Monthly Archives: February 2015

Tackle Projects Others Don't Want

Title: Tackle Projects Others Don’t Want
Date: 2014-10-22
Speaker: Matt Rogers (Nest)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
Being an entrepreneur is a very lonely place.A lot can happen in ten years.
Growing up with technology at a young age changes your mindset on how you interact with the world.
If somebody gives you a really hard problem get excited and figure out how to solve them.
Nothing ever works the first time.
Internships are super important. You’ll learn a ton.
Manufacturing is really important.
Things that people don’t care about are really important.
Doing the end-to-end in technology is really complicated.
Don’t chase the money. How much you raise is not important. What is more important is who you work with.
Being an entrepreneur is a very lonely place.
Surround yourself with a team that augments your weaknesses.
Always be working on the next thing because the chances are you competitors are going to be working on your first thing.
There are very few new brands that reach mass.
PR only gets you so far. At some point you need to reach the mass consumer.
You can’t do it alone.
Investing in new things that may never pan out is not something big companies do often.
Plans do change. The key is to have a plan.
You want to make sure you believe in what you’re doing.
When you build a product for yourself it is not always the right product.
Build a product for consumers. Know who they are.
When your team is small every single person matters.
The business world is 1% strategy and 99% tactics.
Don’t be afraid.
It is okay to take risks.
You should be measured with your risks.

An Episode For Those Who Need a Business Idea

TMBA278: An Episode For Those Who Need a Business Idea
Date: 2015-01-22
Link: Tropical Talk Radio
Tropical MBAWhen you need business ideas the most you can’t seem to come up with them.
When you have a business you have to many other business ideas you can’t get to.
A lot of times things go from services to products.
Engage with your target market right away.
Opportunity doesn’t sell businesses. Fear sells businesses.
One of the best uses of money is to buy your time back.
Don’t hesitate to come up with your own certification.

From Inspiration to Implementation

Title: From Inspiration to Implementation
Date: 2014-10-15
Speaker: Tina Seelig (Stanford University)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
There is no right answer. It is up to you to chart your course.Imagination is the ability to envision things that don’t yet exist.
Creativity is applying your imagination to solve a problem.
Creativity is the application of your imagination.
Innovation is applying your creativity to come up with a unique solution.
Entrepreneurship is applying innovation to bring ideas to life.
Entrepreneurship, to be successful, requires you to inspire the imagination of other people. You can’t do it alone.
You need to start with engagement.
Most people do not pay attention.
Many people don’t know they have a passion until they are engaged with something.
You need to engage before you can envision.
Creativity requires motivation and experimentation.
True entrepreneurs are quiltmakers.
You can start small.
Reframing is when you start looking at a problem from all different angles.
The question you ask is the frame into what the answers will fall.
Entrepreneurship requires persistence and inspiring others.
Starting anything is incredibly hard.
You cannot bring ideas to life by yourself.
With any job you’re not getting a job you’re getting the keys to the building.
Focus on a few things where you can make a big contribution rather than focusing on everything and doing a mediocre job.
If you ask permission you’re just transferring the risk to somebody else.
Being a student is a pretty risk free environment.
Instead of thinking of yourself as a risk-taker think of yourself as someone who is a big thinker with big ideas.
If you’re not engaged and paying attention you’re missing opportunities.
If you’re not failing sometimes you’re not taking enough risks.
Mine failures for learning.
Knowledge is a toolbox for your imagination.
There is no right answer. It is up to you to chart your course.

How to Plan a Conference

Episode 213 | How to Plan a Conference
Date: 2014-12-02
Link: Startups for the Rest of Us
Startups for the Rest of UsThe size of the conference can impact where in the world you can have it.
Think about the cost to the attendees. Be aware of the total cost of going to the conference.
You’re on the hook for a minimum number of rooms in addition to a minimum food and beverage cost.
In Europe it is substantially less to have it on the weekend. In Vegas it is substantially more to have it on the weekend.
In Vegas most hotels have some sort of resort fee.
Hotels that aren’t owned by big corporations will be more willing to negotiate with you.
Event space is different than meeting space. Event space has higher ceilings and gives it a different feel.
You want an elevated stage with a podium on it. You want large projector screens.
Have a prearranged event every night.
But the first drink for everyone.
Have an appetizer.
Different people have different dietary needs.
At least one talk is going to tank every year.
You want to have one of your best speakers go first and one of your best speakers go last so your conference starts on a high note and ends on a high note.
Have a speakers dinner.
You have to have a solid value proposition for sponsors.
Have a rate card for the sponsors.
Have somebody who is working with you on the conference in a major capacity.

