No Excuses

If you made the jump into startup land then you should also swallow the ownership pill and remove excuses from your vocabulary.

The traditional founder’s mindset is about discovery. Not excuses. Finding a way to climb a mountain against all extremities. Reid Hoffman, one of the founders of LinkedIn said it well:

“Entrepreneurship is jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down.”

Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn Founder, VC Partner at Greylock

Whether it’s going up or down a mountain, the direction and terrain pose a new set of challenges which you’ll be tested against resilience, adaptation and performance. Having full ownership without excuses helps you move the needle.

Corporate Ladder of Responsibility

Traditionally the corporate ladder approach carves out a piece of the pie for you to own. Your role. Your responsibility. This means your career is a set of steps on narrowly defined outcomes in a big machine. You use your skills to make sure the gears are greased and running well.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Some like it and others do not.

It’s human nature to fall into a common pattern. It gives us peace of mind. It’s safe because it is predictable.

I used to work for Australia’s largest financial services company (AMP Ltd) and loved it. There I got to work across many business units in an architectural role. Horizontally not vertically stacked. A rare opportunity. There I saw folks working narrowly focused jobs and also those horizontally. There I also gained vision for what I wanted to do in life.

Startup Life

After AMP, I joined a startup; and it was the change I needed.

“The Devil is in the Detail.”

Drilled into me during my 1st startup

As an early stage founder, you are the janitor. Jack of all trades. You will be called to mission by your inner voice for everything from coding to product to sales to marketing to QA. You name it you are going to do it. If you are missing that inner voice then you might want to reconsider your dedication as a startup founder.

Traditionally when you needed some marketing help you’d email/walk over to marketing and have them own it. As an early stage founder you may not even have a marketing department. Does that mean you throw you hands up into the air and:

(a) pray for a miracle,
(b) hope the problem goes away or your peer/investor forgets, or
(c) roll up your sleeves and get shit done.

The answer is obvious for those who get this but not so for a lot of folks who want to have the founder/ceo title minus the responsibility. This is more common than you think.

Time is not on your side. Neither is lack of skills when other more qualified teams are competing for your customers, and even venture capital.

A Mentality Shift

Being a founder of your own business is a fundamental shift in mentality. No more excuses. Only results matter.

In my experience, it’s similar to the transition one makes going from high school to university. In high school your teacher will push you to complete work, remind your of your responsibilities and they may enforce it with detention or a meeting with your parents. At university you are now a lone ranger. Destined for greatness or a miserable failure. Do you have the discipline to get up each morning and get stuff done or do you prefer to cruise and sink back to your parents basement. Decisions decisions…

Startups are like that too. You have to push yourself to excel and perform above and beyond. You are also now responsible for many moving pieces of the machine. Not just the cog. From building a product to selling it to building a business with employees who you’ll lead and inspire so they can follow you on the yellow brick road to the emerald city.

Founder Mindset

A founder is typically jack of all trades and expert of none. This poses an interesting set of challenges as a never ending broad set of work has to be done and sometimes new skills acquired or sharpened in little time.

This mindset reminds me of Peter Thiel’s; 0 to 1.

0 to 1 is hard. You are going from practically an idea to a product that turns into a business. As a founder you need to get the wheels moving and keep them moving, even during uncertain times when information is sparse.

Many great businesses were started during such uncertain times. Take the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and global financial crisis. Just to name a few, it started;

  • WhatsApp -Jan Koum and Brian Acton
  • AirBnB – Brian Chesky et al.
  • Uber – Travis Kalanick et al.

The financial crisis was a surprisingly fertile period for unicorn and unicorn-ish companies. Instead of running away with excuses of a bad economy or a pandemic, these founders saw a calling and pushed on during uncertain times.

When the current tough times are bad, the future good times are great.

That’s ownership right there.

No excuses.

They didn’t wait until times were great to raise money so they could build something. They invested sweat capital (their own time) to solve problems, learn something and then own it like a boss.

There are no excuses when a founder takes full ownership. Be that founder.

Back to business fundamentals?

Startups are hard. You are building a business and looking for a repeatable financial model.

When I first arrived in Silicon Valley (back in 2009) I started to hear about startups that were focused on growth at all expenses. The revenue part would be worked out later. This approach brought in creative story tellers to Silicon Valley, to tell stories, raise a bucket load of capital so they could hire people to execute on their vision. And so the startup boom began.

No matter if you’re running an online or offline store or business, both will always require you to ship out project. Given the fact that every package is different, it’s a must to weigh each product in order to get an accurate shipping fee estimation, for this you need a postal scale.

