The Week in Review #20: Leading with Values

This week I read the transcript of an interview with the CEO of Uni-lever which quite insightful. He is one of the few CEO’s of MNC’s that interviews entry level candidates. This showed the level of importance that is given to hiring at the company. During the interview he mentioned the one thing that he looks out for during interviews is the an alignment with company values.

Purpose and values go hand-in-hand. One states what you want to achieve, and the latter defines how you want to achieve it. Together they form the foundation on which a company is built. In the early days of a business, values are overlooked as a “nice to have”. They are left to be dealt with once the company grows to a certain size. This creates a large disconnect between the founders and employees as the business starts to grow. Primarily due to a mismatch in expectations between the founders values and those of the new hires. Whether values are formally expressed or not, they are at play from the first day a business is started. Setting them early pays huge dividends in the future.

The tao of Paul Polman Interview transcript with the CEO of Uni-lever. This article has some great insights on recruiting and managing growing workforces. The interview includes good advice on how to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.

Why we should aim to build a forever company, not just a unicorn Everywhere we turn these days, someone is discussing the rise of unicorns. With a staggering amount of companies raising funding at valuations past $1bn, this article puts it into perspective. While increasing the value of your company is beneficial, it should not become the only focus. Our goal is to create a company that creates sustainable value and makes the world a better place. Article is filled with great quotes and references on the topic.

A Different Take on Talent Acquisition This was an interesting read. The author was asked the question about passion and talent by her daughter. The posts discusses her answer and how she thinks about the word talent and what it means. The article ends with an interesting reference to Greek mythology and the history of the world talent.

How to Fire Someone: How to Decide, When to do it, and How to be Guilt-free I still remember the first time I had to fire someone, it was very painful. I don’t think it ever gets easier, however I wish I had read this article before I did. Like all the Evergreen articles it goes into detail about the process and how to approach it. Something every entrepreneur should be familiar with.

Kevin Rose’s top advice for founders I am a big Kevin Rose fan. He has done a set of awesome interviews at foundation.kr. If you haven’t checked this out you should. In this article he discusses the five pieces of advice he gives to all founders. He made a point that entrepreneurs tend to take on too much at once, something I have been guilt of many times. This is a great short read with links to his other shows.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #19: We Don’t Sell Saddles Here

One of the success stories of 2014 was the meteoric rise of the business communication app called Slack. Countless of articles have been written about its exponential growth. This week, I stumbled upon a letter the founder had written to his team last year. What stood out in the post is the founders understanding of the customer need. On the surface it may seem like one of the hundreds of chat applications that are available. However, Slack was positioned as a tool to reduce the information overload plaguing companies across the world.

This nuanced understanding of the problem is in my opinion why customers have signed up in droves. It shows the importance of positioning and marketing your product correctly. Too often entrepreneurs are busy talking about their features when the should be addressing the core problem at hand. Another company that has experienced similar growth is Uber. Instead of positioning them as a taxi hailing application, they talk about solving our basic transportation needs.

These two examples show the importance of truly understanding the market you operate in. Without a deep understanding we will never be able to satisfy a customers core need. This would result in selling ourselves short and not living up to our true potential.

We Don’t Sell Saddles Here The highlighted article of the week is about the rise of Slack. This article provides the back story that formed the foundation of its massive growth. The primary focus of the article is the importance of understand the core customer need. This enables the entrepreneur to position and market their company far more effectively.

How Do I Know If I Should Take A Job At A Startup? James Altucher shares another great post on whether to join a startup. The most important point shared is the one related to vision. If the companies purpose and vision doesn’t excite you, in my opinion that is a deal breaker. This advice is the same whether you are applying to a startup or hoping to join P&G.

36 Things I’ve Learned During My First Three Months Investing Reading articles from the point of view of entrepreneurs turned investors is interesting. This article provides a great set of lessons learned. Entrepreneurs who are raising venture financing would benefit from reading this list. Getting an insight into the mind of your customer is essential and this list is a great starting point.

