Find the Right Startup Team: Resources

Find the Right Startup Team

In the first part, we will look into the importance of getting the ‘Who’ decisions right and the biases we all have when judging people.

In the second part, we will consider what roles you will need to fill and the questions you should be asking yourself about what attributes, experience and skills you should be looking for. For example, what is more important at the early stages, attitude or skill?

In the third section, we look into the benefits and downsides of going solo and reveal some surprising findings.

We will then dig into whether having a co-founder is right for your business and for you and what sort of questions you should be asking yourself when considering whether to co-found or not; questions about relationships (co-found with friends or strangers?), roles (who becomes the CEO?) and rewards (how do you split the equity?)

In the fifth part, we will focus on hiring, one of the most critical skills to get right if you want business success. We will examine the common hiring mistakes and run through what a good hiring process might look like.

In the sixth section, we will touch on whether finding a strategic partner is the right thing to do at the start and then finish with a look at your ‘inner circle’ of advisors, coaches and mentors and how important they are to your success.


Start With Yourself

Research: We’re Not Very Self-Aware, Especially at Work | Erich C. Dierdorff and Robert S. Rubin (link)

First, when individuals were less self-aware (i.e., there was a large gap between the assessments of their own behavioural contributions and the assessments of their team members), the teams substantially suffered. In fact, teams with less self-aware individuals made worse decisions, engaged in less coordination, and showed less conflict management. These findings held even when we controlled for teams’ overall levels of teamwork.

Second, the most damaging situation occurred when teams were comprised of significant over-raters (i.e., individuals who thought they were contributing more than their team members thought they were). Just being surrounded by teammates of low self-awareness (or a bunch of over-raters) cut the chances of team success in half.

Importance of People

Leaders of great companies ask: First Who, then What | Kinesis (Article + Video link)

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins creates a lasting and memorable metaphor by comparing a business to a bus and the leader as a bus driver. He emphasises that it is crucial to continuously ask “First Who, Then What?” You are a bus driver. The bus, your company, is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and who’s going with you. Most people assume that great bus drivers (read: business leaders) immediately start the journey by announcing to the people on the bus where they’re going—by setting a new direction or by articulating a fresh corporate vision. In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.


The following transcripts go with each of the videos above.

Cofounder relationships are among the most important in the entire company. Everyone says you have to watch out for tension brewing among cofounders and you have to address is immediately. That’s all true and certainly in YC’s case, the number one cause of early death for startups is cofounder blowups. But for some reason, a lot of people treat choosing their cofounder with even less importance than hiring. Don’t do this! This is one of the most important decisions you make in the life of your startup and you need to treat it as such.

We had one YC batch in which nine out of about seventy-five companies added on a new cofounder between when we interviewed the companies and when they started, and all nine of those teams fell apart within the next year. The track record for companies where the cofounders don’t know each other is really bad.

Lecture 2: Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part II

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Before I jump into today’s lecture, I wanted to answer a few questions people had emailed me about the last lecture that we didn’t have time for. So, if you have a question about what we covered last time, I am welcome to answer it now, starting with you.

Q: How do I identify if a market has a fast growth rate now and also for the next ten years?

A: The good news about this is this is one of the big advantages students have. You should just trust your instincts on this. Older people have to basically guess about the technologies young people are using. But you can just watch what you’re doing and what your friends are doing and you will almost certainly have better instincts than anybody older than you. And so the answer to this is just trust your instincts, think about what you’re doing more, think about what you’re using, what you’re seeing people your age using, that will almost certainly be the future.

Okay, one more question on the last lecture before we start.

Q: How do you deal with burnout while still being productive and remaining productive.

A: The answer to this is just that it sucks and you keep going. Unlike a student where you can throw up your hands and say you know I’m really burnt out and I’m just going to get bad grades this quarter, one of the hard parts about running a startup is that it’s real life and you just have to get through it. The canonical advice is to go on a vacation and that never works for founders. It’s sort of all consuming in this way that is very difficult to understand.

So what you do is you just keep going. You rely on people, it’s really important, founder depression is a serious thing and you need to have a support network. But the way through burn out is just to address the challenges, to address the things that are going wrong and you’ll eventually feel better.

Last lecture, we covered the idea and the product and I want to emphasize that if you don’t get those right, none of the rest of this is going to save you. Today, we’re going to talk about how to hire and how to execute. Hopefully you don’t execute the people you hire. Sometimes.

First, I want to talk about cofounders. Cofounder relationships are among the most important in the entire company. Everyone says you have to watch out for tension brewing among cofounders and you have to address is immediately. That’s all true and certainly in YC’s case, the number one cause of early death for startups is cofounder blowups. But for some reason, a lot of people treat choosing their cofounder with even less importance than hiring. Don’t do this! This is one of the most important decisions you make in the life of your startup and you need to treat it as such.

And for some reason, students are really bad at this. They just pick someone. They’re like, I want to start a business and you want to start a business, let’s start a startup together. There are these cofounder dating things where you’re like, Hey I’m looking for a cofounder, we don’t really know each other, let’s start a company. And this is like, crazy. You would never hire someone like this and yet people are willing to choose their business partners this way. It’s really really bad. And choosing a random random cofounder, or choosing someone you don’t have a long history with, choosing someone you’re not friends with, so when things are really going wrong, you have this sort of past history to bind you together, usually ends up in disaster.

We had one YC batch in which nine out of about seventy-five companies added on a new cofounder between when we interviewed the companies and when they started, and all nine of those teams fell apart within the next year. The track record for companies where the cofounders don’t know each other is really bad.

A good way to meet a cofounder is to meet in college. If you’re not in college and you don’t know a cofounder, the next best thing I think is to go work at an interesting company. If you work at Facebook or Google or something like that, it’s almost as cofounder rich as Stanford. It’s better to have no cofounder than to have a bad cofounder, but it’s still bad to be a solo founder. I was just looking at the stats here before we started. For the top, and I may have missed one because I was counting quickly, but I think, for the top twenty most valuable YC companies, almost all of them have at least two founders. And we probably funded a rate of like one out of ten solo teams.

So, best of all, cofounder you know, not as good as that, but still okay, solo founder. Random founder you meet, and yet students do this for some reason, really really bad.

So as you’re thinking about cofounders and people that could be good, there’s a question of what you’re looking for right? At YC we have this public phrase, and it’s relentlessly resourceful, and everyone’s heard of it. And you definitely need relentlessly resourceful cofounders, but there’s a more colorful example that we share at the YC kickoff. Paul Graham started using this and I’ve kept it going.

So, you’re looking for cofounders that need to be unflappable, tough, they know what to do in every situation. They act quickly, they’re decisive, they’re creative, they’re ready for anything, and it turns out that there’s a model for this in pop culture. And it sounds very dumb, but it’s at least very memorable and we’ve told every class of YC this for a long time and I think it helps them.

