Values

Originally published on Medium.

An evolving list of things I value when building a business:

  1. Address needs. Solve a deep paint-point, fulfill a strong desire, or bring immense joy. Be brutally honest in assessing whether you have achieved this.
  2. Seek clarity. Internally document and communicate what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and who does what. (More on this here).
  3. Deference to users/customers. Collect and listen to feedback.
  4. Be bold. Be unconventional. Push boundaries.
  5. Foster creativity and collaboration. Enable ideas to flow amongst your team by creating a no ego, low pressure (albeit hardworking/effective) environment.
  6. Work hard. Have a life. Put in the hours. Have a rich personal life. Consider flexible scheduling and workplaces. Trust teammates to get the job done.
  7. Have integrity. Respect others and yourself.
  8. Be authentic. Have passion for what you’re building. Practice what you preach and sell.
  9. Make money. Make the world better. Be aggressively for profit, but consider and help solve the world’s most pressing problems.
  10. Individual growth. Set up structured mentorship functions. Enable employees to achieve their longterm professional goals.
  11. Move fast. Make progress daily. It’s the oxygen for growth.
  12. Be data driven. Track everything. Have goals, benchmarks, milestones, etc.
  13. Apply and innovate best practices. Have hard skills and utilize them. But constantly think through how you can do things better.
  14. Simplify. Minimize to what’s essential. Focus on what’s most important.
  15. Reinvent. You can’t survive by performing the status quo. (via Howard Schultz).
  16. Great is better than perfect. Whether shipping products or solving a crisis, in most cases, don’t wait for the perfect solution.
  17. Make hard decisions as an individual. Don’t pass hard decisions onto others. Be diligent. Take a position. Have accountability. Make yourself valuable.
  18. Do the hard work as a company. Don’t expect others to give you the answer (e.g. Don’t expect a VC to tell you if your business idea is viable). You need to become the expert. Put in the legwork and figure things out.
  19. Ignore hype and noise. Avoid distractions. Focus on growing your company.
  20. Compensate well. Don’t screw your employees. Proactively seek to pay them well. Enable them to afford common expenses (e.g. a house, children’s tuition) and the lifestyle they desire.
  21. Share ownership. Be generous in distributing equity, especially to early employees. Prevent them from having resentment as they pour their waking hours into your company.

Stop Treating Consumers Like Idiots

Originally published on Medium.

Brands have a penchant these days for treating consumers like idiots:

No doubt, tactics like these drive engagement. But they also cause confusion, mistrust and anger.

Brands should respect the intelligence of consumers. Have fair, transparent pricing (see Warby Parker). Produce quality content and represent it accurately (see NPR). In doing so, you’ll build a loyal consumer base that is sustainable.

Achieving Clarity

Originally published on Medium.

Building a startup can be fraught with a lack of clarity. From having the initial excitement around an idea that thrusts a founder into execution, to managing a large team performing disparate tasks, it is easy to lack clarity and the sense of purpose and cohesion that comes with it.

A lack of clarity can result in trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. It can result in a product that is useless. It can result in a strategy that is inadequate. It can result in employees with no sense of responsibility.Ultimately, it can lead to failure.

Of course, uncertainty is inherent — and even healthy — when building a startup. But uncertainties should be identified, understood, and monitored. That happens with clarity.

Clarity can best be achieved by documenting, in writing, perspectives on the following:

  • Problem. What unaddressed pain point is the startup solving? What do users/customers want on issues big and small? What research and experiments back up these claims?
  • Product. What is the startup’s offering to solve this problem? How does the offering work? What are its features and why are they necessary?
  • Strategy. What short- to long-term tactics will the startup pursue that form a cohesive plan and will result in growth? How are these tactics prioritized? What metrics and milestones need be to achieved, and by when?
  • Responsibilities. What skill sets are needed to execute the strategy? What is each person responsible for? Is there unnecessary overlap?

In documenting these perspectives, be thorough. Spot gaps and flesh them out. If something is unavoidably uncertain or if you are making an assumption, highlight it as such and monitor it in practice. But don’t be too prescriptive so as to dictate the actions of employees. Also be honest. With brutal and brave skepticism, forgo a feature, an employee or a business entirely if justified by clarity.

Once documented, these perspectives should be shared with and ratified before your team. Their sense of clarity is as important as yours.

As your company evolves, your documented perspectives should as well. They should be living, breathing reactions to the environment in which your company exists.

With true clarity and a strong team, a startup is unstoppable.

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For further reading on this topic, check out Fred Wilson’s What Are We Doing? and Alex Iskold’s The Culture of Writing Things Down.

We don’t care that you “hustle”

Originally published on Medium.

We don’t care how early you woke up or late you went to sleep

We don’t care that you arrived first or left last.

We don’t care that you worked over the weekend or holiday.

We don’t care about your pre and post work meetings.

We don’t care that you “hustle.”

We all do. And we have been for thousands of years. We just don’t boast about it or require a pat on the back.

Stop talking about how special you think you are. Just focus on results.

startup pioneers

Originally published on Medium.

Startups are often championed as “disruptive” and “groundbreaking.” Founders are exalted as “innovative” and “visionary.” And venture capitalists are glorified as “prolific” and “prophetic.”

They sometimes deserve these labels. Envisioning and executing something new, while taking great risk, entails boldness. But in all of this splendor, an important group is left by the wayside: each startup’s community.

The early adopters that listen to what startups have to say, and that take a chance on their fledgling products, possess the same boldness as those building and funding the startups themselves. Any founder that has experienced the magical moment of securing a first user, customer or partner — after being countlessly rejected, and despite solving a pain point — can attest to this. This boldness even exists in people that join a startup’s community that’s no longer in its infancy. The high-effort acts of abandoning an incumbent, changing behavior, and continuing to use a product, are sacred and should be revered by startups.

Through our startup, Quire, we allow top, venture-backed companies to invite their communities to invest, enabling them to become actual co-owners of these businesses. It’s meta to this post, but we believe that users, customers and partners should be able to own a part of the companies that they helped create. Some founders balk at this idea. But there are others who listened, and took a chance on our product. In doing so, they’ve spearheaded the practice of community ownership that we originally envisioned, and they make our startup possible.

As you build your startup, or read about others in the press, never forget about the communities behind them. They are the true startup pioneers. Without them, we wouldn’t exist.