with one customer at a time and worry about giving discounts in the future
12:06 – Don’t solve or worry about future problems right now when you are just trying to achieve your thousand dollars
13:01 – Get excited about charging the money and receive the validation

13:32 – Charging for your product is the biggest validation for your product

14:03 – If you are an entrepreneur, put a plan together and share it with Hiten and Steli to get advice
14:33 – End of today’s episode

3 Key Points:

To get your first thousand dollars, do the math—Charge a thousand from one customer or break up the revenue goal by a number of customers.
Getting paid is the biggest validation you can get for your product or service.
Focus on getting your first thousand dollars, worry about everything else later.

Steli Efti:

Hi, everyone, this is Steli Efti.

Hiten Shah:

And this is Hiten Shah.

Steli Efti:

In today's episode of the startup chat we're going to talk about how to make  or generate your first $1,000 in revenue with your startup, all right. This kind of  fits nicely into the first little eBook that we'll put together, 0 to 1,000 Customers  & Beyond, and some of the prior episodes that we've done on how to get  your first ten customers, how to get your first 100 customers and all that, and  we know that people really appreciate a lot of that, so I wanted to talk  with you specifically reframe the conversation, see what kind of differences it will make in the tactics and the advice that we give on generating your first money. Right, so  and I think that this will be equally important for the venture backed startups or  the startups that have bigger teams that want to do huge things, but maybe the  people that are self-funded or maybe the solo founders out there that are listening to  us, and I know there are a lot of them out there,

Jun 20 2017


Rank #5: 410: The Value of Generating Hype for Your Startup

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the value of hype in your marketing campaign.

In the startup world, it is common for a business to try to build some hype around a product that they are about to launch. However, this can leave a sour taste in the mouth of users, if the product doesn’t meet expectations, and it can hurt a brand

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how some companies are really good at being out there, the good and the bad kind of hype, how to separate hype from the quality of a product, and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:24 Why this topic was created.

02:00 Hiten’s thoughts on hyping your product.

02:40 How some companies are really good at being out there.

02:54 The bad kind of hype.

03:46 How to separate hype from the quality of a product.

03:59 How a great product will sell itself.

04:54 How there’s no perfect product.

05:40 There’s no such thing as a product that everybody loves.

06:39 How hyping is a balancing act.

3 Key Points:

I think there’s good hype and bad hype. There are many reasons why a product might not work for your company.If people are sharing things about a product, unsolicited, you’ll see it

Hiten Shah: Ask me. This is when it started.
Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.
Steli Efti: Today on The Startup Chat we're going to talk about the value of hype in your marketing, or for your company. Here's what I want to talk about Hiten. Hyping things. I think maybe the tech industry this has been a discipline that's been practiced quite a lot. Some companies had mastered that. Some companies were really, really great at hyping the next big thing they're launching. The thing they're launching, why it's the most amazing thing and will change everything forever, and then there was, I think, a counter trend to that where companies became much more, or startups specifically became much more engineering driven, so much closer to being truthful. The truthiness factor went up a lot and it was just like, "Let's just tell people what the product does and what the features are and functionalities." We're going back and forth, I feel like between how much tech companies and startups are hyping what they're doing, versus how much they're understated, but I recently in B2B SaaS I recently see a resurgence. There's a bunch of companies out there that, to me, seem to be particularly good at hyping. Creating hype around their brand. Creating hype around their product launches, and then when you look under the hood, they're shit is not that exceptional. Their technology is not that crazy. Their things break. A lot of when you dig a bit deeper, there's a lot of disappointment for people that look really deep, but what I realize is that the vast market doesn't look that deep. They just buy into the hype. I wanted to ask your opinion on is hype good or bad? Should hype be a thing that you excel at as a company or not? What are the dangers? Let's just digest this, or dissect this a tiny bit.
Hiten Shah: I think there's good hype and bad hype. Immediately when you started asking about this topic and wanting to talk about it, which I think is a really important topic. My first thought was, "Well, what is hype? Do we need to worry about that? I don't know." Because in a way, hype implies smoke and mirrors or something that has no substance. It implies that maybe. I want to get away from that though. I want to talk about the fact that I think what you were really getting at is some companies are really good at being out there, and basically building out a brand for themselves. We can call that hype. They're hyped up. They have hype, and things like that.

May 03 2019


Rank #6: 455: Doing What Scares You

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about doing what scares you.

When trying to accomplish something, the fear of the unknown can prevent you from taking action and completing your goals. Whatever it is that scares you, overcoming that fear and completing your goal can only be beneficial to you.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how doing things that scare you can help you grow, situations where being scared can be a good thing, some business situations that scared them in the past and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:27 Why this topic was chosen.

01:50 How doing things that scare you can help you grow.

02:01 How doing something that you’re scared usually leads to something valuable.

03:06 Situations where being scared can be a good thing.

04:02 How listing out things that scare you can be beneficial.

05:23 Why you should feed the fear in a positive way.

06:39 How everyone, including founders, has something that scares them.

07:21 How a lot of founders are driven by fear.

09:09 Business situations that scared Steli and Hiten. 

3 Key Points:

  • We grow by doing things that we’re not comfortable with.
  • There’s something valuable at the end of fear.
  • I would like to see more people list out the things that scare them.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah and today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about doing what scares you. The reason I want to talk about this is because recently my FYI co-founder Marie decided to go on a camping trip alone, but not quite alone because she was with her dog, which is probably even more scary in some ways. And in a bunch of private chats she was talking about bears and being scared of bears, and we’re in California and apparently there’s bears. And then on Twitter she was talking about how she was doing it. And what was really cool is a lot of other people chimed in about going on solo camping trips and dealing with the fears and things like that, making a fire and all that good stuff. So yeah, just wanted to talk about doing what scares you because it can extend to anything, personal life or work or whatever. Really just, I think something that we tend to sort of as humans, we grow by doing things that we’re not comfortable with, doing things that might scare us. And at the same time we also kind of don’t do them. So we lose out on growth and on opportunities like that. And personally I think there are things that I’m thinking through right now myself that probably scare me a little bit and but yet I know that they’re going to help me grow. And I know that I want that and I want that experience. So yeah, just wanted to chat with you about this because I think it’s a very common thing and something that a lot of people can get a bunch of value from.


Steli Efti: I love it. So I think that, I’ve said this many, many times that I do think that fear is the compass, fear points usually to a direction … There’s something valuable at the end of fear. There’s something, either it’s outside your comfort or … It’s always outside of your comfort if it’s associated with fear, I guess. But doing something that you’re afraid of usually will lead to something valuable, a valuable experience, a valuable skill or quite a valuable thing that you accomplish. But because there’s fear in between you and that thing or that experience, it’s what’s holding most of us back. But I wonder, I recently wondered if that’s always good advice. First, maybe and this is funky, I don’t know if this is going to lead to any place worthwhile going or exploring, but are there exceptions to this? When is it right to let your fear hold you back or to let what scares you define what you do or you don’t do? Are there situations where fear is … I mean, of course life and death. Don’t maybe jump into the lion’s den, whatever. The zoo, maybe don’t go near or into areas of wild animals. Like there’s survival situations where fear is probably a good instinct to follow or to listen to. But in more day-to-day life, in more life decisions than aren’t life and death, is there ever a place where we need to listen to our fear or where what scares us is something we should not move towards to?


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I mean I think if something scares you and there’s some level of life and death associated with it, around whether you do it you might die. Like in die without appropriate measures, so it’s really risky. So I think one of the things that comes into play when it comes to doing what scares you, it has a lot to do with risk and how risky is it. Is it a life or death situation, things like that. Those are one kind of aspect. I think another one is when it comes to what scares you, if I were to be very prescriptive, I would love to see more people do an exercise of actually listing out the things that scare them. Whether it’s something they’re about to do or something that in general would scare them. Like my girlfriend, [Anna-Marie 00:04:20], she’d probably list down going camping alone would scare her. She also has probably a lot of things that might scare her besides that as well. Not to blow up her spot, but like, yeah. And in my case, I think a lot of things that scare me … Like going camping alone to me is not even scary because I just wouldn’t do it. It’s not a desire.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: So there’s this whole idea of do you desire it? Does it scare you, what parts of it scare you? Because you don’t desire it and it’s something scary for you, you’re not going to do it, it doesn’t matter. There are a lot of things that I don’t desire so I don’t even think about them. Well in her case, she desires that, she’s gone camping with other people before. She went camping when she was a kid. So this is a big … It was probably I think actually a big milestone. I’ve seen her after that and I think that was a big milestone. There’s possibly even something that’s changed in her as a result of this experience, frankly speaking. And so a part of me is like when you think through things that scare you, things that you desire that scare you, or things you gravitate towards but they still scare you. It’s almost like you want to feed the fear in a positive way. And yeah, I’m sure there are things that scare you that you shouldn’t do. Like go, I don’t know, go hang out with a snake, a poisonous snake. Maybe you shouldn’t do that. So yeah, I find it a fascinating topic because the things that scare people are very different. Like there’s things in business that scare me and I definitely do them. And there are things in business that probably scare other people that would never scare me, whether it’s because I’ve done them before or I am just comfortable. Like just general most business stuff. I think another way to think about it that I know some people would throw back and be like, “Oh, nothing scares me.” I would say that then you probably might not be able to really grok and understand the definition of the word. Because as a founder or as somebody who’s sort of done a lot of things in their lives or is trying something new like starting a company or something like that, you might already have this idea in your head where founders have no fear.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: I don’t know how true that is. I don’t believe that.


