What’s the best way to pitch your company to investors?

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
Five Mistakes New VCs Make (& How I Tried to Avoid Them) | Hunter Walk

New VCs are vulnerable to fashionable verticals. What are some motivations to chase the market? Groupthink certainly; high volume of new companies in these spaces; perceived appetite for these companies from downstream investors mean you can get some quick markups over next 12 months.

What’s the best way to fire an employee?

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
Fire Faster: Five Excuses Startup CEOs Give For Not Getting Rid of Low Performers | Hunter Walk

Unless someone has behaved unethically or otherwise misrepresented their skills, they should be given feedback regarding their underperformance plus the opportunity to articulate to you that they understand and can correct quickly.

What’s the best way to do effective business development?

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
Let’s Meet: How to Prevent Big Companies from Wasting Your Startup’s Time | Hunter Walk

1. Don’t take the meeting unless you know what you want to get out of it. You don’t actually have to meet with BigCo, especially if they won’t tell you what the goal/agenda is, who will be in the room, etc. 2. Make sure the right people are in the room. You want an informed decision maker in the room. If you get stonewalled on this request, ask what data/information can you provide in advance to make it worth this person’s time to attend. 3. Unle… (read more)

What’s the best way to do effective business development?

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
Let’s Meet: How to Prevent Big Companies from Wasting Your Startup’s Time | Hunter Walk

1. Don’t take the meeting unless you know what you want to get out of it. You don’t actually have to meet with BigCo, especially if they won’t tell you what the goal/agenda is, who will be in the room, etc. 2. Make sure the right people are in the room. You want an informed decision maker in the room. If you get stonewalled on this request, ask what data/information can you provide in advance to make it worth this person’s time to attend. 3. Unle… (read more)

What’s the best way to pitch your company to investors?

Aaron Levie (CEO of Box)
Aaron Levie (@levie) | Twitter

Sizing the market for a disruptor based on an incumbent’s market is like sizing the car industry off how many horses there were in 1910.

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

Startup financing is not a popularity contest; everyone saying yes is irrelevant to you. It’s more important to have the right person say yes than it is to have everyone say yes.

Tim Jackson (‎General Partner at Lean Investments)
Investment Swarm with Tim Jackson at Hive53.com – YouTube

Team: how good? Traction: how fast? Market: how big? Barriers: how high? and then… Why did this deal come to me? How can I help?

Rob Go (Co-Founder and Partner at NextView Ventures)
Why The Series B is the “Sucker Round” – ROBGO.ORG

In the seed and Series A, you are selling promise and some execution. In growth rounds, you are selling something that already “works”. You are selling a marketing machine, and the ability to “put in 1 dollar and get out 2″. In between, you are selling a hybrid of both, and that isn’t easy.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
What happened to innovation? – Sam Altman

A two-by-two matrix of progress in innovation (and ease of attracting investment) with software/physical on one axis and short-term/long-term on the other axis looks like this. Green is good, yellow is ok, and red is bad. https://phaven-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/files/image_part/asset/948806/gd5P6SxQ7LcBL_LP4XtEtlK9Jx4/medium_matrix.png

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

Just make an affirmative statement about what you do and why it’s important. SpaceX has a great elevator pitch: “Launch costs haven’t come down in decades. We slash them by 90%. The market is $XXbn.” (Contrast this with: “We’re NASA meets Toyota!”)

Anthony Lee ( Managing Director of Altos Ventures, Marketing @ Evolve Software (acquired), McKinsey)
Why Big, Why Now, Why You? – Altos Ventures

Specifically, there are “3 Whys” that I want to see in every pitch: WHY BIG? WHY NOW? WHY YOU? On Why Now? — this is one that entrepreneurs almost always miss and so it is one that I have come to feel is the most critical. So much of startup success is dictated by good timing

Kris Duggan (CEO and Founder at BetterWorks)
The Second-Timers: Kris Duggan of Betterworks: “This Time, I Generated Leads Before We Even Launched” | SaaStr

If you ask for money, you get advice. If you ask for advice, you get money. I spend 10x more of my time on customers than investors. For example, we don’t have an investor deck here at BetterWorks. If a potential investor wants to talk, I show them our sales deck so they know how we talk with prospects. Thinking that way makes me remember to stop ‘pitching’ and keep listening.

