The Pursuit Of Awesomeness
Table of Contents:
PART I Boot Camp
Chapter One: Start with Why ................................................................... 5
Chapter Two: The Power of Habit ........................................................... 11
PART II Choose Your Own Adventure
Chapter Three: Get More Done ............................................................... 17
Chapter Four: Get Stronger .................................................................... 30
Chapter Five: Learn! Learn! Learn! ....................................................... 41
PART III The No-Fail Recipe for Success
Chapter Seven: STOP! (You're Only Half Done) .................................... 53
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................. 61
Appendix A: A Short List of My Favorite Blogs, Talks and Podcasts .... 62
Appendix B: Quotes to Live By ............................................................... 64
Awesome: adj. extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great
admiration, apprehension or fear: the awesome power of the atomic
bomb... Informal: extremely good; excellent.
That's the Oxford Dictionary's definition of the word.
That's what this book is about.
This book is about excellence, greatness, maxing out your
potential, and leaving your mark. It's about leaving the world a
different place when you leave than when you came in.
This book's about changing your life in a season.
Aristotle once said, 'Excellence... is not an act, but a habit.'
We are basically the sum of our habits. The good news is that habits are
changeable especially if you are strategic and intentional about it.
Besides that, it takes about sixty days, or a little less than one season to
develop a new habit.
So, if you make great new habits this summer (or fall, winter or spring),
you can make your life much, much more excellent. Or, as I've chosen to
say it: much, much more awesome.
In Part I, we'll go over basic foundations for your habits it's essential
preparation, your boot camp to fight the battle ahead. Part II is kind of a
choose-your-own-adventure, where you choose a handful of new habits
to tackle. And Part III is closure where I give you a five-step recipe for
powerful growth, regardless of how successful you were with your
adventure in Part II!
Whoever you are, wherever you are you can be awesome.
A few words about me, the author:
My name is Ed Oyama.
I confess that I am not awesome in the full sense of the word... not yet.
But I've devoted my life to the pursuit of awesome. This book is the fruit
of my adventures and my studies.
I'm a comic book and performance hacking geek, a below average
language student turned polyglot (Russian, Mandarin Chinese and
Kyrgyz), a homebody Los Angelino turned world traveler, founder of a
university leadership club and director of the Central Asian branch of a
small but international volunteer English teaching agency.
This book is a labor of love, and it's the sum total of two years of
directing FLOW, our leadership club at the American University of
Central Asia, as well as my last ten years abroad in East and Central Asia,
leading teams of summer volunteers to teach English and change lives.
An awesome life is a life-long pursuit.
I may not be the best guide out there, but I've been up and down the road
towards awesome a few times.
Let me share with you what I've learned
and the way ahead as I see it.
Start with Why
"With great power comes great responsibility."
Uncle Ben Parker
(as quoted in Amazing Spider-Man #1)
Tears filled young Peter's eyes. Blood spilled over his hands, onto his
shirt and jeans. His uncle gasped one last breath - and died in his arms.
Ben's final words in the car would echo in his mind and heart forever.
This is why Peter puts on the mask. This is why he becomes Spiderman.
The world would never be the same.
Every hero has an origin story.
Every hero has a reason to be a hero. Choose any superhero movie.
Batman. Iron Man. Captain America. Thor. Spiderman. They all begin
the same way - how they found their WHY. That is - why fight? Why
train? Why pursue evil? Why change the world? Why not leave it alone?
The story never begins until they find their WHY.
And as you pursue awesome, dear reader, you must find your WHY as
well. You have an origin story too. You just need to find it.
To paraphrase Michael Hyatt:
Find your why and you'll find your way.
Lose your why and you'll lose your way.
I guarantee you that as you pursue an awesome life of impact, if you ever
lose your why, you will definitely lose your way.
This is the most important part of the book. This is your origin story.
This is where you find your Uncle Ben moment.
Three methods to discover your WHY
1. Collect the quotes and truths that inspire you the most.
Do you have any favorite quotes? Any inspirational sayings that really
resonate with you and move you? Any timeless truths?
Odds are you have many, but perhaps you can't remember them by
heart, word-for-word. It's time to change that. Sit down and search.
Collect as many as you can find. From books and films, songs and
speeches, your own family and friends wherever!
Save them all in one document on your computer, or write them all down
in a notebook. Read them. Think about them. Why these quotes? What's
so special about them?
To you, which of these quotes are the best of the best? Choose the ten
that mean the most to you.
Keep them near you at all times. Write them on post-its. Better yet,
memorize them. Don't let them out of your sight.
You will need these when things get hard. And if you are pursuing
awesome, then things will definitely get hard. Count on it.
These quotes will be your compass on your pursuit of
(If you need help getting started, I've collected some of my favorite
quotes in Appendix B!)
2. Write it down: How do you want to be remembered?
For this exercise, you'll need a pen, paper, and ten minutes completely
undistracted and alone. Got it?
Imagine you've just entered a beautiful room.
Dark velvety curtains hang down from the high vaulted ceiling. Soft
music and candlelight fills the air. Everyone you love the most - family,
friends, classmates and colleagues - they've all gathered in this room.
Sitting in comfortable chairs, all lined up facing a grand stage, they talk
quietly and politely to each other.
The music fades and they become silent. All eyes turn to the table at the
center of the stage.
On the table is a beautiful, polished, gold-embossed box.
And inside that beautiful box?
Your dead body is in the box.
This is your funeral.
Your closest friends and family will now deliver their eulogies, final
speeches to celebrate and remember your life.
Write down the answers to these two key questions:
Who will speak in your remembrance?
List at least three people.
How will they remember you?
Write at least three things for each person.
This is a core activity that great writers and leaders ranging from Steven
Covey (from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) to Michael Hyatt
(Creating Your Life Plan) to Michael Gerber (The E-Myth Revisited) use
to start a reader or a client thinking about the big picture.
In Steven Covey's words, this is what it means to "Start with the End in
Mind" - and to understand what you hope to have achieve with your life.
In the end, life's all about who we want to live for. It's all about those
most important things - those few things that people will actually
remember about us.
Imagine. Think. Write.
Who will remember you? How?
This is your why.
3. Focus all your hopes and dreams into three words.
To quote Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life:
"The power of focusing can be seen in light. Diffused light has little
power or impact, but you can concentrate its energy by focusing it.
With a magnifying glass, the rays of the sun can be focused to set grass
or paper on fire. When light is focused even more as a laser beam, it
can cut through steel.
There is nothing quite as potent as a focused life, one lived on purpose.
The men and women who have made the most difference throughout
history were the most focused." (emphasis mine)
Want to set the world on fire? Well, how tightly can you focus?
I challenge you to choose three words that sum up all of your
hopes and dreams for this season.
No more, no less. This practice has recently been popularized by Chris
Brogan for planning - and focusing - your year. You can use it for a
season as well.
Let's pause to talk about soup and reduction.
When I was a child, my dad would make the most amazing soups.
Succulent stew beef, potatoes, garlic, herbs, spices and fresh veggies
would all go into the pot. Dad would bring the soup to a rolling boil.
Then he'd turn DOWN the heat and let it simmer - for hours! The soup's
enticing, delicious, mouth-watering aroma would fill the house all
afternoon. And the flavor? Amazing.
This is a cooking technique called reduction. Boiling off the liquid
intensifies the taste of the soup and makes it more potent. The remaining
soup soaks into everything else, infusing it with rich flavor. It's magic.
As you cut your hopes for the summer down to their most minimal form,
your hopes become potent. The three words define the core of your
Then, as you re-read those three words every day, that reminder infuses
the flavor of your hopes into each day.
Choose three words! Think about everything you want this season
and choose three that encompass it all. Then keep them in front of you
every day. I dare you.
A dream ignored is a dream lost but the opposite is also true. Watch
the way you change when you keep your big dreams in front of you.
All of these activities in this chapter are really driving you
towards one thing - clarity. To quote Senator S. I. Hayakawa,
"Learning to write is learning to think. You don't really know anything
clearly unless you can state it in writing."
You must write something down before you move on from here.
Ten quotes. Or the eulogies of your most intimate companions. Or three
To quote Brian Tracy, "Here is a great rule for success: Think on
paper. Only 3 percent of adults have clear, written goals. These
people accomplish five and ten times as much as people of equal or
better education and ability but who, for whatever reason, have never
taken the time to write out exactly what they want."
What'll it be?
Will you find your why?
I promise you, this summer can be unlike any other you've had if you'd
just do this. Do it now, and don't read on until you're done.
Do one (or more!) of the three activities below:
1. Collect ten deeply inspirational quotes that remind you of what
you really want to live for.
2. WRITE: Who do you want to remember you when you're gone?
How do you want them to remember you?
3. Focus all your hopes and dreams into three words.
Take at least five minutes.
The Power of Habit
"We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
Quick. Finish the following four sentences:
- I would be more successful if I didn't ________________.
- I would be healthier if I didn't _______________.
- I would be happier if I didn't _______________.
- I could totally change the world if I could just ________________.
Chances are that you already know some of these answers. And
chances are that you know some of what you need to do to be awesome.
The problem for most of us is that we can't see the steps between where
we are now and where we want to be - or we know the steps, but we just
can't make ourselves take them.
I'm here with you.
I know what that's about.
There are some that steps that I have taken, though - and they have
changed my life in awesome ways. I'm going to share them with you in
this book. But first, there's a big problem that we need to address.
The big problem
The problem boils down to one thing:
We are results-driven people.
We love results. We love destinations, not journeys. We look forward to
big achievements and life-defining moments, and we lost sight of the
importance of the moment.
When an Olympic athlete stands on the podium, gold medal raised high
in her hand, we can't see the years of heartbreak, sacrifice, and training -
millions of moments where she decided to pursue excellence in her
sport, all the small decisions to spend less time on everything else in
order to focus on this one thing.
We only see the final moments - victory on the field. This is what
our culture exalts. Sure, we'll see a little of the training in a two-minute
montage before the main event, or a three-page article in the news, but
we'll never really get the intensity of their preparation for that one night
unless we've been there ourselves.
But the race? We see it, then we see it again in slow-motion, and again
and again on SportsCenter (a show all about glorious moments), and
again in a YouTube video on a Facebook feed that goes viral. We see
victory interviews, gold medal ceremonies, and the champions on
Wheaties boxes and cola ads.
And so we love and live for these triumphant moments in others lives.
And in doing so, we risk never tasting these moments for ourselves.
Because when we taste that difficulty, we get discouraged so easily and
we assume that we just must not be meant for that kind of greatness.
We blame it on a lack of self-discipline. This is partially true
but not entirely.
Let's look at our Olympic athlete example again.
The athlete is not just a person with extraordinary levels of self-
discipline rather, she is a person who simply leveraged her
discipline into powerful habits. Read almost any biography of a
world-class athlete. Their lifestyles are extremely difficult, but after
weeks and months and years, they fall into routines.
It's not work for the athlete to wake up at 4:30 am to train every morning
once they've done it every morning for a month or two. It's simply a
routine and it becomes natural.
Gary Keller and Jay Papasan's recent book The ONE Thing says it like
"Success is actually a short race--a sprint fueled by discipline
just long enough for habit to kick in and take over... When we
know something that needs to be done but isn't currently getting done,
we often say, 'I just need more discipline.' Actually, we need the habit of
doing it. And we need just enough discipline to build the habit."
Research shows that almost any difficult task can become a habit if you
give it enough repetition and time. Easier habits take around 30 days to
"stick". Harder habits require 66 days or more.
But this is not news. People have known this long before the research
was published. Check out Aristotle a few thousand years ago. To
paraphrase the quote that I used to open this chapter:
We are what we repeatedly do. Therefore, an awesome life isn't
something that you achieve - an awesome life is something that you
build. And it's built out of awesome habits.
If Aristotle was born in our generation and grew up on a sunny Southern
California beach (rather than a sunny Greek shore), I think he just might
have used the word awesome instead of excellent.
Maybe. But I digress. So, this book is about building awesome new
Twenty-two awesome habits
In the following pages, you will find twenty-two powerful, life-
changing habits that will dramatically improve your chances of living
a life of awesome impact.
I've done three years of research, reading books, listening to interviews
and watching lectures, and I've come up with a list of essential habits
habits that I've implemented myself.
They're grouped into four broad categories: Productivity, physical
strength, learning, and leading.
I haven't been completely successful with every habit, but I've used each
habit for a season or more in my own life. As far as I've been successful
with each habit, I've experienced great results in both my work life and
my personal life.
In a way, I've tried to admit this in the way I've titled the book - it's called
The Pursuit of Awesome, because in all honesty, I don't feel that I've
achieved it, but I do feel that I'm well on my way.
A Word of Warning:
There's an old proverb, supposedly Russian in origin, which says that a
man who tries to chase two rabbits catches neither.
Remember Rick Warren's words in the previous chapter - there's
immense power in focus. The opposite is also true - there's great
weakness in a lack of focus.
So as you read on, here's a key warning for you:
Don't start working on every single habit all at once. In fact,
know yourself, and don't work on too many at once.
A person can only attempt a handful of new habits at once. And when we
try to implement a habit that's extremely difficult, we may need extreme
focus. My advice? Choose no more than three habits to work on at once.
Treat your new habits like little experiments - and give your new habits
your full attention.
James Clear, one of my favorite writers on the topic of habits, strongly
advocates "doing things that you can sustain." It's better to make
sustainable progress every day for a lifetime than to have one terrific day
or week followed by failure and discouragement.
If it turns out that one new habit is extremely easy for you to add to your
life, you can go ahead and try adding another. But make sure that you
can follow through on keep all your new habits running daily. If it feels
too stressful or too difficult, it's because you haven't finished making
these new ways of living into habits yet - and you're running out of self-
Don't bite off more than you can chew.
It's all about the process - not the result. It's all about the journey,
not the destination. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single
step," followed by a second step, and a third step - so get good at making
each step count.
And don't worry about failure.
As Thomas Edison once said, "Failure is the opportunity to begin again
more intelligently." And as Stone Cold Steve Austin said, "It doesn't
Even if things don't work out for you that's awesome! I've got you
covered, and I've got a five-step framework for you to learn from your
failings (and successes too!) in chapter 7.
So read on - and choose a new habit. Or two.
But no more than three.
Each time you choose a habit, it's the beginning of a new adventure.
Some of these adventures will be easy for you and so you will finish
them earlier. Other adventures will be very difficult for you so you will
need to focus on them to finish.
As you get comfortable with a habit, you can begin to attempt
more new habits. But not until you get comfortable.
And if you fail? Think about why failed, and decide carefully whether
or not you want to try again.
The choice is yours.
Yes this is really a choose-your-own-adventure book disguised as a
personal development book! But isn't that what personal development
really is, after all an adventure?
Remember the power of focus. You are a laser.
(And lasers are awesome. But you already knew that.)
Get More Done
"Guys. I put my pants on just like the rest of you, one leg at a
time. Except once my pants are on, I make gold records."
(as played by Christopher Walken in SNL's "More Cowbell" skit)
Every morning, the awesome people of this world live and work in the
same 24 hours that everyone else lives and works in.
There's just one simple difference.
Awesome people fill those 24 hours better than anyone else.
Some of us will get more years than others. And some of us will get less.
We have no idea when our end will come. But as Joan Baez once said,
"We don't get to choose how we're going to die or when. We can decide
how we're going to live now." An awesome life is not always a long
life but it is always a full life.
It's a life where every moment counts. It's a life of purpose, fruitfulness,
and impact. It's a life where things get done.
If we're serious about the pursuit of awesome living, we'd better
seriously make the most of each moment. We need to decide how to max
out our now.
This chapter is seven habits to get more done. I have not mastered all of
them, but I've started learning and experiencing the powerful impact
that each one makes. As I mentioned in the last chapter, DO NOT
ATTEMPT ALL OF THEM AT ONCE that's the fast track to failure.
But if you find one that resonates with a need in your life, put it into
action now! Let's get started!
Eight habits to do massively more
Habit #1: Check yourself, 80/20 style
If you read any major book on productivity, you will inevitably run into
the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 law. To name a few bestselling
authors, John Maxwell, Brian Tracy, and Tim Ferris all highlight this
principle early and often in their writings.
If you've never heard of it, the Pareto Principle could be stated like this:
It's usually just 20 percent of what you do that produces 80
percent of your results.
Think about it. The Pareto Principle is true not just in the fruitfulness of
your activities, but in almost any sphere of life!
- 20 percent of your Facebook status updates produce 80 percent of
your likes. (thank you, internet memes)
- 20 percent of a movie contains 80 percent of its best parts. (yeah, we
were all waiting for the Titanic to sink - and Leo to die.)
- 20 percent of your presentation is 80 percent of why your teacher gives
you a grade (it all came down to ONE slide just one!)
-While we're talking about education, didn't a mere twenty percent of
your teachers and professors give you 80 percent of your work? (thanks
a lot, Ms. Farlin and Mr. Tanaka...)
- And 20 percent of your commute home usually is where you face 80
percent of your traffic. (for you LA folk, that's the 405/10 interchange!)
- At a café, 20 percent of the menu is where 80 percent of the orders
comes from! (seriously, who orders a salad at McDonald's?)
So, what's this all mean to us? It means that we really ought to focus
as much energy and attention as we can afford on that essential, result-
producing 20 percent of our activities.
Therefore, sit down and do an 80/20 analysis of your life.
I'm sure you've got a lot of things to do this week, so just check yourself:
What are the few things that you are doing that make the
greatest difference in your life?
From another angle, you could ask yourself: What would mess up your
life the most if you failed to do it? What tasks give you the most dramatic
results with the least amount of work?
For me, the most important 20 percent of my day is my
morning that's when I'm usually the most awake and the most
focused. It's also when it's the most peaceful around the house, and when
I have my best and most important ideas.
I can take that a step further and tell you that the best 20
percent of my morning routine is my early morning prayer,
meditation and journaling time. Breakfast, brushing my teeth and
washing up, packing my bag to go to work these all must be done, but I
know that if I take too much time on these, my morning and thus my
whole day will be much more difficult and much less productive.
Charles Hummel reminds us: "Your greatest danger is letting the urgent
things crowd out the important." Don't let the important 20 percent get
crowded out by the trivial 80 percent.
Action point #1:
80/20 analyze your life.
Quick. Answer the following questions:
What's the most important 20% of your day?
What's the most important 20% of your work?
What's the most important 20% of your home life?
Write down your answers.
Focus as much as you can on that 20% - starting today.
Check yourself DAILY. Re-adjust and refocus!
Habit #2: Every morning and evening, do-list relentlessly
A couple years ago in Korea, I got some time with the personal assistant
to the director of a large international organization. He was extremely
organized and had a great eye for detail two traits that I severely lacked
and had a desperate need to learn.
I couldn't help but ask him: What's your secret? Was it just part of
Korean culture? Was he so organized from birth? Was there any hope for
me at all? He laughed and explained that he was once, like me, quite
disorganized. But one day, he started a practice that changed his life. He
called it "the do-list."
He pulled out a pocket-sized notebook that he always kept in his shirt
pocket. There were three times that he'd write in it:
- Every evening before bed, he'd write down everything that he
needed to do the next day.
- Every morning, he'd review the list and add to it as he planned his
- Finally, whenever anything important came up during the day,
he added it to his do-list so that he could do it that day, or schedule it
into the calendar for later.
For some of you this might be elementary, but for him - and for me! - it
was game-changing. It's a simple habit - but a powerful one.
Sometimes it's the simplest solutions that have the greatest impact.
Action point #2:
Start a daily do-list.
Get a small pocket notebook, and when you wake
up, write out everything you need to do that day.
Do it again when you go to bed.
Habit #3: Write out EVERY THING you ought to do.
Feeling overwhelmed? Too much to do? Sit down and take a dump - that
is, a memory dump! At least once a week, sit down and list out
every last thing that you need to do that day.
Then list out everything you need to do that week. Then list out
everything you need to do that month.
The simple act of making a list of everything that needs to be
done does a lot to calm us down. It's strange, but it works - and it is
a key part of productivity expert David Allen's Getting Things Done
(GTD) method. In a recent interview on the Dave Ramsey podcast, David
"Your head is for having ideas - not for holding them... As soon
as you try to remember and remind yourself [about] something in your
head, it denigrates performance."
He went on to say: "Get it all out of your head... Most everybody
knows what to do once they get it out. Once you unload and once
you get a clear head... it makes it a whole lot easier to see the whole
gestalt or the whole game - and then make good judgment calls."
So give it a shot. Get it all out!
Action point #3:
Every WEEK, write out every single
thing you need or want to do.
Once a week, write out every last thing
that you need to do:
- that day
- that week
Benefits: Reduced feelings of overwhelm, enhanced creativity
and decision-making capability, and a general increase in
Habit #4: Stop multi-tasking
People can do more than one thing at once - for example, you can walk
and talk. You can talk on the phone and clean your house. But here's
the catch: You simply can't focus effectively on two things at the
Take talking on the phone and driving as an example. According to Gary
Keller and Jay Papasan's research for their book, The ONE Thing, even
an idle conversation can take away 40% of the driver's focus, which is
strikingly similar to the focus of a drunk driver!
Here's a few more choice thoughts from Keller and Papasan:
- Multitaskers develop a distorted sense of how long it takes to do
things. As the multitasker switches tasks, they lose time adjusting to the
new task - and 28 percent of an average workday is lost to multitasking
- Multitaskers make more mistakes than non-multitaskers. They often
favor new information over old information - even if the old information
is actually better.
- Multitaskers experience more life-reducing and happiness-
As it turns out, multitasking is a word that engineers invented at the
advent of the computer microprocessor. Multitasking is how engineers
would explain how your computer can play music while you write a
Word document and download an anti-virus update in the background,
all at the same time.
But the truth is that even our computers don't really do all of these tasks
at the same time! Computers simply switch rapidly back and forth
between these tasks - and they do it so quickly that the user doesn't
notice. Multitasking is a lie!
Furthermore, the problem for you and me is that we experience lag
whenever we switch tasks. For example, if I'm chatting with an old friend
on Facebook and writing a seven-page essay on Central American
politics, my brain will lag a bit behind whenever I go back and forth. I
will ultimately do both tasks a little worse than I could've if I had just
focused on them one after the other.
When your computer lags between tasks, you can upgrade its memory
and the problem is solved. But when you lag between tasks, you can't
upgrade your brain's memory, sadly.
In short: Stop multi-tasking. Instead, single-task and enjoy
the power of focus.
Action point #4:
Try the 21-day "No multi-tasking experiment!"
For 21 days, wear a bracelet or rubber band around your wrist.
Whenever you notice that you're doing two things that require
serious focus at the same time:
1. Give the bracelet a quick SNAP against your wrist.
2. Stop. Do one thing at a time.
Note: You can do mindless things together, like listening to a TED talk while
doing the dishes. But be careful to discern the difference between mindless
tasks and tasks that require you to be mindful.
Habit #5: Automate and outsource
People used to worry that robots would take the jobs of honest hard-
working people in the factories of America. Guess what? They've done
it and they're taking more and more today. Many jobs were lost, but on
the other hand, wasn't it inevitable? I mean, really...
- Didn't the light bulb replace most candle-makers?
- Didn't the automobile replace most horse trainers and sellers?
- Didn't the personal laser printer replace many local print shops and
Despite that jobs were lost, people were also freed up to do
work that really mattered. And now, we can automate a ton of
mindless activities in our own lives and task them out too!
- Spend a lot of time sorting email? Set up Gmail auto-filters that
will do the sorting for you.
- Have trouble remembering to pay your bills on time? Set up an
auto pay system with your bank.
- Write the same replies to emails over and over?
Try PhraseExpress (PC) or Typinator (Mac), which can learn, predict and
auto-fill words, paragraphs or even entire pages for you.
- Repeatedly forward certain emails to the same people?
Look into IFTTT.com - it's a powerful free service that can read your
mail, search for certain key phrases, and forward it on to key recipients.
- Spend a lot of time checking the weather, sports scores, or
your Facebook feed? IFTTT also can forward updates from Facebook,
Twitter, Instagram, ESPN sports news, weather reports, Basecamp,
FitBits, RSS feeds and much more.
Besides all this, if you don't mind spending some cash, you can use
services like www.taskrabbit.com to outsource all sorts of jobs even
housework and grocery shopping!
Action point #5:
Take one week to experiment with
automating your life.
Every day for one week, take ten minutes to look into a new
way to automate repetitive tasks in your life.
- Look up Gmail autofilters. Learn how to use them.
- Learn how your bank's Auto Pay system works.
- Download PhraseExpress or Typinator. Give it a try.
- Explore IFTTT.com.
Habit #6: Batch similar tasks together and enjoy FLOW
Have you ever experienced the feeling of being "in the zone?"
Maybe you were playing basketball or Counter-Strike and all your shots
were on target. Maybe you were writing a paper, and ideas kept flowing
and words were flying onto the page. Being "in the zone" is magical.
This "in the zone" concept is extremely important to researchers,
creatives, and anyone who relies on ideas to make a living. They call it
flow. Flow is when you are so locked into a task that you lose track of
time and experience greater success!
This is why it's important to not multi-task. Multi-tasking disrupts and
knocks us out of flow. However, flow can also carry over between
different tasks if you batch similar tasks together. For example:
- If you have to write a several similar emails this week, do them
all at once. You can even have them sent automatically at different days
and times using a free service like www.senditlater.com.
- If you have several text messages to send this week, write them
all at once. Android phones can schedule messages to even months later.
- If you have a lot of housework to do, do all the jobs in one room at
once. For example, attack the bathtub, sink, and toilet all at once!
When you batch similar tasks together, you minimize the transition
between tasks. Since you don't have to change tools, rooms, or mindsets,
you experience momentum as you finish tasks and flow continues!
Action point #6:
Batch similar tasks together
to enjoy FLOW in your work - every day!
Examine your daily do list. Schedule similar activities
together. Writing, cleaning, research, replying...
Batch them up. Repeat daily. Find your FLOW!
Habit #7: Do intensely focused work 15 minutes at a time!
Robert D. Smith, brand managing expert, recently quipped on the Read
to Lead podcast:
"Most people overestimate where they're going to be and what they're
going to have accomplished, say, in the next five years, and totally
underestimate what they can do in the next fifteen minutes...
The next fifteen minutes I can concentrate then!"
This resonates with me.
If you're like me, you might tend to get lost in the clouds thinking big
picture thoughts and dreaming big dreams, or worrying about huge
looming problems down the road, like finding work or saving for a home
The problem is that I'll just get lost in thought when what I really need
to do is to just simply come down to earth, do some work, and make
When discussing how to build a serious business from the ground up,
Chris Brogan writes that he'll take base hits over home runs any day.
Dave Ramsey, who helps individuals get out of massive debt, describes
the technique to fight for financial freedom as "death by a thousand cuts"
that is, you don't finish off your financial problems with one big death
blow, but rather with a thousand small blows, added up over days, weeks
What could you do in the next fifteen minutes?
This is what massive productivity is made of breaking the big win into
hundreds of small wins. Chunk them up and knock them out.
Experts have dubbed this the Pomodoro method. Whatever you call it,
you can set a timer for fifteen minutes, shut out every
distraction (turn off the phone, close Facebook, and close the
door) and race the clock to finish a short task!
Focus is everything. It's hard to focus for long periods of time but
anyone can focus for fifteen minutes. And with focus, you can stack up
the small wins that make up a big victory.
Action point #7:
Do fifteen minutes of
intensely focused work daily!
Make an instant do-list and set the timer on your watch or
phone for fifteen minutes. Turn off your phone, close your
Facebook and all other distractions, and knock out everything
on that do list.
Habit #8 Commit your WHY to heart
So there we are seven habits that can supercharge your workflow and
free up more time to do what really matters to you, whatever that is.
By the way what really matters to you, anyway?
Look back at what you wrote down from Chapter One, Start with Why.
You did write it down, didn't you?
If you haven't done this yet, go back there and do it now. You'll
thank me later. It will cost you some time, but it will potentially save you
more time than any of the first seven habits altogether.