How to Prioritize Feature Requests

Episode 212 | How to Prioritize Feature Requests
Date: 2014-11-25
Link: Startups for the Rest of Us
Startups for the Rest of UsIf you’re going to go business to consumer you kind of need good luck and some real sense of product.
Consumers don’t necessarily know what they want before you show it to them.

  1. Is a prospect asking for the feature?
  2. Is a customer asking for it?
  3. Is someone on your team asking for it?
  4. Do you think it will shift your product into a new market?

A prospect’s feature request tend to be the most important because they haven’t paid you money yet and their time is very limited.
A lot of this is dependent on the price point and the stage in the company you are at.
A higher priced point product has a much longer sales cycle so it give you more time (to implement requested feature).
If customers have trust in you they aren’t likely to jump ship quickly.
Ask yourself if the feature request fits in with your vision of the product.
Things that most people will not  use should not be very visible in the UI.

The Power of Not Knowing

Title: The Power of Not Knowing
Date: 2014-10-08
Speaker: Liz Wiseman (Author)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
When you know nothing you're forced to create something.Intelligence’s sibling is practical know-how.
Intelligence represents promise of the next big thing as well as safety and comfort particularly in an industry where things don’t stand still for very long.
In a technology company nothing is more important than technology transfer.
When you know nothing you’re forced to create something.
Focus on the basics.
Don’t assume anything because often we don’t know anything.
Experience creates a number of blind spots.
When we know the pattern we start filling things in. We start answering questions before they’ve been asked. We stop seeing new data points. We stop seeking feedback and input. We stop seeking new opportunities.
The most powerful form of learning comes when we are desperate.
Rookies are often a lot faster than people with experience.
Where we work in the space of the unknown is where we feel our greatest joy.
Spend zero time in jobs you’re qualified for.
Shop for a boss or be a boss.
Rely on your own brilliance.

Optimal Traits and Sustainable Advantages

Title: Optimal Traits and Sustainable Advantages
Date: 2014-10-01
Speaker: Kevin Hartz, Julia Hartz (Eventbrite)
Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
Complacency is death. Be in pursuit of relentless evolution.What kind of industry can you disrupt with technology?
It isn’t about disrupting it is about democratizing.
The advent of technology will make it easier for people to gather offline.
Learn by doing.
Just start building.
Capital is always there when you don’t need it. When you desperately need it it isn’t available.
Focus on being customer centric in the early years.
There is a huge opportunity to bring on talent that is way more brilliant than yourselves, in more ways than you could possible imagine to focus on, in the beginning.
Understanding where you can access talent is extremely important.
E-commerce was defined by bad customer service, high fees, and little to no innovation.
Have healthy paranoia.
Things can shift quite rapidly in our world.
You should always be expecting the worst.
Think about how you can continue to increase your efficiency.
Complacency is death. Be in pursuit of relentless evolution.
Any founder has a little bit of crazy.
It is how you treat people and how you make them feel that makes all of the difference in the world.
When you’re a co-founding team of three you shouldn’t be overlapping. Hopefully you have complementary skills.
It is important to have clearly defined roles in leadership.
Culture keeps you centered. It should be a centering force for you and your team.

Do What Makes Your Soul Sing

(This is the preface to Do What Makes Your Soul Sing which is my latest free collection of notes on the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series.)
Do What Makes Your Soul SingPassion is one of the most common themes in the eight years of Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders talks I have taken notes on. It is also an idea that I give a lot of thought about in my life but in a way that creates negative emotions. Why? Because much of our everyday lives is dominated by work, chores, and other obligations we are not passionate about.
With enough wealth one can offload those tasks in their lives to free up time to dedicate to the things they are passionate about. But the rest of us do not have it so easy with 9-to-5s, kids, a mortgage, and other demands on our time and resources. The question of how to integrate passion in our lives is more difficult.
Defining what you are passionate about is the the first step in answering that question. The answer to that probably lies somewhere near the intersection of two other questions: If you won the lottery and did not have to work what would you do with your days? What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Figure out what your passion is and pursue it with a vengeance. – Melinda Gates (Gates Foundation)

