In that miracle masquerading as the NFC Championship game last Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks taught entrepreneurs and all of us in the startup world five of the most important lessons about starting and building successful companies.
1. Nothing ever goes as planned.
For the first three-and-a-half quarters, nothing worked for the Seahawks. Quarterback Russell Wilson had thrown four interceptions and couldn’t run the ball. Penalties killed every promising drive. The Seahawks were down 16-0 at half and 19-7 late in the fourth quarter, and it wasn’t that close.
Every startup leader knows the feeling. Your product breaks in unexpected ways at unexpected times. You lose customers
“Um, excuse me, I … I think you forgot my bread.” “Bread, two dollars extra.” “Two dollars? But everyone in front of me got free bread.” “You want bread?” “Yes, please.” “Three dollars!” “What?” “No soup for you!” — George and the Soup Nazi, in “The Soup Nazi,” Seinfeld
I spend far too much time trying to convince people to say “yes,” especially people who are looking for reasons to say “no.” I think of myself as a pretty good salesperson, but I don’t think I have ever convinced someone to change his or her mind
Sequels are rarely better than the original. But there are exceptions. Being a sucker for happy endings, I liked Rocky II more than the Oscar-winning original. Speaking of great sequels, I was back at West Mercer Elementary this morning for Career Day, meeting with third, fourth and fifth graders and listening to their startup ideas.
My session was entitled “Your Billion-Dollar Idea.” Like last year, I explained what a venture capitalist does, laid out the criteria we use to make investments (team, product, market, business model and timing) and gave each student the opportunity to pitch
I just binge-watched all six seasons of Breaking Bad. If you haven’t downloaded the AMC show (but plan to soon), prepare yourself for experiencing someone else’s mid-life crisis, with healthy doses of terminal illness, murder, infidelity and drug-dealing thrown in to keep it interesting. Spending time with chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-kingpin Walter White, his family and the surrounding characters is exhausting and engrossing at the same time. The characters (and Walt especially) are more complex than any you have spent time with on the TV screen.
Instead of reviewing the show, as others have done far better than I could, I
Can you help me with an experiment? I want to have more walking meetings.
I have two reasons for this goal. First, I think meetings where we talk while walking are more effective. Steve Jobs (and now Mark Zuckerberg) are famous for taking long walks to interview employees or discuss key strategic initiatives. For some reason, moving stimulates more creativity and easier dialogue. My best recent meetings with entrepreneurs have been on walks around the Pioneer Square area.
I spent this morning at the Career Day of my youngest kids’ elementary school (West Mercer) with about 30 third, fourth, and fifth graders. My session was entitled “Your $100,000,000 Idea.” My goal was to explain what a venture capitalist does, lay out the criteria we use to make investments (team, product, market, business model and timing), and give each student the opportunity to pitch a new business concept. I told the students that each group would pick a winning idea, and I would publish the winners here.
To my surprise, the ideas the students came up with were incredibly
No one has been more supportive of StarkRavingVC.com than Rand Fishkin, the SEOmoz CEO who has more Twitter followers than the populations of the capital cities of Alaska, Maryland and Vermont (combined). When I started blogging, Rand Fishkin wrote a post about the 14 ideas he wanted me to write about in my blog. We decided it might be fun to hit them all in a video interview format. It’s no Skyfall, but I think Rand does an excellent job of posing the questions that entrepreneurs really want to ask VCs. Let me know what you think.
“Think of him as chewing gum. By the end of the game, I want you to know what flavor he is.” – Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), Hoosiers
Entrepreneurs don’t do enough diligence on their investors.
As venture investors, we do a lot of diligence on you. We call references, both on and off your reference sheet. In our partnership discussion, we talk about your strengths and weaknesses, your character, your ability to grow the business, your idiosyncrasies, whether you will want to sell too early, your willingness to take feedback, and everything else under the sun. We are making a bet on you just