Building a business takes time!

Said every successful business owner

However growth at all costs is not congruent with this mentality. So rarely were these questions thrown around until few started to IPO; without a way to make money. Many tech companies that took this route didn’t fair well on the public market. But that’s nothing to what we are currently seeing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

So what can we learn?

Business fundamentals are still fundamental to business success in all type of market conditions.

Some businesses still thrive even in a down market.

Growth at all cost strategy

Growth at all cost is a hack to inflate a company to a point so it can be stacked by the next private investor until the stack is exhausted and can be handed over to someone without insider knowledge, public investors. Chamath encapsulates this brilliantly. No doubt this model has made many millionaires. But also disappointed many. This model only works in an upmarket.

Making money strategy

When I ran my first venture backed startup we nearly ran out of money. Had to cut salaries. I had 2 kids during that period. My wife, an Occupational Therapist became a full-time mum (we took parenting seriously). Did I mention we had no family around us to help since they were all in Australia. My dreams of startup life in Silicon Valley hahaha

What I learnt through that experience is that relying on venture capital to survive is a game of lottery. The man in the high castle pulls the strings. But only if you let that be the means you run your business by. Don’t!

Other options

There are of course other options you can consider but at that point you should rethink why you are in this game of business.

  • raise capital – in a downmarket this often means unfavorable terms,
  • dramatically cut their biggest expenses (human headcount) to stop the blood and try to survive until markets bounce back, and/or

Would you bet your life on a lottery? I nearly did and it hurt. A lot. But never again.

This is how I grew a thick skin

My current startup (Veryfi) was built to be a business. Making money was built into the core pillar. We made money early on because we built a business, not an elastic band that one day might make money. Sure some models of growth at all costs work out but your chances of being that business are marginally reduced. It’s like betting on lottery.

Back to business fundamentals

No matter what the economy looks like, if you are building a startup then build a business. This is the best and time proven method. Because when the sky turns black you want to survive not drown.

 

PS. I will be on a Silicon Valley Bank US-APAC organized panelist with investors and founders to discuss the adjustments startups are making in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Free to join this April 16th 5:30-7:00 PM PDT. Hear about my prior experience going through the 2009 recession & H1N1 pandemic at Coupons, Inc. (Silicon Valley) and my startup journey at Veryfi (a YC company).

Garage startup: Everything starts as nothing

I just remembered something that needs to be bedded down as a post. We all know this very well, and have seen the picture below, but yet we forget. When we forget this basic truth we start behaving in an unsound manner, looking for big words to fuel the story our ego is improvising to. Sometimes it’s best to catch ourselves and remember that everything starts as nothing. New things go 0 to 1. And this is also how most startups are born; the garage startup.

The first short story comes directly from the corporate world. An individual I was speaking with let their belief system run amok and painted a picture that the company they are employed by is superior and expect the same size company to be dealing with (ie. not startup). Even throwing in a derogatory statement like “a man in a garage coding” to generally refer to companies they do not like. hmmm…

The 2nd story comes from the world of Facebook Groups where a group of bookkeepers started talking about software companies they use to provide tools for their clients. One explained the horror she felt when she learnt one of the companies she was speaking to is a “dude in a garage”. *insert roll eyes emoji*… yeah.

Deflating the ego

If you are ever in such a situation please remind these lovely people that everything starts as nothing.

It’s easy to get a job and be part of something someone else laid the foundations to. What’s more special is starting something yourself. But it takes guts, grit and a go getter attitude to start something from 0 to 1 without a safety net of it working out.

Apple, Google, Amazon, and countless others all at one point were garage startups. I’m sure every company has a story of starting from nothing. The struggles. The courage. And for some the breakout. Here is that famous Silicon Valley picture to remind us of this fact.

Famous examples of Silicon Valley startups having started in the garage

Big things have small beginnings.

Christian Von Koenigsegg: A man and his dream

I’ve known about the Koenigsegg cars for a while. As a fan of fast cars, and having built & raced one myself, it’s only natural to be inspired by the nature of fast automotive. There is an art to building race cars which today I appreciate and often contrast to building a business. Having cofounded 2 x venture backed startups in Silicon Valley inc. (inc one backed by Y Combinator) I find the parallels similar yet different.

Recently I was watching a famous VLogger Mr JWW interview Christian Von Koenigsegg on the new Koenigsegg Jesko Hypercar. The name Jesko is a tribute to Christian’s father, Jesko von Koenigsegg. The Jesko is a high-performance track car, with focus on high aerodynamic downforce and more precise handling. Power 941 kW; 1,262 hp from a 5 L (5,032 cc; 307 cu in) twin-turbocharged V8 with a cost close to $3m.