If I was already wealthy I would probably fish and golf more often. I love playing with my kids. However I know I would still have the urge to create. The past fifteen years my passions have been writing, filmmaking, cooking, programming, and trying to start and grow a business. I would spend even more times doing those if I did not need to trade my time for money to support my family.
If I knew I could not fail then building a business would be the thing I would focus upon. I love the idea that you can build something that generates wealth by helping others do the same.

If you can make other people successful you can make the world a better place. – Tim O’Reilly (O’Reilly)

And you know what? I won’t fail. With a long enough time horizon I can only succeed.

Have long-term time horizons. – Stephen Cohen (Palantir)

Finding success is going to require putting in the time. Circumstance is not always forgiving to freeing up time on the calendar. Time management (read the book Getting Things Done) is important. Mood is equally important.

Choose whatever version of reality that puts you in the most useful mental state. – Olivia Fox Cabane (Author)
Don’t linger on bad decisions. – Geoff Yang (Redpoint Ventures)

Overall my advice is to indulge your passion at least once a day in some manner no matter how small. If your passion is a charity then maybe it is saving a dollar or planning a fundraising party. If your passion is fishing then maybe it is tying a fly or organizing your tackle box (I did this at least weekly as a boy). Right now I try to do one thing every day that pushes my business forward.
Doing that makes my soul sing at least once every day.

Later-stage Advice

Lecture 20: Later-stage Advice

Link: How to Start a Startup

(You can find notes to the other lectures here.)

Sam Altman (@sama)

How to Start a StartupIn most companies of under 20 to 25 employees most are structured with everyone reporting to the founder. That is what you want at that stage.
When lack of structure fails it fails all at once.
What works at 20 to 25 employees fails disastrously at 30 employees.
All you need if every employee to know who their manager is, and there should be exactly one, and every manager should know who their direct reports are.
The most important thing is that there is clear reporting structure and that everybody knows what it is.
Clarity and simplicity are the most important things.
Before product/market fit your only job is to build a great product.
The biggest shift is being a founder is moving from building a great product to building a great company.
The wrong answer is to stay in hero mode until you burn out.
Write down how you do things and why you do things.
Codify how you do things.
People need to know how they are doing pretty quickly.
One thing that is important when it comes to H.R. is equity.
Equity is one area where investors always give bad advice.
Always stay in front of people’s vesting schedules.
Get an options management system in place.
When you cross 50 employees there is a new set of HR rules you need to comply with.
Monitor your team for burnout.
Have diversity in hiring early. You’ll be able to ramp up hiring more quickly in the long run.
Small teams are naturally productive most of the time.
It is important to keep reiterating the message about the road map and the goals.
You never want to put a process in place that rewards the process. The focus has to always be on great product.
All-hands meetings should be at least once a month.
The single hardest thing in business is building a company that does repeatable innovation and just has this ongoing culture of excellence as it grows.
Eleven months after launching you should file for provisional patents.
Very few founders thing long term.
Take vacations.
Ignore acquisition interest.
Startups fail when founders quit.
Don’t outsource the key messaging.
The biggest PR hack you can do is to not hire a PR firm.
Pick three or four journalists that you establish close relationships with.
Developing a personal connection with anyone you’re trying to do any sort of deal with is really important.
The way you get deals done and get good terms is to have a competitive situation.
You have to ask for what you want.
You want diversity of background. You don’t want diversity of vision.
Hire people that are complementary and aligned towards the same goal.
If you don’t want to be the long term CEO of a company you probably shouldn’t start one.

How Does Location Independence Affect Relationships and Families?

TMBA277: How Does Location Independence Affect Relationships and Families?
Date: 2015-01-15
Link: Tropical Talk Radio
Tropical MBAWith a family there is more than just an individual you’re dealing with.
With the referral network it is out of sight out of mind.
Travel with family brings on stress.
Travelling with kids is trading stress you have at home for a different stress.
Do research on climate.