December 17th, 2012 § § permalink
This post was inspired by an entrepreneur who I barely know from one of my previous lives, who sought a meeting because he was put in a position of running a startup. While thinking about what to say to him in the first 30 mins, I realized that it really can be boiled down to a handful of core truths. everything else is a footnote, or tactics.
So, you’re starting a startup with a couple of your good friends? there are only two ways you could have ended up in this situation:
- you are so smart, that you never had to really think hard about what you are doing with your life. you go where it takes you and make it work in your favor, and have fun while doing it;
- or, you’re so dumb, you think doing startups is fun because it’s fashionable and you want to be just like mark
I sure hope you’re of the first kind, or that you are at least smart enough, to recognize yourself in the second description and give up while you still can.
Odyssey (Photo credit: tonynetone)
If you’re still reading, I guess you really want to know what it takes to run a startup. For explaining startup management issues, I really like the Platonic metaphor of a Sailboat. I might explain this some other time in more detail, because for today, we just need to be aware of the Guiding Star – when you are in the middle of the sea, without GPS, and with a couple dozen crew member who’s fates depend on your judgement, it clearly is important that you know which direction to sail to reach the destination.
It is no different in a Startup. you start a startup, because there is something tangible in your mind, that you need to make tangible for everyone else – a vision / an idea, that you see clearly, and can imagine how to do it. that’s your Guiding Star. thinking of that idea gives you strength to move forward, and to think creatively about shortcuts. discussing that idea makes other people join you on the journey, because of your ability to paint it so clearly for them, that they can see their role in getting to the end.
so here’s the heart of the advice for any first-time founder of a startup: never ever loose your Guiding Star. if you stop being obsessed with it, just stop.
Robin Klein taught me a version of this statement: “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” the flip side of this statement is, that it is better to kill the startup, than to keep working on it without the inspiration of the Guiding Star. Here’s why: as Fred says, a startup CEO has only three jobs to perform:
- communicate the vision, internally and externally
- assemble the best possible team to execute on that vision
- secure the resources the team needs
I would argue that if you have your Guiding Star – if you can really feel your vision, if thinking of it is making you do things rather than sit still – only then will you be able to communicate the vision. and if you can do that, you will assemble the team, and convince the investors needed to succeed.
inevitably you will choose the wrong direction sometimes. and you will be running short on cash. you will have to do hard practical decisions. but if you have the Guiding Star in front of you, the decisions will make sense, so they will be infinitely easier to make. even if you run out of cash completely, and you are forced to kill your company, if you do that while knowing what you believe in, it’s not a failure, it’s just a learning experience.
and lastly, one thing that has nothing to do with you or your idea. Odyssey needed 10 years to return home, and that’s exactly what you are signing up for – assume your startup will consume you as a whole for 10 years. keep that in mind while you are deciding to start it, and while you are doing your everyday decisions. only if the idea is such, that it would still make sense for you in 10 years time, than you can consider it.
September 3rd, 2012 § § permalink
i whole-heartedly agree that this particular gender inequality should be fixed in the future, but are all women really so fond of wearing knee-long dresses that they can be the only representative of the ‘business dress’ ?
This weekend, we celebrate women entrepreneurs for all their hard work! By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Women 2.0) In the past 15 years, women-owned businesses grew by 54% – there are more women entrepreneurs than ever. The 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States account for nearly 30% of U.S. businesses!
August 30th, 2012 § § permalink
This article suggests that after 6 big exits, suddenly the whole space of web startups is less exciting and we should look to other fields.
In the wake of the Facebook IPO, something funny has happened to the world of startups. Suddenly, startups feel very boring. VCs and entrepreneurs say they feel it too. “I do feel a bit like that, but then again that could also just be the startups I’m happening to see,” one investor said.
I find that to be bollocks. There are still things on the world that can be improved or fixed trough web-based technologies, and that will never change. Sure, bio-tech and similar are emerging and creating new exciting spaces, that will bring improvements to our lives, and might generate bigger returns for investors in the next decade, but if returns are all that makes something exciting for someone, well, why don’t you go live on an island somewhere.
August 22nd, 2012 § § permalink
Startup.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’m sure most of you think you agree with this statement, but I bet you are making tons of inefficient decisions because you are trained to expect certain things from your ‘work environment’ aka Job.
But the startup really isn’t a job. To build a startup you don’t need an office, until you actually know why you do – for instance after you have several non-founding team members.
And you most probably don’t need those employees, until you actually know to the hour what they need to do so the founders can build the startup.
And you don’t need vacation, because you don’t have a job. You might need time to think about the pivot, but that’s not vacation. You might need to rest your brain, but don’t expect you will actually unplug. Your entrepreneurial brain can’t unplug. You don’t need time off. If you think you do, you’re in a Job and should stop thinking it’s a startup, because it will fail.
