I think the only metrics that should matter to a founder are the ability of an investor to empathize with them (especially when the going gets rough) and their ability to understand that startups are unpredictable. A really great investorknows that, and so should every founder. The bad investors are the polar opposite — just ask the folks behind the startups they backed in the past.
Om Malik in a great post about the shift that is happening in the VC game

Worthy Competitors

The other day someone from a service that offers similar functionality signed up for SuperCalendar.

I still get an email every time someone signs up for our service, I usually quickly glance at rapportive and customize a welcome email.

I originally heard about his service from a potential customer who wanted to try out SuperCalendar without paying and pointed to them as an example of a company that offers their beta services for free.

In his case I said

PS I’ve heard good things about [your company] I look forward to seeing your progress.

Shortly thereafter I got notified that his account wasn’t complete so I sent a follow up email to schedule a phone call to update the rest of the info needed.

That 45 minute phone call took place earlier today.

We both shared how we came to where we are today and what we think about the space. [other folk are doing it wrong :)]

It was was great to hear that we think about the space similarly and are approaching the problem in a similar fashion.

We gave each other advice on things that we have learned because at the end of the day we are out to enable people.

I wished him well on the grind that is the startup and that I will be running in the race alongside him and look forward to seeing what happens.

The best thing about having worthy competitors is that they make YOU better. Make sure to seek them out and then run faster.

image

If you’re starting a project or company:

1. Don’t expect anyone to care as much as you.

2. Don’t require them to think as hard about this as you have.

3. Do expect them to change their mind and disappear.

4. Make a robust plan that includes #1-3.

As the founder, the burden is on you to come up with a great plan, to lift the burden from the people helping you.

dihard
dihard:

Well this seems an appropriate place to start. 
That’s me in the kitchen, last week.
It was 9 o’clock in the evening, I had been there since 4am. Everyone else had left for the day. With a few minutes to spare, as I awaited my chariot (my beau was biking over to pick me up and walk me home), I decided to make the kitchen spotless, cleaning even the mop bucket. (Sidenote - yep, that’s the glorious life as a founder of a craft food biz, scrubbing filthy mop buckets.) As I saw my ride arrive outside, I opened the fridge to check on one last thing, and BLAMMO - the hinges failed, and the top shelf of the fridge came crashing down. Along with everything stored atop it. All over me.
I was soaked in the ice cream custard base that we had just spent hours crafting. It was an orange-julius inspired flavor, called Orange County Fair, that was setting in the fridge over night to be churned into pints in the morning. After a 17 hour day, and with a bloodied hand, and orange julius soaked vans (RIP old friends), what could I do but start to cry. 
So okay that happened for about a minute. Until, what could I do next, but start to clean it up.
1.5 hours later, the kitchen was as spotless as I had earlier decided to make it. Moreso, even.
I guess what I learned here was “don’t cry over spilled milk..made” as, of course, was the first joke of the night. And, ya know, messes get made. And the longer you cry over it and wallow over the current state of affairs (be it in your kitchen, or, hey, in your life!), the more the custard spreads on the floor. It’ll start to soak through the cracks and creep under the fridge, or spread to places you didn’t even know it could go - and then it’s just harder to clean up. And sometimes you find that your kitchen is even cleaner after a mess has been made than it would have been otherwise.

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THIS IS WHY DIANA’s ICE CREAM TASTES SO GOOD (bold emphasis mine)

dihard:

Well this seems an appropriate place to start. 

That’s me in the kitchen, last week.

It was 9 o’clock in the evening, I had been there since 4am. Everyone else had left for the day. With a few minutes to spare, as I awaited my chariot (my beau was biking over to pick me up and walk me home), I decided to make the kitchen spotless, cleaning even the mop bucket. (Sidenote - yep, that’s the glorious life as a founder of a craft food biz, scrubbing filthy mop buckets.) As I saw my ride arrive outside, I opened the fridge to check on one last thing, and BLAMMO - the hinges failed, and the top shelf of the fridge came crashing down. Along with everything stored atop it. All over me.

I was soaked in the ice cream custard base that we had just spent hours crafting. It was an orange-julius inspired flavor, called Orange County Fair, that was setting in the fridge over night to be churned into pints in the morning. After a 17 hour day, and with a bloodied hand, and orange julius soaked vans (RIP old friends), what could I do but start to cry. 

So okay that happened for about a minute. Until, what could I do next, but start to clean it up.

1.5 hours later, the kitchen was as spotless as I had earlier decided to make it. Moreso, even.

I guess what I learned here was “don’t cry over spilled milk..made” as, of course, was the first joke of the night. And, ya know, messes get made. And the longer you cry over it and wallow over the current state of affairs (be it in your kitchen, or, hey, in your life!), the more the custard spreads on the floor. It’ll start to soak through the cracks and creep under the fridge, or spread to places you didn’t even know it could go - and then it’s just harder to clean up. And sometimes you find that your kitchen is even cleaner after a mess has been made than it would have been otherwise.

===

THIS IS WHY DIANA’s ICE CREAM TASTES SO GOOD (bold emphasis mine)

thegongshow

Priorities in Startups

thegongshow:

The hardest part of making decisions in a startup is when two choices serve opposing important priorities well.  

For example, let’s pretend you work in an enterprise sales-driven business.  You have 5 key customers that comprise all your revenue.  One of these customers in a moment of frustration behaves poorly with one of your customer support representatives, being borderline verbally abusive.