Richard Price (Founder, CEO at Academia.edu)
Guerrilla tips for raising venture capital | VentureBeat | Entrepreneur | by Christina Farr

When pitching a VC, you need to have at your command the macro stats for the industry, because that is how they compare your problem with another idea that someone else is pitching. Intuitions are not enough to make the comparison, and for the partner to pitch his/her colleagues – there needs to be some market data about the size of the market etc.

Ben Yoskovitz (VP Product at VarageSale, VP Product at GoInstant (acquired by Salesforce), Author of Lean Analytics)
“No Marketing” Isn’t as Impressive as You Think

Marketing is learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not making progress. Don’t tell investors that your traction is “without any marketing” because that just means it’s not repeatable and scalable.

David Cancel (CEO, Co-Founder at Drift)
My Golden Rule for Pitching Your Startup or Product

There’s a simple rule I use when pitching a product or even a company to someone. I call it No “and”s. You have to be able to describe your idea in a single sentence without using the word “and. ” The problem with using “and”s is that they often confuse ideas instead of clarifying them.

Alfred Lin (Partner at Sequoia Capital, Former CFO/COO Zappos)
How to Convince Investors

It’s doubly important for the explanation of a startup to be clear and concise, because it has to convince at one remove: it has to work not just on the partner you talk to, but when that partner re-tells it to colleagues.

David Beisel (Co-Founder & Partner at NextView Ventures)
Never Raising Capital Ever Again – GenuineVC

Capital fundraising is to facilitate growth ahead of cash flows generated by the business. If there is truly a huge venture-scale opportunity ahead of a startup, there should be an appropriate cost of capital for future financings to expand which make sense for the company. … perhaps in many cases the desire for the Seed round to be the final round of financing is a tacit signal that it doesn’t have the potential to be “venture scale” after all.

David Cancel (CEO, Co-Founder at Drift)
3 Startup Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

You can only raise money by pitching the “Dream” or by selling “Traction”. So either bootstrap your startup, or raise money in the early “dream” (no code, no plan, just a dream) phase or in the “traction” (the model is working) phase of your business.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Pitching to investors: What truly excites you? | A Founder’s Notebook

A pitch to investors doesn’t need to be an exhaustive overview of your business. You need to get investors excited, and you can then follow up with details. And what gets investors excited is probably what gets you excited.

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
Five Mistakes New VCs Make (& How I Tried to Avoid Them) | Hunter Walk

New VCs are vulnerable to fashionable verticals. What are some motivations to chase the market? Groupthink certainly; high volume of new companies in these spaces; perceived appetite for these companies from downstream investors mean you can get some quick markups over next 12 months.

Oren Jacob (Founder & CEO at ToyTalk)
Take Your Fundraising Pitch from Mediocre to Memorable with These Storytelling Tips | First Round Review

You should be able to tell your whole story, in a compelling and detailed fashion, in just 20 minutes. This will almost always expand to fill the hour… At the same time, you want to have hours and hours of nerdy details squirreled away in your head.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Black Swan Farming

The two most important things to understand about startup investing, as a business, are (1) that effectively all the returns are concentrated in a few big winners, and (2) that the best ideas look initially like bad ideas.

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

The general rule is one business model drives the business. It’s tempting to list multiple revenue streams because you’re trying to prove that you will be big. Yet when consumer internet companies do this, investors generally see a red flag.

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

Your investment thesis is either concept-driven or data-driven. Which kind you are pitching? In a data pitch, you lead with the data because you are emphasizing how good the data already is. If it’s a concept pitch, on the other hand, there may be data, but the data supports a yet undeveloped concept.

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

Pitch by analogy. Show, don’t tell. Again, your pitching goals are to increase investors’ confidence in your investment thesis and lead them to a shared view of your company’s problems. To accomplish this, you should show rather than tell whenever possible.

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

Understand where analogies apply and where they do not. Pitch by analogy but don’t necessarily reason by analogy. When I’m the investor listening to a pitch, one detail I consider is whether the entrepreneur is being too deluded by their analogies and not thinking hard enough about exception cases. It’s better to have no analogy than a bad one.

