It's really hard to convince people that money isn't the most important metric of a startup's success. Especially if those people happen to be investors, in which case, it actually is the most important metric.
But what we're talking about, as always, is what's important to Founders, and by extension to the people that work within that startup.
The broken part of the startup narrative has become this — "If it's growing fast and making money, it's successful, no matter what other costs are incurred."
I'd like to just go crazy for a moment and offer a new narrative — "If it's making everyone's lives geometrically better, then it's successful, and hopefully that means it's making money."
I know, I know. W...
Capital raising isn't about pitching investors, it's about getting in front of them to begin with. But how do we get introductions from investors if we don't know any?
We start with forming an Advisory Board.
The suggestion here isn't to form an Advisory Board specifically for raising capital — since there are a ton of benefits to having an Advisory Board. However, as a first step toward raising capital, it makes a ton of sense to surround ourselves with smart, well-connected people who believe in our product but also have been through the very gauntlet we're entering into. In the same way we'd hire a dev team to build an app, why wouldn't we round up a team of smart, well-connected Advisors to build our capital raise?
We don't need to be s...
TL;DR "I saw someone in your social network that I'd love to get an introduction to. How can I make that ask while making you feel good about doing it?"
Founders are really bad at asking for introductions.
On a daily basis I get a request that looks something like this: "Hey Wil, I see that you know , would you mind introducing me to them? I just had this idea 9 seconds ago and I'd love to see if they'd invest in me!"
Now, mind you, I make a living by helping Founders (my dream job) so making introductions is a huge part of my job. The problem isn't my willingness to make them, it's the inexperience of Founders in how to ask for an introduction.
As Founders, our ability to get introductions is the lifeblood of our growth. Here's how to do i...
Decoupling startup stress from our "regular life" is one of the biggest challenges we deal with as Founders. Running a startup isn't like working at a job. The startup is a part of who we are, so our stress feels like it's imprinted into our very DNA.
Yet, at the same time, if we can't decouple our startup stress and our home lives, we risk destroying both. What we need is an actual strategy for freeing up our minds so that we can actually enjoy both sides of our lives.
As Founders, we are awesome at attacking problems all day long at our startups. So why is it that we never isolate the problem of our "take-home stress" and attack it with the same intensity?
The first step is to isolate the problem as an actua...
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...
As a Founder, no matter what I've ever accomplished I've never been OK with where I am. It's weird, too, because I started out with so little that accomplishing anything was a huge win. And yet, I find that my anxiety exists in nearly ever Founder I meet.
It almost seems like the very drive and ambition that makes us great Founders also makes it very difficult for us to just kick back and enjoy the status quo. It's as if we're Kevin Arnold constantly reaching for the car door handle of accomplishment while our asshole older brother Wayne keeps hitting the gas pedal when we try.
When we had nothing but a dumb idea and a dream, the idea that this could turn into our day job was a massive milestone. ...
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.
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 ...
The biggest challenge Founders face when finding a co-founder is determining how much value they will truly add. We have to realize that in the formative stages of a company, we are in a very leveraged and vulnerable state. We don't have the funds to pay people, no one is clamoring to work with us, and we're pretty much all alone.
This is where we make some of the most costly mistakes we could possibly endure. We place all of the value on someone based on who happens to be available right now and then give them the most valuable currency we will ever create.
We do this in the name of progress, but are we really asking the right questions?
The moment we take on a 50% co-founder the business needs to ...
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:
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...
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...