I wrote this a long while ago - and am only publishing this much later. It's still very useful - well hopefully, to someone out there.
So you think you want to do a startup?
My frame of reference is this: For some crazy reason, it's going to happen. I can't help myself as I often find myself asking the world, "well.... why not?" Why be complacent with doing things the way they have always been done? We have so many opportunities at our fingertips, and yet, we continue to struggle with inefficient, cumbersome, heavy badly designed products, services, and technology. And every thing is silo'ed. WHY!?
In the past 9 months, I've done things I've never done before: I quit a well-paid job that I had worked so much of my heart into, I jumped into building a startup with people I had only just recently met, I am working full-time on this startup, I've hired (and let go of) employees, I've taken investment, and the list goes on... and on.
While it is semi-fresh on my mind, I wanted to share with you the 10 things I have learned so far:
01. ONE. GFA. "GET FUCKING AGGRESSIVE". There's no way you want to waste time waiting, leaving your chance at success to chance. Muscle it, go after it, bang on doors and get out and make your opportunities happen. One door at a time. One customer at a time. One milestone at a time. #hustle
02. TWO. GEEZ. EVERYONE HAS AN OPINION. Literally. Every single person that you come into contact has an opinion, and only an opinion. Some people will wear their 25 years of experience and tell you that they know more than you from where they sit about what you should do. Some people will tell you straight to your face that, "you're a feature, not a business". I've heard that what we're building is the best thing since sliced bread. I've heard that the experience is amazing. I've heard the flat out plain no (and yes). The more "consumer" your business is, the more opinions you'll get. The thing that I've realized quickly, is that no one should know the whole situation better than me. No one. It is a matter of perspective - and who is in the best position to make the best decisions for the company. I've got to own it, dig into the details, not be shy, seek wise counsel, build and trust my team - and GFA. Not let anything or anyone get in the way of making a great business go FLYING into the air. It's do or die. That's it. Excuses of mentor/advisor/investor whip-lash do not work.
03. THREE. TEAM IS EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. Team beats product, marketing, brains, determination, and passion. Putting the Company ahead of yourself. Getting the right people on the bus. There are a LOT of great talkers out there - and there are a LOT of people who have lost sense of reality when it comes to where they are. Some people have all the right intentions, and lack all the capabilities to execute. Some people get stuck on titles and roles, and lack the ability to roll up the sleeves to get the MOST IMPORTANT THING that needs to get done, done. Some people need a job with flexibility - or too much flexibility. Get the right people on the bus. Situations and environments change. Get the wrong people off the bus as quickly as possible. It sucks.
04. FOUR. TEAM. NO DIVIDING AND CONQUERING. In the world of startups, it is a serial process and all hands on deck to get the most important thing done. All. Hands. Together. For those that go rogue on working on whatever they think is more important and do not follow - you must absolutely get them off the bus fast. Say goodbye or die. You'll burn so much energy chasing them down it'll make you want to gouge the eyes out of the nearest human to you. Don't go there. Get them off the bus.
05. FIVE. MOST IMPORTANT THING MEANS FOCUS. Focus is all about quickly looking at the lay of the land, the marketplace, the resources, and then diving in to execute the most important thing. Once it's complete, popping the head back up for air to look at the lay of the land, the marketplace, the resources, then diving into execute the next most important thing on the list. Sometimes members of the team will help keep an eye or a pulse on what's going on "out there" while the team is focused. Sometimes, you won't have that luxury.
06. SIX. MY BODY AND MIND ARE NOT MY OWN. I feel like an asshole sometimes (actually a lot of times) when having to make the hard decisions. That's the "hard things about hard things" that Ben Horowitz refers to in his book. I feel like an asshole when I'm sitting with my husband in the evening, and he looks at me and asks, "what are you thinking about"? And I answer with, "GiftStarter". I have sleepless nights where I toss and turn, and toss and turn, and repeat. My existence seems to be to serve the best interest of GiftStarter, above my own personal interests. Good thing is that my personal interests are aligned with GiftStarter's. I am the current role as being as best a steward of the business as I can.
07. SEVEN. GREAT PRODUCT ALIGNED WITH A GREAT MARKET. We aren't here to grow slowly. We aren't here to end up in business purgatory that hits a ceiling after so many years. We aren't here to build a lifestyle company - we're here to build a GREAT big company. We're going for that harder road of hard roads of being a venture-backed company, too.
08. EIGHT. DATA IS IMPORTANT - WITH THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE. It means we listen, we read between the lines, and we look at the quantitative data too. Yes, ... AND, we look at the quantitative data, too. When creating something that doesn't exist yet, and creating something with a roadmap into the future from something that doesn't exist yet, data is great for the past and maybe the present. Data cannot predict and influence the future.
09. NINE. FAMILY & FRIENDS ARE PART OF THAT TEAM. Yea, back to team. Make sure your significant other, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends are on your team. The hours will be long. I'm the worst friend ever - I haven't seen my friends in over a year. I think my friend Silvia said something to the effect of, I figured you had gone missing in action because you had gone over to the startup world again. Let me know when you're back. My fur child of a dog rarely gets walked by me. I'm now a parent to an amazing little baby boy and prioritizing his care is top of mind.
10. TEN. I LOVE MY STARTUP LIFE. I feel like I am the luckiest human ever - and so thankful for all of the blessings, lessons, and people on this journey. Lucky that my family is so supportive to enable and give me the chance to do this. I like that I'm doing something with a purpose and mission. I like the team we're growing. I love my family and friends. I love the process of trying, unwinding, redoing, swerving, ... hunting for the truth. My heart falls on its knees and shouts for joy, multiple times in a day. I feel alone and cry myself to sleep in despair some days. I feel like I'm on cloud 9 surrounded by angels and people full of hugs and genius other days. This journey is CRAZY!