How to Operate

Keith Rabois, Partner at Khosla Ventures and former executive at PayPal, LinkedIn, and others talks about how to forge a company, which in many ways is more difficult than forging a product.

The talk is full of great advice and probably the most densly packed of this series so far, which will explain the quantity of notes below. One drawback is not being able to cover the nuances of the advice. The answer to the final question at 44m52s demonstrates how the seemingly contradictaroy advice of Insist on Focus and Details Matter is resolved. I found the analogy of barrels and ammunition at 14m11s to be very vivid and an important concept.


Keith Rabois – @rabois

Notes

  • 0m18s – forging a company more difficult than forging a product becaues people are irrational
  • start with cleanly aritechtected engine but reality is messy and full of hacks in the beginning
  • ultimately an effecient well organized and self-running organization is the goal
  • build a company that idiots could run because eventually they will
  • 1m38s – manager’s output = Maximize output of organization and organizations around you
  • recommended book: High Output Management by Andy Grove
  • motion is not same as progress
  • 2m43s – # Triaging: in beginning every day there is a new problem
  • something is low priority; others look low priority but could be potentially fatal
  • 3m19s – # Editing: an editor is best metaphor for job of CEO (as opposed to writing)
  • first thing an editor does is take out red pen and eliminate things; clarify and simplify for empoloyees
  • don’t accept excuse of complexity; you can change the world in 140 characters
  • “think different”, “1000 songs in your pocket”, etc.
  • simplify every marketing initiative, product, everything you do
  • 5m14s – # Clarify: find ambiguity and ask questions to clear up understanding
  • when you can eliminate unnecesary steps, you can improve performance 30 – 50%
  • 6m20s – # Allocate resources: can be top down or bottom up
  • people who work with you should come up with their own initiatives
  • goal overtime is to use less ink over time
  • 7m41s – # Ensure Consistent Voice: any product communication should feel like it was written by the same person
  • initially it is ok for founder to be that voice, but overtime you don’t want to be the one doing all the voice editing yourself
  • 9m04s – # Delegate: you shouldn’t be doing most of the work, but you are still responsible for everything
  • Abdicate v. micromanagement – both sins
  • 9m55s – Task-relevant Maturity – low v. high
  • your management style needs to be dictated by your employee
  • 11m15s – 2×2 decision grid: level of conviction (high v low); Consequence of Decision (low v. high)
  • low, low = Delegate fully; high, high = step in. decide. overrule.
  • high, low or low, high = ?
  • important to try to explain the why of your decisions
  • 14m11s – # Edit the team
  • Barrels and ammunition – most people, even great people are ammunition; what you need in your company is barrels to increase performance, velocity, firepower. you can only shoot through the number of unique barrels you have.
  • Add barrels, then stock them with ammunition
  • Barrels are incredibly difficult to find; when you do, give them lots of equity, promote them, take them to dinner every week; they’re virtually irreplaceable
  • Barrels are very culturally specific (barrel at one company might not be a barrel at another)
  • 16m01s – How do you figure out who is a barrel and who isn’t?
  • start with a small task as a test; smoothie test; expand scope of responsibilities until it breaks; keep pushing the envelope
  • watch who goes up to other people’s desk, particularly people they don’t report to; if you see that consistently, those are your barrels; they are building network to get things done
  • 18m12s – # Scaling: when do you hire someone above somebody; when do you mentor somebody?
  • every company has it’s own growth rate; every individual has they’re own growth rate
  • LinkedIn was slow (20 to 50 employees after 2yrs); Square was faster (20 to 300 after 2yrs); if employee’s learning rate steeper than companies growth rate then you can keep them in that role, else need to hire above
  • 19m17s – # Insist on Focus: where you point those barrels
  • Peter Thiel would insist on focus of individual; focus on one thing until you conquer it
  • A+ problems are hard and people procrastinate and instead solve B+ and lower problems; adds value and growth but not as much as if everyone were working on A+ problems 100%
  • 21m07s – # Metrics and Transparency: can’t make all decisions yourself so need ways to measure and track; dashboard
  • you as CEO need to draw out what metrics of success are; key metric of success is what percentage of employees use that dashboard