Steli Efti: It’s total bullshit.


Hiten Shah: There you go.


Steli Efti: That is absolute and total bullshit. I think in general a lot of the things that we say about founders is bullshit. A lot of self-beliefs, anything that really makes, that distinct a group and makes it better in some way from other groups, in most cases it’s probably has a lot of BS in there. I think that founders are just as scared as other people are. They’re just scared about different things. You could appear to be incredibly brave because you do all these crazy things, but what really drives you is fear, and the fear of being insignificant maybe. The panic and fear not being admired and loved might push you to do these crazy stunts that are physically very dangerous because you’re not afraid to die or not afraid to get injured, but you’re really afraid to be alone or being insignificant or whatever. And you don’t know what drives people, and a lot of founders are driven by fear. They’re not just driven by whatever, they’re vision to change the world and by their bravado and … Yeah, that’s a cool story but I have met a ton of founders, I’ve been a founder almost my entire life, adult life. Very similar to your story. We’ve been exposed to a lot of founders and I wouldn’t be able to say that I’ve observed less fear in the founder or entrepreneur community even than in other communities. And let me ask you, you said that maybe something that will be useful to people listening to us is to share a … You shared you’re co-founder doing something. It’s kind of outside of the business world that was out of the startup world that was something she was scared of, which is dope. Like going camping alone or something she was afraid of, and I think I can totally relate to her feeling empowered by overcoming that fear and going, “Hey, I’m strong. I did it. I overcame my fear, I survived. I can be in slightly more dangerous situations that I’m used to and I can do well. And it’s fine.” Those are always awesome moments. But I’m wondering, maybe we should also share more recent moments where we were afraid or were scared of something, or wanted to do something we were scared of that relates to the startup world in one way or another. And I’ll go first. You can ponder what example you want to share and you can go second. But I always feel like when people like us that some people might admire and look up to, when we go deep and share something that’s current, it makes it much more alive than when we just talk about the topic.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, so far [inaudible 00:09:34].


Steli Efti: So now I’m thinking like, “What the fuck am I going to say?”


Hiten Shah: I know.


Steli Efti: This is part of why this podcast is so popular and a lot of people get a lot from it, is that it’s not scripted. We don’t really spend a lot of time thinking through what we’re going to say. I did a bunch of podcast recordings in the last three weeks because I want to promote the new book that we brought out at Close and all that. Most times when I do a podcast recording I’m like, “Wow, all these people do this completely differently from how we are doing it.”


Hiten Shah: That’s right. That’s right.


Steli Efti: We don’t do second takes. We don’t have a script. So, okay. So something that I recently did in business that that scared me. So the biggest thing that I can think of is actually the … Well there’s two things. One, we did a very big pricing project, it closed at the beginning of the year. I think I’ve talked about this on the podcast before for sure. That was against kind of one of the beliefs that I have for a very long time and I was scared to change things. I always loved simple pricing models and I always loved that we offer people three simple pricing tiers and you could have all you wanted. And one of them is kind of like … Especially the telephony piece that we do, that we allow people to make calls and receive calls, send text messages and all that. I always hated the idea of having a usage-based pricing. I always wanted to give people a package because that to me was simple, that’s how I want to buy things. So I always resisted that and then eventually I convinced myself that I was wrong and that we needed to switch our pricing model. And when we started working on that pricing project and changing completely how our pricing infrastructure works, I had a a couple of moments where I looked at the math and I said, “If this doesn’t work out, it might really get get us in big trouble.” And it was interesting to see how I got scared a few times, just that that emotion came up. I was surprised about it myself and I was like, “Wow, I haven’t felt this in a while.” But last times I placed really big bets, I placed bets where the team was much smaller, the business was much smaller. And it seemed like if those bets didn’t work out, nothing really bad would happen. But now it’s a much bigger team. There’s a lot of people here that pay their mortgages, have children, have their families, I’m responsible for a lot of people. And this business is quite big. And so making this big of a bet, making this radical of a change for us and having the worst case scenario would be one where we lose a ton of revenue, that was quite scary. And I was both surprised by that. I had these moments literally hit me where I would go, “Shit, I haven’t felt this in years. This is a weird feeling. What do I do with this?”


Hiten Shah: That’s pretty awesome.


Steli Efti: It’s like, “Ah, I haven’t felt scared. This is so weird.” And then I had moments where I went back to this I think deep belief that you and I shared that’s like, “Well, if I’m scared at least we’re doing some real shit here.” We’re changing something, we’re really … “And does my rationale makes sense, why are we making this decision?” I would go through the rationale again to make sure that we thought this out carefully through and I still believe it’s the right decision. And then it was just about embracing that fear and thinking about it, reframing it as excitement and going, “You know what, maybe I’m just going to think about this feeling as excitement. Maybe I’m just excited about this. Maybe something real is happening.” So that’s one example.


Hiten Shah: I like that.


Steli Efti: I thought of another quick example in there, because it feels closer, the kind of more intimate. This is, I don’t even know if it fits in terms of doing what scares you. Well, in some ways it does, but I think what I recognized this year is that for the past 20 years of hiring people, employing people, I’ve learned to deal with conflict and I’ve always been very frank with people. But the underlying working principle that I have when it comes to people is that I am a seeker of harmony. This is hard to believe for some people that know me, but I do like harmony and I want people to be happy and I want things to be aligned, and everybody to be in a good place. I’m not necessarily somebody that enjoys conflict. And a tax conflict was like a passion, an excitement. Like I try to avoid conflict or I try to eliminate conflict whenever I can. That’s kind of my operating principle. And I remember a couple of months ago, two or three months ago, there was a situation with somebody on our team where I had to have a conversation with this person about something that was quite a difficult topic to discuss. And there were very high chances that it wouldn’t go down well, I it would create kind of a bad situation between the two of us. And I remember that back in the day I would have gone pregnant with that task for awhile, I would have thought about it a lot. I would have constantly tried to optimize for the conversation on like, “How can I have this conversation to make sure it doesn’t lead to conflict? How can I break this news and talk about this topic with this person in a way that’s going to make this feel as good as it can?” That was kind of the thing that guided my game plan in the past. And this time around for the first time, I kind of left that behind me and I was like, “Well, this is not a good way of thinking. Of course I don’t want to upset anybody, I don’t want to have an argument. But that can’t be my number one goal. My number one goal is X. So I need to optimize this conversation to accomplish X and I’m going to do it in a humane, fair and transparent way. But if the person gets upset that’s beyond my control and it’s going to pass.” Like I shouldn’t like overly optimized for that. And that was the first time that I went into a conversation where I didn’t care how the person would react. I was like, “I know this is the right thing to do. I know that I’m going to focus on the right way. And if this person gets upset, they get upset, we’ll deal with it then. I’m not going to spend all my energy and time on trying to cockup some way or some strategy that makes me feel safe, because I think I can get into this conversation and have a high chance of of talking about this in a way that will feel good to this person.” And I don’t know, that was a big shift for me and it changed the way I feel about the people I work with from a … I still deeply care about them, I want all of them to be happy and fulfilled. But I’m not as scared as I used to be to confront people or to have very difficult conversations earlier, and with a different focus than in the past where I think I oftentimes over optimized for harmony than anything else. So that was kind of a … It was a conversation where I didn’t have that fear anymore that I used to always have in those situations.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I can relate. I think one that I’ll share that’s quite similar and a little bit different is I always had the fear of somebody not liking me. And in business I think it can be really a harmful thing when you have that fear and you have to make good business decisions, I mean great business decisions. Because if you’re fearful of somebody not liking you, then you might not do the right thing. You actually probably won’t do the right thing. I’d even go further and say that.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: And all I’m trying to do is I’m trying to do the right thing. And it’s really tough to do if I have this fear that they’re not going to like me. Because it’ll stop me from figuring out, it stops me from figuring out what is the right thing to do, and how can I do that right thing in this moment regardless, and the right thing for the business. The right thing for the people on the team, not necessarily driven by what I think is the right thing that’s going to keep my psyche happy. Where it’s like, this person likes me or doesn’t like me. And the funny thing about this is I’ve just been aware now of this and that’s all I really needed to do. Once I became aware of this, everything I did got converted over to being more so about doing the right thing versus doing the thing that prevents people from not liking me. Because that’s also a very subjective thing. And more importantly, I don’t control whether someone likes me or not. Realistically, it’s not even my problem. I know that sounds weird, but whether someone likes me or not, I can just do the best I can. I should not be trying to optimize my life around somebody else liking me. And so I used to have, and probably there’s still parts of this that exists for me, but have this fear of that. It’s basically this fear that, “Oh, they’re not going to like me.” Or this fear that I’m going to say something or do something that’s good that I need to do,, but in that process, they’re not going to like me or they’re not going to like what I have to say. So I stopped worrying about that and it’s really been transformative for me. And this is almost like a daily fear of mine that I’ve had to work on, very similar to what you were saying where I kind of want to be liked. And I even overthink it, I overthink the message. I overthink saying something. I overthink how I’m going to say it with honestly the wrong attitude. And I think the wrong attitude is overthinking it with the idea that whatever I say they should like me. It’s actually more important that whatever I say, it should be true to what I want to communicate, and what I need to be saying in that moment in order to achieve whatever goal or outcome I’m looking to achieve. That’s now more important to me than saying things that someone else is going to feel okay about. Because I can’t even predict that in a lot of cases too. I can’t predict whether I’m going to say something and someone else’s going to be okay or not okay with it. And this doesn’t mean I’m not compassionate or I don’t try to be compassionate, I think all those things are important. But I should not be driven by this fear that someone else is not going to like what I have to say or what I’m doing.