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

When pitching by analogy, anchor your business to other valuable businesses to signal that your business will be valuable, too

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

Avoid debating the validity of your analogies. If someone pushes back and tries to challenge elements of an analogy, don’t let yourself get drawn into a back and forth. Analogies are a conceptual framework, so they’re not going to be 100% accurate.

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

Express your competitive advantage. Why are you going to break out of the pack? What is your advantage? An understanding of product-market fit? Is it a technology advantage? What’s your differential business strategy? Your differential growth strategy? Your differential product?

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

Show some maneuverability. Don’t just say that you have five different options. Instead, say that you’re doing one, but you also have some fall-back or maneuvering options.

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

Ultimately, you’re selling the partnership, so give the individual partner the talking points to be successful. What will that partner tell their partners? Put yourself in their shoes.

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

When in doubt, lead with what will make the most sense to investors.

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

Underpromise and overdeliver. Internally, our team expected that paid members would potentially get access to the whole network, but we had to make sure that the network would be comfortable with this. So we showed four degrees [of seperation] to our investors, to be sure.

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

Be wary of adjectives and especially adverbs. Anytime you use qualifiers like “very”, you’re overstating your point, which shows that you’re nervous about it. When I’m being pitched as an investor and I see such qualifiers, I make sure to ask questions about those areas because I know the entrepreneur is most nervous about them. It’s okay to be hyperbolic, to be aggressive, to be visionary [but] avoid adverbs and adjectives when possible.

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

Explain to them why you are unique (if you are in a larger market). In essence, why did everyone else pass on you?

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

Tell a story – and try to do it first without relying on your deck. People like stories. Our brains are wired to respond them. We recall facts better when they are embedded in narrative. Why did you start your company? What do you want to achieve? Then drape the facts around that skeleton.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
This For That – AVC

We’ve made a few of these investments and some of them have worked out pretty well.Edmodo is Facebook for classrooms. SoundCloud is YouTube for audio.
If you are going to do a “this for that” investment, the first thing you need to make sure is the iconic company (this) is not going to go after this other market (that) themselves. Then you need to make sure the other market (that) is very large. And finally, you need to make sure that the founde… (read more)

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Early startup pitches are like movie pitches, not business pitches — Medium

An early startup pitch might be more like a movie pitch than a business pitch. Early startup investors might be more like Hollywood movie producers or A&R people in music — listening to the tape! — than they are like Actual Businesspeople. The best ones just know what a few bars of good jazz sound like when they hear it.

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

One of the most important things to understand is that, like all people, VCs are different people at different times of day. It helps to pitch as early as possible in the day. This is not a throwaway point. Disregard it at your peril

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

The standard format is stringing together a few well-known products and services that you sort of resemble: “We are Instagram meets TaskRabbit meets Craigslist.” You should reject the standard format.

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

Don’t pitch from the defensive & don’t start by apologizing

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

Framing matters a LOT (seed round vs seed extension)

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

Your investment thesis is either concept-driven or data-driven. Which kind you are pitching? In a data pitch, you lead with the data because you are emphasizing how good the data already is. If it’s a concept pitch, on the other hand, there may be data, but the data supports a yet undeveloped concept.

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

Talk to your network to evaluate your ideas and evaluate your pitch. The questions you should always ask are: What’s wrong? What’s broken? Why won’t it work? What do you think the risks are? People by default will want to give you good feedback rather than bad, so you have to ask negative questions.

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

Take competition against your potential revenue streams seriously. Being detailed about your competition, especially listing the specific companies, helps increase investor confidence.

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

Be decisive and ship. Including specific dates, for example, shows decisiveness. Being decisive doesn’t mean that you have to stick with your decisions. Good investors expect you to iterate often as you figure out what product will grow your market.

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

VC’s don’t fund mobile app companies anymore. The reason is it’s impossible to get distribution through the iPhone app store or Google Play.

Richard Price (Founder, CEO at Academia.edu)
Guerrilla tips for raising venture capital | VentureBeat | Entrepreneur | by Christina Farr

VCs are looking for the ten-year level of discourse, rather than the six month level of discourse. Being in an investor meeting is actually the one environment where you can let you imagination rip

What’s the best way to know if your idea is a good one?

Jessica Livingston (Co-Founder & Partner @
Y Combinator)

Twitter

Denial is the secret killer of startups.

