Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it. – Albert Einstein
In business, and particular in the world of startups, we like to refer to our growth as a percentage. “We’re showing double-digit monthly growth.”, or “We’ve grown 150% since last year”. Have you ever stopped to think about why a relative metric like percentage is so frequently used over an absolute one? The actual growth is the same whichever form is used to communicate it, so why do we so often lean towards the relative framing? I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but I think in the world of startups there are two main ones.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Thomas Edison
This is a talk I gave for ECEWeek at the University of Alberta on January 29th, 2015. It’s goal is to make the argument that culturally (especially in the Engineering discipline), we overemphasize the value of planning and preparation, and that there are situations where it’s the less efficient approach to solving a problem.
There comes a time in every company’s life where it must fight for its life. If you find yourself running when you should be fighting, you need to ask yourself “If our company isn’t good enough to win, then do we need to exist at all?” – Ben Horowitz
I recently did a book review on Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing About Hard Things. It is a great book with no shortage of gems of insight and wisdom, but there’s one that stuck with me in particular.
This lesson is actually from one of the shorter chapters in the book, titled “Lead Bullets”. (The chapter is actually available on Ben’s blog as a post here) The title is a reference to advice given to Ben when Netscape was going through a crisis with the release of a superior web server product from Microsoft. The advice came from Bull Turpin, responding to the plan Ben had put into place to deal with the thread.
“What I tell founders is not to sweat the business model too much at first. The most important task at first is to build something people want. If you don’t do that, it won’t matter how clever your business model is.” – Paul Graham
There is no shortage of definitions and explanations for business models. Wikipedia defines it as “[describing] the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value (economic, social, cultural, or other forms of value).”. Steve Blank has developed a system of 9 boxes to help you capture a business model. As a starting entrepreneur you’ll probably have lots of conversations with partners, investors, and advisors around what your business model is going to be. Mostly you’ll do this because you’ll constantly be asked to explain what your business model is, but you probably won’t really understand why.
“Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.” – Og Mandino
In a startup you are constantly balancing various levels of thinking/work. Buster Benson outlined what he believes the breakdown of these to be in a blog post here. I haven’t decided yet whether I completely agree with his categories, but I definitely agree with the idea of different types of thought you need to engage in to be effective.
One of the pitfalls which you can fall into as a startup founder is to get lost in the day to day work. There will always be support tickets to answer, feature requests to build, bugs to fix, social media to respond to; basically you don’t need to worry about there being sufficient work to keep you busy. It can be very easy to come into work each day and ‘work’, and feel like you’re doing your job. If you were an employee you’d probably be right, but as a founder you need to make sure that you are continuing to view the big picture and steer the boat.
“The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.” – B.F. Skinner
Gamification has become on of those buzz-words we hear frequently today in discussions involving anything from social media, to daily deals, to education, to… well.. gaming. According to wikipedia “Gamification is the use of game design elements, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts.” In my own words, gamification is the attempt to make non-game type experiences more “fun” by making them feel more like a game.
“Go big or go home!” – Snowboarders everywhere
Snowboarders love to yell that. It inspires a peer pressure provoked confidence that pushes you to more aggressive runs. Runs’s that by the bottom will either seem like a great idea or a horrible one. Runs’s that promise one thing; you won’t be ambivalent.