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.

Callum Connects

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

Published

on

Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

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

Callum Connects

Renne Ballard, Owner of Renée Ballard Communications

Published

on

Renne Ballard runs a social media agency working with business women, helping them find their business’s voice.

What’s your story?
I began my career in PR/communications ten years ago in Australia, after arriving home from two years in Dubai. In Dubai I was working for Emirates Airlines as a flight attendant and flying around the world non-stop for two years. This really sparked my interest for how people communicate. I started out as a community manager for an online advertising company, then moved into the corporate world of outdoor advertising, managing internal and external PR and communications. After having a baby four years ago, I decided to leave the safety net of corporate, and stride out on my own. I now run a social media agency and I specialise in working with business women, helping to find their business’ voice so they can use social media to achieve their business goals.

What excites you most about your industry?
I love the open accessibility online provides. It’s free for businesses to get online and connect with their target audience. Twenty years ago, advertising and PR was insanely expensive and quite elitist, but through incredible platforms like Facebook or Twitter, any business can connect with who is looking for their product/solution. Social media is particularly effective for small businesses because they have the edge when it comes to authenticity and a clear voice.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m in Hong Kong because I’m a trailing spouse. I know it’s such a daggy term, but I love it, it makes me sound so dedicated to my husband! Alas, we came to Hong Kong for my husband’s work. He’s the Design Director of Asia for an international retail design agency. We’ve been here for almost two years and it’s been a huge learning curve in terms of business and culture. We love the fast-paced nature of Hong Kong and the fact that everything is open late – it suits me perfectly because I’m nocturnal.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
That’s easy, Hong Kong. It’s the perfect blend of start-ups and mothership-sized institutions. I love the small business side, watching the collaborations between workshare spaces with galleries, networking groups and foodies; it’s a hothouse of creative partnerships here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
When you’re are feeling scared about your next step, lean in and feel the difference. Is it fear mixed with excitement? Or fear mixed with dread? Always go with the former and cut loose the latter.

Who inspires you?
I love Tamara Mellon (Jimmy Choo founder). She has created multiple empires and she never stops trying new business models and pushing her limits. It helps that I love shoes too.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I just turned 40 years old. At best, I’m probably halfway through my life. It makes me constantly question, “Am I where I want to be?”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have asked more questions to the people I looked up to, and listened less to the people telling me I won’t achieve my goals.

How do you unwind?
In this day and age, it’s scandalous to say, but I love sunbaking. At any chance, you’ll find me poolside, laying in the sun in a trance-like state.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Northern Danang in Vietnam. We were there at Christmas, at the foot of the mountains and it was beautiful. Heaps of wildlife and jungles and enough five star resorts that I was never parched once.

Everyone in business should read this book:
‘The E Myth’ by Michael Gerber. It’s an oldie but a goodie because it succinctly outlines how to transition from a one person operation to a global business like McDonalds. Once you see how important systems and processes are, you can recognise shambolic companies a mile off.

Shameless plug for your business:
Renée Ballard Communications is a social media agency that works with business women who are ready to make social media work for them. We create effective, powerful social media strategies that are tailored to the people who will be breathing life into them. We hand on heart promise to never use annoying, marketing buzzwords and that we value laughter above everything else.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected] or www.reneeballard.com or +85296670115

Twitter handle?
@ballard_comms

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