“May you live in interesting times.”
— Chinese proverb
This (somewhat liberally translated) Chinese proverb is something you hear often in Silicon Valley these days. Some say it is a curse. Regardless, nobody denies its truth when it comes to the changing technology brings to our world.
Driven by the exponentially accelerating rate of technological progress we now have (literally) supercomputers in our pockets, can access the world’s information at our fingertips, can sequence genes in our kitchen labs, and 3D print prototypes on our desktops. Gordon Moore’s 50-year-old prediction that “the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years” (know commonly as Moore’s law) holds up to this day and h...
It's really hard to convince people that money isn't the most important metric of a startup's success. Especially if those people happen to be investors, in which case, it actually is the most important metric.
But what we're talking about, as always, is what's important to Founders, and by extension to the people that work within that startup.
The broken part of the startup narrative has become this — "If it's growing fast and making money, it's successful, no matter what other costs are incurred."
I'd like to just go crazy for a moment and offer a new narrative — "If it's making everyone's lives geometrically better, then it's successful, and hopefully that means it's making money."
I know, I know. W...
When I’m listening to Naveen Jain describing his plan to create big business on the moon, it’s hard for me to grasp that he was once a poor child in India.
Today, Naveen is a billionaire and a very successful entrepreneur. His own recipe for success is, among other things, not knowing much and not being very good at anything. To me, that sounds like the opposite of what business life normally requires, yet Naveen isn’t joking, and his track record proves that he is not wrong either. After all, the young boy that grew up in poverty in India is today changing the world as we know it and has Sir Richard Branson and Google founder Larry Page as two of his good personal friends.
Jonathan: Naveen, I find it so inspiring that you have used entrepr...
I had the pleasure of talking to Blake about his ideas and experiences as a social entrepreneur. I started by asking him about how TOMS started.
Blake: I started TOMS after a trip I took to Argentina in 2006. I noticed that many of the locals wore shoes that I learned were alpargata. I also noticed that in rural villages there were many children who were without shoes and how that was affecting their daily lives. I had to come up with a way to help and knew that relying on donations alone was not a sustainable solution, so I used my knowledge of business to come up with an idea. The result was a for-profit business model that empowers customers to help children through their purchases. For every pair of shoes purchased, a new pair is given ...
Long after our startup is done, no matter what the outcome, our Founder reputations will live on.
And for many of us, that could actually present a real problem.
Unlike our resumes, which present essentially one dimension of our lives (our job performance), our Founder Reputation is built on how our performance affects so many people — employees, investors, customers, the media, and even our personal relationships.
From the get-go, we have two huge obstacles working against creating a great reputation.
First, we're about to build an organization that will likely (statistically) fail. It's sort of hard to build a winning reputation on the back of a potential failure that could result in the loss of job...
Capital raising isn't about pitching investors, it's about getting in front of them to begin with. But how do we get introductions from investors if we don't know any?
We start with forming an Advisory Board.
The suggestion here isn't to form an Advisory Board specifically for raising capital — since there are a ton of benefits to having an Advisory Board. However, as a first step toward raising capital, it makes a ton of sense to surround ourselves with smart, well-connected people who believe in our product but also have been through the very gauntlet we're entering into. In the same way we'd hire a dev team to build an app, why wouldn't we round up a team of smart, well-connected Advisors to build our capital raise?
We don't need to be s...
TL;DR "I saw someone in your social network that I'd love to get an introduction to. How can I make that ask while making you feel good about doing it?"
Founders are really bad at asking for introductions.
On a daily basis I get a request that looks something like this: "Hey Wil, I see that you know , would you mind introducing me to them? I just had this idea 9 seconds ago and I'd love to see if they'd invest in me!"
Now, mind you, I make a living by helping Founders (my dream job) so making introductions is a huge part of my job. The problem isn't my willingness to make them, it's the inexperience of Founders in how to ask for an introduction.
As Founders, our ability to get introductions is the lifeblood of our growth. Here's how to do i...
Decoupling startup stress from our "regular life" is one of the biggest challenges we deal with as Founders. Running a startup isn't like working at a job. The startup is a part of who we are, so our stress feels like it's imprinted into our very DNA.
Yet, at the same time, if we can't decouple our startup stress and our home lives, we risk destroying both. What we need is an actual strategy for freeing up our minds so that we can actually enjoy both sides of our lives.
As Founders, we are awesome at attacking problems all day long at our startups. So why is it that we never isolate the problem of our "take-home stress" and attack it with the same intensity?
The first step is to isolate the problem as an actua...
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...
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.