What’s the best way to know if you have product market fit?

Charlie O’Donnell (Partner Brooklyn Bridge Ventures)
Growth is a Commodity — This is going to be BIG…

If there’s one thing we’ve basically figured out in the digital world, it’s marketing. It’s table stakes. You spend some dollars to get more dollars out. It’s not complicated. That’s why I care much more about engagement–do people like what you built, versus whether or not more people used it today than they did yesterday. Plus, the startup world is littered with companies that grew exponentially without becoming successful–Fab, Turntable, Dailyb… (read more)

What’s the best way to choose good financial partners?

Charlie O’Donnell (Partner Brooklyn Bridge Ventures)
VC Value add: Why it probably doesn’t matter, but I try anyway. — This is going to be BIG…

An experienced founder who had been through lots of rounds as both an entrepreneur and an angel investor told me the following: “There are maybe two or three VCs on the face of the earth that add any value to the eventual outcome of a company. So there are really just a few criteria that matter: They should do no harm. They should be able to close the round quickly and without too much distraction. You should like them enough to have them on your… (read more)

What’s the best way to be an effective leader?

Charlie O’Donnell (Partner Brooklyn Bridge Ventures)
How to stay calm under immense work pressure — Charlie O’Donnell | A Founder’s Notebook

1. Take care of your physical self. 2. Consider the worst case scenarios and have a plan for them. 3. Always try to do your best work, but know and accept your limits. 4. Try to think as linearly as possible. 5. Don’t accept other people’s timelines as your own. 6. Be extremely protective of your time. 7. Get an assistant. 8. Reverse engineer the life you want to live. 9. Let other people in. 10. Get rid of the people and relationships that drain… (read more)

What’s the best way to know if you have product market fit?

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Before Growth – Sam Altman

A startup that prematurely targets a growth goal often ends up making a nebulous product that some users sort of like and papering over this with growth hacking. That sort of works at least, it will fool investors for awhile until they start digging into retention numbers but eventually the music stops.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Before Growth – Sam Altman

I think the right initial metric is do any users love our product so much they spontaneously tell other people to use it? Until that’s a yes, founders are generally better off focusing on this instead of a growth target.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Why startups shouldn’t scale prematurely | A Founder’s Notebook

Don’t scale before you have product-market fit. You’ll burn money, delay true success, and be miserable. What’s so bad about scaling prematurely? Low ROI, high burn rate: Sales and marketing for a product without product-market fit will suffer from low conversions and low renewals. Frustration: When you don’t have product-market fit, everything seems too hard, and everyone is frustrated. Not building permanent value: When you eventually fix your … (read more)

Charlie O’Donnell (Partner Brooklyn Bridge Ventures)
Growth is a Commodity — This is going to be BIG…

If there’s one thing we’ve basically figured out in the digital world, it’s marketing. It’s table stakes. You spend some dollars to get more dollars out. It’s not complicated. That’s why I care much more about engagement–do people like what you built, versus whether or not more people used it today than they did yesterday. Plus, the startup world is littered with companies that grew exponentially without becoming successful–Fab, Turntable, Dailyb… (read more)

Sean Ellis (CEO at GrowthHackers)
Using Survey.io

Here’s an objective metric that removes emotion from the scaling decision while also giving you other important qualitative information. The key question on the survey is: How would you feel if you could no longer use [product]? Very disappointed, Somewhat disappointed, Not disappointed (it isn’t really that useful), N/A – I no longer use [product]. If you find that over 40% of your users are saying that they would be “very disappointed” without … (read more)

Albert Wenger (Partner at Union Square Ventures, Former President of del.icio.us)
Startup Management » Product/Market Fit is a Continuum

You know you’ve achieved product-market fit when the customers intuitively understand what need the product fills for them, and they have no trouble using it, in fact they enjoy using it… in fact they start telling their friends about it, maybe even telling the world about it on Twitter or other places. That’s how you know if you’ve got product-market fit.

