Monthly Archives: June 2014

White Space is Everywhere

Title: White Space is Everywhere
Date: 2013-01-30
Speaker: John Lilly (Greylock)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
Everything is in play right now.You need to figure out the people you want to be on your team.
Find your tribe. Invest in the people that are in your tribe always.
Do what makes your soul sing.
People mostly don’t want change.
Being an entrepreneur is super hard.
It is important to do things that speak to you, feed your soul, and help you grow over time.
Growth is human and growth is key.
The job of a leader is to create other leaders.
Software needs architects just like buildings need architects.
You really tend to take the lessons from the first place you work through your whole career.
You learn more from successful companies than from failures.
Being a founder is a complex set of things.
You have to be successful enough that people see promise yet fragile enough that people think you need their help.
Nobody wants to join a thing where they don’t need you.
All venture capitalists do all day is try to find the best entrepreneurs they can and respond to as many entrepreneurs as they can.
Time is everything.
You need to understand the person you’re talking to. We all do things differently.
Anybody can be a great product person as long as you have the passion and the ability to follow up on the details of the product to make them great.
Everything is in play right now.
Almost every meeting you can learn something from.
The Internet is driving down costs to start.
Try hard to put yourself in situations that are hard.
Every VC responds best to the people they work with (in regards to pitches).

Drive Change Through Entrepreneurship

Title: Drive Change Through Entrepreneurship
Date: 2013-01-23
Speaker: Steven McCormick (Moore Foundation)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
An entrepreneur is an entrepreneur no matter what sector they're in.Overall managing a big enterprise in the nonprofit sector, the for-profit sector, and the government sector has a lot of similarities.
One of the biggest challenges in the nonprofit world is understanding how well you’re doing.
In a nonprofit keeping your eye on the prize is a challenge.
The culture of a nonprofit is very much, “We’re all in this together.”
Reach for the fences.
Foundations have no incentive to change.
The amount of money going into structured philanthropy is increasing dramatically.
The distinction between nonprofit organizations and for-profit organizations is going to blur.
What you measure gets managed.
An entrepreneur is an entrepreneur no matter what sector they’re in.

Startup School 2014 Notes

Still haven’t been able to make it to a Startup School but I’m very thankful to YC for streaming them live online. So much great content provided by the amazing speakers.

Shana Fisher (@shanaglick)
High Line Venture Partners and Board Partner, Andreessen Horowitz

What is today’s problem that you’re actually going to solve?
Go to YC to grow.
You want to take as much time as possible to build a perfect product.
Great design is all the same.
If you have something really breakthrough don’t worry about how it looks.
It is time to push past what everybody is starting to look like (design wise).
Focus on the iceberg of the product versus the surface.
Most people starting startups don’t know how to manage people.
You’re going to find yourself overwhelmed.
Diversity is really important.
Bring women into the company.
Diversity is critical to building great companies.
You’re building a team.
You should make mistakes early…so it is not at a mission critical time.
A startup is a very intense environment.
You’re managing people not just a product.
There is no greater value in what you do than if somebody is willing to pay.
You control your destiny when you control the money.
The equinox is that time between when it is acceptable to not be making money and when it is.
Investors invest in potential.
You’re only going to achieve as big as you do dream.
Dream big.

Fred Wilson (@fredwilson)
Partner, Union Square Ventures

We have certain opinions about what is interesting to us.
Entrepreneurs are the ones that generally come up with great ideas.
Explain things crisply and succinctly.
Explain what you’re doing without buzzwords.
Seed investors are really good at connecting to the potential of the team and the potential of the big idea.
At its core doing a startup is building a business.
Step one is getting product and market fit.
Each step along the way is building a business.
There is a lot of demand…to put money into startups.
Too little money will kill you and too much money will kill you.
Seed investing is local.
Investors have more of a comfort factor investing in regions with high startup density.
You should do a startup in the place that is best for you. There are twelve places in the world with enough of a startup density. Pick one of those.
Enterprise SaaS type of business models seem to be thriving in New York right now.

