What’s the best way to set goals?

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
How Andreessen Horowitz Evaluates CEOs – Ben’s Blog

Goals and objectives are not the story. The story of the company goes beyond quarterly or annual goals and gets to the hardcore question of why? Why should I join this company? Why should I be excited to work here? Why should I buy your product? Why should I invest in the company? Why is the world better off as a result of this company’s existence?

Charlie Munger (Vice Chairman of the Board of Berkshire Hathaway Inc)
The Tension Created By Stretch Goals

There are two lines of thought. A whole bunch of management gurus say you need BHAGs — bold, hairy, audacious goals. Then there’s another group that says that if you make the goals unreasonable enough, human nature being what it is, people will cheat. What people generally do is give people the unreasonable goal and tell them, “You can’t cheat. ” That is the American system in many places. I’ve got no answer to that tension. Low goals do cause lo… (read more)

Google (Organizing the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful)
Ten things we know to be true

We set ourselves goals we know we can’t reach yet, because we know that by stretching to meet them we can get further than we expected.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Lessons from Jeff Bezos: Set “audacious and inspirational” goals | A Founder’s Notebook

Set audacious and inspirational goals

Eric Barker (Founder at StubHub)
Is being busy the secret to happiness?

In general, then, low-to-moderate time pressure seems optimal for sustaining positive thoughts, feelings, and drives.

Eric Barker (Founder at StubHub)
How To Be Successful: 6 New Shortcuts Backed By Research

Perhaps most importantly, when you think 10x instead of 10%, you behave differently. Research shows when you set bolder, more audacious goals you work harder than when you’re reasonable. Subconsciously, we actually push ourselves harder when we’re going after bigger, loftier, harder goals. Research shows people who set higher goals end up outperforming their peers or themselves because they push themselves harder or because they force themselves … (read more)

Mike Perlis (President & CEO at Forbes Media)
Inside Forbes: With 50 Million Visitors, Here’s What’s Next For Our Editorial And Ad Models

Work for meaningful differences, not better sameness.

Ray Dalio (Chairman and Chief Investment Officer at Bridgewater Associates)
Principles

Great expectations create great capabilities. Don’t rule out a goal due to a superficial assessment of its attainability. Once you commit to a goal, it might take lots of thinking and many revisions to your plan over a considerable time period in order to finalize the design and do the tasks to achieve it. So you need to set goals without yet assessing whether or not you can achieve them.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How to specify challenges and goals correctly | A Founder’s Notebook

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Relevant, and Time-bound. A good problem statement should be all of those things. For more on SMART, see the Wikipedia page. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/SMART_criteria

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Give up and go up goals

You will benefit when you tell lots of people your give up goals. Tell your friends when you want to give up overeating or binging or being a boor. Your friends will make it ever more difficult for you to feel good about backsliding.
On the other hand, the traditional wisdom is that you should tell very few people about your go up goals. Don’t tell them you intend to get a promotion, win the race or be elected prom king. That’s because even your… (read more)

What’s the best way to sell your company?

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Don’t Talk to Corp Dev

[Just] wait till you’ve agreed on a price and think you have a done deal, and then they come back and say their boss has vetoed the deal and won’t do it for more than half the agreed upon price.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Retrade – AVC

My view on retrades is that they are part of the way the investment and M&A business gets done. You should not get emotional about them. You should not walk away over them unless you have a better option. You should simply accept them as part of the way the game is played and deal with them as best you can. You can often negotiate a retrade. You won’t get back to where you were before the retrade but you can often do better than what is being sug… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Retrade – AVC

The thing about retrades is it is a signal about the person or institution you are doing business with. Sometimes retrades happen for legitimate reasons. A typical one is the due diligence shines a bright light on a problem that was unkown at the time of the signing of the term sheet or LOI. That is the most common explanation for retrades. But sometimes it is legitimate and sometimes it is not. Understanding all of this and how it reflects on th… (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
If you sell your company, use an investment banker | A Founder’s Notebook

If you sell your company, use an investment banker

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Amazon and the “insurance policy” acquisition | A Founder’s Notebook

If you’re happy to sell only for the money, fine. If you want your company to survive and thrive, perhaps “insurance policy acquisitions” aren’t great.