Steli Efti: Fucking love it. All right, this is it from us. Do what scares you.


Hiten Shah: There you go.


Steli Efti: And what is scaring you? That might be a good question to end the episode with. If you feel like sharing, send us an email, Let us know what scares you and what you’re going to do about it, and we’ll hear you very, very soon.


Hiten Shah: later.


The post 455: Doing What Scares You appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Oct 08 2019


Rank #7: 398: How to Use Documentation to Get the Right Things Done in a Remote Business

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to use documentation to get the right things done in a remote business.

For your startup to run smoothly with no hiccups, it is crucial to document all your processes and have them followed by your team members. The importance of documentation is even more crucial in fully remote companies, as a lot can go wrong when everyone is not physically present.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten share their thoughts on why documentation of your process is super important, best practices and things to avoid when running a remote business and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:35 Why this topic was chosen.

01:26 What inspired Steli to come up with this topic.

02:24 Best practices and things to avoid when running a remote business.

03:22 How FYI is solving a huge problem for remote companies

03:36 Why becoming disciplined in your writing efforts is a good idea.

05:50 How companies sometimes make the mistakes of coming up with different versions of the same document.

07:54 The importance of having rules in your organization.

08:36 Why you should make your rules simple to follow.

10:14 The importance of having a philosophy in your business.

3 Key Points:

It’s very rarely the tool, but the humans and how they use those tools.
The more complex the rules are, the less likely people are going to follow them
In a remote company, you need to get really good at documentation.


Steli: Hey everybody. This is Steli Efti.


Hiten: And this is Hiten Shah. Today on The Startup Chat, we're going to talk about how to manage process and documentation at a remote team inspired by the FYI twitter account 'cause that's what Steli said this is about.


Steli: Yeah.


Hiten: Which is one of my businesses. And the twitter account is @usefyi in case you want to follow along. And what we've been doing is we've been talking a lot about documents, document tools as well as productivity. And then I think one of people's favorite topics today which is remote work and how to do it well. So I think Steli and I have a lot of thoughts on this considering our businesses are remote as well as we have faced a lot of these kind of challenges in the past with doing this right, doing this wrong etc. So what's on your mind? What inspired you? I know what inspired you which was our Twitter account and all the sharing we've been doing. We're committed to sharing more and more now. But what really is on your mind about this that you think people need to hear?


Steli: Yeah, I get asked often, "What tools do I use? What tools does my team use to be productive and aligned as a fully remote company, fully distributed company?" And I often find myself going back to some of the basic principles that we share so often Hiten which are that yes, I have some tools I use, and I have tools that I can recommend, but it's very rarely the tools, right? It's always the humans and how they use those tools that really make a difference. And so I oftentimes find myself just sharing with people certain principles on how we communicate as a remote company and how we think about certain things. Now, one of the biggest problems that ... So I thought it will be fun for us to go back and forth, ping pong a little bit on this episode and just share some best practices or mistakes to avoid for people that are thinking about organizing and managing their remote company especially from a point of view in terms of how do we organize our different projects? How do we organize our work? How do we share information online? And since I've been following the FYI twitter account, you guys post all this kind of super neat insights in document sharing software and what comp...

Mar 22 2019


Rank #8: 393: How Not to Make Dumb Mistakes Under Pressure

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how not to make dumb mistakes under pressure.

It’s common in business to find ourselves in situations where we have to make our most important decisions under pressure. And this pressure could be as a result of a lack of time, emotional stress, or desperation. Most times, when we make decisions under pressure, it ends up being a bad decision.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten share their thoughts on why you shouldn’t make very important decisions under pressure, how to handle these kinds of situations why they arise and much more.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:33 Why this topic was chosen.

03:01 Why you should never refer a client that thinking of switching to one that's successfully switched.

08:10 Why you shouldn’t give references when you don’t control the message.

08:30 Why you should never ever think or say the words “I’m gonna roll the dice”.

09:33 How to handle decision making under pressure.

10:25 How we all make mistakes.

11:30 Hiten’s opinion about why Steli’s friend made this particular mistake.

12:15 A big irony in this situation.

12:49 How not listening to an adviser could be a relationship killer.

3 Key Points:

You can’t stop people from doing stupid things.
Don't give references when you don’t control the message.
Never ever think or say the words “I’m gonna roll the dice”.

[0:00:00]Steli Efti: Hey everybody this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah..


Steli Efti: And today on the startup chat, a little Steli Efti rant on how not to negotiate and how not to give references to prospects. All right-


Hiten Shah: Let's do it.


Steli Efti: So heres the deal Hiten, over the last two, three weeks, I've been helping a friend in a negotiation with a large customer that his company had, that was just going through the motions of currently considering to switch to a competitor right, so these guys were customers for them for a year, their renewal is coming up and so they are now thinking about switching to a larger competitor. My friend has tried to talk to them, visit them and kind of try to negotiate with them and figure out a way to keep them as customers and to convince them that his product at his company, his service is gonna be serving them much better than the competitor. Now, the competitor has gone through a lot of efforts to sway them and send over a huge team, rolled out the red carpet, you know, steaks, dinners at expensive restaurants, everything you could think of. My friend was not used to having to compete on that kind of very enterprise sales level, so he was surprised by that and he was also surprised that the customer was really appreciating the attention and time and care that that competitor was funneling their way and channeling their way. So throughout the entire time I've tried to give advice and give tips on how to help with the negotiation to keep the customer around. One really big thing was that switching to the competitor would take a long time in the transition, using the competitor would take a lot of money to integrate and customize and utilize that product. There were a lot of hidden cost that the competitor wasn't highlighting that I wanted my friend to make them aware of. In the final hour, one thing that happened a few days ago is, it looked really good, it looked like they came around and they wanted to stay with him, they did a bit of research, they listened to his pitch or his argument, they appreciated his increased effort and showing them that he really cared and his company cared about keeping him as a customer as much as the competitor cared about winning them. It started to look really,

Mar 05 2019


Rank #9: 306: How to Find Product Market Fit

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about Product-Market Fit. They guide you on the path to identifying if your product is well placed to succeed in its target market and how to define what it means for you and your business.  

Perfect Product-Market Fit is the dream of every startup, imagine your product flying off the shelves and into the arms of a crowd of satisfied customers. To define and achieve  Product-Market Fit you have to have a deep understanding of your audience. Integrating the compelling value triggers to solve a key pain point for your target market.

Tune into this week’s episode of The Startup Chat to learn how to develop your own perfect  Product-Market Fit for your startup and how to do it the right way so that your customers cannot get enough of your products. Steli and Hiten also share their top tips to getting you started on the path to successful product placement.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

01:12 Product-Market Fit defined.

01:34 How can you achieve Product-Market Fit?

02:04 Three ways to find Product-Market Fit.

03:41 Important things you must be aware of.  

04:54 Being honest about product performance.

06:00 The difference between growth and Product-Market Fit.

07:18 The difference between marketing and Product-Market Fit.

07:33 Product-Market Fit equation.

09:10 Top tips for finding Product-Market Fit.   

10:16 Top strategy to get genuine confirmation from your market.

3 Key Points:

If a customer gives lots of their time, money and if they can not stop talking about the product. Chances are you have found Product-Market Fit.
When you think about your product, what will cause them to keep coming back?
Go out and try to prove yourself wrong.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody. This is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. Today I think we're going to talk about one of my favorite topics, which is How to Get to Product Market Fit. I think there's lots of different ways. Steli, what's your deal with this topic? Do you like this topic?


Steli Efti: I love this topic. You know why?


Hiten Shah: All right. Yeah.


Steli Efti: You know why? I was talking to somebody, I think it was even an email exchange of a listener sending us an email asking us about how to prioritize certain things, and product market fit, and then not being sure they have it and all that and that clicked. That made me realize, "Is it possible that we've never, in 300 episodes we've never talked about product market fit as the topic of the episode?" I did a bit of a search and boom. I was like, "Oh shit." I mean we've talked about it many, many times within another episode but we've never gotten a full episode dedicated to it. So it was like, "Fuck. We need to talk about this."


Hiten Shah: All right. Product market fit, let me start by defining it. It's when your product fits in a market. What that means is that people love your product and they want to use it and they're telling everybody they know about it. I know that might set a really high bar, but that's product market fit.


Steli Efti: I love it. I wish I could disagree, but I won't. All right?


Hiten Shah: Oh shit. How do you get to product market fit? Well you build something people absolutely love and love so much that they want to share it with other people. Love so much that when you're on a sales call with them ... Again I'm preempting your answer probably, they're just like, "Where can I sign," like, "Let me just pay you." That means that you could have a verbal product market fit where you're on a sales call and people are just ready to buy it based on how you're describing it ...

