If I were a Founder

Inspired by a tweet stream of consciousness by Danielle Morrill, the Founder of Mattermark, on what she would do if she was a VC, a jotted down a few notes on what I would do if I was a founder.  These first went out as tweets on @chazard, but here is the full list in one place:

  • I would aggressively seek out one, but no more than one, co-founder to complement my deficiencies #ifIwereafounder
  • My early hires would be people right on the fine line between crazy good and crazy crazy #ifiwereafounder
  • I would meet with or speak with more than 100 potential customers in my first 30 days #ifiwereafounder
  • We would design a product experience to surprise and delight customers in unexpected ways #ifiwereafounder cc:@wayne @jeffseibert
  • I would be scared shitless almost every day, but would translate this into being action-oriented around things in our control #ifiwereafounder
  • I would have one person to share my deepest fears and worries with #ifiwereafounder 
  • We would focus on driving adoption before driving revenue #ifiwereafounder
  • I would avoid strategies that rely on other companies or organizations for our success, at least for the first couple of years #ifiwereafounder
  • Our company colors would be a little unusual #ifiwereafounder
  • I would have Friday afternoon happy hours and use them to celebrate successes #ifiwereafounder
  • We would have regular internal hackathons to spur creativity #ifiwereafounder
  • A recruiter would be one of my first hires after raising a Series A #ifiwereafounder
  • I would track 3 key metrics daily and 5 on a weekly basis #ifiwereafounder
  • I would have a vision for world domination, but very achievable first steps #ifiwereafounder
  • I would be wildly optimistic, but not delusional #ifiwereafounder
  • I would take extra time to simplify and shorten key messages #ifiwereafounder
  • I would be able to give my own demos #ifiwereafounder
  • Our company name would not have capital letters in any place other than the first letter #ifiwereafounder 
  • Creating shareholder value would be a by product of building something great, not a primary goal #ifiwereafounder
  • I would seek advice when outside my depth and not feel like I need to know everything #ifiwereafounder
  • If my board pushed back on critical decisions, I would tell them they are at risk of "breaking the bronco" #ifiwereafounder cc:@bijan
  • Bad news would travel as fast as good news and it would be accompanied by a plan to fix, or at least a plan to get to a plan #ifiwereafounder
  • If I disagree with my Board's advice, I would drive the differences to ground rather than pocket vetoing their suggestions #ifiwereafounder
  • i would never let any one person in the company become irreplaceable #ifiwereafounder
  • i would force my board to provide me feedback on my performance and seek out advice on how my role should change as the company grows #ifiwereafounder
  • If a room of smart people don't understand my business, i would consider revising the message instead of assuming they just don't get it #ifiwereafounder
  • I would understand my competitors deeply, but not obsessively.  I would obsess about customers.  #ifiwereafounder
  • i would read Reed Hasting's piece on culture and leadership, but not much else in this category #ifiwereafounder

Based on Retweets, Favorites and offline feedback, the comments that resonated most with people were being scared shitless; seeking advice; obsessing about customers, not competitors; having a few key metrics to track; and dominating the world, one step at a time.

I also added a few more to the list, and have included these below:

  • The person I share all my fears with would ideally be my co-founder #ifiwereafounder
  • I would start my company in an area with big macro trends in my favor.  Always easier to sail with the wind at your back #ifiwereafounder
  • I would recognize that no amount of marketing $ spend from our start-up is going to make our market develop significantly more quickly than it wants #ifiwereafounder 
  • My board would have no more than 5 members #ifiwereafounder
  • We would have weekly staff meetings, but they would be short #ifiwereafounder
  • If I was based outside of CA, i would open an office there as quickly as possible with as senior a person to run it as possible #ifiwereafounder 
  • My California office would be the only exception to my rule of having everyone in a single location #ifiwereafounder
  • The response to the first inbound M&A offer would always be NO #ifiwereafounder
  • I would compensate my team more than fairly and accept all resignations from anyone who threatens to quit because they are not paid enough #ifiwereafounder
  • All my financial projections would be conservative, but I would never say that as no one would believe me #ifiwereafounder
  • I would recognize that the first equity I sell is the most expensive equity and I would plan accordingly #ifiwereafounder
  • I would stay up late trying to close the deal and wake up early to figure out how to deliver #ifiwereafounder

  •  

    I would infuse design excellence into everything we do, but struggle to find excellent design talent like everyone else #ifiwereafounder

  • I would drive an '07 Toyota Prius but lust after a '14 Tesla #ifiwereafounder #truestatementevenasaVC

  •  

    Our office would have a branded corn hole game #ifiwereafounder

  • I would not wait for a prospective investor to follow up with me. Otherwise would worry they think I am not a closer #ifiwereafounder
  • After seed round, I would communicate with investors monthly on metrics, accomplishments, forward plans & how they can help #ifiwereafounder
  • If I was building a SaaS business, I would know my Magic Number better than my phone number #ifiwereafounder cc: @joshjames

  •  

    As a smallish private company, I would not count on M&A to fill in product gaps.  Too many variables outside of my control #ifiwereafounder

  • I would publish a rolling 6 month product road map for my customers #ifiwereafounder
  • Annually, I would do a facilitated offsite entirely focused on our management team's ability to communicate and work together #ifiwereafounder

  •  

    I would have at least one quant jock on my team #ifiwereafounder

  • I would hire people who have a proven ability to communicate well in writing #ifiwereafounder
  • i would not let my urgency to fill open positions on our team lead me to lower the bar on quality #ifiwereafounder
  • If I unexpectedly got my ass kicked on an issue in a Board meeting, I would digest for 24 hours and come back to them with a response and plan #ifiwereafounder
  • I may fail, but I would never quit #ifiwereafounder

Let me know what I missed!

7 thoughts on “If I were a Founder

  1. Olivia_Dufour March 31, 2014 / 2:27 pm

    Excellent list Chip, wise advice. And how about:
    1. I will make an effort to stay active and exercise my body and mind too, recognizing that my energy/stamina affects others and is essential to succeed.
    2. I won’t fall into optimizing for fundraising and exit, even though they are much more glorified than getting a new customer. Staying focused on tangible business success will result into the ability to fundraise and/or sell, not the other way around.
    3. I will make a point to walk, breathe, sleep and plan. It’s not the unhuman number of hours that count, but the outcome. There are countless ways to waste an hour on a problem, stuck at a desk. Don’t feel guilty for walking to let your mind see the solution, once clearer.

    Like

  2. chazard April 1, 2014 / 1:37 pm

    Olivia – thanks for the excellent additions! It is a long road, so staying healthy, fit and sane is critical. I also could not agree more: raising capital may be necessary, but it is not the end goal!

    Like

  3. Mark Gavagan April 1, 2014 / 8:15 pm

    I would constantly ask “If you could magically change anything about me or our company/product/service, what would it be?” and then REALLY LISTEN.

    Like

  4. mahdi April 5, 2014 / 4:12 am

    “…threatens to quick” or “…threatens to quit”?

    Like

  5. Bob April 5, 2014 / 8:37 am

    Good stuff! Thank you, I intend to re-read this weekly

    Like

  6. Edulozada April 19, 2014 / 2:33 pm

    Hi! Great insights!… Why would your company name not have capital letters in any place other than the first letter?? Is there a specific reason for that???

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s