Ev Williams (CEO of Medium, Co-founder of Twitter)
When to Sell Your Company — Medium

[reasons to sell] 1. The offer captures the upside. Finances are only one perspective, but if you have many shareholders, it’s one you are obligated to take seriously. 2. Imminent threat. 3. Personal choice. Sometimes the founders or other key people may just be done. This is actually quite common and drives a lot of small acquisitions. It doesn’t apply as much as companies get larger, because everyone is (eventually) replaceable—especially if th… (read more)

Jason Lemkin (Managing Director at Storm Ventures, SaaStr.com)
Bad reasons to sell your startup | A Founder’s Notebook

Do not sell if you are at scale and have a committed team. Do not sell because of the competition, unless they are truly decelerating you and you can’t stop them. Do not sell because you are tired.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Don’t Talk to Corp Dev

Before agreeing to meet with someone from corp dev, ask yourselves, “Do we want to sell the company right now?” And if the answer is no, tell them “Sorry, but we’re focusing on growing the company. ” They won’t be offended.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Don’t Talk to Corp Dev

Distractions are the thing you can least afford in a startup. One of the tricks to surviving a grueling process is not to stop and think how tired you are. Instead you get into a sort of flow. Imagine what it would do to you if at mile 20 of a marathon, someone ran up beside you and said “You must feel really tired. Would you like to stop and take a rest?” Conversations with corp dev are like that but worse, because the suggestion of stopping get… (read more)

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Don’t Talk to Corp Dev

Corp dev people’s whole job is to buy companies, and they don’t even get to choose which. The only way their performance is measured is by how cheaply they can buy you, and the more ambitious ones will stop at nothing to achieve that. For example, they’ll almost always start with a lowball offer, just to see if you’ll take it. Even if you don’t, a low initial offer will demoralize you and make you easier to manipulate.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
When to sell your company — Ben Horowitz | A Founder’s Notebook

When analyzing whether you should sell your company, a good basis rule of thumb is if (a) you are very early on in a very large market, and (b) you have a good chance of being number one in that market, then you should remain stand-alone.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
When to sell your company — Ben Horowitz | A Founder’s Notebook

The judgment that you have to make is (a) is this market really much bigger (more than an order of magnitude) than has been exploited to date? and (b) are we going to be number one? If the answer to either (a) or (b) is no, then you should consider selling. If the answer to both are yes, then selling would mean selling yourself and your employees short.

Justin Kan (Partner at Y Combinator)
The Founder’s Guide To Selling Your Company

Similar to raising money, the best time to sell your startup is when you don’t need to or want to. Paradoxically, you are probably thinking about selling your startup as you are experiencing a lack of traction, tough competition, or difficult time fundraising. However, this is a bad time to sell your startup: you will have few bidders and be more likely to acquiesce to the demands of anyone who does show up.

Justin Kan (Partner at Y Combinator)
The Founder’s Guide To Selling Your Company

Negotiating an acquisition is the most distracting thing you can do in a startup: going through M&A is an order of magnitude more distracting than raising money. All of your ability to run the day-to-day operations of your company will grind to a halt. You should only enter an acquisition process if 1) you are certain you want to sell the company and 2) you are likely to get a price you will accept. Don’t talk to potential acquirers “just to see … (read more)

Justin Kan (Partner at Y Combinator)
The Founder’s Guide To Selling Your Company

Remember that companies are bought, not sold

Justin Kan (Partner at Y Combinator)
The Founder’s Guide To Selling Your Company

Entering the acquisition process is one of the most dangerous things an early stage startup can do, because the process is distracting, demoralizing, and usually involves giving your competition most of your proprietary business data. Founders who have been through the process have said it is ten times as distracting as fundraising. It often cripples your ability to oversee the business operations. Do not enter into an acquisition process lightly… (read more)

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Make Wealth

For most people, the most powerful motivator is not the hope of gain, but the fear of loss. For potential acquirers, the most powerful motivator is the prospect that one of their competitors will buy you. This, as we found, causes CEOs to take red-eyes. The second biggest is the worry that, if they don’t buy you now, you’ll continue to grow rapidly and will cost more to acquire later, or even become a competitor.