Andy Johns (Current VP of Growth at Wealthfront. Formerly growth at Facebook, Twitter, Quora. Ex-EIR Greylock)
Real Engines Of Growth Have Nothing To Do With Growth Hacking | TechCrunch

When you’ve nailed your product, you’ll know it. Your retention will be great and people will happily engage with your emails or push notifications.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
The Revenge of the Fat Guy | Marc Andreessen

Myth #1: Product market fit is always a discrete, big bang event. Myth #2: It’s patently obvious when you have product market fit. Myth #3: Once you achieve product market fit, you can’t lose it. Myth #4: Once you have product-market fit, you don’t have to sweat the competition

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Product-market fit can be hard to spot | A Founder’s Notebook

Product-market fit is a continuum, not a single point. But if you’re not in “the zone”, you know it. Everything feels too hard.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Four myths about product-market fit | A Founder’s Notebook

My personal view is that product-market fit is a continuum; there are degrees of product-market fit. You should only scale when it’s clear that you’re fairly far along the continuum of product-market fit.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Burn Rate – AVC

It is dangerous to ramp up headcount and burn until you are certain that you have the right product and the right people and processes in the organization to support the product. And early revenue traction, often driven by a passionate founder, can be a nasty head fake.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Product > Strategy > Business Model – AVC

Getting product right means finding product market fit. It does not mean launching the product. It means getting to the point where the market accepts your product and wants more of it.

Jerry Neuman (Venture Capitalist at Neu Venture Capital)
How to kiss your elbow | Reaction Wheel

Marc Andreessen says “you can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening. ” Unfortunately, this is simply not true. In B-to-B startups you can have a lot of buzz and a few amazing clients banging your door down and still have a product that doesn’t really do much. Or you can have a product that is absolutely amazing that great clients are beta-testing but that no one is paying for.

William Mougayar (Chief Evangelist, Advocate Marketing at Influitive, formerly CEO/founder of Engagio)
Startup Management » Product/Market Fit is a Continuum

If there is no market, even a great product and a great team will not get you there. if you can’t realize the business model, there is no Product/Market Fit. If there is no retention and referrals, there is no Product/Market Fit. Instead of building new features, or rebuilding from scratch, try pointing your product at a new market.

Marc Andreesen (Co-Founder & General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz)
How you know when you’ve hit product-market fit | A Founder’s Notebook

You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of “blah”, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close. And you can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it — or usage is growing just as fast a… (read more)

Paul Buchheit (Partner at Y Combinator)
Default Alive or Default Dead?

A related problem that I see a lot is premature scaling—founders take a small business that isn’t really working (bad unit economics, typically) and then scale it up because they want impressive growth numbers. This is similar to over-hiring in that it makes the business much harder to fix once it’s big, plus they are bleeding cash really fast.

Raju Rishi (General Partner @ RRE Ventures)
When Revenue Isn’t The Answer

Closed deals and sales velocity are not exclusive measures of product/ market fit. Maybe, among your first customers, there are wide variations in the core use cases for the product. Maybe your team is struggling with lengthy sales cycles. Maybe you find yourself significantly altering your pitch for different target customers and creating multiple marketing messages along the way

Eric Ries (Author, The Lean Startup)
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

Startups occasionally ask me to help them evaluate whether they have achieved product/market fit. It’s easy to answer: if you are asking, you’re not there yet. (p.219)

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

How much traction is enough? How much growth in enough? It depends a lot on the startup, but generally an investor will not be impressed if you say we’re growing at 10% a month. That means you’ll double in a year and believe it or not in the startup game that’s not enough for an early stage company.

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

Whatever your core metric is you want to grow that by 20% per month.

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

Things like gaming Facebook’s open graph can temporarily stimulate growth that is not sustainable long term. Investors can be faked out by things like that. Gaming Google’s search algorithms is another way that has been done in the past. When we look at growth, we look for authentic, organic, and sustainable growth that is not overly dependent on a single source, particularly a source the startup doesn’t control. That takes some experience to det… (read more)

Raju Rishi (General Partner @ RRE Ventures)
When Revenue Isn’t The Answer

Achieving product/ market fit is the transformative moment in the life of a startup. It is the moment of metamorphosis, where a company aligns messaging, marketing, target customers, sales methodology, product roadmap, and operating metrics. This moment cannot be bypassed, faked, overlooked, or ignored. So be disciplined. Don’t get caught up in the expectations of customers, investors, or yourselves. For in the absence of product market fit, more… (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Startup strategy: Why you have to demand commitment | A Founder’s Notebook

In Seeking Alpha, we wanted to keep our content free, but wanted to ensure our users valued it. So we forced our users to register. Our thinking was “We’re not interested in a relationship where you don’t value our product enough to register for free”.