  • transparency – metrics first step, board decks review with employees (less compensation ok); every meeting with 2 or more people summarized in notes and sent to notes email alias so everyone could track what was going on; every conference room at square has glass walls; stripe give entire company access to all emails; compensation transparency (experiment)
  • 24m51s – # Gathering and Simplifying Information: goal is to predict output to enable you to adjust; measure output not activity; pairing indicators – measure effect and counter effect (e.g. fraud rate v. false positive rate to force innovation)
  • want to look for anamolies; paypal found ebay power users asking to be paid with paypal; at LinkedIn found high click rate of own profile tied to emotional vanity, helped clarify what users wanted;
  • 28m30s – # Details Matter: don’t focus on building billion dollar business, etc; that is by-product of getting all the details right
  • Bill Walsh took 49ers from worst to 3 superbowls over 10 years by starting with teaching receptionist how to answer the phone in 3 page memo
  • Details matter; debate is on items that don’t face the user
  • Example of Steve Jobs’ insitence of perfection of Mac curcuit board even though it couldn’t be open
  • Example serving bad food results in gossip and complaining instead of working, collaborating, brain storming
  • task rabbit leader: take distractions away and give people tools to be successful
  • you need to look for office space yourself; where people work everyday dictates culture and many other factors, how hard people work
  • effort: need a lot of effort to build a company and you need to lead by example
  • 32m32s – # Q&A
  • # How do you implement transparent compensation?
  • Few ways; one is with bands or tiers such as low experience ($85K) and high experience ($130)
  • 32m27s – # What kind of details do people care about?
  • Nice laptops, best possible tools, how do can you make people more successful
  • 34m15s – # How do you manage for best tools when have scare resources as start up?
  • Start with having your own office for company (not shared with other company) to create “cult”-like experience; figure out what’s most important; office very important
  • Can tell a lot about a company by their office space; how hard they working; how distracted they are
  • 35m55s – # What is best way to to gain street cred for a new manager?
  • Being excellent at something, then being promoted by merit; PayPal didn’t hire general managers, instead promoted best of each department to not demoralize other employees; can teach them to manage but hard to transition for individual contributor to manager (hardest is time allocation); get a mentor to focus on you
  • 38m03s – # How to have single voice?
  • Look at every piece of copy in every department; recruiting website; customer support (treat customer support like a product); cross-train different high-level executives (hires from Apple v. Google)
  • 39m12s – # What are some tactics of how do you manage people?
  • Have one-on-one roughly every week or two; only have 5 to 7 direct reports; agenda should be crafted by employee not manager, benefit is for employee; for strong competent employee could push to once every two weeks but never less frequently than monthly
  • 40m28s – # When do you compromise and hire more ammunition rather than a barrel?
  • You will hire more ammunition than barrels, question is ratio; engineering 1 barrel to 10-20 ammunitions; designers little different
  • avoid empire building philosophy in manager/barrel making hires by gauging performance as output divided by direct reports and be explicit; effect is number of direct reports will not grow until absolutely necessary
  • 41m56s – # How often do VC meet with company?
  • When leading a series, generally meet with founders every 2 weeks; and on ad-hoc basis for good and bad news
  • Meeting: tell me your problems; then have you tried this/ that; have you talked to this person; etc
  • 43m19s – # How do you prioritize recruiting?
  • Depends but if #1 priority then about 25%;
  • calendar audit for CEOs: ask them to rank priorities, then look at calendar; never matches
  • 44m52s – # How do you harmonize details matter with only focus on single A+ objective?
  • there is some tension; underlying philosophy of getting details right important to install in very beginning then new hires have and grow so that CEO is never the one doing it; culture is like that; culture is framework for making decisions

Additional Reading

Series

How to be a Great Founder

Reid Hoffman, Partner at Greylock Ventures and Founder of LinkedIn discusses how to be a great founder. He talks about creating an investment thesis and then using that as a guiding framework for navigating difficult decisions.

