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

December 15, 2014


The outcome (of your startup) is something like 

idea x product x execution x team x Luck

where Luck is a random number 

between zero and ten thousand.

Sam Altman
(President, Y Combinator)

December 14, 2014

Startup CEO reading for 12.14.2014

If not Now, When?

The 10x Product Launch Plan - Practice Trumps Theory

3 Qualities of a Great Leader - Berkonomics
    ( Laser Focus, Consistency, Maintain Forward Progress)

Why Products Fail - Practice Trumps Theory

Self Management Group - testing to evaluate new hires

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

What a man can be,
he must be.

December 10, 2014

Startup CEO reading for 12.7.2014

A great cup of coffee is the perfect companion while reading a chapter in your favorite book.
Click the "Company Library" link above for highly recommended reading, or look below for this week's selections.

The Lost Art of Software Testing - Scripting News

Startup Help - Spark59

Low aim is the biggest crime a man can commit.
Bruce Lee

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
Isaac Asimov

He who dies rich dies disgraced.
Andrew Carnegie

The true measure of a man
is how he treats someone 
who can do him absolutely no good.
Samuel Johnson

Achievement seems to be connected with action.
Successful men and women keep moving.
They make mistakes, but they don't quit.
Conrad Hilton

December 4, 2014

How to start a startup: Lecture 20 - Later Stage Advice

Sam ("Um") Altman, President of Y Combinator, caps off the How to Start a Startup series with things you should ignore when you start, but become important a year in.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59ZQ-rf6iIc

And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

December 2, 2014

How to start a startup: Lecture 19 - Sales and Marketing; Talking to Investors

Tyler Bosmeny, founder and CEO of Clever, starts off today's lecture with an overview of the Sales Funnel, and how to get to your first $1 Million.

Michael Seibel, founder of Justin.tv and Socialcam and Partner at Y Combinator, then goes over how to talk to investors - the pitch.

Dalton Caldwell, founder of imeem and App.net and Partner at Y Combinator, and Qasar Younis, founder of Talkbin and Partner at Y Combinator, then perform an investor meeting role play to give you a taste of how it actually might look behind the scenes.

Three segments in today's lecture - Lecture 19 of How to Start a Startup.

Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHAh6WKBgiE
And here's the link to the reading materials: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/lists/readings/

November 29, 2014

Startup CEO reading for 11.30.2014

The bluff at Del Mar Woods, Del Mar, California.

When I'm not reading, I like to walk here and enjoy the solitude and beauty of this place.
Linked below is the best of what I've been reading this week:

The Lost Art of Software Testing - Scripting News

Warren Buffett and His 20 Punches - Motley Fool

Startups Aren't Features - Steven Sinofsky

The Importance of After-Action Review Meetings - Results.com

The 5 Components of a Good Hypothesis - ProductTalk.org

Why Startups Die - TheNextWeb

A happy man is too satisfied with the present
to dwell too much on the future.

Whoever shares the greatest stories
rules the world.
Justine Musk

Let us remember that, as much as been given to us,
much will be expected from us,
and that true homage comes from the heart
as well as from the lips,
and shows itself in deeds.
Theodore Roosevelt

November 25, 2014

Startup Podcast, excellent

Podcast? Don't turn away because it sounds so boring. This is an excellent one!

If you like This American Life on Public Radio, you'll love Alex Blumberg, tells the story of his new venture making a podcast company. He's never started a company before, and this is his journey. Funny, explicit, and very educational. 

Subscribe now. 8 episodes so far.


November 23, 2014

Measuring Performance

The bottom line in business is achieving goals.  This requires, first of all, the definition of the goals. Clear goals must be written, and quantified with numbers and dates. This is necessary so that you can Measure your Performance according to the Plan.

"If you can't Measure it, you can't Manage it."

If you can't manage it, you are out of control.
Success in business is a lot like flying an airplane:
you MUST be in control, at all times.
You are either in control, or out of control.
There is no middle ground.
And it can change in an instant.
So it requires Focus.
Focus on the feedback that we get
from continuous measurements of performance against the plan.

The question then becomes whether we measure our performance against fixed (arbitrary, management created goals)) standards or relative (previous performance). Which is better?

Startup Compass scores again with this very thought provoking article summarizing some of their research on success in business:

How to drive dynamic decision-making and action: 

From fixed to relative performance contracts (Part 1)

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/

Startup CEO reading for 11.23.2014

The Real Key to Customer Loyalty and Retention - Stephen Lynch, Results.com

Why Bother with a Board of Directors? Dave Berkus (Board of Directors, not advisors)

Lean Startup Good Reads - Lean Startup Circle, Tristan Kromer

The Art of the Kickstart - because you don't have to give up equity or pay it back!

All progress is based upon a universal innate desire
on the part of every organism
to live beyond its income.
Samuel Butler

When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves,
it is useless to seek it elsewhere.
Francois de La Rochefoucauld

While we pursue happiness
we flee from contentment.
Hasidic proverb

When a man is willing and eager,
the gods join in.

I've had the privilege to be around some of the most successful people on the face of the earth, the best in the world at what they do.  The one common denominator is hunger. So I can't create that.  but I can unleash it in people.  I can trigger it.
Tony Robbins, Fortune Magazine interview, Nov. 17, 2014 issue

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/