The most important lesson I’ve learned while working at a Startup is to do more of what works and jettison what doesn’t work, quickly. That’s the way to success, the rest is just noise and a waste of time. This lesson can be applied to everything in life.
Data is your friend
We generate data all the time, whether it’s captured in a database or spreadsheet, just by being alive you throw of data points. The trick is to take notice of it, capture it, and then do something with it.
It’s the “do something with it” that matters to your success or not. Your success can be anything that is of value to you. Time, money, weight loss, stock trading, whatever. You just need to start capturing data, evaluate it, and take action on it.
This is where you fail
Many people fail by taking no action on the data they captured and evaluated. They hope that things are going to get better or that things are going to change. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t but you must act on what the data is telling you now.
My Examples, what Works/Doesn’t Work
- My $100 Forex experiment worked really well for a time, then it started to flag. The data was telling me that my trading method was no longer working. Did I listen? Nope. I blew up that account. This didn’t work for me.
- Writing RapidMiner Tutorials on this blog ended up getting me a job with a great job with RapidMiner. This lead to an amazing career in Data Science. Writing and taking an interest in things works.
- Day trading doesn’t work for me. I blow up all the time. What works for me is swing and trend trading. Do more of that and no day trading.
Keep it simple, stupid
The one thing I’ve also learned working at a startup is to keep things simple and stupid. You’re running so fast trying to make your quarter that you have no time for complex processes. Strip things down to their minimum and go as light as you can. This way you can adjust your strategy and make changes quickly, you can do more of what works and jettison what doesn’t.
ICYMI the Startup markets are getting hotter in the Data Science space. Every time I turn around, some small company got millions of dollars in startup funding. It used to be a company with an algorithm or data science library but now it’s Data Science platforms. These platforms are suddenly all the rage and many new entrants are racing to gain market and mind share.
The above image from FundersandFounders.com really captures a successful startup from inception to IPO. Most interesting for me is how the ownership “pie” is cut over time. If you’re the Founder, you first start out with a 50/50 share with your Co-Founder. Then you get some Seed money, say from an Angel Investor like Howard, which takes a small % of ownership.
As the Startup grows and matures it should attract more VC money and the ownership pie changes. With every VC investor, you sell parts of your company. This is incredibly important if you want to maintain control of your company and should be carefully analyzed.
My personal opinion is that you can do all this without VC money but it will be harder and take a longer time. It could take decades and in this industry time is not your friend. The market is so hot that your competitors will fill your weaknesses in the market within a quarter or shorter. So in essence you really need startup funding from VC’s to be agile and build/keep your market share. Just keep an eye on those term sheets and make sure that the “pie” is big enough for everyone.
I’ve been following Howard and Fred on and off over the years. They’re old Web 2.0 veterans like me and have kept a blog going for over 10 years. It’s always nice to see continuity and recently I found a great interview of Fred at MIT on Howard’s blog. It’s just under an hour and gives advice to students interested in the Venture Capitalist (VC) field.
What caught my ear (and Howard’s too) was how his wife (Gotham Girl) is his biggest cheerleader. What does he exactly mean by that? She was the one that supported and believed in him to go out into Venture Capitalism.
With any big risk you take in life, it makes your life so much easier to have someone behind you, cheering you on. Like Fred, my wife is my biggest cheerleader. She encouraged and supported me to step out of the Engineering world and into the Startup world.
You won’t believe how much that mattered to me then and how much it still matters today.
Fred’s actual talk is about 25 minutes or so, but the Q&A part is gold. I’m going to watch this a few times just to glean as much wisdom as I can!
Other Interesting Bits
- The Founder(s) need to be like salespeople, they have to sell their idea to VC’s, customers, etc
- You need to build up well diversified startup portfolio, some will fail and you’ll lose your seed investment
- It’s a good idea to help negotiate the Series A and even B rounds, because that’ll help you get your exit
- Opportunities abound everywhere