And that model is James Bond. And again, this sounds crazy, but it will at least stick in your memory and you need someone that behaves like James Bond more than you need someone that is an expert in some particular domain.

As I mentioned earlier, you really want to know your cofounders for awhile, ideally years. This is especially true for early hires as well, but incidentally, more people get this right for early hires than they do for cofounders. So, take advantage of school. In addition to relentlessly resourceful, you want a tough and a calm cofounder. There are obvious things like smart, but everyone knows you want a smart cofounder, they don’t prioritize things like tough and calm enough, especially if you feel like you yourself aren’t, you need a cofounder who is. If you aren’t technical, and even if most of the people in this room feel like they are, you want a technical cofounder. There’s this weird thing going on in startups right now where it’s become popular to say, You know what, we don’t need a technical cofounders, we’re gonna hire people, we’re just gonna be great managers.

That doesn’t work too well in our experience. Software people should really be starting software companies. Media people should be starting media companies. In the YC experience, two or three cofounders seems to be about perfect. One, obviously not great, five, really bad. Four works sometimes, but two or three I think is the target.

The second part of how to hire: try not to. One of the weird things you’ll notice as you start a company, is that everyone will ask you how many employees you have. And this is the metric people use to judge how real your startup is and how cool you are. And if you say you have a high number of employees, they’re really impressed. And if you say you have a low number of employees, then you sound like this little joke. But actually it sucks to have a lot of employees, and you should be proud of how few employees you have. Lots of employees ends up with things like a high burn rate, meaning you’re losing a lot of money every month, complexity, slow decision making, the list goes on and it’s nothing good.

So you want to be proud of how much you can get done with a small numbers of employees. Many of the best YC companies have had a phenomenally small number of employees for their first year, sometimes none besides the founders. They really try to stay small as long as they possibly can. At the beginning, you should only hire when you desperately need to. Later, you should learn to hire fast and scale up the company, but in the early days the goal should be not to hire. And one of the reasons this is so bad, is that the cost of getting an early hire wrong is really high. In fact, a lot of the companies that I’ve been very involved with, that have had a very bad early hire in the first three or so employees never recover, it just kills the company.

Airbnb spent five months interviewing their first employee. And in their first year, they only hired two. Before they hired a single person, they wrote down a list of the culture values that they wanted any Airbnb employee to have. One of those what that you had to bleed Airbnb, and if you didn’t agree to that they just wouldn’t hire you. As an example of how intense Brian Chesky is, he’s the Airbnb CEO, he used to ask people if they would take the job if they got a medical diagnosis that they have one year left to life. Later he decided that that was a little bit too crazy and I think he relaxed it to ten years, but last I heard, he still asks that question.

These hires really matter, these people are what go on to define your company, and so you need people that believe in it almost as much as you do. And it sounds like a crazy thing to ask, but he’s gotten this culture of extremely dedicated people that come together when the company faces a crisis. And when the company faced a big crisis early on, everyone lived in the office, and they shipped product every day until the crisis was over. One of the remarkable observations about Airbnb is that if you talk to any of the first forty or so employees, they all feel like they were a part of the founding of the company.

But by having an extremely high bar, by hiring slowly ensures that everyone believes in the mission, you can get that. So let’s say, you listened to the warning about not hiring unless you absolutely have too. When you’re in this hiring mode, it should be your number one priority to get the best people. Just like when you’re in product mode that should be your number one priority. And when you’re in fundraising mode, fundraising is your number one priority.

On thing that founders always underestimate is how hard it is to recruit. You think you have this great idea and everyone’s going to join. But that’s not how it works. To get the very best people, they have a lot of great options and so it can easily take a year to recruit someone. It’s this long process and so you have to convince them that your mission is the most important of anything that they’re looking at. This is another case of why it’s really important to get the product right before looking at anything else. The best people know that they should join a rocketship.

By the way, that’s my number one piece of advice if you’re going to join a startup, is pick a rocketship. Pick a company that’s already working and that not everyone yet realizes that, but you know because you’re paying attention, that it’s going to be huge. And again, you can usually identify these. But good people know this, and so good people will wait, to see that you’re on this trajectory before they join.

One question that people asked online this morning was how much time you should be spending on hiring. The answer is zero or twenty-five percent. You’re either not hiring at all or it’s probably your single biggest block of time. In practice, all these books on management say you should spend fifty percent of your time hiring, but the people that give that advice, it’s rare for them to even spend ten percent themselves. Twenty-five percent is still a huge amount of time, but that’s really how much you should be doing once you’re in hiring mode.

If you compromise and hire someone mediocre you will always regret it. We like to warn founders of this but no one really feels it until they make the mistake the first time, but it can poison the culture. Mediocre people at huge companies will cause some problems, but it won’t kill the company. A single mediocre hire within the first five will often in fact kill a startup.

A friend of mine has a sign up in the conference room that he uses for interviews and he positions the sign that the candidate is looking at it during the interview and it says that mediocre engineers do not build great companies. Yeah that’s true, it’s really true. You can get away with it in a big company because people just sort of fall through the cracks but every person at a startup sets the tone. So if you compromise in the first five, ten hires it might kill the company. And you can think about that for everyone you hire: will I bet the future of this company on this single hire? And that’s a tough bar. At some point in the company, when you’re bigger, you will compromise on a hire. There will be some pressing deadline or something like that you will still regret. But this is the difference between theory and practice we’re going to have later speakers talk about what to do when this happens. But in the early days you just can’t screw it up.

Sources of candidates. This is another thing that students get wrong a lot. The best source for hiring by far is people that you already know and people that other employees in the company already know. Most great companies in text have been built by personal referrals for the first hundred employees and often many more. Most founders feel awkward but calling anyone good that they’ve ever met and asking their employees to do the same. But she’ll notice if you go to work at Facebook or Google one of the things they do in your first few weeks is an HR person sits you down and beat out of you every smart person you’ve ever met to be able to recruit them.

These personal referrals really are the trick to hiring. Another tip is to look outside the valley. It is brutally competitive to hire engineers here but you probably know people elsewhere in the world that would like to work with you.

Another question that founders ask us a lot about his experience and how much that matters. The short version here is that experience matters for some roles and not for others. When you’re hiring someone that is going to run a large part of your organization experience probably matters a lot. For most of the early hires that you make at a startup, experience probably doesn’t matter that much and you should go for aptitude and belief in what you’re doing. Most of the best hires that I’ve made in my entire life have never done that thing before. So it’s really worth thinking, is this a role where I care about experience or not. And you’ll often find to don’t, especially in the early days.