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

the question Sean Ellis popularized, where you ask your users, “How disappointed would you be if you could no longer use our product?” and have them answer with either, “Very Disappointed,” “Somewhat Disappointed,” “Not Disappointed,” or “I no longer use the product. ” Sean did research across hundreds of startups and discovered that companies that had fewer than 40% of their users answer “Very Disappointed” tended to struggle with building a suc… (read more)

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

On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend us to your friends?” You mark those who answer 0-6 as Detractors, 9-10 as Promoters, and 7-8 as Neutral. Your Net Promoter score is the percent of Promoters minus your percentage of Detractors, which should be a number between -100 and +100. The world’s most successful companies typically score around +50, and top performing tech companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon regularly score over +7… (read more)

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Product comes first. If people love your product, the tiniest announcements will get attention. If people don’t love your product, no amount of marketing effort will help.

Kissmetrics (Built to optimize marketing. Track, analyze and optimize your digital marketing.)
13 Critically Important Lessons from Over 50 Growth Hackers

Leaky buckets don’t need more water, they need their holes fixed.

What’s the best way to choose good financial partners?

Keith Rabois (Venture Partner @ Khosla Ventures)
Are strategic investors in startups more ‘dangerous’ than VCs, from a founder perspective?

Strategic/corp investors are notoriously slow and consume substantially more cycles in due diligence than your typical venture capital firm;
They will generally limit your (actual and perceived) exit options (competitors will not offer to acquire you and future investors will be dubious about whether an independent exit will be a viable option).

Robert Siegel (General Partner @ XSeed Capital)
Strategic investor: Friend or foe?

The broader economic interest of the larger corporation will always outweigh the small financial interest it has in the startup. It is not necessarily bad, per se, that a strategic investor owns stock in a startup, but don’t be mislead into the belief that this will “align incentives.”

Robert Siegel (General Partner @ XSeed Capital)
Strategic investor: Friend or foe?

I will posit that many (most?) Silicon Valley large companies have a more “enlightened” approach in these relationships as there is an ecosystem that encourages acquisitions and collaborations between large and small firms. Outside of Silicon Valley this is not always true — in fact, oftentimes there is no history of such strategic relationships in an industry.

Robert Siegel (General Partner @ XSeed Capital)
Strategic investor: Friend or foe?

a CEO should consider if there is a history of positive interactions in an industry between large and small companies when considering taking on a strategic investor. If there isn’t, be cautious.

Robert Siegel (General Partner @ XSeed Capital)
Strategic investor: Friend or foe?

In the earliest days of a company, a startup is at its most fragile state. As such, a strategic investor has the ability to have disproportionate influence to encourage a young entity to do things that may not be in the long-term best interest of the startup (but might be good for the strategic investor).

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Is Strategic Money an Oxymoron? | Bothsides of the Table

The reality is that their core business is not venture capital. So push comes to shove they will be driven by their core business (as they should be) – not the $5 million they put into your company. You are the tail, not the dog.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Is Strategic Money an Oxymoron? | Bothsides of the Table

One of the problems in working with corporate entities is that the venture arm doesn’t always have an autonomous decision-making ability. Imagine your investor has to call the CEO of a $20 billion company for approval for your merger or sale. Fun.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Is Strategic Money an Oxymoron? | Bothsides of the Table

So you took money from the largest player in your industry. That’s awesome because you now have credibility. But guess what – number 2-10 in the sector now you view as an agent for the evil empire. It will be much harder to get deals done there and may drive people to your competitors.

