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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

Let's All Work On The Last Startup We'll Ever Do


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8 years ago I decided that whatever startup I was going to launch would be the last startup I ever did.

I made this decision after launching 8 startups and realizing that creating a company as a "means to an end" was a shitty way for me to live.

I found myself in this constant cycle of being wildly preoccupied by "the next thing." Raising money for my startup was a means to a quicker exit. Killing myself meant I could finish this chapter faster, more successfully.

I had endless justifications for compromising my life because I could always "make it up later."

But what if there was no "later"?

This time around I decided to change it up.

I asked myself, "What if I picked what I wanted to do for the rest of my life NOW?" So instead of maki...



Article

Why We Plan Our Entire Business In 5-Day Sprints


  

There's an incredible amount of magic in having very little time to get things done.

That's why at Startups.com, with over 200+ people, we manage our entire workload based on what we plan on getting done by Friday. That's it. No long term planning sessions, no confusing Gantt charts or Trello boards. Just 5 days to get stuff done.

And damn it's effective.

Less Time = Less Room for Excuses

The problem with creating longer planning cycles is that every additional day, week, or month decreases the visibility and accountability for a single day of work. Our focus needs to be reducing the amount of time we can cheat on our time.

Imagine we wanted to lose 10 pounds this year. At lunch, we can order a cheeseburger, because hey, we have all year t...



Article

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


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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 ...



Article

Startup Founders Need to Learn Pacing, Not Sprinting


  

Startups feel like sprints in the beginning, but for any of us who have done this before, we've learned that it's a marathon.

We're judged by our speed when we start — and our endurance when, and if, we finish.

When Does "Pacing" Ourselves Start to Matter?

Not in the beginning. In the beginning, it's full sprint all the time — or at least that's the way it feels. We've got a headful of energy and we're ready to tackle every problem with longer nights and more stress.

But it doesn't take more than a year or two before those late nights and sustained stress start to run us down. Getting fired up over every last problem, and the stress that comes with it, begins to burn our cortisol levels to a dangerously low point.

At that point, the spr...



Article

Don't Work Long Hours, Work Efficient Hours


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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 ...



Article

Is It OK To Admit I Have Flaws?


  

We're all freaked out about sharing our flaws.

We're worried that employees, investors, customers and just about anyone else will think less of us. Maybe they won't invest, maybe they won't buy our products, or maybe they won't come to work for us.

Sharing our flaws is terrifying. But it's also one of the most liberating things we can do not just as Founders, but as the weirdo humans we all are.

You're the Founder/CEO of Startups — do you have flaws?

Geez, where do I begin?

I've been building startups for nearly 3 decades and I have tons of flaws. I've got massive ADHD (I can't even proofread this sentence without losing focus), terminal pain, crippling anxiety — and I can't dance to save my life.

For a long time I would have never even...



Article

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...



Article

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...



Article

What Problems DO Just Go Away With Time?


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Every Founder feels like their startup must be the one company that is a total shit show compared to how those other startups must be running.

We believe that if we can just get past this next set of challenges, things will finally be smooth sailing.

What we don't realize, especially if we've never done this before, is that the problems never really go away. It's just a never-ending "whack-a-mole" game with different problems.

Problems Don't Go Away — They Just Change Names

When we're small and scrappy, our problems are all about survival. How are we going to meet payroll? How are we going to land that one early investor?

They feel weighty and life-threatening — and to be fair, they are. But those formative years are stressful in the wa...



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