There are three things I look for in a hire. Are they smart? Do they get things done? Do I want to spend a lot of time around them? And if I get an answer, if I can say yes to all three of these, I never regret it, it’s almost always worked out. You can learn a lot about all three of these things in an interview but the very best way is working together, so ideally someone you’ve worked together with in the past and in that case you probably don’t even need an interview. If you haven’t, then I think it’s way better to work with someone on a project for a day or two before hiring them. You’ll both learn a lot they will too and most first-time founders are very bad interviewers but very good at evaluating someone after they’ve worked together.

So one of the pieces of advice that we give at YC is try to work on a project together instead of an interview. If you are going to interview, which you probably will, you should ask specifically about projects that someone worked on in the past. You’ll learn a lot more than you will with brainteasers. For some reason, young technical cofounders love to ask brainteasers rather than just ask what someone has done. Really dig in to projects people have worked on. And call references. That is another thing that first time founders like to skip. You want to call some people that these people have worked with in the past. And when you do, you don’t just want to ask, How was so-and-so, you really want to dig in. Is this person in the top five percent of people you’ve ever worked with? What specifically did they do? Would you hire them again? Why aren’t you trying to hire them again? You really have to press on these reference calls.

Another thing that I have noticed from talking to YC companies is that good communication skills tend to correlate with hires that work out. I used to not pay attention to this. We’re going to talk more about why communication is so important in an early startup. If someone is difficult to talk to, if someone cannot communicate clearly, it’s a real problem in terms of their likelihood to work out. Also. for early employees you want someone that has somewhat of a risk-taking attitude. You generally get this, otherwise they wouldn’t be interested in a startup, but now that startups are sort of more in fashion, you want people that actually sort of like a little bit of risk. If someone is choosing between joining McKinsey or your startup it’s very unlikely they’re going to work out at the startup.

You also want people who are maniacally determined and that is slightly different than having a risk tolerant attitude. So you really should be looking for both. By the way, people are welcome to interrupt me with questions as stuff comes up.

There is a famous test from Paul Graham called the animal test. The idea here is that you should be able to describe any employee as an animal at what they do. I don’t think that translates out of English very well but you need unstoppable people. You want people that are just going to get it done. Founders who usually end up being very happy with their early hires usually end up describing these people as the very best in the world at what they do.

Mark Zuckerberg once said that he tries to hire people that A. he’d be comfortable hanging with socially and B. he’d be comfortable reporting to if the roles were reversed. This strikes me as a very good framework. You don’t have to be friends with everybody, but you should at least enjoy working with them. And if you don’t have that, you should at least deeply respect them. But again, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time around people you should trust your instincts about that.

While I’m on this topic of hiring, I want to talk about employee equity. Founders screw this up all the time. I think as a rough estimate, you should aim to give about ten percent of the company to the first ten employees.

They have to earn it over four years anyway, and if they’re successful, they’re going to contribute way more than that. They’re going to increase the value of the company way more than that, and if they don’t then they won’t be around anyway.

For whatever reason founders are usually very stingy with equity to employees and very generous with equity for investors. I think this is totally backwards. I think this is one of the things founders screw up the most often. Employees will only add more value over time. Investors will usually write the check and then, despite a lot of promises, don’t usually do that much. Sometimes they do, but your employees are really the ones that build the company over years and years.

So I believe in fighting with investors to reduce the amount of equity they get and then being as generous as you possibly can with employees. The YC companies that have done this well, the YC companies that have been super generous with their equity to early employees, in general, are the most successful ones that we’ve funded.

One thing that founders forget is that after they hire employees, they have to retain them. I’m not going to go into full detail here because we’re going to have a lecture on this later, but I do want to talk about it a little bit because founders get this wrong so often. You have to make sure your employees are happy and feel valued. This is one of the reasons that equity grants are so important. People in the excitement of joining a startup don’t think about it much, but as they come in day after day, year after year, if they feel they have been treated unfairly that will really start to grate on them and resentment will build.

But more than that, learning just a little bit of management skills, which first-time CEOs are usually terrible at, goes a long way. One of the speakers at YC this summer, who is now extremely successful, struggled early on and had his team turn over a few times. Someone asked him what his biggest struggle was and he said, turns out you shouldn’t tell your employees they’re fucking up every day unless you want them all to leave because they will.

But as a founder, this is a very natural instinct. You think you can do everything the best and it’s easy to tell people when they’re not doing it well. So learning just a little bit here will prevent this massive team churn. It also doesn’t come naturally to most founders to really praise their team. It took me a little while to learn this too. You have to let your team take credit for all the good stuff that happens, and you take responsibility for the bad stuff.

You have to not micromanage. You have to continually give people small areas of responsibility. These are not the things that founders think about. I think the best thing you can do as a first-time founder is to be aware that you will be a very bad manager and try to overcompensate for that. Dan Pink talks about these three things that motivate people to do great work: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I never thought about that when I was running my company but I’ve thought about since and I think that’s actually right. I think it’s worth trying to think about that. It also took me a while to learn to do things like one on one and to give clear feedback.

All of these things are things first time CEO don’t normally do, and maybe I can save you from not doing that.

The last part on the team section is about firing people when it’s not working. No matter what I say here is not going to prevent anyone from doing it wrong and the reason that I say that is that firing people is one of the worst parts of running a company. Actually in my own experience, I’d say it is the very worst part. Every first time founder waits too long, everyone hopes that an employee will turn around. But the right answer is to fire fast when it’s not working. It’s better for the company, it’s also better for the employee. But it’s so painful and so awful, that everyone gets it wrong the first few times.

In addition to firing people who are doing bad at their job, you also wanna fire people who are a) creating office politics, and b) who are persistently negative. The rest of the company is always aware of employees doing things like this, and it’s just this huge drag – it’s completely toxic to the company. Again, this is an example of something that might work OK in a big company, although I’m still skeptical, but will kill a startup. So that you need to watch out for people that are ifs.

So, the question is, how do you balance firing people fast and making early employees feel secure? The answer is that when an employee’s not working, it’s not like they screw up once or twice. Anyone will screw up once or twice, or more times than that, and you know you should be like very loving, not take it out on them, like, be a team, work together.

If someone is getting every decision wrong, that’s when you need to act, and at that point it’ll be painfully aware to everyone. It’s not a case of a few screw-ups, it’s a case where every time someone does something, you would have done the opposite yourself. You don’t get to make their decisions but you do get to choose the decision-makers. And, if someone’s doing everything wrong, just like a consistent thing over like a period of many weeks or a month, you’ll be aware of it.

This is one of those cases where in theory, it sounds complicated to be sure what you’re talking about, and in practice there’s almost never any doubt. It’s the difference between someone making one or two mistakes and just constantly screwing everything up, or causing problems, or making everyone unhappy, is painfully obvious the first time you see it.

When should co-founders decide on the equity split?

For some reason, I’ve never really been sure why this is, a lot of founders, a lot of co-founders like to leave this off for a very long time. You know, they’ll even sign the incorporation documents in some crazy way so that they can wait to have this discussion.