Ron Conway (Founder & Co-Managing Partner @ SV Angel)
Ron Conway, Mike Maples Jr. – Angel Investing Revealed by Stanford eCorner | Free Listening on SoundCloud

[If you’re in Europe] go talk to Atomico, go talk to Baldwin, go talk to Index Ventures.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Global Venture Capital Distribution – AVC

Transportation convenience matters a lot. You can fly direct multiple times a day to and from all of the cities on Richard’s top ten list. Investors value their time and focus it on markets that they can get in and out of easily. I think that has a big impact on where money flows.

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

You can’t really dump co-founders, unless you want to pay through the nose to do so. But hardest to get change is your VC; once they’re on your board, they’re there for good. So you have to choose very wisely.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
What I Would Look for When Choosing a VC – Knowing What I Know Now? | Bothsides of the Table

You want a VC who will spar with you but then STFU and let you get on with things. Smart? Sure. But don’t over index on brains. In the end it will be up to you to figure out what to do.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Orphaned Investments – AVC

Of all the bad things that VCs do on a regular basis, and that list is long, orphaning their investments is at the top of my list of bad behavior. Orphaning an investment is when a VC firm decides that it doesn’t really care about an investment any more and stops paying attention. The primary cause is when a partner leaves a firm and nobody picks up coverage of his or her investments. The VC firm says that “so and so” is covering the investment n… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Orphaned Investments – AVC

So how do you avoid being orphaned? Like most things, it comes down to picking your partners carefully. Ask around. Find out how they have acted in tough situations. Find out how solid the VC’s position is in their firm. You need to reference both the partner and the firm. The person is important but if they leave you will find out a lot about the firm.

Josh Kopelman (Partner at First Round)
What the Seed Funding Boom Means for Raising a Series A | First Round Review

Rather than having a “party round” full of VC firm logos, I believe founders are better served by having investors who will roll up their sleeves and open doors, make introductions, help source and recruit great talent, give feedback on a Series A pitch, and call in favors to make things happen

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
What VC Can Learn From Private Equity – AVC

The main thing I’ve come away with from this several week long rumination on private equity is the value of having very clear lines of responsibility, crisp decision making, clarity of who is calling the shots, and, mostly, a deep feeling of ownership and responsibility for the businesses we invest in. It’s not possible for one VC partner to do this for more than about eight to ten companies, and most VCs take on way more portfolio companies than… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Product Idea: Reverse Engineering VC Investment Strategies – AVC

Venture capital firms don’t do a great job on their websites of explaining what they invest in and what they do not invest in. Some of that is most VC websites aren’t particularly great to begin with. Some of that is investment strategies change and evolve over time. Some of that is VC firms tell themselves they do one thing but actually do another.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
On Getting An Outside Lead – AVC

There is a lot of signaling risk in all of this. If you are known to be aggressive in offering to lead inside rounds, and you don’t make that offer, then that puts the entrepreneur in a tricky spot. Of course the entrepreneur can say that they don’t want an inside lead and they want to expand the investor base. But even so, smart investors may know.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Sticking With The Struggling Investments – AVC

One of the characteristics of USV that I am most proud of is that we stick with our struggling investments. And we have made a lot of them. We have way more of them than our successful ones that are always cited when we are talked about publicly. I think how you treat your struggling investments says more about you than how many billion dollar exits you have had. You need both to be successful in the VC business, of course. The latter metric defi… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
On Corporate VCs – AVC

There are two kinds of corporate investments in startups; passive corporate VC arms and active strategic investments.
The former is made by well established investment groups like Google Ventures, Intel Ventures, SAP Ventures, Comcast Ventures, and many many more. For the most part, they don’t “suck”. They can be a good source of capital for your company, they can be supportive investors who follow on when the rest of the syndicate does, and the… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Doing Business On A Handshake – AVC

But the most important thing in business is the understanding, the look in the eye, the handshake, and the personal trust that comes from those things. No piece of paper can beat that.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
MBA Mondays: Leveraging Your Partners To Grow And Develop Your Team – AVC

The best investors, the ones who have been at it for a while and have great reputations, will have a large network of people they have worked with over the years. Their network will also include people who they want to work with and who want to work with them. They can and do play matchmaker between their network and their portfolio companies. I suspect the partners at USV spend at least 25% of our time on things that would be considered “recruit… (read more)

Mitchell Harper (Co-Founder & Board Member @ Bigcommerce)
28 things I’d do differently next time around — Medium

Early on, raise money from investors who have “been there, done that” — don’t take money from “spreadsheet VCs” because they only understand numbers

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Leading vs Following – AVC

It’s hard to be a great lead investor and a completely different thing than being a well sought after angel investor who can get into someone else’s deals.

