The original post is here, which is a condensed slides from Business Inside did from The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career (Edition unknown) by Hoffman, Reid, Casnocha, Ben [Hardcover(2012£©]
1) Your life/career is NOT about you. It’s about everyone else
2) Anything desirable has competition. The key is to develop your own competitive advantage, which consists of “asset, aspiration, market realities”
- asset: what you have going for you now
- aspiration: what you might like to go in the future
- market realities: what people actually pay you for
The best career has you pursuing worthy aspiration, using your assets, while navigating market realities
Your existing asset has value too; you might be surprised how valuable your existing skills and connections to those who don’t have them. Just ask them: “How can I help?”. By asking, you will learn what other people’s needs are.
Fulfill needs. Solve problems. And you change the world
In college, building relationship is easy (dorm, class etc.). In real world, you have to learn to proactively build your network. Relationship/network matter because people control opportunities, resources.
Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky; they are attached to people. People who you hang with shape who you are. The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.
The best way to know new people is through people you already know.
The power of extended network
- You may not think you know the right people. Your existing network is bigger than you think.
- Its likely someone you already know knows someone that may help you.
- Learn by doing and making mistakes
- Case study: not sure if you can break into pharmaceutical industry? Go spend 6 months at Pfizer to see what connection you can build
- Not sure if you are good at product or marketing? Offer help for free! That is what Reid did at Apple!
- Actions, not plans, generate useful lessons
1) because action helps you decide where you want to go and how to get there
- in real life, most successful professionals learn to take intelligent risks
- taking intelligent risks will give you competitive edge: for example, do not underestimate the job that pays less in cash but offer tremendous learning. In fact, prioritize plans that offer the best chance of learning about yourself and the world.
2) do not dismiss a career path just because you keep hearing how risky it is. In fact, it’s probably less competition for landing that opportunity.
3) The worst-case scenarios tend to be survivable.
When the worst case means getting fired, losing a little bit of time and money, or experiencing something discomfort, it is the risk you should be willing to take.
On the other hand,
If the worst case is serious tarnishing your reputation, loss of all your economic assets, or something otherwise career-ending, don’t accept that risk.
There will always be uncertainty about career opportunities and risks…most people avoid uncertainties…take intelligent risks and you will find the opportunities that others miss.
We are all learning progress. Each day offers an opportunity to learn more, do more and be more in our lives and careers.
In the world of work, everyday is an exam day; if you are not growing, you are contracting!
If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.
Develop your competitive advantage!
Build your network!
Take intelligent risks!
If not now, When?
Let me get this out of the way: making something people want is hard, so damn hard.
Making something people want has nothing to do how book smart you are, which school you go, what pedigree is in your blood.
It has nothing to do with your product itself, regardless how beautiful it is, how many rounds of UX iterations you have gone through, what framework you development stack is.
It has nothing to do with how many hackathons you have won, or participated, how many incubators you are part of, hack, it doesn’t even have anything to do with what investors you have on board, in fact, it has nothing to do with the many millions of your investors’ money you’ve got.
(Picture credit: Zach Glassman, creator of passionpassport.com)
No, Instagram’s instant success is not because of its beautiful apps.
No, airbnb’s instant success is not because of its easy to use mobile apps.
No, Uber’s instant success is not because its wopping $49.5 million funding.
All these fanciness came after their instant success.
Further: startups who have instant investment, i.e. having money before having users, are more likely the result of instant media hype, it will eventually come back to the ground and restart a normal cycle like every other startups and creatures, history can’t be lying.
I bursted out these rant after looking closer at Instagram, hosting on airbnb for 2 years, after spending 18 months busy building 3 well designed web applications only to find none of them gained traction. Experiencing these unannounced failures, I’ve been struggling to look for an answer from within. I’ve started Yoga, meditation, I seeked out the labyrinth Jack Dorsey hinted hidden in the lands end, I walked countless hours in the presidio’s woods and in the fogs and low clouds lingering within and without, condensed waterdrop dripped from the old eucalyptus tree branches, onto my face, nonstop pacific wind blasting at my being, ever present presidio coyotes, the red tailed hawks are all seemingly playing cat mouse game with me: find her, find the answer, and find her, would you?
