What’s the best way to form your initial team?

David Cummings (Managing Partner at Shotput Ventures)
Startups Should Say No to 99% of Partnership Opportunities | David Cummings on Startups

Startups should say no to 99% of partnership opportunities. Most partnerships never go anywhere and don’t make sense for the startup to invest significant effort into the relationship due to being time and money constrained. Partnership opportunities do make sense when there is significant skin in the game on behalf of the partner (e. g. large up-front fees) or a super minimal way to work together (e. g. less than 20 hours of work to get somethin… (read more)

What’s the best way to choose good partners?

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
New York FinTech Innovation Lab 2016 – AVC

I’ve written about New York Fintech Innovation Lab here at AVC a bunch of times. It’s a great three month long program where entrepreneurs get mentoring on their businesses from executives at 25 large financial services companies including teams from the insurance, hedge fund, money management, and payments sectors, as well as teams from the 10 original money center banks who helped to found this program.

What’s the best way to choose good partners?

Peter Thiel (Co-Founder & Partner at Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 7 Notes Essay

I won’t come out as pro- or anti- Y Combinator. They do some things well and maybe some other things less well. But I will something anti-not-Y Combinator. If you go to incubator that’s not Y Combinator, that is perceived as negative credential. It’s like getting a degree at Berkeley. Okay. It’s not Stanford. You can a complicated story about how you had to do it because your parents had a big mortgage or something. But it’s a hard negative sign… (read more)

What’s the best way to choose good partners?

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

One of my attorneys actually represented one of my investors. The reality is that that investor drove dramatically more bookable revenue for that attorney than Practice Fusion ever would. Whether there was a direct conflict or indirect, it was real and you effectively want some of that that’s quite neutral and not beholden to the investor. This is really really critical, make sure they have no conflicts. You always want to work with someone that’… (read more)

What’s the best way to form your initial team?

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Before the Startup

You can, however, trust your instincts about people. And in fact one of the most common mistakes young founders make is not to do that enough. They get involved with people who seem impressive, but about whom they feel some misgivings personally. Later when things blow up they say “I knew there was something off about him, but I ignored it because he seemed so impressive. “

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

The first few months starting a company with your friends is an absolute blast. I mean who wouldn’t want their daily schedule to revolve around hanging out with their best friends? As it turns out, if after a few months little to no significant progress has been made, you start getting over the whole “working with friends” thing.

Ben Yoskovitz (VP Product at VarageSale, VP Product at GoInstant (acquired by Salesforce), Author of Lean Analytics)
Single Founders or Co-Founders?

Why are 2+ founders (potentially) better? For me it’s about the camaraderie and partnership that emerges when two (or more) people decide to go on such an incredible journey together. And when the going gets tough (and it always does), it’s nice to have someone sitting beside you in the dark who knows exactly how you feel.

Ben Yoskovitz (VP Product at VarageSale, VP Product at GoInstant (acquired by Salesforce), Author of Lean Analytics)
Single Founders or Co-Founders?

So what about single founders? Single founders have an advantage in that they don’t need to build consensus with other founders. They may need to bring in additional senior talent, often on the technical side (which has its own challenges), but they’re 100% in control. There’s something just simpler about it overall.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Which is better, single founder or co-founders? | A Founder’s Notebook

Seeking Alpha is a sole founder startup, but I’ve found that my relationships with some key people have developed into co-founder-like relationships

David Cummings (Managing Partner at Shotput Ventures)
Startups Should Say No to 99% of Partnership Opportunities | David Cummings on Startups

Startups should say no to 99% of partnership opportunities. Most partnerships never go anywhere and don’t make sense for the startup to invest significant effort into the relationship due to being time and money constrained. Partnership opportunities do make sense when there is significant skin in the game on behalf of the partner (e. g. large up-front fees) or a super minimal way to work together (e. g. less than 20 hours of work to get somethin… (read more)

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

Don’t defer the hard co-founder questions for later. They only get harder. Have the important conversation(s) with your co-founder early. Topics might include long-term goals, fund-raising, equity allocation, vesting, etc. I’ve written an entire article with some of the questions co-founders should ask each other.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Why startup founders should learn to code | A Founder’s Notebook

Startup founders should learn to code

Jason Lemkin (Managing Director at Storm Ventures, SaaStr.com)
Jason Lemkin: The Right Metrics For Your SaaS Startup | InsightSquared

It’s going to be a 7 to 10 year journey. Take your time. First, whatever you do, make sure you get the right team. As we’ve talked about, going it alone is really tough.

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

Pick good cofounders. Cofounders are for a startup what location is for real estate. You can change anything about a house except where it is. In a startup you can change your idea easily, but changing your cofounders is hard. [1] And the success of a startup is almost always a function of its founders.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Non-technical founder? Learn to hack – Sam Altman

When non-technical solo founders say “I’ll do whatever it takes to make this business successful” (which they almost always say), I say something like “Why not learn to hack? Although it takes many, many years to become a great hacker, you can learn to be good enough to build your site or app in a few months.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The danger of sole founder startups | A Founder’s Notebook

Seeking Alpha is a sole founder company. But we’re doing really well. Which makes me wonder what the problem is with sole founders, and how we mitigated that.

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

If you don’t have a cofounder, what should you do? Get one. It’s more important than anything else. If there’s no one where you live who wants to start a startup with you, move where there are people who do. If no one wants to work with you on your current idea, switch to an idea people want to work on.