The High Price of the Wrong Solution Articles which use stories to illustrate a point are very effective. This is a great example of such an article. The main takeaway from the article is about assessing how your solution is tackling a problem at hand. Far too often we get bogged down with the details and lose sight of the bigger picture. This story helps to bring some perspective.

Want to Hire More Diverse People? Raise Your Bar. A majority of companies treat recruiting as a one off activity. Without a process we are solely relying on luck to fill important roles. This post provides a brief overview of what some structure would like. The post also includes some links which are well worth the read as well.

Hope Is Not a Launch Strategy Launching your startup to the world can be nerve racking experience. This article goes through the exact launch process of a startup called Leanflix. It is full of detailed advice on what to look out for during launch. What I liked the most about the post was that they showed what worked and what didn’t. Lots of great insights to be learned.

Inside The Mind That Built Google Brain: On Life, Creativity, And Failure This article profiles the life of Andrew Ng. An engineer who is working in the field of artificial intelligence. I enjoy reading detailed profiles on successful individuals. One gets to learn the habits they attribute to their success and what truly drives them. This is a fascinating article and his thoughts on the future of artificial intelligence is well worth the read.

Little Lifehacks Guaranteed to Improve Your Existence If all of us aim to be 1% better everyday, we can achieve the impossible. This short article highlights 10 things we can do to make our lives just a little bit better. My favorite lifehack is to schedule walk and talk meetings. I look forward to each one of these and believe they are far more productive than your usual meetings over coffee.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #18: Seneca on Gratefulness

After listening to a podcast with Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss earlier this year, I started reading some books on Stoicism. Currently I am reading “Letters from a Stoic” by Seneca. It has been a fascinating read. I have never highlighted and bookmarked a book as much as this one. Yesterday I came across a passage which really resonated with me. This particular letter was on gratefulness and it’s importance in our daily lives. My favorite passage is reproduces below.

“The ungrateful man tortures and torments himself; he hates the gifts which he has accepted, because he must make a return for them, and he tries to belittle their value, but he really enlarges and exaggerates the injuries which he has received. And what is more wretched than a man who forgets his benefits and clings to his injuries?

Wisdom, on the other hand, lends grace to every benefit, and of her own free will commends it to her own favour, and delights her soul by continued recollection thereof. Evil men have but one pleasure in benefits, and a very short-lived pleasure at that; it lasts only while they are receiving them. But the wise man derives therefrom an abiding and eternal joy. For he takes delight not so much in receiving the gift as in having received it; and this joy never perishes; it abides with him always. He despises the wrongs done him; he forgets them, not accidentally, but voluntarily.

He does not put a wrong construction upon everything, or seek for someone who he may hold responsible for each happening; he rather ascribes even the sins of men to chance. He will not misinterpret a word or a look; he makes light of all mishaps by interpreting them in a generous way. He does not remember an injury rather than a service. As far as possible, he lets his memory rests upon the earlier and the better deed, never changing his attitude towards those who have deserved well of him.”

…Be Like Dave This week the CEO of Survey Monkey passed away tragically. There was an out pour of posts about David Goldberg and the life he led. I enjoyed reading this piece by Bill Gurley. It also fits into the theme of this week’s post on paying attention to the type of life we lead and what we want to leave behind. Far too often we overlook the long term and focus on the short term. Our interactions, character and contributions to society is what we are going to be remembered by.

To Invent the Future, You Must Understand the Past This was a long but fascinating read. If you are interested in the birth of Silicon Valley this article has it all. It also has some great insights into pattern matching and what is needed to truly understand how to build a successful company.

Ten things I learned studying ten of the world’s fastest growing startups Growth is an integral part of the success of any business. This article provides a great summary of the tactics and strategies employed by the fastest growing companies in the world. My favorite lesson was “Don’t try to boil the ocean”. Picking a niche and dominating it before growing into other segments is key.

Well, We Failed. Startup failure post mortems are very valuable reads for entrepreneurs. They provide insight of what worked and specifically what didn’t. This helps us to refocus our efforts and pay attention the small things that may snowball. The founder put together a gorgeous pitch deck for his startup be sure to check it out.