And I’ve been looking…
What do I lack? Why people don’t flock to the products I made? What drove people retweeting a few blog articles I wrote, but not majority of others?
Besides the herd effect in all of us: what it is that makes something desirable by people?
I woke up with these same questions this morning to an article written by Amber Rae, creator of boldacademy, titled WHY YOU SHOULD SCRAP THAT LADDER-CLIMBING PLAN AND GO BACKPACKING AROUND THE WORLD, INSTEAD.
In that article, she included stories from a few people who tirelessly chased after their dreams, one of them by the name Zach Glassman. Zach left his soul crushing job in search of his life purpose: a 10 months ordeal he documented with instagram. The overwhelming social interaction and “collaborative spirit was apparent”. He quickly gained large number of followers and almost every photo (he actually doesn’t have too many on his instagram account) receives abundant “likes”. The story telling led to unquestionable human connection.
Amber told Zach’s story well:
Within a few months, Zach left his job and embarked on a 10-month around-the-world trip which he dubbed “Passion Passport.” He met with the people who inspired his journey, photographing and journaling his adventures–all with the hopes of inspiring others to add more adventure to their lives. Within six months, thanks to Instagram and having a compelling story, he became a featured user and built a following of 50,000 people.
He then turned his journey into PassionPassport.com, where he promotes the transformative power of travel through touching stories, stunning images, and a project called The Bucket List Initiative. The Initiative gives prospective travelers the opportunity to win a chance to live out their travel dreams. Thanks to the perspective and space that travel provided him, he now has clear goals to attack and implement a number of growth ideas in mind for 2013.
If human connection is what people desire the most, should we build human connection first, company after?
Zach’s search for truth within resonated with millions people, that resonation built the human connection as soon as his soul searching journey began. Zach didn’t begin the 10 months journey to do startup: but at the end, passion passport is the natural outcome of such strong desire and act of soul searching.
People may ask: what about lean startup methodology? What about customer validation and development? What about business plan canvas? What about social currency?
But you see: human connection that Zach has built in the 10 month journey is the social currency and social proof any lean startup needs. Intentional or not, Zach’s approach is, in a sense, validating the existence of emotional vacuum and human needs in all of us: to feel inspired and hopeful, and maybe more.
Reading an article is not enough for me to find the answer as I’m continuing my own soul searching process. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be challenging, sometime seeing successful “overnight success” is going to shake my and many people’s determination to do things that matter to ourselves and make sense. But I’m happy that little by little, day by day, I am approaching to the rightness a step closer.
Jack Ma delivered this amazing talk to commence his “meditation days” at Stanford.
For those who understand Mandarin, this talk is more of a treat as you can feel his showmanship and humor and wisdom. Of course there are English caption as well.
About exactly a year ago I created a site that does “in-video” commentating, supposedly it will provide more precise commenting than current youtube comments. I somehow put it in the back of my mind.
As I’ve been toying with lean startup approach lately, I thought of this little tool, which does only one thing: the in-video commentating for youtube video. I suppose youtube users (which is everyone) are having problems finding the right videos on youtube. Another problem was my own experience: I’m tired of watching the whole video, move the player bar back and forth searching for the right moments (for example, a UFC knockout, a soccer goal score), wouldn’t it be nice if I or someone else markup the key moments?
I’m very curious to see who would be the first type of people to find this tool useful.
To get the test going, I quickly registered a domain name reelcomment.com to replace previous one, setup a bunch of categories that I think would address most video needs. Around 9pm on May 9 2013, the site went live. I posted a few videos just to show what reelcomment is about, wrote a quick “Show HN” on hackernews, posted a rare MMA fight between B.J.Penn and Lyoto on reddit. So far there have been 50 people visited the site but no one submitted any video or made any “in-video” comment.