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
The Most Difficult Question I Ask Founders | Hunter Walk

The most difficult question for some founders is “why do you want to spend 10 years of your life working on solving this problem. ”

Larry Page (CEO & Founder at Alphabet)
Mergers must meet the toothbrush test

Is it something you will use once or twice a day, and does it make your life better?

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Why Your Startup is More Likely to Succeed if You’re Authentic and Passionate | Bothsides of the Table

Running a startup is a grind. It wears you down. It’s full of mostly stresses and set backs. It requires absolute dedication, commitment and drive – even when things seem hopeless. When I’ve seen extreme success up close I can tell you it comes with absolute dedication to being number one 24/7 to the point of crowding out nearly everything else in your life. It’s why being an entrepreneur isn’t for everybody. But if you’re going to try and compet… (read more)

Saras Sarasvathy (Member of the Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Ethics area at the Darden School of Business)
The Affordable Loss Principle

Entreprenuer[s] set an upper bound on what he or she is willing to lose in order to start the venture. “In the worst-case scenario, I will lose the money and will be back in the job market in two years.”

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Programming Your Culture – Ben’s Blog

The second thing that any technology startup must do is to take the market. If it’s possible to do something 10X better, it’s also possible that you won’t be the only company to figure that out. Therefore, you must take the market before somebody else does. Very few products are 10X better than the competition, so unseating the new incumbent is much more difficult than unseating the old one.”

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Starting with the right idea matters. Empirically, you can only pivot so far.

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Work on a problem that has an immediately useful solution, but has enormous potential for growth. If it doesn’t augment the human condition for a huge number of people in a meaningful way, it’s not worth doing. For example, Google touches billions of lives by filling a very concrete space in people’s daily routine. It changes the way people behave and perceive their immediate physical surroundings. Shoot for building a product of this magnitude

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Beware of chicken and egg products. Make sure your product provides immediate utility.

Tacklebox (Smart and Simple Shipping)
Customer Interviews: So you’ve decided to take your startup seriously. — Medium

Are you building a pain killer or a vitamin? Do people need a solution to this problem, or is it a “nice to have”? How do customers solve this problem now? What’s the exact process? How do they feel during this process? What are the biggest pain points? Specific products, workarounds, “hacks,” etc. How much money/time does this problem cost people now? If you can, get a sense of how much they’d pay to have it solved properly. Who has this problem… (read more)

Ben Erez (Product at Breeze)
22 Mistakes I Made as a First Time Founder — Viabilify

Only once you pass the threshold of knowing “enough” about an industry, can you really get the insights to have intelligent conversations with the people you need to know. In other words, knowing Fred Wilson is one thing but knowing Fred Wilson and being able to impress him with your knowledge of a space he’s interested in? Those are two very different outcomes for you. As a founder, you absofuckinglutely need to know your shit! There are no sh… (read more)

Entreprenuer Media (http://www.entrepreneur.com/)
The Best Ways to Do Market Research for Your Business Plan

1. Who are your customers? Describe them in terms of age, occupation, income, lifestyle, educational attainment, etc. 2. What do they buy now? Describe their buying habits relating to your product or service, including how much they buy, their favored suppliers, the most popular features and the predominant price points. 3. Why do they buy? This is the tricky one, attempting as it does to delve into consumers’ heads. 4. What will make them buy fr… (read more)

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
What Doesn’t Seem Like Work?

The stranger your tastes seem to other people, the stronger evidence they probably are of what you should do. What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
What Doesn’t Seem Like Work?

The stranger your tastes seem to other people, the stronger evidence they probably are of what you should do. What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Be an Expert in a Changing World

Most really good startup ideas look like bad ideas at first, and many of those look bad specifically because some change in the world just switched them from bad to good.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas

The biggest startup ideas are terrifying. And not just because they’d be a lot of work. The biggest ideas seem to threaten your identity: you wonder if you’d have enough ambition to carry them through.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Startups in 13 Sentences

Understand your users. You can envision the wealth created by a startup as a rectangle, where one side is the number of users and the other is how much you improve their lives. The second dimension is the one you have most control over. And indeed, the growth in the first will be driven by how well you do in the second.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How Not to Die

Another feeling that seems alarming but is in fact normal in a startup is the feeling that what you’re doing isn’t working. The reason you can expect to feel this is that what you do probably won’t work. Startups almost never get it right the first time. Much more commonly you launch something, and no one cares. Don’t assume when this happens that you’ve failed. That’s normal for startups. But don’t sit around doing nothing. Iterate.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Why to Not Not Start a Startup