You need to keep your why in front of you at all times.
This is the eighth habit. And this one habit may be more important than
all of the other habits combined, because if you're getting massively
more efficient at doing meaningless work, then your life is
becoming rapidly massively more meaningless.
Ultimately, this habit will be a crucial help for you to make better
decisions faster and get massively more done it will be effortless to
recognize your highest return 20% activities (see Habit #1), to cut your
do-list down to size (making Habits #2 and #3 easier), help you
understand what you'd be better off outsourcing (see Habit #5), and
lower the barriers to intense focus (which is recommended by Habits #6
The 8th Habit is the strong foundation beneath all the other habits and
without this habit, all other habits will sooner or later collapse.
And briefly, a quick note about decisions: Having a strong why helps you
automate your decision-making process so that you hardly need to
think about what you want to do each day. Research shows that we can
only make so many decisions each day if we go beyond that, we
experience decision fatigue (Google the phrase to find out more!)
Remember, if you lose your why, you lose your way.
Connect with your why and commit it to heart.
Action point #8:
Commit your WHY to heart
Look at your why DAILY.
Know it so intimately that you can say it by heart.
Until you know your why by heart, keep it on your monitor,
make it the wallpaper on your phone, post it next to your bed,
have it emailed to you everyday do something to make sure
that you never lose it!
"A man's gotta know his limits."
I was born and raised in California in 1981. I love my hometown,
Torrance, and had a mild thrill reading Unbreakable last year (soon to
be a film, directed by Angelina Jolie!), as the main character, like myself,
was a Torrance native. Unlike him, though, I wasn't a very athletic
person at all, and was more or less terrible at most sports.
So I chose to bury myself in books for the most part, an anti-athlete.
Hold that picture. Flash forward twenty-seven years.
It's kind of a long story, but in the fall of 2008 I decided to move to
Kyrgyzstan, which is just west of China and north of Pakistan. The main
reason? After learning what my WHY was in life, I was sure that
wherever I'd live and work, I'd want to do more than just collect a
paycheck I wanted to do meaningful work that made an impact in the
world. I've been here in Kyrgyzstan to this day, teaching English and
heading up a leadership club that I founded a couple years ago.
Over the years, many of our students ended up going to America on
exchange programs of different kinds. The funny thing was that parents,
grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, classmates, and even fellow
students who'd returned from America unanimously would give our
exchange students the same simple warning:
"You're going to come back FAT."
It's true. Everyone returning from the good ol' U.S. of A comes back
fatter. (Well, except for one girl who ate nothing but Snickers and
McDonald's fudge sundaes don't ask me how that worked.)
The reverse of this principle is also true - when I moved to Kyrgyzstan
from the States, I also lost about ten pounds, became much more
athletic, and have had a significant boost in my energy and awakeness
throughout the day!
As I deconstructed what changes I went through culturally, physically,
and nutritionally I noticed what was working and what wasn't, and I
also did a bit of reading. I also took my wife's nutrition advice.
As it turns out, it wasn't just the move and it wasn't just the
food. But first of all, let me tell you why this is important at all.
Why should you care? For many years, I honestly didn't care. I know
a handful of people that will be genuinely shocked that I am an entire
chapter on health-ish issues! Seriously, I used to eat chocolate-dipped
soft serves in one hand while eating one-dollar chicken burgers in the
other the $2 McDonald's heart attack! It was almost a Friday ritual.
Well, I like to think about this in terms of effectiveness and impact.
First of all, let's talk effectiveness. Life is tiring. When my body
isn't performing well, I'm tired and I make poor decisions. And I not only
make poor decisions at work, I also make poor decisions at home! This
leads to arguments with my wife, worse rest at home, and more tiredness
and the cycle goes on.
Fatigue affects everything. Memory, creativity, reaction time, endurance
and awakeness all hinge on how our body's performance. Fun is less fun.
Less gets done at work. Home is less peaceful. Not awesome.
Wouldn't you like to have an extra hour every day? Well, keeping
your body in great shape can win you back that level of effectiveness.
Second of all, let's talk impact. Imagine that you find your
sweet spot in life. Imagine that you are doing great work that impacts
thousands, even millions of lives.
Now imagine that you discover that you're going to die tomorrow.
Wouldn't you like to have another ten or twenty years?
Research shows that a daily jog can add around ten years to a person's
life. Why cheat the world out of ten more years of your best and most
important work? Or ten more years of your best parenting ever?
So many awesome lives are cut short by preventable health-related
issues. Don't join their ranks. Live longer give more.
Don't get me wrong. I still indulge in deep-fried goodness when I get the
chance. I can still pound the Hometown Buffet and the Korean BBQ's
like a champ. But I've counter-balanced that all with a number of new
game-changing habits that make me look and feel like a new man.
Six habits to pump yourself up!
Habit #1 - Drink at least two liters of water a day.
When a person drinks two liters of water, or about eight 8 oz. cups every
day, they experience a world of good things:
- Water reduces fatigue It's a research-proven clean energy boost!
Dehydration saps energy more rapidly than most of us think.
- Water refreshes your mind Hey, your brain is mostly water, after
all! It's like an oil change for your brain keep thinking, fast and deep!
- Water reduces hunger - Dehydration actually intensifies hunger.
- Water reduces the incidence of "food comas" You're less likely
to overeat, and less likely feel the tiredness that comes after overeating.
- Water flushes out your system Water keeps unhelpful waste of
all kinds moving out of your body at all times! Besides that, it's a definite
cure for constipation!
Note that dehydration is actually a really huge deal when it comes to
your daily energy levels. Water can actually help you focus by reducing
hunger and tiredness what a combo! Incidentally, caffeinated or
carbonated drinks actually intensify dehydration.
Drinking more water is a simple habit with a ton of benefits.
I carry around a half-liter bottle, and I make sure to fill it and empty it at
least four times a day. It's really made a huge difference!
Action point #1:
Drink up eight glasses a day, minimum!
Intentionally drink eight glasses of water every day.
Try to drink the first glass before you drink anything else,
first thing when you wake up in the morning.
Try drinking a glass at least an hour before any meal,
and see if it makes you less hungry.
Habit #2 If you don't exercise daily, start!
If you exercise already, skip this. And if you don't - this is a real
simple way to pump up your energy all day long! Even ten
minutes of active exercise dramatically raise your energy levels.
Start with a short, simple exercise routine. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits
recommends that you "make it so easy that you can't say no."
James Clear elaborates on this in his book Transform Your Habits:
"In the beginning, performance doesn't matter. What does
matter is becoming the type of person who always sticks to your
new habit no matter how small or insignificant it seems. You can
build up to the level of your performance that you want once the
behavior becomes consistent."
If you're interested, check out the seven-minute home
workout that exercises your entire body with just your bodyweight, a
chair, and a little open space - and it gives the same results as a good
one-mile run without stepping foot outside!
Check it out on the New York Times' wellness blog here:
The Scientific 7-Minute Workout.
You might not feel the results immediately (like, on the first day) but give
it a few weeks. I'm on my 14th week now of the seven-minute workout
now, and I feel a noticeable difference, especially in the hour after lunch
where I usually get a bit drowsy.
Action point #2:
Start exercising daily.
Decide on a simple exercise routine that you can commit to daily,
even if it's just one set of ten push-ups a day!
Make it a goal to do thirty days in a row
without missing a single day!
Habit #3 Get walking!
With more and more people sitting all day long in their cars while
driving, at their desks at work, and on the couch at home, walking is at
an all time low. Short bursts of activity like getting up for a ten-minute
walk renew the mind and body, and give us a quick boost of energy to
throw ourselves more vigorously into our lives and work!
This is one area that naturally became part of my life here in Kyrgyzstan
if it takes less than thirty minutes to walk somewhere in the city, most
of my students prefer to go there on foot!
How much more walking could you do daily if you'd simply:
- Park at a distant parking spot and walk, rather than looking endlessly
for a better spot.
- Take the stairs instead of riding the elevator.
- Walk to your local coffee shop rather than driving.
- Walk instead of sitting or standing when you take phone calls or check
your Facebook on your phone!
- Got off the bus one stop early and walked the rest of the way!
- Walk circuits around your workplace. This was actually a habit of the
late Steve Jobs MBWA, or Management by Walking Around!
On the Entreleadership podcast, Tom Rath, author of Eat Move Sleep,
gave the following principle: "You manage what you measure." If you
measure your steps, you can focus this habit to leverage even more
power out of it! It's really very simple.
First, find some way to measure steps: a FitBit, an app on your
phone, or even a pedometer.
Then simply add more steps every day. See what it's like to add
another hundred steps or another thousand! This will force you to get
creative and sneak more walking into your day to hit your goals.
You see, every step counts and if you can, count them!
Action point #3:
"Step up" your daily walking!
Add a few extra walks to your daily routine.
If you can find a step tracking device (app, pedometer, FitBit)
measure your average steps per day and build on it!
See if you can double your daily steps!
Habit #4 - Change the way you sleep.
Getting less than seven hours? You need at least six - and getting at
least that much sleep will create dramatic shifts in your body's everyday
Regular sleep is a powerful plus for our bodies and minds. Besides that,
sleep is a natural time for the mind not only to recharge, but to process
the events of the day.
Believe it or not, when we get good sleep, the mind continues working
into the night processing the day's events and accomplishments, and
even producing new ideas! This is possibly part of why we have great
ideas in the shower... because that's the fruit of our minds' sleep time!
Here's a few more facts about sleep from Maroun Najiar's 2013 post on
medium.com, "Sleep: Everything You Need to Know"
- Sleep can keep you from getting fat it regulates hormones that
can block the desire to binge on starchy carbs!
- Sleep is crucial for muscle recovery as the brain rests and
neurons slow down, the body releases growth hormones which spur
- Sleep powers up your immune system those same hormones
help the immune system recover as well!
- Sleep sharpens your memory the mind replays short term
memories in the hippocampus while we're in deep sleep. Thus, deep
sleep increases the amount of facts that you can remember!
- Sleep fuels creativity in REM sleep, short-term memories are
moved to the long-term memory part of the brain. This process
increases your ability to make connections between those facts an
essential skill, because creativity is the ability to make those connections!
Sleep is actually a very powerful tool that can be leveraged to powerfully
improve our lives and work! But how to get more out of your sleep?
Maroun's number one recommendation is to set up a sleep
schedule. Consistency is everything. Go to bed and wake up at the same
time every single day. This is a sacrifice but consistency is arguably
more important than how long you sleep.
Action point #4:
Get regular with your sleep.
Choose a 40 minute "sleep window"
for example, between 11:00 and 11:40 every night.
Then choose a regular wake-up time that gives you 7+ hours of sleep.
Continuing our example above, if you woke up at 7:00 am,
you'd get a regular 7+ hours of sleep!
Try this for thirty days. Record how you feel.
Habit #5 - Change the way you eat.
Want to be one of the greatest in the world? Feed yourself like one of the
best athletes in the world or at least make some changes to eat more
It's not just about performance changing your diet develops
focus. If you can stick to it, you'll learn to daily cut out small things
that are working against your hopes, dreams and goals.
Olympic athletes are some of the most focused people on the planet, and
their diet is not just for winning gold medals - it's a mark of commitment
and devotion to personal growth. They center their entire life on their
training and that's where their results really come from.
Is your work more important to you than a gold medal? Are your family
and your future more important to you than a victory at a stadium?
Hopefully, your answer to these questions is yes! Focus. Learn small
disciplines that become habits.
Try small, simple improvements to start yourself off. A few good ones
that have worked for me:
- Eat the rainbow. In Eat This, Not That, David Zinczenko offers one
of the simplest best eating practices ever: eat fruits and vegetables of all
different colors. Color, as it turns out, is produced alongside certain
kinds of essential vitamins that your body needs.
- Get a smaller coffee cup. I haven't kicked my coffee habit, nor do I
fully intend to, but I have realized that drinking from a smaller cup lets
me cut back while still enjoying the taste and less waste from the sugar
and creamer that I add!
- Drink a glass of water 30 minutes before you eat As I
mentioned earlier, dehydration intensifies hunger. A single glass of
water fills your stomach a bit and is a simple way to help keep yourself
- Try cutting out cola and Fanta and Sprite. Did you know that
a can of cola contains more than a couple shot glasses full of sugar? It's
hard to tell because of the carbonation, but try drinking it flat and you'll
know what I mean.
- Make the switch to dark bread and brown rice My wife
explained this one to me first. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what I
understood when our bodies digest white flour and white rice, it
becomes sugar, which becomes fat!
Action point #5:
Change the way you eat.
Experiment with one or more
of the new eating habits listed above
or gradually mix them in to your existing habits
(Example: Try mixing a cup of brown rice into your white rice)
Try it for a month. Observe how you feel and look.
Habit #6: Try fasting.
Here's one that might feel a bit more extreme for you, but if interested
but concerned, do some light reading on it online. This past semester,
I've fasted once a week most weeks. For 24 hours, I'll eat nothing and
drink only water.
Some quick benefits of fasting:
- Discipline The longer you fast, the more you learn how to control
one of your most basic, most constant desires - which will overflow into
other areas of your life.
- More time You'd be surprised how much time you devote daily to
planning, cooking (or buying), and eating meals not to mention
washing dishes and cleaning up after you eat!
- Gratitude How thankful are you for food? No matter what life
situation you're in, rich or poor, I promise you that a fast will multiply
your gratitude. And not just your gratitude for food, but for how well you
eat and how well you live!
- Generosity Do you ever tell yourself that you'll give to some great
cause or charity when you have money? Fast for a day. You'll have saved
at least a few bucks.
- Spirituality There's a reason why the Bible and Koran both
advocate fasting. Can't fit spiritual reading, prayer, or meditation into
your busy schedule? During the time you'd usually eat, use the time to be
spiritual. This has been the greatest benefit of my weekly fasts.
In the end, you'll probably be a bit more tired, but not that much more
tired - honestly, some of my students already skip breakfast and lunch
around exam season! It's a pain when it's unintentional, but when done
intentionally, fasting can really be life-changing.
Action point #6:
One day a week, fast.
Try this - don't eat anything for 24 hours,
and don't drink anything but water.
Plan to use your skipped meal times to do something fruitful.
Feed your soul, perhaps?
Give it a month. Observe any changes in your life and thinking.
Learn! Learn! Learn!
Imagine a huge, beautiful alpine lake, high in the mountains.
The lake is fed by a large river. Every year, thousands of gallons of water
rush into the lake from miles away, where the snow that covers the
mountaintops melts away every spring and summer.
The lake also feeds a few smaller rivers of its own - they flow out of the
pristine lake, winding all the way down to the villages at the foot of the
Got that picture?
Now imagine that the villagers decide that they want more
electricity. They want to grow their village into a city. A hydro-electric
dam is quickly built, and the water flow to the lake dwindles.
Despite that much less water enters the lake, water still continues to flow
out of the lake.
What will happen to the lake?
It will dry up.
It will have nothing left to give. The streams that flow from it will
dwindle and dry up, that as the water flowing in dwindles and dries up.
So, what's this have to do with you and me?
This is us.
The funny thing is that this is exactly what many of us do to ourselves.
Too many of us quit learning as soon as we're given the chance to quit.
From students on summer break all the way up to top business
executives, we give up far too quickly on learning.
And so, slowly but surely, our output loses its freshness and its volume -
and we end up dry, empty and dead.
Here's a principle to remember:
The more output that's expected of you, the more important that it is
that you guard your input.
This applies to everyone, everywhere:
- Your boss demands more results at work?
- Your exams and papers piling up at the university?
- Your friends and family are asking you for more your time and heart?
Whatever you do, don't cut off your input stream. Increase your
output by pumping up your input.
Input is crucial. In war, in life, and in games seriously, you know this
already if you play Starcraft, Catan, or seen any war movie about a siege.
When supplies are cut off, sooner or later the besieged starve. When
supplies are hindered, the side with abundance has a huge opportunity
to overrun the besieged.
This principle is why I placed such an emphasis on physical growth in
the previous chapter. Now, we're looking at intellectual growth.
Eight habits to level up your learning:
Habit #1 Spend time with people who learn.
Jim Rohn once wrote that "you are the average of the five people you
spend the most time with."
You'll go much further in the pursuit of awesome if you go
with others who will take the journey with you.
Researcher and writer Tim Elmore found that even the most introverted
person will influence 40,000 people in their lifetime! Even your shyest,
least outgoing friends and family have a dramatic influence on your
actions, thinking and character.
Therefore, find people around you who are passionate about learning
and growth - and talk with them on a regular basis!
Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not saying cut off any friends who aren't
into development. But try giving them less time, and giving those who
intentionally pursue growth more time.
This is not a new idea. Jonathan Milligan recently wrote on the history of
mastermind groups on Michael Hyatt's Intentional Leadership blog.
A handful of the last two centuries' most famous mastermind
- Walt Disney's Nine Old Men over the course of forty years, they
brought us a score of industry-defining animated classics, including
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty,
Cinderella, and Mary Poppins.
- The Inklings The legendary writers' gathering of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R.
Tolkien, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams.
- The Junto Benjamin Franklin's twelve man group that would
establish America's first lending library and be instrumental in founding
the University of Pennsylvania!
- Andrew Carnegie's groups According to Napoleon Hill, Carnegie
became one of the richest men of the past century with the strategic
creation of mastermind groups.
As the saying goes: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far,
Action point #1:
Get time with serious learners.
Find people who are passionately about learning
and make time to be with them!
They don't all have to know or be friends with each other.
But it is important that you make time to connect with them,
at least once a week.
Write down what you learn.
Habit #2 Read books intensely.
Want to learn something? Read a book this month.
Want to learn a lot? Read a lot of books this month.
Want to learn massively? Read a massive amount of books this month!
There's no way around this: make time to read.
There's no excuses. No cash? Get a library card. It's been said that
"not all readers lead, but all leaders read." If you're really serious
about the pursuit of an awesome life, you can't hold back on this one.
Keep your bookshelf full, ask others for recommendations, max out your
library card, and follow the best thinkers and writers online.
Here's some fuel for your fire from one of Dave Ramsey's most popular
blog posts of 2013, entitled 20 Things the Rich Do Every Day. Dave
shares some differences in the habits of rich and poor people that Tom
Corley outlined on his website, RichHabitsInstitute.com:
- 88% of the wealthy read for 30 minutes or more everyday for
education or career reasons vs. 2% of the poor.
- 86% of the wealthy love to read vs. 26% of the poor.
- 86% of the wealthy believe in lifelong educational self-
improvement vs. 5% of the poor.
Personally, I don't think money is the end-all metric of whether or not a
person has an awesome life but earning money is generally a good sign
that you've figured out a few basic things about how to serve people or an
On top of all this, if you want to be an expert on a certain topic, start by
reading five books. Then you'll know more than most of your circle of
friends, at least! And if you go on to read five or ten more books, you'll
most likely be far ahead of most and even know enough to teach and
share about the topic!
Action point #2:
The "Double Your Reading" challenge.
How many books do you typically read in a year?
Or a semester?
I dare you to double it.
Make time to read every day and aim to double down.
One hint that might really help double your reading speed.
You may be skeptical about it, but Google it and give it a try.
I've learned how to read (and retain!) about a page a minute!
Habit #3 Follow some great blogs!
And now, a word about online reading: Some of the greatest minds
in the world at this moment are writing blogs!
To those who say that a blog is a poor substitute for a book - I'd say, well,
look at the blogs of the AUTHORS of your favorite books. I don't think
I'd be going too far to say that almost all authors keep blogs
Bestselling authors including Seth Godin, Steven Pressfield, Bernadette
Jiwa, Simon Sinek, Michael Hyatt, Crystal Paine, and Tim Ferris all have
their own blogs and have even built their careers on blogging! This is
becoming a serious trend. Authors use blogs to write out their thoughts,
share their inspiration, and most importantly to connect with readers!
I first began exploring the blogosphere three years ago or so as I started
our leadership club here in Kyrgyzstan. I was (and still am!) on a
constant hunt for resources that I can leverage to teach leadership on a
minimal budget and I was shocked to discover just how much
great writing is being published for free every day via blogs!
From writing a book to starting a business for less than $100, getting a
six-pack, learning a language in record time, killing your friends at chess,
becoming a leader of influence, taking photos like a pro... I've found
fantastic blogs on all of these topics and more!
I must say that as much as I've learned from books, I've
learned almost as much by following a few top thinkers' blogs.
Writers are leveraging technology and blogs to spread their messages
farther and more generously than ever in our generation.
Action point #3:
Follow some great blogs.
Google and find blogs on a topic you're interested in.
Odds are, some of the world's leading experts on the topic are
writing and publishing their thoughts for free via a blog!
Subscribe a handful of blogs. Enjoy the free ebooks that they offer.
Comment on articles, and connect with authors
and fellow learners.
I've listed some of my personal favorites in Appendix A.
For extra credit, do this efficiently by using the Feedly app
(www.feedly.com) and the Pocket app (www.pocket.com).
Habit #4 Watch TED talks.
Once I finished university, I never thought I'd sit in a hall
again just to learn. Honestly, after five years of professors who
generally seemed much better at research than teaching, I thought that
my chances of finding a lecture that I'd enjoy were impossibly low.
Then, one glorious day, I stumbled upon some talk at TED.com. I can't
recall who it was. Probably Steve Jobs or John Wooden. But it was one
of the sharpest, most thought-provoking, inspiring talks I'd ever heard!
Thus began a habit of downloading a talk or two to watch later almost
every week and inadvertently exposing myself to some of the greatest
minds in the world giving the most amazing 18-minute talks I've ever
If you've never heard a TED talk before, you must go there
immediately. Spend an hour on the site watching the talks there I
promise that it will be life-changing.
Besides learning from some truly amazing thinkers who will catch you up
on the latest trends in technology, psychology, education, politics and
design, you can learn a ton about how to give a world-class talk.
TED talks are not only full of information and inspiration the vast
majority they are massively interesting because the speakers
are masterful communicators.
Carmine Gallo recently wrote a best-selling book, Talk Like TED: The 9
Public Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds all on why TED talks
are some of the most fascinating and watched talks in the world.
You have time for this, by the way. Don't believe me?
On the TED website, you can download the talks to your phone or mp3
player, and listen to them on your daily drive to work. Or on the bus. Or
while you do housework or any sort of busy work that doesn't require
deep thought or attention.
Action point #4:
Watch TED talks weekly.
Cut back on TV.
Or download some talks to listen to during your day.
However you want to do it, get into the habit of exposing yourself
to three or four TED talks a week.
I've listed a few of my favorites in Appendix A.
With talks by the likes of Steve Jobs, Bono, Malcolm Gladwell, Susan
Cain, Tony Robbins, Bill Gates, Sal Khan (of Khan Academy Fame),
and an impossibly large cast of beatboxers, activists, poets, scientists,
journalists and other world-changers, you can't go wrong!
Habit #5 Subscribe to some powerful podcasts.
Once upon a time, the radio was interesting. But more and more,
the music playlists of even the most progressive and indie stations
become more and more... well, average. Those who would not give up
their individuality and water down their attitude disappeared one by
one, they went out of business.
As people made the switch to mp3 players, it grew increasingly hard for
radio stations to keep listeners. And so, most stations have become
different flavors of the same international top 40 mix.
The same thing has happened to talk radio wait, you've never listened
to talk radio before? Right most likely, almost all talk radio was
already too average for you to waste your time listening to it.
It used to be too difficult for anyone to get their own radio show unless
they had a million dollars and some good friends in the business. So,
radio shows remained depressingly average, for the most part
something for everyone, but as a genre, generally not life-changing.
But now, the world has changed for about a hundred bucks a year,
almost anyone can get broadcasted online.
The advent of the podcast has opened the gates for hundreds
of excellent niche shows that would've never gotten aired
otherwise and like TED and blogs, given us previously unimaginable
access to a world of inspiration and instruction.
Again, as I wrote in the last two points, there is now an amazing wealth
of shows, with new episodes being released weekly and even daily! And
again, on almost any topic.
One thing I really enjoy about podcasts: Interviews. Nowadays,
whenever a writer is on the verge of launching a new book, they'll go and
get interviewed on a number of podcasts. I really love getting to know my
favorite authors and getting more of their best thinking and hearing
them say it themselves!
If you don't listen to podcasts, you're really missing out. You can learn
while you're driving, working out, or walking your dog!
Action point #5:
Get into podcasts!
Don't let the name fool you you don't need an iPod for this!
Get on iTunes, Stitcher Radio (free Android app), or just Google
"podcasts" and look up topics that interest you!
I've listed a few of my favorites (guess where?)
in Appendix A.
Listen weekly or even daily (on your commute!)
Topics I've found great podcasts on include:
Leadership, Communication, Entrepreneurship, Creativity,
Marriage, Faith and Writing!
Habit #6 Journal daily.
It's been said that "thoughts disentangle themselves passing over lips
and through pencil tips." There's some deep truth here.
Journaling has been a near-daily practice of mine for more than the last
ten years of my life, and I'd give this one habit as much or more
credit in my journey of growth than everything else I've
mentioned so far.
Many of these habits in this book have been relatively recent additions to
my life. But my habit of journaling goes back longer than almost all of
these other habits long before I even knew what good it would do for
me! As a result, I've enjoyed some of my deepest personal growth by
thinking and reflecting on life lessons and experiences.
After all, what good is it to spend time with great people, read great
books, attend great lectures, and listen to great talks if you don't have
any record of what you learned from it?
Benjamin Franklin once said that "Genius with education is like silver in
the mine." I would add: Learning without a written record is
just as bad.
I prefer pen and paper there's something special about creating
something physical, and I enjoy time working on something away from a
screen and keyboard. But hey, whatever works for you!
Just as sleep gives your mind the unconscious space to connect
thoughts, create ideas and learn, a written journal gives your
mind conscious space to do make the same connections and
Someone one said, "Expression deepens impression." Therefore,
get those lessons down on paper, and let them make a deep impression
on your life!
Action point #6:
Start keeping a daily journal!
Find a journaling format that you like (paper or digital?),
choose a regular time to write (morning? afternoon? evening?),
and write daily!
Some suggested questions to get you started:
What did you do yesterday and what did you learn?
What are you thankful for?
What are you reading, watching and listening to?
What's an important lesson you're learning?
Habit #7 - Make action points out of EVERYTHING.
This is key for learning. You see, the point of learning is not to KNOW
more. The whole point of learning is to GROW more.
To pursue awesome is to pursue change change for the better, that is.
That kid in the front row of your class who asks "smart" questions just so
people think that he's smart? That's not awesome. That's showing off.
He's building up knowledge, but for what? To look smart, yes. But is he
really smart? It's hard to say.
You and I are pursuing awesome, and that's not what we're going to be
about. We will not show off we will take action. When we learn,
we will use what we learn - as soon as we possibly can - and in detail!
For example, I just listened to a great talk about keeping careful track of
my money. I now need to get down to business about it. A lame action
- Save more money.
It's an okay start, but the way it's defined, I'm not likely to get it done.
Some key questions to ask would be: When? How much? And
where does the money go? Let's put some meat on those bones:
- Put 5% of my income into savings (via my bank's website)
every last Friday of the month.
This is much better defined, and much more likely to work.
Whenever we learn something, we always build one of two
habits. We're either the building the habit of applying what we learn, or
the habit of learning and yet never acting. The former habit spurs
change and growth. The latter habit winds down into stagnancy.
Which of these habits do you want?
Action point #7:
Act on what you learn!
Make a habit of regularly breaking down any material you read,
watch, or listen to into actionable points.
Try to make your action points as clear as possible!
They should be immediate, practical and personal,
not vague and general.
This increases your chances of following through and succeeding!
Habit #8 - Share what you learn with others.
Have you read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? In the
book, Steven Covey instructs readers to read each section like they will
have to teach it to others. This compels readers to ask themselves: How
would I explain this to someone who has never heard of the book?
What's the real core of each idea here? How can I put this in my own
words and use my own examples?