The talk starts off somewhat academic at first and every anwser seems to be, “it depends” but by the end of the lecture after many examples and metaphors the key concepts become more apparent.

Reid Hoffman – @reidhoffman

Notes

  • Perception: founder as superperson able to do all things, well rounded, diverse
  • 2m – Reality: founder deals with variety of problems; no one is good at everything
  • 2m37s – difficult to tell difference between madness and genius
  • 3m20s – skills important to founders
  • 3m53s – # How should I think about my founding team?
  • two or three founders to cover diversity of problems
  • 5m41s – # Where should I locate my startup?
  • where ever network effects are greatest for industry/ type of business
  • 9m55s – # Should I be contrarian?
  • contrarian is relative to an audience
  • think about how smart people disagree and what do you know that works out to be true
  • 13m35s – # When should I do the work versus delegate?
  • need to do both; sometimes one at 100% sometimes other, sometimes both
  • 14m17s – # Should I be flexible or persistent?
  • both and know when to do one or other
  • investment thesis: why you think this is a good idea, including why it might be contrarian
  • is confidence increasing (stay on track) or decreasing (pivot)
  • 16m – # Should I be confident or cautious?
  • hold belief but be smart enough to listen to feedback
  • 16m43s – # Should I focus internally or externally?
  • answer is both; part of what makes great founder is be confident across this both cases and know how to decide
  • 17m29s – # Should I work by vision or data
  • data only exists within framework of vision and influence each other
  • PayPal vision and evolution of vision
  • 19m17s – # Should I take risks or minimize risks?
  • have to be risk taker, on the other hand, how to take focused intelligent risk; minimize other risks
  • PayPal palmpilot payments pivoted to pay by email
  • 22m57s – # Should I focus on the short term or long term?
  • both; jump between them
  • planning and executing: product, product distribution, financing
  • 24m45s – # How do I know if I may be a great founder?
  • should have some super powers, technical capability, leadership bringing good people in,
  • most important: be able to recognize if on track or not, belief and paranoia
  • 25m29s – # How do I evaluate myself as a founder
  • 25m53s – founders can be very diverse of characteristics and background (gender, age, race, etc)
  • 26m30s – not one skill set; ability to learn and adapt; balance vision with taking feedback and input; creating networks around you
  • crossing uneven ground through fog
  • 27m13s – Q&A
  • How did you identify early adopters to target for linkedIn?
  • product distribution is key; in 2003 internet was boring; sent invitations; now challenge is harder
  • 28m50s – How to know if someone is a good founder or not?
  • only meets with someone through a reference; network is key
  • 30m13s – What is key to founder, insight?
  • being able to articulate what you are trying to say with focus and clarity; analyze problem good way or have good instinct
  • 31m24s – Why did you keep persisting with LinkedIn?
  • investment thesis as a mechanism; founder believed that ultimately the way the world needed to be was with public professional profiles online and they were the closest.
  • 32m58s – What is it that can make you get it wrong when evaluating a founder?
  • looking for founder sticking to convictions but at the same time listening and adapting to concerns; look for phrases like infinite learning curve.
  • 34m50s – What makes a good cofounder and how to evaluate?
  • super important to collaborate really well. have serious trust. diversity of skills. technical, business side. do they collaborate well. do they help each other get to truth.
  • 37m28s – How do you different founders in different areas?
  • in software, speed to market, speed to learning is key; in hardware shipping right thing is crucial; attributes unique pre domain – atomic devices v. games; have right judgement at the moment
  • 40m02s – How do you know when to pivot?
  • If based on your investment thesis your confidence has been stagnant or decreasing over time and you are considering what to do to increase confidence, then that is probably good time to consider pivot; frequent mistake is to wait until you’ve crashed into the wall and can’t maneuver any more, then waited too long
  • in terms of personal career goals: balance, founders don’t have balance; super focused (at least for a time); jumping off cliff and building an airplane on the way down–default result is death– metaphor.
  • 42m45s – How good is startup ecosystem at identifying contrarian opportunities?
  • mixed but generally system is pretty good at it.
  • 45m18s – How do you feel about creating markets versus discovering them?
  • challenging question. Does market not exist because it will be huge or non-existent. Test investment thesis: what leads me to think there is a need. Problem: how do you get fast adoption if people don’t even know they want it. Founder should be able to clearly answer why they think market will be created where one doesn’t already exist. For example, with LinkedIn recruiting directly to individuals v. enmasse with classified was a new market.
  • 47m17s – How do you know you trust someone well enough to be a cofounder?
  • one of the risks you take. for example, when giving advice to founders hiring CEO: spend 20 hours with indepth discussions on anything that could be important. Set up expectations before encountering problems.

