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.
“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...
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...
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 ...
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.
Every time I make an introduction to someone, I'm...
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?
The moment we take on a 50% co-founder the business needs to ...
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...
In the early years of my first startup we totally ran out of money. I remember sitting in my apartment staring at the ceiling thinking "how do we possibly recover from this?"
Then I had a (then) silly idea. What if I just took the whole staff down to just a couple of people and we ran "bare-bones" for a while? I recognized it was a big step back, but I was also thinking "I'd rather be alive and breathing than dead and bloated" (the former being a Pearl Jam reference, the latter being a Stone Temple Pilots reference — RIP 90's).
We made the hard decision of letting basically everyone go. We moved the office back to my apartment. We sold off furniture and office equipment. It sucked.
And then something really interesting happened.
All of a su...
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...
Recessions breed incredible opportunities for startups, if only us Founders knew where to look and how to leverage them.
At its core, a recession distracts everyone all at once, meaning only a select few will have the fortitude and foresight to find advantages. What we need to do during these times is step back and look at the overall picture to understand not just what's happening to us, but what's also happening to everyone else.
This is where the opportunity begins.
It's really hard for anyone to stay focused on growth when the walls are closing in around us. That's why most of our competition will be circling the wagons and staying completely fixated on internal struggles and survival. This is a gol...