The video interview struck me because of the detail and passion Christian has for his business developing unique hypercars from the ground up. Christian knows all the intricate detail that make up the cars his company manufacturers. He is a walking talking car dictionary. Not just cars. He is an innovator. Most parts inside the Koenigsegg are designed and built by Koenigsegg. Not sourced from 3rd party suppliers like other manufacturers would do.

So I had to dig up some info and learn more about him and his company. Off to the official Koenigsegg website I went.

About Christian Von Koenigsegg

Christian makes hyper cars that rival the Bugattis and Ferraris of the world. Everything in the Koenigsegg car is custom made. From gearboxes to turbos to engines. His latest gearbox allows the driver to go from gear 9 to 3 in an instant to pull maximum power from engine. The computer supports the driver by making sure that the gear user selects is not going to blow the engine. His cars cost $1-2m on avg. His company has ~200 employees.

It’s get’s better!

What’s more amazing is this story on the about page found on his company’s website.

“In 1991, he invented a new solution for joining floor planks together without adhesive or nails. He called it Click, as the profile enabled the planks to simply click together. Christian presented this technology to his father-in-law in Belgium, who ran a flooring factory. He rejected the idea, saying that if it was viable, someone would have come up with it a long time ago. Christian then showed the concept to a few other floor manufacturers who also dismissed it. In 1995, a Belgian and a Swedish company patented the exact same solution as Christian’s Click floor – they even called it Click! This innovation has now turned into a multi-billion dollar industry…”

https://www.koenigsegg.com/christian-von-koenigsegg/

The moral of this story

The moral of this story; don’t fuckin listen to people who tell you it cannot be done. Push forward and believe in yourself. Because you never know what one day could come of that/those crazy ideas.

If you don’t do it, someone else will.

Regret is much harder to live with than investing some of your time to test ideas and prove others wrong about your contrarian ideas.

Go forth and play!

More reading

Your Twitter account has been locked

I should have known better than to change the date of birth on my company’s Twitter Account Veryfi to the company’s inception date 2 years ago. Without warning or any confirmation Twitter immediately declared that I must be underage and locked the company account.

As panic set in, I explored my options. Oh I can prove to Twitter my identity by submitting my drivers license to them. But how will Twitter know I really own this company account if my identity is no tied to the Veryfi Twitter account? I shrugged and decided to share my drivers license.

Little did I realize that their form was also broken and kept on rejecting the drivers license photo followed by disabling the “Upload image” button. A company with a market cap of $30B based in the heart of SF cannot do basic QA (quality assurance) on a feature that serves justice? No way! In the end I managed to get it working. There, sent.

While my company also owns a Youtube account on which we explain about our services and products, I have never come across such a situation on it. When we started the channel we did take the services of a company to buy views as buying youtube views might feel like cheating, but it’s really not and ever since then our channel has been booming in views thus helping the business to grow drastically. In other words, the Youtube algorithm and automated response is way better than Twitter, and you can see in the below image why I said that.

Twitter’s broken form to prove your identity by sending your PII to who knows where.

Few hours later, silence.

I check gmail.

A sentence has been served…

At this point I had enough. But, let’s rewind this a tad to reflect on this problem.

How to destroy trust

Jack (CEO of Twitter) gained my trust for Twitter when he came back to Joe Rogan(JRE Podcast) for the 2nd time to cleanup the mess of his first appearance. Kudos to Joe Rogan for reeling him back in and for Jack to face the music. Jack arrived with his legal advisor Vijaya Gadde. Tim Pool(an American journalist, YouTuber, and political commentator) also joined to spice up the discussion.

During the interview, listening with laser sharp focus, I gained more empathy and respect for Twitter and it’s daily challenges. A platform that is juggling free speech, propaganda and fake news. It is a bloody tough job! Peoples emotions run wild. We all have something to say.

How does one determine truth from fact?

When does one hand down a sentence?

“ei incumbit probatio qui negat, non qui dicit” — Presumption of guilt, in Latin

Presumption of guilt is a default position based on pessimism and suspicion whereas presumption of innocence is based more on optimism and trust. So which playbook does Twitter really play?

But I disgres.

Tim Pool drilled Jack and Vijaya around the decision making process before killing Twitter accounts. “Where does machine logic and where does human intervention come in?” Of course the answers were colorful but Jack made bold promises for a better review processes and more care before killing accounts.