May 04 2018


Rank #10: 349: Encore Episode – How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about optimizing your funnel no matter what type of funnel it is.

When it comes to acquiring new customers online, your funnels are a crucial part of the process. Therefore, optimization is essential if you want to increase conversions and sales.

In this week’s episode of The Startup Chat Steli and Hiten talk about what a funnel is, how to optimize it to increase conversions and sales and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:32 What is a funnel.

02:09 How a funnel works.

02:38 Why every business has a funnel.

04:00 Why you should measure every step of your funnel.

05:01 How most founders look at their funnels.

06:07 How to analyze a funnel.

07:21 One thing that isn’t measured enough.

07:40 Why time is one of the key components in improving a funnel an entire business.

11:02 Why it’s important to figure out what percentage of people are signing up and dropping out.

3 Key Points:

No matter what stage of business you are, you do have a funnel.
Measure every step of your funnel.
You need to know all the steps and numbers in a funnel to really understand what’s going on.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah, and today on the Start-Up Chat we're going to talk about optimizing your funnel, no matter what kind of funnel it is. So, Steli what the f*ck is a funnel?


Steli Efti: Oh, that's a really good question. Well, a funnel is a mental representation or a model of how to think about a customer journey with you. Or any kind of journey with you, like anytime you're trying to take a business relationship from nothing to a conversion of something you could visualize that or create a model of it that looks like a funnel. Like something that is big at the top and that goes kind of narrow down, and at the end there is just a few things that will pop out. So as a simple example, the easiest example to talk about is probably a customer funnel. At the top of it you think about all the prospects that you are advertising to, sending cold e-mails to, e-mailing, cold calling, whatever the hell you're prospecting at the top of the funnel, and marketing at the top of the funnel. And then some of these people and prospects will take the next step in the relationship and actually talk to you and entertain the idea and try things out, and consumer information from you, give you more information. That's probably the qualifying part of the journey and then some of those people that are interested and qualified and conversing with you will take the next step to actually try out the product so they are not trial users and some of these trial users will go down all the way down to them making a purchasing decision and becoming a customer. And if we took every step as a step in the funnel, it typically starts with a very big number and the number goes smaller and smaller and smaller, every single step until somebody is converted to being a customer of yours.


Hiten Shah: Great, that's great. And the funnels work for mobile apps, the funnels work for sales, funnels work for a SAAS product, it doesn't matter. We're talking about just the step by step process people take to get from point A to point Z. Whatever your point Z is, usually a purchase.


Steli Efti: Yeah, and you could apply the same thing for fundraising, right? But we're going to talk about specifically for customers since that's our kind of bread and butter and most of our listener's interests. Alright, so I'm going to throw out my first tip or my first thought, and we can go back and forth on this. First of all what I want to say is: no matter where your business is or where your start-up is,

Oct 02 2018


Rank #11: 459: How to Build a Remote Sales Team

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to build a remote sales team.

In today’s startup world, working remotely is more popular than ever. And the popularity of remote work is also spreading to sales teams as well. However, having a remote sales team can be challenging and you need to manage it properly to make it work for your business.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how having a remote sales team is possible, the type of people to hire for your remote sales team, mistakes to avoid when running a remote sales team and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:27 Why this topic was chosen.

02:11 How having a remote sales team is possible.

03:29 One major mistake most companies make when they start to build a remote team.

04:16 How hiring a junior sales person remotely can be a challenge.

05:26 The type of salespeople to hire for remote work.

05:56 The second major mistake most companies make when they start to build a remote team.

06:37 Why you need to think of your sales team as its unique ecosystem.

07:39 How to work with a remote sales team.

09:18 The third major mistake most companies make when they start to build a remote team.

3 Key Points:

  • Remote is happening and can work.
  • It’s very hard to hire junior salespeople and have them be successful.
  • Hire more experienced people on the sales side.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. And today on The Startup Chat, we’re going to do a very tactical episode around how to start, run, scale remote sales team. And it’s because we have Steli here. And I’ve got questions, and I know he’s got answers. And it’s something that I’m really curious about. And I’m sure a lot of people are. Because the typical answer is, “Don’t run a remote sales team.”


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: So that’s the typical answer, and that’s because people are used to basically the equivalent of call center, open office, lots of people in the sales room, talking and doing their thing, and selling, and picking up the phone, and blah, blah, blah. So that’s not what a remote sales team is. And remote work is obviously on a lot of people’s minds, pretty much everyone’s now. And so, all right Steli, what do we need to know about how to run a remote sales team really well?


Steli Efti: Well, before I jump into that, because I want to give a shout out to the report that you’ve done. You and Use FYI, the whole FYI team, you guys are publishing more and more stuff around remote work. It’s really, really good. You did a kind of a up to date state of remote work report. What’s the URL that people can get this? For those that haven’t seen this yet, you should check it out definitely.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s


Steli Efti: Boom.


Hiten Shah: And you’ll get to it. And this was done a little bit ago. Then we have… My co-founder wrote 11 Best Practices for Remote Work. That was a hit. I wrote a post on remote work resources. We have another one coming up that I’m sure we’ll talk about on the episode… On an episode in future. So yeah, remote work’s a thing. People love remote work. So why shouldn’t sales do it?


Steli Efti: Yeah, I think that… And this is something that is picking up. I used to get a lot of questions about how to run a remote company, and now, I’m increasingly getting questions around remote sales teams or emails in panic of people that are like, “All right, we’ve been trying for a year. We’ve gone through every mistake and failure. Is this actually possible? So please help.” So let’s talk about it. I think that we going to see… Remote sales is happening and will happen and can work. And there is going to be more and more selling happening in a distributed and remote fashion. So it’s not a question if it works or if it doesn’t. It does work. But it is probably one of the hardest teams to set up for success in a remote environment within your organization, right? And hwy is that? Well, it’s because of a number of reasons, but at the core of it, it’s because sales people are probably some of the least disciplined and most social creatures within a company. So they feed off each other’s energy. They do need as much human contact as possible. For sales people, talking and communicating and interacting socially is what gives them energy. It doesn’t exhaust them. It doesn’t just cost them energy like maybe for many other types of people within the business. And so, it is harder to have a sales person work from their home or some remote location and be happy and effective than it is for some other people within your company. There is three kind of major mistakes that I see remote companies do when they try to start building a remote sales team. So let’s just kind of break down these three things for people here as mistakes to avoid or things to get right. I think number one is that it’s very hard… Very, very hard to… Today at least, to hire very junior sales people in a remote company and have them be successful, right? So if you hire somebody that has very little work experience in general, and you hire somebody that doesn’t have remote work experience whatsoever in any position in your company, it’s going to increase the risk that this hire is not going to work out. But it really amplifies it times 10 if that person is in sales. So I would highly recommend people that are building a remote sales team to err more on the side of hiring a bit more experienced people, people that understand the ABC’s of selling, that have sold successfully, that get it, people that have displayed and have a proven track record of discipline in their life, people that are taking control of their own lives and have shown that they can be consistent, disciplined about the way they structure and design their life and their work, and ideally, people that have either been selling by doing some component of remote. It could be that they’ve just been traveling a lot, a lot of their scheduling calls, follow up, content negotiation, is just happening on the go, or maybe that have been working from their home office for a couple of days a week versus just being in an office, just somebody that showed that they can work from different environments and are kind of super self organized. Those types of people… Those you just have to teach how the culture in a company works. Maybe they have to obviously learn something about your industry and your product and technology. But you don’t have to teach them how to do remote work completely, how to be disciplined, and how to do selling. If you have to teach somebody that junior, it’s going to be very far, if not, almost impossible to do that fully remotely. So hire more experienced people on the sales side. And definitely hire people that have more of a proven track record that they are highly, highly disciplined individuals. That will make a massive difference on the sales side of things if you want to hire remote. That’s one. The second thing is that remote… Sales teams and sales people are more social creatures. And you have to take that into consideration and into account in the way that you run a remote sales team. So don’t just take the process and the meeting cadence and anything else that you do to run your engineering team and to run your product management team and to run your support team and just apply it to the sales team in the same way. You will need… You will fail if you do that. And your sales team will fail. You’ll need to think about the sales team as its unique little ecosystem and totally different team. And you will need to develop very different habits to running that team than the way you run every other team. And some of the things that are most likely going to be the case is that on the sales side of things, you will want to have more video conferencing, more interpersonal contact on a daily basis. You don’t… You’re not going to be able to run a successful remote sales team by just telling everybody what the quarterly goals are, and then telling them, “If you have any problem, just write it in Slack,” and then “best of luck and goodbye,” and “I’ll check in with you in three months again to see if you hit your quota.” It’s not going to work, right? Sales people will get very lonely very quickly. They’ll get demotivated. They will feel disconnected, and that’s going to really affect their performance. So the sales team that’s remote might still have to do a daily videoconferencing kick off. You might want to come up with quirky little ways to make people motivated and excited. There was a time where we had a sales rep send little private Instagram stories… Story videos to each other whenever they closed a deal or whenever somebody just rejected them or they had a very difficult call. They record this little video of themselves going, “Just closed this big deal. This is amazing. Here’s my happy dance in my home office or in this coffee shop.” And then, they would send that private little video to the rest of the sales team, right? And vice versa, to create these little, motivational social moments between each other, which is something that an engineering team would probably find not as fun, maybe more disruptive within their day. But come up with these little ways for the sales team to celebrate their successes, the equivalent of ringing the bell within the office to high five each other, to kind of fuel each other’s motivation. Make sure that you do talk to them regularly, and you do video calls. You don’t just chat with them in Slack. You kind of talk to them in an environment in a way that they enjoy. And just make sure that there’s more social interaction, more daily communication happening in the sales team, and maybe more fun as well. Maybe there’s different themes within the days. Create a little bit of a fun atmosphere and high energy atmosphere within your remote sales team, and prioritize these things much higher than you would in other remote sales teams. I’ll pause here before I go to the third tip and check in with you if all of this makes sense.


