I’ve been involved in numerous ventures and surrounded in a world of startups and founders doling out advice, blog posts, and anecdotes. I read this stuff voraciously, and tried to take it to heart when it was finally time for my at-bat. To no-one’s surprise, the knowledge that “stuck” was the information I was either looking for, or made sense. Other lessons were skipped or devalued. The only way to learn these lessons was to get punched in the face.
I’ll start with the most important thing I’ve learned. Forget code, pitch decks, users, metrics, funding, press. The most important thing in a startup is people.
What I’ve written below comes about as, when I hear myself talk nowadays, I’m shocked as to the content. As a software developer, talking about people, culture, vision, etc. does not come naturally to me. It’s not a tangible product or trackable metric, and it took a long time, and lots of missteps (which I still make), to start to appreciate it.
Bringing the absolute best people onto your team, and never stopping that effort. Very quickly remove the ones that turn out not to be the best.
Communication and coordination – the flywheel may be spinning with everyone heading in the same direction initially. You have to find and invest in systems to ensure that everyone keeps moving in the same direction consistently.
Culture. Culture is the glue. There are so many forces at work against you, but culture can zero all of them out for your people.
Leadership. Figure out the type of leader you are, and the type of leader that the people in your company need you to be.
Your customers are people too. They are just as important as the people in your company. It’s really easy to pay lip service to that mantra, and really hard to fulfill that – especially as you start to have more customers than you ever fathomed.
Fire yourself. Your people are better individual contributors than you.
If you’re reading this as a first time founder, or while still employed, this advice does not come as a surprise to you – because I’m not the only one who says it. My goal, and hope here, is by being another voice, potentially you will start focusing on this earlier than I do.