I was sold. I now gave Twitter more love. They had a hard problem to solve and their CEO had committed to fixing it.

Until, months later, when I declared my company’s twitter age to be 2. <insert-police-lights-here>

Should computers run the world?

Strangely enough, the night prior I was glued to Royal Institutes lecture by Hannah Fry(a British mathematician, author of Hello World) speaking about machine bias in decision making. You can catch it here on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Rzhpf1Ai7Z4

Hannah presented a fascinating topic. She questioned the audience to see who would let machines dictate their fate in a legal system where machines are used to do just that. Being a software engineer by degree and a 2nd time entrepreneur I declared that I rather let an algorithm decide fate. My view was that due to a more logical approach, minus the human emotion bias that occurs during heated trials, a machine will lead to a fair outcome.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please return your seats and tray-tables to their full upright positions, and extinguish all smoking material, as we’re about to land in the red zone. Ahh! No survivors!” — Fight Club

Hannah, I was wrong!

Where to from here…

Back to the case at hand.

The story is Twitter decided to ban Veryfi’s Twitter Account https://twitter.com/veryfinance because I wanted to tell the truth and tell them the company’s actual date of birth was 2 years ago. Twitter’s logic was as simple (and stupid) as this:

IF age(dob) < 13 THEN
LockAccountImmediately('DoNotConfirmWithUser')
SendDeathNote('FewMinsLater')
ENDIF

12 hours later… I think Twitter actually deleted Veryfi’s Twitter Account without any due diligence.

Not a good sign when you visit your company’s twitter account (https://twitter.com/veryfinance)and see this.

Earlier in the day I also complained to @TwitterSupport using my personal twitter account. I’m pretty sure it fell on death ears since no one acknowledged or offered to help.

Tonight I went for a walk to reflect on this issue. Walking past many famous companies based in Mountain View (CA); Giants that have stood the test of time. It lifted my spirit and got me thinking. Given Twitter’s pessimistic authoritarian style and hypocrisy, will they stand the test of time?

I recalled a wise decision my wife and I made (over 10 years ago) to eliminate the idiot box (TV) from our home. We have not regretted it since. Books have replaced the space where the idiot box used to live.

Do we need Twitter? I don’t think so. It saps our energy and time. No business, big or small needs Twitter.

And now I am at peace.

~ Ernest

PS. This article was also published on Medium: https://medium.com/the-road-to-silicon-valley/your-twitter-account-has-been-locked-7bff4e69300d

Links mentioned in the article

About Veryfi (banned from Twitter for being 2 years old)

Veryfi, Inc. is a California, US-based mobile software automation company founded in December 2016 and backed by Y-Combinator inc other prominent investors in Silicon Valley. Veryfi helps Architecture, Engineering & Construction (AEC) workforce of all sizes to get access to Veryfi’s smart mobile tools to eliminate 90% of time wasted doing data entry (& chasing records), improve job costing and empower their financial prosperity. To learn more visit: https://www.veryfi.com/

IQBOXY is machine powered bookkeeping for your business

IQBOXY was started by 2 software engineers with a common main point — outsourcing the health of our company’s bookkeeping to cheap labor was slow, led to more accounting errors and exposed personal financial information to preying eyes.

Along the way we were also inspired by John D. Rockefeller and his most sacred relic, Ledger A. He kept a detailed record of his receipts and expenditures so he could always know the health of his business and life.

“No less than his business life, Rockefeller’s private life was ruled by bookkeeping entries. Since he found numbers so clean and soothing in their simplicity, he applied the business principles…to his own personal economy. When he started working in September 1855, he paid a dime for a small red book, anointed Ledger A, in which he minutely recorded his receipts and expenditures. Many of his young contemporaries kept such record books but seldom with such exacting care. For the remainder of his life, Rockefeller treated Ledger A as his most sacred relic.”

~ (Chernow, Ron (2007–12–18). Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (Kindle Locations 1321–1325). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

It is 2017 and we believe that we needed to own the pulse of our business and that machines could do a far better job than a human behind a spreadsheet in the cloud.
Enter IQBOXY — machine powered end-to-end bookkeeping. With 0 (zero) human intervention.

Ernest Semerda & Dmitry Birulia hacking at Y Combinator (W17 — https://www.iqboxy.com)

IQBOXY Lessons

Here are a few lessons from our journey building IQBOXY during the Y Combinator (YC) W17 — Winter program.