Then he tells readers to go teach the lessons of the book to someone else
that very day.
This is a powerful habit. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, if you can't
explain something you know to a first-grader, you don't really know it at
all. And again, as I mentioned before, "Expression deepens impression."
Moreover, when this habit is combined with habits like habits #6 and #7
from this chapter, journaling and creating action points, it becomes a
powerful vehicle for growth and change.
To go back to our lake illustration from the beginning of the chapter,
imagine that the dam has been dismantled and the lake now has streams
flowing in. So far, so good.
However, now imagine that beavers carelessly stopped up all of the
streams that flow out of the lake. What happens?
The lake will slowly start to become stagnant and die. The chemical
composition of the water will literally change. As it changes, fish and
other animals that depend on the water will no longer be able to live
there. They will leave or they will die.
For an example of this, consider the Dead Sea in Palestine. It's one of
the saltiest bodies of water in the world, and it's a perfect case of a body
of water with plenty of input, but absolutely no output. It's so salty that
when you lie down in it, you float!
Nothing lives in the Dead Sea.
Therefore, don't be a Dead Sea. Open up your learning to others. Let it
flow out of you. Break the lessons you learn down to their core
essentials, and share them with others. As Rick Warren opened his best-
selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, "It's not about you."
Human beings were made to give. There's something deeply fulfilling
about sharing with others and helping the change their lives and I
believe it's essential.
Sharing is the secret sauce of awesome. Share what you learn with others
and bring them along with you in the pursuit of awesome.
Action point #8:
Make a point of sharing with others!
Once you have a habit of learning, make a habit of regularly
sharing your lessons and action points with others.
Try to share with at least one person whenever you finish
a book, article, talk, or podcast worth learning from!
All's well that ends well.
As the season comes to an end, I honestly hope that you have built some
awesome new habits. Here's something that may surprise you: What
matters most is not whether you succeeded or failed.
What matters most is what's next.
Why? I am honestly thrilled if you succeeded. And I feel your pain if
things didn't work out. But what's more important than success
or failure is this: self-assessment.
Let me explain.
In 2004, I took a trip to East and Central Asia to work as a volunteer
English teacher. I was assigned to an eight-person team, and we literally
took planes, trains and automobiles to cross the entire nation of China,
and teach English throughout.
It was exhilarating and exhausting - the experience of leaving home,
forty-hour train rides, encountering new cultures, new languages and
new foods, not to mention traveler's diarrhea, team problems, scorching
heat, near-torrential rain (we walked through knee-deep water in
pouring Beijing rain!), and meeting and serving a few hundred students
on both ends of the country was, in a word, epic.
The summer ended with a short visit to Korea on our way home to Los
Angeles. Our team congregated with a handful of other teams who had
undergone similar experiences. We swapped war stories, joked, laughed,
and enjoyed a few moments exploring our new neighborhood, Gangnam,
Seoul (yes, that Gangnam).
After a warm greeting and a brief congratulations, our director opened
with our first meeting a surprising statement:
"The trip's only half over, everyone!
The next three days are the most important days of the whole trip."
The returning volunteers nodded knowingly as the eyes of us
first-timers went wide. He went on to explain that although our
service and our lessons thus far had been invaluable, it was only through
focused evaluation, reflection and application that the events of
our last six weeks could be forged into lifelong lessons.
So every morning for the next two days, we sat on our own, walking
through a guided reflection on our summer: reading our journals,
recalling the events of the summer, our reactions, our weaknesses, and
the humbling lessons of the past month and a half overseas.
It was the longest such time of reflection that I'd ever taken in
my life up to that moment.
It was also the most valuable.
Sharpen the Saw
It was only later that I discovered that the practice of self-assessment
was a common thread throughout most writing on learning and success!
- In The Tyranny of the Urgent, Charles Hummel admonishes readers to
make time once a week, once a month, and once a year to assess. He
recommends using that time to assess how they used their time, how
they failed and how they grew and to use that knowledge to make an
action plan for the next week, month, or year.
- Zig Ziglar says that "Assessment is when we inspect to get what
we expect." If we have high expectations, we won't have much success
reaching them without careful and intentional times of assessment.
- Steven Covey calls this process "Sharpening the Saw," the seventh
habit in his landmark work The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Why? Because it keeps you sharp, and is the key proponent of growth.
No matter how successful or unsuccessful you were with the habits set
forth in the previous chapters, a solid assessment now can redeem even a
poor season into greatness. And a great season can be transformed into
a strong foundation for even greater seasons.
So, without any further ado, let me offer some guidance. This could be a
little strange if you've never done anything like this, but bear with me.
Five key questions
Schedule some time alone - at least one or two hours! Make an
appointment with yourself and do not let anyone or anything interrupt
you. Choose a place where you can focus it could be at a park, a library
or a local coffeeshop. Then, turn off your phone, wi-fi, and any other
Once you're there, answer the following questions. Write your answers
down this will help make your lessons permanent.
1. What were the highlights of this season than I want to remember
forever? (List at least ten)
2. What did I accomplish?
3. What was most difficult for me?
4. How does it all connect to my WHY? (See chapter 1.)
5. What can I do to be better next season? Think of three practical
action points. (Refer to Habit #7 in the previous chapter for some tips
on making powerful action points.)
Be thoughtful and be thorough. Make sure that you end up with
practical action points that drive change and growth. And one last thing
for you to think about: in Korea, my team leader had us REAP our
summer. That is, he had us:
- Review our journals and lessons.
- Evaluate what we did and didn't do well.
- Apply the lessons as practical action points.
I've already left you questions that deal with the first three points, so let
me elaborate on the last point. I honestly believe that growth is
something we pursue not only through mental and physical
development, but through spiritual development. There's
something divine about a life well spent, a life of impact, meaning and
growth and I think it's something that we can't achieve without help
Prayer, in my opinion, is not an option. That's my experience, take it or
leave it, but I would ask you to try praying for help in you're the pursuit
of awesome. It's my personal recommendation to close your review.
To be honest, we're never really done. To me, this is one of the defining
qualities of an awesome life it's a life of humility. It the constant
remembrance that no matter how far I've come, that there's more to
learn, better work to be done, and a deeper impact to be made.
There's a great illustration of this in how Steve Jobs passed on. At the
end of his life, somewhere in the mix of final heartfelt goodbyes to
friends from his hospital bed, he left a page of notes to his engineers.
There, he had listed out features for the next iPhone which he would
never see with his own eyes! But that didn't matter he already saw it in
his imagination, and he knew that his engineers would bring it into the
world, with or without him.
On Tim Elmore's Growing Leaders podcast, Justin Su'a, the director of
an institute for world-class athletes gave the following advice:
"Don't focus on being good. Focus on being better."
That's where I'll end this book.
As you finish, begin again. Clarify your why review it and rewrite
it, if necessary. Choose new habits to attempt again, not too many, but
choose the few that will produce the greatest results. And evaluate your
progress at the end of the season. And come up with your own habits.
There are chapters I wish I had time to write one on leadership habits,
and one on habits for creativity. There's a few habits that I had to cut out
for example, the power of memorization and spaced-repetition
flashcards to hack your learning, speed-reading exercises, and daily cold
showers that leverage temperature shifts to burn fat and boost your
But it's okay. There are other books to be written as well. We're on our
way, and we're in pursuit! See you at the top.
Godspeed. (and see you later!)
June 18th, 2014
Find out more and connect with me on my own blog at:
Or on twitter:
Thanks to Becky the wonderful, beautiful and altogether awesome love
of my life. We've still got a lot to learn, sweetheart, but we're learning it
all together and it's wonderful and beautiful sharing the journey with
you. Thanks for the last year and a half and here's to many more.
Thanks to my leaders, past and present especially Danny Furuyama,
Pastor Joseph, and my parents. You've laid the foundations for me and
have always been there for me.
Thanks to my grandparents, who stayed in the States even after the
internment camps of World War II and left us a legacy of forgiveness
and hard-work to grow into.
Thanks to Alex Lee. This book is built on what we learned together in
Kyrgyzstan, and those early leadership seminars at the International
University of Kyrgyzstan.
Thanks to the writers and thinkers who aim to make a difference with
their writing and to that end, give their best work away for free.
Though I've never met them, thanks to Steven Pressfield, Jeff Goins and
Seth Godin who through their books, interviews and wise words gave
me the wherewithal to not only start, but finish the book. I'm beginning
to understand the War of Art now and I'm ready for more!
Thank to the Future Leaders of the World club at AUCA you give me a
reason to write. Change the world and live up to your name, guys.
Above all, thanks to the King of Kings, the most awesome of all.
A short list of my favorite blogs, talks and podcasts
www.sethgodin.com Seth Godin. Thinker, revolutionary, marketer.
www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt. Intentional Leadership.
http://www.growingleaders.com/blog Tim Elmore's blog at Growing
Leaders on leading the next generation. Research-driven insights!
www.goinswriter.com Jeff Goins inspires and teaches writing.
www.sidehustlenation.com Nick Loper on how to work hard, be
passionate, and make money creatively.
www.boostblogtraffic.com Jon Morrow on how to write and blog with
influence and reach.
www.copyblogger.com Learn to write convincingly from the best
copywriters from old.
www.lifehacker.com How to do everything... better.
Go to www.ted.com and check out the following people:
Simon Sinek on thinking, serving and leading
Sir Ken Robinson on the desperate need for education reform
Seth Godin on tribes and how to spread ideas
Salman Khan on how he founded Khan Academy
Malcolm Gladwell on underdogs, and fighting impossible fights
These can be found on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or simply Google'd.
This is Your Life
Michael Hyatt's podcast on intentional leadership.
The Read to Lead Podcast
Jeff Brown on books and leadership.
The Accidental Creative
Todd Henry writes on how to be more creative.
Startup School with Seth Godin
Fifteen lessons on how to start your own business,
given by one of the greats.
The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins
Great interviews and insights on creating,
doing work that matters, and writing
Side Hustle Nation
Compelling interviews with ridiculously varied entrepreneurs who are all
starting their own businesses in their spare time.
The EntreLeadership Podcast
Dave Ramsey's show on how to be more than an entrepreneur,
but the leader and builder of something great.
A compilation of my favorite quotes:
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
"All the top achievers I know are life-long learners... Looking for new
skills, insights, and ideas. If they're not learning, they're not growing...
not moving toward excellence."
"Live out of your imagination, not your history."
"What kind of man would live where there is no daring? I don't believe in
taking foolish chances, but nothing can be accomplished without taking
any chance at all."
"Action springs not from thought, but from a
readiness for responsibility."
"The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter
his life by altering his attitudes."
"You are more likely to act yourself into feelings
than feel yourself into action."
Dr. Jerome Brunner
"Some people dream of success -
while others wake up and work hard at it."
"The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work."
"Nothing so conclusively proves a man's ability to lead others as what he
does from day to day to lead himself."
Thomas J. Watson
"As long as you're going to be thinking anyway, think big."
"As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his
way: government, society, and even the sun, moon and stars."
Henry David Thoreau
"Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm."
Sir Winston Churchill
"If you're going to be a champion,
you must be willing to pay a greater price."
"The price of greatness is responsibility"
Sir Winston Churchill
"One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals."
"The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is
this: decide what you want."
"Put your heart, mind, intellect and soul even to your smallest acts. This
is the secret of success."
"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do."
"You can't fly a kite unless you go against the wind and have a weight to
keep it from turning a somersault. The same with man. No man will
succeed unless he is ready to face and overcome difficulties and is
prepared to assume responsibilities."
William J. H. Boetcker
"The only job where you start at the top is digging a hole."
"We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
"You are capable of much more than you are presently thinking,
imagining, doing or being."
"The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his
world and the world at large."
"A man's dreams are an index to his greatness."
"All glory comes from daring to begin."
"You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be
tomorrow where your thoughts take you."
"What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is
rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our
beliefs about who we are."
"I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself."
Robert E. Lee
"The trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more."
"Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your
character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what
others think you are."
"Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence,
is the key to unlocking our potential."
"One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine
who have only interests."
"A keen sense of humor helps us overlook the unbecoming, understand
the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected
and outlast the unbearable."
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can
change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does."
"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."
"Don't let what you can't do stop you from doing what you can do."
"Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs."
" I have not failed. I've just found ten thousand ways that won't work."
The Pursuit of Awesome:
The One-Season Guide to Awesome Life Change
First Edition "The Avengers"
Copyright © 2014, Ed Oyama
Feel free to print, reproduce, and share this book freely with others.
Just don't sell it. Thanks.
Follow the author on Twitter at @themisteredo
THE NEW GOLDRUSH: A QUICK GUIDE TO STARTUPS
The New Goldrush
A Quick Guide To Startups
Foreword by Joel Gascoigne
CEO of Buffer
The New Goldrush: A Quick Guide to Startups
Copyright © Dominic Tarn 2014
Foreword, Copyright © Joel Gascoigne 2014
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, nor transmitted, nor
translated into machine language, without written permission.
The right of Dominic Tarn to be identified as the author of this work has been
asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents
Condition of Sale.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not be, by way of trade or
otherwise, be sent, re-sold, hired out our otherwise circulated in any form other than
that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the
Published in Great Britain.
Dedicated to the memory of Christine Tarn, with all my love.
Creating a book might be the individual struggle of a single writer, but it is far from a
solitary occupation. There is a great many people I have to thank. The idea for this
book first appeared early in 2012 - I put it on ice for a while, then was encouraged to
carry on by David Tarn, who has always shown me that doing what you love can pay.
I needed access to a local startup hub in order to research case studies, which I was
able to thanks to Paul Smith, Co-founder of ignite100, Europe's first £1m accelerator
in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
I must also thank Andy Stephenson - CEO of Weekend Box Club, Edward Domain -
CEO of Techli, Ross Linnett - CEO of Recite Me, Peter Chang - CEO of GoPixel, all of
whom introduced me to aspects of the roller coaster experience that is working for a
I have since worked with dozens of others and have had a ringside seat as a part of
my local startup community since 2012, which has been as fascinating as it has been
enlightening. I have met some great people, and this book is in part due to their
A lot of personal experience went into the creation of this book. But that pales in
comparison to the collection of experiences of those who've contributed to this book.
Those who have gone forth, thrown caution into the wind and launched their own
startups, as well as academic experts, investors and serial entrepreneurs.
I also have to thank Katlin Sandvik for the cover design, Liz Hardy for her invaluable
input and all the hard work of my long-suffering, dedicated friend, Douglas
Ackerman. Without whom I'd never have completed this book. Last but not least, I
am forever grateful for the constant support I've received from my girlfriend, Jenny
Howe, who is delighted that this book has finally been published.
Table of Contents
The New Goldrush
Table of Contents
The Macro-Metrics of Startups
Incubators & Angels: Key Supporters of Startups
The Celebrity Factor
The Gateway To Entrepreneurship
The Economic Necessity of Entrepreneurship
The Meaning of `Entrepreneurship'
The Economy and Entrepreneurship
The Capitalist Dream
Find Support For Your Startup
Working 80 Hours to Avoid Working 40
Five Steps to Build a Supportive Network
Find A Mentor
The Geography of Innovation
Solve The Big Problems
Funding The Dream
Angels, Friend-tors and Playlists: Playlists.net
Raising Venture Capital: ShopLocket
Dream Bigger: Babelverse
Making The Future Sound Better: Earsoft
A Question Of Scale
Know Your Market: The Beans Group
Fixing Recruitment: Enternships
A Recipe For Success: TechStars
How to Find Good People: Advice for those doing the hiring
How to stand out as a candidate: Advice For Future startup rockstars
Why Startups Die And How To Avoid It
Conclusion: 5 Ways To Fail (and how to avoid failure)
Appendix: Further Resources
About the Author
Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer
In 2010 I founded Buffer, a social media management tool. Businesses and
individuals use Buffer to handle their social media updates. We've now got more than
1.2 million users who have shared over 125 million updates since we launched.
I started my journey not expecting Buffer to be a company. At first it was just an idea.
I wanted to find a way to make it easier for people to Tweet the recommended five
times a day, in a smarter way than solely during a 20 minute break to catch up on the
My aim was to create something genuinely useful and user-friendly. I couldn't get it
out of my head, and other services didn't offer what I wanted. The only way forward
was to build it myself.
Having tried and failed with a previous startup an experience I learnt a great deal
from - I was determined to go about things differently. I started by validating my idea
getting feedback from potential users on features and pricing options. Customers
matter the most and I kept this front and center in my mind's eye.
It became obvious that although Buffer's service wouldn't be to everyone's tastes,
there were enough people interested in paying for it. This is the group I built it for.
I remember there was a `Startup Sprint' taking place, which had got quite a few
people excited on Hacker News. I was determined to get Buffer ready in time to
announce its launch at the end of the Sprint. The result was the first version built
across evenings and weekends over a period of 7 weeks.
Four days after launching this rough version I had my first paying customer I was
thrilled! In the first month there were 100 sign-ups and another three paying
I'm a big fan of this quote by US President Theodore Roosevelt: `Do what you can,
with what you have, where you are.'
I was fortunate in two ways: I had a product people were using and willing to pay for,
and I had various restrictions. Restrictions are necessary, in my view, to generate
forward momentum. I had no funding. I could only grow using my own revenue. All I
had was a web application and Chrome browser extension. No Android or iOS Apps,
and no Facebook integration, either.
For anyone currently building their first startup product, I advise cutting as much as
possible out of the first version. Validation is more important.
Working with my Co-founder, Leo Widrich, we kept building and bringing in
customers. Blogging and guest blogging proved hugely important at this stage. Over
the course of six months using content marketing during which Leo tirelessly wrote
150 guest blogs - we built up enough revenue for us both to work full time on Buffer.
Everything happened for us in 2011. Following our initial validation we - Leo and I -
decided to drop everything and go, with no money or connections, to San Francisco.
We figured if there was one place where two guys and an idea could make or break it,
it was the startup capital of the world.
We made bootstrapping into an art form, couch surfing whilst coding, even taking
bread with us from one Airbnb apartment so we could eat the next day. It was a year
where we both found that we had to make ourselves uncomfortable, even very
uncomfortable at times, in order to make this work.
We needed to make connections, build our personal and professional networks. We
hoped that living amongst a large concentration of people working on similar things
would result in finding the right kind of support.
We were fortunate. We were also persistent. Off the boat we had a validated idea and
some traction, but in no way were we investable. The people we met along the way
Investment enabled us to build a better product, iterate quicker, hire a team, and
accelerate our growth. We had come a long way from surviving on bread and couch
surfing, as we had done less than a year before. TechCrunch and GigaOM announced
our $450,000 funding round in December 2011.
As Dominic mentions in the book company culture is incredibly important. It is
essential for us that this early culture that evolved from our founding is carried
throughout the growing company. Our culture and brand image became one and the
same. The way we worked with one another became the way we looked after our
Fast forward to the present day, Buffer's user base has grown from that small
beginning to 1.2 million people, and we now have a team of 17 people spread across
the world, generating $3.8 million annual revenue.
It would be impossible, in the space of this foreword, to cover all the lessons I've
learned from my experiences building Buffer so far. There's literally too many and
they aren't just my own. The whole team, my co-founder Leo, we've all learned a lot.
Anyone who embarks on a startup is in for a steep learning curve, whether you
succeed or fail.
I've only known Dominic a short time, but I know he has been actively involved in the
international startup community for over three years.
He has a wealth of knowledge in all areas of the startup world I wouldn't have been
surprised if he'd chosen to write a book about any number of subjects in the industry
but I'm very pleased to say that he's chosen the most important of all the very
The New Goldrush is a book for those who want to build or work for a startup. The
book consists of his personal experience, interwoven with thousands of hours of
research, over a dozen first hand case studies and interviews, and over 150 resources
he has collected for this book.
Since founding Buffer I went through all the stages described in these pages - idea to
product, product to company, accelerators, mentors, fundraising, hiring, growth,
managing the unexpected, and even failure.
I offered to write this foreword, because I agree with the authors hope that if this
book helps a few more people start their own business, I would consider my
contribution a good day's work.
There's no `typical' startup journey. There are many common factors, and a lot you
can learn from others. Dominic has gathered advice and experience from current
entrepreneurs working in successful startups, distilling their advice into actions the
readers can take themselves.
This books purpose is to provide you with the knowledge and resources to launch
your own startup or apply to work for one, whether you have any prior knowledge
about startups or not.
It's for the graduate looking for an alternative career. It's for those who've always
dreamt of owning their own company. It's for the young professional tired of
repetitive work in a corporate environment, looking for responsibility and excitement
working in the world's most innovative industry. It's for anyone looking to better
themselves who need a place to start.
The New Goldrush contains a dozen case studies from the likes of TechStars,
ShopLocket, and Enternships, plus over fifty pieces of advice from experienced
entrepreneurs and investors, like Mark Cuban, Paul Graham, Sean Parker, amongst
I can't stress enough how important it is to open up to the teachings from others with
more experience, especially in entering this industry. Buffer certainly wouldn't be
half of the company it's grown into without many a guiding word.
I hope you take away from it the knowledge and confidence to go ahead and launch
your own startup, or join one. There really is no experience like it. Best of luck!
CEO of Buffer.
27 January 2014, San Francisco, California.
The New Goldrush is the result of 2 years' worth of research, analysis and experience
in the world of entrepreneurship. The result is a book, which I hope will serve as a
useful and practical guide to anyone wanting to launch their own business, or work
for a startup, as the challenges these two groups face are similar in so many ways.
Before proceeding, let's clarify what, exactly, a startup is? Who better to
ask than three leading minds in the startup scene.
Eric Ries, best-selling author of The Lean Startup describes startups as `a human
institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme
Paul Graham of Y Combinator, an incredibly successful startup accelerator, defines
startups simply as `a company designed to grow fast.'
Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, longtime tech investor, expert and academic,
founder of the movement that Ries made popular defines a startup as `an
organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.'
Blank, Graham and Ries. All men of expertise, with decades of experience between
them, give roughly similar definitions.
A company is a human institution, which requires a repeatable revenue source in
order to grow, which comes from the creation of a new product or service. Figuring
that out - how to generate revenue from a new product or service. That's the job of
It's not so long ago that I found myself in the same position as you are now, looking
to enter into the startup community, trying my best to figure things out. As there was
no single collection of resources I did my best, picking up advice as I went along.
There were countless articles online: `5 Tips For This,' `Top Ten Reasons For
Something Else,' but nothing that simplified and distilled the gathered wisdom from
those who've not just been-there-done-that, but those who are currently, as you read
this, successfully building and growing their own ventures. One of whom, Katherine
Hague, has recently sold her startup, ShopLocket, since I conducted the first
interview with her for this book.
The New Goldrush is the book I would have appreciated when starting down this
particular road. Whether you're a graduate, student, dissatisfied young professional
or someone looking to start over, use this book as your go-to guide as you start your
own entrepreneurial path.
The Path Less Travelled
My story begins over five years ago, when I had a vague notion that I wanted to start
my own business, or work for an entrepreneur. Vague being the operative word.
I had no prior experience with entrepreneurship. I was picking myself up off the mat
from an attempted emigration to Canada for a woman I nearly married. I dusted
myself down, finished my stalled undergraduate History degree and got a customer
service job in a call center. This vague attraction towards entrepreneurship didn't
disappear. Instead, it evolved into a course of action.
I picked up experience where I could, using my passion for blogging about the Middle
East to get an unpaid internship with a small web development startup.
Using that tiny window of insight I invested every spare moment to further my tech
startup education, which is a familiar story amongst startup founders.
My passion for the topic increased, leading me to write all about my newfound
knowledge through blogs, one of which got noticed by Techli, a Tech News website
based in Chicago1. They asked me to be a European Columnist. It was a great
introduction to what was happening in the sector across the UK and Europe.
My articles caught the attention of an education startup, where I was asked to join as
a Co-founder at what is called the `sweat equity' level (a.k.a. a lot of work for no
money, unless things go well). They wanted me to spearhead a desperate
resuscitation attempt for the company that ultimately didn't work out, but gave me
valuable first-hand experience.
1Worth a look: check out http://techli.com/
In the space of a few short months I had taken a crash course through the various
stages of startup life, from birth or in my case, a re-birth to death. It ended with
meeting with a potential angel investor and CEO, who had made millions from a
management buyout of his own firm.
I met him for coffee one day and quite by accident made a pitch. He just wanted an
update. I gave him one. The following week I was in his boardroom with my Co-
founder, asking for a wildly unrealistic investment of £125,000 (about $200,000),
praying for an exit route from customer service. The Venture Capitalists, and a hastily
prepared cash-flow forecast, killed that hope. Most startup deaths are tragedies, this
was a mercy killing.
The eventful beginning to my startup career breathed new life into my personal
resolution to explore this industry. My time as a corporate suit was over. Fed up, and
aiming to avoid getting fired, I preemptively quit. It was a Thursday. My last shift was
that Saturday. I felt relieved when I bounded down the stairs, two at a time, as I left
behind a life that just wasn't for me.
At. Long. Last!
But now what?
Unfortunately, when you quit the grind to live the dream, the world doesn't offer you
a brief hiatus, the bills still needed paying.
Luckily I landed a new job four days later, which would have been perfect, but for the
low pay. I didn't fancy compromising on my goals a moment longer. So, like Mickey
Haller, the Lincoln-town-car-driving hustler lawyer in The Lincoln Lawyer, I went
after Mr. Green.
I needed some cold, hard cash - fast, which I found working as a freelance copywriter.
I was finally writing for a living. I had been writing for over five years as a leisure
pursuit, and now I was getting paid for it!
The lessons I learned from my father about doing something I loved for a living had
finally started making sense. Suffice to say, my parents were delighted, but it wasn't
the happy ending I wanted. I was working for the wrong sort of client.
Lesson one: do what you love, with the caveat being - for the right kind of
client, whether self-employed or running a well-staffed business.
But surely any client that pays the bills is great, right?
Not so much.
Business is never just business; in reality, it's about people. It is about giving people
what they want and getting what you want in return.
At the most basic level, you need a product or service, and some paying customers.
While the money was coming in and the client was happy, I wasn't. Whilst I was busy
hunting for a new client, the existing one lost their main contract, so I was once again
out of work.
Lesson two: never put all your eggs in one basket.
My options were unemployment, or a return to customer services. So I fired off an
email to the CEO of a software startup I had met once before. Did he want a content
marketing strategy? Once again my path was fortunately redirected.
Soon after that chance email I was managing his entire marketing mix, on staff, for
them and another startup. Building upon this, I set up a marketing agency to enable
me to work with a wider range of exciting high-growth clients. Doing what I love, for
the right sort of clients, finally.
All of these experiences, including setting up my own business, is not unusual in this
day and age. In the UK alone, 523,410 new businesses were registered in 2013. Up
from 484,224 in 2012.
According to a 2011 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, 12% of the American
workforce was engaged in starting or running a business, up from 8% in 2010. This is
a global trend that shows no signs of slowing down.
I wrote The New Goldrush because the path of the entrepreneur is never a straight
one. Which is why I want people to have access to the kind of advice, practical tips,
and inspiration I would have found helpful when starting down this road.
27 January 2014, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
What does it really mean to be an entrepreneur? Does it mean you should aspire to
be the Next Mark Zuckerberg, founder of the Next Big Thing, Inc? Or rather, look at
that question another way: what does entrepreneurship mean to you? Prospecting for
a fortune? Disrupting sectors and industries, which need shaking up, such as music,
publishing or healthcare? Creating cool new products or services? Making a
difference? It means all of those things and so much more.
You might have seen Aaron Sorkin's depiction of Zuckerberg and the early Facebook
team, in the movie The Social Network, which paints an interesting picture of
entrepreneurship in the internet age. Sorkin is a serious screenwriter dealing with a
big subject, adapted to what a movie going audience expects - drama, intrigue, and
the lonely, difficult journey of the self-made man2. In many respects he accurately
portrays startup culture. In others, the image he creates is miles apart from reality.
