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 ...
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?
The moment we take on a 50% co-founder the business needs to ...
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...
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...
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...
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.
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...
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...
Last week I had a great conversation with a Startups.com employee who was leaving to join another company. During the conversation I repeated the same thing I've told hundreds of departed employees, "This isn't the last time we'll work together, so while I'm sad to see you leave, I'm pumped to team up again later."
Why would we tell someone that's leaving how excited we are to be working together in the future? Because if we've been in this game long enough, we realize how many of those relationships do in fact come around again... and again... and again.
As Founders, especially veteran ones, we begin to learn that every single person we work with is part of a larger "workforce" of future hires that becomes some of our most reliable talent...
What if we defined success by what we DON'T have to do anymore?
What if we didn't have to work with people we don't like? What if we never had to miss dinner with our kids? What if we never had to think twice about taking a vacation?
Does this sound like startup Shangri-la? I thought so, too, until 8 years ago. I decided to build Startups.com based on everything I never wanted to do again.
It fundamentally changed my life.
It turns out that making a list of things we don't want to ever do is actually much easier than a list of things we are trying to accomplish.
That's because saying "no" is more immediate. We can say, "I'll take more vacations when I'm really rich" (the "someday" paradox), or we can say,...
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...