Additional Reading

Series

Building for the Enterprise

Aaron Levie, Founder of Box, describes how the enterprise market differs from the consumer space for startups and how to best build products for it.

Aaron Levie – @levie

Notes

  • 50s – Introduction
  • Why building for enterprise is better than consumer, history of box, state of enterprise, patterns in enterprise
  • 3m01s – 99% of Fortune 500 using box
  • How did we get here?
  • 2004 really hard to share
  • cost of storage dropped, more powerful browsers, faster Internet; look for changing technology factors
  • 2005 box.net, funding from Mark Cuban; 100,000 users; 1 gb free storage; over-serving consumers; under-serving business
  • 10m30s – 2006: need to choose consumer or business focus; consumer hard to monetize (pay or advertise)
  • consumer: mobile $35 billion, advertising $135 billion; enterprise: $3.7 Trillion on IT yearly
  • enterprise very competitive and unappealing because slow to build, to sell, software generally complex, no love and care, sales process intermediary
  • 16m40s – 2007: investers, “you’ll never make it in the enterprise”;
  • strategy: do it differently; how do we move to customer directly; build for user beyond RFP; look for technology change
  • 240,000 business customers
  • architected solution to enterprise
  • 19m51s – what has changed about enterprise and made it easier to enter in past 5 years
  • now is magical time to enter enterprise: cloud; cheaper low cost computing, open platforms (customize above software), larger market (2 person business to 300,000 business), international, because of mobile IT more user focused, user led (finance, marketing, …)
  • IT now has to manage smart phones
  • 3 billion people online changes how business gets product to people
  • every industry is changing, need help dealing with distruption; they will need helpl from startups
  • 27m00s – changes in retail, healthcare, media creation & distribution, and every other
  • 30m56s – every company in the world needs better technology to work smarter, faster, more securely
  • 31m55s – How to get started
  • spot disruptions – look for new enabling technologies that create a wide gap between how things have been done and how they can be done
  • 34m27s – PlanGrid example in construction industry
  • 36m11s – Intetionally Start Small – and expand over time, if people call it a “toy” you’re on to something
  • zenpayroll example
  • 38m52s – find asymmetries – do things that incumbents can’t or won’t do because it’s economically or technically infeasible
  • go after suite players by building platform agnostic; benefits
  • 41m25s – Find the Almost-crazy Outliers – go after the customers that are working in the future, but also haven’t totally lost their mind
  • skycatch example – enterprise drones
  • 43m08s – Listen to Customers – but don’t always build what they want, build what they need
  • Palantir example
  • 43m58s – Modularize, Don’t Customize – every customer will want something a little bit different. Don’t make the product suffer for this.
  • Salesforce example
  • 44m15s – Focus on the User – Keep “customer” DNS at the core of your enterprise product. This will always pay dividends
  • box example
  • 44m37s – Your product should sell itself – Sales should be used to navigate customers and close deals, not be a substitute for great product.
  • Mixpanel – analytics for mobile, get foot in door with developers, then inside sales
  • Recommended reading: Crossing the Chasm by Moore; Innovators Dilemma by Christensen; Behind the Cloud by Benioff

Additional Reading

Series

Company Culture and Building a Team, Part 2

Patrick Collison, Co-Founder, Stripe; John Collison, Co-Founder, Stripe; Ben Silbermann, Founder & CEO, Pinterest discuss finding, hiring, and integrating a startup’s first 10 employees.

