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ArticleWhat’s the Least a Founder Should Know About Finance?

What’s the Least a Founder Should Know About Finance?

A Founder that doesn't understand startup finance is a liability to the company.

The very survival of a startup comes down whether we have enough cash to survive. If the Founder can't answer that question, it'd be like hopping on a jet with a pilot that doesn't understand how to read the altimeter, compass, or fuel gauge. They might be a great pilot, but without knowing the fundamentals, that trip is going to end poorly.

Fortunately, Founders don't need an MBA in finance to be competent, we just need to understand a few basic principles very well. While I'm the Founder + CEO of Startups.com, I'm also our CFO. That's because I learned long ago that with a solid understanding of just a few key principles, we can make (and avoid!) really criti...



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...



ArticleSometimes Shrinking is the Right Move

Sometimes Shrinking is the Right Move

In the early years of my first startup we totally ran out of money. I remember sitting in my apartment staring at the ceiling thinking "how do we possibly recover from this?"

Then I had a (then) silly idea. What if I just took the whole staff down to just a couple of people and we ran "bare-bones" for a while? I recognized it was a big step back, but I was also thinking "I'd rather be alive and breathing than dead and bloated" (the former being a Pearl Jam reference, the latter being a Stone Temple Pilots reference — RIP 90's).

We made the hard decision of letting basically everyone go. We moved the office back to my apartment. We sold off furniture and office equipment. It sucked.

And then something really interesting happened.

All of a su...



ArticleWhere to Find Opportunities in a Recession

Where to Find Opportunities in a Recession

Recessions breed incredible opportunities for startups, if only us Founders knew where to look and how to leverage them.

At its core, a recession distracts everyone all at once, meaning only a select few will have the fortitude and foresight to find advantages. What we need to do during these times is step back and look at the overall picture to understand not just what's happening to us, but what's also happening to everyone else.

This is where the opportunity begins.

Our Competition is Totally Distracted

It's really hard for anyone to stay focused on growth when the walls are closing in around us. That's why most of our competition will be circling the wagons and staying completely fixated on internal struggles and survival. This is a gol...



ArticleHow to tell Investors “Sorry it didn’t work out.”

How to tell Investors “Sorry it didn’t work out.”

Breaking up with investors at the end of a failed startup journey is basically every Founder's worst nightmare. It's that awful conversation we did everything in our power to avoid. We rehearsed it over and over while starting at the ceiling at 3 AM. And yet, here we are.

How we break up with investors is as important as how we built the relationship to begin with. That's because in the startup world, building long standing relationships among key players, including investors, is all about treating those folks with respect at every step of the journey — even the shitty ending part.

We need to own the outcome

This is no time to point fingers. It was our job to create a successful startup; it didn't work out — we have to own that. This is th...



ArticleHow a Founder should Communicate in Crisis

How a Founder should Communicate in Crisis

Founders are rarely prepared for how to handle a legit crisis, like when the whole world turns upside down overnight.

I lived through 9/11 with 700 employees, raised multiple funding rounds in the middle of the 2007 Financial Crisis, and just for "funsies" oversaw the overnight shutdown of a startup with 450 people.

So yeah, I have some experience here.

What I've learned is when crisis hits, a solid approach to communication is one of the single most effective tools we can employ.

Cut the Bullshit

In times of crisis, no one wants to hear the sugar-coated version of where things stand.

"Hey Team, I know half of you have turned into flesh-eating Zombies, but the good news is there's way more La Croix for those of you who have survived!"

No...



ArticleWhat If The Founder's Personality Is A Startup's Liability?

What If The Founder's Personality Is A Startup's Liability?

During the early days of my first startup I stumbled upon a huge liability that was killing us quickly — me.

What's funny is no one else needed to have this discovery. The rest of the organization had figured out long ago that I was immature, combative, prone to anxious tirades, and generally a pain in the ass to work with.

And looking back, I'm probably being kind.

As a Founder (and CEO), every single one of those idiosyncrasies becomes amplified a hundred-fold because my liabilities to the organization become rooted in every decision we make, every interaction we have, and the entire morale of the company.

If we don't exercise some serious self realization — and do it quickly — we may be creating one of the biggest hurdles our organiza...



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 ...



ArticleDoes Having a Diverse Team Really Matter?

Does Having a Diverse Team Really Matter?

When it comes to building a startup, you are who you hire. Not only do the people you bring onto your team determine the direction and destiny of your product; they also shape what it will be like to come to work every day. So as you get started on the process of “who” your startup is going to be, we want to make sure you’re thinking about something major: team diversity.

What is team diversity?

Team diversity refers to differences between members of startup team. Those differences can include demographic differences (like age, race, sex, ethnicity), personality (extrovert, introvert, and differing Myers-Briggs types) and functional (as in skill sets, like engineering, design, copywriting, and marketing).

Types of diversity

When we think a...



ArticleWill Someone Steal My Startup Idea?

Will Someone Steal My Startup Idea?

The myth of the "stolen startup idea" somehow continues to live on, despite an insane lack of proof to the contrary. The thinking goes that if someone else hears our idea, they will simply take it and create a billion dollar business from it.

On paper (and in movies) that can happen. In reality, it's basically a Sasquatch myth.

Just having an "idea" for something accounts for nothing. Great companies aren't built because someone had an idea for something that no one else thought of — we all have novel ideas.

Great companies are built through an insane amount of dedication and execution that (rarely) leads to a big outcome.

By the way, plenty of people had the idea for a social network — and built them — before Facebook was ever "stolen."

...


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