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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...



Article

Forget Compensation, let's talk "Quality of Life"


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Would you rather make $200K with a shitty quality of life or $100K with an awesome quality of life?

In the startup world we all seem to understand that $200K is better than $100K, but we do a really lousy job of qualifying that difference based on what actually matters — our quality of life.

When we step back for a second, we may come to find out that "compensation" in strictly monetary terms, is a broken metric. We're all really trying to translate those dollar signs into how it will impact our quality of life.

So why don't we just start with what improves our quality of life and then figure out where money comes in?

What we really want is time.

Years ago at Startups.com, we instituted a work from home policy. At the time we were all sti...



Article

What Should We Teach Kids About Startups?


  

Imagine what would happen if we spent as much time trying to teach kids to become entrepreneurs as we did trying to get them to prepare for the SATs?

Let's remember that a disproportionate amount of our academic focus is around a series of standardized tests designed in an era where homogenizing the workforce was our number one goal (side note: it worked).

Now our goal is the polar opposite: differentiating our workforce. The only way our kids will succeed is if they can stand apart from others and chart their own course.

That's the essence of entrepreneurship, and it's something we can absolutely teach.

Why should we start with kids as entrepreneurs?

Kids are natural entrepreneurs.

They possess the most powerful skill any of us can have...



Article

Will Someone Steal My Startup Idea?


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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."

...


Article

Everything You Need to Know About Product-Market Fit


  

What is product-market fit?

While the term “product-market fit” gets thrown around a lot in the startup world, it’s not always very well understood. In fact, we can’t even agree on who created it! Some people say that the concept of product-market fit was first developed and named by entrepreneur and investor Andy Rachleff. Others give credit to famed investor Marc Andreessen, who at the very least popularized term product-market fit when he wrote about in a 2007 blog post. He said, “Product-market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.”

In other words: You could have an amazing, sophisticated, well-thought out idea — and people just don’t get it. (Think: That first focus group for Pied Piper on HBO’s ...



Article

Everything You Need To Know About Pitching Investors


  

The investor pitch. It's feared. It's desired. It's terrifying.

But don't worry: We've got you covered. Here's everything you need to know about that all-important investor pitch.

What should your investor pitch include?

Invisu.me Co-Founder and CEO Donna Griffit is a master pitcher who has helped countless founders distill their pitch down to exactly what they need — and nothing they don’t. She had the opportunity to sit in on a private pitching event where a delegation of startups had the opportunity give a five minute pitch and receive direct feedback from a group of top-tier Silicon Valley VC’s. (So top tier that she can’t even say who was there but, trust us, you will want to memorize this section before your next pitch.)

Here’s what ...



Article

How to Get the Best Auto Insurance Quote for Your Startup


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Shopping for personal auto insurance can be a pain, and it only gets more difficult when you’re shopping for your business. It’s almost like playing a game of chess against Bobby Fischer: No matter what you do or say, you still feel like you’re going to lose.

So how can you make it easier? When researching auto insurance options for your business, the first road you should take is one you’ve already been down. Start by investigating the provider you currently use for personal home, auto, and general business liability insurance.

Providers love to offer discounted monthly premiums to people who bundle accounts with them, and while commercial and consumer auto policies are two completely different animals, most companies provide both.

Get add...



Article

How Can I Creatively Pay My First Employees?


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Somehow the startup world has convinced people to work for "free" on a regular basis, with the theoretical benefit of some big payout on equity later.

The truth is, those bets rarely work and once the pixie dust of the new startup wears off, what's left is a bunch of frustrated employees who can't pay their bills.

Although we have little to no money to pay today, we should always try to incorporate some level of cash compensation, even if it's incredibly small, to help offset the cost of life that our team is going to inevitably face.

When our team is more focused on going broke than contributing, we're not really doing anyone a favor!

Use a Compensation "Ramp Up"

Compensation doesn't have to be "all or nothing."

Just because someone mak...



Article

What's Product Design?


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What is product design?

Product design is the entire process of taking a product from idea to customers — and everything in between.

“There’s a widespread misconception that design is all about aesthetics,” product designer Eric Eriksson writes. “Most people don’t seem to understand that it’s about solving problems instead.”

There’s another, more limited, definition of product design which we’re not going to explore in detail here. But basically, that other definition is talking just about how a product looks and functions. For the sake of product design for startups, we’re focusing on the more holistic, process-oriented definition.

What’s the difference between product design and product development?

While product design is part of produc...



Article

What Happens After I’ve “Made It”


  

I grew up ridiculously poor.

By the time I was 19, I founded my first startup, with less than $20 in the bank. I chose the one career that could somehow make me way, way poorer.

Within the first year I had racked up over $100,000 in personal debt, which took me from "poor" to "infinitely poor.” Today we call that college debt.

Sometimes "The Bet" Pays off

Within a few years some of the startup bets I had made began paying off.

Before I knew it, I was shopping for exotic cars, a new home (I was still living in a campus apartment at the time) and writing a single check to payoff all my college debt (a smaller check since I dropped out so quickly).

In my mind, I had made it.

But then a funny thing happened... nothing. Nothing at all. I woke...



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