Ryan Howard (Founder @ Practice Fusion)
Transcript: Protecting yourself as the founder; Ryan Howard | VatorNews

Upfront, during the second meeting, you want to go, “Who in this room is actually likely going to come on our board?” to get that context so you can start building a relationship with them early on.

Ryan Howard (Founder @ Practice Fusion)
Transcript: Protecting yourself as the founder; Ryan Howard | VatorNews

You want to ask hard questions. You want to ask when the last time they fired a CEO and why. You want to basically get that context. You want to tell them upfront what your expectations of a board member are. If you don’t, they will tell you what their expectations are. Most of the board members are veteran investors and have dramatically more experience than you do, so that can be quite problematic.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Raising Angel Money | Bothsides of the Table

my advice is to stack the odds as much in your favor as possible by taking the experienced money from people who have a reputation for really helping entrepreneurs.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
VC pitfalls to watch for: trying to fix companies | A Founder’s Notebook

How do great VCs add value? They (i) provide concrete help with hiring, fundraising, and intros; (ii) encourage you to figure things out without pressuring you to expand prematurely; (iii) share what’s working from their other startups; (iv) ask great questions that you wouldn’t otherwise have thought about; and (v) focus on real metrics rather than buzz among other VCs and the media.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
What I Wish I Knew Before Pitching LinkedIn to VCs | Greylock Partners

Pay attention to whether they are being constructive during the pitch and financing process. Do they understand your market? Are their questions the same questions that keep you up at night? Are you learning from their feedback? Are they passionate about the problem you’re trying to solve?

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

How do you know if an investor will add value? Pay attention to whether they are being constructive during the financing process. Do they understand your market? Are their questions the same questions that keep you up at night? Are you learning from their feedback? Are they passionate about the problem you’re trying to solve?

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Do great VCs need operating experience? | A Founder’s Notebook

In my experience, fantastic VCs have three characteristics: (1) They understand the company. (2) They believe in the company and the team, and express that. (3) They help in tangible ways (they don’t just express opinions)

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

The ideal financing partner is a financing cofounder. This is why already-wealthy entrepreneurs raise money from experienced investors for their next startup: they know partnering with angels and venture capitalists is about more than just the money.

Charlie O’Donnell (Partner Brooklyn Bridge Ventures)
VC Value add: Why it probably doesn’t matter, but I try anyway. — This is going to be BIG…

An experienced founder who had been through lots of rounds as both an entrepreneur and an angel investor told me the following: “There are maybe two or three VCs on the face of the earth that add any value to the eventual outcome of a company. So there are really just a few criteria that matter: They should do no harm. They should be able to close the round quickly and without too much distraction. You should like them enough to have them on your… (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The most unrecognized and under-appreciated way VCs help startups | A Founder’s Notebook

My experience with Seeking Alpha’s investors: “I’ve got your back and I’m there with you along the way” makes a huge difference.

What’s the best way to be an effective leader?

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Sixteen Years Ago – AVC

Relationships are the currency of business.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Success Has A Thousand Fathers – AVC

I have a couple rules that I try very hard to live by in this regard: 1- the management team always gets the credit. VCs don’t do the dirty work and should not get the accolades when things work out. 2 – don’t gloat. it’s not becoming. humility in times of great success is a very becoming characteristic. But it’s really hard to follow these rules when things work out well. Because success doesn’t come that often, and when it does, it has a th… (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The minimum requirements for giving effective feedback | A Founder’s Notebook

Note that giving your team effective feedback is not the same as coaching them,

Adam Bryant (Corner Office columnist and Deputy Science editor at NYTimes)
Adam Bryant Of The New York Times On What Makes Great Leaders Great

One [characteristic of the best CEOs I’ve met] is what I call “passionate curiosity,” which is this relentless questioning mind that I see in so many of the leaders I interview. They are really deeply engaged with the world. They are curious about people, their back stories.

