motivation

whenever we’re low, listening to an inspiring speech or a motivating blog post can make us feel good. humans are trained to continue to do things that make them feel good. does this mean, humans might forcefully think that their current situation is bad (even though it isn’t) so that they can listen to an inspiring speech to feel good? are motivating books, etc. fake?

bounce

i’m realizing that the toughest and most important quality to be an effective founder is the ability to bounce back to a ‘normal’ state even after a low moment. the quicker you figure out what your painkiller is, the more effective you become.

highs & lows are a part of the startup journey and the ability for the ‘lows’ or annoying issues (which adds very little value) to not affect your productivity is important.

a painkiller can vary from a 30-min nap or watching an elon musk interview or  anything else that’ll get you back to the normal state.

Restore all the tabs that were present before crashing.

pattern

I was trying to see if you can find a pattern for building a successful company? I don’t think it’s possible. If you could find a pattern that will guarantee success, you can write an algorithm to generate that pattern to ensure success.

Since, creating a successful company makes the founders wealthy, everyone will choose to take this path, build successful companies, become wealthy but… no one to consume all the wealth – that’s an invalid state. Hence, proved.

Every company is unique and has it’s own DNA. As much as you can get feedback from others or listen to founder’s talks, it’s your company and you’ve to create your pattern to make it successful.

stress

stress in a startup is generally caused because of a “failure” – something you expected to happen but didn’t, a deal not going through, not able to hire your smart friend, etc.

as the company grows, the number of parameters that could cause failure also increases. there’ll almost always something wrong at any given point in time.

one way to reduce stress in a startup is to think of a failure as a temporary loss, not a permanent one. this will not alleviate the pain but can certainly prevent after effects, a.k.a brooding over the failure instead of spending that time to fix another issue.

however, there’s a catch. to make sure that the failure is only temporary, the basic framework of running the company should be built around long term thinking. it can’t be building something now and flipping it a few years from now or thinking of ways of how you can get rich personally.

imagine the company you are building to be like GE, Goldman Sachs, etc. it has to be long term, really long term.

defensible

there’s a common notion/fear that if a product doesn’t have network effects, it’s hard to defend. the reason being anyone can copy the product and sell. i don’t agree.

when i was in high school, yahoo messenger had serious network effects and every one of my friends was on it, only to completely migrate to gmail a year later. an exact scenario repeated when i finished college – orkut to facebook.

even if your product has network effects, it can still become irrelevant. thinking deeply, the only way to make a company defensible is by building a strong team.

– a strong engg. team means a solid & a stable product where new features can be pushed fast w/o breaking
– a strong product team means a great first time user experience and beautifully designed for repeated use
– a strong sales team means the ability to understand customer’s needs and sell to the entire organization (world wide) instead of just one team

all of the above means, you attract smarter people in each of the functions in the company.

this results in unimaginable growth of the company and eventually becoming a leader like how salesforce is in the CRM space. do you think marc even cares about a new CRM that launches in the market?

it doesn’t matter whether you’re b2b or b2c. everything boils down to the team you build.

 

market size

i hate this question. how can you possibly determine the market size of a startup when the biggest companies (paypal, apple, google, amazon, etc.) have always created a market?

the market size of a startup is the entrepreneur’s ambition. kindle wasn’t on amazon’s original pitch, iPhone wasn’t on apple’s either, maps wasn’t on Google’s plan and so on..

the only way then to make a successful investment is to gauge whether the entrepreneur is determined to run her growing company for the long term – that startup is golden to invest in.

the traditional rule of figuring if the “market size” is large and taking x% share gives a $B return doesn’t necessarily create big wins.

angel vs VC

a VC cares about the percentage ownership more than the money invested;
an angel investor cares about money invested in a startup – there’s an upper cap always.
now you know what parameter you should negotiate for, in each case.

How?

  • Be ambitious and think long term
  • Be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time
  • Be relentless
  • Work like a mad man in pursuit of changing the world – it’s hard, very hard.
  • Do good things
  • Never give up

learn

Some of the things I learnt.

  • Have a single brand for your company
  • Press releases always have bloated numbers except in a few cases
  • Be vocal about good feedback
  • Any bad feedback to your team member should be told immediately in private in as much honesty as possible
  • An absolutely great product is a must. Let’s not debate about it
  • Choose an office space that’s good and easy to reach. You’ll never find a space that everyone is happy about
  • Hire people because they believe in your mission not because you are backed by YC or a leading investor or that you’re just two blocks away from their house. It’s hard to screen this during the interview but try
  • Frugal is good and necessary but being stingy leads to bad output. Allocate $x per team member (I hate the word employee) in your budget and buy them the stuff they want
  • Keep investors updated.. always. If you aren’t disciplined to send a summary e-mail every month, keep sending ad hoc e-mails if you signup a customer or anything that’s worthwhile to share
  • Don’t worry about competitors. They can’t affect the pace at which you grow. Just keep growing
  • Referrals for hires are good but don’t attach a weight to the referrer while interviewing the person. It’ll skew the results. Interview him/her like how you’d for anyone else
  • Customer relationships are important. Signing them up is just a small step. Maintaining the relationship and making them successful is a big thing. Get someone dedicated to do that