This is not a discussion that gets easier with time, you wanna set this ideally very soon after you start working together. And it should be near-equal. If you’re not willing to give someone – your co-founder – you know, like an equal share of the equity, I think that should make you think hard about whether or not you want them as a co-founder. But in any case, you should try to have the ink dry on this before the company gets too far along. Like, certainly in the first number of weeks.

So the question is – I said that inexperience is OK – how do you know if someone’s gonna scale past, not scale up to a role, as things go on and later become crippling. People that are really smart and that can learn new things can almost always find a role in the company as time goes on. You may have to move them into something else, something other than where they started. You know, it may be that you hire someone to lead the engineering team that over time can’t scale as you get up to 50 people, and you give them a different role. Really good people that can almost find some great place in the company, I have not seen that be a problem too often.

So the question is what happens when your relationship with your cofounder falls apart. We’re gonna have a session on mechanics later on in the course, but here is the most important thing that founders screw up. Which is, every cofounder, you yourself of course, has to have vesting. Basically what you’re doing with cofounder vesting is you’re pre-negotiating what happens if one of you leaves. And so the normal stance on this in Silicon Valley is that it takes four years, let’s say you split the equity fifty-fifty, is that it takes four years to earn all of that. And the clock doesn’t start until one year in. So if you leave after one year, you keep twenty-five percent of the equity, and if you leave after two years, fifty, and on and on like that.

If you don’t do that and if you have a huge fallout and one founder leaves early on with half the company, you have this deadweight on your equity table, and it’s very hard to get investors to fund you or to do anything else. So number one piece of advice to prevent that is to have vesting on the equity. We pretty much won’t fund a company now where the founders don’t have vested equity because it’s just that bad. The other thing that comes up in the relationship between the cofounders, which happens to some degree in every company, is talk about it early, don’t let it sit there and fester.

If you have to choose between hiring a sub-optimal employee and losing your customers to a competitor, what do you do? If it’s going to be one of the first five employees at a company I would lose those customers. The damage that it does to the company- it’s better to lose some customers than to kill the company. Later on, I might have a slightly different opinion, but it’s really hard to say in the general case.

I am going to get to that later. The question is: what about cofounders that aren’t working in the same location? The answer is, don’t do it. I am skeptical of remote teams in general but in the early days of a startup, when communication and speed outweigh everything else, for some reason video conferencing calls just don’t work that well. The data on this is look at say the 30 successful software companies of all time and try to point to a single example where the cofounders were in different locations. It’s really really tough.

Alright, so now we’re going to talk about execution. Execution for most founders is not the most fun part of running the company, but it is the most critical. Many cofounders think they’re just signing up to this beautiful idea and then they’re going to go be on magazine covers and go to parties. But really what it’s about more than anything else, what being a cofounder really means, is signing up for this years long grind on execution and you can’t outsource this.

The way to have a company that executes well is you have to execute well yourself. Every thing at a startup gets modeled after the founders. Whatever the founders do becomes the culture. So if you want a culture where people work hard, pay attention to detail, manage the customers, are frugal, you have to do it yourself. There is no other way. You cannot hire a COO to do that while you go off to conferences. The company just needs to see you as this maniacal execution machine. As I said in the first lecture, there’s at least a hundred times more people with great ideas than people who are willing to put in the effort to execute them well. Ideas by themselves are not worth anything, only executing well is what adds and creates value.

A big part of execution is just putting in the effort, but there is a lot you can learn about how to be good at it. And so we’re going to have three classes that just talk about this.

The CEO, people ask me all the time about the jobs of the CEO. There are probably more than five, here are five that come up a lot in the early days. The first four everyone thinks of as CEO jobs: set the vision, raise money, evangelize the mission to people you’re trying to recruit, executives, partners, press, everybody, hire and manage the team. But the fifth one is setting the execution bar and this is not the one that most founders get excited about or envision themselves doing but I think it is actually one of the critical CEO roles and no one but the CEO can do this.

Execution gets divided into two key questions. One, can you figure out what to do and two, can you get it done. So I want to talk about two parts of getting it done, assuming that you’ve already figured out what to do. And those are focus and intensity. So focus is critical. One of my favorite questions to ask founders about what they’re spending their time and their money on. This reveals almost everything about what founders think is important.

One of the hardest parts about being a founder is that there are a hundred important things competing for your attention every day. And you have to identify the right two or three, work on those, and then ignore, delegate, or defer the rest. And a lot of these things that founders think are important, interviewing a lot at different law firms, going to conferences, recruiting advisers, whatever, they just don’t matter. What really does matter varies with time, but it’s an important piece of advice. You need to figure out what the one or two most important things are, and then just do those.

And you can only have two or three things every day, because everything else will just come at you. There will be fires every day and if you don’t get good at setting what those two or three things are, you’ll never be good at getting stuff done. This is really hard for founders. Founders get excited about starting new things.

Unfortunately the trick to great execution is to say no a lot. You’re saying no ninety-seven times out of a hundred, and most founders find they have to make a very conscious effort to do this. Most startups are nowhere near focused enough. They work really hard-maybe-but they don’t work really hard at the right things, so they’ll still fail. One of the great and terrible things about starting a start up is that you get no credit for trying. You only get points when you make something the market wants. So if you work really hard on the wrong things, no one will care.

So then there’s this question of how do you figure out what to focus on each day. Each day it’s really important to have goals. Most good founders I know have a set of small overarching goals for the company that everybody in the company knows. You know it could be something like ship a product by this date, get this certain growth rate, get this engagement rate, hire for these key roles, those are some of them but everyone in the company can tell you each week what are our key goals. And then everybody executes based off of that.

The founders really set the focus. Whatever the founders care about, whatever the founders focus on, that’s going to set the goals for the whole company. The best founders repeat these goals over and over, far more often than they think they should need to. They put them up on the walls they talk about them in one on ones and at all-hands meetings each week. And it keeps the company focus. One of the keys to focus, and why I said cofounders that aren’t friends really struggle, is that you can’t be focused without good communication. Even if you have only four or five people at a company, a small communication breakdown is enough for people to be working on slightly different things. And then you lose focus and the company just scrambles.

I’m going to talk about this a little bit later, but growth and momentum are something you can never lose focus on. Growth and momentum are what a startup lives on and you always have to focus on maintaining these. You should always know how you’re doing against your metrics, you should have a weekly review meeting every week, and you should be extremely suspicious if you’re ever talking about, we’re not focused on growth right now, we’re not growing that well right now but we’re doing this other thing, we don’t have a timeline for when we are going to ship this because we’re focused on this other thing, we’re doing a re-brand, whatever, almost always a disaster.

