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Founder to CEO: How to build a great company from the ground up (docs.google.com)
1207 points by dy 84 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 245 comments



I feel like there’s an ‘all or nothing’ attitude recently around starting a business which doesn’t make sense to me. Either you’re making millions and have 100 employees or nothing.

I work in a company that has 5-10 employees, nobody is working their ass off and there’s steady income and gradual growth. Our CEO is not a millionaire, but he enjoys his work and the company he works for. There is no plans for fast growth or VC funding.

Can anyone explain to me where does this obsession with VC funding and huge growth come from? I feel like if you grow your company by more then 50% YOY you will end up with a totally different company culture, and you might end up hating your own company.


>> Can anyone explain to me where does this obsession with VC funding and huge growth come from? I feel like if you grow your company by more then 50% YOY you will end up with a totally different company culture, and you might end up hating your own company.

Startups need an exit strategy.

Employees want to work 5-10 years max and end up with millions to retire peacefully while working in an intense environment which serves as the story of their accomplishment for the lifetime.

Then they plan to follow their other life goals like going on a world tour with the family or watch their kids growing up or creating their own small lifestyle business. It can be anything.

The key realization is that most employees do not want to work for you just because they have found themselves in such place.

When I was new in the industry, I put a lot of blood/sweat into building a company. Today, I can't force myself to put the same amount of efforts even if I want to.

The idea is to raise money fast, hire experienced people for ancillary services and develop the application in a way so that it is able to hold up till IPO. Defer all costs (application maintenance, vendor lockins, IP infringement risks) for post IPO. Create the Hype around the product which gets you eyeballs, subscriptions, MAU and other metrics which translates into the valuation. Once you've caught market attention, the solution can always get more love post IPO.

The market pressure to produce returns post IPO results in the broad application of the company's IP, resources, and talent. This might spin up new industries.

Once the employees have cashed their equity, it's up to them to stay (if they are enjoying the position) or leave (if they've other life goals).

A lifestyle business, won't be able to achieve this for each of their employees. Even very few startups achieve this for most of their employees.


>> Employees want to work 5-10 years max and end up with millions to retire peacefully while working in an intense environment which serves as the story of their accomplishment for the lifetime.

Nopes, founders want millions by (ideally) using technology to disrupt a market and gaining from the windfall.

VC want millions/billions by betting money on such founders.

They both agree to buy talent by promising employees a share of the windfall.

Employees don't start out thinking "hey I want millions, let me join this unknown company".

They usually start out "I need a good, well paying job where I do interesting work."

Edit: spelling


People get good well-paying jobs by not working at startups. Future money windfall is a very big component of choosing a startup.


>> Employees want to work 5-10 years max and end up with millions to retire peacefully while working in an intense environment

This sounds like either it is an extremely unrealistic expectation or it's extremely unfair.

I know lots of smart people who worked for at least 10 years in very intense startup environments and got essentially nothing out of it. Often, they have to fallback on a life of contract work for huge boring corporations.


> I know lots of smart people who worked for at least 10 years in very intense startup environments and got essentially nothing out of it. Often, they have to fallback on a life of contract work for huge boring corporations.

Yes, it's not guaranteed by anything.

I also know of cases where founder alone ended up with billions and early employees got nothing.

I just see those startups as poorly executed who decided to kill their army after victory way home.

We should strive for execution where at least your comrades also win.


"We should strive for execution where at least your comrades also win." --> this won my heart!

It is not a zero-sum game. You win when your comrades win. The glory is not in taking it all but taking pride in what you have created and can potentially create and expand on over and over again. :)


From the perspective of all VC's and some founders, this is in fact the very definition of a zero sum game.

Every dollar of an exit given to an employee is a dollar that the VC or founder can't have.


It's the ideal the whole industry segment is founded on. Just like every other ideal, it's attainable only by the extremely lucky. Everybody else has to deal with the externalities.

Strip the ideal away and people will leave in droves. Without a differentiator, startups are just like everything else.


One thing that I've learned though is that you should try to work for rich people who believe that we're in a meritocracy. When these people see talent, they tend to think that it's much more valuable than it actually is.


If those people are rich enough, they can surround themselves with talent, and notice that while talented people are a small fraction of population, in absolute numbers it is still a large number of people who need to somehow pay their bills.

Then it's time to play the game of "compete against each other, and the worst 10% gets fired". Suddenly the talent becomes cheaper, and stops talking about work-life balance.


Joining an early startup is high risk high reward. 90%+ of the time nothing comes of it. But when it does it pays out big.


All the dreams you mentioned can be achieved earning anything over $100k per year in a company with good work-life balance located in a place with reasonable cost of living.


and where is this mythical job/ company?

In Silicon Valley, pay is high, so is the cost of living, reverse in other places. If your situation differs, you've got it good (unless you're in a bad job in a high cost of living place)


Actually, the most refreshing, zero bullshit thing I’ve read in a while.


Wow!! This actually gave me answer to one of my question/ comment in another thread

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17446121


Comment Of The Year HN2018


Harsh but true.


You’re on a website which is run by an arm of a prominent venture capital firm.

What did you expect? Us all talking about the successful McDonald’s franchisee in Wichita, Kansas?

You’re consuming news from a portion of the overall economy where there are high stakes, big bets and a lot of money involved. Outsized, massive multi-billion dollar outcomes are the name of the entire game.

That’s why you get that feeling.


I think you're wrong. There's lots of people here who want to build massive businesses at scale and believe VC is the right way to go, but that doesn't mean people can't also see the benefits of going more slowly. If you read HN a lot you start to see people here have huge amounts of respect for people who bootstrap their businesses. Comments from the likes of candyjapan, idlewords, and patio11 about their journeys pretty much always get plenty of positive replies and very little negativity about not going down the VC route.


lol they’re not wrong. People seem to forget the facts about HN. It’s hosted by a incubator/VC company that uses it to promote discussion and the company itself. Which is fine and makes sense.

Yeah, there’s other stuff here too. But there’s a huge bias towards startups compared to the rest of the world.


But there’s a huge bias towards startups compared to the rest of the world.

Of course. That's not the point of contention here. HN is mostly about startups.

The post I replied to suggested that there's a "pro-VC / anti-bootstrapping" slant on HN. That's what I think is wrong. Many people who post here are sensible enough to understand that both approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages. People don't generally advocate taking on VC funding unless there's a good reason to.

Other startup communities have people who are seriously against the idea of bootstrapping, and level accusations of building a "lifestyle business" at anyone who chooses that path. I don't see that very often that on HN.


just curious if you can give examples of other (online) startup communities so that I can follow them too


Indie hackers


Things are chancing and people have not noticed it yet. Nowadays it's much easier build fast growing company without outside capital and additional workforce than let's say 15 years ago.


Because in the current market you can get yourself a better lifestyle burning through VC cash than by trying to get that cash from the paying customers.


