You read blogs about running a business. Amazing that I could deduce that, right? A regular Sherlock Holmes over here, writing that on … a blog about business.
Why read blogs? I’m guessing it’s because you’re constantly out of your comfort zone: Making decisions about things you’ve never had to think about, weren’t trained for, didn’t learn in school, and might very well decide the fate of the entire company. Or maybe this decision doesn’t matter at all, but who could know?
And sometimes, you just need to hear someone else say “Yeah, I went through that too, it’s normal.”
Blogs are good, but blogs aren’t enough — they’re unidirectional. Even with comments, it’s not the same thing as asking a question and getting varying, intelligent responses. Wouldn’t that be nice.
So now there’s a new community called Answers OnStartups where entrepreneurs, VCs, and Angels are gathering to share their collective intelligence. And it’s not essays — it’s Q&A.
Already some famous bloggers are actively participating. Here’s a selection (I linked to their Answers OnStartups user account so you can see that they are, in fact, active):
- Joel Spolsky (FogCreek, Joel on Software)
- Dharmesh Shah (HubSpot, OnStartups)
- Neil Davidson (RedGate, Business of Software)
- Bob Walsh (47 Hats)
- Rand Fishkin (SEOMoz)
- Alex Papadimoulis (DailyWTF, Inedo)
- Me (Smart Bear blog and company)
The site has been up for about a month, and already 650 questions have been answered by 1,300 users.
More important than statistics, though, is the benefit of having important questions asked and answered. For example, recently new startup founder Adrian Robson asked which is better:
- Launch website now, even though it’s not really ready, or
- Wait for v1.0 and have a big launch.
What do you think? (Leave an answer on the site or in the comments below!)
Here’s a summary of the discussion so far:
- You need to launch early to give SEO time to build up. Publish interesting content in the meantime instead of pretending there’s an application.
- If you launch too early with a crappy product, people might not come back when it’s better.
- If you hype it up, and potential customers find it’s not ready, they don’t come back.
- Use surveys to discover what potential customers really want in a minimum viable product so your v1.0 is something people actually want to use.
- At least collect email addresses for “notify when ready.” Build your newsletter.
- If you think you’ll immediately be swamped with traffic, think again.
Here’s some other recent questions with excellent discussions:
- Is it better to have a co-founder or not?
- Do single-founder companies ever get funded?
- How do I pick a platform for a Web 2.0 startup?
- How much should I expect to pay for design work?
- How do I “mingle” with angel investors?
- Should an investor deck be glossy or direct? Is minimal better?
But maybe the best part of Answers OnStartups is that you get to meet a bunch of really smart, successful, thoughtful entrepreneurs who aren’t the ones you’ve read about 100 times. And you get to talk to them about business, about the specific topics that are burning a hole in your head right now.
It’s not just useful, it’s fun. I hope to meet you there!
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About the Author: Jason Cohen is the founder of Smart Bear Software and mentor at Austin-based startup launcher Capital Factory. He blogs at A Smart Bear about startups and marketing with a geeky twist.