Compared to the real origins of the social network, now used by more than 1.2 billion
people, how accurate, is the film's depiction of life in the startup world, really? A
dorm room idea, founded at Harvard in 2004, a little seed money, a small but
passionate group of early supporters, an experienced mentor (Sean Parker, of
Napster fame3), law suits, the use of interns, Co-founder troubles, until eventually
serious Venture Capitalists (Accel Partners, Greylock Partners, Founders Fund, even
Microsoft, amongst others) put some money behind their idea and the rest is history.
Fast forward a few years, Facebook is a public company, whose original investors and
Co-founders are billionaires. They're even building a new community, just for staff, in
Menlo Park, California at a cost of $120 million.
Facebook is one of those once in a generation companies that defies gravity. They've
been classed as a `super unicorn', valued at over $100 billion dollars. The film's
2He is also the writer of The West Wing (1999-2006), The Newsroom (2012 -
current), and movies such as Charlie Wilson's War (2007) and Moneyball (2011),
3Played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network.
depiction is relevant to Facebook, but how about an example that is a bit more
relatable for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Within 18 months, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom and his Co-founder, Mike Krieger
had taken an idea - a location based check-in app called Burbn (like Foursquare),
which had few users, into one of the hottest new apps on the market.
They started with a small amount of funding ($250,000), which, based on its growing
success, snowballed into $50 million worth of investment. More than 150 million
people worldwide now use Instagram, sharing 40 million images per day.
Their wild success has a lot to do with their immediate popularity on launch day,
October 6th 2010, attracting 25,000 users. This immediate interest put them on an
exponential growth path, culminating in Instagram's sale to Facebook for $1.13
billion, in April 2012, in a deal that was done in less than 48 hours.
Zuckerberg made Systrom and his team one of those rare headline-grabbing rags to
This kind of growth is what entrepreneurs lay awake at night trying to crack. Those
of us working for startups work late and through weekends, go without sleep or social
lives, and at times, salaries. We all want the dream team, product, investors, and
Zuckerberg wanted it - Zuckerberg got it. Just like that.
But that's still comparative small talk - here are some real numbers.
The Macro-Metrics of Startups
Google for Entrepreneurs4 states that there are approximately 400 million people
building 69 million startups (new products or services), across 54 countries. There's
4Really useful site for all kinds of facts http://www.google.com/entrepreneurs/
big money being made amongst tech startups (the Tumblr sale, valued at $1.1bn to
Yahoo is another notable example) and huge amounts are being invested.
In the US $26.5bn was invested in 3,698 Venture Capital deals during 2012,
according to an annual study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the
National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), and data from Thomson Reuters. The
most recent data indicates that investment levels continue to steadily increase.
Software is by far the largest industry supported by venture deals during the last
decade, so if you are looking to build a startup around investment, think Software,
because as a venture capitalist friend said to me, `they are products investors like -
the resulting growth formula includes numbers investors understand.'
Incubators & Angels: Key Supporters of Startups
Incubators, like TechStars, founded by David Cohen who's featured more later on -
are very useful for launching young companies. Incubators (also known as
accelerators) are organizations which bring together high-potential startup ventures
at their earliest stages, put them through a rigorous program of development, give
them access to networks of experienced entrepreneurs who act as mentors,
concluding with a graduation which normally comes with follow-on investment. An
estimate by the Wall Street Journal suggests that graduates of US investment-backed
incubators (of which there are around 170 worldwide) have already raised $1.6bn in
follow-on funding, creating over 5,000 jobs.
Incubators without investment - 1,200 centers of low cost office space, support and
mentoring, house over 41,000 startups across the US, according to the National
Business Incubation Association (NBIA). Companies who go through incubators are
87 percent more likely to survive for more than 4 years. They have revenues of over
$17 billion, employing around 100,000 staff.
The number of incubators continues to grow, with corporate giants, like 02-
Telefonica, Pearson, Kaplan, Unilever, Intel, AT&T and many others, getting in on
However, not every startup can get a place at what is effectively an Ivy League
education for entrepreneurs. Many need to secure funding from other sources, such
as angel investors. Angel investors are individuals who put their own money into
businesses in return for equity (a percentage of the company). The popular TV show,
Dragons Den, is effectively angel investment in practice. In the US alone there are
258,000 active angel investors who invest $20bn per year into around 60,000
companies (normally between $10-100k). They're often the people you need to
provide the initial working capital to get your young company off the ground.
According to research by MIT, Harvard Business School and Startups.co (a seed-
funding platform), involving angel investors - which can include friends and family
members who are in a position to help - makes your business `significantly more
likely to survive at least four years.' In startup terms, that's huge. Every quarter you
survive is a victory.
The Celebrity Factor
Celebrities, like Ashton Kutcher have also started putting their hard earned
Hollywood dollars into web startups5. He isn't the only one. Leonardo DiCaprio,
Selena Gomez, and Tobey Maguire are all active investors, whilst Jessica Alba is the
founder of The Honest Company, which provides monthly deliveries of nontoxic
diapers and cleaning products to busy moms. So why are the stars investing in tech
As an asset class, software/web startups are riskier than corporate (blue-chip stocks),
but the returns, on occasion - like with Tumblr, Instagram, eBay, PayPal, YouTube,
Facebook - and hundreds of other companies who have successfully been sold or are
now trading on the stock exchange - can be astronomical. This is called an `exit'6.
5Ashton Kutcher has invested in over 30 startups to date including Airbnb,
Fab.com and Path, either as an angel investor or through his venture firm, A-Grade
6The term `exit' means founders give up some or all of their equity - either due to an
initial public offering (IPO) or another company buys them - in return for payment,
usually at a high valuation. This is the way entrepreneurs become rich from their
ideas, but the company has to be worth buying before an entrepreneur can walk away
The world I have just described of startups, entrepreneurs, companies with phone-
number-length valuations, investors and celebrities, understandably appears to be a
daunting world to break into.
The Gateway To Entrepreneurship
The New Goldrush breaks down some of the perceived barriers into entrepreneurship
for the likes of you and I, for everyone who wants an alternative to the corporate
Scott Gerber, author of Never Get a `Real' Job, also set out to find an alternative
career path. In a few years he has gone from being an intern to CEO of the Young
Entrepreneurs Council (the minimum requirements for membership is $1m in
funding or revenue, described as `America's most elite entrepreneur organization' by
Forbes). Both NASDAQ and The White House have formally honored Scott's work.
Scott sets a great example. As does Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder, investor and
author of The Start-up of You (one of the original `PayPal mafia', dubbed the `Startup
whisperer' by The New York Times).
Figuring out your own entrepreneurial career path can be daunting enough, without
trying to squeeze useful lessons from those who are so far ahead of you career-wise.
It's hard, almost impossible, to extract much value. Some lessons, Hoffman's; `If you
are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late' are
I wanted to learn more from those whose experiences would be closest to my own -
current startup founders. Those who ordinarily are too busy to spend time relaying
learnt wisdom to others.
I've been very lucky to get the chance to speak directly with so many currently
successful and hardworking entrepreneurs in the making of this book. More than 30
interviews have provided the material to present you with the tools and advice
needed to break through the gateway to entrepreneurship and successfully begin your
own careers. This is alongside thousands of hours of secondary research, resulting in
over 150 resources for information and further reading.
The Economic Necessity of Entrepreneurship
During these challenging economic times, control of our own incomes has never been
more desirable, possible, and, for many - necessary.
Anyone reading this, anyone considering the entrepreneurial path, is already part of
this new liberation in economic freedom. Now more than ever, we have to create and
seize opportunities of our own making. We are part of a movement that is changing
the world, releasing a new wave of potential and creating new jobs out of creative
This book brings together lessons from a wide cross-section of entrepreneurs in order
to help people understand the risks and rewards of startup life. This isn't just for
those who want to found the next social network, like Instagram, or enterprise
software product, like Box, or music sharing app, like Spotify.
This book is for everyone who wants to use their skills, talents and interests to create
a living for themselves. Whether you are an aspiring startup founder, or lifestyle
business owner (I will cover what those terms mean soon) this book is for you.
The Meaning of `Entrepreneurship'
The word Entrepreneur is certainly in vogue at the moment. Entrepreneurs seem to
be everywhere, doing all kinds of different things. As a result, it's quite confusing to
nail down exactly what an entrepreneur is.
Different Entrepreneurial Characters
Some call themselves `visionary', `disruptive', or `lean.'7 There are countless
definitions and adjectives surrounding the cover-all label of `Entrepreneur.' For the
purpose of this book, however, we use the term in its broadest sense: anyone who has
taken the initiative to start their own, or co-found a business. Within the wider term
of `Entrepreneur' we will focus on three of the largest segments: solo-entrepreneurs,
startup Founders / Co-founders, and social entrepreneurs.
Solo-entrepreneur (also known as lifestyle business owners, the self-employed,
This is the most common type of entrepreneur the world over. As the name suggests,
solo-entrepreneurs usually work alone.
7Visionaries see themselves as working towards a future which will impact a large
group of people, as Bill Gates has been doing since he founded Microsoft. Disruptive
entrepreneurs are so called because they aim to change the status quo of an industry
or how people live, work and play. (bookmark) Lean entrepreneurs are usually `bootstrapping'
meaning they achieve results on very low budgets, and have subscribed to the ideas of
the Lean Startup movement, founded by Eric Ries (read more about this, from the
man himself: http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/)
In the US the number of people registered as self-employed (either incorporated, as a
business, or unincorporated, like a freelancer) has risen dramatically in recent years
as the global economy has negatively impacted career stability. Fifteen million people
are now registered as self-employed in the US (Small Business Administration), all of
whom fall into this `solo' category.
Government encouragement for entrepreneurs has become a key part of political
campaigns and mandates across the political spectrum. The Political support for
startups comes from an understanding that society needs the greater fool.
Western liberal economies are built by free market capitalism. This concept demands
people take risks where others have failed, in order to attempt to create sustainable
From the early American colonies to the settlement of the West, countless pioneers
have tried, failed and even died in the attempt to create something from nothing. This
fact didn't stop countless others from trying again. Because of this culture of
determination we have seen great business leaders, like Carnegie, Mellon, Gates and
Jobs. It's logical, if not necessary, for government to support startups.
Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures (previously with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers -
one of Silicon Valley's most successful venture capital firms) undertook a study of the
greatest of the greater fools. The billion-plus dollar club. Since 2003 there has been
39 US-based venture backed software companies worth over $1 billion (known as the
`Unicorn Club'). This accounts for 0.7% of all funded software and consumer startups
from the past decade, which is 1 in every 1,538.
The law of large numbers dictates that some will evolve into the next Apple, Google
or Microsoft. Hence, the White House support for the bipartisan JOBS - Jumpstart
Our Business Startups - Act, as part of a wider drive to encourage entrepreneurship.
A total of 60 million people are employed by 28 million small firms in America
around half the total workforce proving that small business owners are a key
driving force of economic activity. Many governments are providing similar
encouragement across the world.
Becoming self-employed is often driven by the following common motivations. If you
already have taken the plunge, or are considering it, some of these should seem
A desire for personal freedom that allows for a career to fit in with your lifestyle
A deep longing to be successful in a chosen field or profession, without being reliant
on climbing the corporate ladder
A yearning for fewer limitations on income potential, with the individual being more
responsible for what they earn
The `mompreneur' movement is also an important and increasingly prominent
category of business owners. More and more women are choosing the option of
raising children, whilst simultaneously returning to work. Starting a business enables
mothers to create the flexible working day needed to be a parent, while also providing
the income stream they need to support their family.
With the low barriers of entry in starting businesses (a basic website: free, email
account: free, laptop, internet, smartphone, and you are sorted. Business can pretty
much be run out of a Starbucks with free Wi-Fi these days8), coupled with the zero
cost approach to marketing through social media, the internet has made
entrepreneurship possible for almost everyone.
Some mompreneurs end up launching their own startups. Women like Angela
Broyles, a wedding dress designer who founded Winifred Bean, Jennifer Fleiss who
launched Rent the Runway, Devorah Miller, founder of Red Thread Design.
While business ownership is often viewed as a male-dominated career path,
especially in the tech sector, increasing numbers of women are taking more
prominent roles in established tech companies, such as Marissa Mayer, Chief
Executive Officer (CEO) of Yahoo, or Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operations Officer
(COO) of Facebook. They have taken the reins and proven that a successful balance
can be found between being a parent and being a tech industry leader.
Sandberg is also the author of Lean In - Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2013),
a book which has stirred up debate, controversy and support in equal measure. Some
detractors argue that Sandberg's answer to `lean in' (i.e. work smarter, harder, juggle
better, both at home and in the office, whilst relying on and supporting one another
8Though, if you can avoid holding important business meetings from this make-
shift office space - there are loads of ways to hire or borrow a meeting room.
better) ignores institutional constraints in business, and is divergent from the reality
of life for many middle class professional working women.
As Lean In is part memoir, part manifesto, even those who don't agree with her ideas
respect the example she has personally provided by climbing the male-dominated
tech career ladder, which as Sandberg says, can be like `trying to cross a minefield
backward in high heels.' According to the Wall Street Journal, Sony has just bought
the movie rights.9
Startup Founder & Co-founders:
This is a category of entrepreneur which popular culture has done a lot to mythicize.
The multi-million or billionaires, who were once just like you and me.
We know their names - Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates - we think know their
They all started out, one way or another, by founding a company that they hoped, one
day, would be a success.
This is the new American Dream. The Social Network, based on the book The
Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezric, represents to modern-day twenty-somethings
what the movie Wall Street did to the same age group in the mid-1980s. Much of the
story is fictionalized if you're interested in a more accurate version of Facebook's
history, take a look at The Facebook Story, by Sarah Lacy. Yet even that account
acknowledges that some truths have already been lost to folklore.
But whether the specifics of these stories are factual or not, there's no escaping the
fact that it has become representative of `The Dream' of the 2000`s. A dream made
9See here for more information: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/01/24/sheryl-
real through the internet, technological advances, financial necessity and cultural
Entrepreneurs who seek to create businesses centered around products and services
built specifically for the internet generally fall into two categories:
Technical: These are people with some level of coding skills, who have learned one
or more computer languages, such as C, C++, PHP, Python, and Ruby (to name but a
few), and use these skills to create `products' for the internet. To put it simply, these
products can be anything from an app, like Spotify to a platform, like Facebook.
Business: Often the logistics people, big-picture thinkers, see how technical
innovations can make money. They are usually the ones who can turn great ideas and
products into profitable businesses.
As a general rule it is useful to have both skills present in a startup team. Technical
co-founders are more like artists. It is the business ones who assist in marketing and
selling the products created by these digital artists.
Being an entrepreneur isn't purely about creating personal wealth. Society has many
problems we can all agree on that one! As a result, many entrepreneurs turn their
abilities to providing solutions. They do so by either directly creating a product, web-
based or physical, to solve problems facing a great many people, and others, like
Gates and Zuckerberg have used their vast fortunes to support charitable efforts.
Ethan Austin, founder of GiveForward, decided to create a platform, which would
raise money for good causes. It started with a banana costume.
`My best friend Ned Algeo convinced me to run the Chicago Marathon in my last year
of law school. I ran for a cancer organization and they gave me an online fundraising
page,' Ethan explained to me via email.
`I started doing my training runs in a banana costume and promised my friends and
family if I hit my $5000 goal, I'd run the marathon in a banana costume. Pretty soon,
dozens (and then hundreds) of $10 and $20 donations were coming in from friends,
family and complete strangers around the country... I thought to myself, that if one
idiot in a banana costumer could raise $5000 imagine how much others could raise
for the cause they care about if they have a similar tool?'
Shortly afterwards, he founded GiveForward, a web startup which helps people raise
money for medical expenses and other causes. Since it was founded in 2008 a total of
$79,423,700 has been raised on the platform.
There are thousands more like Ethan using their entrepreneurial drive to solve
problems in new, innovative, web-driven ways. Looking again at the big numbers -
the 400 million people around the world launching new businesses, the billions being
invested every quarter, we're drawn to ask one basic question: why?
The Economy and Entrepreneurship
Why are more people starting their own businesses? Why is entrepreneurship an
increasingly popular career choice? Why are governments everywhere supporting
In America, the Obama administration has been supportive through organizations
like the Startup America Partnership. Canada and the UK are equally invested in this
movement with similar grass-roots organizations (Startup Canada, founded by
Victoria Lennox and Startup Britain, founded by a team of eight serial entrepreneurs,
including Rajeeb Dey, CEO of Enternships).
The economic climate, since 2007, has directly contributed to the increase in the
number of startups around the world. The world has gone through unprecedented
financial pain in the last five years. Not since the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which
plunged the world into a recession deeper and longer than any previously, has
humanity suffered this much financial uncertainty. Unemployment is still high
(thankfully reducing), consumer confidence is low (but gradually getting better),
growth is slow, at best, and the future has never seemed so uncertain.
This isn't unusual, of course. Recessions happen - the market is designed to go up
and down, because business depends on human nature. Startups are human
institutions, as Eric Ries stated. Which is why when things are good we double down,
with our fingers crossed, hoping that they continue to improve. Eventually growth
slows, sometimes gradually, sometimes with a thud. Businesses are born, businesses
This is comparable to the effects of a tropical storm in a rainforest. Older, unhealthier
trees snap and fall, like the investment bank, Lehman Brothers in 2008. Sometimes
we are surprised by the collapse of the sturdy. New companies take their place, taking
advantage of the clear blue skies.
Some high growth companies are classed as `gazelles' (smaller than unicorns, but
equally viable). They move fast and go far. It's these companies, in particular, that
governments want to encourage, because they support economic ecosystems. A whole
microcosm of staff, suppliers, international trade, and tax dollars can come into
existence when a startup evolves into a gazelle, like LinkedIn, Dropbox or Snapchat.
Those are the ones politicians are banking on.
Silicon Valley and San Francisco is the model governments all over the world want to
replicate. The impact of the Facebook IPO on the southern Californian real estate
market is just one example of the economic ripple effect. Facebook Co-founders, like
Chris Hughes have gone onto invest in companies like The New Republic, and early
employees, like Sandberg, are now billionaires in their own right. For them, the
American dream has become a reality.
But what if you don't want to be CEO of The Next Big Thing, Inc? What if you don't
want to answer to Wall Street, have competitors biting at your heels, and be in charge
of an army of staff? What if, quite simply, you aren't the next Mark Zuckerberg?
Because, let's face it, people like Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates, are incredibly rare.
They represent the Ultimate American Dream.
The Capitalist Dream
Have a good idea, turn it into a company, make it big, go public, grow it even bigger,
and turn a nice fat profit for your shareholders, team, and yourself.
Those principles are the embodiment of raw capitalist ambition. This book isn't about
This book is for you, for me, and for people like Hayley Champoux.
Hayley is a 23 year old student, fashion designer and model in New York, who
emailed me about her own journey into entrepreneurship: `I am in school for Product
Development for fashion merchandising. I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to `be'
after that,' she wrote. `Somewhere along the way I met my boyfriend, who is
entrepreneurial himself; he made me realize that I don't have to follow the norm of
graduating and finding a job, and from that realization on, I have been doing as much
as possible to balance still finishing school with styling, sourcing, and dreaming of all
the things they could never teach me.'
Hayley started down this road with a realization: her own Damascus moment. It's
what happens after which counts.
Entrepreneurship may seem a daunting concept. It can sound aspirational and
unobtainable, even scary, but it isn't. Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group
(which consists of more than 400 companies), explains what it means to him:
`I think entrepreneurism is our natural state - a big adult world that probably boils
down to something much more obvious like playfulness.'
If everyone who has ever thought to themselves, `I'd love to start a business, one day,'
actually made that one day, this day today, not tomorrow, or someday imagine
the limitless potential of hundreds millions of people making an income from what
they are passionate about.
Imagine the benefits to our happiness, health and families, not just our bank
I want to give you a real understanding of what startup life is really about, in all its
sweaty, exhausted, exhilarating and fascinating glory. This is an exploration into
entrepreneurship. What follows are the chronicles of the real life of startups, through
in-depth research, and founder stories, which I hope will serve you as a gateway into
the exciting world of startups.
In order to save you taking notes, each section and chapter of this book have
compilations of resources, either for further reading or for more practical reasons, to
help further your advances into entrepreneurship.
- Google for Entrepreneurs (www.google.com/entrepreneurs/) - and for those
looking for investment, Google Ventures (www.gv.com/)
- Ben Mezrich, The Accidental Billionaires, Anchor, 2010
- TechStars (www.techstars.com/) - an elite incubator in 13 locations, backed by 75
venture capital firms, responsible for 234 companies and 1,536 jobs, founded by
- Young Entrepreneurs Council (www.yec.co/), founded by Scott Gerber, and Startup
Collective, for early-stage entrepreneurs.
- Scott Gerber, Never Get A `Real' Job, Wiley, 2010 (www.amazon.com/Never-Get-
- Reid Hoffman, The Start-Up of You, Crown Business, 2012,
(www.amazon.com/Start-up-You) New York Times, `start-up whisperer' article.
- Aileen Lee, Welcome To The Unicorn Club: Learning From Billion-Dollar Startups,
Nov 2, 2013, TechCrunch, (www.techcrunch.com/2013/11/02/welcome-to-the-
- Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
(www.amazon.com/Lean-In-Women); Lean In (www.leanin.org/) - founded by
Sandberg, a section 501(c)(3) organization designed to help women to pursue their
ambitions through community support and education.
Find Support For Your Startup
Starting a business requires bravery. If you have, or decide to start your own, expect
those around you to say `you're very brave'. They say this with the same level of
support, encouragement and grim determination that were once reserved for those
seeking their fortunes at sea or in gold fields, as brave and sometimes foolish people
once did in times past. But, let's face it, you are brave.
It takes a certain amount of courage, which is why no one should go it alone, or on a
whim, or because they think they've `had a great idea.' Ideas are worthless. You can't
pay rent with an idea. No one builds a scalable company by themselves. Everyone
who has made a company of any size does so with help.
Finding help is what this chapter is about. Not just finding those who could become
valuable key players in the development of your idea - Co-founders, mentors,
investors - but looking at the landscape of support you can access, beyond what will
become your immediate circle. This will be on a local, national and international
scale. From dedicated organizations, like accelerators and incubators, to support
governments offer at various levels.
Before we begin on all that we'll address the issue of how we get started in the first
place. Though an idea without execution is worthless, we can't execute a non-existent
idea at all. So, we need to begin with an idea.
Startups exist to solve problems spend some time identifying problems that you
can see. Don't worry if it's a big problem, or seems impossible to solve - that's the
beauty of startups: bigger problems require us to take a more fundamental approach,
which in turn makes it easier to generate support. We only live once, so make sure
your work makes a difference.
Working 80 Hours to Avoid Working 40
Life gets in the way of achieving our dreams. Education, love, family, bills, and a
hundred other reasons why we convince ourselves not to take control of our lives and
start up on our own. `Next month', we say, or `Next year', perhaps. It's a bold move to
step off the socially accepted yellow brick road and find your own way to Oz. We are
afraid of the unknown. We are hardwired to seek security and safety.
Most of us want to work to live, but we end up living to work. We permit this trade-
off because it pays for our weekends and holidays.
Most entrepreneurs also live to work, not work to live. Neil Stephenson, CEO of Onyx
Group, a British IT infrastructure, cloud computing firm, and active angel investor,
said in an interview: `When I was young and thinking about my career I knew that if I
could find a job which I was passionate about and enjoyed doing, I would never have
to work another day in my life.'
Despite that, Stephenson works hard, but towards achieving his goals, not anyone
else's. Onyx Group has over a dozen offices across the UK, more than 20,000 clients,
over 120 staff, and a turnover of around $35 million. Like the saying goes, he's a guy
who works 80 hours a week for himself in order to avoid working 40 for someone
When you love what you do, it's not a chore to get out of bed in the morning. You
don't mind the crossover between work and home, business and personal, and the
overspill into your evenings and weekends.
Over the years I've spoken to countless innovators whose passion and fire keeps them
running in the face of adversity. Hustling becomes a way of life.
One thing they all recognize, and we should remember, is that we are never alone. Far
from it. Support is everywhere. So where to find it?
Five Steps to Build a Supportive Network
2. Build a support base
5. Keep learning.
1.First Things First: Share
If you have an idea, tell people about it. It doesn't matter what it is, or whether you
think people might want to steal it. An idea in a vacuum is like a seed without
sunlight and water. Dead.
The broader your network of support is, the more likely your idea will become a
reality and you'll avoid being left with the empty regret of `if only'.
In many ways we are all very used to sharing everything in our lives whether it's
Instagram latte art, to live tweeting along to TV shows on Twitter, or sharing far too
much on Snapchat. This all changes when it comes to our hopes and dreams. It can
understandably seem a little scary.
Networks of entrepreneurs are typically supportive in nature, and support can come
in many forms. There is a reason the word `community' is often uttered in the same
sentence as the term `startup.' By sharing within these communities, we increase the
likelihood of engaging with people involved in similar work. There are always chances
to collaborate or further build on your own ventures. In some cases you may even
find a new business partner.
Perhaps you've got a great idea for a tech startup, but no technical skills. Sharing
amongst networks of entrepreneurs could lead to connecting with a developer who'll
be able to help you realize your dream. If you're ready to launch your business, but
have no marketing experience, networking could lead to finding someone with
marketing skills who'll be able to help launch your product on the market.
We need to be willing, even eager, to talk to anyone who will listen instead of
protective and secretive of our ideas. Steve Baldwin, founder of Earsoft, got his first
offer of £100,000 investment by just talking to a stranger on a train. His enthusiasm
for his new business as well as his choice to open up about it to even random
encounters meant that opportunity appeared. Enthusiasm goes a long way in this
startups. We need to make sure that our pitch stands out from the crowd - one way to
do so, as a founder or potential employee, is with true enthusiasm.
Whether you're starting a freelance career or a new app, you can't do it without
2. Build A Support Base
We now know we need to share apart from networking and chance encounters, we
should begin building a support base to help us along at every turn. This means
looking beyond your immediate circle. Find organizations that support startups. It
doesn't take long. During the last few years most countries have established these
kinds of organizations, be they national or regional. In America, Canada, Britain, and
across the world there are numerous government-supported networks in place,
designed to encourage innovation.
Governments, like fund managers, are placing a bet on the hackers, the mavericks
and outsiders - hoping one of them is a Steve Jobs who will build the next Apple in
their country. It might happen, it might not. No harm in placing the bet, right?
Governments everywhere will support this notion for some time to come.
Serial entrepreneurs (those who've launched and sold at least one company already)
are often brought onboard as mentors, offering encouragement, access to networks
and practical advice for the next generation.
Accessing this kind of assistance is often just an email or a phone call away. No
matter where you are. It is invaluable. And normally, free! (A word you will
encounter again and again in the startup community)
This naturally benefits local economies too. Cities with high levels of unemployment,
like Detroit, New Orleans, and Newark, have all experienced a surge in new
businesses. It's the side effect of economic struggle. People get creative when
necessity drives them.
Never be afraid to ask questions. Those who have `been there and done that' are in
general very generous with their time and expertise, happy to share their experiences
and offer advice and support.
Within startup communities you'll find mentors, serial entrepreneurs, journalists,
bloggers, and countless others, who will help. They are only a phone call or email
There are also countless websites and forums devoted to answering questions related
to startups, entrepreneurism and running small businesses. As always, use some
judgment when selecting advice to follow the internet is a noisy place.
Network, network, and go network some more. Katherine Hague, of ShopLocket
suggests that we, `Build your network before you need it. Go to startup events. Talk to
startup founders. Network with media.'
Networking events are available almost everywhere, so don't let your location be an
excuse to not take part10. You will be glad if you do. It can seem a little awkward at
first to walk up to anyone and begin talking, but there's no need to be afraid
everyone is in the same situation. Strike up conversations with random people. It
may not lead anywhere, but if you take an interest, and demonstrate your own
passion and enthusiasm, then people will remember you. Katherine points out
that, `Anything that gets your name remembered certainly makes that follow-up
email a whole lot easier!'