Adam Bryant (Corner Office columnist and Deputy Science editor at NYTimes)
Adam Bryant Of The New York Times On What Makes Great Leaders Great

There’s a quality [in great CEOs] that I call a “simple mindset,” which is the ability to take a lot of complicated information and really boil it down to the one or two or three things that really matter, and in a simple way, communicate that to people. They can figure out, “Here are the four metrics; these are the three or four things that we are going to focus on,” and do it in a way that not only makes sense for today, but is likely to make … (read more)

Jeff Jordan (General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz)
Leaving It All on the Field | Jeff Jordan

Periodic 360 feedback from the organization. If you ask people for feedback and typically respond to it in a constructive way, then they will typically give it to you. Working with a talented coach that I trusted. If world-class athletes like Tiger Woods utilized swing and strength coaches, why shouldn’t executives who aspired to improve use a management and leadership coach? Find a mentor or mentor(s). I eventually made the realization that I wa… (read more)

John W. Rogers (Executive Vice President, Chief of Staff & Secretary to the Board at Goldman Sachs)
A great teammate is a great listener

Become that rare person where people know that your word is your bond and you’re going to do exactly what you say you’re going to do.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Which is better: a CEO who tolerates mediocrity or one who throws tantrums? | A Founder’s Notebook

If I had to choose between a manager who tolerates mediocrity and a manager who throws “nutters”, I’d go for the manager who throws nutters any day. Why? Because the most successful companies are built by managers who strive for, and demand excellence. They care passionately about their product and company

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown – AVC

If you are a CEO and you are feeling that uneasy head right now, look around you. Do you have the support you need from your team and your board? If the answer is no, do something about it. Because you can’t be a great leader without a great support system.
And get a coach.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown – AVC

I also encourage CEOs to join a CEO support group. Meeting regularly with peer CEOs is a great way to vent with each other about the nonsense that goes on in a company, but it is also a great place to get actionable advice and learn from each other.

Ryan Howard (Founder @ Practice Fusion)
Transcript: Protecting yourself as the founder; Ryan Howard | VatorNews

Starting off, being a founder is obviously an incredibly hard job. Macro concerns from day-to-day are simply building your business, hiring a great team, fundraising to make payroll day to day and with that, the last thing you want to do is worry about getting fired from the company that you started. The reality is that, this is a quote from the founder of Sequioa, “45% of their founding CEOs and their investments are fired after 18 months.” It’s… (read more)

Scott Cook (Founder at Intuit)
Why Intuit Founder Scott Cook Wants You To Stop Listening To Your Boss | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

We teach our leaders that it’s your job to put in the systems that enable your people to run your experiments fast and cheap and to keep making them faster and cheaper. Yield as many of your decisions off to the experiment as possible.

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

Ask for help (rather than try to have all the answers)

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

The ability to articulate the vision. Can the leader articulate a vision that’s interesting, dynamic, and compelling? The right kind of ambition. Truly great leaders create an environment where the employees feel that the CEO cares much more about the employees than she cares about herself. The ability to achieve the vision. The final leg of our leadership stool is competence, pure and simple. If I buy into the vision and believe that the leader … (read more)

Brad Smith (President & Chief Executive Officer, Intuit)
Great managers ask great questions | A Founder’s Notebook

Lead With Questions Not Answers. The best leaders don’t need to have all of the answers. They surround themselves with great people, and ask the right questions. It’s not what you know. It’s the questions you ask that help you become a more effective and inspiring leader. The two greatest indicators of what we view as important are (1) how we spend our time and (2) the questions we ask.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Ideas spread inside a company due to positive energy; 8 ways to increase it | A Founder’s Notebook

At work, make time to connect with others as people. Do what you say you’re going to do. Make it bigger than your [personal interests]. Acknowledge the positives, not just the problems. Criticize ideas, not people. Be visibly and sincerely enthusiastic. Look for ways to allow others to contribute. Don’t let your expertise make others feel inferior.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup Playbook

No first-time founder knows what he or she is doing. To the degree you understand that, and ask for help, you’ll be better off. It’s worth the time investment to learn to become a good leader and manager. The best way to do this is to find a mentor, reading books doesn’t seem to work as well.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startups, Role Models, Risk, and Y Combinator – Sam Altman

Here’s the secret: everyone starting a startup for the first time is scared, and everyone feels like a bit of an imposter. Even the most successful founders doubt themselves and their startups many times in the early days.