Patrick Collison (@patrickc)
John Collison (@collision)
Ben Silbermann (@8en)

Notes

  • 52s – Ben Silbermann; what are most important parts of building out culture and hiring
  • 1) who do we hire and what do they value 2) what do we do and what do we value 3) what do we choose to communicate 4) what we choose to celebrate
  • 1m32s – John Collison; transparency of plans with employees; use slack
  • 2m50s – Patrick Collison; need to delegate via culture
  • 5m10s – how to hire first 10 employees
  • Ben: very inductive; look for people you want to work with; hiring like gardening; look for creativity and quirkiness
  • John: first 10 hires hard, friends of friends, hires early in careers
  • Patrick: people who like getting things finished, github resume not as good as deep projects; genuine, caring, completing things
  • Ben: craigslist, tech talks, weekly bar-b-q; you have to go seek them out
  • get them excited early; anticipate recruiting need down the road
  • hard to hire people for niche things
  • 15m40s – as an inexperienced founder how do you identify raw talent?
  • Ben: you’ll never 100% know; if a bad hire, try to fix, then end quickly; find mentors who are experts; build list of questions and evaluate metrics
  • John: interview in way you feel comfortable
  • Patrick: work with them before you commit to hiring for first 10
  • Ben: reference people, what are they like to work with, reference good source of new recruits
  • 24m20s – what have you done to get new hires up to speed?
  • Ben: at first onboarding happen naturally and fast; need more formality as company grows
  • John: 1) get them up and running doing real work quickly so you can measure them, 2) give feedback quickly (e.g. how to adapt to culture)
  • 28m20s: what are biggest changes to hiring process and management as company has grown?
  • Ben: goal is to make teams feel as autonomous as possible; startup of startups; abstracted units; remove barriers; referrals become more important
  • Patrick: time horizons change quickly; thinking farther ahead long term; plays into hiring; group meals
  • transparency easier in startup because everything is new, rowing in same direction; weekly catchup meeting
  • hackpad (google docs with newsfeed) to see everyone’s work
  • Q&A
  • 39m14s – are early hires able to grow into leadership roles?
  • yes and no. not everyone born knowing how to manage but can learn, volunteer lead project, group, dept; give people a shot
  • 42m58s – how has pinterest vision change?
  • discovery by viewing other peoples boards not just building your own
  • 43m33s – how do you convince people to join a startup?
  • Patrick: prospect is exciting, guarantee would be boring
  • find out if they are good fit with mission or just looking for startup experience
  • make more of a contribution at startup than big company, attracts the best and most capable
  • 48m26s – how has user base affected hiring strategy?
  • hire people who understand product and use it, ambitious about mission

Additional Reading

Series

Company Culture and Building a Team, Part 1

Alfred Lin, Former COO, Zappos and Partner, Sequoia Capital; Brian Chesky, Founder, Airbnb talk about the importance of building company culture and building a team around core values. Lecture starts off academic and then picks up at 11m25s with Brian Chesky interview.