So you want to have the right metrics and you want to be focused on growing those metrics and having momentum. Don’t let the company get distracted or excited about other things. A common mistake is that companies get excited by their own PR. It’s really easy to get PR with no results and it actually feels like you’re really cool. But in a year you’ll have nothing, and at that point you won’t be cool anymore, and you’ll just be talking about these articles from a year ago that, Oh you know these Stanford students start a new start up, it’s going to be the next big thing and now you have nothing and that sucks.

As I mentioned already, be in the same space. I think this is pretty much a nonstarter. Remote confounding teams is just really really hard. It slows down the cycle time more than anybody ever thinks it’s going to.

The other piece besides focus for execution is intensity. Startups only work at a fairly intense level. A friend of mine says the secret to start up success is extreme focus and extreme dedication. You can have a startup and one other thing, you can have a family, but you probably can’t have many other things. Startups are not the best choice for work life balance and that’s sort of just the sad reality. There’s a lot of great things about a startup, but this is not one of them. Startups are all-consuming in a way that is generally difficult to explain. You basically need to be willing to outwork your competitors.

The good news here is that a small amount of extra work on the right thing makes a huge difference. One example that I like to give is thinking about the viral coefficient for a consumer web product. How many new users each existing user brings in. If it’s .99 the company will eventually flatline and die. And if it’s 1.01 you’ll be in this happy place of exponential growth forever.

So this is one concrete example of where a tiny extra bit of work is the difference between success and failure. When we talk to successful founders they tell stories like this all the time. Just outworking their competitors by a little bit was what made them successful.

So you have to be really intense. This only comes from the CEO, this only comes from the founders. One of the biggest advantages that start ups have is execution speed and you have to have this relentless operating rhythm. Facebook has this famous poster that says move fast and break things. But at the same time they manage to be obsessed with quality. And this is why it’s hard. It’s easy to move fast or be obsessed with quality, but the trick is to do both at a startup. You need to have a culture where the company has really high standards for everything everyone does, but you still move quickly.

Apple, Google, and Facebook have each done this extremely well. It’s not about the product, it’s about everything they do. They move fast and they break things, they’re frugal in the right places, but they care about quality everywhere. You don’t buy people shitty computers if you don’t want them to write shitty code. You have to set a quality bar that runs through the entire company. Related to this is that you have to be decisive. Indecisiveness is a startup killer. Mediocre founders spend a lot of time talking about grand plans, but they never make a decision. They’re talking about you know I could do this thing, or I could do that other thing, and they’re going back and forth and they never act. And what you actually need is this bias towards action.

The best founders work on things that seem small but they move really quickly. But they get things done really quickly. Every time you talk to the best founders they’ve gotten new things done. In fact, this is the one thing that we learned best predicts a success of founders in YC. If every time we talk to a team they’ve gotten new things done, that’s the best predictor we have that a company will be successful. Part of this is that you can do huge things in incremental pieces. If you keep knocking down small chunks one at a time, in a year you look back and you’ve done this amazing thing. On the other hand, if you disappear for a year and you expect to come back with something amazing all at once, it usually never happens.

So you have to pick these right size projects. Even if you’re building this crazy synthetic biology company and you say well I have to go away for a year, there’s no way to do this incrementally, you can still usually break it into smaller projects.

So speed is this huge premium. The best founders usually respond to e-mail the most quickly, make decisions most quickly, they’re generally quick in all of these ways. And they had this do what ever it takes attitude.

They also show up a lot.

They come to meetings, they come in, they meet us in person. One piece of advice that I have that’s always worked for me: they get on planes in marginal situations. I’ll tell a quick story here.

When I was running my own company, we found out we were about to lose a deal. It was sort of this critical deal from the first big customer in the space. And it was going to go to this company that had been around for year before we were. And they had this like all locked up. And we called and said “we have this better product you have to meet with us” and they said “well we’re signing this deal tomorrow. sorry.” We drove to the airport, we got on a plane, we were at their office at 6am the next morning. We just sat there, they told us to go away, we just kept sitting there. Finally once of the junior guys decided to meet with us, after that, finally one of the senior guys decided to meet with us. They ended up ripping up the contract with the other company, and we closed the deal with them about a week later. And I’m sure, that had we not gotten on a plane, had we not shown up in person, that would not have worked out.

And so, you just sort of show and and do these things, when people say get on plane in marginal situations, they actually mean it, but they don’t mean it literally. But I actually think it’s good, literal advice.

So I mentioned this momentum and growth earlier. Once more: the momentum and growth are the lifeblood of startups. This is probably in the top three secrets of executing well. You want a company to be winning all the time. If you ever take your foot off the gas pedal, things will spiral out of control, snowball downwards. A winning team feels good and keeps winning. A team that hasn’t won in a while gets demotivated and keeps losing. So always keep momentum, it’s this prime directive for managing a startup. If I can only tell founders one thing about how to run a company, it would be this.

For most software startups, this translates to keep growing. For hardware startups it translates to: don’t let your ship dates slip. This is what we tell people during YC, and they usually listen and everything is good. What happens at the end of YC is that they get distracted on other things, and then growth slows down. And somehow, after that happens, people start getting unhappy and quitting and everything falls apart. It’s hard to figure out a growth engine because most companies grow in new ways, but there’s this thing: if you build a good product it will grow. So getting this product right at the beginning is the best way not to lose momentum later.

If you do lose momentum, most founders try to get it back in the wrong way. They give these long speeches about vision for the company and try to rally the troops with speeches. But employees in a company where momentum has sagged, don’t want to hear that. You have to save the vision speeches for when the company is winning. When you’re not winning, you just have to get momentum back in small wins. A board member of mine used to say that sales fix everything in a startup. And that is really true. So you figure out where you can get these small wins and you get that done. And then you’ll be amazed at how all the other problems in a startup disappear.

Another thing that you’ll notice if you have momentum sag, is that everyone starts disagreeing about what to do. Fights come out when a company loses momentum. And so a framework for that that I think works is that when there’s disagreement among the team about what to do, then you ask your users and you do whatever your users tell you. And you have to remind people: “hey, stuff’s not working right now we don’t actually hate each other, we just need to get back on track and everything will work.” If you just call it out, if you just acknowledge that, you’ll find that things get way better.

To use a Facebook example again, when Facebook’s growth slowed in 2008, mark instituted a “growth group.” They worked on very small things to make Facebook grow faster. All of these by themselves seemed really small, but they got the curve of Facebook back up. It quickly became the most prestigious group there. Mark has said that it’s been one of Facebook’s best innovations. According to friends of mine that worked at Facebook at the time, it really turned around the dynamic of the company. And it went from this thing where everyone was feeling bad, and momentum was gone, back to a place that was winning.