Though we're more easily contactable online, the chance to make a personal
connection is gold dust in our digital world. Emails and Tweets are easy to send and
even easier to ignore. The average startup founder receives hundreds of emails every
day. You're much more likely to be noticed in person. Talking to someone for five
minutes will open doors that would otherwise remain closed.
10An excellent place to start is with Startup Digest an email newsletter service
which will let you know about events taking place anywhere in the world.
If you can't meet in person, your next best option is to pick up the phone, arrange a
meeting by Skype, GoToMeeting, or Google Hangout. You might really benefit from
the advice of someone half way round the world. Your future mentors, supporters,
and competitors, are all thinking global, so you should too.
There are many ways to build your network locally, nationally and globally. It can all
start by sticking on your shoes, coat, and best smile, and getting yourself out there.
5. Learn and Keep Learning
Read about the sector. Focus on similar companies, look for experts, bloggers; people
who are already in the field or sector you're interested in. For everyone this is a
learning curve. Whether you have entrepreneurial battle scars or nothing but an idea,
those who succeed never stop learning.
The successful immerse themselves in the collective wisdom of a group of people who
never stop talking about what they do - people of the startup community treat their
work as a passion.
Some leading members of the community who are well worth reading include
Michael Arrington (founder of TechCrunch, and UnCrunched, a venture capital firm),
Reid Hoffman (the `startup whisperer', Chairman of the professional social network,
LinkedIn, formerly of PayPal), Paul Graham (Y Combinator, an elite startup
incubator), Dave McClure (founder of 500 Startups, another top incubator), David
Cohen (TechStars), and Eric Ries (Author of The Lean Startup). This list is by no
means exhaustive but is a great place to start11.
The amount of advice online is enormous. For any one question there are hundreds
of articles written by startup veterans. It's impossible to keep up to date with
absolutely everything. After all, you have a vision to build. The best we can do is be
selective about what and who we spend our time reading.
11A great way to keep on top of content from a list of experts like this is to use a feed
aggregator. A personal favorite is Feedly.com (www.feedly.com) which works on
Mobile devices as well as the web. You just plug in the names, select the feeds and
you'll never miss an article.
The giants of tech news are TechCrunch, Mashable, and The Next Web. For
entrepreneurship in general, check out Inc. Magazine, Forbes, and Under30CEO. But
these are just a handful of useful outlets. There are hundreds. Every niche has its own
army of journalists and bloggers covering what's going on.
It takes us a bit of time to figure out which bloggers or media outlets write about
subjects we are interested in. If, as you're consuming vast amounts of information,
you build strong opinions on a subject, you should find a way to your new found
knowledge. Blog for yourself or for other publications if you can. Get involved in
conversations on Twitter. This kind of approach will help you to learn and get you
noticed in the community, thus increasing the size of your supportive network.
Summary: Five Steps to Build a Supportive Network
- Share. The more you share, the more you will learn.
- Build a support base. Look for government support and you shall find.
- Network, network, network, and if you can, do so in person.
- Ask. There are no stupid questions.
- Learn and keep learning. Read, follow, engage, share and contribute.
Before we continue, here is a further collection of resources that you should find
- Startup America Partnership (www.s.co) - a White House initiative
- Startup Canada (www.startupcan.ca/)
- Startup Britain (www.startupbritain.co/)
- Entrepreneur Meetup Groups (www.entrepreneur.meetup.com/) - connect with
over 2 million people across 1,201 cities across 71 countries. If you can't find a group
in your city, create your own.
- Need to make low cost / free international calls? Skype (www.skype.com/),
GoToMeeting (www.gotomeeting.com/), Google Hangouts
- Michael Arrington, TechCrunch (www.techcrunch.com/) - now owned by AOL Inc.,
and the highly useful startup resource, CrunchBase (www.crunchbase.com/),
Uncrunched (www.uncrunched.com/) - his personal blog and name of the venture
capital, of which he is a Managing Partner.
- Paul Graham, Y Combinator (www.ycombinator.com/) - described as `the most
prestigious program for budding digital entrepreneurs', responsible for 630 startups
since 2005, including Dropbox, Airbnb, Songkick and Reddit.
- Dave McClure, 500 Startups (www.500.co/) - the 500 Accelerator Program is
responsible for building a community of 1000 founders, 200 mentors, and 500
companies in 40 countries.
- Eric Ries, The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous
Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Crown Business, 2011):
- Mashable (www.mashable.com/)
- Under30CEO (www.under30ceo.com/)
- The Next Web (www.thenextweb.com/)
- Inc. Magazine (www.inc.com/)
- Forbes (www.forbes.com/)
- PandoDaily (www.pando.com/) - Sarah Lacy, Editor
- Tech City News (UK) (www.techcitynews.com/)
- BetaKit (Canada) www.betakit.com/
Find A Mentor
Next on the to-do list - find a mentor. Better yet, a series of mentors. Richard
Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, says `Mentoring was very important for me
personally. If you are determined and enthusiastic then people will support you.' He
has five at any one time.
A relationship with a mentor is best compared to a relationship with an older sibling,
or relative, or a (good) school teacher, but generally not a parent. You need to pick
carefully. A mentor could be your biggest ally, especially if they are someone who has
made a successful business in a similar industry to your own venture. Obtaining a
mentor has to be a business / career goal, not just a casual networking objective.
One of Branson's mentors was Sir Freddy Laker, an early pioneer of the `no frills'
airline model, who advised Branson to `sue the bastards' in Virgin Atlantic's fight
against British Airways (BA) in the early 1990's. BA was trying to muscle the scrappy
young airline out of the sector before it could get off the ground, using a `dirty tricks'
smear campaign against them in the media. Branson sued and won. It saved Virgin.
Finding a mentor step 1: Define what you need
Clearly define exactly what you want from the outset. This will enable you to assess
the type of mentor you need and how they should be sourced. Friends can be great
mentors, if they are further down their own career path. There is a lot to be said from
learning from our peers, since chances are they have already been there, and done
However, you may need to look further afield. Lois Zachary, author of The Mentee's
Guide: Making Mentoring Work for You, suggests listing exactly what kind of advice
you are looking for. Writing these goals down will help you clarify your next steps.
Finding a mentor step 2: Reach out through your immediate network
Chances are your network of friends, colleagues, and classmates may know people
who can offer the support you need. Whether you do this through the likes of
LinkedIn, alumni networks, or personal recommendations, this is a popular and
effective way to find a mentor.
Finding a mentor step 3: Talk to strangers
Look back over your list of objectives, then read up about successful people
within your own area of interest, or within a complimentary sector (for example -
marketing and advertising is a good one, if you want to work in the media), and
shortlist prospects. For startup founders this process is good practice to select people
for a board of advisors.
A good mentor will help you avoid pitfalls and will be able to guide you towards
accelerated growth, areas of focus or ideas on how to get new business in the first
Once you have a shortlist you're ready to proceed, but with caution. Do your
homework. Make sure you've read up on them and get in touch, by email initially and
then on the phone or Skype, if they are happy to talk.
Finding a mentor step 4: Test the waters
Three things matter in a mentor/mentee relationship: trust, chemistry, and timing
(are they exactly what you need right now?) With any luck your pre-screening means
they will be suitable.
Once you've made contact you are effectively interviewing them for trust and
chemistry. This is someone whom you should be confident in talking openly about
the ins and outs of your vision, and inner workings of your business.
The flip side is, they have to be sufficiently interested in your idea, and you
personally. You are both investors in this relationship. This means the first five steps
for building a support base are even more important. After that first meeting, ask
yourself: `Is this someone I'd like to count as a friend?' If the chemistry is along those
lines, then it's likely you've found the right one.
Finding a mentor step 5: Formalize the relationship
You've found the right mentor, or group of mentors, who can advise you on different
aspects of starting a business. You're happy with the chemistry and you trust them.
Excellent. Now time to change your relationship status.
You'll be able to judge whether your new mentor/mentee relationship is working out
if your mentor has time for you. `I would say if you're having a hard time getting
fifteen minutes, that's a heads up because a lack of time, or perceived lack of time,
can upend a relationship' says Zachary, author of The Mentee's Guide. There's little
point in having a mentor you can never reach. To avoid this situation, set up a
schedule for when you will be in contact, and establish parameters, so that you agree
to achieve something by a fixed date, and they provide feedback12.
Interestingly, the Startup Genome project has found that founders `with mentors to
provide benchmarks are 7 times more likely to be successful than those who lack such
critical reference points.'
Summary: Find A Mentor
Firstly, look within your network.
Determine what you need, and if you can't find a mentor within your network, ask
your network to help connect you with someone they know who could be interested.
Talk to strangers. Test against a list of criteria, like a job description (but also, trust
fate - you never know who you might meet, if you are actively networking)
Once you've met a suitable candidate, or candidates, test the waters.
Formalize the relationship. Make sure they are right for you, and you for them. And
lastly, if they have time for you, then it's a good sign you will have a productive long
term mentoring relationship. One day, for an aspiring entrepreneur, you'll be able to
pay advice back into the startup community.
12 For example: you might have a website launch lined up for four week's time. You
could agree to speak the day after the launch.
The Geography of Innovation
Big cities, like New York, London, LA, Boston, Chicago, and countless other
metropoleis around the world are noted for being thriving hubs of innovation. But we
mustn't forget the role random chance plays in the life of entrepreneurs.
Living and working in one of these cities unquestionably increases our chances of
networking with an increased number and more diverse group of people than
elsewhere, which in turns makes it more likely to meet like-minded collaborators and
friends. But, regardless of location, we still have excellent chances with a focused
approach to networking, and finding a mentor, as covered in the previous pages.
Innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum, but nor is it dependent on a handful of
The tech media often focuses on Silicon Valley and San Francisco. However, we
should remember that innovation doesn't begin and end in Lower California - it
happens everywhere. The Startup Genome Project has mapped 85,352 startups
across 52 countries since it started, in 2011. In an equally fascinating study, the
current PandoDaily Editor in Chief, Sarah Lacy visited 12 countries across Asia,
Africa, the Middle East and Latin America during 40 weeks of travel, resulting in her
2011 book: Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from
Global Chaos. Technological advances, economic necessity and the lowest barriers to
entry that have ever existed has spurred on this worldwide surge of innovation. You
can join it, no matter where you live.
Success Beyond Silicon Valley
Of the 400 million entrepreneurs active right now, not all will be successful. A
statistically insignificant percentage will be uber successful, like Kevin Systrom of
Instagram, or David Karp of Tumblr, but all will at the very least aim to generate
revenue, create employment and innovate.
This is the bottom line of what matters. In order for that to happen, company
founders need all the support they can get. Cities like Boulder, Colorado (home of
TechStars), far from the glitz of Silicon Valley, high up in the Rocky Mountains, serve
as a great example of a nurturing ecosystem. A model which has led to the creation of
companies like SendGrid13 in 2009, a popular cloud-based email platform ($27.4
million raised, billions of emails sent), used by the likes of Pinterest, Spotify and
In developing countries where Lacy visited the work of Non Profit Organizations
(NPO's), such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Kauffman Foundation, and
Endeavor Global exist because natural ecosystems aren't as strong as they could be.
Even Mark Zuckerberg no longer believes in the necessity of being based in Silicon
Valley. In an interview with Y Combinator Partner Jessica Livingston, he said: `If I
were starting now I would do things very differently. I didn't know anything. In
Silicon Valley, you get this feeling that you have to be out here. But it's not the only
place to be. If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston. Silicon Valley is a
little short-term focused and that bothers me.'
Continuing the theme, in a conversation with Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, he noted that
the average time someone stays in job at Seattle is twice as long as in Silicon Valley:
`There's a culture out here where people don't commit to doing things, I feel like a lot
of companies built outside of Silicon Valley seem to be focused on a longer-term ...
You don't have to move out here to do this.'
One caveat to remember - mentoring and support doesn't necessarily guarantee
success, but it does make a big difference. Ideally, find someone who challenges you.
This could mean the difference between an exhausting but hopeless venture, and a
startup success story and a Vanity Fair cover article, like Instagram.15
13Find out more about SendGrid here: http://sendgrid.com/
14Uber is a peer-to-peer (P2P) ride-sharing and taxi company, founded in 2009,
based in San Francisco, with over 50 locations worldwide. They have $307 million in
funding and is currently worth $3.4 billion. Find out more here:
15Well worth a read: http://www.vanityfair.com/business/2013/06/kara-swisher-
Summary: The Geography of Innovation
Startup success doesn't depend on living Silicon Valley or San Francisco. It can't be
denied that there are some fantastic companies that emerge from that region, but it is
far from being the only entrepreneurial center in the world.
Cultivate a network of supporters, advocates, friends and fans - whether you want a
job in a startup, or to raise $10m. The stronger and deeper your network, the more
likely you will succeed.
Mentors are essential. They can teach, challenge and guide you.
Solve The Big Problems
Box is a cloud storage platform with more than 15 million users, currently worth over
$2 billion, with $409 million in funding. One key factor contributing to its huge
success is their focus on solving a big problem: providing businesses with a storage
and enterprise solution which gives them greater control and more services than
consumer products like Dropbox and Google Drive. With Box, enterprise customers
can run their operations from the cloud, thereby improving the cost-effectiveness of
everything from accounting to customer acquisition.
Real value, for solo-entrepreneurs, is doing what you love and getting paid for it. Real
value for startup founders is solving a big problem and building a sustainable
business around the solution. It might not be a problem you personally experience,
but it should be a problem a group or niche sector of people experience, which
currently has no solution. Using lean principles (in which you test a solution against
the actual needs of your customers) is the best way to take an idea forward.
To take those first steps you need a supportive network around you, which means
stepping outside your comfort zone, taking a few risks, meeting new people, telling
them about your idea, and playing a part in a global community of innovators.
Herb Kim understands the value of networks and ecosystems. Born to South Korean
parents in Brooklyn, NY, Herb looks like he should be an economics professor in an
Ivy League East Coast University, but he now walks the road of the entrepreneur. He
founded the Thinking Digital Conference one of the biggest tech conferences in
Europe, described as `The UK's Answer to TED'.
Thinking Digital Conference
Herb moved to the UK in 1997, following 15 years in management roles at blue chip
corporates in the US. He has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and a
His contribution to the British startup community has earned him a place in the 2011
Wired Magazine's top 100 list. He is responsible for Thinking Digital, and one of the
most sought after TEDx speakers in the country.
The 2013 Thinking Digital Conference attracted speakers from around the world,
including Jack Andraka (a 16 year old who has found a new test for pancreatic cancer
which is 168 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive and almost 100% accurate,
compared to current methods), Eddie Obeng (a futurist disrupting the world of
work), Dr. Rachel Armstrong (pioneer of the Inpossible movement and Project
Leader for Persephone - a crewed interstellar craft which will be assembled in Earth's
orbit), as-well as executives from Facebook, BBC, Google and other more down to
earth, but equally inspiring professions.
Hundreds of conference goers attended joined by thousands more online. Knowledge
was shared, connections were made, everyone involved benefited in some way from
the efforts of Herb Kim and his team. One year's work, a three-day conference, a
difference made in the lives of those who took part.
I spoke with Herb for a while about his background and the build-up to his idea to
launch Thinking Digital, back in 2002, when he worked for Codeworks, a government
supported organization designed to support innovation in the North East of
`I always had the feeling I wanted to do something big. A small team of us within
Codeworks talked about doing some kind of conference, kind of like TED,' (which at
the time hadn't launched TEDx). `Seeing one for the first time was a transformative
experience for me.'
It was this experience that launched Herb into unfamiliar territory: founder of a
startup team within a larger organization. This kind of background is not unusual for
entrepreneurs. Many launch businesses whilst working another job, or can spin a
business out of their existing roles in the corporate world. Like all closet innovators,
Herb wanted more.
`We had a lot to organize, from sponsors to speakers, booking a venue, selling tickets,
ensuring all our costs were covered, promoting it to ensure we did sell enough tickets,
all whilst juggling our other responsibilities.'
`The first Thinking Digital was held in May 2007 at The Sage Gateshead,' an
impressive and beautiful music venue overlooking the Newcastle Quayside district.16
`Since then we have had all kinds of great speakers from all the big names, including
Google, Microsoft, the BBC, New York Times, and numerous serial entrepreneurs
Thinking Digital is now a private company, wholly owned and funded by Herb Kim.
`In one respect I don't have the same challenges startup founders face. I don't have to
worry about investors. Although, we did have to sell our house to buy Thinking
Digital off Codeworks.'
This is not unlike the risks other entrepreneurs take, including what is known as the
opportunity-cost risk involved with someone leaving a job in order to work for a
startup. Thinking Digital has been running successfully for six years.
Startups and Politics: A Talk With Herb Kim of Thinking Digital
I was curious to discover Kim's take on how well he thought the UK is doing,
compared to the US, given his perspective on the British startup scene as an
American from New York. America has the pre-eminent and first startup ecosystem
in the form of Silicon Valley, and yet as a nation it is not resting on its laurels. Every
state and major metropolitan region has its own Valley in a microcosm. Can the UK
and Europe ever hope to catch up?
Kim credits `David Cameron and George Osborne,' for their backing of TechCity UK
and the Tech City Investment Organization (TCIO), which have had a positive impact
on the blossoming London startup scene. Both organizations are supported by a
government agency, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).
What more can be done?
16The venue is sponsored by Sage PLC, another impressive startup success; an
accountancy software company, which began its life as a startup in 1981. Sage is now
traded on the FTSE with offices worldwide and millions of customers.
`What entrepreneurs really need, even more so than investment, is support...
emotional and verbal encouragement. Just knowing the state has their back gives
them a sense of confidence.'
I completely agreed with his point but Europe is still a long way behind creating the
next tech giant, like a Facebook or Google, which is what every country wants. I asked
him to recommend a course of action Europe could take to close the gap on the US.
`They could support communities better,' he began, in reference to Newcastle,
England, on which the BBC made a short film about in 2013.17 `It's not like they need
to organize local startup communities. In most there are people like Paul Smith [Co-
founder of ignite100] who contribute so much because they care, and they want to -
the government just has to give these people the tools to do more. Visa's for
entrepreneurs and developers', he continued, echoing a familiar lament of founders
`Since one of the biggest challenges for startups everywhere, all across Europe, is a
lack of relevant technical skills. If you can't find them then you don't have a product,
if you don't have product then you don't have a business - it's that simple.'
We talked about the difference in investment culture, another common theme
amongst founders. Investors are more cautious and conservative in the UK, most
require access to cash-flow forecasts and revenue models before even considering a
meeting. Most seed/A rounds for post-accelerator startups don't exceed £300,000.
That's back of the sofa change in America and Canada. ShopLocket, for example,
raised $1 million just three months after graduating Extreme Startups in Toronto,
Ontario. In the UK a seed round of that size is almost unheard of.
`It's true, investors are more cautious here, but there isn't the same kind of investor
ecosystem, either. The government, through organizations like UKTI or TCIO, could
encourage more investment from abroad.' One of the most notable external
investments in a London startup was the $10 million from Sequoia Capital (a
prestigious Silicon Valley VC firm) in Songkick.18
17You can see the short film here, produced by Franz Strasser, from the Washington
DC bureau: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21329832
18 Songkick, founded in 2007 by Ian Hogarth, Pete Smith, and Michelle You, who
wanted an easy way to track their favorite bands and live concerts. Songkick is a Y
I asked him to suggest the most important thing government can do for
`At the end of the day, they really don't have to do a lot. Frankly, the best thing
government can do is just get out the way.'
Conclusion: Never Alone - How To Find Support For Your Startup
You are never alone as an entrepreneur. It might be one of the hardest things you'll
do, it is comparable to an MBA, without the job security, but it is easier just by the
fact that you are part of a community of people facing similar challenges to yourself.
You don't have to be the outsider, the hacker or the maverick; you can be inside
another organization, like Herb Kim was in Codeworks, with the desire to go it alone
and do your own thing.
European entrepreneurs face greater challenges, like less access to funding or
technical skills. But governments are stepping in and trying to make things better.
Solving bigger problems, and facing bigger challenges increases your chances of
finding better supporters, mentors and easier access to funding.
Investment is a key validator, and often very necessary in order to get an early
venture off the ground, but the best validation is and always will be, customers.
In the next chapter we look at how you raise funding in order to get your early stage
startup off the ground.
Combinator graduate, now with $16.6 million funding. Find out more here:
The following are useful resources and ways to engage in further reading, from the
previous few sections.
- Lois Zachary, The Mentee's Guide: Making Mentoring Work for You, Jossey-Bass,
- Startup Genome (www.startupgenome.co/), creators of Compass
(www.compass.co/), a benchmarking tool. For more information and reports from
the Startup Genome team, check out their blog.
- A great read about Instagram from Vanity Fair, a billion-plus dollar success
mentioned earlier in the book. Plus Nick Bilton's book, Hatching Twitter
(www.amazon.com/Hatching-Twitter), which is definitely worth reading (Portfolio
Hardcover, 2013). Like Lacy's, The Facebook Story, both pull the drama and intrigue
of startups to the forefront, but both carry useful lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs.
- Thinking Digital Conference (www.thinkingdigital.co.uk/) (highlights from previous
- The most popular conferences in the world for those in the tech sector include the
International CES showcase in Las Vegas in January (www.cesweb.org/), South by
Southwest (SXSW) held in Austin (www.sxsw.com/), Texas every March, and Web
Summit, held every year in October, in Dublin, Ireland (www.websummit.net/).
Funding The Dream
Finding and Securing Investment
Whether you're the founder of a startup, or working for one, investors are always
going to have a place on your mental radar. Maybe you've already received
investment, maybe you want it, maybe you've never taken money and have
bootstrapped (funded your growth out of revenue or savings). Either way, through
their presence or lack thereof, get used to the fact that if you have a successful
business, you will attract investors.
This applies less so for lifestyle entrepreneurs, but with a good product and paying
customers, don't rule it out. Startups can sometimes be defined by their investment.
The amount raised doesn't ensure success, it just means you've raised a lot of money,
and therefore the expectations on you are higher.
On 24th March, 2011, an app called Color, created by Bill Nguyen and Peter Pham,
raised $41 million before they had any customers or idea how to generate revenue.
They were both experienced, battle-hardened serial entrepreneurs, with several
multi-million dollar exits under their belts. Less than two years later, after they
attempted to pivot19 at least twice, both Co-founders left, one was the defendant in a
law suit, and Apple quietly bought what was left of their former team and intellectual
property. TechCrunch described Color as `the poster child of Silicon Valley hype.'
Funding isn't everything. The only upside to this cautionary tale is that most of the
original amount was returned to investors. That doesn't always happen in these
All investment carries an inherent and understood level of risk. Startups are generally
considered a more risky investment than other more traditional options.
19A term often used within the startup industry to describe when a company alters
their target market or re-defines exactly what it is they are doing/providing.
US legislation known as the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act), signed
by President Obama on April 5, 2012, has made it possible for anyone to invest in
startups. This has lead to a new phenomenon called crowd-funding.
The importance of the JOBS Act, in particular Title II (which passed into law on
September 23, 2013) means that startups can solicit for funding in exchange for
equity. Previously, crowd-funding was similar to receiving donations. Now those who
put money in can expect, or at the very least hope, to get more money back.
CofoundersLab (a match.com type platform for entrepreneurs) was the first to raise
funding this way, securing $680,000 through RockThePost, an equity based
Prior to the JOBS Act crowd-funding was largely only undertaken by artists, game
and movie developers, and other creative professionals (largely solo-entrepreneurs,
not startups). There are many popular platforms, the largest of which is Kickstarter.
In 2013 Kickstarter enabled over 3 million people to pledge $480m to fund 19,911
projects. This has funded everything from 20 feature films at the 2014 Sundance Film
Festival, an opera at the Kennedy Center, to the launch of GoldieBlox, a construction
toy and book series designed to encourage young girls to become engineers.
Angels, Friend-tors and Playlists: Playlists.net
Investments in tech startups can return massive pay-outs, if the company is bought
(like Tumblr) or floats shares, like Facebook in 2012, or Twitter in 2013. Angel
investors (high net worth individuals - people with either $200,000 income or over
$1m net worth) typically spread their investments in order to minimize the risk in a
fast-paced, volatile or uncertain environment.
The relationship between Angel Investor and startup is an unusual one, and one
where a great deal of trust comes into play. These companies need working capital,
but they're also early stage, possibly inexperienced, definitely risky, and need to
manage growth carefully. Sarah Lacy, author of The Facebook Story, christened
these investors `friend-tors' - a blend of friends and mentors. Facebook, LinkedIn,
Twitter - none of this would exist without wealthy `friend-tors' who survived and
prospered from the likes of eBay, PayPal and Google. The first generation of internet
billionaires has produced the next.
Investments between `friend-tors' and aspiring entrepreneurs happen all the time,
and often very quickly. Compared to the slower pace of venture capital investment.
The launch of the most popular app on Spotify, Playlists.net (formerly
ShareMyPlaylist) happened in this way.
In a plush velvet booth of a Las Vegas casino a group of five men were toasting their
successes. A couple of weeks earlier a deal had been concluded when Buy.at (an
affiliate marketing network) was sold to AOL, giving four of the men a comfortable
exit, and Kieron Donoghue, the chance to start afresh.
Kieron is known as the `Godfather of Affiliate Marketing' - a marketing technique in
which marketers sell products direct through adverts on websites, usually blogs, and
the websites owner receive a small percentage of the sale price in return. Kieron
started in the Wild West days, pre-dotcom bubble era, just trying to make some
money from the internet. At the same time he was holding down a day job as a
regional sales manager for a consumer goods company. It wasn't easy.
`I was working fifteen, sixteen hours a day. Sometimes longer, so it didn't exactly give
me much time for a social life' a familiar lament from anyone who's tried to start a
business. `The longer I stayed in the affiliate marketing game, the harder it got. I was
able to quit my job, which was great. But the market got tougher.'
In the end he was spending £750,000 (about $1.24 million) a month on Google
advertising just to make a profit. `I should have got out sooner... That was where I
went wrong.' He really didn't want to give up, unless it was to do something better.
Thankfully, he was thrown a lifeline in the form of an offer from his main competitor,
Buy.at, who made an offer to buy him out. He took it. Shortly after, AOL bought
them, for an undisclosed amount (rumored to be in the region of $150 million).
He thought back to that night in Vegas when his life took another interesting turn.
`You're looking thoughtful all of a sudden, mate' Mike said, looking across the Vegas
booth at Kieron.
`Hmm, yeah. Been thinking about this app of mine.'
`Go on then, tell us about it.' They knew that if Kieron had an idea it was worth
So he laid it out for them, between Manhattans and inside jokes.
`You like it, then?' Kieron asked, his best poker face hiding his inner excitement.
`You bet we do' Peter chipped in, his eyes lighting up, despite the jet-lag.
Kieron looked around, noticing the high ceilings, the sounds of thousands of
machines churning through the hard earned money of all the casino visitors. Vegas -
a city built on a dream. On fate, luck, and the sweat of every schmuck who had tried
and failed to beat the house. And on those rare few big winners. One more roll of the
`Go on, then.'
`Go on, what?' Mike asked.
`Put your money where your mouth is,' Kieron said, a grin spreading across his face.
Six months later ShareMyPlaylist (now Playlists.net), was pulling in new users every
day from Spotify - a music streaming service with over 24 million users, of which 6
million pay a monthly subscription. As Spotify grew, so did Playlists.net. Now it has
over 2 million unique visitors per month, and is still growing, making it one of the
most popular apps on Spotify. He later went onto raise £400,000 more (about
$660,000), in order to accelerate growth.
Kieron certainly wouldn't have progressed so quickly without the support of his
`friend-tors' - the value of the friends, family and an angel network helps many
successful companies get off the ground.
