Whatever you can do, or dream you can, Begin it. Boldness has Genius, Power, and Magic in it. Begin it Now! (Goethe)

November 21, 2014

Newtonite (like Kryptonite, only more Newtonian)

I do not know what I may appear to the world, 

but to myself I seem to have been only 

like a boy playing on the sea-shore, 

and diverting myself in now and then 

finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, 

whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

November 20, 2014

How to start a startup: Lecture 18 - Legal and Accounting Basics for Startups

There's a lot that goes behind the scenes in running a startup. Getting the legal, finance (equity allocation, vesting), accounting, and other overhead right will save you a lot of pain in the long run. Kirsty Nathoo, CFO at Y Combinator, and Carolynn Levy, General Counsel at Y Combinator, cover these very important topics.

This is my absolute favorite video in the series so far. This is certainly not because of the subject matter, which can easily put one to sleep; rather it is because I totally fell in love with one of the presenters, and I'll leave it to you to figure out which one. Hint: I'm bonkers over redheads with curly hair.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHzvmyMJEK4
And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

November 18, 2014

How to start a startup: Lecture 17 - How To Design Hardware Products

In Lecture 17 of How to Start a Startup, Hosain Rahman, founder/CEO of Jawbone, covers the design process for building hardware products users love.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4K_qVlYQkg
And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

November 16, 2014

Startup CEO reading for 11.16.2014

The Myth of Venture Capital - (in defense of bootstrapping) Jon Oringer, CEO/founder, Shutterstock

Analyzing Startup Data: Going From Seed to Series A - CB insights

Why bother with a company board? - Dave Berkus, LinkedIn

What fuels Great Design, and why more companies don't do it - GoogleVentures

Five Fast Ways to test your startup idea -  PollJoy

Five Pitfalls of Running Lean Startup Experiments - Grace Ng, Javelin.com

When your plate is too full - ZenHabits.net

The Science of Music at Work - The Future of Business Collaboraition

There are no great people in this world,
only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet.
William Frederick Halsey, Jr.

Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself,
but talent instantly recognizes genius.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The nice part about being a pessimist is that
you're constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised.
George F. Will

November 13, 2014

How to start a startup: Lecture 16 - How To Run a User Interview

What can you learn by talking to users that you can’t learn by looking at data? What questions should you ask? How can user interviews define or redefine your product goals? Emmett Shear, Founder and CEO of Justin.tv and Twitch, gives us his take – How to Run a User Interview – in Lecture 16 of How to Start a Startup.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAws7eXItMk
And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

November 11, 2014

Software M/A Activity by Product Category

From SoftwareEquity.com

How to start a startup: Lecture 15 - How To Manage

You are not the only one whom your decisions impact.

Ben Horowitz, founder of Andreessen Horowitz, discusses this important management perspective that founders miss, with, of course, the gratuitous rap lyric or two sprinkled in. 

This lesson deals a lot with the culture that evolves from different management decisions.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVhTvQXfibU
And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

November 10, 2014


What does it feel like to be CEO of a startup?

Note that in the diagram below "Happiness" spends almost all of the time far below pre-startup levels. Note also that the "trough of sorrow" is long, and even gets worse before it gets better. 

Just about everyone who has been there, done that, will have some vivid memories of that period of time. It's a great question because you get some amazing answers. Kinda makes you wonder why anyone would do it if they knew it was going to be so consuming.

I figure that most people become a startup CEO without any idea what it will truly be like. 

Consider for a moment that taking on the role of a startup CEO is just about the easiest thing a person can do, at the outset. All you need to do is just start down the path. With that first step you become a startup CEO. 

Some may have been prepared for it to be tough, but then "tough" is relative, and unless they have experienced off-the-scale tough, then they can't imagine startup tough.

Investors would be smart to give preference to CEOs who have been through it at least once before.

Here are some of my favorite answers to the question about what it's like to be a startup CEO:

Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass 

and staring into the abyss of death.

Elon Musk

Starting a company is like throwing yourself off a cliff 

and assembling an airplane on the way down.

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn

Personal note: 
With significant experience as a pilot, and a serial startup CEO,
I totally agree with Reid Hoffman's take on how it feels,
except that I would add "... without instructions" to the end of his quote.