Hiten Shah: It all makes sense, yeah. I think these are great things and very, I would say, forward thinking, and something that people need to hear. So I’d love to hear the last one too.


Steli Efti: There you go. So the last tip is another one that’s more kind of a cultural disconnect from probably how you’ve been running the rest of your remote company. So you have to kind of think differently for this specific team, which is that sales people… And the best sales people, the best sales teams are competitive, probably much more competitive than other people in other teams within your company.


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: And you need to encourage that competitiveness, right? It should not be a toxic competitiveness. It should be a… Kind of a… Think about it as a great sports team, athletic team, right? People should be on the same team, but they should thrive in competition and in direct comparison with each other, which is what great sales people do. They need, and they thrive when they’re directly compared with their peers. So instead of doing what you’re probably doing with the rest of your company, which is just being highly positive, encouraging, collaborative environment, kind of shying away from people super directly, right, and ranking people’s performance super directly, in the sales teams you absolutely must do this. You need to have a leader board that shows everybody on the sales team and everybody in the company who, this month, this quarter, this week is doing and is performing the best within the sales team with numbers, right? You need to reward and highlight and encourage praise the people that are at the top, you might want to have competitions, things, sometimes that could just even be fun, where whoever hits a certain number or accomplishes a certain milestone or is number one in the leader board this week or this month gets some kind of a weird gift or some funny thing or some bonus or some appreciation. You need to create a positive but competitive environment within your sales team, even if it’s remote. Because then, people that are naturally good at selling will, A, do much better and perform much better for your business, but also, you will retain these people. Because they’re going to be happy, fulfilled, inspired, motivated, to come to work. The worst thing you can do is to create the same environment that you have maybe in a very uncompetitive team in the sales team as well. Then what will happen, inevitably, is that the best people in sales, they will be more and more disengaged, demotivated, and eventually, they’ll be like, “You know what? This remote selling thing isn’t working. I don’t feel as excited about doing work. I feel kind of alone. It doesn’t seem to matter if I do much better or a little bit worse then everybody else.” And then, they’ll just leave and go somewhere else where their performance, if they’re high performers, is more kind of appreciated, more highlighted, and more rewarded. So it’s super important, especially in a remote company, to create a healthy but competitive environment within the sales team and to allow kind of the best sales people to shine and to get recognition and get rewards that are higher than the rest if they outperform the rest versus, in many remote teams and companies, I think, competitiveness is not really something that’s encouraged and that you want to make part of your culture. But it’s something that you absolutely must do if you want to succeed in building a remote sales team, which is tricky to do. But we see more and more… We have a very successful remote sales team. InVision has a very successful remote team. There’s more and more companies that are building very good, competitive, successful remote sales teams, it’s still at the earliest stage I would say. Out of all the departments that have gone remote, I think sales is the last one to go, but I’m super excited about it. And I think there’s a lot of potential there.


Hiten Shah: Awesome.


Steli Efti: There you have it. If you have more questions about this, if you’re currently hiring sales reps remote and you need more help, you need more feedback, always get in touch with us, we love to hear from you,, Until next time, that’s it from us.


Hiten Shah: Awesome, see you.


The post 459: How to Build a Remote Sales Team appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Oct 22 2019


Rank #12: 296: How to Do Product Prioritization

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about Product Prioritization. They highlight how to prioritize what is important for your business and how to get the team on board, working towards the important objectives.

Product prioritization is an important metric in the success of your company. You must know what is important for your customer and how your product will deliver that to them. An important part of this, is ensuring the team are engaged in solving the problems and achieving the goals of the company, which allows the product to be optimized effectively.

Tune into this week’s episode of The Startup Chat to learn about product development and product prioritization. Hiten, shares his expertise on some fatal mistakes of product development and how to fix those problems. Steli and Hiten also discuss how to empower your team to get involved in all parts of the business.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

01:01 Product development questions.

02:20 The number one challenge in product development.

03:41 It’s important to do your research.

04:39 Figure out what the problem in your business is.

04:50 An example of problem solving in business.

05:52 Changing the way you do business to solve your problems.

06:46 Why is product development so difficult.

07:43 Working together toward the main priorities.

08:43 Why removing silos from your company is good for business.

11:01 For more information on Product Development visit Product Habits

3 Key Points:

If you can’t figure out your number one problem, you have no business at all.
We are used to our own constructs.
All teams should work based on the number one priority of the business.


Recommended -


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: Today on the Startup Chat, I forced my man, Hiten Shah, to talk about product prioritization. He's been teaching all of you people how to build better products on For those of you that are not on the email list yet, pause the podcast right now. Type in the URL on your phone, put in your email address, it's the most valuable email you'll get to learn how to build better products. So, Hiten you published a bunch of stuff on how to do prioritization of products, that's probably why Hiten, why I had to strong arm him to do this episode but I know that some people still need to hear it from you in a different format, so let's quickly bang out an episode on this. People have a product, and MVP, some kind of a version. There is a huge list of ideas they have, of things they want to build. There's a huge list of things that customers tell them to do. There is the potential to look at should we be improving our current features that are not quite perfect? Or should we be building more new features? Should we be building new features until they're perfect and really well polished before we release them, or should we just be like launching new features really quickly even if they're not great? Do we let others tell us what to do? Should we do it internally? What kind of process do we do? Do we vote up features or not? I do think this is a super complicated problem for most teams, deciding how to prioritize, what to build and how to build that. What is your basic framework? What have you learned through all your research? How should companies and teams think about this?


Hiten Shah: Last year I asked the audience of my email list, right when we were changing the name of it to Product Habit, because it used to be my personal email list and I wanted to do more and help more people, and be very focused. I wanted to do it about product, I really love product and all that kind of stuff.

Mar 30 2018


Rank #13: 254: How to Launch Your Product

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In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten discuss the best practices to launch your product. Hiten uses his own launch of Draftsend as the basis of this discussion—a new platform that allows users to create and share their interactive presentations. Listen as Hiten gives listeners a behind-the-scenes take on a very unique and successful product launch where he leveraged social media and invited customers to take part in the launch itself. Tune-in to hear Hiten’s process firsthand and to learn how you can adopt these extremely wise strategies.
Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:27 – Today’s topic: how to launch your product
00:34 – Hiten recently launched Draftsend
01:47 – Steli congratulates HIten for Draftsend’s launch success
03:01 – Draftsend’s launch was all over social media
03:13 – Draftsend is a platform that allows you to create and share interactive presentations; you upload a pdf and audio and Draftsend acts a viewer

03:23 – “It feels like a video, and people are able to listen to a presentation”
03:33 – For those creating , you can record right on your browser on top of the pdf while going through your slides

03:45 – One key feature of Draftsend: all presentations are public

03:51 – Draftsend can feature your presentation right on their website
04:01 – “If you’re building a CRM, you don’t have the same opportunity to be all over social media, because your product should be shared on social media all the time”

04:32 – We had 20 people share their presentations for our launch day; we tweeted and promoted their content throughout the launch day
04:48 – Take advantage of the opportunity to share your content
05:07 – Having a definitive launch date encouraged those 20 customers to finish their presentations in time
06:04 – Our goal by having these 20 initial customers was to demonstrate what our product could do so that people could get inspired

06:18 – If it wasn’t just Hiten’s content that was displayed by Draftsend, he knew others would be more apt to share it

06:36 – Draftsend was launched in Product Hunt
07:14 – This product was so unique they wanted to access Product Hunt’s audience as opposed to just launching to their own existing audience
08:09 – Steli cannot believe a product like Draftsend did not exist before Hiten launched it
08:53 – Product Hunt has a very positive community
10:11 – Product Hunt gives tons of exposure; and people really care about giving their feedback
10:46 – Draftsend initially had 110-113 comments in Product Hunt
11:29 – “Launch when you know the thing will NOT fall down”
11:51 – Solicit feedback in your community and engage with the audience
12:43 – The launch date is not the birth of your product
13:59 – Product Hunt has an upcoming feature where you can set-up a “coming soon” page for your product
14:38 – The launch went well because Hiten and his team kept adjusting and learning thru the feedback they received prior to its actual launch
15:51 – Hiten already had hundreds of people suing Draftsend before they launched it on Product Hunt
16:16 – A launch is not just a launch where you can expect to just sit back and collect—it’s a small event that encourages you to refine your product, create growth loops, gain more users etc.