Valuation As A Scorecard In a world where 17 startups can raise a combined $1,401,700,000 in one day, valuations seem to be what everyone talks about. Fred Wilson writes a superb post that puts this number into context. If you are an entrepreneur and you are not subscribed to AVC you should subscribe today!

Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. I recently resubscribed to posts by James Clear. He does a great job of churning out quality content every week. Would definitely recommend his blog. This post was a great read and to an extent summarizes the main point that Scott Adams makes in his book “How to fail at everything and still Win Big”. In summary it isn’t about setting goals, rather it is the systems that we need to put into place that get us where we want to go.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #17: The Finish Line Theory

As entrepreneurs we are always in a rush to get to some preset goal. As we move from one milestone to the next we begin to lose sight of the race we are running. We get so caught up in the details, sometimes we don’t even remember what we were running for in the first place. The quote “Life is a marathon not a sprint” is a core building block of the highlighted article this week. Which talks about the vicious cycle that causes burn out among entrepreneurs. This causes them to throw in the towel before they ever get to a finish line. While motivation is a big component of avoiding burnout, I believe there is a larger force at play.

Another article shared this week talks about the company Foursquare. Since the year 2000 the founder of the company has been working on the problem of local discovery. The ability for anyone to discover cool places based on their interests around them. Foursquare is actually his second attempt at solving this problem. Companies have come and left the space unable to create a viable business. Yet, Dennis the founder of the Foursquare just keeps at it. I believe within this story lies the secret of what it takes to reach the finish line. When we care about something that is larger than ourselves, we have this bottomless pit of energy. Regardless of setbacks and failures, we get up every morning and do our best to break through the brick wall.

When we have a ‘why’ behind ‘what’ we do, reaching the finish line is only a matter of ‘when’.

The Finish Line Theory This was the best article I read this week. It talks about the theory of what it takes for us to reach the finish line. The author challenges the conventional wisdom that we should treat life like a marathon and not a sprint. He introduces a clever deviation from the original to show a better way to look at the problem of motivation and avoiding burnout.

The days are long but the decades are short Sam Altman manages the prestigious Y-Combinator accelerator. The one program that every startup in the world wants to have a shot at joining. He turned 30 last week and wrote down 36 life lessons learned. It is a great list and one I enjoyed reading. The best lesson is the heading of the article. I do think we severely overestimate what we can do in the short term and underestimate our long term potential.

Subtle Mid-Stage Startup Pitfalls Jessica Livingston co-founded Y Combinator and wrote this great post. Having seeing thousands of startups work their way from a kernel of an idea to becoming some of the largest companies in the world gives you perspective. It gives us the ability to recognize patterns. This article is full of great advice for companies of all stages. My favorite one is “It never gets easier”. Far too often we think that if we clear just one more hurdle, things will become easier. However that is never the case. There will be a new set of challenges and more hurdles to clear. This is the path we have chosen for ourselves.

3 Steps to Finding Product/Market Fit All of us are searching for the elusive product/market fit. The stage where our business will stumble across the exact opportunity where it solves a key need in the world that a lot of people want to pay for. Finding this fit is something very few startups are able to do successfully. The author provides a set of comprehensive steps from customer discovery to specifically the questions you can ask during this journey. A great resource for an entrepreneur who is just getting started.

Dennis Crowley Takes Another Stab at Explaining Foursquare Foursquare has been a startup that I have been watching closely from the sidelines. It is not what they do that interests me, rather it is the persistence of the founder that is inspiring to watch. Dennis Crowley has had the idea of Foursquare since the year 2000. Ever since he has been working on solving the problem, continually making advances as technology catches up to his vision. In this article he talks about the journey so far and how the latest technology advances has brought him closer to achieving his dreams than ever before.

How to learn from mentors As entrepreneurs we dream about the perfect mentor. The person who has already traveled the path we are on. We do our best to seek out these people. Hoping their wisdom will enable us to avoid mistakes and get to our destination faster. Anyone who doesn’t fit our image of who this person needs to be, gets left by the wayside. In our search for this elusive person, we often forget to pay attention to the people around us. The ones who are wanting to help us the most. Often it is the people who we least expect, to have the greatest impact on our lives. This article does a great job of pointing this out.