We have a winner.

And even if you fail you write some blog posts, do the speaking circuit and end up with another high paying role in a startup, VC or a services company (Government, Co-working space, law firm...)


I thought the expectation was for VC funded CEOs to take low salaries. How often do they sell equity in fundraising rounds and/or take decent salaries (500k+)?


I think they are encouraged to in later rounds by some VCs: https://bothsidesofthetable.com/should-founders-be-allowed-t...


> decent salaries (500k+)?

Oh, HN.


> take decent salaries (500k+)

Now, seeing this, I would totally settle for some "unsatisfactory" $450K. :)


Heh. I mean decent for someone who has the skill to pull lots of VC money.

They are probably good at rising up the ladder in some company, that's a reasonable upper management salary for them there.


I highly recommend reading https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2000/05/12/strategy-letter-i-... It describes two cases, where you need to grow fast and where you don't.


I’d be curious what Joel would say about that same article today, I suspect his understanding of the nature of competitive landscapes has evolved.


To me it just feels as though the "get rich or die trying" mentality is something more alluring to people, whereas success stories from slow, steady growth makes more sense but is less hyped.


It's partly about the drama.

Long hours, millions or billions in cash, high risk, high reward - it's so much more exciting than building a steady business that pays its way and keeps some number of people gainfully employed while providing a genuinely useful product/service.


There’s a lot more of the bootstrap stuff on Indie Hackers. Sounds like you’d enjoy their podcast too. indiehackers.com


On this site, "startup" is short for "high-growth startup". Of course you can open a neighbourhood restaurant and it will be a startup, just not the kind people like to talk about here.

On HN "startup" means the kind of business whose ambition is to be a household name, used by millions of people if it's in the consumer space, or all the major customers if it's in B2B.

That kind of thing tends to require a business that grows a lot while generally not making free cash, which is why it needs outside investors. Those investors see a lot of these firms and this is one take on the accumulated learnings.


That's what startup originally means. The term is watered down, but startup = growth and big failure rate.

Startup is not same as new company or new tech company.

http://www.paulgraham.com/growth.html

> A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of "exit." The only essential thing is growth. Everything else we associate with startups follows from growth.


The OED keeps track of original usage. Here's the entry:

orig. U.S. A business or enterprise that is in the process of starting up, or that has just been established; a startup company, venture, etc.

They cite these early usages in print:

1975 Chicago Defender 20 Sept. 23/1 The many problems faced by any new start up, but most assuredly by a black financial institution.

1986 Your Business Mar. 11/3 There are the small businesses; the heroic little start-ups in their garages and garden sheds.


There is difference of start-up and start-up company.

Start-up company in the modern sense was first used in 70's


I agree with you and see your point, but many businesses (especially B2C and high-tech) can't get to profitability without millions in venture capital.

Venture capital is high-risk and high-reward, and investors won't gamble millions without a chance for a massive return.

Massive returns usually happen at large scale.

If you want more companies like yours and fewer like, say, Twitter, then venture capital would need to be a charity.


Why also explains why "World Changing" investors are investing in "meme chats" and "gif keyboards".

Gavin Belson is not a fictitious character; he is literally the snapshot of a typical investor.


This is mainly due to the demographic of HN. Lot's of young people here with a lot of energy and little life experience.


I'd argue that a lot of people are just following the tune painted in the media and culture as a whole without thinking through whether or not that's what they want.

It's a real shame that building a company has become about racing to the cash (with very little conscious reasoning as to why) and not about building meaningful products, services, and teams that will be around for the long-term.

As a guy running a "tiny" company that just did a little over 100K in revenue its first year, I couldn't be happier. There's only three of us (two of which are contractors) and the current goal is to intentionally limit our team size to no more than 20 over the next few years.


Obviously there are multiple schools of thought. There are companies/people who don't go for funding and sustain on revenue from customers. Basecamp is a great example. They never used the funding they got from Jeff Bezos, instead putting all the money in a hedge fund. David Heinemeier Hansson, a partner at Basecamp talked about why they made this decision in a Tim Ferris podcast episode. He thinks that a company should be built for the long run instead of making a spectacular exit. These are the companies you usually don't hear about in the news. It's not to say that these companies don't grow but do so gradually, at their own pace. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.

There also companies/people who think they need an exit strategy, rapidly iterate and grow, get multiple rounds of funding from VCs or angels, then sell it to one of the bigger tech companies. There are so many examples of these types of companies. You only need to visit Techcrunch or one of many tech news sites.

There are other types too. The company I work at, we do put in great work, have steady growth. We did get funding from VCs but working towards self-sufficiency. Funding was necessary to keep the company alive, while delivering great value to our customers. In the end it comes down to what kind of a culture you want to set for the company and what you think will be good for the company and the employees.


>I work in a company that has 5-10 employees, nobody is working their ass off and there’s steady income and gradual growth. Our CEO is not a millionaire, but he enjoys his work and the company he works for. There is no plans for fast growth or VC funding.

Contrary to many responses, the drive for growth is a consequence of human psychology and hence how things evolve in business. Humans are fundamentally dissatisfied creatures, and this translates into ever-increasing hunger for profit in businesses.

As a business owner, you cannot decide in isolation that you want to not grow because that decision is impacted by your competitors and customers. If your competitors decide to grow really big, your small business will get threatened. This is exactly what's happening with Amazon. A mom-and-pop shop may be happy not growing, but it's at the risk of not existing at all.

Earlier I had similar thoughts of "why grow", but now I understand better. I wrote about this in a blog post: https://growth.wingify.com/startup-complacency-the-flip-side...


Not really. It's 100% untrue that everyone in business is like this.

It's true that a certain kind of business culture encourages this thinking and disparages slow growth or - worse - static but healthy profits.

But that's propaganda, not reality, and the economy is the worse for it. Steady businesses contribute far more in jobs, personal freedom, and social opportunity than unicorns do.


It depends on the product and business model. Some kinds of companies can scale organically. Some need lots of initial investment. If one needs lots of initial investment, the investors are going to expect a large return.

I have successfully run a consultancy for fourteen years. This is very bootstrappable, but does not scale well. Conversely, one cannot make the next Tesla using one's own capital.



There are infinitely more companies taking the slow and steady route versus the "Startup -> IPO/Buyout" strategy.

Don't let the hype/marketing make you think otherwise.


I took a social entrepreneurship course where the professor insisted that entrepreneurs had to think big and scale.

I thought, “The dry cleaner down the street he a competitor advantage by memorizing the face and account number of every customer. Even if they don’t scale beyond one shop, they’re an entrepreneur”

Single proprietor businesses generally don’t hire PR firms to hype themselves up. That’s why it’s not in the press.


I havent read all responses above, so excuse me if this is repeated information.

To answer your question, you have to understand how VCs operate. How they raise money from other institutional investors, rich folks etc and how they need to return that money in a finite time (4-5 years) Everything comes down to money for that reason.