17:01 – Some people think they’re work is done after a launch, it’s just beginning and it’s NOT the hardest part of the process
17:33 – Your launch is like the beginning of business

19:25 – The number one goal for Draftsend’s launch was to get as much feedback as possible
20:07 – The second goal for the launch was to do everything Hiten can to maximize what happens—make adjustments on the fly during the launch to maximize user experience
22:13 – They were deliberate in asking for feedback

Oct 31 2017


Rank #14: 458: The Heart of Your Startup

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the heart of your startup.

Sometimes trying to make a decision can be quite a challenge and whether you should listen to your heart or not in that situation can be a challenge for most founders. One reason for this is opening up your heart requires courage, and if things go wrong, feelings can get hurt.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about why most people can’t speak from their heart, one thing that prevents people from bringing their heart into things, how the truth isn’t in the mind and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

01:03 Why this topic was chosen.

03:28 Why most people can’t speak from their heart.

04:20 One thing that prevents people from bringing their heart into things.

04:54 One thing that helps Hiten come at things from his heart.

05:13 One of the things that makes this podcast valuable to people.

06:06 Why the present moment is an important way to practice bringing your heart into things.

06:04 How the truth isn’t in the mind.

07:17 How Hiten has a hard time speaking his truth sometimes. 

3 Key Points:

  • There is heart, there’s mind and there’s soul.
  • The most esoteric of the three is the soul.
  • The truth isn’t in the mind.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: Today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about the place of the heart in a company or in a startup. Does the heart have a place in business and for you as a startup founder? Here’s why I wanted to tackle this weird subject with you, Hiten. This is going to be a funky episode. For all of you that are only interested in the most tactical and practical stuff, this may or may not be useful. But maybe if you don’t want to listen to it, maybe it’s going to be especially useful to you. We’ll see. Here’s the reason why I wanted to talk about this with you, Hiten. Recently, I had a discussion with a couple of friends of mine. Most of them are entrepreneurs themselves, and one of them kept repeating this new mantra in his life of some big realization that he had recently in his life that he wanted to listen to his heart more. He was like, “The mind has been too much of the boss. I just want to listen to my heart, and just follow my heart.” We were discussing this topic as if it was absolutely clear what he meant. Eventually, I went, “Wait a second, guys. When you say ‘follow your heart,’ I kind of think I understand what you’re saying, and we’ve been talking about the heart, quote-unquote, as an entity that we all… We all talk about it as if it’s the most obvious object in this context, but what the fuck do we even mean when we say ‘the heart’? When I say “follow your heart,” what do I mean? What is the heart? Is that your soul? Is that your spirit? Is that your subconscious? What is it?” Then, we had a epic, three-hour philosophical conversation, that made us go in circles at times, that made us all realize that this is a hard question to answer. It’s a big concept, and I realized, “Shit, I’ve never even thought about my heart for more than, I don’t know, a minute at a time in this kind of context.” Obviously, whenever I have a discussion like that that leaves you with more questions than answers, I’m like, “I need to break this down with my main man, Hiten.”


Hiten Shah: Let’s do it.


Steli Efti: So I wanted to ask you, do you ever talk about your heart as like an entity that helps you make decisions or that has a place in your world? Is that something that was weird from us, have you heard other people refer to, like, “Follow your heart, do what your heart is saying. I listen to my heart”? What, do you think, does it mean and how does it work in the world of business and entrepreneurship?


Hiten Shah: Oh man, how much time do we have? Yes, I think that there is heart. There is definitely heart. I will not say that there isn’t. I feel like most people can’t speak from their heart, act from their heart, feel their heart, and live in that sort of space. One of the reasons is we’re so caught up in our brains and use our brains a lot, obviously. We use our mind. There is heart and there’s mind. So, my take on this is there’s heart, there’s mind, and there’s soul, and congruency between the three is what’s really important. It’s probably the most important thing. The most esoteric of them all is soul, because that has to do with your spiritual, religious beliefs or lack of, depending on how you view that. So let’s just ignore that one, because I think it’s not something that can be objectified, for lack of a better word. So, when you think about your heart and your mind, one of the things that prevents people from taking their mind out of these things and bringing their heart into things is the fact that they’re just caught up in whatever’s going on in the world, whatever happened in the past, or whatever the want to do in the future. So the one thing I would say that I’ve experienced in my life that has been really helpful to come from my heart is when I am focused on this moment right now. One of the reasons is podcast, I think, based on what people tell us, is valuable to them is because you and I are focused on the podcast when we’re on the podcast. Right?


Steli Efti: Right?


Hiten Shah: We are focused on this conversation, we’re speaking to each other about a topic that we just want to talk about, just like this one, and we feel like other people should get the benefit of that. I can’t talk to you for however long we talk every week, an hour-plus sometimes, about whatever randomly, because we wouldn’t make the time for it. We make the time for it, we do it, and one of the reasons it’s wonderful, there’s no edits and it’s raw, and I think people give us that feedback, is because we’re in the moment, right now. We both prefer that. We’re not thinking about anything else, we’re not getting caught up in anything else, we’re talking about what we’re talking about right now, and other people can probably feel that when they listen to us. So, to me the present moment is one way to practice coming from your heart or bringing your heart into things. I’ve had, definitely, very profound experiences, that are amazing, when I do that. Another thing I do is if I’m going into something and I really want to speak my truth… I think the truth isn’t in the mind.


Steli Efti: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Hiten Shah: That’s a big one. Then I will set an intention before I get into that experience, and literally say, “I want this to be the best experience possible and I want to speak my truth, and that’s what I’m going to do.” I did that yesterday for a meeting. It’s an important meeting to me, it’s one relatively regularly but ad hoc, and I wanted to make sure it was a great meeting for me and the other person. So I set the intention myself, and lo and behold it was a great meeting, both parties spoke from their heart, and we accomplished what we wanted to in that meeting. This is one where I do have a hard time speaking my truth. It’s one where I probably have the hardest time speaking my truth, with this person, but it’s someone who I value doing that with. It’s someone who I’ve made lots of mistakes not doing that and it’s ended up with heartache, literal heartache, for me. Coming from your heart means you’re coming from your heart, you’re not letting your mind confuse you, and you’re having that intention. That’s my take on it.


Steli Efti: Yeah, that’s beautiful. There’s a philosophical side to this that I’m not going to get as much into, maybe another time, where I’m even trying to unpack for myself: when I speak about the heart, I speak about a certain center of emotions in my being, and I’m not quite sure what the source of that is. I don’t believe it’s intuition. To me, intuition is something that’s in the gut, in the belly, and that is very much connected to my brain and maybe my subconscious, this massive database that’s giving me a feeling that is sourced from data and information that I can’t quite compute consciously. The heart is a different center of emotion in the body, and I don’t know where those emotions come from. I don’t think they come from the brain, but where do they come from? What is it? That’s a big topic, obviously, and if anybody that listens has a theory or can point to places with theories, I’d love to hear it all and read it all. Shoot us email, and When it comes to listening to the heart or using the heart, or even setting the intention, as you said, in the present moment that I’m going to speak my truth, which means I’m going to acknowledge my truth and live it, speaking it means living your truth in that moment and following your heart in that moment in some way, the reason why that’s difficult, or the reason I think it is difficult for me when I resist that, is because there’s always a certain vulnerability that comes with that. Saying something that your mind can put together, that you think sounds right, will get the right response, will be safe to say, or whatever, is something that’s much more disassociated. So, if that works or it doesn’t work, there’s distance to your emotional control center. But if you open up and you say something that’s in your heart, usually that always comes with a certain vulnerability. Because, maybe, it’s so true, so honest and so raw, we’re afraid. Putting our heart out there, we can be hurt in ways that are much more impactful than putting our brain out there, quote-unquote, and getting those ideas rejected or those thoughts that our mind came up with rejected. So I feel like opening up the heart always comes with courage. It requires the courage, maybe, to be in the present moment, to listen to your truth, and then to live your truth in a way that may get you hurt or that may hurt if it’s not fully accepted and fully acknowledged. In some ways I’m getting to the conclusion that living your true self or listening to your heart means being courageous in the moment. Asking myself, “What does my heart tell me?” It’s not always easy for me to answer that question, but another way of asking, I think, the same question is: what is something that would require courage of me to do right now that I want to do, or say that I want to say? What’s something that would require me to have more courage than I currently have in this relationship, in this situation, in my business, in my life, in what I have to deal with in this challenge or problem? Courage to me is a good compass back into the heart. So that’s been the experiment that I’ve been running over the last couple of days, is asking myself what needs courage in my life, because that is where, probably, my heart is speaking out of. But this is such a weird, interesting, compelling topic that doesn’t have a right or wrong… But I found profound to even just contemplate or talk with people I really, really respect, like you. Even try to talk about it, like, “What do you think? What’s your heart? Do you listen to your heart, and how much of a role does your heart play in certain situations?” I had one friend in that conversation say, “The reason Steli can be so loud, his personality can come across so larger-than-life at certain situations and people still really can connect with him is because he doesn’t just have a big personality, he also has a big heart. He’s not just super confident and a sales dude, but he’s also somebody that is,” in his words, “a sweetheart.” I’m not sure if I agree with that. It’s just interesting to see what role does the heart play in business or entrepreneurship. How do we figure out our own hearts and what role do we allow them to play in how we make decisions. I don’t know. This is the type of episode that I don’t know has a natural ending: “Two tips about the heart!” [inaudible].


