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ArticleWhy culture is just as important for tech startups as tech

Why culture is just as important for tech startups as tech

When a well-known brand like IBM or Nike is recruiting new people, they don’t only have the advantage of the brand but also of high salaries and good perks. An employee signing up at Microsoft essentially gets paid while learning and building up a good CV. And if she would want to leave later, she is well-positioned.

As a startup, you have to compete with this, with no initial brand, no impressive salaries, and no perks. Therefore, you need to deliver something else. What you can deliver is a superior culture.

Culture is one aspect where it should be easy for startups to compete with big corporations. Because startups are small and young, they can be innovative, flexible, fast-moving, and fun. They can be more grounded in their values and b...



ArticleForm an Advisory Board to help Raise Capital

Form an Advisory Board to help Raise Capital

Capital raising isn't about pitching investors, it's about getting in front of them to begin with. But how do we get introductions from investors if we don't know any?

We start with forming an Advisory Board.

The suggestion here isn't to form an Advisory Board specifically for raising capital — since there are a ton of benefits to having an Advisory Board. However, as a first step toward raising capital, it makes a ton of sense to surround ourselves with smart, well-connected people who believe in our product but also have been through the very gauntlet we're entering into. In the same way we'd hire a dev team to build an app, why wouldn't we round up a team of smart, well-connected Advisors to build our capital raise?

We don't need to be s...



ArticleHow to build culture

How to build culture

I sent the following letter to our entire team at Airbnb.

Hey team,

Our next team meeting is dedicated to Core Values, which are essential to building our culture. It occurred to me that before this meeting, I should write you a short letter on why culture is so important to Joe, Nate, and me.

After we closed our Series C with Peter Thiel in 2012, we invited him to our office. This was late last year, and we were in the Berlin room showing him various metrics. Midway through the conversation, I asked him what was the single most important piece of advice he had for us.

He replied, “Don’t fuck up the culture.”

This wasn’t what we were expecting from someone who just gave us $150 million. I asked him to elaborate on this. He said one of the r...



ArticleHow We Built an 8-Figure Business by Saying “No”

How We Built an 8-Figure Business by Saying “No”

At Startups.com, we built an 8-figure business by saying "no" — a lot.

We knew going in that if we’re going to have 100% control of our destiny now and in the future, that would only work if we could constantly say "no" in a disciplined manner.

But you know what? Saying "no" sucks. Just like saying "no" to delicious glazed donuts sucks. We know that we want them, but we also know the cost of saying "yes"! Now I'm hungry for a glazed donut. See what I mean? We knew that controlling our destiny would mean an insane amount of discipline, across the entire organization. In order to prepare ourselves for this discipline, like any good regimen, there were a few things that we'd have to stay incredibly focused on.

We had to be OK with things takin...



ArticleWork is love made visible

Work is love made visible

“May you live in interesting times.”

 — Chinese proverb 

This (somewhat liberally translated) Chinese proverb is something you hear often in Silicon Valley these days. Some say it is a curse. Regardless, nobody denies its truth when it comes to the changing technology brings to our world.

Driven by the exponentially accelerating rate of technological progress we now have (literally) supercomputers in our pockets, can access the world’s information at our fingertips, can sequence genes in our kitchen labs, and 3D print prototypes on our desktops. Gordon Moore’s 50-year-old prediction that “the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years” (know commonly as Moore’s law) holds up to this day and h...



ArticleWhere was the entrepreneurial dinosaur when we needed him?

Where was the entrepreneurial dinosaur when we needed him?

When I’m listening to Naveen Jain describing his plan to create big business on the moon, it’s hard for me to grasp that he was once a poor child in India.

Today, Naveen is a billionaire and a very successful entrepreneur. His own recipe for success is, among other things, not knowing much and not being very good at anything. To me, that sounds like the opposite of what business life normally requires, yet Naveen isn’t joking, and his track record proves that he is not wrong either. After all, the young boy that grew up in poverty in India is today changing the world as we know it and has Sir Richard Branson and Google founder Larry Page as two of his good personal friends.

Jonathan: Naveen, I find it so inspiring that you have used entrepr...



ArticleGiving is Our Future

Giving is Our Future

I had the pleasure of talking to Blake about his ideas and experiences as a social entrepreneur. I started by asking him about how TOMS started.

Blake: I started TOMS after a trip I took to Argentina in 2006. I noticed that many of the locals wore shoes that I learned were alpargata. I also noticed that in rural villages there were many children who were without shoes and how that was affecting their daily lives. I had to come up with a way to help and knew that relying on donations alone was not a sustainable solution, so I used my knowledge of business to come up with an idea. The result was a for-profit business model that empowers customers to help children through their purchases. For every pair of shoes purchased, a new pair is given ...



ArticleThe Right Way to Ask for an Introduction

The Right Way to Ask for an Introduction

Founders are really bad at asking for introductions.

On a daily basis I get a request that looks something like this: "Hey Wil, I see that you know (some investor), would you mind introducing me to them? I just had this idea 9 seconds ago and I'd love to see if they'd invest in me!"

Now, mind you, I make a living by helping Founders (my dream job) so making introductions is a huge part of my job. The problem isn't my willingness to make them, it's the inexperience of Founders in how to ask for an introduction.

As Founders, our ability to get introductions is the lifeblood of our growth. Here's how to do it incredibly well — and what to avoid like the plague.

Understand what Social Capital is

Every time I make an introduction to someone, I'm...



ArticleWhat’s the Downside of a Co-Founder?

What’s the Downside of a Co-Founder?

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?

Is One Person Worth 50% of our Net Worth?

The moment we take on a 50% co-founder the business needs to ...



ArticleIs it Better to be Located in a Major City?

Is it Better to be Located in a Major City?

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:

Big City Connections are Life-Changing

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...



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