So a good way to keep momentum is to establish an operating rhythm at the company early. Where you ship product and launch new features on a regular basis. Where you’re reviewing metrics every week with the entire company. This is actually one of the best things your board can do for you. Boards add value to business strategy only rarely. But very frequently you can use them as a forcing function to get the company to care about metrics and milestones.

One thing that often disrupts momentum and really shouldn’t is competitors. Competitors making noise in the press I think probably crushes a company’s momentum more often than any other external factor.

So here’s a good rule of thumb: don’t worry about a competitor at all, until they’re actually beating you with a real, shipped product. Press releases are easier to write than code, and that is still easier than making a great product. So remind your company of this, and this is sort of a founder’s role, is not to let the company get down because of the competitors in the press.

This great quote from Henry Ford that I love: “The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.”

These are almost never the companies that put out a lot of press releases. And they bum people out.

So when you’re thinking about bringing on a co-founder, what should you be looking for in them? Well, I actually think the single most important thing to know about someone before you start a company with them is how do they handle stress.

Eighty‑four percent of the startups in my data set had two or more co‑founders who were coming together to found it. And so that means that you have 1/7, one out of every seven ventures or so that are going and trying to do it all themselves, be Superman, be putting the cape on and trying to go and conquer the world all by themselves.

And the other side of it is they are competing against teams that have come together, the 84 percent that are the two co‑founders or more who are each bringing important things to the table, who are complementing each other’s weaknesses, being able to get each other through the bottom part of the roller coaster when things get really tough, providing the emotional support, filling in the human capital minuses and holes that each of them have, filling in the contacts that the other one doesn’t have.

And to the extent there that a founder can look and evaluate both themselves, but also start mixing those easier to evaluate, things with the harder to evaluate but sometimes even more important things that they should be looking at when they are trying to decide whether they want to bring a co‑founder on and who that should be. Those things include your working style, the things that you value, your motivation.

All of these harder to evaluate things are at least as key for you to be able to evaluate when you’re looking at potential co‑founders and the decision whether to bring them on board or whether to be solo or not.

One of the dangers is that there’s a very natural human inclination to look to people who are very similar to me. And to the extent there that means they are going to be much more similar to each other, that’s where you have to step back and make sure is this person really adding things that I don’t bring to the table


Founder’s Dilemmas: Should I Co-found? With Whom?


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Should I Co-found? With Whom?

Once a decision is made to found a company, one of the first and most important decisions concerns whether to “go solo” or to form a founding team. There are good reasons to form a team, but it is essential to address the question: with whom should I found?


When the light bulb goes off and the founder is wanting to make that leap, one of the key decisions they face is am I going to go and do this alone or am I going to go and try to attract at least one co‑founder to come and do it with me. This is a data set that focuses on high potential startups, in particular the information technology and life sciences industries. It is very much the majority that go and find co‑founders to do it with them. Eighty‑four percent of the startups in my data set had two or more co‑founders who were coming together to found it. And so that means that you have 1/7, one out of every seven ventures or so that are going and trying to do it all themselves, be Superman, be putting the cape on and trying to go and conquer the world all by themselves. And the other side of it is they are competing against teams that have come together, the 84 percent that are the two co‑founders or more who are each bringing important things to the table, who are complementing each other’s weaknesses, being able to get each other through the bottom part of the roller coaster when things get really tough, providing the emotional support, filling in the human capital minuses and holes that each of them have, filling in the contacts that the other one doesn’t have. And to the extent there that a founder can look and evaluate both themselves, but also start mixing those easier to evaluate, things with the harder to evaluate but sometimes even more important things that they should be looking at when they are trying to decide whether they want to bring a co‑founder on and who that should be. Those things include your working style, the things that you value, your motivation. All of these harder to evaluate things are at least as key for you to be able to evaluate when you’re looking at potential co‑founders and the decision whether to bring them on board or whether to be solo or not.

If you are a founder who wants to be able to have your vision, control the idea, be the one who brings it to realization, not have to share decision‑making with other people there, that leads you in a very different direction compared to a founder who wants to build the biggest most valuable and high‑impact venture who knows that he or she is missing something that is going to be needed to get to that. And there to the extent their working style and your values all align with bringing someone else on then it’s very compelling for you to bring that person on, get the key things that you’re missing filled in, have the emotional and moral support through the toughest parts of that roller coaster ride. And that is where it is much more compelling for that person to go and bring that co‑founder on to help them.

One of the dangers is that there’s a very natural human inclination to look to people who are very similar to me. People who are like me I find much more affinity for. I am much more likely to go and co‑found with those people whether they look like me in terms of the functional background that I bring to the table, the academic background that I have, the gender, the race, other ethnicity issues that people find on all of these dimensions. I am much more feeling compatible with a person who looks just like me on those dimensions. And to the extent there that means they are going to be much more similar to each other, that’s where you have to step back and make sure is this person really adding things that I don’t bring to the table. And to the extent there, that you are doing yourself a disservice within the team because you haven’t built the strongest team and making sure that that best friend that you really want to go and co‑found with or that person from college who always struck you as being really good within the same major as you are in, being able to evaluate those concretely and objectively and saying do they really add key pieces that are important for me to be able to bring to the table. Before you go and make that commitment to co‑founding together is a key step that you have to go through in terms of that thought process. 


What he found number one on the list: 65 percent of the reasons for failure were the people problems. The interpersonal tensions within the founding team, the tensions between the founders and the people who were brought in as hires to be able to augment the team to be able to fill in their holes.

Free Founders Agreements for UK Startups | Seedlegals

Founders’ agreements are the most first important docs to sign when you start a new venture:

Free Founders’ Agreements for UK Startups | SeedLegals

How To Create A Founders Agreement For Your Startup |

With all of the things that go into launching a startup, it can be tempting to forget to draft your founders agreement. You’ll be good, right? You’re all buddies. You trust each other. You’re in this together!

And while all that is certainly true, you still need to get a founders agreement. A founders agreement, like all contracts, is there to help you not only navigate your day-to-day operates but also to come to your aid when things don’t go as planned. Don’t skip this step, founders.

How to Create a Founders Agreement | 


Making the First Hires in a Startup - The Hard Truth | Guy Shackar | Medium Article

Making the First Hires in a Startup – The Hard Truth | Guy Shackar | Medium Article I literally thought it would be just like building my fantasy NBA team where I’m going to have a really hard time deciding between LeBron James or Steph Curry. Unfortunately, building a dream team with accomplished superstars is way more complicated than I could have ever imagined. One can argue that the quality of the team will predetermine a company’s likelihood to succeed. After all, the people are the most crucial asset in a young startup — no doubt about it. The only problem is where in the world do we find these people? Most people would pick stability over uncertainty ten times out of ten, which by the way does not mean they are less talented in any way. But when you add this filter to your perfect contenders, you’re actually slashing the list of potential candidates dramatically.