Hiten Shah: I think we can end it like this: there are people that are so in their minds that they’re listening to this and probably stopped 30 seconds into it. Then, there’s people that are like, “Oh, I’m curious,” and are all-in on it and wanted to hear what we had to say. Then, there’s people who kind of want to come from their hearts, they want to figure out what that means for them, and they’re probably still listening to this. So the way I would end this is: if this is a topic you want to hear more about, please email us. These are the kind of topics that we can talk from many, multiple facets from, and I think we would enjoy that. So think of the email as a vote. Even if you just said, “Plus one heart,” that’s cool. It’s or One day I’ll tell the story of why that’s my username on Twitter and my email. Yeah, one day. So, email me, email Steli, and give us a “plus one heart” if you want to hear more around this topic of heart and, honestly, we didn’t use the L word, but love comes into this pretty quickly. Maybe that’s for another day.


Steli Efti: Beautiful. That’s it from us for this episode.


Hiten Shah: Thanks a lot.


The post 458: The Heart of Your Startup appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Oct 18 2019


Rank #15: 337: How to Compete in a Hyper Competitive Space

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to deal with a hyper-competitive market if you’re in one.

Today’s startup world is super competitive. It is not uncommon for there to be hundreds, if not thousands of competitors in the market you operate. So how do you differentiate your brand from the rest and get the attention of those you want to do business with?

Tune in to this week’s episode to hear Steli and Hiten thoughts about how competitive the market is, what you can do to differentiate and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:22 About today’s topic.

01:25 Why this topic was chosen.

02:00 Why all markets are going to be hyper-competitive in future.

03:39 Steli’s two cents on the issue.

05:40 Why it’s important to stand for something.

06:21 The reason why became successful in the CRM space.

07:49 One way to differentiate in a hyper-competitive market.

09:40 A second way to approach differentiation in a super competitive market.

11:26 One last tip from Steli.

12:19 Why competition is a good thing.

3 Key Points:

There’s always a niche that’s underserved or overlooked.
In today’s world, it’s probably going to be hard to compete on features.
We built a product that was very differentiated for a customer that was very undervalued and we marketed it in a very different voice.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah, and I'm going to talk about something today with Steli on this web chat that is near and dear to his heart. I think that's why he wanted to talk about it, so Steli you're going to have to take the lead on this, but basically the topic is how to deal with hyper-competitive market if you're in one and Steli's company,, happens to be in one of the most hyper-competitive, or competitive I guess, hyper-competitive software markets out there, CRM. So they build a CRM solution, a Customer Relationship Management Service, I guess. Dude, sucks to be you.


Steli Efti: I would agree with you if I wasn't me. I would think the same thing. You know, I always tell people, if somebody would have told me, I don't know, six years ago, that I would be running, or seven years ago, that I would be running a CRM business, I would have punched them in the face. Nothing inside of me was like, "Yes! CRM-"


Hiten Shah: Let's do that.


Steli Efti: " ... That's what I want to do. Let's go into that market." Nothing really inside of me wanted that. So the reason why I wanted to talk to you about this is that I've given a few talks on this subject because people have been asking me to speak about it and I've increasingly noticed this notion of people describing the space they're in, or founders describing the space they're in as, "The most competitive space," or, "One of the most competitive spaces." Or, "Hyper-competitive." I'm starting to think that this is going to be new reality where it doesn't fucking matter what you do, it's going to be a hyper-competitive space eventually. Because of the way the world works, because of the way ... Especially in software, where a single developer, somewhere in a random location around the world can compete with a venture tech start up in the Valley with tens of millions in venture funding and so there's this explosion of software products in many, many categories and people feel overwhelmed by that. Yeah, I have a personal story, because I launched a company in an insanely competitive space but I also feel like this is a trend. I don't know if you agree with me but it feels to me like a trend. I look at this company that does this once a year, the Marketing Tech Space report or something, I just know or remember there's like a graphic of all th...

Aug 21 2018


Rank #16: 282: The Most Common Product Mistakes Startups Make

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In this episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the most common product mistakes startups make when developing new products.

Tons of new products are being developed all the time. While some products may end up being great, it’s inevitable that bad ones will get developed. What may seem like a brilliant idea on paper, often turns out to be a terrible idea when introduced in the real world.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about some common mistakes they see that can kill a product, the best way to avoid them and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 - About today’s topic

00:55 - Why this topic was chosen

01:34 - Hiten gives a background about a blog post he made on the subject.

03:13 - Hiten talks about the first mistake he and his team made when they developed a product that failed.

04:20 - Hiten talks about the second mistake made in developing that product.

05:13 - The third mistake that was made in developing that product.

07:56 - Steli highlights a mistakes he’s made in developing a product.

12:15 - Hiten talks about his biggest challenge in developing a product.

13:33 - Things Steli is looking to change this year in how they develop new products.

14:18 - 4 main mistakes startups make when developing new products.


Developing a product is actually very challenging today.
When developing a product, make sure to do user research.
Do competitor research when developing a product.


Steli: Hey, this Steli.


Hiten: This is Hiten, and today on the startup chat, what are we gonna talk about today, Steli? This was your choice.


Steli: This was my choice, yes. (chuckles) We're gonna talk about the most common product mistakes people make, startups make, and even some fucking mistakes that you made last year when it comes to building products, which you only did five of, right? So this is based on a talk that you and Marie gave at SaaSFest a few weeks ago, but also based on the I think most recent product habits e-mail. Again, quick shout-out for those that are listening to the podcast. Probably everybody has already subscribed, but for the new listeners, if you're not on the e-mail list, make sure to go to and get on the e-mail list. Some of the most valuable stuff on the interwebs, and definitely one of my favorite e-mails I get from Heton. So the last e-mail two days was kind of an e-mail where you write in detail, in depth about the most common product mistakes you've observed other people make and other startups make. Those are some of those that you made, and I thought, "We should talk about this, because it's gonna be super valuable to people," so yeah, that's what we're talking about.


Hiten: Yeah, I'll give the background. We know everyone builds products, you know? Even if you're not on a product team, we just know that, like, whether it's software, hardware, even if you're a services business, we consider you someone who builds product, and we consider the service a product. So what Marie and did was we got really excited this year as the year started to actually ask people on our list what their biggest product mistake was. And so we asked that question last week on Monday, and then -- was that last week? No, it was this week. Holy crap.


Steli: (laughs)


Hiten: So we asked that question this on Monday, and we got a whole bunch of responses. They came in super fast, and people were telling us their stories -- very elaborate stories, some of them -- about the mistakes that they made 'cause we asked them to. And we said we'd share them. We even said, you know, we might use your name, if you want us to or not, let us know. We ended up not using anyone's name,

Feb 09 2018


Rank #17: 210: How to Grow Your Startup With Referral Sales & Marketing

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Does affiliate and referral marketing really work? In this episode, Steli and Hiten share their thoughts, tips, and experiences using this strategy and how it’s impacted their customer acquisition. You’ll find out the importance of asking for that one good referral and learn about Steli’s referral marketing strategy that works like a charm.
Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:07 – Today’s episode is about affiliate marketing and referral marketing
00:35 – Affiliate and referral marketing is one of the key customer acquisition strategies

00:51 – It is about getting your existing customers to refer your product or service to others

01:18 – Steli asks Hiten if they have done affiliate marketing programs for his SaaS products

01:55 – Hiten has tried and failed trying this strategy with Crazy Egg
02:06 – When Hiten first tried using affiliate marketing programs 10 years ago, they failed at optimizing the product
02:18 – They were successful at doing the partner program
02:49 – A non-competitive company promoted them and vice versa

03:14 – Referral programs, when done right, can be effective - Uber, Lyft or Post Maid have referral programs and are successful at it
03:55 – If you are willing to optimize it, referral marketing can be effective
04:15 – Customers are now used to referral marketing because many companies are doing it
04:46 – Be committed in investing in your referral program
05:11 – It might take three to six months for it to work for you because you have to keep on tweaking
05:44 – Steli has done referral sales but never referral marketing
06:04 – The idea of doing referral marketing has been brought up because new trials are coming in from word of mouth
06:52 – The strategy you use depends on your  unit economics, current customer acquisition cost with your current channels, and lifetime value
07:04 – You should know your limit because it will determine how much you should give, therefore this is not recommended during the early stages of your company
07:27 – Referral programs should be one of your cheapest channels
08:28 – You need a base cost so that you know what you can afford to offer
08:53 – The biggest challenge for a lot of people in the sales industry is that they are constantly running out of prospects
09:30 – Steli says most salespeople would not ask for referrals because they do not want to get a “no” after closing a sale

10:07 – If they do, it is weak

10:35 – Steli tells his customers that they cannot buy from him if they do not refer his product, especially if they are satisfied with it

10:50 – Steli explains that happy customers refer him to other happy customers; and they will agree to refer him because he can focus on providing them a service rather than marketing to other customers
11:25 – Nobody has ever said “no” to Steli
11:38 – After the deal is closed, Steli will remind them to refer him to just one good recommendation
12:08 – At first, your customer will be unsure on who to recommend but if you nudge them again, you will get something
12:32 – Start with asking for just one name
13:02 – If Steli does get a referral and the referral becomes a customer, they will contact the person who connected them and thank that person
13:41 – When the person receives the “thank you” note, he will again think of someone else he can refer to Steli