Most startups are vision driven. The more impact you make the faster the more successful the company is. In most cases, impact is catalyzed by big VC funding or getting a lot of employees.


You might like the rather humble attitude of Basecamp: https://m.signalvnoise.com/enough-1d48019c7335

(I'm not affiliated with them in any way, just a fan of the product and someone who sympathizes and agrees with their views.)


Nice article


I read the comments before clicking the link, and found myself agreeing with commenters who complained about this line:

> In addition, if people are working less than 8-10 productive hours per day, then they are clearly not being as productive as they could be.

I almost dismissed the book as a "yet another VC-driven, work-your-people-to-burnout story" but really, there's more to that. I've found it an excellent read so far and it's very concise, it wastes zero space on nonsense. I realized that I don't have to agree with everything an author writes to be able to get value out of a book. Warmly recommend you check it out.


Steve Blank has an awesome anecdote on this: https://steveblank.com/2016/09/07/working-hard-is-not-the-sa...

"Our team knows this isn’t a 9-5 company. We stay as long as it takes to get the job done."

“Let’s just wait across the street from your company’s parking lot and watch the front door."

"a first trickle of employees left. I asked, “Are these your VPs and senior managers?” He nodded looking surprised and kept watching. Then after another 10-minute pause, a stream of employees poured out of the building like ants emptying the nest. Rahul’s jaw dropped and then tightened. Within a half-hour the parking lot was empty."


As a software development manager, I had to learn to go home early. I'm the type that enjoys work. I would work late till 8-9pm. My team would feel guilty and stay till 7-7:30pm. When I noticed this, I started leaving early 5-6. I would get in my car making a phone call and in 5 minutes, I would see everyone leaving. All I ask for everyone is 8 STRONG hrs everyday.


American work culture, always trying to please the boss.


This is not an American culture. This is the nature of a human being.


Not just American. I saw this taken to an art form in Japan.

While part is showing effort when individual output is hard to measure, the roots come from more than impressing the boss. It’s also respect to company and peers, and being available in case you’re needed by someone whose time is more scarce and expensive.

But FaceTime as the end result in a corporate culture is awful.


As I’ve heard very similar anecdotes from friends and coworkers all around the world, I’m going to offer an alternative phrasing:

> Modern work culture, always trying to please the boss.


I think you can skip the bits about work, and modern:

> Culture: always trying to please the boss.


> Humans: Always trying to fool the boss.


More like humouring the delusions of people who don't know how to measure productivity.


Eh, tomato tomato.


Haha you should do some research on Japanese work culture and how it relates to leaving after the boss.


I've lived in Japan. You haven't. Americans are worse.


No, they're really not. You've probably worked at a company with an American culture, in Japan.


I'm fairly sure this is fairly universal. Even in socialist countries, your boss has enough power over you to do you harm.


Especially in socialist countries.


No, not especially: in socialist systems the power of individual workers is far greater, sometimes with bosses being directly chosen by their employees, or if not that, then stronger unions allow workers to enforce rules on things like their hours.


I track my productivity very assiduously. For some tasks, such as writing, it is next to impossible to be productive for more than 5-6 hours/day. Your brain gives up after a while.


The problem here is assuming only hours in deep mode are “productive hours.”

If you’re an engineer not all of your productive hours are writing code.


That's why i also charge clients for my "thinking" hours.


Right before that happens, eat a good meal then meditate or take a nap.

You'd be surprised how much more you can squeeze out your day.


Except my days are not oranges where I'm trying to squeeze every last drop of juice out of them, leaving nothing but pulp, peel and seeds before I throw them in the green bin.

Life is most certainly a marathon where pace of play is far more important than local maxima.


...or you can just do more everyday and live a better life.


As a founder you would probably spend more time on calls and other administrative tasks that don’t require much brain energy. That’s how you end up doing long hours.


However constantly switching contexts between different tasks is also very taxing...


I've taken to waking up at 6 to get a couple of hours of solid "brain work" before I start the day


I think this is an important comment. I used to be a late night worker but family and other commitments has made that impossible. I wake at 5AM to get a few solid hours of brain work in before the family stirs. This has been the best approach to retaining the 'late night work hours' and balancing family.


It really depends on the individual. My kids wake up between 5 and 6 and some weekends I might just tap away on my laptop while I sit in the front room with them with cartoons on (they're still too young to get up unsupervised).

However despite a few years of this routine I still find myself more productive at night than I am in the morning (or even during the day, unfortunately).


Second this. Morning is the best for clear thinking. Late night work is less productive.


It depends. I am a night owl and if I wake up too soon I am really useless for almost the whole day. Instead waking up later than usual (like 11-12am) makes me hyper-productive until late night.

I guess each person has a different time of best performance, the problem is when you get a job in a office without flexible hours.


I tried to delude myself for years, telling myself that I'm not a "morning person". It was just an excuse to stay up late and watch garbage on the TV or scroll endlessly through Reddit.

Since I've forced myself to go to sleep no later than 11, I've realized that hey, I actually am a morning person.


I find my creativity peaks after 1 A.M.if I’ve been able to get into a state of flow. I’m certainly not at my most productive, but for work which isn’t time critical it’s a useful tool.

Edit: grammar


The idea is two spend first half of the day braining and second half doing busy work. Also championed by pg: http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html


How do you track it?


A combination of Toggl, Spreadsheets, and good old paper and pen. I keep a calendar that I mark every day as either green or red depending on whether I've met my threshold for a productive day (>6 hours of actual productive time - tracked using Toggl)


Great! I'd love to hear your thoughts on https://crushentropy.com/ (something I made for myself for this purpose)

If you'd like to chat more, please email me. My email is in my profile.


Man I love this. Very neat! Kind of like markdown for calendaring.

If you wrap this up in a more 'fashionable' ux, you'd have a big hit

I'd love to just upload a text file with my entire plans for the week.


Thanks! :-) Please email me if you can. I'd love to discuss more.


I think we have to stop looking at productivity as a universal metric. Each person defines his own way of being productive. Some people subscribing to deep work only consider deep work as productive work. If I can just write code in my comfort zone for 2 hours should I consider that productivity ? I'm not sure.

From my experience, a lot of a founder's time is spent in non deep work. Taking calls, traveling, talking to users, understanding user feedback, writing product features and coding up some or most of the features. So the actual deep work is perhaps very limited - in desiging features and coding them up. How do you measure founder producivity when the tasks are so varied. IMHO such a measurement exercise is futile.


Why is everyone disliking this statement about 8-10 hours a day? Excluding weekends, this is 40-50 hours a week, nothing outrageous.

You're not that special folks, you have to work to get paid like everyone else.


It's almost impossible to be productive 100% of the time. Even with just 2h for lunch and all other crap, to get 9h of productive time you're taking about entering at 9AM and leaving at 8PM. No, thanks.


