Connect with us

Entrepreneurship

Startups don’t starve. They drown. A Lean Startup Perspective on Scaling Teams for IPO

Published

on

I am reporting at Lean Startup Week in San Francisco. In this session on scaling, JP Mangalindan (Yahoo Finance) posed Jeff Jordon (Andreessen Horowitz and Eric Ries (Lean Startup Co, LTSE) questions to cull from their extensive experience key takeaways for scaling fast and effectively.

Is it true that there should always be more than just one founder?

There is no hard and fast rule, however, the general norm has been that 2-5 founders range has and can be been successful and any more, less so.

However, the need for one founder to be in charge is clear and so many have supported the unequal equity split, to make the final call clear. So 51% trumps 49% when push comes to shove.

As for the founding team, complementary strengths are always crucial. However here, a fine balance between enough diversity of thought and not too much diversity so much so it causes too much conflict.

A pattern in multi-founders companies is that one founder usually separates early from the company. So founder vesting where each founder gets his or her full package of stocks at once to avoid getting taxed for capital gains; but, the company has the right to purchase a percentage of the founder’s equity in case he or she walks away.

What in your experience are the traits of successful entrepreneurs?

Jeff jumped in first with “The ones with unyielding courageous persistence and power through. They are story-tellers or great salespeople. They have a vision and a clear North Star.”

Eric added quickly, “Remember the attributes that bring you to being a strong entrepreneur also makes it the same person unable to be successful. A great trait is that the entrepreneur is known to ignore certain facts. Which is fantastic as a perseverance exercise but not great in the long term management of a team.
They are also charismatic and that too can be a double edged sword. So the
same person has to do be a balance of both extremes. A rare skill.

The successful entrepreneurs who know how to look for employees who are also founders has the greatest success. Always set a high bar for talent at the start.

Remember the true story is that the early employees work harder and for less rewards than the founders. In fact that is how the mafia of the startups continues as each early team members of unicorns go on to build their own empires.

Meritocracy means good ideas come from anywhere and good ideas come from anywhere an in organization.

Find the empolyees who are more missionary than mercenary. They believe in what company is doing not just in it for the money. Remind all new members joining a startup is statistically proven not the way to get rich.

What are the classic hiring mistakes you have seen?

Too much hiring for domain expertise vs startup skill and the new employees come from a big company and they are not domain smart – they are more strategic. They have people who work for them and are verses in organizational politics

Also watch for great people entering the startup the at wrong stage. Too many hire a
CFO before they need one.

Hire my friends can be a very common and costly mistake.

What else kills rapid growth?
Startups don’t starve. They drown. When the startup is tackling everything and
they can’t pick what they are good at. Then they are lost.
To do Lean Startup is to focus. All research points to the fact that people not good at multi tasking. Technology may move fast and we humans are not good at learning so fast. Know which problem you are trying to address
Not only are many startups not focused, they are not focused on right thing

Look at the desert stories of Pinterest and Airbnb.
Jeff was reminded of how he knew he was scaling when he literally had a line outside his door till 6pm and he would have to answer all those questions which ranged from anything to everything. When you can’t make the decisions then you become a coach to the team rather than the decision maker. When you grow bigger then you are the GM and coach people who manage the teams. Basically your role is to build, motivate and leverage.

Eric posed a question that should be on every rapid entrepreneurs’ mind.
“How do you manage the psychology that you are an entrepreneur and now you have entrepreneurs working for you?”

These standards of being an entrepreneur many have to do and learn. So many startup leaders graduate successfully from the Y Combinator and forget that
have you created a Y Combinator for your employees? Your mindset moves from entrepreneur to now the investor and you have to recreate internationally in each team member what you took for granted.

Jeff looked back in self reflection and admitted that he grew ebay without much culture and in their 5th year looked back and went “Eeeek! I should have put in culture.” Citing Alfred Lin from Y Combinator the power of culture can fix all problems, so spend a lot of time on culture. Eric chimed in that the shared consciousness is a mindset as well as key metrics CEO should pay attention as scale. This consistent set of metrics act like a North Star.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist

Published

on

(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by TheNextWeb.com as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taravelis/

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

Published

on

Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Continue Reading

Trending