After folding my last venture that was supposed to do video commentating “better”, I decided to take some time evaluate where the next opportunities will be, before rushing into building anything new.
I’ve since realized two dramatically different approaches: lean startup vs. “high” startup.
Steve Blank and Eric Ries lead the lean startup camp that is fundamentally changing how new companies are created, and how existing companies innovate effectively and consistently.
High startup, on the other hand, is not yet coined as a term. But I kind of think it captures the essence of its creation. “High” founders often reach “high profile” status as if overnight, they possess world class hustling skills that often result into strong team, fund raising from top investors from day 1 before the product takes any shape.
The question is: which way should we (you) take? Go lean by starting with customer development? Or go high by starting with selling to the top?
To answer this question, I think it’s fair to look at ourselves and look around, see who do we resemble?
In particular, let’s look at two “similar” new “travel experience” startups: vayable.com and peek.com.
Both companies were started by two non technical female founders, Jamie Wong of vayable and Ruzwana Bashir of peek.
Jamie started vayable in 2011 in a classic lean startup way: started with customer development by signing up bunch of “travel experience” providers without having a working product. Soon, she was able to manually serve enough customers that she had a business: with it she further drew small fundings from angels and well she was on her way to become a real entrepreneur with a team, a working product. Media buzz came much later after they have significant amount of revenue.
Fashionable Ruzwana Bashir is named as one of top 30 under 30 most influential female tech star, making waves on all leading medias from NYTimes, Wired, Fortune, fast company, Business Insider, you name it. She is a classic “high” way individual: always go all the way to the top on everything she does: went to oxford, then harvard business school, followed by Goldman sachs, gilt, blackstone, before long, befriended Eric Schimt, Jack Dorsey. Soon she was able to sell her vision of one stop travel experience shopping to Eric Schimt and Jack Dorsey, and got both of them fund her in Peek.com’s $1 million seed round. This was before it has any product, or customer.
Lean personality starts with hanging with customers, hustling to get customer to valid the idea, while high personality hang around elites of elites, take high road and reach to the moon by selling straight to the top.
High startup is glamourous. I personally think peek.com has a more complete solution than vayable.com, and that makes it even harder to achieve considering Ms. Bashir didn’t start with customer validation. She basically went with her guts after reportedly being tired of spending 20 hours to prepare a weekend trip.
Bar none, lean startup should be THE way to build startup from scratch. However high startup can often reach momentum at higher scale quicker, it’s especially so if the underlining product is a better replacement for existing way people do things in a huge market, as peek.com does. In that sense, I do feel vayable is creating a new alternative way of traveling (with local guides which is not done by most people, most people just prepare their trips beforehand and travel with their family and friends, as peek.com facilitates)
Are you the right guy who pull off a high way approach? I think there are a few personality traits and personal meritocracy before anyone can pull off Eric Schimdt/Jack Dorsey card. Consider following:
personality: bubbly, convincing, commanding, friendly, likable, persuasive
background: top school, top companies
aggressiveness: super aggressive, assertive yet not annoying
circumvention: ability to creatively circumvent the situation to achieve your own goal.
age: younger the better as long as you are 18+
attractiveness: it helps, but it’s gracefulness, temperament that can woo top elit investors and media moguls.
gender: female preferred, but not necessary.
meritocracy: serious smart needed. Check out guy like benchmark capital partner Matt Cohler
I have a good friend who is every bit just like Ruzwana: from the best of the best – peking university, stanford, charming, persuasive, in her 20s, she would often hang out with powerful male friends in their 50s, 60s, even 70s. Whether it’s either she didn’t bother to find a regular office job, or could not find a suitable one, she returned to China started a high end travel company bringing westerners for elite travel experiences within China. 9 years later, today it’s the most prestigious high end travel company in China market. Going high paid off for her.