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

Great entrepreneurs have a motivation that runs so deep that it feels insatiable, and that is infectious. It lets other people around them have that motivation. I think there’s just a profound, deep, innate motivation. A lot of what happens after the fanfare of starting a company and hiring people is, “Why are we here, what’s the purpose, and why are we doing this?”

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Do everything you can not to attach your self esteem to your startup (you’ll fail, but try anyway). Do the best you can every day, then step back. Work in such a way that when the dust settles you can be proud of the choices you’ve made, regardless of the outcome.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Why We Prefer Founding CEOs – Ben’s Blog

We see three key ingredients to being a great innovator: comprehensive knowledge, moral authority, and total commitment to the long-term. Great founding CEOs tend to have all three and professional CEOs often lack them.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The power of asking questions: What Warren Buffett asked Bill Gates | A Founder’s Notebook

Asking great questions is a skill, and often doesnt come naturally. Im particularly bad at it. So in discussions inside Seeking Alpha, I try to step back from making assertions, to articulating the question which the assertion was supposed to answer.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: A definition of a leader…

If you want to be a leader, go lead.

Jeffrey Minch (Entrepreneur – ‎Littlefield Advisors)
The Management Team – Guest Post From JLM – AVC

Get a mentor, a rabbi, a gray haired eminence who is willing to work with you. Golfers get swing coaches but great swing coaches work on the golfer’s head as much as his back swing. Get a professional coach.

Mitchell Harper (Co-Founder & Board Member @ Bigcommerce)
28 things I’d do differently next time around — Medium

Celebrate the good times but be brutally honest with everyone when things aren’t going well — and share your plan to get things back on track fast

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: The irrational thing about trust

We use the most basic semiotics and personal interactions to choose where to place our trust. And once the trust is broken, there’s almost no amount of transparency that will help us change our mind.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: The irrational thing about trust

Real trust (even in our modern culture) doesn’t always come from divulging, from providing more transparency, but from the actions that people take (or that we think they take) before our eyes. It comes from people who show up before they have to, who help us when they think no one is watching. It comes from people and organizations that play a role that we need them to play.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: “I”, “We” and “You”

Instead of saying “I” when you’re ready to take credit, try “we.” Instead of saying “we” when you’re avoiding responsibility, try “I.” And, every time you’re tempted to depersonalize the impact of your actions, try “you,” while looking the impacted person in the eye. Words matter.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Coercion

Real change happens because of enrollment, because it invites people in, it doesn’t use fear. Real leadership patiently changes the culture, engaging people in shared effort. It’s more difficult, but it’s change we can live with.

Unknown (who knows!?)
The Surprisingly Large Cost of Telling Small Lies

The secret to success in business and in life is to never, ever, ever tell a lie. Every time you overreport a metric, underreport a cost, are less than honest with a client or a member of your team, you create a false reality and you start living in it.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Leaders and Executives – AVC

Leadership is different than management. I have said that many times before on this blog and I will say it again. I believe it to be true. Leading is charisma, strength, communication, vision, listening, calm, connecting, trust, faith, and belief. Management is recruiting, retaining, delegating, deciding, communicating, and above all executing. Many CEOs do both for their companies. But getting leadership from the founder and management from a gr… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
What Are We Doing? – AVC

What I am advocating for is the value of having a clear and intelligent plan, communicating it often and often, and, most importantly, mapping that plan to each team and each person in your organization. This is pretty easy when you are five people. It gets harder when you are fifty people. And it’s really hard when you are 500 people. The communication plan is very important particularly as the size of the company grows. And making it matter to … (read more)

Tony Schwartz (CEO of The Energy Project)
If you feel compelled to do something, don’t

If you’re a fighter, step back. If you tend to flee, stay engaged. I’ve found two sorts of reflection help most. “What part of this is my responsibility?” [and] “Who is the person I want to be in this situation?” Or even more specifically, “How would I behave here at my best?”