Being a founder isn’t about writing code all day - you don’t have to be operating at full mental capacity to be getting stuff done. You spend a ton of time talking to people, recruiting, writing emails, etc. IMO the notion that you can be more effective as a founder in < 8 hrs/day as if you work 8 hrs/day is a pleasant sounding falsehood.

I’m sure there are diminishing returns at some point, but I don’t think it’s before 8 hrs/day.


Being a founder is irrelevant, he's talking about pushing his workers to work those hours, not about his personal schedule.


Ok fair, but are you aware of any position that is devoid of administrative tasks or meetings?

The hardest part of being in a company is almost always coordination and communication.


That's exactly my point; he shouldn't expect 8-9h of productive time from his workers, because there are always administrative tasks and meetings (not to mention more lowly vital necessities), and so that implies they're basically living in the company.


The problem is that HN doesn’t consider “vital necessities” productive when the author does


Wasn't the author talking about all the people who work for him with "if people are working less than 8-10 productive hours per day"?

If so I think he was also pretending the whole dev team should have 10hours/day of real productivity


I believe requiring 10 hour work days are 1. unnecessary and 2. immoral.

10 hour work days IS outrageous. Maybe it's common in this industry, but that doesn't make it any less wrong.

And considering that most tech jobs are exempt, this is just a way of getting you to work more hours for the same amount of pay.

During the last century, we all agreed that a 40 hour work week was the standard. Let's keep it that way. I don't want founders and VC creeps prying the overton window in their favor.


If the job is interesting, i don't care 8-14 hours a day. Its all about focus and dedication, well for me it is.


Do your relationships not suffer? My wife would be unhappy with me (and I would be as well) if I only came home to eat and sleep.


The truth is almost nobody even works 8 hour days.

More than half the time is spent BSing, coffee breaks, lunch, browsing the internet.

Our culture equates presence with productivity.


This is key. I suspect one could start a really effective startup (while paying significantly below market for good talent) with a policy like "work six hours from 10-4 and then leave to do something that recharges you."

In practice that's what many engineers (and some non-engineers) would be doing anyway whether or not they're physically in the office.


Anyone with talent knows they can go get full pay in exchange for BSing for another couple hours a day and taking a long lunch. Easier to save that money and plan for early retirement.

We need to see a gradual reduction in expected working hours in the US. 30 is a good target.


Different people have different priorities; someone whose top priority is early retirement would take the extra BS hours, but someone who wants to have more free time now might take the company that offers shorter hours.

There's an advantage to a company offering shorter hours as long as there are fewer such jobs than there are people who want them.


I think it really depends what 'working' means. If it means to pick up the phone when it rings, a lot of founders have no problem working 23 hours per day. If it means doing high concentration, high focus work then some founders don't even find the focus to do it 2 hours every day.

I think the main problem is that founders often don't have clear rules when they are 'working'. Especially, it is very hard to quantify the 'readiness' aspect of their work.

Nevertheless, in my opinion there is nothing wrong in trying to achieve the 8 hours per day (mixed focus work) while trying to explicitly define non-working hours to get the required rest.


Once again this reminds me how Basecamp was build in 10 hours a week.

https://twitter.com/dhh/status/870596974428508160


Basecamp was built 14 years ago. There was less competition and 37S a massive marketing channel. No disrespect to them but it was a different world.


He didn't just build Basecamp in those days. He also built Rails.


So you're saying it's virtually impossible?

You're right, it was a different world. A different world entrenched in J2EE, ColdFusion, and classic ASP.

And yet, he/they came in and disrupted things with "10 hours a week" and a few good ideas.


They still executed in their environment and leveraged all they had built.


Completely agree based on my experience as a CTO. I didn't agree with all of it, but there is a lot of solid advice in here without a bunch of filler.


An interesting article; i was reading the replies to this. So here is my take. A UK 40++ entrepreneur.

I have been there and done that - made good £££ from the first boom in 2000. Since then tried a couple of startups all of which failed, for one reason or another. Sadly we did burn through quite a lot of investor £££ in the process and gained no personal value other than experience.

What I think I have learned is that building a small business with around 5-10 people and making a regular salary of £200k a year is a much more enjoyable existence than trying for the millions and never quite getting there.

Working for a large corp, contracting etc is depressing (other than doing it abroad which was fun for a few years and allowed me to travel in my 30's).

We now have a funky office, a very tight team of devs. I guess in some ways I modelled on what Joel did.

After everything, I have learned "bootstrap" + "lifestyle business" is the best route to have a happy and productive life. Our business is a digital agency - mostly wordpress sites for SME market, a few apps etc. Its regular and good money. it is no way as interesting as some of the "startup" ideas we tried over the years, but no VC still on my shoulder anymore :)


> What I think I have learned is that building a small business with around 5-10 people and making a regular salary of £200k a year is a much more enjoyable existence than trying for the millions and never quite getting there.

But what if you get there?


Would you rather have a 1% chance of $100M/year or a 99% chance of $200k/year?

If all one thinks about is the math, they'd take the chance at 100M, because it is a higher number when multipled by the probability. But you can't pay a mortgage with a probability, and some folks want a mortgage (or other lifestyle features).


But I think the point is - would you be up for earning £200k a year when it's still your company doing what you want to do. I am not suggesting comparing a £200k a year with having a job - that's very very different and I would never want that. To me that really is a failure. I often ask the question - what would I do if I had £100m++. maybe I would go travel for a few years, but as I am still in my early 40s I would end up having a small company doing some cool stuff in the latest tech. Its what I enjoy doing. You can only sit on so many beaches!

What is the end game? having £100M+ in the bank account is only the start :) i wondering if anyone who has made some big money reads hacker news - or is that all now do :)


That's fair. I remember talking to a co-founder of a successful company and he said if he ever left, he'd love to run a small engineering team at a company, take a salary, and leave some of the aspects of running a business to others.

It takes all kinds.


But are you sure your math is right? How do you know those are the percentages?

Me personally, I know I’ll be able to pay a mortgage one way or another, so I’d prefer to shoot for high impact.

When you’re running the hopefully-$100m-company you can still pay yourself a six figure salary. It’s not all binary.


I don't know those percentages, but I suspect they are optimistic.

I think it comes down to knowing yourself and your risk profile. Good on ya for taking the swing!


99% chance of $200k/year does not exist.


Ive had my consulting business for about 18 years. We are around 45 people now and this year I should make about 1MM in profit. I envy my friends who have made millions in a fraction of the time, but for every one of those there are maybe 50 who are employees (somehow I know too many people that have made 10MM+ selling a company).


As a recent 30 year old dev in London looking to do just this, I'd really appreciate any advice :)


Join the club!


A business like that would completely suit me. Maybe it's because I'm of a similar age?


I'm 20 years old and have a web and design agency with a co-founder and currently two employees (+ flexible workers). I can relate.