In a sense, it’s not a problem if you don’t have a good idea, because most startups change their idea anyway. In the average Y Combinator startup, I’d guess 70% of the idea is new at the end of the first three months. Sometimes it’s 100%.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
FarmLogs – Sam Altman

Technology is about doing more with less. This is important in a lot of areas, but few as important as natural resources.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Electrons and Atoms – Sam Altman

The key thing is enabling users to do things they do in real life much more easily yes, you could have called a cab company, but it took a long time, the cab didn’t always come, you didn’t know when it was near, you had to have cash or get a nasty look from the cabbie, etc.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Stupid Apps and Changing the World – Sam Altman

People often accuse people in Silicon Valley of working on things that don’t matter. Often they’re right. But many very important things start out looking as if they don’t matter, and so its a very bad mistake to dismiss everything that looks trivial.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Thinking about business models

A business model is the architecture of a business or project. It has four elements:
What compelling reason exists for people to give you money? (or votes or donations) How do you acquire what you’re selling for less than it costs to sell it?
Shat structural insulation do you have from relentless commoditization and a price war? How will strangers find out about the business and decide to become customers?

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

Like many big deals, [EA making a FIFA game] was ridiculed at the start. That’s a sure sign you are on to something.

David Cummings (Managing Partner at Shotput Ventures)
Minimum Viable Product or Minimum Acceptable Product | David Cummings on Startups

One rule of thumb I like is that the minimum viable product should be built and launched in 90 days with the minimum acceptable product no more than 45 days after that.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Big idea? Expect a dark period, and don’t pivot out of it | A Founder’s Notebook

Big idea? Expect a dark period, and don’t pivot out of it

Dave Goldberg (Chief Executive Officer of SurveyMonkey)
Fail fast | A Founder’s Notebook

Most new ideas won’t work but you need to keep trying. Then, be ruthless about killing the ones that aren’t working and try to do it as quickly as possibl

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Why startups should focus on a Job To Be Done rather than “market need” | A Founder’s Notebook

Early stage startups often describe their product as meeting a “market need”. But markets don’t have needs; real people have needs.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Passionate founders and product-market fit | A Founder’s Notebook

Is passion about obsessing over the details more than anyone else? I’m not sure. Perhaps passion enables you to understand broad needs and opportunities in a way that someone without passion cannot

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Listening to smart vs. I’m with stupid

Challenging the status quo and going against all the the traditional rules of thumb is a great way to take a leap. But that sort of leap needs to be a portfolio play, part of a larger arc, not a matter of life and death, not the last spin of the wheel you’re going to get if you’re wrong.
[Worth noting that plenty of smart people shunned Semmelweis, Lovelace and Alan Kay. But not all of the smart people.] By all means, take these intellectual ris… (read more)

Bill Gross (CEO Idealab)
Why Startups Like Uber, Airbnb, and SpaceX Succeed, While Others Fail – Singularity HUB

Bill investigated how 5 key factors affected the success of the 125 companies in his portfolio at Idealab and 125 companies outside of his portfolio. The 5 factors were: (i) idea, (ii) team and execution, (iii) business model, (iv) funding and (v) timing. The no. 1 thing that mattered was timing. Timing accounted for 42 percent of the successes relative to failures.

Boris Wertz (Founder of version one ventures)
The only 2 ways to build a $100 million business – Version One

There are only two ways to scale a business to hit that $100 million threshold: 1. Your business has a high Life Time Value (LTV) per user. 2. Your business has a high viral co-efficient (or perhaps even a network effect) that lets you amass users cheaply.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Absolute Must Watch: Office Hours With Paul Graham At TC Disrupt | TechCrunch

What is your idea? Who would use it? How would they use it? Again with more detail. So they show up and specifically what do they do? Of all the people in the world who needs this the most? What problem does it solve? How do they do that now? What do you do better than that? Who specifically has this problem now (company name or customer name)? Has anybody said yes? Who says they want to use this now? (People who aren’t your friends.) How did the… (read more)

Aaron Patzer (Founder & CEO of Fountain, Mint)
How Mint Found Startup Success By Solving Real Problems

Solve a real problem. You don’t start a company because you want to be an entrepreneur or the fame and glory that comes along with it. You become an entrepreneur and you create a company to solve a real problem.