Sam Purtill (Co-founder, CEO @ ClassOwl)
How We Sold Our Startup in 30 Days — Medium

However, if a company likes your team enough, they’ll make an offer. It’s totally dependent on how badly they need you. The key thing here is to understand which companies will pay and which companies won’t pay

Sam Purtill (Co-founder, CEO @ ClassOwl)
How We Sold Our Startup in 30 Days — Medium

One of our advisors, Jason Shellen, has had a few of his companies acquired, most recently by Pinterest. The first thing he advised us to do was create a one-pager: highlights on the team as a whole and a paragraph bio on each person.

Sam Purtill (Co-founder, CEO @ ClassOwl)
How We Sold Our Startup in 30 Days — Medium

Get high quality intros to the most senior people you’re connected to in each company
. The people you’re talking to matter tremendously; if they don’t have “buck stops here” decision making power, move on.

Sam Purtill (Co-founder, CEO @ ClassOwl)
How We Sold Our Startup in 30 Days — Medium

“Ask for money, you get advice; ask for advice, you get money”

Sam Purtill (Co-founder, CEO @ ClassOwl)
How We Sold Our Startup in 30 Days — Medium

Get to in-person interviews as quickly as possible. The interviews would typically consist of a phone screen, a take-home project (usually taking 2–3 hours), and a full day of in-person meetings. On the acquirer side, we found it made the most sense to bring our whole team in for a 3–5 hour block and do all interviews at once. It made things easy for us to schedule and the team could spend time before/after evaluating the company.

Sam Purtill (Co-founder, CEO @ ClassOwl)
How We Sold Our Startup in 30 Days — Medium

Every offer we received had one theme in common: acquiring our team would accelerate the acquiring company’s hiring process by 6+ months. This is something companies are willing to pay for, either in cash, stock, or a mix.

Sam Purtill (Co-founder, CEO @ ClassOwl)
How We Sold Our Startup in 30 Days — Medium

If you can make a company grow faster — i.e. make them more money or make it easier for them to raise more money—then there’s a clear path to an offer. If you can’t, an offer probably doesn’t make sense.

Sam Purtill (Co-founder, CEO @ ClassOwl)
How We Sold Our Startup in 30 Days — Medium

We should have had all legal docs in place before accepting; we lost all negotiating leverage the moment we accepted the offer.

Sam Purtill (Co-founder, CEO @ ClassOwl)
How We Sold Our Startup in 30 Days — Medium

It took an additional 30 days from the day we accepted Branch’s offer to the day we signed the final paperwork. Make sure you have enough cash in the bank to hold everyone over during this period.

What’s the best way to sell the right amount of equity in your fundraising round?

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Raise Money

Our rule of thumb is not to sell more than 25% in phase 2, on top of whatever you sold in phase 1, which should be less than 15%.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Fundraising Advice for YC Companies – Y Combinator Posthaven

You should aim to sell only about 20% of the company in your seed round (though 25% is ok if you’re raising a ‘large’–say more than $2. 5 million–seed round). You should raise enough money to get to your next significant milestone.

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

If you have to give away more than 15% of the company at any given fundraising round, your company didn’t germinate correctly. It’s salvageable but not ideal.

Naval Ravikant (Founder, CEO & Co – Maintainer at AngelList)
“The Anatomy of a Fundable Startup”, by Naval Ravikant (Founder, AngelList) on Vimeo

My rule of thumb is 20% for a seed round. Anything more than that and people are going to be worried [about if] you are going to be incented after 2 or three more rounds of financing.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Founder Showcase – Mark Suster Keynote on Vimeo

VCs want meaningful ownership. The fairway for a round of venture capital is 25-33% of your company. If you’re a better negotiator, if you’re hotter, if you have more people interested you can get it down to 18%-22%.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
The Equity Equation

Greg Mcadoo from Sequoia recently said at a YC dinner that when Sequoia invests alone they like to take about 30% of a company

Babak Nivi (Co-founder of AngelList and Venture Hacks. Previously, he was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Bessemer Venture Partners and Atlas Venture.)
The Option Pool Shuffle – Venture Hacks

If you don’t keep your eyes on the option pool while you’re negotiating valuation, your investors will have you playing (and losing) a game that we like to call: Option Pool Shuffle

Jason Lemkin (Managing Director at Storm Ventures, SaaStr.com)
Jason M. Lemkin’s answer to For a new startup, what would be the ‘acceptable’ equity percentage given to VC (Series A financing)? – Quora

Typically, Seed Stage VCs will want to write smaller checks to achieve at least a 10% target ownership. Sometimes more. If you need more money, they’ll often want to bring in a second Seed Fund to buy a second 10%.
Typically, Larger Funds will want to own as much as 25%. Themselves. And they’ll write a larger check to get it, and sometimes, pay a higher per share price.