Making the First Hires in a Startup — The Hard Truth, by Guy Shachar

How to Hire | Henry Ward, CEO of Carta | Article

Much like startup performance follows a power law, so do startup employees. The most effective employees create 20x more leverage than an average employee. This is not true in an efficiency company—the best employees might work 2x faster than their peers. But in a high-leverage startup like ours, the effectiveness gap between employees can be multiple orders of magnitude.

How to Hire – Carta

What are pre-employment tests? |

Pre-employment tests are an objective, standardised way of gathering data on candidates during the hiring process. All professionally developed, well-validated pre-employment tests have one thing in common: they are an efficient and reliable means of gaining insights into the capabilities and traits of prospective employees. Depending on the type of test being used, pre-employment assessments can provide relevant information on a job applicant’s ability to perform in the workplace.

As a result, pre-employment tests should only be one element within a comprehensive set of criteria used to evaluate applicants, including resumes, interviews, job experience, education, and anything else that is relevant for a position. Pre-employment tests provide the most value when applied at the top of the hiring process to screen out candidates who aren’t a good fit. Ultimately, however, organisations that use tests are making their final decisions based on many factors, of which tests should be one important component. Companies should expect tests to streamline and improve the hiring process, not replace it.

What Are Pre-Employment Tests? | Criteria Corp

Startup CEO: Building Your Team | Recruiting & Hiring (Kauffman Founders School)

Pick great people, motivate them and make sure they are doing the absolute best possible job, in the most productive way.

Top Recruiting Challenges:

  1. Defining the job properly. Usually creating new job. Need to take time to think about what a person needs to do. Easy to hire for?
  2. Not think seriously about creating a recruiting process – as serious as getting married or adopting a child.
  3. Onboarding. They think the recruiting process ends when they hire them. Recruiting process not end until 90 days after new hire has joined

Randy Street - Your Business is Who You Hire | Randy Street | Video

In this video Randy Street summarises his book Who: The A Method for Hiring

Book review: “Who — The A method for hiring” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street | by MAA1 | Medium


 Who – The A method for Hiring (link)

“Almost everyone I speak to complains about how hard it is to hire good product people.

Who — The A method for hiring, published back in 2008 by Geoff Smart and Randy Street has been a very welcome addition to my learnings about hiring.”

The Case for Team Diversity Gets Even Better | David Feitler | HBR Article

We know intuitively that innovation goals are well served by cross-functional “SWAT” teams that are diverse in their membership. As Andy Zynga argued in an earlier post, diversity is a means to overcome the cognitive biases that prevent people from seeing new approaches or engaging them when found. But while this 9 Module 4 further reading seems only logical, is there empirical evidence to support it? When such diversity is enforced can we expect it to produce results? How do we know “more is better”?

The Case for Team Diversity Gets Even Better (

7 Practical Ways to Reduce Bias in Your Hiring Process | Rebecca Knight | HBR Article

7 Practical Ways to Reduce Bias in Your Hiring Process | Rebecca Knight | HBR Article A vast body of research shows that the hiring process is biased and unfair. Unconscious racism, ageism, and sexism play a big role in who gets hired. But there are steps you can take to recognize and reduce these biases. Where should you start? And how can you help others on your team do the same?

If There’s Only One Woman in Your Candidate Pool, There’s Statistically No Chance She’ll Be Hired ( 


New Employee Onboarding: A Success Template For Every Hire (Article) | Trello (link)

Employee onboarding is more than job training and management: it’s personal. When it comes to new hires, it isn’t all just handshakes and health insurance forms. These are the newest members of your team we’re talking about.

Some day, these employees will be responsible for a huge project that affects your company, they’ll be the people sharing laughs with you in the break room, and eventually, training and onboarding new hires themselves.

Like all first impressions, you only have one shot to get it right. The first week is the time to be as thorough as possible with management and HR logistics as well as intangibles throughout the onboarding process. Important information that falls through the cracks or isn’t conveyed properly means that employees’ knowledge bases are inconsistent. Inconsistencies at work, when multiplied, can turn into a disparate company culture.

Startup Boards

Startup Boards (link) Board Functions and Responsibilities (link)| Brad Feld | Kauffman Entrepreneurs Video

Brad Feld, entrepreneur and early-stage investor, provides valuable guidance on how to establish a board of directors who will be there to support you, direct you, and call you out when you fall short.

The board of directors is a formal construct for every company that essentially provides governance for the company. Their duty, in a variety of formal and informal responsibilities, is to ultimately serve the best interest of the company. The CEO should create a transparency with the board that builds the board’s faith in the CEO as the person to run the company.

The CEO runs the company—period. The decision the board needs to make is whether or not they support the CEO. If the board supports the CEO, it should be easy for the board to let the CEO run the company.

Benefits of getting a board early

I think early stage companies benefit from creating boards early. And the reason for this is that it establishes a level of formality around the running and execution of the business. Now, the level of accountability that they have to the board in a formal way is pretty lightweight. Again, at those early stages, it’s mostly informal. But it does force them to interact with the board on a regular basis. It does cause the entrepreneurs to learn how to build the muscles of having board meetings, of having to talk about where they’re going with the business on, you know, a quarterly, annual, multi-year time horizon with an objective set of board members that in a lot of cases are good practice for what it’s going to look like when you scale up your company and have venture investors and a much more sort of serious heavyweight board.

The other reason to have a board early on is that engaged board members can help you tremendously with the growth of your business. If you think about one of your roles as an entrepreneur, it’s to collect people. You’re trying to collect great people to the business—great employees, great investors, great customers, great advisors, great board members. And you can use the board as a tool to engage some people in your business in a much more substantive way that helps you build your business, and grow and expand your business. So don’t lose sight of the value, especially early on, of what a board member can do to help accelerate your business based on their own experience and their own connections.

Advisory Boards vs Formal Board

The board of directors is a formal construct and has formal responsibilities. An advisory board is an informal construct that tends not to have any formal responsibilities. A lot of entrepreneurs create advisory boards for their companies for two reasons. One is to try to show that there are, you know, capable, interesting, famous people associated with their companies. And then the second is that a lot of entrepreneurs don’t want the formal relationship with a board, especially early in the life of the company. My general feeling about advisory boards is that they tend to be pretty weak. There are cases where entrepreneurs do a very good job of managing an advisory board, but in those cases, they have to be very proactive about managing the advisory board and getting the advisors actively engaged with the company. I encourage in those cases to consider which of the advisory board members would make good board members, and then formalize the relationship by having them be board members because then they’ll take a lot more responsibility and engagement both informally and formally

Inner Circle Team

What’s the Difference Between a Mentor, an Advisor, and a Coach? Each Plays A Unique Role | Zak Slayback (Medium)

Once each of these makes sense, you have the opportunity to search out specific people to play each specific role. It’s possible that a mentor can also be a coach or an advisor can also be a mentor but, generally speaking, each of these focuses on their own specific domains in their own specific ways. The best way to think of the differences between each of these categories is to ask yourself, “what role does this person play? To what end? For how long?” In which domains do you expect this person to have expertise? How long do you expect to work with them? On what endeavors?