A startup feels like this. 
Now imagine driving 100mph with no lights.
Bryce Dot VC

For more on what it feels like to be CEO of a startup, check out these Quora answers.

November 6, 2014

How to start a startup: Lecture 14 - How To Operate (*****)

This is the best video lecture so far in the series. "How to Operate" is the thing that almost every startup CEO gets wrong, and it takes a lot of time and effort to get right. I agree with everything in this lecture. It's all about the details...

What should the CEO be doing on a day to day basis? How do you make sure the company is moving in the right direction? Keith Rabois, Partner at Khosla Ventures and former COO of Square, tackles the nitty gritty.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fQHLK1aIBs
And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

November 4, 2014

How to start a startup: Lecture 13 - How To Be A Great Founder

So you've learned how to get started, how to raise money, how to build products, and how to grow.

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn and Partner at Greylock Ventures, addresses many of the questions and confusions that might be cropping up.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ7ZvO5DpIw
And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

November 3, 2014

It's about Time

RescueTime, that is...

Your most valuable asset is Time, those moments and hours each day that slip by without notice, spent on, well, who knows what, right? And that's the point of this post.

"If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."

We waste a lot of time, but it's a vague feeling without any hard data to give us a reality check. What if we could actually see the exact amount of time we waste each day/week/month, and what we waste it on? I'll bet it would be a real eye-opener.

It was for me. I've been experimenting with RescueTime software and like it so much that I just upgraded to the Pro version. It's dirt simple to use because you don't really do anything. It runs in the background and watches what you do on your computer and results are displayed in a dashboard format. How easy can it be?

The reports are excellent. You can slice and dice your data and get graphs and summaries and drill-downs galore. I may not have been able to design it any better myself. And for that reason it give it a 5-star rating. Just do it.

I wish it could track the time I spend in the hammock, or playing Frisbee on the beach...  :)

Here's what PC magazine says in their review:

  • PROS
    Tracks all your computer usage, or only apps and sites you want. Can work across multiple Macs and PCs. Creates great reports. Graphs and charts contain information you can use to change behavior. Quick setup. Good default settings, excellent customization options.
  • CONSCharts and data only available in Web app; would be nice to have them locally available.
    RescueTime helps increase your productivity by monitoring your computer use and informing you when and how you're both productive and distracted. With excellent settings and customization, this app is aces.

November 1, 2014

How to start a startup: #12 - Building for the Enterprise

Aaron Levie (Box) - enterprise master, Twitter comedic genius. Today he'll convince you to Build for the Enterprise in Lecture 12 of How to Start a Startup.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFVDjrvQJdw
And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

Startup CEO reading for 11.2.2014

Mitch Russo
    The Invisible Call Center - this is big. I know this guy. Good man.  Highly recommend.

     4 Key Questions to Help You Get Ready for Angel Investors

    Relax. Be productive. Get Results in 5 steps.
    Business Strategy Advice: What makes a company's strategy bad?

    Whitney Sales’s Method on Startup Sales Strategy

New York Times
    What if Age is Nothing But a Mind Set? - (*****) this is an example of the power of the mind, and it applies to everything in our lives, not just "age".

    The Pros and Cons of Open Plan Offices

    The Top 10 Business Books  (according to 550 entrepreneurs)

Isn't it strange that a diet book is #8 on the above list of the best Business books? Hmmm...

You may want to know about some of my favorite business books, and that's why there's that tab at the top to this page, just below the photo, the one that says "Library".  Or you can browse my book store on amazon at this link: http://astore.amazon.com/fastmikie-20.

And, if you want to know what the rest of the world is buying in books about business and money, click here for the business best sellers on amazon.

October 29, 2014

How to start a startup: #11 - Hiring and Culture, Part 2

John Collison, and Patrick Collison, founders of Stripe, and
Ben Silbermann, founder of Pinterest,
are featured in this 11th lecture of How to Start a Startup, talking about Hiring and Culture, part 2.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8Dl8rZ6qwE
And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

October 26, 2014

Startup CEO reading list 10.26.2014

A few of my favorites

Trevor Owens:
     How to Sell Companies - audio interview with Jonathan Siegel on his 4th exit.