Dharmesh Shah (Co-founder and CTO of HubSpot)
Happy Birthday HubSpot! 9 Lessons From Our First 9 Years

Don’t minimize dilution, maximize impact. If you go out and raise outside funding, resist the temptation to worry too much about valuation (and minimizing dilution). In the grand scheme of things, as long as you’re getting a fair deal, marginal differences in dilution won’t matter. What will matter more is the degree to which you can have an impact (however you measure that). You’re probably going to be happier owning 5% of something great tha… (read more)

What’s the best way to scale your organization?

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup Advice – Sam Altman

Here is some of the best startup advice I’ve heard or given (mostly heard): (a) Make something people want and (b) A great team and a great market are both critically important—you have to have both. The debate about which is more important is silly.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
When your product should no longer be your top priority | A Founder’s Notebook

Once you have basic product-market fit, you need to shift your attention to the other elements which will lead to profitable growth.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
MBA Mondays: When Its Not Your Team – AVC

Company building is not this simple, but I do like to think about it terms of two stages. Getting the product right and customers/users scaling. Then scaling the company and the team. If you aren’t doing the first, you mostly don’t need to worry about the second. There are occasional team issues in the first stage you need to deal with but they aren’t the big thing you need to focus on. The big thing you need ot to focus on is the product and its… (read more)

Aaron Patzer (Founder & CEO of Fountain, Mint)
Aaron Patzer lays bare Mint’s numbers – YouTube

The first phase is the garage phase. This is <100k of funding.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The most important factor in startup success | A Founder’s Notebook

The most important factor in startup success [is product market fit]

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

Everyone’s problem is money until it’s hiring

Joe Gebbia (Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer at Airbnb)
How Design Thinking Transformed Airbnb from a Failing Startup to a Billion Dollar Business | First Round Review

At Airbnb, the company encourages new employees to ship new features on their first day at the company. It earns them their sea legs and shows that great ideas can come from anywhere. This approach yields results in unexpected ways.

Jerry Colona (Founder @ Reboot.io)
The Management Team – Guest Post By Jerry Colonna – AVC

To me, the hardest part of scaling people is learning to lead your self. We forge our truest identity by facing our fears, our prejudices, our passions, and the source of our aggression.

Drew Houston (Co-Founder & CEO at Dropbox)
Slides: Lean startup lessons that helped Dropbox become a $10B company by Drew Houston – GrowthHackers

Product-market fit cures many sins of management. Mostly ignored: Hiring non-engineers; mainstream PR; traditional messaging / positioning; deadlines, process, “best practices”; having a “real” website; partnerships / bizdev; having lots of features.

David Sacks (CEO at Zenefits)
New Sales Models – David Sacks, Founder and CEO of Yammer – YouTube

Breakout startups must typically innovate on distribution not just product.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Taking the Mystery out of Scaling a Company – Ben’s Blog

When an organization grows in size, things that were previously easy become difficult. Still, if the company doesn’t expand, then it will never be much of a company, so the challenge is to grow and degrade as slowly as possible.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Taking the Mystery out of Scaling a Company – Ben’s Blog

Figure out what needs to be communicated. Figure out what needs to be decided. Prioritize the most important communication and decision paths

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Taking the Mystery out of Scaling a Company – Ben’s Blog

Focus on the output first. Figure out how you’ll know if you are getting what you want at each step. Engineer accountability into the system.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
No Credit for Predicting Rain – Ben’s Blog

At a certain point in the process, no credit will be given for predicting rain. The only credit will be for helping to build an ark.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
CEOs Should Tell It Like It Is – Ben’s Blog

There are three key reasons why being transparent about your company’s problems makes sense: 1. Trust – Without trust, communication breaks. 2. The more brains working on the hard problems, the better. 3. A healthy company culture encourages people to share bad news. A company that discusses its problems freely and openly can quickly solve them. A company that covers up its problems frustrates everyone involved.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Taking the Mystery out of Scaling a Company – Ben’s Blog

