The Best First Round Review Articles for Early Stage Companies

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As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I am quite possibly First Round Review’s #1 fanboi.

The combination of relevant, actionable, and true information, delivered in such a well executed package is unparalleled. And when you compare it to the absolute sea of bullshit self-promotional content marketing (both VC and vendor) that founders have to otherwise contend with when trying to get insights to tackle day to day problems, First Round Review starts looking less like a VC publication and more a community treasure.

That, and Camille Ricketts and Shaun Young are just absolute delights.

My Favorite Review Articles

So, the other day I was tweeting about how I seem to end up following up every startup coaching meeting I have with a handful of links to First Round Review articles that, if applied properly, will help solve the problem(s) the person I’m coaching has.

My friend Tyler tweeted back “Which are you favorites?” to which I responded snarkily with a Google search link to all the ones I’ve written.

After I let that hang for a sec, I started listing for him my favorites as I could remember them. Partway through, I realized that the right format for this is really a blog post, lining out my favorites. And specifically, lining out the ones that I keep coming back to when having these early stage coaching conversations.

First Round Review has great “Magazines” that they’ve pulled together that are focused on different topics - like Sales, Product, Engineering, Recruiting, Fundraising, Management, etc.

But some of those articles are more relevant to later stages companies (e.g., “scaling your hiring” - that’s really only relevant if you’re going to be hiring 10+ people over the coming year - early stage, you’re definitely not doing that.) And that’s great, because First Round Review wants to help folks across the spectrum.

But I spend most of my coaching time with very early stage companies who are just figuring out their problem space, proposed product, and early sales motions. So I wanted to pull together a list of the best Review articles for that specific audience.

The Best First Round Review Articles for Very Early Stage Companies

So here are my favorite First Round Review articles that I find most relevant for very early stage companies.

These are not about “How to manage a 100 person engineering team” or “Scaling through Hypergrowth with Ludicrous Speed” or “BlitzUnicorning from 0 to a Jillion” or other high class problems that folks like to read about / hear about at conferences, but don’t particularly have themselves. These articles are the ones you need right now to make sure your company doesn’t die, and you actually have a chance to scale, later (at which point, go crazy, read all about UniBlitzing and such).

Specifically they’re ordered from earliest to later, in that you’ll need the first ones before you need the latter ones.

I’m sure I’m missing some and welcome feedback, but these are the ones that I find myself coming back to continuously to email to folks. (And yeah, a bunch are by me. ; )

Customer Development: This is the stage at which you’re trying to sort out the problem that you’re solving, validating that people actually have it, and proposing and building minimum viable versions of the solution that fixes it.

Early Sales and Go to Market: This is my favorite section, because this is where I spend most my time thinking / writing. This is the time in your companies life where you need to take the above proposed and minimally built solution, and prove that it does indeed fix the problem you sought out to solve, and prove that someone will give you money for it.

Customer Success: If you’re successful at acquiring those initial customers, you’re going to need to make them successful, lest they churn out / tell their friends your product stinks. These are some Review articles on that topic.

Hiring & Onboarding: Next comes hiring. You likely aren’t going to be doing much hiring before you’ve nailed the things above (unless you want to ramp your burn and fly your company right into the ground). But assuming you have the beginnings of that, these are some good articles to help you think about recruiting and onboarding.

Management, Performance Management, Retention: I guess these could probably be a bit higher in the ordering, but these become more important when you get to 10+ folks, so I’m putting them down here.

Fundraising: This is last because lord know there’s enough focus fundraising as the key to early stage success. It’s probably actually the last, or second to last, after initially nailing those beginnings of success. (Maybe this section could be before Management. But maybe not.)

That’s what I’ve got for now. If I missed one that’s particularly good for very early stage companies, hit me up and I’ll amend!


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