Notes

  • Alfred Lin introduces lecture, covers culture
  • 53s – what is culture, why does it matter, core value worksheet, elements of high performaing teams, best practices for culture
  • 1m11s – what is culture? Everyday core values and actions of each member of the team in pursuit of our company mission.
  • 2m44s – why does it matter? “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Ghandi
  • 3m10s – first principles, alignment, stability, trust, exclusion, retention
  • best companies to work for also best performing
  • 4m52 – core value worksheet
  • honesty, integrity, service, teamwork, … go deeper level of description
  • elements of high performing teams (results, accountability, commitment, conflict, trust)
  • mission to values, thnk deeper about values, interview for culture fit, evaluate performance on culture as well, make it daily habit
  • 11m25s – airbnb, Brian Chesky Q&A
  • airbnb background
  • core values: champion the mission, (mission: belong anywhere and bringing people together)
  • london riots story
  • 23m30s – creative and frugal: obama o’s; captain mccain
  • 27m22s – how has strong culture helped make tough decisions
  • 1) culture not talked about, 2) hard to measure, 3) long term results (not short term)
  • 32m40s – culture and brand 2 sides of the same coin
  • no such thing as good culture or bad culture, just strong culture or weak culture
  • if you have strong culture, the brand will come through
  • talk about what we value, without that you become utility and commodity
  • 35m22s – how to communicate what company does
  • “forget hotels, save money with airbnb” – too limiting, “travel like a human”, lots of story telling
  • role of CEO: 1) articulate the vision, 2) develop strategy, 3) hire people to fit the culture = company
  • 37m40s – how do hosts reinforce culture? super host level, host convention, apply to list, getting more rigorous
  • 38m28s – open source contributions: a result of culture and hiring, bottom up
  • 41m41s – how did they get users to site in early days? “better to have 100 users love you than 1,000,000 who kind of like you” -PG
  • visited and lived with users, make perfect for one person, then scale
  • on demand photography network
  • 46m10s – is airbnb a tech company or marketing? payments company, trust and safety, regulatory problems (34,000 cities), search and discovery
  • in 190 countries (all but north korea, syria, iran, cuba), 40,000 homes in Paris, offline product, design

Additional Reading

Series

How to Raise Money

Marc Andreessen, Founder, Andreessen Horowitz and Founder, Netscape; Ron Conway, Founder, SV Angel; and Parker Conrad, Founder, Zenefits discuss funding for startups. The additional readings for this lecture go into more thourough detail than the talk. However, the discussion does more vividly present the motivations of investors and their thought process when deciding to invest or not. Trust and personal relationships is a strong topic.

Notes

  • 0m36s – What makes you decide to invest in a company?
  • Ron Conway, is this person a leader, is this person rifle obsessed with product, what inspired you, communication skills
  • 2m20s – Marc Andreesen – venture capital is a game of outliers, extreme exceptions
  • 3m30s – invest in strength v. lack of weakness
  • 4m40s – What Ron and SV Angel look for in a company
  • 5m55s – Parker Conrad, experience doing seed round funding
  • 8m42s – Ron, bootstrap as long as you can
  • 9m15s – Marc, key to success: be so good they can’t ignore you
  • cautionary lesson, raising vc capital is easest to do compared to other aspects of business
  • raising money not a milestone, not a success,
  • 11m20s – what do you wish founders did differently when raising funds
  • Marc: relationship between raising cash and risk spending cash
  • risks: founder risk, technical, launch, market, cost of sale, viral growth; like an onion
  • for each round of finding present which risks have been answered
  • 14m00s – Ron: don’t ask people to sign NDA; get things in writing; get things as done as quickly as possible, take notes and follow up.
  • 15m40s – what are specific steps?
  • Ron: SV Angel, seed investor $1 million, 1/30 invested, send short executive summary, team votes on phone call, if goes well invite to meeting, meeting a good sign
  • 18m40s – Marc: series A, after seed round; rarely direct to A series
  • 20m12s – What terms should founders negotiate and care about?
  • Parker: pick right seed investors to get good future
  • 12m03s – How does a founder know who the right investors are?
  • YC does a good job telling you who good investors are
  • 21m50s – How do you think about valuation?
  • Parker: if too high, people will let you know; certain thresholds exist; raise only as much as you need
  • 23m43s – is there a maximum that founders should sell in seed round, A round?
  • Parker: A round typically 20-30%; at seed stage 10-15%
  • Ron: guidelines important to avoid giving away too much
  • Marc: sometimes won’t invest because cap table already distroyed (outside investors own too much)
  • 26m28s – What was most successful investment you made?
  • Ron: Google in 1999; met through Stanford professor and angel investor
  • 29m12s – Marc: AirBNB 2011, $1B growth round; Ron: all 3 founders good, same with google
  • 33m07s – Look for investors that will add value beyond just the money,
  • 34m22s – Capital intensive businesses need more precise when and how much to raise each round, plan should be very precise
  • 37m00s – Investors to avoid and partners: not domain expert, doesn’t have contacts to help business development and intros for following rounds, partner really matters, marriage analogy
  • 40m50s – what is constraint to how many VC invest in: SV Angel invests 1 per week
  • 41m35s – conflict policy, opportunity cost being locked out of a category, of partners bandwidth
  • 45m45s – what convinces you to invest pre-launch, pre-traction: founder and team themselves, product ideas tend to merge, valuation pre-users tend to be lower; founder we’ve worked with or well known; enterprise software cold start, typically founder with experience
  • 47m15s – ideal board structure: doesn’t matter too much, if business in trouble terms will get renegotiated, most conflicts solved without vote