The first rule of organizational design is that all organizational designs are bad. Your goal is to choose the least of all evils.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Tech Ops As A Metaphor For Building, Running, & Leading A Company – AVC

Things that work well at small scale break at large scale – you need different people, processes, and systems as a company grows. You need to instrument your system so you can see when things are reaching the breaking point, well before they break. Overbuilt systems are hard to implement, manage, and scale

Mariya Yao (Founder at Xanadu)
Lessons Learned: Rapid Iteration for Mobile App Design

What often happens is a startup builds a product people like but don’t love. They’ll typically appear to do well early on, but won’t have enough of a passionate following to achieve meaningful growth or revenues.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Management Team – While Building Usage – AVC

Many of the hires that are made in the “building usage” stage are going to report directly to the founder/CEO. The additional product hires may report to you because it is likely that you are running product as well. The community team may report to you. And who is leading that team? The business development person, the marketing person, the admin/finance/HR/legal person, and probably all the sales people are likely reporting to you. Have you eve… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
MBA Mondays: When Its Not Your Team – AVC

These issues can play themselves out again when the company is larger. Companies can lose their way. Or their product lineup can get stale. Or competition can enter the market and change the dynamics for users or buyers. Once again, you need to focus in on getting the product right and making sure that it is providing value to customers/users.

Ho Nam (Managing Director at Altos Ventures)
The First Breaking Point – Altos Ventures

Initial – the process is new, ad hoc, chaotic and undocumented. Individual heroics are relied upon to get the job done. Repeatable – the process is somewhat documented. Repeating the same steps may be attempted. It’s not clear if the process will yield desired outputs. Defined – the process is well defined, documented and confirmed as a standard process that can produce results. Managed – the process is quantitatively managed in accordance with a… (read more)

What’s the best way to run your meeting?

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Time Zone Management – AVC

[from the blog comments, not Fred] Worldtimebuddy.com is the best. They even have a handy little iPhone app.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: How to run a problem-solving meeting

Ignore these rules at your peril:

Only the minimum number of people should participate. Don’t invite anyone for political reasons. Don’t invite anyone to socialize them on the solution because they were part of inventing it–people don’t need to be in the kitchen to enjoy the meal at the restaurant.
No one participating by conference call… it changes the tone of the proceedings.
A very structured agenda to prevent conversation creep. You a… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Feature Friday: Simplified Conference Call Dialing – AVC

I was in a board meeting last fall and was bemoaning how challenging it is to dial into a conference bridge with long pin numbers on your phone (particularly when you are driving). My friend Jordy said “Get MobileDay”. So I downloaded MobileDay and that issue has been fixed ever since.
It’s a simple and well executed app.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Embracing constraints | A Founder’s Notebook

We often think constraints restrict our opportunities. But in fact constraints drive creativity. In team meetings he runs, HP manager Simon Lewis restricts the time allotted for each person’s update to one minute. Our managers have to write a monthly report which is capped at one page, forcing them to focus on what’s most important. W. hen we’ve adopted a tighter budget, we’ve often been more successful

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
One on One – Ben’s Blog

The key to a good one-on-one meeting is the understanding that it is the employee’s meeting rather than the manager’s meeting.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
One on One – Ben’s Blog

Some questions that I’ve found to be very effective in one-on-ones: If we could improve in any way, how would we do it? What’s the No. 1 problem with our organization? Why? What’s not fun about working here? Who is really kicking ass in the company? Who do you admire? If you were me, what changes would you make? What don’t you like about the product? What’s the biggest opportunity that we’re missing out on? What are we not doing that we should be… (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Why you should push your team to write (and hire people who can write) | A Founder’s Notebook

I read somewhere that strategy meetings in Amazon start with the participants reading a paper about the topic. Benefits: (i) ensures there’s a clear “owner” for the topic, (ii) ensures that meetings are properly prepared for, (iii) ensures that people consider everything the “owner” has to say about the topic without interrupting, (iv) allocates time at the beginning of the meeting for everyone to prepare for the discussion.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The optimal number of people in a meeting is… | A Founder’s Notebook

The optimal number of people in a meeting is two. that’s because its easier to understand and work with people one-on-one. You can give them your full attention, and you get their full attention. Where possible, I try to break down group discussions into a series of one-on-one conversations, led by the owner. It sounds like a lot more work, but its actually more effective and time efficient than group meetings.