(A) How we figured out at IQBOXY how much to charge our customers

When we launched, customers questioned our FREE model.

“what’s the catch? why is it free?”.

So we said, “ok, how about we charge you”. And so we did and peace was restored in the kingdom. We used Stripe to process all our subscriptions — honestly don’t waste your time with anything else. Stripe is so simple to setup and get going.

Lesson: some products customers expect to pay for. Especially when it deals with their financial records. So research your market and find a spot that’s competitive. Never get into a price war since the strongest financially always wins (MBA 101).

During the YC W17 program, Dalton Caldwell (a YC Partner) encouraged us to experiment with pricing. If you are a software engineer, you know this is fast to do — ahh the power of being able to hack something yourself really fast without the need for any fancy tools. Our KPI was revenue so we used Stripe to monitor the outcome of introducing randomly rotating pricing pages. You can also achieve this in JavaScript (the crude way) or do it on the server side using Python / Django templates. But if you knew that this is the cost of renting a server for your company, then you bet you’d tread carefully. Then watch your Stripe subscriptions and compare to previous historical subscription data. The goal is to find a sweet spot where the change in pricing is positive or neutral.

Here is what we settled on (IQBOXY plans): https://www.iqboxy.com/business/#pricing

(B) What metrics are important to IQBOXY and why

Our KPI has always been MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue). Apart from being at the root of business fundamentals it is also a good indicator whether your customers love your product. This also decides if you can scour for your customer in your customer base, which you might have had invested heavily in, after researching from places like https://www.salesforce.com/hub/crm/zendesk-crm-competition/ about maintaining all customer transactions.

It’s easy to give away product for free. Anyone can do this in today’s digital distribution market. It is a lot harder to sell. Turning a user into a paying customer requires hard work to perfect product market fit.

  • The product has to be of quality,
  • The product has to solve a pain point and
  • The product has to add enough value that your users love it.

Apart from being at the root of business fundamentals it is also a good indicator whether your customers love your product or simply using it as a temporary swap in for the more expensive one. 

(C) How do you balance trying new customer acquisition strategies and doubling down on ones which are working?

We followed the actionable framework and advice of Gabriel Weinberg in his famous book “Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers”.

The book covers every possible marketing channel you can use to get traction, and shows you which channels will be your key to growth. You need to be organized and fastidious in measuring each channel. Then once you see 1 or 2 channels working, milk them.

Observe your Metrics

Finally, make it a ritual (a good habit) to review your business metrics daily. At first, most of it will be numbers and a bit chaotic. But over time your brain develops this beautiful connection and insights will appear.

Quick hack: To kick start this habit, create a new Chrome User called “Metrics”. Set Chrome to “Always open previous tabs” (located in Chrome > Settings). For each tab, open the sites you use to measure your business. For example:

Tab 1 — Stripe dashboard to measure Revenue KPI,
Tab 2 — Google Adwords to measure your Campaign Strategy,
Tab 3 — Google Analytics to measure Web User Engagement or Blog performance,
Tab 4— Google Firebase to measure mobile User Engagement and catch errors,
Tab 5 — SensorTower to watch Customer Feedback and App performance,
and so on… you get the drift. Make this a habit! Otherwise you will never do this.

(D) Tips for driving mobile conversions

Today (2017) this is harder and slower than in 2012. But there are ways. And these methods require patience and persistence.

We started mobile first and did ASO (app store optimization) with the help of SensorTower. Initially it moved the needle slightly so but nothing like the early days of iTunes when the app market for keywords wasn’t so crowded.

Word of mouth ended up being the strongest driver for us. Our early users love the product and kept on spreading it to their friends and colleagues. A mobile bottom up approach is truly the most powerful form.

We ended up creating a communication strategy around this and would reach out to our users asking for reviews and comments on iTunes. Positive reviews & comments moved the needle the most on iTunes. This started to push our app position into a more visible spectrum. More downloads, more love, more ratings and more visibility — recursive circle.

~ Ernest & Dmitry
IQBOXY Cofounders
Y Combinator W17 cohort

Thanks to Alexander Strunkin (Deako YC W16), Urszula Semerda, Olia Birulia and Andrzej Bakonski for reading drafts of this.