Poor treatment of your employees is of course unacceptable.  At the same time, if you “fire” the customer, a big portion of your revenue will disappear, potentially jeopardizing the entire business if you’re unable to raise capital through other sources (debt or equity). How do you make a decision like this?

When I worked at Homestead (back 8 years ago… yikes), the Company set aside time to list the prioritization of 5 different entities in a clearly-sorted, hierarchical order, and I recall the CEO Justin Kitch referring to this list from time to time. The priorities were:

  1. Our Employees
  2. Our Products
  3. Our Customers
  4. Our Community
  5. Our Shareholders

I like this list. I think it’s a great framework for prioritization in decision-making in a startup. It’s written out in full on the about page of Justin’s new company, Curious.com, if you want to read the rationale for each entity.

The piece about “Our Community” was not just lip service. I participated in 5-6 community service projects while at Homestead, all of which were held during business hours, so the Company was paying its employees to volunteer in the local community around Silicon Valley.  It was great.

For anything to make the list it all, it had to be important.  So, the fact that “Shareholders” is listed last doesn’t not mean that building shareholder value is unimportant.  I think that the CEO just recognized that the best way to build *long term* shareholder value is to make decisions that prioritize the other four entities first.

elepath

elepath:

Kyle Bragger just posted an article on Medium about how working insane numbers of hours is not just unhealthy, but unproductive:

Nowadays, I’m working 4-day weeks, and doing no more than an hour or two of intense work at a time. I take a lot of walks. I’ve lost weight. I’m happier. My wife is happier. I’m more present. And most importantly: I’m doing the best work of my life. (continue reading)

And last night, PandoDaily posted my article about how the standard narrative of company acquisitions doesn’t address what is lost:

An entrepreneur is someone who, almost artistically, designs a living entity which embodies the values, beliefs, and ambitions of the creator. It’s impossible for a larger entity to swallow a smaller one without completely reshaping it. (continue reading)

Please enjoy!

Kyle Bragger + Jake Lodwick dropped some knowledge on the internets in the past 24 hours.  

I highly recommend you read both posts more than once.

marksbirch

According to marksbirch :

Then there is no hope. Zero. Zilch. Just end it immediately. Fire the staff, apologize to your users, return whatever money is left to investors, move back in with your parents, and whimper to yourself for the next several weeks.

The points that Mark makes are great!

  • Have a Plan and Stick to It 
  • Put Product Ahead of Publicity
  • You Live and Die by Culture
  • Team Versus Superstars

READ THE FULL POST

… it’s often easier to sell a product that intensely appeals to a narrow market than one that loosely appeals to a broad one. Early in his career, he proved this point while selling educational software.

He discovered that parents making purchasing decisions wanted to know that the product was perfect for THEIR kid. That left his marketing slogan at the time, “Perfect for ages 8-80” dead in the water. To combat this, Gross tested a product called “Jump Start for Kindergarten” and market only to 5-year olds. This product made $5 million in its first year and lead to a franchise for each grade. When originally proposed, the idea was shot down by every sales, marketing, and finance executive at the company as being too narrow. The end result, which came to be only through testing, was the most successful product in company history.

The takeaway lesson is that a more focused product sells better. Tangentially, he said that startups can often use focus as a secret weapon to outmaneuver larger companies. Gross’ closing advice on the subject was: “Focus is always better, even if it’s the wrong focus.”

idonethis

First the soft stuff: Trust yourself. If you are passionate about your idea you can do more than you ever imagined. There is no secret to success; you simply start with a vision and then it is about problem solving, breaking everything down into smaller pieces, getting it done, and remaining tenacious even when the uphill pursuit becomes steeper. Nothing is more rewarding!

Now for tactical: It might seem daunting to get started, but it doesn’t need to be perfect from the start. Test your idea in its minimum viable form. Our first site was super basic, we packed every box ourselves and walked them all to the post office. We were able to let it evolve over time instead of solving everything on day one.

Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp, co-founders of Birchbox, giving the scoop at goop about starting your own business. (via idonethis) [updated to include full quote]

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HEART HAYLEY + KATIA

informationarbitrage

Great advice from Roger aka informationarbitrage:

  • Be confident. You rock; you really do. The fact that you are starting something and devoting your life to it is freaking awesome. This alone should give you the confidence and esteem to ask for help with head held high. The worst thing that someone can say is no. And if they do? Screw them - and move on to the next one.
  • Be focused. You have to know what you are asking for. Being confident while being unfocused in your ask is really annoying and will ultimately lead to failure. If you’ve gone through the trouble to set up an ask, make it time well-spent for all parties. Do you homework and know what you want. Confidence + focus is a recipe for success.
  • Be tough. Getting kicked around and rejected is part of any great mission. It means what you’re doing is either really stupid or orthogonal to conventional thought (read: a potential home run). Given that you rock, I’m going to assume it is a differentiated but dissonant idea which will require a very refined pitch to communicate and convince smart, cynical people (be they potential employees, investors or customers). No is a perfectly reasonable answer: just make sure that you are getting textured rejections in order that you can learn and use that information for subsequent meetings.
  • Be persistent. Staying in touch with those to whom you’ve pitched, where they are potential “yesses” in the future but need to see more and better thinking/product/proof, often yields tremendous results. Saying what you’re going to do and then doing it is a boon for fund-raising at every stage. Use that confidence, clarity and toughness to fuel the persistence necessary to win over high-value people as your company evolves.