Raising Venture Capital: ShopLocket
Katherine Hague is another entrepreneur, like Kieron, who benefitted from `friend-
tor' investment and support. While she was a student at the Schulich School of
Business in Ontario, Canada, Katherine started doing consulting work to put her
lessons from school to the test. In order to market her work she had some t-shirts
`I wanted to sell them online, but considering I didn't know if I could sell even one t-
shirt, I couldn't commit to the $29 monthly fee to set up an online store.' This didn't
put her off. She looked around for a solution, and upon realizing there wasn't one, `I
knew I had found a problem worth solving.' In November 2011 a `friend-tor' investor,
Heather Payne, Founder of the non-profit, Ladies Learning Code, gave Katherine the
seed money to get her idea off the ground.20
Her idea became a company - ShopLocket - which successfully graduated from
Extreme Startups, a Toronto-based incubator. In the early days it was a friend who
helped her with some seed funding, then the investment after graduating ensured
she had enough to get off the ground. Positive publicity and aggressive marketing got
Katherine her initial customers.
Unlike other e-commerce sites, ShopLocket makes use of what people already have:
`the average person has their own distribution channels through their social media
networks. It's not a big leap to now start leveraging those channels to sell online.'
Customers began to sign up from across America, Canada and further afield, even
Japan. As a result, articles appeared in TechCrunch and other tech blogs. This
brought ShopLocket to the attention of serious veteran investors, like Peter Thiel.
Before we continue, it's worth pointing out that who you get investment from matters
to a certain extent - it can help in some situations. But money is still money. The
biggest validator of any startup idea, is paying customers. The reason Katherine was
able to get the attention of such a heavyweight investor is she had what many
startups don't so early on: paying customers.
Peter Thiel, Co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, made his money when eBay
bought PayPal in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Thiel and his fellow investors, including Reid
Hoffman (LinkedIn), Elon Musk (Tesla Motors, SpaceX), Dave McClure (500
Startups), Max Levchin (Yelp, Slide), amongst others, are credited with the renewal
of Silicon Valley following the dot-com bust. Some of them work for the most
respected venture capital firms in the world, including Clarium Capital, Founders
Fund, Greylock Partners and Sequoia Capital. They have helped launch prominent
brands, like YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, reddit, Yammer, and many more. This is why
they're known as the `PayPal mafia.'
20Ladies Learning Code is a Toronto-based non-profit organization that runs
workshops for women (and men, and girls and boys) who want to learn beginner-
friendly computer programming. Find out more here:
Katherine and her small team never expected to raise investment so soon, `But once
we knew they were interested, we decided now was the time to do it so we could move
faster. So at that point we started driving the process forward with the goal of getting
something closed as soon as possible'. Just three months after leaving Extreme
Startups they had raised an additional $1 million. Aged just 21, Katherine's idea was
rapidly transforming into something bigger than she could ever have imagined.
Early in 2014, less than two years after that investment, Katherine returned the
money and made her investors very happy. ShopLocket was purchased by PCH
International, for an undisclosed amount.
First rule of investor relations: Have Patience
Have patience. When it comes to investors, you're going to need it. Most investment
requires a lot of meetings, a lot of waiting, and stomach churning amounts of
uncertainty. For most, waiting is just a fact of life, particularly when money could
change hands. Most founders will tell you that it is easier to get paying customers
than investors, which is why, whenever possible, you should always go after them
first. A result of that is investors become easier to get.
Raising funds can take months. Even after a formal, `Yes, we will invest in you' - the
legalities involved in securing investment greatly slow down the normal fast pace of
startup life. The less revenue you have, the harder it is, generally, to raise money for
first time founders. If you are already somewhat involved in startups then you'll be
reading, probably on a daily basis, about equally young companies raising tens of
millions of dollars. Don't stress it. Not everyone needs tens of millions, and neither
does it ensure success. Color raised $41 million. It didn't help them.
The ignite100 accelerator, located in Newcastle, England, is backed by local venture
capital firms, Northstar Ventures, IP Group, and a consortium of angels. They have
launched three cohorts so far21. The 2012 teams officially graduated early December.
21A cohort can also be referred to as a `class'. Accelerators take groups of startups
through their intense program together, meaning they all `graduate' together, too. A
cohort launch is the completion of the program by the group of startups, which
After the seasonal break it was a further seven weeks before funds hit the teams'
accounts. Many people moved from across the UK, Europe, and one team even
travelled from Seattle to live in Newcastle. While they waited, everyone did their best
to get by on limited finances, some on student loans and credit cards.
I remember how it felt to be in the room when the money arrived. The lawyers, of
course, wanted one final round of phone calls with each of the teams.
The teams waited. The tension grew. People paced the floor.
Founders kept hitting the refresh button on their online bank accounts. Surely it
would be there, soon?
There was a loud cheer from one of the teams, then another, then another.
The funding had arrived, at last!
Within the hour, all the teams who had secured investment were staring at printouts
of their accounts, conversation was buzzing and the tensions of the past few months,
and years, for some, melted out of the room.
`I've never seen so many zeros in a bank account before,' one first time founder
remarked. We were all thinking it.
For most around the city, it was just another Wednesday afternoon. For some people
in the room this was the realization of a journey that had taken years. `Now the real
work begins', commented ignite100 Co-founder, Paul Smith.
The next day everyone was back in the office, working hard, albeit with a few
hangovers, and discovering a whole new world of expectations that's attached to
Those startup teams had now shared two fairly fundamental career changing
experiences: applying for, going through, and graduating from an incubator, and
usually results in most securing follow-on funding. In most cases it isn't guaranteed
because they still have to meet certain standards the venture capitalists will require.
For most venture-backed startups, those are two significant milestones on the
journey that starts with an idea and ends, hopefully, in a successful exit. Not all make
it to that glorious finish line, but those who don't can at least learn a lot from the
However, for those who take this route, like the people in that attic room of the ignite
offices, with its dark wood beams, ping pong table, small kitchen crowded with
people making teas and coffee, they know they follow in the well-trodden footsteps of
some the world's biggest names.
Dream Bigger: Babelverse
In October 2012, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg was doing a Q&A with Paul
Graham at his Y Combinator Startup School about creating things customers love. He
was talking about products we all take for granted, like photo-sharing and the news
feed. The `move fast and break things' philosophy at Facebook refers in part to their
mission to `make the world more open and connected.' What it also refers to is the
idea that it is better to try out ideas with real customers, than in a focus group or
Lean methodology requires testing of ideas with real people. Only through this
process can companies understand what to develop and what not to bother with. It's
what all startups should be doing.
Whilst speaking, Zuckerberg talked about how Facebook was only supposed to be a
bit of fun, a distraction. Once it got some traction he realized it might be worth
pursuing. Underpinning it was a serious desire, to bring humanity together. This `Do
something fundamental' ideal was why it has transformed into the company it is
today, worth more than $100 billion dollars.
He went onto explain that, `A lot of companies I see are operating on small problems,
and that's fine ... but the most interesting things operate on a fundamental level.'
Babelverse aims `to do to language barriers what the airplane did to geographical
barriers.' The mission of Josef Dunne and Mayel de Borniol, founders of Babelverse,
is equally fundamental. Technological advances have supported the natural human
urge to meet, connect, and interact. Breaking down language barriers would bring us
all another step closer together.
Babelverse wants to make it easy for anyone, anywhere, to access an interpreter. They
are creating the first application for real-time voice translation, powered by human
interpreters. After a chance meeting in 2010 they set out to try and solve the problem
of how people communicate with one another.
They first got a chance to test their idea in a high profile real-world situation: the
March 2011 tsunami in Japan. This tsunami resulted in the Fukushima nuclear
`When we saw what was happening on the news we knew we had to do something,'
Josef told me. `With the early version of the service, and what users we had back
then, and some help from our friends at VoIP provider Tropo who gave us local
Japanese phone number as well as the NGO Translators Without Borders, we could.'
`So we set up (during an all night coding marathon) a dedicated and completely free
service, meant to ensure aid teams, NGOs, the media and locals in the disaster area
could talk to one another.'
`With it, anyone fluent in English and Japanese could very easily make themselves
available, so that anyone in Japan needing interpretation could call a single local
number or Skype account to automatically be connected to one of the available
`The response was amazing! In the first 48 hours more than 100 people volunteered
their time.' Which worked out as about 4 hours each, totaling more than 16 days of
The following year, on Tuesday 24th January 2012, US President Obama gave his
State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. This was Obama's final
State of the Union of his first term in office, which meant expectations were higher
Amongst the tech community, those who'd noticed the press coverage, regarding the
State of the Union, were also watching Babelverse. Expectations were equally high.
Babelverse ensured they had enough translators to ensure people everywhere could
listen to the Presidents speech in hundreds of languages and dialects. It worked, with
1000 people listening via Babelverse, from 80 countries, demonstrating the practical
application of human-powered translation.
I caught up with them in London, the day before they flew to Washington DC, to
participate in the InterpretAmerica Summit in June 2013. This was their chance to
speak with the leading figures in the industry they are trying to disrupt. They
currently have about 6000 members, 1020 language combinations and 170 unique
languages. They are continuing to try and build this community.
I was keen to understand more about how it works.
`We liked the fact that you really `got' us,' Josef said as he sat down, on a picnic table
outside a pub on a damp, dreary, London grey spring day, `in the blog you wrote,' he
`Yeah, some have written about us as if we are just another machine translation
service,` Mayel, his Co-founder, chipped in. `Which we aren't.'
`Building a community' might sound grandiose, but in practical terms, how else can
human translation happen? With the 6,975 languages, hundreds of thousands of
dialects and regional variations, the best way for people to talk with other people who
don't speak the same language is through interpretation. Real time, person-to-person
translation, as required according to the situation, at any time of the day or night.
Dreaming of this solution is one thing. Building it, that's something else.
Which is why it has been a slow process. Earlier in their journey they turned down
`It just wasn't right for us at the time. It would have been nice, but we didn't want to
raise money until we had figured everything out,' Josef said.
That's one of the things first time founders should always factor in. Especially if, like
Babelverse, you are `building something fundamental', you shouldn't race to raise
funds. Your idea will have more value if you wait. Investors will be more eager to
invest if they can see results of work already done. This will mean that you'll be able
to demand more money for less equity.
This is the position Josef and Mayel are in. Given the crucial component of their
service is people, building a community is fundamental to how Babelverse works.
`Interpreters dedicate a fixed amount of time, at hours they set, and they get paid
according to their skill level, language proficiency and number of languages', explains
This works well for those using the service, because they know exactly what they are
paying for. Their service is still in private beta, so they can adequately plan ahead for
Babelverse is currently looking to raise funding, in the region of $500,000 on
AngelList in order to grow their community faster.
Making The Future Sound Better: Earsoft
Steve Baldwin is also trying to solve a big problem: improving the quality of sound. In
other words, he wants our future to sound better, today.
Steve is the founder of Earsoft. You won't have heard of them (they don't do any
marketing at present), but as the BBC and British newspaper, The Observer have
both noted, they are one to watch. Earsoft wants to revolutionize sound. `The future
sounds better' is our tagline' Steve said, as he started his ignite100 demo day pitch.22
His pitch is backed up by a live demonstration using a clip from Will Smith's movie, I
Am Legend. The sound quality was poor, helicopter rotor blades were too loud, the
beeping of a watch alarm was too quiet. Then he switched on `Voluma', their first
product, and everything changed. The sound levels balanced out, the alarm sounded
like it would stand a chance of really waking someone up, the helicopter blades were
no longer obtrusively loud. The audience was captivated as the peaks and troughs of
the audio quality were balanced and harmonized for clear listening.
Imagine the possibilities for movies, TV, radio, music streaming, phones, and VoIP
like Skype - the applications are limitless.
I asked him how it all started.
`The original concept for this was something I came up with in my first year at
University. I was sick of background music either being too loud, therefore obtrusive,
or too quiet, and I found the same when I was watching movies on my laptop.'
22A demo day is when startups graduating from an incubator get the first chance to
pitch themselves to prospective investors, the media and the public.
Steve studied Physics at Bath University, in Somerset, England. It started as a dorm
room idea, knocked together by his Co-founders, Mark Willcox (a developer) and Dan
Halliday (a graphic designer). Six years later it's a business, backed by some investors
eager to see it succeed.
At University Steve met Charles Branch, someone who had developed a way to
combine the earliest version of Earsoft (which was already at `minimum viable
product' - MVP - stage) with hardware. Steve now had something to sell.
`I was on a train one day', Steve said, `just talking to a fellow passenger about what I
was doing.' Steve can talk with such passion that people are quickly infected with his
enthusiasm. `And this guy, who I'd been talking to for all of twenty minutes said, "I'll
invest. I would be happy to back you with £100,000."'
Pretty impressive! Better still, the guy, Head of Digital for one of the largest
marketing agencies in London, clearly had the cash.
`So when I got off the train, I called [my Co-founder] Charles. I was floored by his
response. He quit. He was doing a PhD at the time and just couldn't handle the added
He was back to square one. Without Charles he couldn't accept the offer of
investment, and wasn't able to continue. Startup life is not for everyone. Some
compare it to the equivalent of an MBA, with none of the career security. But a lot
more fun. Several of those interviewed for this discouraged the need for a formal
business education. The hands on approach has worked well for the likes of Sir
Richard Branson, Sir Alan Sugar (the UK Apprentice) and Mark Cuban (billionaire
investor, Shark Tank).
After a six month placement working on sound-related technical issues for fighter
pilots he had come full circle. Instead of combining hardware and software he
decided to focus on software, `which was the idea I developed into a product back in
first year.' Sometimes that happens. Opportunities come along which divert your
path, but the extra miles on your journey often help.
Bath University supported the new Earsoft team with one year's free membership to
a business incubator. Steve lived off his savings and what was left of his student
loans. The University could only help so much, so the hunt for serious investment
Steve landed meetings with potential investors on a regular basis. `The problem was,
they all wanted to see revenue models and cash-flow projections. It was hard for me
to place a price on revolutionizing sound, and in some ways it still is. We live in a
world of sound. How do you put a price on making it better?'
`Then I was told about ignite100.'
Accelerators like ignite100 are one of those essential hubs in the worldwide startup
community. In 2012 there were 140 applicants, competing for 10 places on the seed
funded (£5000 per founder), 13-week program. For Steve it was a chance to finally
launch Earsoft and his vision for the future of sound.
Having completed the program, follow-on investment was never in doubt for Earsoft.
When the funds finally hit the bank account Steve was in shock: `Two years - I've
been waiting two years for this.'
The main lesson from the Earsoft example is the importance of sticking to the
fundamentals: `Loudness is the main problem in sound, which is fixable.' The second
most important lesson is persistence. Steve spent the next couple years talking to
investors, who no matter how enthusiastic they seemed, just didn't get it.
Investment isn't just about securing working capital. Investors can be your biggest
supporters, or your biggest headache. Investors who don't properly understand your
vision or space you are working in, will make it harder for you to overcome
Steve is currently in talks with some of the world's biggest brands, finding ways to
include his solutions in their audio experiences, which means the future could soon
be sounding a lot better.
Conclusion: Funding The Dream
`Get rich quick', either by founding a startup or working for one, doesn't work. Aim to
solve a big problem, a problem you are having yourself, or simply work on something
you are passionate about.
If you can't bootstrap, then you need investment. Best way to start is via friends and
family (if possible), then crowd or angel funding. Then venture capital, is the usual
next step, if you are trying to build something to scale.
In order to scale you need a company worth investing in. You should be able to point
to a few key metrics: 1.) the size of the market; 2.) the work / investment needed to
get certain key growth outputs (e.g. $500 advertising = 2 customers worth $2000 per
year); 3.) the size of similar companies to yours which have been sold, and value of
Do your homework on your investors. Know that they are right for you.
The more of your idea you can prove, the more funding you are likely to secure, the
more control you will have of your company. Something Sean Parker learned the
hard way; a lesson he passed onto Mark Zuckerberg, which is why Zuckerberg is the
largest shareholder in Facebook.
- JOBS Act: White House remarks (www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-
office/2012/04/05/remarks-president-jobs-act-bill-signing), information from the US
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and an assessment from Forbes
(www.forbes.com/sites/jjcolao/2012/03/21/jobs-act/) and TechCrunch
The following are the most popular crowdfunding websites (this list isn't exhaustive):
- Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com/), Indiegogo (www.indiegogo.com/) - both
contributory / donation and pre-order, not equity, based platforms.
- AngelList (www.angel.co/), Crowdfunder (UK) (www.crowdfunder.co.uk/),
Rockethub (www.rockethub.com/), Crowdrise (www.crowdrise.com/) - great for
social enterprises and charities, Invested.in (www.invested.in/), RockThePost
(www.rockthepost.com/), Crowdcube (UK) (www.crowdcube.com/) and Seedrs (UK
& Europe) (www.seedrs.com/) - are some of the 400 tools you can use to raise
funding for your startup without an investor.
- The Global Accelerator Network (www.gan.co/), which ignite100
(www.ignite100.com/), TechStars (www.techstars.com/) and 48 others are a part,
helps set the international standard for accelerators (and between the 50 they are
responsible for $548 million investment and 3,125 jobs).
- Another great way to discover programs and events for startups (there are currently
4,044 listed worldwide) is the F6S website (www.f6s.com/). Also a useful source for
deals and offers.
Learn more about the companies in this section:
- ShopLocket (www.shoplocket.com/)
- Babelverse (www.babelverse.com/)
- Earsoft (www.web.earsoft.co.uk/)
- Playlists.net (www.playlists.net/)
A Question Of Scale
Grow Your Young Venture
Founding a startup involves several stages. It begins with an idea, which needs to be
tested. The tricky part here is asking the right questions of your idea. You need `beta'
users, even a few real customers, if at all possible, because that's the only way to
properly test an idea.23 Hopefully your tests prove that your idea has legs and the next
step is to raise funding - if it's needed. With these pieces of the puzzle together, the
most important aim of every startup is to scale (a term used frequently in the startup
industry). Scaling is the method by which a startup grows. It is increasing your
capacity to deliver your service to customers, while increasing the number of
customers you have, usually through marketing and sales.
Scaling in many ways never ends, whether or not you've received angel investment,
or, like The Beans Group in the UK, scale on revenue alone. Neither does it end when
you secure that final round of funding after 3 years of operation, or sell the company
to a tech giant like Yahoo, Microsoft or Google. Growth is a constant.
Early stage and latter stage (pre-exit) growth are completely different animals. Latter
stage growth affects only a handful of companies and founders - so in this chapter
we'll focus on early stage growth, which all startups experience. This is the most
critical phase of a startup's lifecycle. Grow too slow - you die, grow too fast - you die.24
23Beta is a phrase often used in startup circles. These are the people who want to test
out new products or services first. Without such people, also known as `early
adopters', it would be very difficult for any startup idea to get off the ground. Geoffrey
A. Moore's Crossing The Chasm is all about how technology companies move from
having only beta users to a wide, strong, profitable customer base.
24The Startup Genome Project did a study about why startups die. Based on data
from 3200 startups, the result was: "74% of high growth internet startups fail due to
premature scaling." It was the number one cause of death. The report can be found
When scaling we must be able to chart a path which plays to our personal strengths,
whilst supporting the company's continual development.
There are certain unique challenges inherent during this stage of growth. As Paul
Graham of Y Combinator says: `startups take off because the founders make them
take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually it takes
some sort of push to get them going.'
Graham knows a lot about growth. With only 306 of the 511 Y Combinator companies
that have successfully completed the accelerator program, their combined value is
$13.7 billion. This is an increase of $2 billion during the last two quarters of 2013.
Here five of the most common challenges faced by startups in early stage growth, and
how to handle them:
The `build it and they will come' mentality doesn't really work. Not if you want paying
Wishing for PR, a glowing review by a prominent tech blogger, a Tweet from Ashton
Kutcher? You will be wishing for a long time. `You can't wait for users to come to you.
You have to go out and get them' Graham stresses.
The more aggressively you pursue customer acquisition (the fancy way of saying
winning new business/users) the more likely your success will be. This doesn't mean
trying everything or blowing thousands on Google AdWords. It does mean trying
various methods - content, PR, social media, video, advertising, or any number of
tools and tactics available to you (which we'll discuss in more detail later) - and then
doubling down on what works.
To begin with all customer acquisition is `pull' work - pulling in new customers. The
founders of Airbnb went door to door in New York, signing new people up, helping
existing users improve their listing with `professional' photos of their apartments.25
25Airbnb is peer-to-peer community marketplace for people who want to rent out
and rent their homes. There is currently over 500,000 listings across 34,000 cities
Facebook conquered Harvard before rolling out to other schools. Ben Silbermann,
the founder of Pinterest, now valued at $3.8 billion, was in personal contact with his
first 5000 users. John and Patrick Collison, founders of payments startup, Stripe,
currently worth about $1.75 billion, set up new users on the spot whenever they met
them in person. As of January 2014 Stripe is being considered alongside PayPal as
the potential payment gateway if Twitter launches its own commerce platform.
Spend enough time pulling in new customers and you'll start to see new ones coming
to you, which makes the next phases of growth not only possible, but also a lot easier.
Startups tread a perilous line of fragility, especially in their infancy. Avoid the
temptation to compare early stage startups to established startups (those which have
been running for three or more years). First-time founders, employees, investors and
even advisors, always underestimate the fragility of scaling startups.
Judging a young company by the norms of a larger one is a false basis for
comparison. Instead, companies should be judged on their own strengths, whatever
they are. Early Pinterest users displayed a passion for design, so Silbermann went to
design blogger conferences, a shrewd move which kick started Pinterest's crucial
relationship with the blogging community.
Strength normally rests within the core foundations of the company, etched into the
fundamentals for its existence, and within the team. It may require completing
laborious, often seemingly inconsequential tasks to contribute to positive growth.
Delight Your Customers
Delight your early customers. It is perhaps the most important thing you can do once
you have customers. Some young companies will chase after revenue, sacrificing
long-term gain for short term income. Instead, focus on delighting a small group of
and 192 countries. Founded in 2008, based in San Francisco, a graduate of Y
Combinator, with $326 million in funding. Find out more: www.airbnb.com
your early customers.This will naturally lead to positive growth to a point where
personal contact is no longer feasible. This is a good problem to have.
Steve Blank, founding father of the Lean Movement, reminded entrepreneurs in the
Harvard Business Review that too many `fail to understand what customers want',
just like big corporations. The way to avoid that is to `build a customer-centric
business', as Graham has long since advocated.
Scaling your values means hiring the right people. This requires assessment of the
following criteria: 1) Cultural fit 2) Suitable skills and 3) Enthusiasm.
Startups in or approaching the `top 1%' club - those with $1billion or more
valuations26 face very different challenges to the rest of us in their recruitment
decisions - we'll focus on the 99%. Startups in this group face the same hiring
challenges as any company that isn't yet an established household name. Options are
limited to our reach, which is determined by how long the company has been
operating. This affects how wide an audience marketing efforts are able to
communicate with. This means early stage startups are limited to a smaller pool of
potential hires, no matter what the job role.
There's a war waging in the tech industry, a `war for talent' as it's known. Regardless
of whether a startup is based in New Jersey or Oxford, finding good staff is equally
hard. Competition is even stronger amongst developer positions.
As a hire is a significant investment for any startup. It's very much a two-way process
in that candidates must be able to provide new value to the company, and the
company must provide value to the candidate.
Startups look for people who show a genuine belief in their vision as well as meeting
the criteria of their business aims. We'll take a closer look at this later in the chapter
but for both applicants and startups hiring, perhaps for the first time, the main
26Cowboy Ventures research, posted on TechCrunch in November 2013 found that
only 0.7% of venture backed U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 are
valued at over $1 billion, which is a mere 39 companies
consideration always ought to be whether both sides of the table offer the skills,
experience and opportunities that the other wants and needs.
Brand and Culture are one and the same
Culture is generally believed to be an `internal' aspect of a company's makeup. I'm
not talking about having posters on the wall shouting slogans like Google's `Do No
Evil' or Mike Arrington's `Be Excellent To Each Other' or Facebook's `Move Fast And
Break Things' philosophy - culture is far more fundamental. The culture of a startup
is heavily influenced by the founder's values.
This means that the startup is the result of the strengths and weaknesses of the
founders and first employees. As time goes by, these become amplified, both in the
working practices and the work produced.
When founding your own venture, sculpting your own company culture will set you
on a course for prosperity. The first year of business is key in establishing this culture
through your words and actions - which will set the tone for every subsequent phase
of growth. The larger the startup grows, the more a positive culture will be reinforced.
Your creation - this new company - will have a personality.
This personality will resonate externally, into the voice, message and
communications you deploy to pull in customers, thereby forming your brand. Your
`brand' and `culture' must reflect and relate to one another in a way that accurately
conveys your values.
Growth is all about winning new customers. If you don't have a product or service
people are either willing to pay for, or spend time using then you won't be able to
grow. No growth, no revenue, no business. Winning new customers is all about
bringing them to you: as a startup you have to go get them.
You are fragile. Count on being fragile for at least the first 6 to 18 months. One
reason behind the popular maxim of failing fast is to stop you feeling fragile for too
long. Either succeed or fail, but do so quickly.
Once you've won customers you need to delight them. Let your lack of size be your
advantage: you can treat them with more of an individual form of customer service.
Keep them happy, they'll tell others, you'll grow quicker.
Hire well. Making hiring mistakes are costly. The first ten people who work for any
small company are essential. Look for those who demonstrate a track record or useful
transferable skills, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. As a candidate working for
any startup is a massive opportunity. Treat it that way.
Brand and culture are interchangeable. They aren't sections of your business plan,
they're living elements of how your company relates to the outside world.
- Steve Blank, author of The Four Steps to the Epiphany, described as the the book
that launched the Lean Startup movement. Also the author of The Startup Owners
Manual. A Steve Blank, Harvard Business Review article about the Lean Startup
philosophy, from May 2013 - well worth a read.
- Mark Suster and his Both Sides of the Table blog (www.bothsidesofthetable.com/).
He is a self-described `2x entrepreneur who has gone to the Dark Side of VC', a
General Partner at Upfront Ventures. He is a regular publisher of articles on
entrepreneurship, sales & marketing, PR, startup advice and fundraising (from
angels and VC investors).
Paul Graham has copious amounts of useful information for startup founders,
including advice for those wanting a place on Y Combinator. Here is his CV and his
collection of essays. Some well worth reading:
- Startups in 13 sentences (key: `Understand your users');
- Startups = growth;
- How to raise money;
- Don't scale;
- Frighteningly ambitious startup ideas;
- Why there aren't more Googles;
- How to not die;
- A student's guide to startups;
- How to start a startup.
Know Your Market: The Beans Group
James Eder was only 22 when he set up what is now the most popular student
website in the UK, studentbeans.com. He convinced his brother, Michael, who was
pursuing a career in investment banking, to quit and help him launch the company.
As recent graduates they were in an advantageous position when touting Student
Beans as way for brands to tap into the lucrative youth market. Instead of taking a
graduate job he took the chance to become an entrepreneur. I caught up with James
and asked him about the experiences that led him to found what is now The Beans
Group, the leading marketing agency for the youth, student and graduate
demographics in the UK.
`I knew I wanted to run my own business and do something that really makes a
difference,` he said. `Even before university I had set up a local web directory signing
up over 200 companies as part of Young Enterprise. At University, I got involved in a
number of different things. I was accepted to be part of AIESEC, and worked in the
Philippines and Colombia.27 All these opportunities laid the foundations for my next
steps and gave me a platform to develop business and leadership skills, work in a
team and take responsibility.'
These kinds of experiences aren't uncommon for aspiring CEOs. You pick up as many
transferable skills being a President, Treasurer or VP Events for a student society as
you do working a part time job.
In order for James to graduate he had to write a 150 page business plan, which is
where he expanded on his ideas for an offers based website which enables brands to
engage with students, initially in his hometown of Birmingham and then nationwide.
James was inspired by David Taylor, author of The Naked Leader, who asks readers:
`Imagine if you couldn't fail. Who would you be? Where would you go? And what
would you do?'