Ev Williams (CEO of Medium, Co-founder of Twitter)
How to End Every Meeting — Medium

End every meeting with a “closing round. ” In a closing round, you go around the room and give everyone a chance to comment on the meeting. There is no discussion or back-and-forth allowed. It creates more mindfulness about what just happened—and how things might go better next time. And it lets you know where the group is at emotionally, as well as potential issues to follow up on that weren’t strictly part of the proceedings.

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

Bring a notebook; don’t take notes on your phone. People think you are tweeting or something.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How do you (and your manager) know if you’re a good collaborator at work? | A Founder’s Notebook

Like everything else, collaboration should be measured by results, not process.

Robyn Scott (Co-Founder at oneleap)
The 30 second habit with a lifelong impact — The Startup — Medium

Immediately after every lecture, meeting, or any significant experience, take 30 seconds — no more, no less — to write down the most important points.

What’s the best way to run your board meeting?

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Do You Want Better Board Meetings? Then Work The Phone – AVC

I was talking to the CEO of one of our portfolio companies last week. He was preparing for a board meeting that is coming up. He told me that he had scheduled calls with all of his board members and investors that attend his meetings and had completed most of them. He had gotten feedback on what they were thinking about his company, what they are excited about, what they are concerned about, things they want to discuss, etc. He said it had made a… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Do You Want Better Board Meetings? Then Work The Phone – AVC

You can keep the calls on the short side, 15-30mins each, and that means it is two to three hours of work for most board sizes and investor groups. I would recommend doing these calls one to two weeks before the meeting so you have time to collect all of the feedback and incorporate it into the agenda and the board materials. But don’t do it too far in advance because you also want your board members and other attendees to be “fresh” in terms of … (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How we run board meetings at Seeking Alpha | A Founder’s Notebook

No dial-ins because it kills the conversation. If someone can’t attend, call them the following week to update them. Don’t go through the board materials during the meeting we assume everyone read them in advance. No texting or emailing during the meeting so we provide a break for people to make calls or email. Never make decisions during the board meeting group dynamics are unpredictable and an unreliable decision making mechanism.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Don’t waste your board meetings on updates | A Founder’s Notebook

Don’t waste your board meetings on updates. We take an extreme approach to board meetings in Seeking Alpha — there are no updates. The updates are in the board letter and time series charts, which we send to the board and expect everyone to read before the meeting. The entire meeting is devoted to discussion, and lasts no longer than three hours.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How we run board meetings at Seeking Alpha | A Founder’s Notebook

Invite input. Ask the board members before the meeting for their wish list of discussion topics for the meeting and board packet. Send out the board packet early to allow everyone to read it in advance. No powerpoint in the board packet because it isn’t conducive to rigorous analysis. Instead, I write a letter which references a comprehensive set of time-series charts. Be transparent share the board packet with the whole company before sending it… (read more)

Peter Fenton (General Partner at Benchmark)
Sunday Conversation #1: Peter Fenton, Benchmark Capital – Haywire

Great board meetings are focused on asking tough questions and applying critical thinking, as opposed to just updates. I encourage a lot of the entrepreneurs I work with to get rid of the PowerPoint.

Peter Fenton (General Partner at Benchmark)
Sunday Conversation #1: Peter Fenton, Benchmark Capital – Haywire

If you think about it structurally, I think there’s something ideal in a board meeting where about a third of it is update. “Here’s how we’re doing, here are the financials, here’s the progress against commitments we’ve made. ” The second third should be some meaty topic, you know, competitive landscape, potential product road map, any number of things, but a really meaty discussion which is bringing out the best of the board members. The last th… (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Don’t make decisions in board meetings | A Founder’s Notebook

The CEO should speak to every board member individually before the board meeting, and should try to know each person’s viewpoint before the meeting.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Board packet — why we send a letter instead of slides | A Founder’s Notebook

I stopped using a PowerPoint for our board packet a while ago. It was too easy to make minor updates to last quarter’s slides, leading to formulaic results. So instead, I now provide two Google docs to the board, which I share with the whole company: 1. A comprehensive set of time series charts. 2. A letter covering what happened during the quarter, our focus for next quarter, and our strategic position. The letter is 3-5 pages long, and referenc… (read more)

What’s the best way to retain employees?