14:15 – Make referrals as part of the sales process from the beginning
14:45 – Steli thinks people don’t push as much on getting referrals because they are afraid of the rejection after closing a deal
15:08 – Get over the fear and get your systems in place
15:37 – Let Steli and Hiten know if you followed their advice by giving your feedback

May 30 2017


Rank #18: 218: Investor Meetings Do’s and Don’ts

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Ever wonder what you should or should not say during a meeting with a potential investor? Have you ever had an unpleasant meeting and wonder what went wrong? This is completely normal. And in today’s episode, Steli and Hiten will share what investors are expecting from you and how you can best prepare for those expectations. They provide valuable insights from both the investor side and founder’s side and discuss why both parties need to discern whether or not they’re a fit.
Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:05 – Today’s episode is about investor meeting dos and don’ts
00:40 – There are guidelines and best practices to follow when talking to investors
01:13 – Hiten says the first rule is: do not lie to investors
02:14 – Do not go into a meeting unless you have a plan of action regarding your problems
02:37 – Steli says to be yourself and do not impress investors by trying to be someone else
03:30 – You or your business is not going to be the right fit for every investor and that’s OK
04:35 – Some people want to say “yes” to everything an investor says, even though they do not feel it
05:10 – Investors are trying to evaluate you, your execution and your ability to grow your business in the future and you should not be afraid to say “no” to their suggestions
06:16 – Investors want to know if your business is worth investing in, if you can grow it and if you are the right team to do it
06:34 – Investors sometimes just want to ask things and instead of answering outright, ask more questions, too
07:17 – Steli says don’t just answer all the questions, make it a give or take
08:47 – Do not talk too much, give precise and in-depth answers but keep it brief
09:33 – If you ramble, investors might not want to invest in you because you do not know how to succinctly communicate
10:17 – You do not have to share every detail of your company—give your investor a chance to dig deeper if they want to
11:11 – Steli does not like when people ramble
12:27 – Hiten says to not do a group meeting with investors
13:31 – Hiten says meetings with one founder is good enough and he actually prefers to just meet one, especially during the first meeting
14:17 – Steli says if everyone is included in the investor meeting, then no one is doing the work
15:33 – Steli’s tip is to understand your goal in an investor meeting and to discover if you are a good fit
16:24 – Get to know the investor and pay attention to them to know if they are also a good fit for you
17:36 – Hiten’s tip is to gain context about an investor online, but don’t assume anything from just that information alone
18:22 – If you appreciate the podcast, give a review and rating on iTunes
19:16 – Send feedback about why you are listening to Steli and Hiten
19:41 – End of today’s episode

3 Key Points:

Rule #1: Do not lie to your investors.
Speak clearly, succinctly, and honestly—if you do not agree with their feedback, it is okay to disagree.
You do not have to share every detail of your company to your investor; give them room to prod and ask you questions to dig deeper.

Steli: Boom. Hey, everybody. This is Steli Efti .

Hiten: And this is Hiten Shah.

Steli: And in today's episode of the , we're gonna talk about investor meeting do's and don't's. So you meet with investors, this could be the first meeting, the second or the third, this could even be a call. I think that a call could also qualify as a meeting.

Hiten: Yeah.

Steli: Whenever you interact with investors, you meet and talk to them, there's guidelines, right? Maybe not hard rules, but guidelines on some mistakes you should avoid, many mistakes that a lot of founders have made and you and I have probably made ourselves, and good practices,

Jun 27 2017


Rank #19: 417: Building the Content Muscle

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Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about building your content muscle.

As founders, sometimes we want to create content, but we talk ourselves out of it. And this could be due to many reasons, and one of those is that we overthink it and strive for perfection in version 1, and then when you start doing it, it feels wrong and this takes all the sails out of your wind.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about how to get comfortable at creating content, why you shouldn’t over think your content strategy, the importance of understanding that you might suck in the beginning and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:28 Why this topic was chosen.

01:52 Why you shouldn’t over think your content strategy.

04:05 Why you should start with whatever comes easiest for you.

05:16 Why you should find the form factor that’s easy for you and start there.

05:50 The importance of understanding that you might suck in the beginning.

07:05 How consistency can help you be great at creating content.

07:56 How to get comfortable at creating content.

09:30 Why self-criticism can make you self conscious.

3 Key Points:

You’re over thinking it and trying to be to perfect at it.Whatever comes easiest for you, start there.You don’t have to be perfect when you get startYou can either progress, or you can look great. You can’t be both at the same time.

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.
Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we want to talk about building your content muscle. So, here's why I wanted to talk to you about this and why I wanted to share it with The Startup Chat Nation and the listeners, I've had this experience many, many times but it's happened again more recently where a good friend of mine who is charismatic as hell, very wise, smart person, big heart, lots of unique and interesting experiences as an entrepreneur, has done super small bootstrap things, has done big venture funded things, has failed, has succeeded, but is just overall a beautiful human being with lots and lots of funky experiences and lots of life energy to him. He has been having the desire and has been communicating the desire to create content, start creating more content probably for the last year to me. And he has been somebody that I've heavily encouraged and I know we have a lot of common friends and a lot of people encourage him heavily to create content because he's such an entertaining storyteller. He's such a great personality. And so he's been talking about starting doing content for a long time, but he has been struggling in really getting into a groove, and the struggle is always the same. I'm sure this is the same for you, but and maybe there's some listeners out there, I'm pretty sure there are, that have been thinking about starting a podcast or YouTube channel or blog more or just tweet more, whatever the hell it is, and have not been finding success with it or getting really into it. I always find it happens for the same reason which is you're overthinking it and you're trying to be too perfect. In version one, hence, where you're never really getting into it and when you start doing it, it always feels wrong because you're not as great at it as you think you should, which then takes all the wind out of your sails, all the momentum out of the whole thing. He is a perfect example because he's such a charismatic storyteller, but the moment he puts, the few times I was traveling with him through Thailand, we were doing Muay Thai Camps and training together, with [Ramine] together. Big shout out to Ramine who is a big part of this podcast and behind the scenes. And so we're nagging him on to start recording and not overthinking, and you could tell the moment he would click on record on his l...

May 29 2019


Rank #20: 326: Steli’s Most Important Career- (And Life-) Advice

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about a really important piece of career advice, which is, never making compromises when it comes to people.

This comes after a talk Steli gave recently to a bunch of students at a career advice seminar.

Tune in to this week’s episode to hear Steli and Hiten share their thoughts on what kinds of people to surround yourself with, what to do to meet more great people, how to avoid meeting bad people, what to do when you meet amazing people and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:28 Steli introduces today’s episode.

01:33 What kinds of people to surround yourself with.

02:02 How to avoid meeting bad people.

02:44 What to do when you meet amazing people.

05:54 Why you shouldn’t invest in a shitty relationship.

06:24 How to figure out what is important to you.

07:11 Why it’s important for a relationship to be mutually beneficial.

07:38 Why you shouldn’t have shitty relationships.

09:15 A big ‘AHA’ moment of Steli’s.

07:23  Why it’s important to define who is an asshole and who is not.

3 Key Points:

When you find somebody that is an amazing person, invest in that relationship for the long term.
Do you want to invest in a shitty relationship?
Be ruthless in weeding out bad people from your life.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody. This is Steli Efti.


HIten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. Today on The Startup Chat, I don't know what we're going to talk about yet. So, Steli, what do you got?


Steli Efti: Those are my favorite ones.


HIten Shah: Me too.


Steli Efti: Here's what I want us to talk about and what I'm dying to have a conversation with you about and share it with the world. It's the most important career advice that I have to give, and it's one of the most important pieces of life advice that I have to give. So, it translates very importantly for startups as well. The reason why I want to talk about this is that recently, I gave talk. It was a talk in front of a fairly mixed group of younger people. Some of them were entrepreneurs. Some of them were still students. Some of them were young professionals. They asked me to give my career hacks or my career advice, and this is very unusual. I never talk about this type of topic. I usually don't talk in that kind of a mixed crowd. It took me aback, and it took me a few days to think about what fucking career advice do I even have to give? I've never thought about my life or my work as a career, and probably nobody else has, so I'm like I don't even know if I am qualified to talk about a fucking career. I have never had a real job in my life, but ultimately what I settled on and what I talked about ... I was really impressed by the response in terms of both how honest the audience was telling me how difficult what I told them seemed to be. My advice was really simple, and it boiled down to this. When it comes to people, you cannot make any compromises. Never, ever, ever, ever make compromises when it comes to people. Only, only surround yourself with amazing people. Do everything you can to meet more great people, and do anything you can to run away and get away from bad people, bad people being assholes, people that are robbing you of energy, people that make your life harder versus making it better. When you find somebody that is an amazing person, invest in that relationship and think about that investment for an investment that you are willing to make for decades until it pays off. Don't think short term. Don't think about the next job. Don't think about your next project, the next week. Can this person help me, yes or no? Is this person going to help me in my career in the next year, yes or no? Don't make decision on who you invest time and energy in...

Jul 13 2018