What’s the Difference Between a Mentor, an Advisor, and a Coach? | by Zak Slayback | The Startup | Medium

The Difference Between Advisors, Mentors, and Coaches | Dan Martell (Video)

In this episode, Dan Martell covers the difference of working with an advisor, a mentor or a coach. Each one is important but they’re all different, especially in the way you approach them and pay for their value.

How should I compensate mentors and advisors? | Startupedia

I recommend using the FAST agreement. FAST, it stands for founder advisor standard template. We developed this about 2 years ago and my guess is about a quarter of all mentoring advisor relationships around the world use the template.

What the template essentially does, is it says: okay, what’s the stage of the company? Are you a very early stage company in the middle, or slightly later? And what’s the commitment level of the mentor? Are you gonna be meeting once a month or you gonna go and actually help day to day with business development and some other activities?

And then it actually has a recommended or actual precise amount of equity compensation for each category, so in the early-stage engaged mentors might get 1% of the company, whereas in a later stage less engaged mentor will get below o.25%. So one of the reasons we built this agreement is to make the negotiation with the advisor or the mentor very easy. It’s like what level of effort do you want and what level of development is the company? Check check, signed, and done. So, you compensate mentors generally with equity and if you need an easy way to do that, use the FAST agreement.

5 Ways To Find Mentors and Make Them Matter | Glenn Llopis | Forbes Article

Think of ways you can add-value to the relationship beyond sharing the success stories you have created from their goodwill. Buy them a book, send them a link to an article, connect them with a friend or someone that can add-value to their goals. Create opportunities for your mentor and manage them closely. This is why the best mentoring relationships last a lifetime. Because what is being formed is a special kind of trust that you both greatly appreciate and respect.

5 Ways To Find Mentors And Make Them Matter (

Founders Network | Kevin Holmes (Video)

Kevin Holmes describes the downsides of traditional one-to-one mentorship and the benefits of peer mentorship which as he describes it has various similar advantages to coaching.


Never Eat Alone Book Summary – Keith Ferrazzi (link) 2000 Books (Video)

A summary of the book which helps you figure out how to build relationships over the long-term

The Secret to Networking in 2020: Relationship Action Plan (link) | Keith Ferrazzi (Video) 

If you want to truly level up your network to achieve your goals this year, you’re going to have to create a “Relationship Action Plan” for yourself.

3 Tips To Make Networking Worthwhile l Adam Grant (Video)

Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, talks about 3 ways to improve your networking.

Adam Grant: You’re More Likely To Get a Job Through Weaker Ties | Adam Grant | (Video)

You get better information from people you used to know than from someone you currently know.

Learn to Love Networking (link)| Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino, Maryam Kouchaki | HBR Article 

Many if not most of us are ambivalent about networking. We know that it’s critical to our professional success, yet we find it taxing and often distasteful. These strategies can help you overcome your aversion. By shifting to a promotion mindset, identifying and exploring shared interests, expanding your view of what you have to offer, and motivating yourself with a higher purpose, you’ll become more excited about and effective at building relationships that bear fruit for everyone.

Study: For 78% of Startups, Networking Is Vital To Entrepreneurial Success (link) | Federico Guerrini | Forbes Article

A new research, “Informal Innovation: Entrepreneurship and Informal Communities”, released today by the Economist Intelligence Unit, confirms what everyday experience might have already suggested: informal professional networks and communities are more important for entrepreneurial success than formal structures such as incubators and accelerators. So, drink and party on, without too much remorse.

But, in general, for all those surveyed, active networking appears to have a positive impact on the performance of their businesses: the greater the number of networking activities entrepreneurs engage in – the study finds – the higher the chance of having a positive return in terms of profitability, revenue growth, innovation, capitalization and talent.

Networking with People You Can’t Meet In Person (link)| Dorie Clark | HBR Article

As appropriate, look for opportunities to engage with that person, retweeting their posts with your own audience, answering a question they may ask, or sharing a thoughtful response to one of their updates. This isn’t a quick-hit process; you certainly don’t want to look like a stalker and share 25 of their posts in a week. Think long-term, and strive to engage in some small way every few weeks over a 6-12 month timeline. The goal is simply to make your name familiar to them in a positive way, so that when the moment is right and you have the opportunity to meet them in person, they’ll be pleased to do so.


Stand Out Networking: A Simple and Authentic Way to Meet People on Your Own Terms (link)| Dorie Clark | Ebook

Drawing on wisdom from her own experience and from experts like psychologist Robert Cialdini, marketer Michael Katz, and authors Judy Robinett and Keith Ferrazzi, Clark provides valuable insight on how to be a good networker, including concrete tips on how to:

  • Turn initial small talk into meaningful exchanges
  • Unlock the power of social media as a networking tool
  • Transform casual online contacts into real-world connections
  • Make the most of conferences
  • Set a schedule for keeping in regular touch with your network
  • Repair and strengthen troubled relationships
  • Create your own events and become a connector

5 Misconceptions About Networking (link)| Herminia Ibarra | HBR Article

Our mind-sets about networking affect the time and effort we put into it, and ultimately, the return we get on our investment. Why widen your circle of acquaintances speculatively, when there is hardly enough time for the real work? If you think you’re never going to be good at it? Or, that it is in the end, a little sleazy, at best political?

Mind-sets can change and do but only with direct experience. The only way you will come to understand that networking is one of the most important resources for your job and career is try it, and discover the value for yourself.


Never Say No To Networking (link) | Kathryn Minshew | HBR Article 

When new entrepreneurs ask me for advice, I sometimes tell them to NYFO — Network Your Face Off. Nearly everything I’ve accomplished in the past two years, from speaking on CNN to watching my company cross 1.7 million users in less than a year, can be directly traced back to connections I’ve made and help I’ve received from a network that is vast, diverse, and active. Of course you can’t possibly take every meeting. But regularly connecting without a reason or purpose — with people who seem to be doing interesting things — can have unexpected benefits.

An Introvert’s Guide To Networking (link)| Lisa Petrilli | HBR Article 

Introverts who avoid networking are making a critical career mistake. Being an adroit networker is non-negotiable — and not as hard as it might seem. If you’re an introvert, what networking strategies have you found that work?

Here is Why Employee Referrals are the Best Way to Hire (link)| Paul Petrone | LinkedIn Article

The more you research it, the more it becomes clear: almost always, the first step of any hiring process should be asking your existing employees if they know someone good for the role.

Why? Research shows getting a referral is a cheaper way to hire, a faster way to hire, generally produces a better hire and lowers the turnover rate at your company.