Student Beans was his choice. First thing he learned, after graduating, is that plans
often appear smaller and further away, in the rear view mirror, once you drive off
27 AIESEC is an international not-for profit organization that offers students
international internships and placements. Find out more: https://www.aiesec.org/
A low interest loan from The Prince's Trust (a charity set up by the Prince of Wales,
which supports, amongst other things, youth entrepreneurship) was all he and his
brother needed to get the idea off the ground. What followed was a lot of hustling -
selling to encourage a few early clients to spend a little money promoting their
products to students.
After that, it took off.
Seven years later they employee more than 30 staff, are generating a healthy profit,
haven't needed any further investment, and The Beans Group now includes More
Beans (for graduates) Voxburner (an insights and youth marketing events company)
and in 2013 they published The Ultimate Student Cookbook, to critical acclaim. They
have over 500,000 subscribers, 6 million monthly online visitors, and
studentbeans.com is recognized as the top UK website for targeting 16 - 24 year olds
by Nielsen Online.
There are several key reasons why James succeeded where others failed along the
way. He didn't give up. He knew his audience (students) very well, which is
invaluable when convincing clients to work with you. He also had plenty of support
along the way.
According to James, `There have been many entrepreneurs, family and friends that
have all contributed to our success. You never know where you might find the best
advice or inspiration sometimes and it is about always having your eyes and ears
open. It could be at a business event or round the dinner table.'
Student Beans also had first mover advantage. The internet was only just starting to
shape how people consumed content, Facebook was entering the UK, but most of
what we take for granted (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) hadn't been created yet,
and neither had daily deal sites like Groupon.
When you see an opportunity, as James and his brother did, do your homework first.
A business plan isn't lean, but elements of a business plan, such as competitor
research, enabled James to validate part of his theory. In this scenario the research
showed he had the advantage. What he did with this knowledge, and how he tested it,
in a real world, lean and practical scenario, enabled him to seize the opportunity.
Finally, I wanted to know what advice he had for students thinking of following in his
`Firstly, don't take no for an answer keep going and have persistence. Also, be
prepared to work, because it's not easy. So many people come out of university and
say, `I'm going to be an entrepreneur' but I don't think they all realize how hard it is
and how many hours you need to put in. The other thing is to take responsibility. The
only common factor between everything you do is ultimately yourself.'
Not all startups need outside investment. Some, like The Beans Group, apply for
loans or grants (depends on your region as to what is available) to help them test
James and his brother Michael leveraged their experience and knowledge to build
both sides of this business model. Funny, interesting and useful content drives
engagement, which brands are willing to pay for if it will bring them potential new
customers. Not all business models even need hundreds of thousands of dollars of
investment. Some just require a spark of an idea and good old fashioned hard work.
As James Eder says, if you really want to be an entrepreneur, get really good at
learning to not `take no for an answer keep going and have persistence.'
The following were referenced in the previous section, and should be useful to
readers in the UK.
- Student Beans (www.studentbeans.com/) and The Beans Group
- Young Enterprise (www.young-enterprise.org.uk/) - a UK charity which has been
encouraging entrepreneurship for over 50 years across every level of education.
- AIESEC (www.aiesec.co.uk/).
- The Prince's Trust (www.princes-trust.org.uk/)
Fixing Recruitment: Enternships
In recent years, almost every country has experienced a rise in unemployment,
especially amongst graduates, who suffer just as much from `underemployment.'
Research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, using census data, shows that 9
percent of college graduates were earning less than $25,000 during 2012. This serves
to devalue our costly education system. The economy has created numerous
uncertainties, adding weight to Reid Hoffman's message in The Start-Up of You, that
more than ever before, we are all responsible for our own career paths.
This applies in the corporate world as much as it does in startups. The odds are in
your favor when applying for a startup job. The talent pool is smaller, giving
candidates a much greater chance of not only landing a job, but having a big impact.
The right hire can make all the difference. Recruits should be prepared for a steep
learning curve - you will be responsible for the creation of the company culture,
which others will later step into. Few have that kind of chance, so make sure it is right
In the world of the corporate career ladder, large corporations can afford to be pickier
than ever when hiring. For many young people it is a frustrating and demoralizing to
experience. For graduates today, the corporate career path is no longer the fast track
to a middle class lifestyle it is a long and agonizing search for employment.
Recruitment is broken.
Rajeeb Dey, CEO of Enternships, and founder of the UnRecruitment movement,
wants to change that. At age 27, Rajeeb, a graduate of the University of Oxford, is
already one to watch he's already picked up a long list of awards. His latest accolade
is being recognized as a Young Global Leader, culminating in him making a speech at
the Davos World Economic Forum 2012, the topic of which was `It's time to rethink
Most 27 year old Ivy League graduates don't get to mix with the movers and shakers
of global business and politics, or bump into authors like Paulo Coelho (The
Alchemist and The Manual of the Warrior of Light) at the buffet table, but Rajeeb is
an entrepreneur, and he means business.
He founded Enternships whilst he was President of Oxford Entrepreneurs the
largest entrepreneur society for students in the UK. Enternships was the first
platform designed to connect students and graduates with internship and
employment opportunities in startups and small businesses. Rajeeb noticed a gap in
the market when he realized that there was no recruitment solution for smaller
businesses, compared to the hundreds for graduate programs in large corporates. So
he built one.
His trajectory since leaving the unassuming suburbia of North West London, to
Oxford, head the entrepreneur society, found his own company, win a pile of awards
and speak at Davos is quite incredible - which is why he was my number one target to
speak to when I decided to put this book together.
`I was understandably honored when I was asked to speak at Davos,' Rajeeb
explained over the phone. `I was happy to have such a big stage to put across what I
think is a necessary view, especially amongst a backdrop of 75 million young people
being unemployed around the world.'
On stage at Davos, Rajeeb laid out his vision for how to fix recruitment:
`For every person hired, an average of 80 are rejected. The Head of Recruitment is
actually the Head of Rejection. Every rejection chips away at a candidate's
confidence, leaving them downtrodden and often depressed - not the best attitude
with which to approach the next interview. This vicious circle has to be broken.'
`What we need to develop is a process that removes the innate structure of rejection
seen in traditional recruitment and gives every applicant powerful development
opportunities, regardless of whether they get a job. I call it UnRecruitment; the
removal of our current employment single-mindedness, in favor of exciting training
possibilities for all.'
`In between unemployment and employment there is a gap, and it's one that should
be filled with self-improvement, self-empowerment and genuine learning. Though
only one person can get any given job, everyone applying for it should be able to
benefit from the process.'
`Together, we can create systems of training, insight and feedback that ensure every
candidate that applies for a position gains value from it, and that every employer has
access to brilliant, ever-improving talent.'
A few weeks later we spoke again, I was keen to discover his plans on transforming
his vision to reality. Amongst entrepreneurs, there are many who can talk big,
convincing people of their vision. Millions of dollars are poured into ideas lacking a
heart and soul. The more elusive is the one who can talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk.
We talked about the demoralizing affect the current system has on graduates, as well
as the dangers and costs of a good `on paper' candidate being a bad fit for the
`Our solution flips all that on its head,' Rajeeb said. `Instead of just having a series of
interviews and assessments, which narrows it down to the final candidate, we have
developed, through a select group of training providers, a range of development
opportunities for every candidate,' he said, clearly excited at the chance to expand on
how this vision will be executed.
`That way they get a much clearer picture of what the job entails, what the company is
like, the culture.'
Culture is hugely important. It is becoming more accepted that cultural fit has to be
factored into the matrix of hiring decisions. It's also one of the main reasons why
people leave, resulting in increased hiring costs and reduced productivity.
`These development opportunities, are they like mini-internships?' I asked, wanting
to clarify how this would work.
`Not exactly. It's more a case of setting short tasks, which gives both the candidate
and company a much clearer idea of what to expect. Not all will get through these
tasks - some will decide it's not for them, whereas others will excel, and clearly enjoy
the work. What's more,' Rajeeb said. `We save clients money. The current model costs
about £5000 - £6000 per candidate.'
`And how are you testing this model?' I asked.
`Through our partners and a few trial clients we are putting this theory to the test.
The feedback we have received has been very positive to date, and we get the chance
to tweak our processes as we go.' It was good to hear that lean principles were being
Rajeeb has come a long way. At University all he had was an idea, a simple
WordPress website,28 and an enthusiastic team of supporters. Five years later,
Enternships is now profitable, has investors, a team of 16, and is working out of an
awesome new office in London. This is because they are committed to solving serious
problems with a dedicated team and effective leadership.
28WordPress (http://wordpress.com/) is the most popular free website platform on
the web, currently with over 60 million users.
Solve a real problem. Rajeeb Dey of Enternships is trying to solve the problem of
recruitment for startups and SMB's. The larger problem is finding a way for
corporates to have a better, more cost effective way, to recruit graduates.
Bootstrap until you have validation. It took several years of trying and testing,
growing and tweaking, till Enternships was ready for investment. If you can avoid
rushing to find investors you will be in a stronger position when they are needed.
Pivot once there is evidence. Enternships moved onto UnRecruitment after it had
proven itself with thousands of smaller companies. Which meant they were taken
more seriously, with the evidence to support their sales pitch.
As a founder you are always promoting your startup. Rajeeb has worked tirelessly
since his days as a student to promote Enternships. His work has earned him
numerous awards and accolades.
Regardless of wether you are making speeches at Davos, or working in a shop and
doing an internship on the side, we are all responsible for our own career paths.
Books like this and platforms like Enternships exist to support those making the bold
career choices. Support is all around you whether you are founding a startup, or
working for one.
A Recipe For Success: TechStars
David Cohen knows more about what drives startups than almost anyone else in the
world. He is the founder and CEO of the now global accelerator program, TechStars.
A total of 235 startups have launched through TechStars's 9 accelerators, 29 of which
have already been bought out in lucrative deals. Between them they have received a
total of $476,975,851 worth of investment (average investment worth $1,639,092),
created 2,408 jobs, and continue to expand. They've opened their latest TechStars
accelerator in London.
For David there are a number of crucial factors to consider when choosing where to
locate a program. It comes down to quality over quantity:
`We could be in 100 cities by now, but have no desire to do so. We are focused on
small class sizes, funding only 1% of applicants and working with only top 1% of
mentors. We're all about quality and helping every company we fund.'
TechStars startups receive $292,500 worth of perks, including $100,000 guaranteed
seed funding on completion, and they receive intensive mentoring for three months,
so it's vital the teams chosen are the right ones.
`We look at 6 things in order. They are: team, team, team, market, progress, idea - in
that order. We are heavily focused on a great team with the ability to execute, who
does stuff. We know the ideas will change. The market has to be interesting'
Paying customers, or a clear roadmap to getting them, are essential for any startup.
But one fact that might surprise you, if you're seeking investment, is it's always the
people investors look at first, before balance sheets and financial projections.
His advice to anyone considering founding a startup: `Just do it. Too many people
talk about it and never do it. Start doing stuff. Surround yourself with amazing
people. Talk to customers.'
Want to get into an elite incubator like TechStars? Here's their criteria: `Team, team,
team, market, progress, idea - in that order.'
Quality matters much more than quantity. `We are focused on small class sizes,
funding only 1% of applicants and working with only top 1% of mentors.'
Make balance in life a priority. There may be times you need to work 100 hours a
week. But not every week. Nor is work for its own sake a goal to aspire to. Have time
off. `Make it a priority' he said. `I work hard to make sure my life is balanced'
Being accepted into an incubator and getting funding is only the first phase of the
challenge. Graduating, with a product and customers, paying customers, is the next
and more essential challenge.
And finally: `Just do it.' Whatever your idea, take it outside and show customers, one
way or another. They are your first and last reference point.
How to Find Good People: Advice for those doing the hiring
The `build it and they will come' attitude is no more true of customers than it is
employees. Even in times of sluggish economic growth, when it's a buyer's market,
finding good people is hard. For those who have never had hiring responsibilities in
the past, you are in a unique position. Now you are a job creator. You have to meet
payroll at the end of the month. It's a whole other ball game - believe me.
In order to put together the best team you need to create an environment people
want to work in. It all comes down to culture. Jack Welch, famed former CEO of GE
has said that `You build the best team, you win.' Here is how you do this.
Make your company a place people want to work. This is not a separate
activity in itself. It's everything. In the early days your personality, ideas, character
traits and energy sets the pace. Naturally, as the company grows, you grow into your
role as a leader. There are many types of leaders, but the definition that seems most
appropriate is not the Sean Parker `big ass visionary' style, but an effective manager.
Therefore, consider it a key part of your job description to build a culture which
attracts people. The litmus test is the answer to the question: `Would I want to work
Love what you do. Aim to employ others who love what they do just as much. So
long as their skills fits what you need. Find the perfectionists - the people for whom
it's not so much a job, but a vocation. It's these people you want on your team. An
enticing culture and mission will attract them. Alongside the next point: personal
development. Welch argues that is `your number one job.'
You won't be able to pay top dollar. You have a `runway' to consider - the
amount of time you have till you either run out of investment and need more, or
generate enough revenue to cover all your costs. Remember also, who you employ
can directly influence how much investment you get. David Cohen labels `team' his
first three of six criteria for how they chose startups for TechStars. So to compensate
for not being able to pay top dollar, a strong, supportive, empowering culture is
essential. As is hiring people early in their careers. Hence the value and popularity of
Enthusiasm is invaluable. It should be obvious and genuine. If a potential hire
knows nothing about what you do, don't hire them. Skills on paper, especially
relevant experience or qualifications are great, but you need employees who care as
much as any founder. Enthusiasm, like professionalism, can't be faked.
Sell yourself well. Coming back to the point about culture, you should expect the
best candidates to have done their homework. But don't expect them to have
swallowed the company brochure, because chances are they'll be the ones writing it.
Hiring in a startup environment is a two way street. It's your job to sell them on the
culture, team, product or service, customers, vision, and role they could have in the
startups continued growth.
How to stand out as a candidate: Advice For Future startup
If you are looking for a job, or want a change in careers, then you ought to look
towards startups. There were tens of thousands of open positions in startups in 2013,
with notable increases in vacancies and salaries since 2012. The same increase is
expected during 2014. Compared to the 80 for every graduate role, according to
Rajeeb Dey, CEO of Enternships, the odds of being hired are very much more in your
Reason being, it's a numbers game. There is billions being poured into startups, and
every time one of these scrappy young companies raises funds they hire. Not all
survive, which is why a candidate ought to look at any job, whether it's an internship,
employment or a Co-founder position, as an investment in your career. On the off
chance that you work or help found a company which is very successful, there can be
major financial pay offs down the road. However, joining the startup world with that
as your sole purpose is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an advisable course of
However, the numbers game is in your favor, if you can play. Which means, as a
candidate, you need to be exactly what your prospective employer is looking for.
Sounds straightforward. Surely that's what every employer is looking for, right?
Kind of. Except, with larger companies, you are stepping into a clearly defined job
role. In startups, you define the job. This experience is comparable to jumping out of
a plane and building a new one on the way down. When you sign on with a startup
you can't expect others to build the plane while you sit comfortably, you better help
build it yourself.
What do startups look for in their employees?
The following is not role specific: it is about common character traits and skills
necessary to survive and thrive in a startup environment.
Be a problem solver. Founder/CEO's usually have a dozen problems and
challenges crossing their desk on a daily basis, and that's on a quiet day. Try and
anticipate what challenges they could face, and how you will - emphasis on you -
solve them? Come prepared with potential solutions.
Enthusiasm is Key! Startup founders have sweated blood, worked all hours, to
make it possible to hire staff in the first place. Realistically, they can't expect quite the
same level of commitment, but this is their baby. They can expect a higher than
average level of commitment. If you are genuinely enthusiastic, it will be noticed.
When I put that same question to Kathy Ver Eecke, a startup consultant who blogs by
the name of Working For Wonka (who's interviewed and worked for many a startup
in her time), she said `Ask any entrepreneur and they'll tell you the same, the most
important thing you can do to get a startup job is be enthusiastic.'
Experience isn't everything. Don't worry if you have only clocked a certain
amount of experience so far. It's more about your potential than experience.
Founders understand that better than most. Their whole strategy is built on
potential. Look closely at what experience you have; voluntary, travel, sports, running
student organizations. All of it is valuable. Demonstrate your transferable skills,
combine with enthusiasm and solutions, and back up transferable skills with
Read about startups. In particular, read around the space the company you are
applying for is in (e.g. look into other analytics firms, or consumer web startups who
are doing similar things), the influencers, investors. The better you understand the
operating environment, the greater an asset you will be.
Formal qualifications are unnecessary. But school, you need that. Mark
Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, doesn't believe an MBA is of any
use. Neither does Richard Branson, or the dozens of founders and investors
interviewed for this book. The `drop out of university' myth is more of an anomaly.
The data, relating to the so-called `unicorn club' of billion plus (valuation) companies,
doesn't indicate there is value in dropping out or not attending college. According to
Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures: `The majority of founding CEOs, and 90 percent of
enterprise CEOs have technical degrees from college.' Only `eight companies had a
college dropout as a Co-founder.' Most will tell you that University has enormous
The following are resources from the previous section which I hope you will find
- Enternships (www.enternships.com/) (find out more about UnRecruitment here).
- Work in Startups (www.workinstartups.com/)
- Working for Wonka (www.workingforwonka.com/) - which includes a handy e-book
about how to get a job in a startup.
- A good article on working for a startup by Elli Sharef, Co-founder of HireArt
(www.hireart.com/) in VentureBeat (www.venturebeat.com/2013/01/20/5-things-
- More information about startups and company culture from The Next Web
Why Startups Die And How To Avoid It
In most startup deaths the official cause is often running out of funding. Paul
Graham therefore asks, `Why couldn't they get more funding? Probably because the
product was a dog, or never seemed likely to be done, or both.' Well executed ideas
usually get more money. Bad ones, for the good of the ecosystem, should be put
What is it then, that can make the difference between a living and a dead startup?
Customers = revenue.
Geoffrey A. Moore, author of a popular technology sales and marketing book, (from
the pre-dotcom era, circa 1991, revised edition, 1998) Crossing The Chasm talks
about sales like a military campaign. You pick a route into the target territory (a
highly focused sector or vertical; the key being one whereby customers can reference
one another), usually through `early adopters', you dominate that market, then move
into adjacent verticals, and use that to `cross the chasm'; reach a large mainstream
customer base. This way you can continue to grow without further investment.
Every funding round is a runway. Influential VC, Mark Suster, knows that for most,
no matter the size of the round, that runway is 9 months. The quicker you achieve
revenue, the less funding is needed, the higher your valuation, the more likely you
could exit with millions in the bank.
Paying customers are the true shibboleth of your idea.29
Graham says that, `No matter what kind of startup you start, it will probably be a
stretch for you, the founders, to understand what users want.' This is where lean
principles come in. Every interaction with customers is a learning experience, so the
29A Hebrew word from the Bible, Judges 12:56, dating back to around 13701070
BC. It was used as a a test and password by the Gileadites tribe, who restricted the
tribe of Ephraimite from crossing the Jordan River back into their home territory.
Those who spoke the Ephraimite dialect couldn't pronounce the word, so were put to
death on the spot.
sooner they can try out your idea, even in its most basic format - like Buffer did with
a simple two page MVP - the faster you learn.
In order to understand the means you ought to deploy to grow, you need to
understand the nature of growth in the first place. Graham explains this as follows:
`If you want to understand startups, understand growth. Growth drives everything in
this world. Growth is why startups usually work on technology--because ideas for fast
growing companies are so rare that the best way to find new ones is to discover those
recently made viable by change, and technology is the best source of rapid change.'
`Growth is why it's a rational choice economically for so many founders to try starting
a startup: growth makes the successful companies so valuable that the expected value
is high even though the risk is too. Growth is why VCs want to invest in startups: not
just because the returns are high but also because generating returns from capital
gains is easier to manage than generating returns from dividends.'
Companies of any kind survive by acquiring customers to keep the lights on, the
printers working and the staff happy. For companies to thrive they must grow and
keep growing, until they're bought out. That being said, not everyone views a
company sale as the ultimate goal, such as Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snapchat, who
turned down an offer of $3 billion from Facebook.
There are as many ways to win as there are to lose in the world of business, no one
can pretend to have all the answers. The following pages of this book are an
accumulation of wisdom from smarter men than myself, blended with a bit of
No Sales, No Growth
Marketing for startups can feel like being a hunter-gatherer the aim is to regularly
go out, club people on the head and haul as many as you can in front of your product
or service, in the hope that some of them will give you money. Some will, most won't.
Once a few do, you've got enough `social proof' to convince more to follow. This
process is repeated, time and time again. In essence, that's sales and marketing for
startups. Large budgets and well-staffed teams would be ideal, but startups don't
have those. All you can really do is hustle. Which is why sales and marketing in
startups has developed its own terminology in recent years, such as `growth hacking'
or `guerrilla marketing'.
1. Stay niche. Keep your aims realistic. Only go after clients (if you are B2B) or a
consumer user-base that is achievable. Gain successful validation within this niche,
and then expand. If you are following lean principles you should have tested and
iterated within a small group already, thereby using early validation as the fuel to
2. Know Your Customers. Test your message on your intended audience. If it
doesn't resonate, refine it until it does. Make sure it succinctly communicates to your
customers what your product does, what problem you are solving and why they need
3. Craft Your Message. For most startups this is often an afterthought, at the end
of a long list of other concerns. The problem with that is defining your message
shouldn't be left till the day before you launch. Your message is the bedrock of every
communication you put into the world - from press releases to web copy, email
campaigns to social media interactions, right back to your elevator pitch.
4. PR Bootstrapping. Another way to gain traction is through mentions in the
press. Problem is, most startups think every advance, alteration or website redesign
is worthy of a mention in TechCrunch. In reality this is far from being the case.
How many times have you stumbled across press releases online? Dull copy and
paste passages of text, with a few facts and statistics thrown in for good measure,
alongside a quote or two, which probably doesn't tell you much more than the
company's web copy. If you weren't interested, why assume a journalist would be?
Journalists care about stories. Everyone loves a good story. If those receiving your
pitches are sufficiently interested in what they read, then they, as the gatekeepers of
the content we consume, will broadcast your story to the outside world. Here's the
SBP of how to avoid receiving only journalistic white noise from your media efforts:
S - Do you have a Story? This is the hardest part to validate. Conrad Egusa, a
former VentureBeat journalist (another popular tech blog), has said that: `With PR, a
story needs to exist before an article is written. Therefore, if you are looking for
coverage, it's important the you propose a story line to a journalist.'
The first line is the hook, but a hook can only exist if you have a story in the first
place. A story might be a product/company launch, fundraising, or an acquisition or
milestone (e.g. first 100,000 customers).
B - Pitch the right Beat. Your only customer in this situation is the journalist. And
you only have one shot at this. Most have their own niche, a market, vertical, or area
of the tech industry they prefer to cover. Before sending a well-crafted email, ensure
you have read enough of the work of the right journalist, so you know whether there's
a good chance that they might be interested in the story you are selling.
P - Make it Personal. Dull copy and paste press releases, complete with facts,
statistics and quotes, won't get you anywhere. The real meat of media stories takes
place inside inboxes. The most important sentence is the story line - telling a
journalist what the story is. Next is why it matters to their readers. Then go into the
details. A press release is worth writing for reference material, but what you write in
emails can quickly become what you read in the press. So take care with emails and
responses, and be prompt when replying.
With your first successful announcement under your belt it becomes easier to get
future coverage, as well as coverage in other media outlets.
5. E-mail Marketing. This is a useful way to gain traction, especially for B2B
Stay niche. Drill down on the data, a specific sector or vertical, then keep going until
your data mining/research is manageable by the team and resources you have at your
Next, focus on the language you are using. Are you addressing your target clients' key
pain points? Or are you talking about your various features? Think how you are
solving a problem for them, how you are adding value, why they should contact you
back. Then go into why they need your solution.
Every startup has its own unique requirements. These are just a few suggestions
about how you can market on a budget.
There is no quick and easy way to gain and sustain growth. Only lots of ways people
attempt it, and either succeed or fail.
- Geoffrey A. Moore, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive
Products to Mainstream Customers (Harper Collins, 1998)
- George Deeb, a VC at Red Rocket Ventures, writing in Forbes about startup
- Andréa Mallard, guest mentor at HackFwd (www.hackfwd.com/hello) talking about
Brand Strategy is well worth watching.
- Want to learn more about Growth Hacking? Check out Growth Hackers
- The Startup Marketing blog (www.startup-marketing.com/), by leading Lean
experts, like Sean Ellis, is also worth browsing.
Conclusion: A Question Of Scale
Whether you are an employee or employer, making it through those first twelve
months are often the most interesting, fragile, exciting, toughest and unforgettable
times of your entrepreneurial journey. It is an unforgettable experience. In theory
you are attempting to travel from A to B without a map, which means it's the journey
What does that mean for those embarking on this journey?
Taking a leap into the unknown means expecting the unexpected. What you need are
good traveling companions. If you ensure that mentors, thought leaders, countless
useful resources are your travel guides (over 150 of which have been inserted into this
book), then your Co-founders are your traveling companions.
The vision you start out with is merely the ever-evolving vehicle in which you make
The aim of every founder should be to build a company in which they themselves
assume a specific role - for most it's CEO, CTO, or Chairman. For others, like James
Eder at The Beans Group, it is being responsible for business development.
Investors put their money in teams. That's because, in the early days, it is often the
team - rather than the intellectual property or market validation (since many small
companies have little of either) - which is the greatest strength of a startup.
That team then uses growth as a means of building a structure, a series of models
around how to generate revenue, how to deliver for customers, and how to keep on
In this framework, personalities are no substitutes for job descriptions and targets.
The same as in any larger organization. Except, with startups, if it's done well, the
payoffs are far larger than anyone could hope to receive during a similar time period
spent in a corporate environment. The inherent risk is of failure - which we'll cover
in the next chapter.
We'll examine the ever-growing body of proof that failure shouldn't be feared.
Respected, definitely. Understood and accepted, as a necessary, ever present
companion on this journey.
Failing is Falling, With Style
We all fail from time to time. Things don't always go our way. However, failing as an
entrepreneur is often public, which can put a lot of people off ever attempting to
build their own company. Generally, if and when you fail, the best thing to do is to be
as open and honest as possible about what happened. Learn the lessons, and put
things in place so you can avoid repeating history.
Lesson 1: Come Back Fighting
Wahooly hoped to connect influential people on social networks with startups, with
the idea that if enough `socially influential' people promoted a new product or service
- the company would grow. This would make Wahooly the home of crowd-sourced
marketing, measured using Klout scores, providing small companies with an
They experienced an embarrassing public fail early in 2012. Wahooly aimed to
leverage the power of around 26,000 socially influential people to promote their
company in return for equity (shares), which can be cashed out if a startup achieves
an `exit event' an IPO, sale, or share buyback - anything resulting in everyone
making a lot of money, basically.
Much to everyone's surprise, including the founders of Wahooly, they got a lot of
press coverage. Hype, especially without evidence, can spread fast. CEO, Dana
Severson said, `I heard second-hand that we were one of the most hyped startups at
the time.' In the blink of an eye they had gone from a few former marketing
executives with an idea, to trending on Twitter.
30 Klout (www.klout.com): A service which rates how influential people are on social
networks, scoring them out of 100.
When the much-anticipated launch came, they crashed and burned. Emails and
phone calls weren't answered. Tech and business blogs, Social media power players
and industry executives alike wondered what had happened. Detractors fired off
articles filled with schadenfreude.31 And they went under the radar. Offline. For
good? Was all that hype wasted?
Evidently not. Wahooly came back swinging. They dusted themselves down, got up
off the mat, got back in the saddle and lot's of other cowboy related metaphors.
