Startup burnout is a real thing. As the stigma traditionally associated with mental health issues melts away, we’re seeing a lot more entrepreneurs and startup employees raise their hands when the stress levels get too high.
Startups are founded on the premise of disruption, and the tech we use to facilitate that disruption likely has multiple efficiencies coded into it that can be reapplied to other use cases. This is where the crazy money is made, because it can elevate our company from niche product player to new market dominator.
To succeed in startup, you not only have to land the best talent, but you have to land and keep the best talent at the most value. Here’s how you do that, with four secrets no one else might tell you.
Does it make sense to split the duties of a CEO in order to make a company stronger and more effective? Let me first make it perfectly clear that I understand the disaster scenario. Two leaders means a series of split decisions and bickering. Two leaders means mixed messages and incongruent priorities. Two leaders means everyone has two bosses. So first, let’s think about why any company would want two CEOs.
Entrepreneurs and investors are placing bets that the gig economy is about to normalize and become an even greater share of the real economy. Here’s what I’ve learned about building the basics of a gig market platform MVP.
Let’s talk about fallback strategies for when your biggest customer breaks up with you. I’ll prescribe a fix, but more importantly, I’ll lay out a strategy for prevention.
Let’s talk about how a startup founder gets funded. And why they don’t. I get about a dozen questions a week via my website from first-time entrepreneurs asking me to help them get their company funded. I don’t do that. But I do know a ton of VC and angel investors, so I asked a bunch of them questions about what works, what hurts, and what they look for from the very first contact with an entrepreneur.
I used to think salary didn’t matter, because I love what I do. But along the way I’ve learned that it’s critical to get employee pay right from the beginning.
Listen up. If your company is being acquired, or if you’re planning for an acquisition as your exit, you need to know what’s coming. Because a lot of it isn’t pretty.
Good entrepreneurs worry so much about where the next customer is going to come from that we never think twice about whether we should take on, or keep, a customer that's more trouble than they're worth.
* Featured in TechCrunch *
Making a mistake launching a new product feature is costly, and I’ve done it at least a dozen times. Never again. We’re all familiar with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) strategy. What’s gaining traction now is the strategy of repeating the MVP process with every new feature, even down to every new version. How do we do that?
If we’re starting a company that we hope will one day reach a billion dollar valuation or more, we’ll need a different kind of strategy from the beginning.
Let’s talk about when we need to start paying the true believers working for our startup. With actual dollars. Because the alternative is usually promises. And promises in startup are always a bridge built to burn.
At what point does a founding CEO grow the company beyond their ability to grow it even more? It sounds like a Catch-22 of a question, but it’s a standard move that I believe startups get wrong more often than not.
As entrepreneurs, it’s almost impossible to understand the value of what we’re building, and there are several reasons why we’ll sell our product for less than what it’s worth. Let's overcome that.
* A Medium Editorial Feature *
Every entrepreneur comes up with simple sales targets soon after figuring out their most basic price point. We can’t help it, it’s what we do. But when it comes time for real sales projections, the math gets murkier. And we’re usually still just throwing random numbers at a wall and hoping they stick.
Ask anyone who’s been there more than once, and they’ll tell you. Right at about 50 employees is where young companies start to go off the rails. So what should we do when it happens?
* A Medium Editorial Feature *
Let's talk about how we use data to make a better product, raise our margins, and generate more revenue.
Last week, I got a bunch of questions via my website from “Devin,” a smart young entrepreneur in the healthcare technology space. His MVP, a mobile app, was about six months from completion before he realized he needed to do more work around his business concept. Now his MVP is about a year out, and he’s frustrated because he wants to reach out to his target market to gauge interest in his solution.
You know how startups can one day just suddenly implode, leaving a well-meaning but ultimately hollow note on their website thanking everyone for the incredible journey? It hurts every time I see that. Because you can prevent it. Not all the time. But you can see it coming. All the time.
The role of “product” within almost all industries is trending toward less emphasis on product management and product marketing, and more towards using technology and data to determine everything from what we’re building to how we’re selling it.
Firing an employee, especially at the startup level, is hands-down the toughest responsibility a founder or executive has to take on. I know this sounds like an elitist problem — oh, it must be real rough to have to ruin someone’s life. It is. Unless you’re an a-hole.
* A Medium Editorial Feature *
When I see a working product not selling, it’s usually because the value premise was off from the beginning. What it almost always comes down to is: Does the product have a traceable direct value for the customer?
Let’s talk about how we deliver software when it’s ready, instead of when it’s due. This is how I’m transitioning from promising and missing dates to delivering continuous innovation, both across my org and to my customers.
The harsh economics of startup are often easily overlooked. So let’s talk about what it really costs an entrepreneur to get a startup off the ground. It’s about 250 grand.
Last week, I had an email exchange that came through my website from a college student who sort of lucked into a startup founded by one of his friends. He had jumped in at the beginning, and now he's at a crossroads.
I live by the entrepreneur’s motto: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission. But it actually matters what you’re going to ask permission or beg forgiveness for.”
At some point, every entrepreneur stops innovating. Let’s talk about how to put that off for as long as possible.
Your MVP is your first impression, both for your startup and for you as an entrepreneur. Here's a high-level checklist I use to give my MVP its best chance, with some real-world examples thrown in.
Should you learn to code? I used to always answer with an emphatic yes. Now I’m like 80/20 no. The catch is, and always will be: Time. Here's how to get around that.
An MVP is indeed meant to be the quickest version of the product you can put out to market. But when I use the word “quickest” here, that reduction in time to market is achieved by a reduction in feature set, not a reduction in quality. Lately, I’m seeing the pendulum swing away from quality too often.
What would you say your company does? It seems like a simple question that should have a simple answer, but that’s rarely the case.
Building software under a deadline is a recipe for disaster, right? So why are we still doing it? It’s not gonna be too long before we look back and laugh at when we used to put delivery dates on tech.
Leadership flaws can start tearing at the seams of a startup right at the first signs of success. If we don’t have leadership that works, we can’t make critical decisions, we can’t move forward, chaos ensues, and the whole operation begins to crumble from the top down.
When you’ve been an entrepreneur for as long as I have, you have a million ideas. Granted, a lot of these are trash. You can’t get to the great ideas until you sift through all the crap ones.
There a like a million things you need to do before you start spending money on that freelancer or offshore team. Wait. Five. There are actually five things you need to do before you hire a developer.