When I was younger (I know how this sounds) I read "The Lean Startup" and drank the Koolaid. I was feeling like a failure because I wasn't building the next big thing (tm) although I had an IQ of 152 and wrote code since ages. I think that some aspects of the startup bubble can be seriously bad for mental health. I've learned to accept myself and the world and cut the bullshit and "will to power"-esque thinking. Sometimes I still have feelings of unmet potential, but fortunately I now understand that a fast-growing startup is one of many solutions (and sometimes not even a solution at all). I can now learn to allow myself to find peace.


I like the egalitarian nature of the community which discourages people from talking about aspects which are only there to fuel their feeling of self-entitlement (like IQ). If I didn't say that I think that my potential is there based on IQ, there wouldn't be a downvote.

It's very telling. HN can be an unforgiven environment for specific topics such as problems with pride, ego and self-reflection. But on the other hand, it's just a downvote.


Requiring proposals and updates written down is a good idea. If you allow people to bring up an issue or proposal that they have not already written up in the meeting, someone always comes up with idea on the spot, and tries argue it as something well thought. If they are clever people they can throw the whole meeting off.

For the loudest voice in the room problem, speaking order that starts from the most junior and ends with the most senior member is the best (I think it's sometimes used in military). When junior members speak first it's easier for them when the boss has not given his opinion.


The junior to senior ordering makes so much sense. I didn't realize it until now how affective it is, and how I try to always encourage that in my teams.

How do you handle situations when you see a need for this but don't want to step on the toes of others? From my experience, some people react poorly to hearing that type of feedback or approach, and while I try my best to avoid those working environments it does happen from time to time. In those situations, I try to encourage, inspire, and explain why it's important.


The opening opinion in a discussion is almost always the hardest to come by, so you’ll want someone confident with having a bad idea sink in public to make it, and that is almost never your junior employees.

If you need a junior to senior round, to make sure your juniors speak their own opinion, you frankly have really big issues in my eyes.

The key is to make an environment where people will share ideas and work on improving them as a team or a unit regardless of their status/position. At least if that is your goal.

You do this by using honesty, assertion and openness. If there are parts of the decision making that aren’t up for discussion, then you make sure everyone understands that and then you let them discuss the rest while making sure everyone understands that being polite and affirming is required for good team work, even if someone thinks an idea or opinion is bad.

I realize tech companies are notoriously bad at this. The army reference, and the fact that it’s getting any sort of traction here is a good example of this. The junior to senior strategy makes a lot of sense in the army, but that is an environment where you own 100% of the decision making as a XO, and you’re not using the method to make a decision, because you’ve already made it, you are simply asking your crew for opinions to make sure there isn’t an angle you have missed. Not only that, but you’ll often be asking people who come from different teams and may not know each other very well, in an environment where you’re under a lot of pressure. That’s almost the exact opposite of what you are doing in any private sector meeting.

If you’re a CEO who’ve gathered all your middle managers to figure out how to trim the staff by 20%, by all means go junior to senior, but if you’re trying to brainstorm something with a team of developers, just don’t.

Disclaimer: I’m Scandinavian, management may be more authoritative in America than it is here.


Scandinavian's are good at building things, but I may also biased because my great-grandparents are from Finland and I'm proud to have that heritage in my family.


The Jewish Sanhedrin used it 2000-3000 years ago, starting from the most junior people.


Some good psychology in that. If you start with the most senior people, then the couple of people who are clearly officially leaders will talk and then everyone else thinks they're next in the pecking order and will trainwreck it.

If the only way to talk is to admit that you're more junior than everyone else who hasn't spoken, then you won't stick your two bob in unless you actually have something important to say.


Or the most senior people will put an idea forward and all the juniors will spend their time kissing ass and saying what a great idea it is.


It's the seniors' job to seek out criticism and lead the way to criticizing their own ideas.


Interesting, I never thought about the merits. Rome would have a very different history if they did this, I would love to know that alternative


If you are just an employee and your company hasn't employed this you can do it on your own. Simply build a consensus by meeting people 1:1 before the meeting. When you do this you are no longer as dependent on your in-meeting performance.


So 10x 1:1s plus a discussion meeting plus a decision meeting... Sounds like a slippery slope to meeting hell.


You can usually skip the discussion meeting if you do the 1:1s, and your design/plan will be much better as the discussion can be deeper in 1:1s. I've been a in a huge number of design reviews where a massive flaw is pointed out and the reply is "well we'd love to talk more about it but we won't get over everything if we do...", and the meeting continues discussing the details of a plan we just showed won't actually work. You are also playing with the human dynamics of not wanting to look bad in front of a lot of people. Large discussion meetings are usually a waste of time and result in sub par plans.

As an IC you play with the rules you've got.


Yeah...at a startup, doing this many 1:1s doesn't make too much sense. Doing a bunch of 1:1 to get people going the same direction means they weren't already in the same direction...means you're burning resources. At BigCo it makes perfect sense since there's 1000 things going on and no one cares about your thing until you show them why.

(hi!)


> In addition, if people are working less than 8-10 productive hours per day, then they are clearly not being as productive as they could be.

So, are people expected to be in the office for 12+ hours a day? Nobody is 100% productive from the moment they step in the door, every day. The fact that the author even wrote the number 10 here makes me a bit angry.

I'm only about 1/4 of the way through, does he have a section on employee burnout?


You definitely should read the whole thing with more attention to this aspect - getting productive hours out of employees is an extremely difficult task, but it does pay off big time. This can be achieved with the "fun" environment at work, with meals at the office, with very clear goals and alignment on those goals, with a bigger ambition in mind, with creative compensation schemes, flexible hours, remote work schemes, and with a lot of other things. That's why there are "managers" (not necessarily) CEOs who can get this productivity out of people, and those who cannot.


I'm all for it if an employer wants to make it more attractive to stay at the office. I have fun at work, I eat with my coworkers most days, and I'm not out the door at the 8-hour marker. However, as it's worded, there's an implied "problem" with an employee if they're not actively engaged with work for 10 hours a day.

Between meetings, chatty coworkers, meals, coffee breaks, and just periodic mental fatigue, I think 5-6 hours of productivity is a much more feasible goal for an 8-hour work day.


> meetings

If the meetings are productive meetings and not hour-long Facebook-browsing snoozefests, then yes, meeting attendance is a form of productivity

> chatty coworkers

Get rid of the open floor plan, allow for remote work, other strategies to promote the proverbial butts-in-seats instead of milling about the water cooler

> meals

Delivered to the office

> Coffee breaks

Why coffee machines of whichever kind (Keurig, Nespresso, superautomatic espresso machines) pay for themselves.

The point is that OP's point is that good management reduces (not eliminate, that's impossible) distractions, to promote higher productivity.


I work a place where there is no interaction between employees. No coffee breaks, no paid lunch, no meetings. It is hell. Enjoy.