Severson dealt with everything that happened in a very honest blog post:32
`Somewhere between our own hype, raising money, and launching our product, I lost
touch,' Severson admitted. `Most importantly, however, I found myself slipping into
the rose-petal garden where all the duckies and bunnies go to play.' It is worth
asking: how do people end up in rose covered fluffy bunny land? His answer:
`I'll tell you why it happens -- fear. Fear that people will lose faith in your ability. Fear
that investors will run for the hills. Fear that if your challenges leak, they'll be viewed
as catastrophic. Fear that if you say the wrong thing, you'll be chastised. Fear is
debilitating and often leads to the fluffy bunny syndrome. Everything is comforting
there -- you play it safe and you can avoid fear. But, that place is crap and it gets you
It is refreshing to see candor like that. Not many write publicly about what it feels
like, although more, perhaps thanks to the likes of Mark Suster, are writing their own
startup postmortems. Suster reminds us of the fact that we are all naked in the
mirror. In a blog written in the early hours, after five days on the road raising money
for his venture capital firm, he talks about the reason people like Severson go to fluffy
`My biggest fear as an entrepreneur? I was worried that I was going to get married
and be on the altar unemployed. `There's my son. He should have been a doctor like
his father!' Truthfully, that's one of the things that kept me going. I didn't want to
31 A German word, meaning: to take pleasure from the misfortune of others.
32 Read it here: http://blog.wahooly.com/elephant-in-the-room/
`I didn't want to disappoint my parents. My wife. My employees. The press who
trusted me enough to report on our successes.'
`I didn't want to disappoint my customers.'
Failure still has a stigma, especially in Europe and Asia. Less so in North America.
The point is - no matter where you are, failure shouldn't come with a stigma,
especially in startups.
The Wahooly team didn't quit. Instead they pivoted, re-launched themselves as
Chasm.io (which combines content marketing with their initial idea - harnessing the
value of people with influence on social networks), and raised an additional
$750,000, landing them in a stronger position to start afresh. It isn't about who has
the best idea, it is about who is still standing at the end of the day, despite countless
Let them be a lesson, and a nice introduction to this chapter.
Lesson 2: Accept Failure
As an entrepreneur, it ought to be your default expectation.
Research by Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, published
in the Wall Street Journal, points to the fact that three out of four venture backed US
startups fail. Only 60% survive to age three and only 35% survive to age ten,
according to Mr. Ghosh, alongside data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. His findings were based on data collected on
over 2000 startups that raised over $1 million in funding from 2004 to 2010.
`People are embarrassed to talk about their failures, but the truth is that if you don't
have a lot of failures, then you're just not doing it right,' said Mr. Ghosh.
We should first acknowledge that we are all afraid to fail. But it happens every day -
every day an idea is born, one dies. Expect to fail. Celebrate if you don't. But don't
Lesson 3: Success and Failure on a grand scale - Sean Parker of Napster,
Sean Parker is no stranger to failure. In The Social Network we meet Parker in the
bed of a Stanford student named Amy. She asks Parker what he does:
`Well, I founded an internet company that let folks download and share music for
`Kind of like Napster?' Amy asks.
`Exactly like Napster.'
`What do you mean?'
`I founded Napster.'
`Sean Parker founded Napster.'
`Nice to meet you.'
Parker's notoriety is a sign of the public scale of his failure with Napster, a platform
for sharing digital music, amongst other things, online. And yet, would he have been
one of the early Co-founders of Facebook without it? Almost certainly not. He now
has a net worth of around $2.1 billion, and plays an active role as an investor through
Parker put his self-taught coding and hacking skills to use when he met his Co-
founder, Shawn Fanning, who he built Napster with. The problem is, sharing music
without paying record labels was - and still is - illegal. This is the Napster roller
coaster in Parker's own words (from the Financial Times, shortly after The Social
Network hit the cinemas):
`We founded the company, launched the product, moved to California, got on my
hands and knees and installed all the servers for six weeks, got introduced to my first
business people and hired them and fired them, and was sued by the record labels
and suddenly I'm on MTV and now we're sponsoring raves and going to crazy parties,
and then bigger and bigger and bigger. And then the company's dead and I'm in a
beach house in North Carolina getting the call, 'Sean it doesn't look good. I don't
think you'll have a job when you get back.' And then it's over. And one day Fanning
and I woke up from this dream. It felt like we'd lived through an entire lifetime of
What did Parker learn from all this? That stealing is wrong? That record labels get
pretty pissed when you share their music for free to millions of consumers? That
record labels have an army of high-paid lawyers, who were paid to sue Parker and
Fanning for money they didn't have? But they already knew all that. Parker's a pretty
smart guy. So what did he really learn?
If you use Spotify you are using a product partly created from his hard-earned
lessons, likewise when considering the input he has had on other popular social
networks, like Facebook. LinkedIn Founder, Reid Hoffman calls him a `big-ass
Forbes calls him the `agent of disruption': `Boiled down, Sean Parker is a human
accelerant, an idea catalyst who, when combined with the right people, has fueled
some of the most disruptive companies of the last two decades.'
Viewing Napster from this perspective, was it really a failure? Napster still exists, as a
subscription music service. The original was bought by Roxio, which then merged
with Rhapsody in 2011, with over 70 million customers. So no, technically not a
failure. But the original company Parker founded was a failure, in that it lacked a
business model, revenue, and even if it had survived, would have died from the cuts
of a thousand law suits.
From the burning ruins of Napster, Parker learned how to tackle the big problems, to
disrupt things on a large scale. `I find a lot of things relevant that aren't necessarily
relevant to the world when I'm thinking about them' Parker said in an interview with
Forbes. `Most of us kind of agree on the thrust of history. The key is to understand
how we get there.'
It helps that he is a natural perfectionist, except in time management. His character
turning up late to meet Zuckerberg and crew is accurate. Whilst he does categorize
his time at Napster as `a crash course in intellectual property law, corporate finance,
entrepreneurship and law school' - he also admits, `So much of what I learned at
Napster was learning what not to do.' Many early startup experiences turn out to be
exactly that. Some of the emails Parker wrote were later used as evidence in court
cases which helped kill the original Napster.
Plaxo was his next learning curve. It didn't end well, either. On behalf of disgruntled
investors, his board stripped him of his shares, his job, and unceremoniously kicked
him out the door.
He considered suing them - after going through a particularly low point in his life -
but thought better of it when he discovered his next project: Facebook. `Sean was
pivotal in helping Facebook transform from a college project into a real company',
Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview. Parker is also the reason why Zuckerberg owns
around 20% of the company (including 29.8% Class A shares), thanks to his Plaxo
Ten years after the army of lawyers burned the original Napster to the ground, Parker
found his chance to help rebuild the music industry according to his own vision.
That opportunity came in the form of Spotify, an online music-streaming startup
from Sweden. While a chance meeting in a Californian suburb had resulted in his
involvement in Facebook, the team behind Spotify demanded that Parker prove
himself before they let him come on board. So he did. He hooked them up with
Zuckerberg, and opened doors to Warner Music Group and Universal. This won the
board and founders over, and he was able to invest $30 million. Parker's enthusiasm
in a 2009 email to the Spotify team, is palpable:
`Until now, no digital music service has met, let alone exceeded the bar set by
Napster. In order to create the next revolution in digital music I believe that you must
BOTH meet and exceed the bar set by Napster a decade ago.'
`You guys have finally done it.'
Spotify now have over 24 million users, 6 million of which are paying subscribers.
They've raised $538 million worth of investment so far, including a recent $250
million round, they're now valued at $5.3 billion.
Had Parker quit after the Napster episode, or gone to college and ended up doing a
regular job, it is possible that many aspects of the modern internet would be a lot less
interesting. His failures with Napster and Plaxo were all useful lessons.
Not everyone is a big-ass visionary, and most entrepreneurs haven't tried and failed
to disrupt whole industries as teenagers in their bedrooms. But all of us will fail at
It is what we do with those lessons that count.
Lesson 4: Applying Lean Startup Principles For Failure & Success
A survey by Barclays found that 74% of business owners believe a positive outlook on
failure is essential for economic growth. Putting that into practice is another matter.
In the US only 37% of respondents said past failures bode well for a new business,
42% in Europe said the same. Dave McClure, angel investor and founder of 500
Startups, is in favor of living the fail fast motto:
`Getting used to that, bouncing back from that, being able to figure out what people
hate and turn that into what people love...if you're not willing to take the risk of
failing and not experience failure, you're never going to figure out what the right path
is to success.'
Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University,
feels that times are changing: `This shift hasn't occurred out of some transcendental
revelation. Rather, investors have seen numerous resilient entrepreneurs learn from
their mistakes and have a big success after one or more failures. As rational actors,
investors want to be a part of that success.'
Erica Zidel, founder of an online babysitting service, is keen to expand on the positive
side of failing: `In the startup world, failure is almost synonymous with learning
experience' she says, `Being a founder who has failed before signals to the community
that, one, you've done this before, and, two, you've gathered information on what
doesn't work and are better armed to create something that does.'
A lot of founders recover and go on to do well in their next venture, like David Cohen
(TechStars), Sean Parker (Facebook, Spotify), Eric Reis (Lean Startup author), and
thousands of others.
Trevor Owens, the Founder & CEO of Lean Startup Machine (LSM), has lived the
lessons he is selling every day. He has failed at `a bunch of startups,' he said in a
Techli interview, which is why he now works to help others fail less often. In the
three-day workshops they smack those attending with a reality stick and, in Owens
words, `crush people's dreams, but in an empowering way.'
In an interview with The Next Web, Owens said, `I gave myself a year to make it,
which meant doing 50 workshops in one year. Every company has a limited time
spend, and if you don't get there fast enough, it's time to move on.' This is why first
time founders attend these intense three-day workshops, hosted in over 50 cities,
because it helps them get past this fear of failure.
LSM is now generating over $1 million in revenue, from 96 workshops, in 40 cities,
with 7200 attendees to date. That truly is an example of `being lean', and had it not
been right then Owens would have quit and be doing something else right now.
Beware of false signals. Such as: hype, lots of users but not enough paying
customers, plenty of enthusiasm but not enough actual validation. Partnerships, or
offers of partnerships from larger players (especially where you complement one
another well and therefore have nothing to lose) are a great example of positive noise.
They rarely have value. Paying customers, whether through subscriptions or
advertising, corporate accounts or consultancy projects, are the best, most valuable
forms of validation.
Don't be ashamed or scared of failure. It will hurt, only you'll know the full
extent of the sacrifices you'll have made to earn your battle scars, but never be
ashamed of them. Increasingly, failure autopsies aren't being written by the media,
but by founders themselves. Make your feelings and lessons known, if you've failed.
Be proud of everything you did and learn from everything that went wrong.
No revenue, no business. It is easy to look to investors once you've got some
evidence people want to pay for your idea. Investors can give you far more than
customers ever could in a single go. But investors expect a lot more. The more likely
you will be able to survive and ultimately, grow and prosper. Revenue is your oxygen.
Fail hard, fail fast. Something of a mantra for startups, but a valuable one.
Dragging something out for months or even years - when it's not working - won't help
anyone. It can be all too easy to forget that you whether you're a founder or an
employee - are a stakeholder in that business. If you aren't happy, what are the
chances the business will truly be in a happy, healthy condition?
Conclusion: 5 Ways To Fail (and how to avoid failure)
Failure, like success, often creeps up slowly, then hits all at once. There's no such
thing as an overnight success, or failure. Actions, inactions, missed opportunities,
external factors, and sometimes just plain bad luck often layer themselves on top of
one another, until finally the future doesn't look so bright. Failure hurts, but there is
much we can and should learn from such an experience.
I agree with Paul Smith of ignite100, who wrote an article on Medium about the value
of failure for first-time founders:33
`It's not the act of failing we should celebrate, but our exploitation of the potential it
creates. If we don't build upon the knowledge of why we failed, then all the effort it
took to fail is squandered. If we don't step up to take another shot then we waste the
beating we took, we waste the potential our failure presents.'
Here are a few of the lessons worth taking onboard:
Failure to Focus
If you have dozens of ideas everyday it can be easy to get distracted, this is a common
affliction of entrepreneurs: too many ideas, not enough time. Or rather, enough time,
but too many ideas. The main things you need to focus on - like generating revenue,
building your product, delivering services - can get rushed, or worse - done badly.
Mental discipline and the ability to trim to-do lists to manageable and essential goals
only is essential. Meditations, or the practice of mindfulness, are two of many
approaches one can take to claim greater control of your easily distracted mind.
One way to experience failure is to get fired. Or if you're a solo-entrepreneur, lose a
big client - perhaps your only client. You will literally have no option but to push on
and secure new work. It's a scary position to be in, but it could be the very catalyst
needed to achieve your goals.
Fail to Learn
Any kind of entrepreneurial experience is a learning one. If you accept failure as a
default position then it will make it easier to accept the lessons from those
33Well worth reading: https://medium.com/p/74c8fe8daa94
If you have failed, or made a mistake at some point - and you will - the best thing you
can do is go back over the game highlights. Work out what went wrong, why it went
wrong, and how to avoid making similar mistakes in the future.
The caveat to the acceptance of failure is that it is a privilege which shouldn't be
exploited. As Jon Evens wrote in TechCrunch, `you're afforded two or three more
kicks of the can before people start forgetting to return your emails.'
The same applies for when you achieve a hit. Go over the highlights, and work out
how to replicate those lessons in the future, in order to achieve another hit, then
another. Two of the Co-founders of Twitter, Biz Stone and Evan Williams are
currently shooting for another, despite their massive success (Twitter is currently
worth around $40 billion), in the form of Medium, described as a new way to write
and share ideas online.34
Failure to Launch
If you have an idea for a business, don't just sit on it. Chances are it will just leave you
feeling frustrated, especially if you have a day job you want to quit to pursue your
Kieron Donoghue, said he once met with a couple of aspiring entrepreneurs in that
position. `They had walls covered in Post-it notes, note pads and books everywhere,'
he said, shaking his head at the thought of it. `So I asked them when they were going
to launch. They replied, `We are just doing a bit more research.' 'And how long have
you been doing this research already? I asked them,' he told me, clearly unimpressed
at this hesitation. `They had been `researching' a good 6 months already. Still nothing.
I told them to just get on with it.'
It was fear which drove these aspiring entrepreneurs to fluffy bunny land, which is
why they were researching, attending seminars, and basically `looking busy' instead
of launching a product. There is no such thing as a perfect launch. All you can hope
34Find out more about Medium (www.medium.com) here:
for is one that doesn't go too badly - and even if it does, you will learn from that. The
only bad launch is none at all.
Lean principles - the key one being to always use customer feedback to validate, test
and improve your business - have been proven to work time and again in this and
many other books. This knowledge is far more useful than research or even customer
focus groups and surveys. Taking time over a launch will just push it further into the
future, making it less likely that anything will happen. By launching an MVP you can
prove to yourself what works and what doesn't, reducing the risk of failure, or
allowing you to waste less time by failing fast.
Failure to Balance
Work-life balance is very important, and failing to maintain that balance is one of the
easiest ways to negatively impact the potential success of your startup. You can
regularly feel like a failure when you don't hit all of them, even if you've hit most of
So make time for the things you enjoy: spending time with friends, family, and
partners, enjoying hobbies, spending time outside away from the desk. Whether you
are working at your business full time, or working a job and setting up your business
on the side - make time. No one has ever regretted not spending enough time
working. You will feel refreshed and achieve more by giving yourself the time off.
Cohen of TechStars advises to make taking time off a priority.
Becoming an entrepreneur means placing your career in your own hands - to the
greatest possible extent. It is a fantastic experience, which carries as much potential
reward as it does risk. This means accepting the risks, doing all you can to reduce
them, and having a mental parachute at hand. Know what your options are if it fails,
so that you are prepared. No one wants to fail, but no one should jump out of a plan
unprepared. The greatest failing is being unprepared to handle failure.
Founding or working for a startup isn't easy, and there's never going to be a
guarantee of success. This leads most people to the question: `So why do it?' In
answer to this challenge, I can't say `for the money' because so few individuals
successfully exit. There may be other financial gains further down the road, but it's a
long journey to get there.
There are other, more satisfying reasons I advocate joining this community of brave,
smart and hard working risk takers
Advantage 1: Founding or working for a startup means having a chance to make an
impact, both on the world, in your chosen industry or sector - certainly more so than
in any corporate position. You are afforded more influence over your daily life, which
brings us to the second advantage of startups: that of control.
Advantage 2: By taking control of your career, you'll be able to positively affect your
earning potential. You'll be able to choose to further develop your skills and gain
more professional experience, which is invaluable for the rest of your working life.
Advantage 3: The third advantage intersects the previous two. Remember that
adage mentioned earlier? `Do what you love and you'll never work again'. Startups
give us the opportunity to live this way. Do what you love, earn what you want, make
I truly believe that this industry can provide all of these opportunities. It's why I
wrote this book, to inform and encourage more people to become involved, take the
leap into entrepreneurship, and experience those same freedoms.
There has never been a better time to make the decision to found or work for a
startup and live this life. Katherine Hague founded ShopLocket whilst she studied at
business school, and with her successful sale to PCH International in January 2014 -
she has travelled all the way - from an idea, to $1m worth of investment, to a
Steve Baldwin had the idea for Earsoft at University. Following years of trying to
make it work he was accepted on the ignite100 accelerator and is now working with
some of the world's biggest consumer brands. Rajeeb Dey was also still a student
when he came up with Enternships, which has led to him speaking at the Davos
World Economic Forum.
There is no secret formula for success, unfortunately. There are only the decisions
you make, the risks you take, and the application of some accepted methodologies,
such as lean principles. Pop culture has done a lot to make entrepreneurship seem
glamorous. From movies like The Social Network to Dragons Den and The
Apprentice - there is enough drama, bitching and back stabbing in the startup world
to fill hours of television. Not all of it is made up. The drama is real, as anyone who's
worked in startups can attest to. But the drama is a by-product of what most startup
people are trying to do to make a difference by solving problems using technology.
Zuckerberg talks about focusing on 'fundamental' problems, which you might think is
easy for him to say. Having billions of dollars makes it easier to worry about
immigration, artificial intelligence or connecting the rest of the world who don't have
the internet. But his advice to people in your position - in order to attempt to join the
ranks of those whose companies are worth billions - our focus should be on
fundamental issues. The reason for any startup to exist should be to solve a problem
of some kind. A scalable, revenue generating, employee-hiring business should be
built around attempting to solve that problem.
Solving a problem starts with asking the right questions. Asking the right questions
begins with understanding the problem you want to solve. To ask the questions that
will give us useful answers, we must, in the words of Eric Ries, 'get out the building'
and talk to customers. Providing solutions that will win customers isn't an academic
exercise - it is a practical one. The key is to find a way of getting validation as easily as
In the days before the famous burst of the dot-com bubble it was possible for tens of
millions of investor dollars to be spent on product development long before
customers had interacted with the idea. Silicon Valley has changed a lot since
Michael Lewis wrote The New New Thing, about the `frontiers of economic life,' and
Jim Clark in particular, the Co-founder of Netscape. Entrepreneurs are, by their
nature, adventurous risk takers. Validation is the key now and it can be simple.
Buffer, for example, is generating $3.8 million revenue on the back of an idea which
first gained validation through a free two page website.
Modern entrepreneurship has redefined risk for investors. At one end of the scale
vast amounts - hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases - are put into ideas that,
on the face of it, might seem surprising. An online pin board for images: Pinterest,
now with 70 million users, is currently worth $3.8 billion. Sharing images and short
videos that disappear: Snapchat. Now worth over $3 billion with 400 million
messages sent per day. Taking filtered pictures of everything from cocktails to finger
nail art: Instagram. Bought by Facebook for $1.13 billion in 2012.
For consumer-facing products to succeed they need to have nailed user experience
and growth rates. Business customers need services that solve problems, such as
saving money, improving the function of a business area, delivering more efficiently
for their customers. This is the approach that sparked the successful growth of Box,
Sage and Stripe. Both categories of startups (B2C and B2B) are well represented in
the 'unicorn club' of 39 billion-plus dollar startups launched since 2003. Most exist
due to the lessons, and in some cases, investment decisions of the first generation of
Whilst those mentioned above are for the benefit of consumers or businesses,
whether they be solving serious issues or just a lot of fun to use, and generate (or will,
in time) revenue through advertising or premium features other startups focus on
tackling the issues facing humanity. In almost all areas of life where there are serious
problems: healthcare, energy, water, there are entrepreneurs working to make a
As we've learned, entrepreneurism isn't limited to the pursuit of wealth. This has led
to the rise of socially focused startups across the developed and developing world.
In every field, sector and region there are investors putting money into tens of
thousands of startups every year. The sluggish economy is partly responsible for the
amount of government, corporate and NGO support behind startups.
Successful exits, like that of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, have resulted in what some
have described as a 'frothy' investment environment. Froth is a natural result of a
buoyant investment culture, which results in an excess supply of money for early-
stage startups. Former TechCrunch Editor in Chief, Erick Schonfeld, talked about
there being a 'Cambrian explosion' in startups taking place, which is reference to a
period in Earth's history when the rate of evolution accelerated exponentially.35 The
barriers to entry are lower than they have ever been - ever. At the same time, there is
more money available.36
This cannot last.
Certainly, it will not last forever.
The world economy is slowly improving. As the economy continues to improve the
amount invested into startups will reduce. As investment levels decline the sums of
money startups will be able to raise will also decline. This will be because everyone,
from institutional investors to the proverbial man on the street will once again start
seeing better returns on investment from more traditional asset classes, reducing the
attraction of startups.
This isn't to say that good ideas will not attract funding at all. It means there will be
less funding available, thereby massively increasing the competition to land funding.
Which means validation (already having customers and revenue models) will be
necessary benchmarks for investors. Startups such as Buffer, which had around
$13,000 monthly revenue before picking up $450,000 investment from 19 angels will
be more commonplace. The days of startups such as Color, which got $41 million
without revenue or users, are limited.
35The article (first of several on this subject):
http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/28/cambrian-explosion-startups/. The actual
Cambrian explosion took place 542 million years ago and lasted for about 70-80
million years. Once evolution settled down again the diversity of life on this planet
more closely resembles what we see today.
36The Economist is in agreement as to the current state of the startup community.
Read the report here:
No matter what happens with the world's economy and investment trends,
innovation will continue to thrive. During the course of researching and writing this
book I've seen more emerging trends and innovations than I care to count.
The digital peer-to-peer currency known as Bitcoin is enjoying more mainstream use,
both in investment portfolios and as a means to pay for goods and services online.37
The 'internet of things' and 'connected home' devices are becoming more
commonplace. Google's $3.2 billion purchase of Nest is a sign of this trend
continuing38. It is now possible to replace body parts, like arms on people and legs on
ducks, thanks to 3D printing.
Now, not later, is the time. There might not be a better time, ever, to play a role in the
global startup community.
We are still in a Cambrian explosion for startups, but as the economy improves there
will be less fuel for the fire, which means now is the time. It's on us to take advantage
of the most comprehensive ecosystem of support for entrepreneurs that have ever
existed. Now is the time because the `downside risk' has never been so low.39 If you
fail, as chapter 5 covers, you bounce back and move on. Even corporate employers
are unlikely to look down on you. Universities will accept you back. Taking risks, in
the hope of making a difference, is an acceptable career choice.
There is no experience like it. If you have the audacity to demand more from life, to
live up to your hopes and dreams, then entrepreneurship is the way forward. Change
happens one step at a time. Building a startup is one decision at a time. Make your
first decision to want to change, to want to achieve your dreams, to want greater
control of your income and career.
37Find out more about Bitcoin here: http://bitcoin.org/en/
38Read more about the Google purchase of Nest here:
39Downside risk is something which should always been considered when
considering starting a business. Ask yourself: how can I reduce or limit the risks in
this venture? It is something you will always have to factor in, at every stage of any
business, including if you work for a startup compared to working in the corporate
The New Goldrush isn't about seeking your fortune - it is about making smart,
calculated choices, in order to create the future you want. Whatever that is. Only you
can decide. Your future has arrived today. Time to build something you can be proud
About the Author
Dominic Tarn is a writer and author, experienced in content marketing for venture-
His eight-year career has seen him write authoritative articles for numerous
publications on politics and the Middle East, before switching focus to his newfound
passion, startups and entrepreneurism.
Dominic is now deeply involved with the worldwide startup community, having built
his knowledge as a blogger, marketing executive, co-founder, advisor, and freelance
Making his debut as a published author with The New Goldrush: A Quick Guide to
Startups (foreword written by Joel Gascoigne, Founder & CEO of Buffer - published
February 2014) he hopes to serve as a guide for those who want to launch their own
startup, or work for one, to gain a deeper understanding of the reality of startup life.
The New Goldrush combines first-hand interviews with top entrepreneurs and an
avalanche of case studies, resources and information to help readers take positive
steps towards gaining greater control of their own careers.
Dominic lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
I've not been able to fit in all the research I conducted in the creation of this book
but it seems a shame not to share this with you. This is why I'm offering free PDFs
containing further tips, advice and real-life examples through the website.
As I go through the catalogue of extra material, I'll offer you:
- Extra Free Startup Case Studies
- Full Length Transcripts from Founder Interviews < we could get founder interview
material extra from other sources. I know a few, but I'm fresh out of all the good
- Advice on Starting your own company
- Advice on getting a job in a Startup
Access these FREE PDFs of bonus material now - www.thenewgoldrush.me/bonus/
If you enjoyed this book, please leave a review on AMAZON:
- Amazon UK (www.Amazon.co.uk)
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- Amazon Canada (www.Amazon.ca)
Let your friends know about The New Goldrush!
Tweet about The New Goldrush Now!
Appendix: Further Resources
- Michael Lewis, The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story (Houder & Stoughton,
1999). Amazon: www.amazon.com/The-New-Thing-Silicon-Valley/dp/0140296468
- Sarah Lacy, The Facebook Story (Crimson Publishing, 2009):
- Sarah Lacy, Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley
and the Rise of Web 2.0 (Gotham; reprint, 2009): www.amazon.com/Once-Youre-
- Jessica Livingston, Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days (Apress,
- Noam Wasserman, The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the
Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup. Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and
Entrepreneurship (Princeton University Press, 2013): www.amazon.com/The-
- Steve Blank, The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a
Great Company (K & S Ranch, 2012): www.amazon.com/The-Startup-Owners-
- David Taylor, The Naked Leader: The True Paths to Success are Finally Revealed
(Bantam Books, 2003): www.amazon.com/Naked-Leader-Success-Finally-
- Chris Guillebeau, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do
What You Love, and Create a New Future (Crown Business, 2012):
- Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New
Rich (Harmony; expanded updated edition, 2009): www.amazon.com/The-4-Hour-
- Seth Godin, Permission Marketing : Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends
Into Customers (Simon & Schuster, 1999): www.amazon.com/Permission-
- Guy Kawasaki, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
(Portfolio Trade, reprint, 2012): www.amazon.com/Enchantment-Changing-Hearts-
- Guy Kawasaki, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book
(Nononina Press, 2013): www.amazon.com/APE-Author-Publisher-Entrepreneur-
- Brad Stone, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Little, Brown
and Company, 2013): www.amazon.com/The-Everything-Store-Bezos-
- Richard Branson, Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a
Fortune Doing Business My Way (Crown Business, updated, 2011):
- Richard Branson, Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur
(Portfolio Trade, reprint, 2011): www.amazon.com/Business-Stripped-Bare-
- Natalie Sisson, The Suitcase Entrepreneur: Create freedom in business and
adventure in life (Tonawhai Press, 2013): www.amazon.com/Suitcase-Entrepreneur-
HackFwd was a European pre-seed investment company, founded by Lars Hinrichs,
which closed down in September 2013. They have kindly left a collection of very
useful resources online, including the following:
- Roman Stanek, CEO of GoodData about the best ways to fail faster.
- Tom Hulme, IDEO Design Director, talks about the science of entrepreneurship.
- Stephanie Kaiser & Torsten Reil talk about the metrics (key performance indicators
- KPI's) behind the growth of startups.
- Mike Butcher of TechCrunch talks about how to pitch to the media.
- Marco Börries talks about how to lead in a stressful startup environment.