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ArticleWhere was the entrepreneurial dinosaur when we needed him?

Where was the entrepreneurial dinosaur when we needed him?

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...



ArticleWhy Our Founder Reputation Matters

Why Our Founder Reputation Matters

Long after our startup is done, no matter what the outcome, our Founder reputations will live on.

And for many of us, that could actually present a real problem.

Unlike our resumes, which present essentially one dimension of our lives (our job performance), our Founder Reputation is built on how our performance affects so many people — employees, investors, customers, the media, and even our personal relationships.

Founder Reputations are Easy to Tarnish

From the get-go, we have two huge obstacles working against creating a great reputation.

First, we're about to build an organization that will likely (statistically) fail. It's sort of hard to build a winning reputation on the back of a potential failure that could result in the loss of job...



Article

The R&D technique for startups: Rip off & Duplicate

You don’t have to have an original idea for a startup. Original ideas are difficult. And unproven. What if you find a business model that you like, and improve upon it?

I’ve heard it a couple times since, but once I was listening to some podcast and someone said to do “R&D… rip off and duplicate.” Oh the hilarity, right? Usually R&D means research and development, but instead, this guy was talking about copying someone else’s work.

It’s fine to do that. And it happens all the time.

Don’t let the business model already existing out there stop you from creating a similar business of your own.

If the business model already exists:

  1. There’s probably a market for it
  2. People probably buy the service
  3. You can probably improve upon it

I say...



ArticleWe Need a Strict Definition of Personal Success

We Need a Strict Definition of Personal Success

As Founders, we spend an inordinate amount of time setting and pursuing goals, yet the ones that truly matter — the ones that affect us personally — are often amorphous. If we're spending every waking moment working toward a goal, it stands to reason that our goals should have an insane amount of fidelity.

We Tend to Suck at Goal Definition

If you ask a startup Founder what their goals for the startup are, they may say something like "To sell for a billion dollars!" But that's a pointless goal unless that Founder needs exactly a billion dollars (or their percentage of it) to achieve their goals. Also, if you have a plan for spending a billion dollars please call me - I want to hang out.

A better goal would be "I need $281,520 to pay off my ...



ArticleIs it Better to be Located in a Major City?

Is it Better to be Located in a Major City?

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:

Big City Connections are Life-Changing

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...



ArticleTreat Departing Employees like Future Employees

Treat Departing Employees like Future Employees

Last week I had a great conversation with a Startups.com employee who was leaving to join another company. During the conversation I repeated the same thing I've told hundreds of departed employees, "This isn't the last time we'll work together, so while I'm sad to see you leave, I'm pumped to team up again later."

Why would we tell someone that's leaving how excited we are to be working together in the future? Because if we've been in this game long enough, we realize how many of those relationships do in fact come around again... and again... and again.

As Founders, especially veteran ones, we begin to learn that every single person we work with is part of a larger "workforce" of future hires that becomes some of our most reliable talent...



ArticleLet's Define Success By What We Don't Have To Do Anymore

Let's Define Success By What We Don't Have To Do Anymore

What if we defined success by what we DON'T have to do anymore?

What if we didn't have to work with people we don't like? What if we never had to miss dinner with our kids? What if we never had to think twice about taking a vacation?

Does this sound like startup Shangri-la? I thought so, too, until 8 years ago. I decided to build Startups.com based on everything I never wanted to do again.

It fundamentally changed my life.

The List of "No" is Life Changing

It turns out that making a list of things we don't want to ever do is actually much easier than a list of things we are trying to accomplish.

That's because saying "no" is more immediate. We can say, "I'll take more vacations when I'm really rich" (the "someday" paradox), or we can say,...



ArticleForget Inventing New Ideas, Try Improving What's Out There

Forget Inventing New Ideas, Try Improving What's Out There

While the novelty of creating the next Facebook sounds amazing, the truth is we don't need to necessarily invent a product to bring a new innovation to market.

If we look closely, we'll see that some of the fastest-growing companies out there — Uber, Casper, Dollar Shave Club and dare I say it, WeWork — are all based on ancient business models with a new twist.

Start With This: "What's Wrong With Current Products?"

Look, Uber didn't invent taxis — they just simply asked, "What's broken about the taxi business?" (Well, the limo business initially but who's tracking?) Any of us would be hard-pressed to find an existing product or service that couldn't use a ton of improvement.

What customers care most about is the improvement. Maybe that's ...



ArticleDon't Work Long Hours, Work Efficient Hours

Don't Work Long Hours, Work Efficient Hours

Let me first admit: I am a recovering long-hour champion.

For nearly 3 decades, if you asked me how many hours I work, I would just say "All of them." I wore it as a badge of honor. For almost 20 years it never occurred to me that you could drive to or from work in daylight. For my first three years of my startup career I didn't see my family or celebrate Christmas.

Now let me admit what a colossal flipping waste of energy that was.

Yes, I created great startups and had some success. Yes, a lot of that "hard work" was necessary. But now, with the benefit of history and having watched thousands of startups go from zero to something, I've come to learn something:

Those long hours were a symptom of inefficiency, not a default badge of honor ...



ArticleHow Much Should I Budget For An MVP?

How Much Should I Budget For An MVP?

App development is not a straightforward process, despite how much "process" developers add to the equation. There are basically 3 things that are never working in our favor:

First, the idea is in our head, not in the developers head, so the translation is a huge, time consuming challenge.

Second, we're building an app that has never existed before, so we don't actually know how people are going to use it or what features are required.

And last, we're assuming that our developer is capable of completing a working app. All of these are giant issues that should give us pause (and keep our cash in the bank for a minute!).

Focus on Milestones

We have to think about building an app in stages — not the whole enchilada all at once. To do that, w...



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