Founder Fridays No. 69
Top Ten Articles of the Year.
As the year is winding down, I’ve collected my 10 favorite articles from Founder Fridays this year. Each of them is really solid. If you get some time for reflection between now and the new year, you should try to get through all of them. You’ll start the year wiser and ready to take on new challenges.
Did a savvy founder share this with you?
This advertisement from Orange, the French telecom company, about the French national football team is one of the best commercials I've seen recently. I don't want to tell you too much about it because the impact of it comes from watching it, so just watch it and you'll see. Ads of Brands (2 minutes)
Few things will change your trajectory in life or business as much as learning to think clearly. Yet few of us recognize opportunities to think in the first place. In his latest book, Clear Thinking, Shane Parrish gives you the tools to recognize the moments that have the potential to transform your trajectory, and reshape how you navigate the critical space between stimulus and response. In this conversation Shane and I discuss: 1) Why best performers make good decisions, consistently. 2) How positioning can work to your advantage. 3) The enemies of good decisions. 4) How to be “long-term lazy”. 5) Entrepreneurship and fatherhood. Check out the video interview. If you dig it, please like and subscribe. YouTube (48 minutes)
Vibe Is Off
Has your team lost sight of its purpose and the goals you’re working toward together? If so, it might be time for a team reset that focuses on realignment. Or, maybe your team just doesn’t feel like a team anymore? Maybe team members feel disconnected, invalidated or frustrated, and even minor issues are creating friction? In that case, your reset must focus on revitalizing your team dynamic. This article focuses on some approaches that managers can use to address alignment gaps to jumpstart a new, healthier, happier team dynamic. Here are 20 questions to ask when your team vibe is off. Harvard Business Review (7 minutes)
Navigating A Crisis
Being a founder is a lonely endeavor. This gets more challenging in the midst of a crisis such as a macroeconomic downturn. This guide compiles advice from recession-era founders on navigating the crisis, which includes: 1) Make sense of the macroeconomic conditions. 2) Respond quickly. 3) The nuts and bolts of scenario planning. 4) Tips on extending the runway. 5) Tips on reducing burn rate. 6) Bring in more capital. 7) Support your team and lead through the crisis. First Round Review (32 minutes)
YC on Productivity
In this video, Y Combinator Group Partners are talking about productivity — what works for the founders they help, and, perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t. They discuss the following: 1) Avoid shiny objects and focus on the core mission. 2) Avoid productivity fads. 3) Real work versus fake work. 4) Divide your day up into two parts: Meetings and creative work. 5) Avoid multitasking. Y Combinator (16 minutes)
Momentum and Fake Work
Momentum is everything in a startup. If you have momentum, you can survive most other problems. If you do not have momentum, nothing except getting momentum will solve your problems. It can be easy to lose momentum when you get distracted by fake work. Fake work is both easier and more fun than real work for many founders. Two particularly bad cases are raising money and getting personal press. When promising, founders fall in love with one or (usually) both of these, it nearly always ends badly. But the list of fake work is long. I tell founders to consider how directly a task relates to growing. Obviously, building and selling are the best. Things like hiring are also very high on the list; you will need to hire to sustain your growth rate at some point. Interviewing lots of lawyers has got to be near the bottom. During YC, we are ruthless about reminding startups that fake work does not count and will still get you a failed startup no matter how intensely you do it. So how can startups avoid this slump? Work on real work. Stay focused on building a product your users love and hitting your growth targets. Try to have a board and peers who will make you hold yourself accountable; don’t lose the sense of urgency. Sam Altman (6 minutes)
Do Things That Don’t Scale
A lot of would-be founders believe that startups either take off or don't. You build something, make it available, and if you've made a better mousetrap, people beat a path to your door as promised. Or they don't, in which case the market must not exist. Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually it takes some sort of push to get them going. A good metaphor would be the cranks that car engines had before they got electric starters. Once the engine was going, it would keep going, but there was a separate and laborious process to get it going. So, Paul Graham’s (founder of Y Combinator) most important advice for early stage startups is to do things that don’t scale. Read this iconic essay to understand why. Paul Graham (9 minutes)
Building An Asynchronous Culture
Almost every startup has a global team, which makes synchronizing meetings tough. What if you just ditched them altogether and went asynchronous? At a fast-paced startup, it’s important that decisions don’t get delayed and projects don’t grind to a halt just because someone’s stepped away from their desk. You’ve got to create a culture that prioritizes autonomy — and give folks the context they need to make sharp decisions without gathering a group of colleagues on a Zoom call. If you’re ready to take the leap, here is a blueprint for a radically different workplace that’s fully asynchronous. (1) No micromanagement. Anytime you’re telling someone what to do, you’re not actually solving the bug. You’re doing a really bad patch. (2) Document everything and make it easy to find. (3) Treat hiring like a segmentation exercise. Think of your company and culture as a product your employees experience. The people you need are the people who are interested in the product you're offering. This gives us very specific segmentation. You want candidates to opt out if it’s not for them. First Round Review (23 minutes)
Making Interviews Enjoyable
When you’re scaling quickly, moving at warp speed and sitting on several hiring panels, interviewing can seem like a task you just need to get through. But it’s worth pausing to remember that the decision to hire someone is an expensive and far-reaching one. This company reached out to some of the smartest, most thoughtful operators in their network to pose a simple question: “What’s your favorite interview question and why?” These are the answers. First Round Review (42 minutes)
Extending Your Runway with General Counsel
In this economy, every startup is looking to lower burn rate and extend runway. We helped one startup save $15,000/month by switching to our General Counsel service.
When we first met them, they had just closed their Series A. They were working with a big law firm and felt they were overpaying for basic legal work. Nearly every month, they got a $20,000+ bill just to cover equity grants, contract reviews, and lawyer calls/emails.
They chose our $5,000/month General Counsel Grow plan (now $6,000/month). The result?
More personal service and quicker response times.
$15,000 a month saved on legal fees.
That’s $180,000 saved in a year. What could you do with an extra $180,000? If you're curious whether General Counsel is right for your startup, let’s talk.