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.
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 ...
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:
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...
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.
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...
Breaking up with investors at the end of a failed startup journey is basically every Founder's worst nightmare. It's that awful conversation we did everything in our power to avoid. We rehearsed it over and over while starting at the ceiling at 3 AM. And yet, here we are.
How we break up with investors is as important as how we built the relationship to begin with. That's because in the startup world, building long standing relationships among key players, including investors, is all about treating those folks with respect at every step of the journey — even the shitty ending part.
This is no time to point fingers. It was our job to create a successful startup; it didn't work out — we have to own that. This is th...
We're all freaked out about sharing our flaws.
We're worried that employees, investors, customers and just about anyone else will think less of us. Maybe they won't invest, maybe they won't buy our products, or maybe they won't come to work for us.
Sharing our flaws is terrifying. But it's also one of the most liberating things we can do not just as Founders, but as the weirdo humans we all are.
Geez, where do I begin?
I've been building startups for nearly 3 decades and I have tons of flaws. I've got massive ADHD (I can't even proofread this sentence without losing focus), terminal pain, crippling anxiety — and I can't dance to save my life.
For a long time I would have never even...
Getting equity back from an existing stakeholder isn't easy — but it is possible.
It's a situation that very few Founders have ever been through before, so no one really knows how to go about it. Let's talk a bit about how the situation develops and what we can do to get some of that precious equity back into our coffers.
More than anything, equity isn't just a stock issuance. It's a promise that at some future point that stock will be worth cash money — maybe.
When we think about pulling the equity back, we have to think in terms of how to redeem that promise of payment in some capacity. It's not just a matter of "taking it away" per se, it's a matter of trading the terms of the initial agreement ...
Funding doesn't make a lot of sense to first time Founders. In our minds, we think, "Hey, investors want to make money, so if my startup can make money, who cares how big it gets?"
Unfortunately, that thinking overlooks one big fact: that for every one investor check out there, there are hundreds of startups competing for it.
In order to understand how investors look at one deal versus another, we first have to understand how investors look at deals in the first place.
There's no absolute rule here, but investor behavior generally follows a consistent trend. Most "professional" investors (people who invest consistently) gravitate toward investments that can yield an exponential return, such as an IPO.
The myth of the "stolen startup idea" somehow continues to live on, despite an insane lack of proof to the contrary. The thinking goes that if someone else hears our idea, they will simply take it and create a billion dollar business from it.
On paper (and in movies) that can happen. In reality, it's basically a Sasquatch myth.
Just having an "idea" for something accounts for nothing. Great companies aren't built because someone had an idea for something that no one else thought of — we all have novel ideas.
Great companies are built through an insane amount of dedication and execution that (rarely) leads to a big outcome.
By the way, plenty of people had the idea for a social network — and built them — before Facebook was ever "stolen."...
The investor pitch. It's feared. It's desired. It's terrifying.
But don't worry: We've got you covered. Here's everything you need to know about that all-important investor pitch.
Invisu.me Co-Founder and CEO Donna Griffit is a master pitcher who has helped countless founders distill their pitch down to exactly what they need — and nothing they don’t. She had the opportunity to sit in on a private pitching event where a delegation of startups had the opportunity give a five minute pitch and receive direct feedback from a group of top-tier Silicon Valley VC’s. (So top tier that she can’t even say who was there but, trust us, you will want to memorize this section before your next pitch.)
Here’s what ...
There's a weird discussion around Founder compensation, especially when the number is a big fat zero. We read about famous Founders from Google, Facebook, and Tesla taking $1 salaries, while earning millions in stock.
For early-stage Founders, we often can't get paid (so it's not much of choice!) but there's also this presumption that if we're forgoing personal compensation to roll all the profits back into the company, then we must be really committed.
There's no argument out there that Founders shouldn't be paid, so taking compensation to zero is just a silly move.
The only time Founders or execs get the stink eye is when they take inordinate salaries compared to the rest of the staff or relative to the stage of the ...