Don’t Preserve Startup Culture in Your Growing Company

startup culture like peter pan

Like seeing your kids off to college for the very first time, it’s always a bit jolting for startup founders who see their company grow beyond the plucky “move fast and break things” startup culture of its youth. It’s hard not to get a little nostalgic about that exciting age when everything was new.

LibinPhil4604_pv12-0-324-1106-1493-304

Phil Libin has seen his company Evernote shoot up from a small startup to a billion-dollar company in six short years. Growing the Evernote team from just tens of people to 400, Libin worried over what such fast growth would do to the young company culture.

When he talked to Dick Costolo, Twitter CEO, who’d seen his own company grow precipitously, he asked him how to preserve the company culture that had helped get Evernote to such a successful start. Costolo’s answer was completely unexpected.

Don’t, Costolo said.

Continue Reading

Why You Shouldn’t Build a Billion-Dollar Startup

billion (3)

Entrepreneurs dream about building the next big billion-dollar company. But the Apple, Google, and Facebook-shaped stars in their eyes end up clouding their vision. It’s easy to get caught up imagining your company going viral and getting to millions of users — all before your business has made a single dollar.

All the hopes and visions in the world won’t get you any closer to your billion-dollar exit. In fact, setting out to build a billion-dollar startup is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

Gary Chou, an instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, teaches his students how to launch a startup by taking a completely divergent approach. His course in Entrepreneurial Design has an unexpected syllabus for a business class: forget about creating a business plan or making a pitch deck for a fictitious billion-dollar unicorn company. Instead, get out there and do it — create a real $1,000-dollar company.

Chou’s assignment is to create a business that will produce $1,000 in monthly profit in a way that’s repeatable and sustainable. What has emerged from this exercise includes real profitable, ongoing businesses and funded Kickstarter projects. But beyond the money that’s been made and the companies created, what’s most important is the experience and knowledge you take away — for if you take on the challenge of building a $1,000 startup, you’ll learn three invaluable lessons.

Continue Reading

3 Psychological Traps that Keep Your Startup in the Trough of Sorrow

startup-curve

You’re stuck in the trough of sorrow. No matter what you do, nothing in your company is improving.

You look around you, and everyone you know is crushing it. Their companies are getting acquired, they’re raising huge funding rounds, and they’re announcing new product features that people love.

But not you. You’re stuck in the trough of sorrow, and it feels like you’ll never get out. It’s emotionally trying and tough to handle psychologically, and you’ll want to quit. That’s why famed startup investor Paul Graham has said that the number one underlying cause of startup death is that “the [founders] become demoralized.”

How you handle those plateaus, psychologically, will determine whether you remain stalled there forever and your company ends up in the startup graveyard. You’ll face these three psychological traps — avoid them, and you’ll have a chance of making it out alive on the other side.

Continue Reading

How to Keep Believing in Yourself

image

I stood there catching my breath. Thoughts were gushing in my mind. “You don’t even believe in me,” I sighed to my best friend. “No one does.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, it dawned on me. This was a metaphorical mirror — a projection of my own reality. I’d hit a wall. Exhausted physically and emotionally from working 100-hour weeks, it was now as clear as day: I had lost my way in believing in me.

This wasn’t about others, it was about my own relationship with myself.

Usually fueled by a quiet confidence, I’d become worn down, paralysed from making decisions as big as the best way to issue company stock right down to the minutiae of which Instagram filter to use. I was plagued with self-doubt. Which was the best way forward? What are all the possible outcomes? Are things succeeding or failing? Who can and will help me? How do you keep believing in yourself?

Continue Reading

3 Simple Systems Tweaks for Growing Your Business

In Part 1 of this series, guest poster Mandi Ellefson showed how focusing on systems within your business brings out the best. In Part 2, she explains how to choose what to target for the most momentum.

If you want to grow your business more sustainably, be proud of every project you deliver to clients, and get the best out of your team — build systems. Focusing on your business processes empowers you and your team to do great work and see more creative, reliable results.

