Google, Apple, and Amazon Stifle Innovation When They Favor Their Own Products

The SparkToro team got an exciting surprise on Sunday evening: a mention of our research on Last Week Tonight by John Oliver. The full episode, Big Tech Monopolies, is available on YouTube. It covers an issue I’ve railed against before, but with a heightened sense of urgency: there is actually a bipartisan bill in Congress that might fix this. Thankfully,…

SparkToro’s Mission, Vision, and Values: BELUX

Those skilled in the art of BS detection can tell you that 99% of company mission, vision, and values statements are meaningless. For corporate ideals to be more than just blatant-hypocrisy-in-poster-form, leadership has to build them into the company’s operating systems: how they hire/fire/promote, how they prioritize product investments, treat customers, make decisions around funding and acquisitions, and more. Even…
SparkToro Startups Team

SparkToro’s Year 2 Retrospective: Can Chill Work, Alternative Funding, and an Indie Approach Scale?

Two years ago today, at the nerve-wracking start of a global pandemic, we launched SparkToro. Since then, we’ve learned a lot, and uncovered plenty of unanswered questions, too. As is tradition, I’ll try to share the good, the bad, and the interesting in the hopes it can help other entrepreneurs, especially those considering an alternative to standard, venture-backed funding. First,…
Personal Psychology Startups Team

Hustle Culture vs. Chill Work

A few weeks ago, Wil Reynolds and I were on a video call together. I think I joined in a couple minutes after him, and the discussion was already starting: Someone on the call: “… just hustling”Rand: “Ugh, I hate hustle culture.” Wil: “Yo, Fish*, can you define hustle?”Rand: “Easy one. Hustling is working hard to work hard. It’s valuing…
Marketing Psychology Startups Tactics

The Incentives to Publish No Longer Reward the Web’s Creators

It’s been almost two months since my last post here. For those of you who pay attention to the digital marketing world, the infrequency of updates may be missed, but it’s likely familiar. Many, many web creators (those who publish, in any format, on their own sites rather than big tech’s platforms) who historically published content with great frequency are…

When Choosing Marketing Channels, Visualize the Curve

Business Owner: “We’re launching a new company/website/campaign and want to buy ads that can get us some customers. Once that’s working, we’ll invest in content and SEO.” Marketer: “So, no one’s heard of your brand, and you don’t have any existing digital marketing, but you’d like to start with ads, then invest in content and SEO?” Business Owner: “Yup! That’s…

One Customer Feedback Email Changed Our Startup’s Trajectory

Building a new company means constantly managing one’s emotions. The high highs of days when everything’s golden inevitably give way to the low lows when you’re certain it’s all doomed. At the end of February, Casey (my cofounder) and I were in that latter boat, nervous about how signups for our 10-month old startup had slowed to a trickle. Here’s…
Data Marketing Startups Tactics

Marketing Personas Are Almost Always a Boondoggle (but they don’t have to be)

Boss: “We need marketing personas for each of our customer targets.”You: “Got it. What problems are these personas meant to solve?”Boss: “You know, um… Strategy. Targeting. And, uh… give ’em fun names like Workin’ Wendy and Stay-at-Home Steve, or something.”You: “Oh god, not again…” A few years back, I worked on a 6-month project to collect survey, interview, and industry…
Product Psychology Startups

SaaS Churn and Short-Term Customers: The Contrarian View

Ever wonder why so many business software companies make it so darn difficult to start using their products? Or why subscription-focused tools are so obsessed with making it hard to quit vs. making it easy to sign up? Why don’t these SaaS (software-as-a-service, aka subscription) companies want customers who might only need their product every few months or even only…