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

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.

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 come up with your startup idea?

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Projects and Companies – Sam Altman

Companies sound serious. When you start thinking of yourself as a company, you start acting like one. Worst of all, you won’t work on slightly crazy ideas. When you have a company, the clock is ticking and people expect results. It’s far better to be thought of and to think of yourself as a project than a company for as long as possible.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Making other people successful | A Founder’s Notebook

Perhaps every company has a goal that ultimately reduces to (at least) one of these: provide basic necessities; make other people successful; give other people pleasure. Which is yours?

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

I spent a lot of time learning to recognize [good ideas look like bad ideas at first], and the techniques I used may be applicable to ideas in general. The first step is to have an explicit belief in change. Beyond the moderately useful generalization that human nature doesn’t change much, the unfortunate fact is that change is hard to predict. Instead of trying to point yourself in the right direction, admit you have no idea what the right direc… (read more)

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

The way to come up with new ideas is not to try explicitly to, but to try to solve problems and simply not discount weird hunches you have in the process.

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

Good new ideas come from earnest, energetic, independent-minded people. [A] trick I’ve found… is to focus initially on people rather than ideas. Though the nature of future discoveries is hard to predict, I’ve found I can predict quite well what sort of people will make them.

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

The way to come up with good startup ideas is to take a step back. Instead of making a conscious effort to think of startup ideas, turn your mind into the type that startup ideas form in without any conscious effort.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Schlep Blindness

The trick I recommend is to take yourself out of the picture. Instead of asking “what problem should I solve?” ask “what problem do I wish someone else would solve for me?”

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

Let your idea evolve. This is the second half of launching fast. Launch fast and iterate. It’s a big mistake to treat a startup as if it were merely a matter of implementing some brilliant initial idea. As in an essay, most of the ideas appear in the implementing.

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

You should start with an idea, not a company. When it’s just an idea or project, the stakes are lower and you’re more willing to entertain outlandish-sounding but potentially huge ideas. The best way to start a company is to build interesting projects.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
A Question – Sam Altman

I think it’s remarkable how much of what people do and use today didn’t exist 10 years ago. I’m always in awe of the remarkable technological progress we make decade over decade. I think its important to try not to lose your sense of wonder about this.

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

Wait until the world changes so that an important problem goes from impossible to just really hard, then execute

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Evidence On Our Smartphones – AVC

The rise of computers that we all carry with us everywhere, and their ability to capture what is going on around them, time stamp it, and geotag it, creates a ton of interesting opportunities. Including law enforcement opportunities. And I think that is a good thing.

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

Payments are one of those things that are fundamental to the online experience. And there are large networks that are being built with payments at the core of them.

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

What products do customers really want? How will our business grow? Who is our customer? Which customers should we listen to and which should we ignore? These are the questions that need answering as quickly as possible to maximize a startup’s chances of success. That is what creates value for a startup. (p.181)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Second Screen, Third Screen, … – AVC

It all makes me wonder if the current crop of social TV apps are missing a big aggregation opportunity. I suspect lots of good stuff was going on elsewhere last night (Facebook, Pinterest, Canvas, etc), but I just didn’t have enough screens in my family room to be everywhere at the same time. Maybe we need an app for that.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Successful people – Sam Altman

The most successful founders do not set out to create companies. They are on a mission to create something closer to a religion, and at some point it turns out that forming a company is the easiest way to do so.

Bill Gross (CEO Idealab)
Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why startups succeed | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com

If you’re underfunded at first but you’re gaining traction, especially in today’s age, it’s very, very easy to get intense funding.

Bill Gross (CEO Idealab)
Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why startups succeed | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com

Timing accounted for 42 percent of the difference between success and failure. Team and execution came in second, and the idea, the differentiability of the idea, the uniqueness of the idea, that actually came in third.

Bill Gross (CEO Idealab)
Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why startups succeed | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com

I think business model makes sense to be [less important, but still important] because you can start out without a business model and add one later if your customers are demanding what you’re creating.

Bill Gross (CEO Idealab)
Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why startups succeed | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com

What I would say, in summary, is execution definitely matters a lot. The idea matters a lot. But timing might matter even more. And the best way to really assess timing is to really look at whether consumers are really ready for what you have to offer them.

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

In the first few weeks of a startup’s life, the founders really need to figure out what they’re doing and why. Then they need to build a product some users really love. Only after that they should focus on growth above all else.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: How to talk about your project

What is it for? When someone hires your product or service, what are they hiring it to do? Who (or what) are you trying to change by doing this work? From what to what? How will you know if it’s working? What does it remind me of? Are there parallels, similar projects, things like this that have come before? What’s the difficult part? How much of your time and focus are you spending on the difficult part?