Aaron Patzer (Founder & CEO of Fountain, Mint)
How Mint Found Startup Success By Solving Real Problems

Is this a problem that’s going to exist ten years from now?

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

You probably know whether or not what you’re doing is a good idea but you just aren’t admitting it to yourself.

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

Real businesses have customers

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

If there is no competition you’re probably screwed.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Why you’re not at a disadvantage if you’re a first time entrepreneur | A Founder’s Notebook

Many successful companies are founded by entrepreneurs with passion to solve a real problem of personal interest to them, or where they have domain expertise. That doesn’t lend itself to serial entrepreneurialism.

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

Are you in founder fantasy land wanting to “be a founder” or have you found a real market need? Once you have that do you have a product incarnation for that need? Do you have a simple interaction or user behavior that you can get users to use the product? What’s the initial simple behavior you can get a user to engage in? At PayPal it was getting users to email money. At Yammer it’s What are you working on? Do you have a scaleable distribution m… (read more)

What’s the best way to fire an employee?

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
If you fired a senior executive, identify from this list what went wrong | A Founder’s Notebook

[When you fire someone…] 1. You did a poor job of defining the position in the first place. CEOs often hire based on an abstract notion of what they think and feel the executive should be like. This error often leads to the executive not bringing the key, necessary qualities to the table. 2. You hired for lack of weakness rather than for strengths. You hire an executive with no sharp weaknesses, but who is mediocre where you need her to be grea… (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Keeping someone in a job not suited to them is worse than firing them | A Founder’s Notebook

We’ve fired many talented people from Seeking Alpha because “it’s not going to work”, and many of them have gone on to be outstandingly successful in other companies. Far from viewing that as a failure, I view it as a huge success — we pushed them to find the job that really worked for them.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Keeping someone in a job not suited to them is worse than firing them | A Founder’s Notebook

Your job as a manager is to build a successful company. You don’t fire people because there’s something wrong with them — a one-sided consideration. You fire them because it’s not working, and there’s no prospect that it’s going to work — which is bad for the company and bad for the employee.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup advice, briefly – Sam Altman

Fire people quickly when you make hiring mistakes. Don’t work with people you don’t have a good feeling about. This goes for employees (and cofounders), partners, investors, etc.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Five bad excuses to avoid firing poor performers, and why you should “expose the pain” | A Founder’s Notebook

First, at the process level, slow firing of under-performers means it takes longer to build a great team. Leaving a position filled, even with an under-performer, removes the pressure to hire the right person. If you don’t expose the pain, you’ll forget (or ignore) that it’s there.

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
Fire Faster: Five Excuses Startup CEOs Give For Not Getting Rid of Low Performers | Hunter Walk

Unless someone has behaved unethically or otherwise misrepresented their skills, they should be given feedback regarding their underperformance plus the opportunity to articulate to you that they understand and can correct quickly.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
MBA Mondays: Asking An Employee To Leave The Company – AVC

1) Be quick – once you’ve made a decision to let someone go, move quickly to do it. 2) Be generous – Unless the employee has acted in extreme bad faith or done something terribly wrong, I like to be generous on the way out. 3) Be clear – Do not beat around the bush. Start the conversation with the hard stuff. 4) Get advice – There are some situations where the company has some potential legal exposure in these situations. 5) Communicate – Once t… (read more)

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Fire people that are difficult, unproductive, unreliable, have no product sense, or aren’t pragmatic. Do it quickly.

Ryan Hoover (Founder at Product Hunt)
Startup Lessons Growing from 10 to 100 | Ryan Hoover

Fire quickly. There’s a reason this advice has become cliche.

Spencer Rascoff (CEO at Zillow)
Don’t be scared to hire someone better than you

The mistake I have most commonly made, especially earlier in my career, was not acting quickly enough when I knew in my gut that somebody probably wasn’t the best person for a role

What’s the best way to do effective business development?