Startup is not a job, it’s just you wanting to achieve a change in the world / other people’s behavior, not taking no for an answer, because you don’t know how to stop, and constantly thinking about a shortcut to the next obstacle on the way. Startup is just a group of people and technologies arranged around the founders that represent the currently shortest way to change the behavior of others. It is the founders passion, and in that it’s similar to works of art – you can’t help yourself but make it work.
Everything else is secondary. Specially (fancy) office space, (expensive) employees and (long) holidays.
August 21st, 2012 § § permalink
Last few months we’ve witnessed a birth of an almost whole new industry. Here’s a good summary:
Native monetization is a fast growing form of digital advertising that is changing the complexion of the advertising industry in New York. Native advertising refers to ad strategies ad strategies that allow brands to promote their content into the endemic experience of a site in a non-interruptive, integrated way.
August 18th, 2012 § § permalink
Roughly three quarters of the webpages of Slovenian startups don’t say who the founders are. Not on the front page, not on the about page, nowhere. Most of the list the tax ID numbers and official address of the company, but not the names of the people running it.
This is a catastrophe! Are you trying to hide your head in the sand until the success ‘happens’, and only after that will you collect the credit? The founding fathers of America wrote their names on the Constitution, before it was a success.
Every young company has two major challenges when it comes to public communication:
- how do I tell enough people we exist?
- how do I make them trust us with their money?
The best answer to the first one is – go out of the office and talk to people on events and in their native environment. It’s also a great way to get to know your core audience inside-out.
But for the trust issue, the absolutely best remedy is for the founders to be put up front, essentially saying loud and clear: “Trust Me”. Don’t just trust the words I’ve written (they are wrong), don’t trust the design (it’s bad), don’t trust what you heard on the street about us (it was probably wrong), trust ME, I believe in what we are doing, I believe we are changing the world into a better place, and should something bad happen, I will feel ashamed to death.
So startup founders, please, write your names everywhere you can and be proud of it. There is no other way your startups will succeed.
August 16th, 2012 § § permalink
This article made me think, that as a young entrepreneur, one has to realize that the big exits that are presented as success, actually require a very specific state of mind, which most of normal people would never submit themselves to.
Yes, if you are a startup entrepreneur and you hope for a billion dollar exit, chances are it’s not going to be smooth like Instagram’s, but convoluted like Facebook‘s, and you’ll have to piss off and disappoint a lot of people on the way.
Was the Social Media Tech IPO Boom a Big Scam? Billion-dollar cash-outs at Facebook, Zynga and Groupon. Abysmal stock performance. Tweet Jake Rajs / Getty Images Over the last year-and-a-half, several of the most prominent social media companies in the country have sold shares to investors in high-profile initial public offerings.
Are you sure you want to do it? I’m not.
May 24th, 2012 § § permalink
YouTube business model canvas sketch by Alexander Osterwalder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
this article hits on a very important distinction but their point so short-sighted:
It’s almost comical to say there is a new business reality at play. This is because there are so many forces at work lately, that it seems as though new realities are created and killed almost every quarter. Opportunistic turbulence is probably the best term for it. I’d like to call one out for review Features can be business models.
‘feature’ is just a different way of calling the product’, or maybe, a ‘small product’. but to make it a business, you have to build the business infrastructure around the ‘feature’ – user acquisition, sales, financial controlling, hr, etc…
the only thing that changes is, that you can start with a ‘feature’ and build the rest later. but you better be prepared to do that, or you’ll miss your opportunity.
May 19th, 2012 § § permalink
it’s always wise to check and keep in mind data from the wider field, not just the outlier. everyone fascinated by instagram and facebook should know all these other acquisitions by heart before talking about ‘the bubble’:
Instagram’s billion-dollar sale to Facebook raised eyebrows yesterday, renewing cries of a new bubble. But relative to other major acquisitions of the past, how does it measure up? I crunched the numbers, pulling together data from a selection of 30 notable internet acquisitions over the last ten years, from Broadcast.
May 18th, 2012 § § permalink
Dashboard 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Lot’s of entrepreneurs are struggling with marketing these days. in fact, I hear that marketing and user acquisition is the single largest bottleneck for new startups.
This is truly remarkable step-by-step how-to guide for kickstarting your online marketing. understanding this is bare minimum that every person should know and understand. if you hire a consultant, make sure you know all this, so that you can asses if (s)he knows more.
If I were a business person looking to understand how to use various digital channel making tools to build up my business, where would I start? What’s the right mix of tools to make this all make sense and work?