This post was 1st published on March 20th on Medium under YC Stripe Publication: https://medium.com/yc-stripe/iqboxy-is-machine-powered-bookkeeping-for-your-business-f7c9af314866

Y Combinator’s Startup School 2016 — the recap, highlights & lessons

Another amazing Startup School 2016! Each year Y Combinator has something fresh to deliver at Startup School. This year was without exception. Apart from a stellar lineup of speakers (founders and investors) there was something new — a Founder-VC pitch role play (more on that below). I still remember my first Startup School in 2010 hearing Brian Chesky (AirBnB founder — pictured left) speak with so much energy and excitement on stage. Heck, I was so inspired that I went to the 10 man office in SF the following day to see them. Next day Office visits no longer happen but you can still get inspired by attending Startup School.

Ernest Semerda with Brian Chesky circa 2010 — Founder of Airbnb @ AirBnB headquarters in SF

Each year Startup School reminds me about the fundamentals of starting and running a business;

(a) build something people need,

(b) execution is king and

(c) move fast.

Without further ado, here are my 2016 Startup School highlights.

2016 highlights

(1) Gobble — killer charts & “very crowded market”

These 2 pictures below should motivate you. This is what 6 years from an “overcrowded market” to killing it looks like. Well done Gobble for staying around and showing the disbelievers that you can do it.

“Gobble helps busy professionals easily cook dinner in just 10 minutes with 1 pan. The company designs gourmet dinner kits and completes all the sourcing and prepwork — washing, chopping, marinating, and sauce-making — so all one has to do is combine the ingredients together in one pan and be a dinner hero.”

Founders never forget. Note the “very crowded market” excuse.

Next time you are told this lame excuse of an “overcrowded market” or “no market” don’t be put down. Think AirBnB, Uber, Gobble et al.. and thank the investor for their time. Move on. And prove them wrong.

(2) — Rigetti and their Quantum Computer

Rigetti and Quantum Computing

I don’t remember last time I was this excited to hear about Quantum Computing.

This IS the next major evolution in computing. It’s that extra layer of precision that’ll open up new opportunities like seconds did for the clock to crystals for GPS and parallel for processing.

And maybe, just maybe we might be able to solve “Health” after all —from efficient drug discovery by mapping out all molecular combinations quickly to identify the ones that would most likely work to simulations. I’d love to see health go open source and have every software engineer contribute (as a way of giving back to society) to solving health related issues. Maybe this is where Mark & Priscilla Zuckerberg $3B effort to rid the world of major diseases be focused on — a contrarian approach to health efforts?.. maybe this is what we need since existing efforts are slow and buried in red tape.

Sam, congrats on convincing Rigetti to join YC. I want them to succeed!

(3) The Art of Pitching with Sam Altman and Paul Buchheit

This is the Founder-VC role play I mentioned above. I was super impressed with Sam being able to soak in the founder’s pitch and then within seconds craft a kickass (alternate) version. Brilliant way to educate everyone listening on the art of pitching.

Here are the videos — Note: Sam is role playing the founder role and Paul the VC role.

3 Takeaways:

  1. Articulate clearly what your business does, what market its addressing and why it matters,
  2. Explain the Fundamentals of what Drives your business and
  3. Don’t leave a meeting without some kind of a follow up (tip: don’t ask for a cheque).

(4) Marc Andreessen live and uncut!

Marc is always amazing to listen to. He commands so much power and energy in the room because his f**kin awesome! YouTube his name to hear many many recordings of his talks.

Marc stressed that to get yourself in front of the partners at a16z you need to pass “a bunch of tests”.

1st test — network your way into a venture firm. It tests your ability to hustle. It also paints a picture of your ability to hire. Someone that cannot hustle will find it a challenge to bring in top hires.

2nd test — formal presentation — “can you execute a formal speech” — this gets tested once you get yourself infront of the partners. Marc says this should be easier to do than infront of your customers since they are a lot tougher when it comes to selling by being a “default no”.

What I’d love to see in the future Startup School

  • Mobile focus — it’s no suprise the super computer in everyone’s pocket is changing how we interact and engage with “always on services”. I’m yet to see a startup that has truly revolutinalized a service on the mobile. For example; I’d love to see the spreadsheet evolved into mobile form where the shell looks nothing like a spreadsheet in a smaller mobile window. I don’t mean a dashboard of numbers but an actual pleasurable experience end-to-end that works as well offline as online and is supported by intelligence to automate the meh pieces of my workflow. This could really be applied to any industry. There are ample opportunities and those that experience the pain and understand the technology will be leading it.
  • And more from The Art of Pitching!

Have I missed anything?

How was your 2016 YC Startup School experience?

PS. This article also appeared at https://medium.com/the-road-to-silicon-valley/ycombinators-startup-school-2016-the-recap-highlights-lessons-7222ed84218a#.gn23gyc8z

~ Ernest