Look, different places have different workers and cultures and management. If you work in a place where everyone suffers from the lack of socialization, then management should make things more sociable somehow. If you work in a place where you're the only person who suffers from the lack of socialization, then perhaps you should find another job.


I'm about a quarter way through this book and I'm enjoying it so far. This line, however, didn't resonate with me:

> To encourage 8-10 productive hours, serve dinner 8-10 hours after morning stand-up.

As a person who enjoys life outside of work, the idea of having a job where they were serving me dinner every day is baffling. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.


You don’t have to eat it.

They serve dinner every day where I work. I simply go home earlier than that. Nothing happens. It’s quite simple really.

On days where I happen to need to stay late, it’s a really nice convenience. For people who go to the gym after work and come back to eat, they save money by grabbing a quick dinner meal at work.


"You don’t have to eat it."

Yes, but there's an inherent, almost clear expectation in this treatise that you do in fact, 'eat it' or at least stay those hours.

If you're staying >10 hours at the office the least they can do is get you dinner, but when it starts to be a cultural expectation it's going to be a long term problem.

The way most equity is shared - if you are working 10-12 hours a day and the company is not growing wildly, i.e. looking like a Unicorn - it's probably not worth it, and you've drunk too much koolaid.

Koolaid and hard work are good, but I think the goal is kind of 'self aware Koolaid' ...


Speaking from personal experience, no there simply isn't this weird expectation you seem to want to impose.

Every place I've worked at has had free food. People take it when it's convenient for them. They leave it when they want to do something else.

Most parents never stay for dinner. And guess what, everything is fine. There's no cultural crisis...


Author namechecks Thirteen Days, the harrowing account of the Cuban Missile Crisis and a world on the brink of annihilation. There is also a terrific movie adaptation. In it, Secdef McNamara talks about how the positioning of submarines and aircraft carriers about the open seas is actually a coded language. And by making moves and counter-moves, what the US and USSR are actually doing is communicating intent.

Another classic is Ron Howard's Apollo 13. One of the few movies that depict the engineers as heroes. An inspiring watch for the whole team. And Damien Chazelle's upcoming Neil Armstrong biopic might make for a similar outing.

Crisis management, perhaps more so than innate technological superiority, can yield distinct competitive advantage. And this is where actually learning from precisely the type of case study found in the YC network makes sense. Knowing that you can stay calm, slow time, take deep breaths, and react rationally because others have dealt with far more on their plate than you ever will.

I'll share an anecdote. A small independent media outlet once got wind of a redesign I was working on and reported the story. The client was incensed as they were planning a full marketing rollout and had "lost the narrative". We were still months from launch. But rather than get into a blame game and lose more time. I suggested a soft, beta launch with media blitz immediately. After a week of jamming to polish our working prototypes for general availability, we were public facing, with laudatory feedback and the client appearing on CNBC ;)

Weeks later, as it turns out, it was revealed I was in fact the source of the leak. An unscrupulous reporter had called my office posing as a contract employee of the client and asked about a meeting time and place. In replying that it would be at my office that afternoon, they had confirmation that in fact the redesign was in progress!


Sir did u have tldr for this?


> Agenda > > Spouse > > Connect- listen to each other’s day for 5 minutes each

I had to laugh at this. Setting aside only 5-10 minutes a day for your closest confidant and life-partner? Good luck with that marriage.

One of the ironies for me of people who slave away with the hope of scoring the jackpot, is that they often justify it by telling themselves and others what they'll do once they're financially independent, when in reality you can probably do most of those things now already.

Want to travel the world? You can travel worldwide for a year for about $10k to $20k.

If you have a wife and family, they're alive now. There's no guarantee they'll be alive even tomorrow, or that you'll be.

Delayed gratification and sacrificing some of the present for the future are both definitely good and necessary, but should be done within due measure.


>You can travel worldwide for a year for about $10k to $20k.

Or take shorter vacations for very little money. I’ve recently discovered the world of “travel hacking”. There are many blogs[1] that outline ways to optimize travel reward points programs and greatly reduce travel costs.

1- http://travelisfree.com


"One of the ironies for me of people who slave away with the hope of scoring the jackpot,"

There are other reasons as well to work hard. Some people enjoy the prospect of potentially denting the universe a bit. But yes, if financial gratification and financial gratification alone is the goal it's a tad silly.


Is a “dented universe” an admirable goal? Seems vague, and selfish. I get people want to make some sort of impact while they are here, but let’s also admit that that is driven by the ego.


Yes. Purpose and meaning needs an ego. When you maximally zoom out you get a purposeless, meaningless universe that doesn't care about its birth, its transformations and (maybe?) its end. Individuals are necessary for meaning and purpose. Otherwise, everything just is as it is and nothing makes any difference. Egos make (the) difference.

Your question is very valid. Sometimes I also wonder whether it really is an admirable goal to change the world. The world certainly doesn't care. Some groups or individuals may do. So I do it for them (including me).

Another way would be to neglect and ignore all purpose and meaning and just do whatever the frak you want. Go with the flow.

I think both results in the same


Yes? Isn't making a dent in the universe what everyone is trying to do? What else is there in life? Just surviving until you die?


The purpose of life is to enjoy your time alive in this world. Typically one does this by connecting with other living beings and balancing a life in service of self with a life in service of others.

Will the founders of Snapchat be revered by humanity in the future? Highly doubtful. The way to be remembered is to live a life worth remembering after all.


>The purpose of life is to enjoy your time alive in this world.

You don't get to decide what the purpose of life is. And wanting to leave your mark on the world is just as validation a purpose of life.

>The way to be remembered is to live a life worth remembering after all.

Yeah that doesn't actually mean anything. There are plenty of people forgotten by time and their ancestors who lived perfectly fulfilling lives with their friends and family. They never got remembered in history books. Not that I'm saying their choices were worse but if you want to be remembered in history books, you don't just sit around making friends and family.


Nicely put and here is a tweet from one who has put one of the largest "dents" of our times Jeff Bezos[0] who quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson as:

>Love this quote. It’s been on my fridge for years, and I see it every time I open the door.

>"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." – Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

And for the post below by @newen, I had to dig up my bookmarks to find this excellent article by a high schooler[1a,1b] about Charles Stover, quoting from article:

1> Under his name a simple inscription proclaims him “Founder of Outdoor Playgrounds.” When I read that for the first time, I laughed. How could one person be the founder of playgrounds? And shouldn’t he get more than a bench?

He worked selflessly for the poor, marginalized and children and setup many parks and housing facilities.

2>So why has Stover been forgotten? Although a prominent and influential figure, he did not seek fame or fortune. In a letter to a friend in 1927, he wrote, “My real preference is to be writ in water — just such complete obliteration as the poet Keats feared would be his fate.” He never married and kept no house of his own, preferring instead to live at University Settlement. He was a very private person, prone to bouts of depression, and was known to vanish occasionally with no explanation.