Additional Reading

Series

Doing Things That Don’t Scale; PR; How to get Started

  • Stanley Tang, Founder, DoorDash
  • Walker Williams, Founder, Teespring
  • Justin Kan, Founder, TwitchTV and Partner, Y Combinator

Notes

How to Get Started, Things that don’t scale

  • Stanley Tang, DoorDash
  • DoorDash on demand food delivery service
  • talked to 150-200 business owners regarding delivery service
  • 4m00s test hypothesis with simple site
  • ok to hack things together at the beginning
  • used existing tools instead of building infrastructure/ backend (square, find-my-friends, google docs)
  • 10m20s expanded to more cities and now need to scale
  • 10m45s 1. test your hypothesis, 2. launch fast, 3. do things that don’t scale
  • 11m24s Q&A how did first customer hear about you: word of mouth
  • why wasn’t this done before: mobile and existing tech made infrastructure possible
  • future: expand with restaurant delivery then other verticals

Things that Don’t Scale

08-B

  • Walker Williams, Teespring
  • 16m10s teespring allows launching new apparel brands
  • huge advantage of startup over established business is being able to do things that don’t scale
  • 17m10s Finding your first users, turning those users into champions, finding product/ market fit
  • getting first users: no silver bullet, first ones are the hardest to acquire
  • don’t focus on ROI, focus on growth
  • don’t give product away for free
  • turning users into champions by delighting customers, talk to users, read tweets and user communities
  • talking to customers: 1. run customer service, 2. reach out to current & churned customers, 3. social media/ communities
  • 24m45s problems inevitable, so whatever it takes to make them right
  • 26m00s find product market fit: first product launched probably won’t be the final fit
  • optimize code for speed over scalability
  • only worry about the next order of magnitude (100, 1000, 10000….)
  • do things that don’t scale as long as possible
  • 30m20s Q&A
  • t-shirt print is competitive, why launch: had personal pain point while trying to get shirts printed
  • biggest customer base: entrepreneurs trying to build brands, influencers

PR

  • Justin Kan, TwitchTV, Partner Y Combinator
  • 32m55s how to get press, how does it work
  • who do you want to reach? investors, customers, industry, have targeted audience and goals
  • 36m17s what is a story?: product launches, fundraising, milestones, stunts, hiring, contributed articles
  • 39m40s mechanics of a story: think of a story, get introduced, set a date, reach out, pitch, followup, launch news
  • meet writer face-to-face if possible
  • structure story as bullet points and memorize, then go through during interview
  • send follow-up email
  • 44m50s PR Firms: firms can only help with contacts, can’t generate stories, are expensive. do it yourself first
  • Getting press is work, not a scalable user acquisition strategy, not recommended for startups
  • Further Reading
    • The Burned Out Blogger’s Guide to PR, Jason Kincaid
    • Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, Ryan Holiday

Additional Reading

Series