But if you’re impatient like me, you want to see that improvement quickly. The good news is you can begin right away with this simple method: Start small, and change one thing at a time.

Why? You’ll get immediate feedback. By focusing on one change at a time, you can isolate the results of every change you make. Putting more than one change into the mixing pot makes it tricky to analyze. Even small changes can have larger consequences. Your business is an ecosystem, so tweaking one thing can cause multiple effects.

Continue Reading

5 Startup Founders on How to Find Startup Success

When I interviewed my favorite founders for my book, Startup Series, to gain better insight into their road to success, I got some honest, inspiring, and even harsh answers.

Speaking with the founders of reddit, Indiegogo, AngelList, and Kissmetrics, just to name a few, about their biggest accomplishments and hardest lessons has been eye-opening. What’s been most surprising and reassuring is that these founders are just like us. Hard work and heartache got them to where they are today — and the journey for the rest of us will not be much different.

From hundreds of answers, here are my five favorite tips from founders that will inspire and guide you along your own entrepreneurial path.

Continue Reading

The Win-Win Secret to Earning Recurring Revenue with Your Side Project

When his post on how iDoneThis reached $1,000 in recurring revenue struck a chord with readers, Walter thought it would be enlightening to talk with other entrepreneurs about their own such journeys. One of the most interesting stories he heard was from Adam Rotman, creator of Share As ImageYou can watch Walter’s full interview with Adam here, and today we offer some key takeaways from their conversation.

image

 

Continue Reading

The Risky Mentality that Made Jeff Bezos So Successful

Success often feels like a chase, especially in the startup world. You scrabble to gain ground, obsessing over features and metrics and competitors, and though you think you’re moving fast and hard, sometimes it feels like you’re running up a down escalator.

For Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, success isn’t a pursuit or a race to the top. It’s an adventure. You don’t just buy The Washington Post when you think you’re in a race. Rather, his key to success is maintaining a mindset of exploration rather than conquest. Bezos told Charlie Rose in 2012:

Continue Reading

3 Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned on the Path from Intern to CEO

Khalil Fuller is the CEO of Learn Fresh, which makes NBA Math Hoops, a basketball board game and mobile app that uses math problems and real-world NBA and WNBA statistics to improve students’ math literacy and engagement. He’s also a college senior, studying education and social entrepreneurship at Brown University.

Khalil Fuller of NBA Math Hoops Growing up L.A., Khalil saw his friends become increasingly disengaged from school, especially math class. “I started tutoring kids and realized there was nothing fun to make math really relevant to them, so they didn’t make the connection between math class and the rest of the world. And they didn’t want to do their homework — they wanted to go outside and play basketball.”

At Brown, Khalil met Bill Daugherty, an entrepreneur and former NBA executive who’d teamed up with Tim Scheidt, veteran math educator and inventor of a prototype math board game. “For the earliest versions, it wasn’t Kobe and LeBron,” Khalil recounts, “it was Johnny SlamDunk and Andrew ThreePointer. Bill and I said, ‘if this is somewhat fun and the kids like it, it could be much more powerful if it had real NBA players.’”

When it was clear that the kids did like it through some early testing and incubation with Big Picture Learning, they brought the game to the NBA to see about those real-life players. “The NBA really liked the fact that we had a purely social mission,” Khalil reports. “They actually gave us a royalty-free license for the first time in their history.”

NBA Math Hoops board game

Continue Reading

4 Nourishing Routines for Your Success and Happiness

Whether it’s a nice cup of tea or coffee or reviewing your diary, regular routines and rituals help forge the discipline, energy, and mental space to consistently make progress.

We reached out to some productivity superstars to ask:

What is one routine or ritual that contributes to your happiness and success?

Everyone’s response focused on nourishment, nurturing health, relationships, and mind.

Routines and rituals are inherently very personal — what works for you won’t necessarily work for somebody else — but the main takeaway here is that they’re also about prioritizing aspects of your life to create balance.

Here are four of those balancing routines:

Continue Reading