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

There’s almost no companies with a single founder. Find some other people who are like-minded.

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Split the stock between the founding team evenly.

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Always have a vesting schedule.

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

Secondly, along the same vein, if you’re starting the company with co-founders, you want to have clear vesting and rules for termination. If you have other co-founders, you should have rules where if something’s not going right, if they’re not showing up for work, that you guys have as adults, put something together. If you have a co-founder that’s no longer showing up, but they own half the company, that can be hugely problematic. Also, I’ve see… (read more)

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

Your employment agreement – this is where the key and this is another place where I made a major mistake. My recommendation is some time you incorporate and sometime around the time you’re closing your Series-A financing that you come up and put together a robust employment agreement. If you think about your relationship with the company, you’re likely being engaged to that company longer than most of your personal relationships. This is more of … (read more)

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

One of the key terms that should be in your employment contract is a cure provision. Effectively, a cure provision is that if there’s something wrong and the board wants to terminate you, you have time to actually mitigate it. They give you fair notice, you have a dialogue, you understand what the issue is and you have time to mitigate it. It’s an incredibly fair term in my opinion and something that should be in everyone’s employment contract.

Peter Thiel (Co-Founder & Partner at Founders Fund)
PAYPAL MAFIA: Reid Hoffman & Peter Thiel’s Master Class at CEIBS – YouTube

People often ask these questions about traits entrepreneurs have and I think they often have on these things are almost opposite traits that are almost combined. So you want to be very open minded but you also have to be somewhat stubborn. You want to iterate very quickly and change things very quickly but you also want to have some sort of a long-term strategy.

Phil Libin (Co-Founder & CEO of Evernote)
“The Six Crucial Questions for Every Startup Entrepreneur”, by Phil Libin (CEO of Evernote) on Vimeo

You very likely will work really really hard. The hardest you’ve ever worked. In your life, on an idea, for 3,5, 10 years and walk away with nothing. That is the most likely outcome. If you can get behind that. Then you should be an entreprenuer.

Lee Hower (General Partner of NextView Ventures)
Playing Startup – NextView Ventures

I fear a meaningful number of people are “playing startup” today. What I mean is that people are joining startups because working in a startup seems cool or lucrative, not because they want to change the world and they’re fundamentally committed to putting in all the blood, sweat, and tears that entails.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Similarities Between Building and Scaling a Product and a Company – AVC

Putting together the initial team, creating the culture, instilling the mission and values into the team are all like designing and building the initial product. It is largely about injecting your ideas, values, and passion into the team. You do that by selecting the people carefully and then working hard to get them aligned around your vision and mission. Putting a product into the market and building your initial team are largely about realizin… (read more)

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

Start with three people, at the end of year one it shouldn’t more than 5 or 6. Companies are most productive when they are less than 10 people.

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

Building product is not about having a large team to manage. It is about having a small team with the right people on it. You need product, design, and software engineering skills on the team. And you need to be focused, committed, and driven. Management at this point is all about small team dynamics; everyone on board, working together, and getting stuff done. Strong individual contributors are key in this stage. Management skills are not a requ… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
If You Aren’t Technical, Get Technical – AVC

A few years ago, I was doing some sort of public speaking thing and in the Q&A, a young man asked me for advice for founders who aren’t technical. I said, “If you aren’t technical, I suggest you get technical” And I meant it. I learned to code when I was a teenager. It wasn’t that hard. I think anyone who has the motivation to start a company can find the motivation to learn to code.

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

I lived on less than 30k a year here in Silicon Valley [during the working in a garage phase of Mint.com]

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 choose good partners?

Sam Gerstenzang (Director of Product at Imgur)
16 product things I learned at Imgur — Medium

Most partnerships are a waste of time. All partnerships take a lot of time.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
New York FinTech Innovation Lab 2016 – AVC

I’ve written about New York Fintech Innovation Lab here at AVC a bunch of times. It’s a great three month long program where entrepreneurs get mentoring on their businesses from executives at 25 large financial services companies including teams from the insurance, hedge fund, money management, and payments sectors, as well as teams from the 10 original money center banks who helped to found this program.

Peter Thiel (Co-Founder & Partner at Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 7 Notes Essay

I won’t come out as pro- or anti- Y Combinator. They do some things well and maybe some other things less well. But I will something anti-not-Y Combinator. If you go to incubator that’s not Y Combinator, that is perceived as negative credential. It’s like getting a degree at Berkeley. Okay. It’s not Stanford. You can a complicated story about how you had to do it because your parents had a big mortgage or something. But it’s a hard negative sign… (read more)

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

One of my attorneys actually represented one of my investors. The reality is that that investor drove dramatically more bookable revenue for that attorney than Practice Fusion ever would. Whether there was a direct conflict or indirect, it was real and you effectively want some of that that’s quite neutral and not beholden to the investor. This is really really critical, make sure they have no conflicts. You always want to work with someone that’… (read more)

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

Who you choose to trust is one of the most important things to do well in your career. I would highly encourage entreprenuers to really reference check in a lot of depth, their angel investors. It’s unsophisticated not to.

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

[Think to yourself] OK I’m going to be in the foxhole with this person for the next five years and bullets are going to be flying in all directions. What’s that going to be like when we have our first near death experience?