If you don’t possess personality like my friend or Ruzwana: do lean startup way – lean startup asks you to get out of the building to test your market asap without having to know someone who knows someone.
Joel Gascoigne is one of those rare entrepreneurs who started their startup using lean startup thinking from day 1, and rapidly grow into a force advocating lean startup methodology. I’ve taken every chance I’ve got to learn from him, be that reading his blogs, meeting him during his “office hour”, or going to the talks he gave at technology meetups in San Francisco. I finally spent three days at lean startup machine workshop (silicon valley) and am fully onboard using lean startup approach, after making every mistake an entrepreneur could make under the sun, which is another topic one day I will write up in details.
Without further ado, Joel’s must read articles for me:
5 things that seem essential that we launched Buffer without
This article has the links to original lean startup post and video straight from Eric Ries. Be sure to check it out.
What is your coming soon page for?
This article speaks dearly to my own experiences. I managed to collect hundreds of emails through “splash page”, which turned out just the results of “novelty effect”, as opposed to “validate and learn”.
And finally, going into the actual case study how Joel masterfully planned out his MVP during the very early days of bufferapp.
Idea to paying customers in 7 weeks: how we did it
I accidentally found Frog design’s principle design technologist’s business card in my pocket today, which led to discovering CUSP, A small TED like annual conference on design, which further led to this blog post featuring a video story telling you will see below. (Frog design is first known for its founder Hartmut Esslinger known for creating design strategy for Apple computer during early 80s that transformed Apple into grobal brand, he is also serving on Beijing DeTong Masters Academy that is positioned to transfer China from a copying nation into an innovating nation)
Technology entrepreneurs are considered elite in our time, everything is moving online. Greatest minds are attacking the Internet. Outrageously smart companies like Square, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Hulu, Netflix are putting their entire bets online successfully, Apple, Amazon are enabling online commerce no less than Google.
That leaves questions to be answered: is the Internet entrepreneurs’ supply greater than demand? Is it harder to stand out and be noticed as Internet entrepreneur?
I honestly don’t think so. There are plenty of web/mobile opportunities for insightful upstarters to address.
However, I think there are more radically smarter ways to make contributions, only if we step out of “oh, I run a web site” mentality.
Enter “STORY”, a brick & mortar “brand” that humanise “physical stores” by understanding what motivates our behaviour through creating theme based story telling. It’s an eye opening experience for me: in this inescapably web driven era, someone like Rachel would do something that is so radically making sense but very few smart technology web/mobile entrepreneur can actually think of.
The lesson learnt for me is: be brave to explore any ideas, step outside the “internet” box, get out of the building, observe human behavior and create the behavioral bond that connect people, tell story: digital or physical. If we can do that, people will follow, so will success.
Let me get this out of the way first: Lean startup machine 3 day workshop with its validation framework, its support network is the best event any ambitious, curious entrepreneur/wantrepreneur should attend.
Now I want to list everything things I did wrong, so you can do it better if you plan on attending.
1. Avoid going into the workshop with the primary purpose to validate your existing startup that does not seem to have the traction.
I didn’t realize what I was missing until after seeing presentations from all the teams involved. I was too emotionally attached to the ideas and products I have been working for a year. It prevented me from focusing on the learning part. As the results, I, as the team leader, steered the entire team to focus on pivot after pivot just to validate that my old idea can somehow still work, which is not the purpose, and also unfair to my team. There are so many things to learn: how to interview, how to make assumption, what is riskest assumption, what method to use to validate/invalidate, how to concierge etc.
2. Idea doesn’t matter (in this workshop). And don’t laugh at ideas that sounds too naive, or being done 100 times already.
It’s not the goal of the LSM workshop to make a specific idea work. LSM’s goal is to teach the methodology so participants will become a LSM practitioner to get ready for any adventure ahead of us. It’s really an “unfair advantage” for those who truly learnt in those 3 days.