Robert Sutton (Founder and Research Director of The Network Roundtable)
Fight Like You’re Right, Listen Like You’re Wrong and Other Keys to Great Management | First Round Review

“After people talk to you, do they come away with more or less energy?”

Laura Hale Brockway (Director of Marketing Communications at Texas Medical Liability )
7 Tips to Help You Remember Names Better

Pay attention to the person’s name when it’s said. Say the name aloud as soon as possible. Comment on the name. Associate the name with something meaningful. Form a visual association between the face and the name. Keep looking at the person’s name tag or business card.

Yvon Chouinard (Founder of Patagonia)
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

Managers have short term vision, implement strategic plans, and keep things running as they always have. Leaders take risks, have long term vision, create the strategic plans, and instigate change.

Jeff Weiner (CEO at LinkedIn)
5 Leadership Lessons Learned from Jeff Weiner | Sachin Rekhi

It’s important to constantly repeat the team’s top objectives, the decisions that are being made, the culture you are trying to establish, and anything else you want the broad team to truly internalize. It’s equally important to drive consistency in the message, even using the exact same words to really ensure it sticks.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Dumbing Things Down – AVC

At some point you have to convince people that what you are doing is important and they should join your company, buy from your company, invest in your company, and write about your company. I like to call this “dumbing things down” but it doesn’t have to involve simplification (although that is one way to do it). It could also involve creating effective analogies, describing a future state where the technology is in mass use, or some other techn… (read more)

Geoffrey James (a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author of the award-winning blog Sales Source)
All Great Entrepreneurs Have This | Inc.com

There is one thing and one thing alone that every great entrepreneur absolutely must possess: courage. It takes courage to forego the predictability of a corporate job. It takes courage to sacrifice your nest egg to your startup. It takes courage to take the risk of failure. And it takes courage — lots of it — to hand over the reins when your startup grows beyond your ability to manage it.

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

For me, confidence comes from thinking deeply about what we’re trying to achieve, and why that will benefit people. When you really believe in your vision, you’re confident — even when times are tough — that you’ll succeed.

Jason Lemkin (Managing Director at Storm Ventures, SaaStr.com)
Jason M. Lemkin’s answer to How do CEOs stay calm? – Quora

1. You must fake it. You cannot let anyone see you look like you are losing control. Ever. Once they see that… they will lose faith. 2. You need help. If you don’t have true help carrying the load — stop. Do almost nothing else. Recruit someone. 3. You need a break. In fact, lots of them. 4. You need someone to confide in. At least one. 5. Once the business is real, self-sustaining — you need to take a real vacation. Not just a trip where you ema… (read more)

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Startup founder psychology: Between euphoria and terror | A Founder’s Notebook

[as a CEO] you only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances both of them.

Charlie O’Donnell (Partner Brooklyn Bridge Ventures)
How to stay calm under immense work pressure — Charlie O’Donnell | A Founder’s Notebook

1. Take care of your physical self. 2. Consider the worst case scenarios and have a plan for them. 3. Always try to do your best work, but know and accept your limits. 4. Try to think as linearly as possible. 5. Don’t accept other people’s timelines as your own. 6. Be extremely protective of your time. 7. Get an assistant. 8. Reverse engineer the life you want to live. 9. Let other people in. 10. Get rid of the people and relationships that drain… (read more)

Eric Barker (Founder at StubHub)
How To Never Get Angry: 3 New Secrets From Neuroscience

How can you control emotions of anger in yourself? Here’s how: 1) Suppress rarely. They may not know you’re angry but you’ll feel worse inside and hurt the relationship. 2) Don’t vent. Communication is good but venting just increases anger. Distract yourself. 3) Reappraisal (changing the story you’re telling yourself about the event) is usually the best option. Think to yourself, “It’s not about me. They must be having a bad day. ”