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How to make bus dev meetings with large companies successful and avoid time-wasters | A Founder’s Notebook

In my experience, the biggest risk of meeting with large companies is that their goal isn’t a partnership, but reconnaissance — to learn about what’s cutting edge in their market. An indicator of this is when a relatively large number of senior execs turn up for the meeting. How can you avoid this? Maybe by asking to meet with the key decision maker alone for the first meeting, and only progressing to a larger group when there’s clear evidence th… (read more)

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
Let’s Meet: How to Prevent Big Companies from Wasting Your Startup’s Time | Hunter Walk

1. Don’t take the meeting unless you know what you want to get out of it. You don’t actually have to meet with BigCo, especially if they won’t tell you what the goal/agenda is, who will be in the room, etc. 2. Make sure the right people are in the room. You want an informed decision maker in the room. If you get stonewalled on this request, ask what data/information can you provide in advance to make it worth this person’s time to attend. 3. Unle… (read more)

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

Create clear BD targets – This goes without saying, but it is worth repeating. Without clear targets, a BD team will aimlessly chase deals and in the worst case have a distracting effect on the rest of the organization by creating deals that are not core to the company but take up valuable executive, product, and engineering resources. Ideally, BD targets are a subset of the overall company goals (e.g. grow the user base, expand internationally… (read more)

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

This includes market sizing, market and competitive analysis, and a clear timeline. If you are new to the industry you better start researching yesterday. There is nothing worse than being pitched by someone who did not make the effort to understand your business and the challenges you are facing. Secondly, you need to put a lot of work into figuring out how to approach these partners. Finally, you have to make sure you have all the necessary … (read more)

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

Solve problems, help partners reach their goals – This is one of the most critical business development tasks. Partnerships never work when the benefits are one-sided. In addition to helping you reach your own targets, you really have to figure out how your proposal helps the potential partner reach their goals. Again, you would think this is a total no-brainer, but this does not seem to be the case judging by the large amounts of proposals th… (read more)

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

Be prepared, research the companies you want to partner with – In addition to a well thought out, mutually beneficial proposal, it is important to research your target partners. To me this is like prepping for an interview. Nothing worse than realizing that the person you are interviewing knows nothing about your company or the issues you are facing but at the same time tells you how “passionate” s/he is about your business.

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

Who are the decision-makers, which teams or managers are heavily weighing in, who is responsible for the long-term execution of the partnership etc. This organizational understanding will help you address the right people in the partner organization and help you identify additional contacts you might want to connect or back-channel with.

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

For high-value partnerships, I always try to build a relationship on multiple levels, e.g. between the two day-to-day partnership managers, between the two VP-level managers responsible for those partnership, and ideally also between two or more C-level execs. Having these multi-level relationships gives you more flexibility in dealing with your partners. In certain scenarios bottoms-up approaches might work better and you want to convince the … (read more)

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

Always be responsive – A pet peeve of mine. I think it is disrespectful not to respond to companies or people reaching out for various reasons. The only things I usually do not respond to are blatantly obvious sales pitches.

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

Don’t rush, don’t annoy – Always remember that you are working in a dynamic start-up while some of the bigger organizations you are trying to partner with have heaps of processes and check-points that decisions have to go through. I remember from my time at two of those large organizations, in my case Deutsche Telekom and Yahoo!, that people in those organizations could get frustrated with impatient partners banging on their doors all the time.

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

Can’t close? Regroup, analyze, and adapt if possible – Don’t beat a dead horse. If a deal cannot get done, and there might be many good reasons, regroup and think why the partnership did not make sense for the potential partner.

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

Own your partners, not just deals – There is a fundamental difference between Business Development and Partner Management. In many large organizations you have a dedicated BD team that flies in to negotiate and close a deal and then moves on to the next deal with another partner

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

Don’t over-commit, internally or externally – With many partnership opportunities, you only have a few potentially only one shot at getting it right, so it is critical that what you commit to towards the partner is actually something that your company can deliver.

Holger Luedorf (SVP Business @ Postmates)
Guest Post: Startup Business Development 101 – AVC

Relay partner feedback back into your own organization – The BD team is usually one of the most outward facing teams in a start-up and as such you will be able to collect a ton of valuable feedback for company.

Heidi Roizen (Operations Partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ))
Operating Partner, DFJ

I learned that negotiation is “the process of finding the maximal intersection of mutual need. ” It sometimes takes extra work and lots of iterative communications to find out what the other person truly wants, but the process creates better, more sustainable deals.