Zach Sims (@zsims)
Founder, Codecademy

The Internet is the great equalizer.
Being young or not being in New York or San Francisco doesn’t matter on the Internet.
You don’t know until you try.
Their YC application originally had too many words and not enough information.
It isn’t productive when your desk is a coffee machine box.
There are only 100,000 employed programmers in the U.S.
You should be embarrassed when you launch for the first time.
It is much easier to build for yourself.
It pays to not stop–to not die.
By 2020 there are going to be a million programming jobs.
You shouldn’t make excuses to get started.
All you need is a web browser and a text editor.
You should optimize for learning.
Startups are a roller coaster.
You have to be passionate on what you’re doing. That will make all of the difference.
There are new challenges at every step along the way.

Kathryn Minshew (@kmin)
Founder, The Muse

It is much, much easier to talk about successful growth rather than what comes before which is often failure.
Most startups are a work in progress. They are an evolution from suck to suck less.
When you are creating a marketplace it is a lot easier to have one side of the marketplace on there first.
Just ask for word of mouth.
If you ask people to tweet but don’t tell them what to tweet they won’t.
Content can become your best friend.
Make it work come hell or high water.
It is never possible to say, “We’re here. Our troubles are over.”
Just launch already.
Honor your word and just not contracts.
The startup community is very small and informal.
It is incredibly important to be known as somebody who honors their word.
Done is better than perfect. You have to start somewhere.
Ideas need to be out in the world.
The path gets a little bit clearer the more you move down it.
Be insanely persistent.
(When approaching partners) it is often about figuring out what you have, even if you don’t have much, that the other party is excited about.
Find people who share your values otherwise it will ruin your life.
Create velocity.
Think about not only what you’re going to create…but who are the right users. That is the difference between being dead and not being dead.
Build an amazing team.
Building a company is really, really hard.
There are so many things that motivate people.
You can hire from the deadpool (startups that are failing).
You cannot believe the hype.
Don’t compare your day-to-day with everybody else’s highlight reel.
It is very, very satisfying to smile at all of the people that told you you couldn’t do it.

Apoorva Mehta (@apoorva_mehta)
Founder, Instacart

Don’t build a product for people you don’t know about. Don’t solve a problem you don’t know if they have.
The reason to start a company should never be to start a company. The reason to start a company should be to solve a problem you really, really care about.
“Nearly impossible” means that it is possible.
As a founder you have to be extremely resilient. You have to go from failure to failure without losing steam.
Raising a seed round is one of the hardest things a founder does.
There are going to be hundreds of failures and hopefully some successes.
If you persist for long enough you may just get lucky.

Salary Fairy (@salaryfairy)
Office Hours

You have to focus on one tight little thing and then you can expand from there. (Sam)
Try and really find a metric that allows you to focus on how many people you can make a big difference for. (Sam)
It is way more important to build something a small number of users really love than a large number of users find somewhat interesting. (Sam)
You want to get to where your users are telling you they would be so bummed if your product went away. (Sam)
You need to be ten times better than other sites. (Sam)
You need to build growth into the product. (Sam)
You don’t want to have growth be an afterthought. (Sam)

Pair Up (@letspareup)
Office Hours

By hyperfocused when you start. (Sam)
Product matters a lot. (Gary)
Make sure that everybody who uses it has a good experience. (Sam)

Office Hours

Hyperfocus is definitely good. (Sam)
You need to find some way to grow this down the line. (Sam)
Stay focused on why people have this problem. (Sam)
It is very important to be disciplined about why this (product) will work. (Sam)
Make things as simple as possible. (Sam)
Until you get your first thousand users you’re really shooting in the dark. In the meantime it is going to be a lot of guesswork. (Sam)
Your friends are generally obligated to use your product. (Sam)
High activity rates are a good sign for startups. (Sam)

