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ArticleHow to Create Career Paths at a Small Startup

How to Create Career Paths at a Small Startup

The old days of having to grow our staff by promoting them into a management pyramid are (thankfully) wasting away. Startups can do way more with fewer people, which means fewer management layers and more a more empowered staff.

Yet, we're still stuck in the old thinking of "I can only progress if people are reporting to me." It's a dying notion, yet one we struggle with as startup Founders to replace. But we have to figure out how to recast the career paths of our teams if we're going to learn to work in a new world of smaller teams doing 10x more than they used to.

Growth Needs to be Unpacked

When our staff talks about growth, they are really talking about three things — money, recognition, and empowerment. Money is easy — we can always p...



ArticleWe Need a Strict Definition of Personal Success

We Need a Strict Definition of Personal Success

As Founders, we spend an inordinate amount of time setting and pursuing goals, yet the ones that truly matter — the ones that affect us personally — are often amorphous. If we're spending every waking moment working toward a goal, it stands to reason that our goals should have an insane amount of fidelity.

We Tend to Suck at Goal Definition

If you ask a startup Founder what their goals for the startup are, they may say something like "To sell for a billion dollars!" But that's a pointless goal unless that Founder needs exactly a billion dollars (or their percentage of it) to achieve their goals. Also, if you have a plan for spending a billion dollars please call me - I want to hang out.

A better goal would be "I need $281,520 to pay off my ...



ArticleA Growth Marketing Stack for Startups

A Growth Marketing Stack for Startups

Startups.com marketing technology stack

What is a Martech Stack?

First up, what even is Martech? This is an abbreviation of “marketing technology.” It’s the tools and software you use in your day-to-day sales and marketing.

The reference to the “stack” has been used by developers for years, in reference to the technology and codebases they use within the products they build. Martech Stack references the marketing technologies and tools you use within your marketing infrastructure set-up.

By stacking these tools together and integrating them you create a consistent, automated flow of data between your tools.

The benefits of setting up a Martech Stack

The likelihood is that you already have some form of Martech Stack in place, even without...



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...



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 ...



ArticleLet's Define Success By What We Don't Have To Do Anymore

Let's Define Success By What We Don't Have To Do Anymore

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.

The List of "No" is Life Changing

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,...



ArticleWhat Should We Teach Kids About Startups?

What Should We Teach Kids About Startups?

Imagine what would happen if we spent as much time trying to teach kids to become entrepreneurs as we did trying to get them to prepare for the SATs?

Let's remember that a disproportionate amount of our academic focus is around a series of standardized tests designed in an era where homogenizing the workforce was our number one goal (side note: it worked).

Now our goal is the polar opposite: differentiating our workforce. The only way our kids will succeed is if they can stand apart from others and chart their own course.

That's the essence of entrepreneurship, and it's something we can absolutely teach.

Why should we start with kids as entrepreneurs?

Kids are natural entrepreneurs.

They possess the most powerful skill any of us can have...



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