Over the weekend, I spent sometime at the Startupday 2010 event in Seattle. If you are thinking about starting a company, this is a fantastic event. The talks covered a wide range of topics including ‘Why you should not start a company’ by Dave McClure
I started thinking if I were giving a talk at this event what would I say? What are the top 5 things I have learned about the startup experience over the past 4 years with Livemocha?
- It is a roller coaster ride. This is the one thing everyone who has started a company will agree on (even my friends who always disagree with me :) . It's a lot of fun but its stressful too- you will face all kinds of issues. Take it one day at a time during your rough moments and stay mentally tough to ride out the lows.
- Start with a co-founder. See #1 above. Its easier when you have another person for that roller coaster. Of all the things you worry about initially, this is an important one. In my opinion, the #1 thing to look for is start with someone you can trust to do the right thing for you and the company. There are many times when you will be forced into situations where you have to make extremely difficult and personal decisions. You need to know the other person is rock solid on integrity. I was super lucky to start Livemocha with Shirish and would do it in a heartbeat again.
- Hire carefully and deliberately. Make sure you have the right fit, drive and smarts. It's all about the people in the first few years. A couple of wrong people and it can reduce your chances of success significantly and painful to correct.
- Be Frugal: Capital costs you a lot of equity in the early days. Whether you are a VC funded company or not, be frugal. Prioritize the heck out of the list of stuff to do and pick only the stuff that is really important. This needs to be in your DNA and in every discussion that you have on product priorities, hiring decisions etc. E.g Hire generalists. You don't have to release features with all bells and whistles. The world is not looking at you yet.
- Fix problems quickly. You will make wrong choices - hiring, market, product etc. As a startup you don't have a lot of resources. As painful as it may feel, fix it quickly. Rip the band aid quickly and move on.
- Ok I had to add one more after some comments. Find good advisors or mentors to help you with stuff. You will be faced with a bunch of stuff for the first time - like warrants, board, term sheets.