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What’s the Least a Founder Should Know About Finance?


  

A Founder that doesn't understand startup finance is a liability to the company.

The very survival of a startup comes down whether we have enough cash to survive. If the Founder can't answer that question, it'd be like hopping on a jet with a pilot that doesn't understand how to read the altimeter, compass, or fuel gauge. They might be a great pilot, but without knowing the fundamentals, that trip is going to end poorly.

Fortunately, Founders don't need an MBA in finance to be competent, we just need to understand a few basic principles very well. While I'm the Founder + CEO of Startups.com, I'm also our CFO. That's because I learned long ago that with a solid understanding of just a few key principles, we can make (and avoid!) really criti...



Article

The R&D technique for startups: Rip off & Duplicate


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You don’t have to have an original idea for a startup. Original ideas are difficult. And unproven. What if you find a business model that you like, and improve upon it?

I’ve heard it a couple times since, but once I was listening to some podcast and someone said to do “R&D… rip off and duplicate.” Oh the hilarity, right? Usually R&D means research and development, but instead, this guy was talking about copying someone else’s work.

It’s fine to do that. And it happens all the time.

Don’t let the business model already existing out there stop you from creating a similar business of your own.

If the business model already exists:

  1. There’s probably a market for it
  2. People probably buy the service
  3. You can probably improve upon it

I say...



Article

Why can’t I be OK with where I am?


  

As a Founder, no matter what I've ever accomplished I've never been OK with where I am. It's weird, too, because I started out with so little that accomplishing anything was a huge win. And yet, I find that my anxiety exists in nearly ever Founder I meet.

It almost seems like the very drive and ambition that makes us great Founders also makes it very difficult for us to just kick back and enjoy the status quo. It's as if we're Kevin Arnold constantly reaching for the car door handle of accomplishment while our asshole older brother Wayne keeps hitting the gas pedal when we try.

"Why wasn't my last accomplishment enough?”

When we had nothing but a dumb idea and a dream, the idea that this could turn into our day job was a massive milestone. ...



Article

We Need a Strict Definition of Personal Success


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As Founders, we spend an inordinate amount of time setting and pursuing goals, yet the ones that truly matter — the ones that affect us personally — are often amorphous. If we're spending every waking moment working toward a goal, it stands to reason that our goals should have an insane amount of fidelity.

We Tend to Suck at Goal Definition

If you ask a startup Founder what their goals for the startup are, they may say something like "To sell for a billion dollars!" But that's a pointless goal unless that Founder needs exactly a billion dollars (or their percentage of it) to achieve their goals. Also, if you have a plan for spending a billion dollars please call me - I want to hang out.

A better goal would be "I need $281,520 to pay off my ...



Article

What’s the Downside of a Co-Founder?


  

The biggest challenge Founders face when finding a co-founder is determining how much value they will truly add. We have to realize that in the formative stages of a company, we are in a very leveraged and vulnerable state. We don't have the funds to pay people, no one is clamoring to work with us, and we're pretty much all alone.

This is where we make some of the most costly mistakes we could possibly endure. We place all of the value on someone based on who happens to be available right now and then give them the most valuable currency we will ever create.

We do this in the name of progress, but are we really asking the right questions?

Is One Person Worth 50% of our Net Worth?

The moment we take on a 50% co-founder the business needs to ...



Article

Is it Better to be Located in a Major City?


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For over 10 years, I lived simultaneously in Columbus, Ohio as well as Santa Monica, San Francisco, and Beverly Hills (don't ask), working in both locations and being very active in the local ecosystems. My family and I were on a plane every 3 weeks for almost 5 years.

A lot of people pontificate on whether a bigger city is better for a startup (and the Founder) but I actually tested it across 4 different startups, raising a family, and genuinely trying to enjoy the best of every city. Here's my take:

Big City Connections are Life-Changing

While living in LA and SF I met with over 1,000 Founders, more than most people will meet in a city they were actually born in. Big cities naturally attract the most ambitious people, so it's so much easi...



Article

Sometimes Shrinking is the Right Move


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In the early years of my first startup we totally ran out of money. I remember sitting in my apartment staring at the ceiling thinking "how do we possibly recover from this?"

Then I had a (then) silly idea. What if I just took the whole staff down to just a couple of people and we ran "bare-bones" for a while? I recognized it was a big step back, but I was also thinking "I'd rather be alive and breathing than dead and bloated" (the former being a Pearl Jam reference, the latter being a Stone Temple Pilots reference — RIP 90's).

We made the hard decision of letting basically everyone go. We moved the office back to my apartment. We sold off furniture and office equipment. It sucked.

And then something really interesting happened.

All of a su...



Article

How Relationships Change When You're Successful


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Fresh from graduating at the bottom of my class in high school, I packed my $800 orange Datsun and moved to some weird place I'd never heard of before called "Ohio" to go to college. Back then the Internet didn't exist as we now know it, so when you left the state (unless you called someone on their home line) — you no longer existed.

I went ghost for almost 4 years — no trips home, no holidays — nothing. I lost touch with most of my friends and family. But while they were wondering what prison I was incarcerated at, I was busy building one of the first Internet companies.

The company did well, and when I returned, I was a millionaire. Little did I know that from that point on none of my relationships would ever be the same. Here are the ha...



Article

Where to Find Opportunities in a Recession


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Recessions breed incredible opportunities for startups, if only us Founders knew where to look and how to leverage them.

At its core, a recession distracts everyone all at once, meaning only a select few will have the fortitude and foresight to find advantages. What we need to do during these times is step back and look at the overall picture to understand not just what's happening to us, but what's also happening to everyone else.

This is where the opportunity begins.

Our Competition is Totally Distracted

It's really hard for anyone to stay focused on growth when the walls are closing in around us. That's why most of our competition will be circling the wagons and staying completely fixated on internal struggles and survival. This is a gol...



Article

Bringing on an Investor Means Hiring Your Boss


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The moment we take on an investor, we just hired our own boss. There's really no way around it.

It doesn't matter how much equity we give up or how we structure the deal. The moment we owe someone money, the dynamics change. People don't tell us that when we raise money, but if we've ever raised before, it becomes painfully obvious.

The Golden Rule: She with the Gold, Rules

Anyone who holds the purse strings to our startup essentially runs our startup. If I own 5% of your company but 100% of the capital, I run the company. I may not own the company, but if I control the blood flow of the company, it lives or dies by my choice.

The vast majority of capital raises place all of the flow of capital and the control provisions that come with that...



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