"On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club "

Eventually history will forget us all, IMHO instead of optimizing for global immortality we should strive locally to serve those around us as best as we can.

I am reminded one of the last scenes of the Godfather 3,the retired mafia boss,an old Michael Corleone is seen contemplating life{?) on a wheel chair, when suddenly he slumps and dies, possibly regretting all the violence and wrongs heaped on others.

I suspect on one's death throes, no one contemplates on wealth,fame or power they acquired in their lifetime but whether has their life been meaningful or made a difference for the better. Just my thoughts.

[0] https://twitter.com/JeffBezos/status/992765968182001665

[1a] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/25/opinion/charles-stover-pl...

[1b] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15111433

Edit: formatting


Your phrasing makes it seem like you do not believe in altruism. Sure, perhaps ego has something to do with it for most people but so what? Bill Gates has made a lot of progress cutting down the spread of AIDS and Malaria in Africa. Does the fact that he may want to be remembered for it diminish the accomplishment?


I don't think there is anything wrong in being driven by the ego.

Being ego driven is not pathological alone and in itself and I think is necessary for achieving most great things.

What would 'non-ego driven' achievement look like? Are there any concrete well known examples of such a thing?


Having the next big startup hardly makes a dent in the world. 1/100th of the energy required to do that could likely save thousands of lives in other mediums of employment or volunteering.


What you're describing is obsession and it can be even more dangerous that just plain old greed. However I find myself saying the same thing sometimes...


In what way is "enjoy[ing] the prospect of potentially denting the universe a bit" obsession? Are you saying that being motivated by things other than finances is obsessive?


No, but the dent in the universe requires obsession. If you think you can be balanced and accomplish this you don't know the source of that quote.


No, what I'm describing is a deep interest in something. Obsession is the pathological end of this spectrum but 'being driven' in and itself is not a negative thing.


Yeah how ridiculous! Loved ones should honestly be our number 1 priority. That work is so demanding of the majority of our free time while we are alive is a travesty. Work used to have meaning when we would hunt, gather, or farm. You did that along side your friends and family. Now we isolate ourselves for 8 to 12 hours a day earning money to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. And for what? Is humanity progressing? Is a claims adjuster contributing?


> Loved ones should honestly be our number 1 priority. That work is so demanding of the majority of our free time while we are alive is a travesty.

Different people have different priorities and tastes in life. When I tried working 3 day workweek (I could afford a 40% salary hit), I became really bored really fast, and spending so much time with my spouse quickly got me to a divorce.

Having people that you love in your life is nice, but I personally don't love that much to spend majority of life with them. I'd rather do something interesting and productive, like work, instead.


So start a company, work hard, and break yourself out of this system.


Wow, where can we get this easy disposable $10k - $20k ?





Thank you! Original link was not working for me on iOS.


> the data shows that solo founders rarely succeed

Where is the data on this?

The only public exit / ipo yc has had to date was a solo founder.


A crude look at Crunchbase apparently indicates that 'one founder is best' and 'four founders is worst'. [1] Though it's not exactly a scientific assessment, the numbers do paint a rough picture.

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/26/co-founders-optional/


Applied (and was interviewed) to YC with 3 co-founders. It was a total disaster. If I ever do it again I will be a solo founder and I'll hire those I need.


Can you give more detail please?


Sure. TLDR People have different motivations. You don't need to "find a co-founder" in order to check some box in your application process. If you do feel the need to apply with a team, don't split the equity evenly and define a very clear leader. Also, Plan on most of your team just giving up if you are rejected (despite what they say today). I applied with friends who who I knew for a year AND had worked with on a few apps. I was surprised when they quit after we were rejected.

Your biggest problem is finding a product market fit and defining a customer. If you can do this you can certainly hire all the help you need.


All the millionaires and billionaires I know in real life are solo founders.


This is a fantastic resource.

>> ...the data shows that solo founders rarely succeed. The emotional burden is just too high.

I am a solo founder and yeah, I completely agree with this. I severely underestimated the emotional burden of going it alone. I am in a much better state now, but it was definitely a struggle. If I had to do it over again this is the main thing I would change - be more open towards and work harder towards finding a co-founder.


I am a solo founder and I have been a non-solo founder in the past and being a solo-founder is 100x better. I think it depends on the type of person you are and what is important to you.


I think it boils down to something like

A solo founder who ticks all the boxes will beat an equally skilled team every time

Most people don't tick all the boxes, so generally speaking you are better off starting with a co-founder


The biggest advantage of a co-founder IME is that you balance each other's waves. When one of you has a down week, the other can have an up week. If you're a solo founder and you have a down week, the whole company has a down week. This balance keeps progress consistent.


If you study coaching, or organizational development techniques, you'll find that most practices are consultative -- defining goals, as well as how the coach/consultant will work with an individual or organization. You then evaluate where the person/org is at, where they want to go, and develop various plans and interventions to get there.

I point this out because this document skips all that. It says so in the first page - this is written by someone who targets young founders in SV. Quite a narrow niche. This document is one specific playbook, for that specific niche.

Sure, young founders in SV may want this. And if you do, too, the info is good for you. But there is more than one way to run a company, more than one desired outcome, and more than one set of answers in what you should be doing.


Try this link to copy it to your drive so you can read or format it any way you like:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZJZbv4J6FZ8Dnb0JuMhJxTnw...


Does anyone have a PDF of this? Google docs has disabled most functionality due to traffic volume.



Here’s a link to a pdf I just made from the browser (so no table of contents in the sidebar or other fanciness):

https://www.filedropper.com/foundertoceomattsbookforstartups...

PS: the link doesn’t work without cookies or in anon mode.


You should be able to print it as a PDF via Chrome.


Chrome's PDF printing function gives you an image PDF, even if the content is entirely text. So it's not searchable and is larger than a text PDF (which Firefox will give you). I've uploaded a version here, which I don't think requires cookies or block incognito: https://app.box.com/s/6mbbf3x1625uhcrm6t7tbld4jy1tnkjv


> Chrome's PDF printing function gives you an image PDF, even if the content is entirely text.

That's not true.


Ah, it looks like certain content it now lets you print to text PDF. My experience is primarily with PDFs themselves, which it outputs as images (in my experience) regardless of whether the input was a text-based PDF.


Yesterday Internet Explorer is today's Chrome. I moved to firefox few months ago and never looked back at Chrome.


Amen.

I’ve been converting folks back to Firefox and helping them setup containers for Facebook and LinkedIn.

I hope Firefox integrates social media containers in by default in future releases.


Any good tutorials on that "setup containers for Facebook and LinkedIn." part you can recommend? Am a Firefox User myself and very interested in getting this to work.


Install this and it contains Facebook: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/facebook-cont...