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Employee Retention – Sam Altman

A great work environment. This consists of two things–cultural values and team

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Employee Retention – Sam Altman

If employees work at your company because they believe in the importance of the mission, they are unlikely to be tempted by more money elsewhere. Find a way to give everyone new challenges all the time.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Parental Leave – AVC

Each company needs to decide when and how they can consider such a parental leave policy. But for those that have the scale to consider this approach, I am strongly in favor of it and share Chad’s belief that what is good for employees and their families is good for business.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Path Forward – AVC

Our portfolio company Return Path built a “returnship” program a few years ago to help stay at home moms and other men and women who have left the work force to take care of children, sick parents, etc figure out how to get back into the workforce.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Why Startups Should Train Their People – Ben’s Blog

After putting economics, aside, I found that there were two primary reasons why people quit: 1) They hated their manager – generally the employees were appalled by the lack of guidance, career development and feedback they were receiving. 2) They weren’t learning anything – the company wasn’t investing in the employees.

Patty McCord (Chief Talent Officer at Netflix)
How Netflix Reinvented HR

The best thing you can do for employees—a perk better than foosball or free sushi—is hire only “A” players to work alongside them. Excellent colleagues trump everything else.

Jeff Bezos (Founder & CEO of Amazon)
EX-99.1

Pay to Quit is pretty simple. Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is “Please Don’t Take This Offer. ” We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying some… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Access Code – AVC

Providing coding training to underserved adults who can fill tech jobs, as Access Code is doing, is another part of the talent equation that can make significant immediate impact. If you feel like you can support this effort with your time or your money or by hiring Access Code graduates or by teaching a class, please do so.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The two factors which determine how successful and happy you will be at work | A Founder’s Notebook

Only two things matter for individuals: Do you get to do what you are best at / love doing every day? Are you in a company where growth and success will spawn opportunities for you?

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

You need to take your employee base and categorize them as A’s, B’s and C’s. Any goodwill is already lost if they come to you and ask you for something. The golden rule of keeping employees happy is unexpected increases in compensation, role, or even just recognition.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

Often the amount of equity increases you can give isn’t going to have a profound impact. If you wait to give it at annual review time you’ve already lost the upper hand in terms of controlling the emotion.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

If you’re short on cash, the obvious place to increase people is equity. Another motivator is when you give people people gifts or experiences that are unexpected. For example, dinner for four at a top restaurant.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

If someone’s told you they want to break up with you, you’ve probably already missed out. Never roll out your red carpet when the employees on the way out the door. The key is to get ahead of it before you’ve missed out.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

Another easy give is title. I know people are afraid of title inflation. Suprisingly people can get motivated by increases in responsibility or if you publicly praise them infront of others.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

Another easy win frankly is taking them out to dinner and telling them how important they are to you. Invite their partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse and make it a social dinner.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
MBA Mondays: Retaining Your Employees – AVC

There isn’t one secret method to retain employees but there are a few things that make a big difference.
1) Communication – the single greatest contributor to low morale is lack of communication. 2) Getting the hiring process right – a lot of churn results from bad hiring. 3) Culture and Fit – Employees leave because they don’t feel like they fit in. 4) Promote from within. Create a career path for your most talented people. The best people are… (read more)

Bart Lorang (Founder & CEO of FullContact)
Paid Vacation? Not Cool. You Know What’s Cool? Paid, PAID Vacation

Once per year, we give each employee $7500 to go on vacation. There are a few rules: You have to go on vacation, or you don’t get the money. You must disconnect. You can’t work while on vacation.

Maura Thomas (Award-winning speaker, trainer, author)
Your Late-Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team

Being “always on” hurts results. When employees are constantly monitoring their email after work hours — whether this is due to a fear of missing something from you, or because they are addicted to their devices — they are missing out on essential down time that brains need. Refrain from after-hours communication. Discourage an always-on environment of distraction that inhibits creative flow.

What’s the best way to respond to a VC partner?

