When entrepreneurs are successful, we are enormously interested in what made them become entrepreneurs. It’s as if their main achievement is the decision to say goodbye to the secure and safe life — the sure job, the safe pay, and the good CV. While the choice of taking the plunge is definitely a precondition for success, it is quite far from being the primary achievement. The difficult part is not becoming an entrepreneur but remaining one when things look hopeless and everyone around you has lost faith. We love stories about how two 15-year-old kids in a basement have a good idea, get a breakthrough on the first day, and become a global success a year later. In reality, however, building a business and generating real value takes time. It...
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...
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...
I sent the following letter to our entire team at Airbnb.
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...
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.
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 ...
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...
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...
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,...