David Lee (@davidlee)
Founder, SV Angel

There has never been a better or more exciting time to start a company.
There are many different areas to explore as a startup founder.
There has never been a better time as a startup founder to seek finance.
The ups and the downs are gut wrenching.
The price you have to pay to do what you love for a living is a pretty steep price.
SV Angel looks at founders first and ideas second.
What they look for may be different than what other investors look for.
Have a good elevator pitch. Keep it simple.
The single most important skill for a founder is to be able to express their vision to other people.
University Avenue is the Time Square of startups in Silicon Valley.
Be able to express vision in a very authentic way.
The very best founders are great listeners.
Get to the root cause of why someone is saying no.
It is okay to go back and pitch again if you’re going from a different vector.
The only thing you should think about is that every investor needs to add value.
Value add means different things to different people. It depends on the founder, the market, and the industry.
As the founder you should be self critical of you and your company.
What are the knowns unknowns?
To raise money you have more choices than ever.
Never forget your reputation is your biggest asset.
Lead by example.
Control what you can control.
Have a list of everybody you want to meet who can help your company.
It is a lot of hard work to follow and do what you love.

Chase Adam (@ChaseAdam17)
Founder, Watsi

A lot of people have found a way to do good and do well.
Nonprofits are incredibly important. There are certain problems that markets and the government do not solve.
At any startup you feel like you’re standing on a house of cards.
Nobody wants to be first (to say yes to investing).
People are too nice and they don’t want to say no to you so they end up streaming you along.
Focus on one metric. There is always a single thing that is most important.
It is so easy to think that all the other startups are perfect.
The only thing separating you from success is hard work and not giving up.
Founding the initial team is so important.
Efficiency is their core value. It forces you to focus on what is most important.
Only hire people who are a hell of a lot smarter and a hell of a lot better (than you).
Every employee of Watsi raised ten times the amount in donations that they took in salary.
With growth comes challenges.
You have to invest in the future.
In ten years everybody on the planet is going to be connected for the first time in human history.
We’re in the process of transitioning from countries to the world.
Every person in the world matters.

Disruptive Innovation Can Happen Anywhere

Title: Disruptive Innovation Can Happen Anywhere
Date: 2013-01-16
Speaker: Hank Wuh (Skai Ventures)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
Entrepreneurship can take place anywhere, by anyone, in any subject matter.It takes as much time and energy to build something that is a game changer as it does to build something that is incremental.
Entrepreneurship can take place anywhere, by anyone, in any subject matter.
Corneas is the number one human transplant procedure in the world.
Big markets. Strong IP. Great management team.
Startups are difficult.
Everybody is different.
It is a rare moment when things all go well as an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship is a risky game.
You want to fail early so you can go on.
The worst thing is never taking a chance in the first place.
Always hire up (somebody smarter than you).

A Healthy Respect for Innovation

Title: A Healthy Respect for Innovation
Date: 2012-11-28
Speaker: Sue Siegel (GE)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
You've got to be authentically you.Transitions are the most ambiguous times of your life.
Assume noble intent.
Stand behind your product. Be truthful. Be accountable.
If you’re leading you need to hire. You also need to fire.
Fundamentally innovation is the important element.
You’ve got to network like crazy.
If you’re a workaholic it is a problem.
(Being a workaholic) is the only sickness that gets condoned around the world.
Network. Network. Network. Let people get to know you.
You’ve got to be authentically you.
You’ve got to find the environment that really, really makes you feel great.

Pursue Passions with a Vengeance

Title: Pursue Passions with a Vengeance
Date: 2012-11-14
Speaker: Melinda Gates (Gates Foundation)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
It is really true innovation that is going to live people up all over the planet.All lives have equal value.
It is really true innovation that is going to lift people up all over the planet.
You have to push through the frustration.
Computer science is like a puzzle but there is not a closed-end solution.
Figure out what your passion is and pursue it with a vengeance.
Gather experts around you in fields you’re uncomfortable in.
Do something now.
If you believe in innovation there are things you can do to change the world.
Margaret Mead said, “Never underestimate the ability of a group of committed individuals to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
A great teacher makes an enormous difference in a student’s learning.
Students do know if they have a good teacher.

