Don’t Stay Hungry

Entrepreneurs are frequently admonished to “stay hungry.”  These words are almost like scripture, having been cited by Steve Jobs himself in his legendary 2005 Stanford commencement speech. Intuitively, these words seem to be true across a host of domains.  Starving artists of all types feel the curse of the sophomore slump; going from hungry unknown … Continue reading Don’t Stay Hungry

No, Because

I’m always looking for ways to apply insights from other disciplines to the startup world.  The other night, I was at a parenting seminar, when the presenter (Kirk Steupfert) talked about the importance of “No, because.” What me meant was that when you’re a parent, it’s very tempting to respond to your children’s constant requests … Continue reading No, Because

Don’t Mistake Winning for Accomplishment

We love winning and winners. In sports, we hand out trophies and belts to scorers and champions. In business, we celebrate CEOs who increase their stock price. In politics, we anoint winners and losers based on the votes they win. What do these have in common?  In each domain, it’s easy to keep score. In … Continue reading Don’t Mistake Winning for Accomplishment

Credit and Blame

Credit and blame are two faces of the same coin, and both aren’t worth as much as you think. When I was young, I was very concerned with credit and blame.  My old mentor, Thor Johnson, called me “a shameless self-promoter,” and he meant it as a compliment. When things went right, I made sure … Continue reading Credit and Blame

Hard Power and Soft Power

When people talk about power, they invariable are referring to hard power. Hard power is the power of authority and might.  Hard power is swift and decisive.  Hard power is the ability of the President of the United States to order assassinations, and have them carried out half a world away by drone strike. In … Continue reading Hard Power and Soft Power

Read promiscuously and make connections

When entrepreneurs ask me where to find good ideas, I advise them to read promiscuously and make connections. (No, this isn’t some kind of advertisement for Tinder or Grindr.) To read promiscuously means to be voracious and unselective.  I was at the library on Sunday, looking for audiobooks, and as usual, I picked up a … Continue reading Read promiscuously and make connections

Say Just Enough, But Not Too Much

Entrepreneurs are passionate, but this passion can be their undoing. One common mistake entrepreneurs make is to say too much. It’s easy to understand why.  First, entrepreneurs know a lot about their space and their product.  Second, they love the subject so much, they’d happily expound for hours.  Finally, they can’t help wanting to show … Continue reading Say Just Enough, But Not Too Much

Before fixing a mistake, ask yourself if it matters:

If nature abhors a vacuum, startup people abhor mistakes. Most of us got to where we are via a long chain of good grades and aggressive action, which means our instinctive reaction is to attack mistakes like a hungry piranha. And that itself is a mistake. It feels good to jump into action, to examine … Continue reading Before fixing a mistake, ask yourself if it matters:

The customer is always right (but not in the way you think)

One of the big frustrations that startups face is the disconnect between the customer-facing and product-facing sides of the company.  From time immemorial, engineers have complained about the wild promises Sales makes, while salespeople complain that engineers have no idea what the customer wants. The thing is, both sides are right. Sales doesn’t understand the … Continue reading The customer is always right (but not in the way you think)

Why an entrepreneur has to be the chief recruiter

Ask any entrepreneur, and she’ll probably tell you that her most important job is getting the right people on board.* * It’s not; the most important job is to not run out of money. But people is a close second. Yet despite his fact, many entrepreneurs offload hiring to others as quickly as possible. This … Continue reading Why an entrepreneur has to be the chief recruiter