Stop Making Users Explore As a user experience enthusiast and someone who designs system, this article was fascinating. Often as designers we get blindsided by our own needs and wants that we discount what the customer actually wants to achieve. The author does a great job of pointing out how to overcome this problem and the miracles it can do for your products uptake.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #16: A Call to be Extraordinary

What does success mean to you? I remember being asked that question by an uncle when I was barely 12 years old. It seemed like a straight forward question at the time. The world we live in does a great job of projecting what comprises of a successful life. It has the staples of working at a large company, married with kids and living in a beautiful home. Having these basics meant you are were all set for life. Our schools and education system are geared towards preaching this way of life. Resulting in a large majority of people spending their entire lives working towards some else’s perception of success.

In recent years something interesting has started to happen. We have transcended the basic requirements outlined by Abraham Maslow, leading us to question this definition of success. Everyday people are choosing to take the path less traveled. The one where we give ourselves the highest probability of living a life of greater significance. Where we care about something that is larger just ourselves and our selfish pursuits. The highlighted article does a great job of breaking success down and allowing us to see it through a variety of lenses.

We are living in exciting times. Where technology and science has enabled a single person to alter the way the world works. With the growing pains of humanity, we owe it the world and ourselves to dare to be extraordinary.

The Economics of You: A Call to Be Extraordinary “Personal value is very much tethered to not only how we view ourselves as being successful, but how we actually feel when we experience some form of success.” This quote stood out for me when I was reading through this great article. This article is a fantastic read and forces us to think about the life we are living. I hope you will take the time out to give it a read.

30 Startup Lessons Another one of my favorite types posts, where the author has outlined 30 lessons from the trenches. “The best startup pieces of advice I’ve found are stories from other founders. Taking the best out of them and learning is a continuous challenge.” I completely agree with this lesson. I always have an eye out for such stories and have learnt the most from them.

How to Failure-proof your Business with Customer Development This article is part of the evergreen series that runs every week. I find these posts very informative as the authors spend a lot of time curating the best links regarding the topic. This week it is all about how to validate your business before you get started. This is a process that is part art and part science. Lots of great resources and links are shared. A post every entrepreneur should bookmark for future reference.

3 Better Questions to Ask in User Interview This post builds on the article mentioned above. Asking the right questions during customer development is key. The three questions mentioned in this post will make sure you get started in the right direction.

Top Selling Techniques from 6 Sales Masters Sales is the life blood of any startup. This is a skill which is not taught at universities or school. We can only acquire it by doing the work and going out there and selling ourselves. Learning from the best is often a great way how to avoid amateur mistakes and this post provides six great takeaways. For someone just getting started with sales this is a great resource.

Focus Your Startup Marketing on the Mind, not the Product The stories we share about our startup can make or break our company. This post talks in great detail how to position your startup and story. Many new startups often forget about the narrative and purely focus on the features and benefit. The author shares some great examples to get your creative juices flowing.

How to Impress an Interviewer There are a host of articles written on how to ace an interview. While we are busy figuring out how we will answer the latest brain teasers, we often overlook the bigger picture. The author talks in great detail about the importance of self awareness in this post. She mentions a great process on how we can improve our level of self awareness. Whether you are applying for a job or going to be starting your own company, this is key to your future success.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #15: Stacking Bricks

There are no overnight successes. When we dig a little deeper, we usually find years of hard work culminating at the one point which is visible. As humans we grossly overestimate our capabilities in the short term. What we miss out on, is how our success is made up of the small steps we take on a daily basis. Almost every habit we have is a result of the decisions we make everyday. We have to make a conscious effort to want to improve ourselves. This requires us to have patience to practice a few principles everyday.

The highlighted article this week outlines an entrepreneur who has done just that. By showing up and doing the work everyday, he has put himself in a position to become an overnight success.

Building an Empire with a Single Brick: Meet Patrick McKenzie Great article talking about how Patrick has built his business from the ground up. Lots of great insights on learnings he had along the way and how it resulted in his next big project.