     Jorge Soto interviews Michael McCafferty: Entrepreneur, Sales, CRM
     7 Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople (repost from Nimble.com)

     Business Strategy lessons from fighter pilots - John Boyd was the best of the breed, and he was all business! His big contribution to both is his definition of the OODA loop:
Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

    What are 10 or fewer good habits that changed your life? - an excellent resource! Notice the same habits that are mentioned in many of the answers.

     The 7 financial KPIs that everyone needs to know

October 23, 2014

How to start a startup: #10 - Culture

Brian Chesky, Founder of Airbnb, and Alfred Lin, Former COO of Zappos and Partner at Sequoia Capital, talk Culture.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfWgVWGEuGE
And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

October 21, 2014

How to start a startup: #9 - How to raise money

Marc Andreessen, Founder of Andreessen Horowitz,
Ron Conway, Founder of SV Angel, and
Parker Conrad, Founder of Zenefits,
take Q&A on the topic of How to Raise Money, in lecture 9 of How to Start a Startup.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFX95HahaUs
And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

October 18, 2014

Pitch Deck Why

I see a lot of pitch decks. Most of them are awful. Seriously awful. The good news is that they can all be fixed.

What is fascinating to me is that the quality of the decks has not improved over time generally. How to create a pitch deck for startup investors is certainly a topic that is easily researched and documented on the web. There is no need to re-invent this even if you think you know better, or that your business is an exception. 

There are no exceptions. In that first presentation ("pitch"), you want to follow all the rules. If you want the soup, you gotta follow the soup-Nazi rules, or "No soup for you!"

Every once in a while I get the chance to review the elements of a good pitch deck with a friend. Recently, a very charismatic and successful entrepreneur who I have known for many years came to me with his new business pitch. In his long and storied career, this is the first time he is looking for investment. So he came to me for some advice and included 12 pages of typed documentation, no graphics. He said he figured I didn't want to read the entire 200 pages that he had, so he only sent me 12.

I thought that very considerate of him, and told him so in my reply which was essentially TL;DR.
Included in my reply were helpful links to resources that would give him the best advice on how to do a pitch deck for investors.

His next email had a pitch deck that was 29 slides long. Yikes! This guy is a friend, so I want to be gentle, so here's my reply to him. A lot of resources tell you WHAT to do but they don't explain WHY, so I thought I would do that in my reply and share it with you:

you are moving in the right direction.

cut out even more, and get it down to 10-12 slides.

here's the point:
the longer it takes to explain it,
the more complicated it sounds,
and the more complicated it sounds,
the more you lose them.

another reason it should be short
is because investors have to listen to lots of them,
and they don't want to waste any more time than necessary
on something that they know early on that they don't want to invest in.

they will know very early on, usually within about 2 minutes or less,
whether they are interested in YOU (first), and
your business (second),
and if they aren't, the rest of the 8 minutes of your 10 minute pitch...
well, that's just the investor being nice enough to continue 
to the point where he can cut you off and say that it's just not the kind of deal he does.

review that last email I sent you with the attachment about what should be in the slides
and the link that shows a video about an ideal presentation deck.

keep it short.
you can not get the money after 1 presentation.
the purpose of the presentation is to get them interested enough to take the next step.
what is the next step?
  usually, the next step is to want to know more.
  that's in another meeting, or with additional slides that you have with you, or that you have in reserve, but you do not want to present all the slides, tell all the story, in the initial presentation ("pitch").

pretend you are pitching them like you would some pretty girl who suddenly sits next to you at the bar.
you surely are not going to score on the spot, but you would like it to be as soon as possible.
if you take too much time getting out your story, she will lose interest and move on.
the next move will be up to her, so the best you can hope for is another meeting.

how are you coming with answering these questions that will be posed to you:
 these questions that angels will have are not answered:
     a. barriers to entry?  (competitors, now and future) patents?
     b. financial projections are unclear, need details
     c. do you have working prototype software, now, that you can demo?
     d. what % of the company does the 500k get them?

this whole process of entrepreneurs pitching to investors has progressed quickly over the past few years. it has reached the point now where the "best practices" are known and expected to be followed. the information on how to do these things is out there on the internet, and you are wise to research, know, and execute the process in the accepted ways, all in YOUR best interest so that you get what you want.

that's my best thinking so far.
i'm always enthusiastic about talking with you, 
so let's set up a phone call when you want.