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Raise Money

Even if you get an email from a partner you should try to delay meeting till you’re in fundraising mode. They may say they just want to meet and chat, but investors never just want to meet and chat. What if they like you? What if they start to talk about giving you money? Will you be able to resist having that conversation? Unless you’re experienced enough at fundraising to have a casual conversation with investors that stays casual, it’s safer t… (read more)

What’s the best way to recruit?

Sarah Allen (Product Leader at 18F)
little rules for working life – the evolving ultrasaurus

The #1 job of a good manager is hiring and retaining great people. Never hire until you’ve interviewed at least three great candidates. Move fast on a great candidate. If all of your candidates look the same, you have a recruiting problem. Always be recruiting.

Dr. Dana Ardi (Corporate Anthropology Advisors)
MBA Mondays: Guest Post From Dr. Dana Ardi – AVC

Hire smart and hire the very best people you can. Don’t just onboard someone to fill a slot. Instead, build a community. Keep asking yourself not just what you want and need, but what’s best for the organization to grow and evolve.

Chad Dickerson (CEO & President @ Etsy)
MBA Mondays: Guest Post From Chad Dickerson – AVC

Typically, candidates want to know two basic things about your company: 1) how is the company doing from a business standpoint? and 2) does this company operate in a way that I can believe in? The second is arguably more important than the first, since performance metrics rise and fall, valuations go up and down, and stock prices fluctuate. Culture and values persist.

Bill McComb (Former CEO at Fifth & Pacific Companies, Inc.)
How to hire – drill a well before you need a drink | A Founder’s Notebook

Drill a well before you need a drink

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
MBA Mondays: Guest Post From Donna White – AVC

Recognize recruiting as a source of opportunity beyond hiring. The insights gained, and discoveries and contacts made during the recruiting process can be an invaluable investment into your business. For instance, you may learn of business opportunities, build your network, gain market intelligence, be exposed to new ways of thinking and of doing things, and introduce your product to people who will become evangelists.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
MBA Mondays: Guest Post From Donna White – AVC

Use the activities involved in recruiting to strengthen abilities that will contribute to your overall effectiveness. There are elements of recruiting that you probably already enjoy and that exercise the same abilities that you use in other aspects of running your business, such as: creating something out of nothing, analyzing and solving problems, devising strategies, making new contacts, crafting and relaying your company’s story, negotiatin… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
MBA Mondays: Best Hiring Practices – AVC

Your company should have a jobs page. Even if you are a five person startup, you should have one. It should articulate what it is like to work at your company and list any open jobs. It should be linked to at the bottom of your webpage, right next to the link to your about page. This is important. Don’t put it off.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
MBA Mondays: Best Hiring Practices – AVC

Do not take the “put the job opening up and let the applicants come” approach. That will not get you the best people. You must go out and find the talent you want to hire. You can use your existing team, that is where the best leads always come from. You can use your network. You can use recruiters, both contingency and retained, and you can use services like LinkedIn and Indeed. You want to cast a wide net and work hard to source the best candid… (read more)


Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
MBA Mondays: Where To Find Strong Talent – AVC

The kind of people you want to hire for your company are in short supply and they are rarely out looking for a job. You have to go find them and recruit them to join your team. But where to look?
Here are some suggestions:
1) People you know and people your team knows. 2) People who work for your competition. 3) Companies that have been recently purchased. 4) Other parts of the country and the world. 5) Colleges. 6) The big companies in your ma… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
MBA Mondays: Turning Your Team – AVC

A serial entrepreneur I know tells me “you will turn your team three times on the way from startup to a business of scale.” What he means is that the initial team will depart, replaced by another team, which in turn will be replaced by yet another team.

Susan Loh (Head of People @ ClassPass)
MBA Mondays: Guest Post From Susan Loh – AVC

When the time came to figure out how to scale HR & Recruiting at foursquare, I felt that I could solve the above issues by merging the two organizations into one unified Talent Team. I view the Talent Team as a full service organization that is with you from the day you apply to the company to the day you leave the company. We are responsible for recruiting, onboarding, training, developing, and retaining great people. Our performance is measured… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Starting and Finishing – AVC

The skills that get you from idea, through initial product, past product market fit, and into a market leading company are very different from what it takes to manage a 200-500-1000 person global business that needs to exectute well across a range of dimensions and keep everyone aligned, motivated, and working well together.