Path and Purpose of a First-TIme CEO

Title: Path and Purpose of a First-TIme CEO
Date: 2012-11-07
Speaker: Jess Lee, Peter Fenton (Polyvore)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
We spend a lot of time idolizing the people who have arrived and not enough time studying the people on their ascendancy to greatness. (Peter Fenton)
Take the more challenging path.There is a value chain in any industry. (Peter Fenton)
The CEO is the editor-in-chief. (Peter Fenton)
There are far fewer ways to succeed than there are to fail. (Peter Fenton)
Success is its own unique breed of an education. (Peter Fenton)
The transition to CEO is a big one. (Peter Fenton)
The role of a CEO shifts from building the product to building the team that builds the product. (Jess Lee)
There are two types of people that come to be CEO. Those that want to be CEO and those that earn the title. (Peter Fenton)
A common mistake that entrepreneurs make is to be too slow to have someone leave. (Jess Lee)
Personal taste is incredibly arbitrary. (Jess Lee)
Taste is always evolving. (Jess Lee)
The little human touches make a lot of difference. (Jess Lee)
A company of thirty people is radically different than a company of 150. (Peter Fenton)
Take the more challenging path. (Jess Lee)
It is so much better to do a few things well than many things poorly. (Jess Lee)
Identify the one thing that matters and make it as great as possible. (Jess Lee)
Don’t go it alone. (Jess Lee)
If you don’t have an idea you’re passionate about it is hard to get through the ups and downs. (Jess Lee)
The first step (of conflict resolution) is always to get people focused on the right goal. (Peter Fenton)
It is better to move in a direction than it is to not move at all. (Jess Lee)

The Founder's Dilemmas

Title: The Founder’s Dilemmas
Date: 2012-10-31
Speaker: Noam Wasserman (HBS)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
Just because you are founding does not mean life events will stop happening to you.Failure is a fact of life.
A high percentage of startups are going to fail.
The interpersonal and the human are the key reasons why ventures fail.
Teams that are friends and family are the least stable of all of the teams.
If you split (equity) early on the chances are a lot higher you’re going to do an equal split.
Use if-then-else in your equity split agreement.
Founders focus on the best case scenario.
You’re going to pivot, on average, three times.
Just because you are founding does not mean that life events will stop happening to you.
Don’t underestimate the uncertainties.

Impact: Stanford Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Title: Impact: Stanford Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Date: 2012-10-24
Speaker: Steve Garrity, Roelof Botha, Kit Rodgers, Divya Nag, Heidi Roizen, Chuck Eesley, William Miller (Stanford)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
You still have a chance (to be an entrepreneur) when you’re old.
(Entrepreneurship) is a career choice.
Writing and communicating is tremendously valuable.
If you’re in school line up your classes with your business. (Take a marketing class for your marketing, etc.)
Book: The Hypomanic Edge
There is a high correlation between the way entrepreneurs describe themselves and how hypomanics describe themselves.

Timing Matters

Title: Timing Matters
Date: 2012-10-17
Speaker: Geoff Yang (Redpoint Ventures)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
Anybody who is not paranoid is going to end up getting eaten.Your time is arguably a more valuable resource than money.
Entrepreneurs are extraordinary.
Entrepreneurs really aren’t created. They’re compelled.
It is idea first. The idea compels the founder.
You have to have a passion for it.
Entrepreneurs have a driving passion to change the world.
One of the attributes of winning entrepreneurs is the ability to see patterns where others see chaos.
You have to have the ability to articulate (the vision).
You don’t want an entrepreneur who won’t solicit advice.
Anybody who is not paranoid is going to end up getting eaten.
Be able to recognize and support your own weaknesses.
By the time you get all of the information it is too late.
In an early stage company you don’t have the luxury of time.
Don’t linger on bad decisions.
Sweat the details.
Not all entrepreneurs are great leaders.
You have to be able to share responsibility and successes because if you can’t share responsibility and successes you can’t share failure.
You win as a team.
Never give up.
Personalization is really important.
The ability to create a market is very interesting.
In any given market the market leader has 50% market share.
Venture capital isn’t for everybody.
Once you start (with VC) there is no going back. It becomes a marriage.
“Customers are always right” is kind of true but not always. Customers don’t have any vision.
Entrepreneurs see order where others see chaos.
Customers are not always right.
When the board makes decisions it is time for a new CEO.
Never compromise on people.
Be flexible.
Think huge.
Don’t focus on dilution. Focus on outcome.
Learn from others who have gone before you.
Data is huge.
All great entrepreneurs have a product mentality.