Install this and it contains LinkedIn: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/linkedin-cont...

It'd be great if Firefox were to integrate this into their out of the box build of Firefox.


We have firefox at work and it got so damn slow over the last few months. I now regulary just use Chrome...


Thank you for this link. Works


> YCombinator has a near-blanket policy of only accepting co-founder teams (ie- no solo founders), because the data shows that solo founders rarely succeed. The emotional burden is just too high.

But YC application FAQ states that this is not true. Although practically speaking from speaking to other startups, I have noticed that only startups with co-founders made it to the final round. This is just based off my experience and talking to other startups


In my batch, there were definitely a bunch of solo founders. However, they (almost) all had something special about them: a strong existing team, a strong background, or a strong previous startup success.


IMO the bar should be much higher for solo founders. If you have 2 people, then it's twice as many resources to check all the various boxes you need (sales, design, technical, etc) - otherwise the solo person has to credibly be an amazing all-rounder (which is rare).

That's the core dynamic IMO... then add on the emotional burden part to that and it makes even more sense.

But then again a bad cofounder fit could actually lead to MORE emotional burden too... so obviously it all comes down to specifics.


Very, very few solo founders get into YC. I heard somewhere each batch of companies has about 2 solo founder companies total.


Side tangent, if you’re looking to share a draft book like this with a bunch of people, https://betabooks.co is a good option. Specifically designed to handle heavy load of readers and look great on mobile, etc.


Wow, that sound super useful. Now I just need to write a book.


There is also https://leanpub.com/ which I think is a bit more established.


This is incredibly insightful and well-written.


> In addition, if people are working less than 8-10 productive hours per day, then they are clearly not being as productive as they could be.

Yep, very insightful. I hope I never work for this guy


8 productive hours per day is normal and expected. Are you working part-time or getting paid to browse Reddit?


> 8-10

Not sure why you bring up Reddit


I just want to say that I really love that they're using the pronoun "she" in the beginning. It is refreshing to hear when most business books are directed using male pronouns.


Completely disagree, that was a very awkward sentence, and read better as 'their' or even 'the' in that particular case.

'her company' for the abstract founder's business is just as wrong as 'his'.


"They" would be the proper term.


Yeah, I find it annoying when people presume to refer to an unknown person as 'He" or "She". It's especially annoying when a writer randomly alternates genders throughout their document. Pandering much?

The solution is the firmly established use of the singular "They": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they

The singular "They" has literally been used in the English language since the 14th century, and its usage is well-understood. Any English teacher who dissuades you from its use should be stripped of their credentials, because "they" are an idiot.


Amazing write up. I have been through it (now in a second startup) and can relate to most of it. This is like the book I can read as summary of my journey through startup world.


> “If we were to make you the following offer (state the offer in full detail, including cash, equity, benefits, etc), would you accept?” If they say yes, then make them offer.

This is most effectively done on a paper note, passed between classmates, so that there is plausible deniability if they say no /s


This is a funny tactic because it should not work with a thoughtful negotiator.

"If we were to make the offer" is de-facto an offer, it's just not official, and though there might be a legal difference between an 'if we made it' and 'actual offer' ... for all intents and purposes, it's the same. It's the start of the negotiation.

A half-smart negotiator would simply say: "Yes, if you included moving expenses" or whatever they would say otherwise.


The book mentions "Percentage of tickets closed" as a metric by which engineering should be evaluated, which IMO is incredibly short-sighted.

The Google Doc has all editing disabled at the moment, but does anyone know if the author would welcome improvements to the text?


THey mention a more nuanced metric further down --- do you still feel it's a poor metric?


Would you mind quoting the relevant bit? I'm on mobile at the moment.

My problem with including it at all is that, as he said in a preceding chapter, he is in a unique position to shoot down myths that technical founders believe about VCs and the converse, so the book presents a great opportunity to do the same about the myth of closed tickets as an engineering metric, particularly since it is largely well-written and will reach a much wider audience than his coaching may permit.


I believe this is the relevant bit:

" As we learn from Andy Grove, former Intel CEO and author of the book High Output Management, it is also important to define and track counter-metrics to provide necessary context, because metrics are sometimes optimized to a fault.

For example, engineering tickets will vary in importance, so if your engineers have closed the critical tickets, they’re doing better than if they close most tickets but only the easiest ones. Similarly, if the half of candidates that accept your job offers are less skilled than the half that decline, then you’re doing worse than the raw percentage indicates. "


Parts of this book feel like a secret playbook that has been shared. Thanks for that.


Is this book available as a printed book? Would love to buy a copy. I have read disparate parts over the years, but this one is concise and covers a gamut of topics. It might even help in running a research group!


> In addition, if people are working less than 8-10 productive hours per day, then they are clearly not being as productive as they could be.

Am I the only one that immediately thought about employees as the Clueless on the Gervais Principle[1]?

It looks to me like they need to sell this dream of exiting big for people to sacrifice everything for the company. However everyone forgets how absurdly low the chances of winning the lottery is.

It's essentially the carrot on the stick.

Maybe I'm wrong and it's easy to win on this "game"? I'd love to see some data on how many actually become millionaires after killing themselves on the startup grinder.

[1]: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/the-gervais-principle/


While there are many books out there with excellent and relevant knowledge for the founding CEO...

I'd love to know some of your's book suggestions for aspiring Tech Founder-CEO.


Recommended: "Before The Startup" by Paul Graham - http://www.paulgraham.com/before.html


> 3. Someday/Maybe: This is the list of things that you one day want to do, but don’t need to get done now (e.g. read a book).

Someday/Maybe

Schedule a guitar lesson

Order the book Getting Things Done by David Allen

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Man, this guy really gets me.


Thanks for the book! The succinct and direct style of writing makes it easier for me to read. And for some reason, I like reading it from Google Docs.


> Hire an x-CEO to come in as a “1 day a week CEO” to implement this system. She should be able to do so in 6-8 weeks. Have her then watch you run the system for 2 weeks to ensure that you are doing it correctly.

I was under the impression that the accepted gender-neutral pronoun to use in this case would be "they". Any idea why "she"/"her" is used? Is this a new phenomenon?


Great insights. This should have probably been posted on Medium though. Google Docs have horrible reading experience.


Medium also have horrible reading experience, at least for non-login users.


I just got a copy to my Drive, and I saved as epub where I can read as an ebook.


Nice! Will do that.


Who is the author, Matt Mochary? Why should I care what he thinks?


...this is literally the first topic covered....

> Who am I? Why am I writing this book?

I coach tech startup CEOs (and tech investors) in Silicon Valley, most of whom are young technical founders. They include the CEOs of Coinbase, AngelList, CoinList, TrustToken, Bolt, Shogun, Speechify, etc.


I really hope he's related to the very funny Colin Mochrie of Whose Line


Printed it, will read it on the next flights, thanks!


obsolete since GDPR


why?




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