I did my best to pitch my “brilliant” idea on the stage and actually got the most votes, and I admit I was laughing (not literally) at those other ideas. But because I was too hang up to my idea and didn’t focus on learning, I let my team down: other teams did a 100 times than us because they used the logic, rational, material taught at LSM.
3. Its ok not to pitch.
Again, I pitched and I got the most votes, it meant nothing! Because the goal is to learn and practice in the future, not pitching and no chance to be the team leader will force you to be more open to the ideas you are really interested in, and pick the team you like to work with. Most importantly, you learn without any baggage.
4. Come prepared.
I did everything wrong: I signed up the last minutes, not only it’s a lot more expensive ($250 vs. $125), I also didn’t get chance to prepare for the LSM methodology ahead of the time, which is highly recommended. Try use any opportunity to learn about LSM, sign up on validationboard.com (LSM’s tool site) using your workshop email and start using it right away, don’t wait till the workshop. Do a few tests, understand the material.
5. Listen and interact with mentors.
There is a reason they become mentors at LSM. From my limited experiences interacting with them, they know LSM inside out, they mostly have been successfully adopted the LSM methodology to their career. They are level headed and think sharp and express them extremely well. They helped me extract myself out of the “idea attachment mud” and become completely free, free from being attached to any ideas.
6. Most importantly, be open minded: you will be rewarded.
My biggest reward from this workshop, other than, getting started with LSM framework, is detached from an idea that I have worked for a year that does not work. It’s been emotionally difficult to change, but LSM helped me did just that. I have never felt fresher, ready to be open to any ideas, hands down, head up, validate the market, get that first sales first, before making any assumption.
7. Get in touch with contacts, friends you make over the weekend.
sign up for the additional event LSM will throw at you once the weekend is over, plug in its network, heck, go organize local LSM meetup, embrace this movement. Learn and relearn the LSM fundamentals, it will help us better use the system.
Honestly, as a picky, self-claimed “smart ass”, I have never really embraced any man made framework outside of proven science, and I’m very passionate about LSM movement, wholeheartedly embracing it. For those of you who are curious, unsure, but ambitious, give LSM a try and you will be handsomely rewarded.
To give you a little detail: I’m actually taking a 3 months coaching course with AppSumo founder Noah Kegan who was running around bugging many wantreprenuers including me 6 years ago to join his “startup conference thing”, back then he was just a kid fired by “the man” at Facebook (trust me, it’s not such a bad thing when you are fired as the 30th employee at facebook). In this 6 years he has started two companies, most recent one is AppSumo and he is now worth north of some crazy amount of many gazillion dollars:) Being a man sometime means to realize our own limitation. So I went to him this time around to get advice. Guess what, the first thing chief Sumo asked me is: send an email like the following script and ask your 5 good friends for $1 before we do anything else: I was like? You want me do what?…
Long story short: I did send to 5 good friends. And I want to take this to another level so I’m posting this thing here on my own blog, and it will probably get some retweet, sharing what not. If you don’t know me, but want to invest $1, please do tell me your name, a little bit about you. I will make sure list you as the investor on this blog and tell Noah about it. Seriously.
The following is the email script:
So I am starting a business and need $1 from you.
Why would you do this (invest $1 in me)?
Your investment will give me some serious confidence to kick some ass and start a business I have always wanted to. I am reaching out to you because you have supported me before, and I could definitely use the small support again. After all, it’s only $1 dollar.
If you’re cool with that, then please PayPal it to grantkuo at gmail.com.
Thanks for everything.
This is definitely not spam, and I am definitely not crazy. To prove that, this is my Chinese name: 郭健
I’ve been reluctant to watch this interview, simply because I thought Brian Wong is just a smart kid who got lucky. After watching the conversation midway, I realized this Kid wanting to be someone was a lot like me when I was a kid wanting to get in Stanford, his tactic for reaching out to influential people was pretty amazing. And it’s all driven by his burning desire and curage, and strength.