Think big, start small, act fast Building on the theme above, this article has a great takeaway. A problem I have personally struggle with is the starting small part. Like most entrepreneurs I have the ability to think really big. It is taking that big idea and breaking it down into small steps which I find very challenging. This article provides a great framework and some clear examples of how to get started.

The 1000th Post On How To Find Your Passion In Life Finding your passion, is a topic which I frequently write and talk about. James Altucher does an amazing job of taking three models of potentially finding your passion and walking us through them. These along with Jim Collins golden circle are among my favorite exercises to discover your passion & purpose.

No, but really, how much should I charge for my work? This is a question that is brought up in hundreds of forum posts on the internet. How should I charge for the services I provide. The author breaks down the process is a very logical fashion and helps you arrive at a number which will enable you to answer this question correctly.

Get Out Of The Way Dave Morin is the founder of the mobile app called Path. In this post he talks about a struggle that most designer and product founders have, getting out of the way. Sometimes we have a disconnect between what we think the users want and what they actually need. This creates a disconnect in the relationship and ultimately strains it. He uses the example of his application and how getting out of the way helped him exponentially improve the business.

Characteristics of B2B unicorn ideas The world of enterprise software fascinates me. The industry is changing rapidly and legacy service providers are being disrupted everyday. This post breaks down the most disruptive companies in the space, outlining what makes them unique. This is a great for founders venturing into this vertical or even building their first product.

Lessons from a failed pitch with Paul Graham Another great recap post on lessons learned. This one is especially interesting as the author walks us through his experience of pitching to one of the world’s best angel investors. Once you have read the article, I would encourage you to watch the video of his pitch as well. This helps to bridge the concepts discussed.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #14: The Power of Authenticity

Imagine being able to live everyday, doing what you love. The one thing that not only brings you joy, it helps those around you.

Being true to who we are, is a rare gift. We are constantly putting on a slew of masks in our attempt to fit in. Changing our habits and interests based on those around us. This blocks our ability to live a fulfilled and meaningful life. The day we unshackle ourselves from the imaginary chains that society holds us by, we are able to truly live a life worth living. The highlighted article of this week is about a company called Lynda. A business which was started to help people equip themselves with the skills they need to succeed. The founders have a truly aspirational story.

lynda.com and the Power of Authenticity The big news this week was the acquisition of lynda.com by Linkedin. This article provides a good overview of what made lynda.com stand out and the secret’s to their success. There is also a great short video embedded about the power of design and problem solving by the founder.

What I’d tell myself about startups if I could go back 5 years. Recap posts are among my favorite type of blog posts. These are the posts where we get to learn directly from people as to what worked and what didn’t. With over 63 bit sized pieces of advice, this article doesn’t disappoint.

Consistency and discipline over motivation Procrastination can be a real threat to our productivity. This article talks about the times when we lack the motivation to get something done. I am sure this is a feeling everyone of us has experienced at some point. The author talks about how to remove the need of motivation and replace it with discipline. When we are able to make the shift, there is a dramatic increase in our productivity. Having personally practiced this, I can attest to the fact that it works.

The Simple Numbers That Could Change How You Hire Most recruiting articles follow an archaic process of listing down how you should hire. This article takes a different approach by breaking it into 4 parts supported by numbers. It walks you through sequentially on all the major stages and what you should be looking out. Lots of great insights to be gleaned and highly recommended for those hiring.

The best single lesson Bill Gates gave every startup & product manager Short blog post on the best advice Bill Gates gave every startup. In a nutshell it is, do not let perfection get in the way of success. This is something that I personally struggle with and am working to get over. The article mentions some interesting products that achieved greatness following this advice.

Why Startups Fail and How to Build Up Interest Before the Launch Building traction for a new business is always challenging. How do you go about getting ready to launch and build up an early following. This article goes through the process with some great insights and takeaways.

6 Reasons why a startup should invest in a brand strategy at the very beginning Branding is a topic that gets discussed rarely in the startup world. However businesses like Warby Parker have clearly shown us that it can be a central component of your success. This article discusses why branding is critical to your success and how to get started with it.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!