When The Hard Part Is Over

30 11 2007

It’s been a period of intense change lately for me personally.

It’s hard to move somewhere new blindly. But you get settled, you meet new and fun people, your network grows, the uncomfortable moments decrease, and suddenly everything starts coming into place.

It’s hard to get a product launched. But you get some positive press and attention, you make important new connections, your user base grows, you get funding, and suddenly everything starts coming into place.

But the next question is, what do you do when the hard part is over?

I’ve got news for you: this isn’t the hard part.

And if it REALLY is the hard part, you’re probably not like me. Continuing to advance when you’re no longer driven by external factors like being stranded in a strange city or driving towards a launch is more difficult for me, more necessary for reminders to keep your internal drive.

One of the my favorite things about the San Francisco (largely, the city life) and Silicon Valley mentality is that people are like me, they don’t find the start to be the hard part. The most successful people here love the start, love the process, love the life. Boredom is when none of the excitement exists. It isn’t about one time sprints. It’s a marathon, but it consists of several sprints throughout.

If I were a VC, I would want to fund entrepreneurs that understand this. It can degrade into hyperactivity, so it is important to point out that creating artificial excitement, “hard parts” is not healthy towards building a long-term success. You must go through the real hard part or as Seth Godin call it, “the Dip”.

The sprints are the most exciting parts, but that’s not the hard part – it’s the hours of keeping a strong and steady pace in between that are the most grueling. And it’s your pace in between that makes or breaks the marathon.

Only the superhuman can maintain a sprinter’s pace throughout. It’s generally not healthy to keep a sprinter’s pace for too long. Drive is keeping a strong pace at all times. Wisdom is adjusting quickly between a sprint and a steady, but strong pace.

So if you’re like me: when the hard part is over, remember the hard part is not the hard part. Avoiding getting settled, too complacent is the hard part – it’s a trap that even the very best fall into.

I’ll report back if I feel the same in the future.


How Logic and Determination Intertwine in Startups

9 11 2007

In a startup, you are constantly searching for the areas where you can affect the final outcome with the maximum impact for time and resources invested.

I just came to some new realizations why success is best based on both smarts and determination. At least, it’s certainly the case in the sandbox of web startups. You’re smart, but everyone else is too. And no one can outrun Google.

Sometimes, you feel out of control. Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth to this statement. However, it’s not really because you are actually out of control. Rather, the result is uncertain. And the ability to take on this uncertainty is where startups have the advantage (see Vinod Khosla video below).

The success of any enterprise is usually a function of a couple of the following:

  • Smarts. Analytical, that is.
  • Determination.
  • Luck.

Luck is the worst factor to base a business on, especially if we’re talking about taking control of your destiny. We’ll ignore luck for the time being. I do believe you largely make your own luck by putting yourself in the right place, at the right time. It’s something to consider, not something to base a business on.

You could also take an existing system, and apply great determination and hard work. This does work. But sometimes it leads to zero-sum games, although sometimes it doesn’t. And I’m sure most everyone has seen countless examples of hard workers that don’t succeed, beating their heads against the wall on something that just won’t work.

You could also just be smarter than everyone else. Come on, I’ll just move on from this one.

Breakthroughs occur when you successfully merge smarts and determination.

To me, here’s why:

  • IF Event A THEN Outcome X

The simplest logic. Where determination comes in is the ability to bring Event A to fruition.

Where experimentation comes in:

  • IF Event A THEN Outcome X ELSE (New Paradigm)

Josh Kopelman wrote a while back about Domino Rally Business Models that rely on multiple events to occur to result in a particular outcome:

  • IF Event A THEN (IF Event B THEN Outcome X)
  • IF (Event A AND Event B) THEN Outcome X

Add in likelihoods, and this is the basis of a basic risk-reward calculation. Domino Rally Business Models are rough because the likelihood of a particular outcome with so many dependencies is staggeringly low. Reduce the dependencies. Or plan for multiple outcomes:

  • IF Event A THEN Outcome X ELSE Outcome Y

No matter how you cut it, there are always contingencies. In fact, the existence of contingencies simply means you are trying something new that might fail, something that might change the world.

The obvious, common pitfalls:

  • False logic. “If I get the NYTimes, TechCrunch and WSJ, then I will sell 1,000 units.”
  • False assumptions. Don’t assume something will happen. If there’s any chance it won’t, it belongs in the logic.

Breaking it down into the business-speak terms:

  • Get your logic right – strategy
  • Make appropriate plans to accomplish specific events – tactics
  • Work your ass off to try to make sure specific events come off – execution
  • Plan your outs – experimentation

If you frame it this way as a logical being, you’ll see why people’s simplification that “keep trying, and you will eventually succeed” and “you only need to succeed once” is actually very true. Try enough times and it becomes overwhelmingly likely you will succeed, provided your logic is correct.

Finally, watch this great video from Vinod Khosla. Great thinkers don’t need to always be speaking on big stages to have astounding thoughts. My favorite part is when Mr. Khosla basically says that entrepreneurs are religious. He also says that they are inherently great salespeople, not because they went to the school of selling but because they religiously believe in what they are selling. Amen and keep the faith!

Does POS stand for Piece of #(*%?

8 11 2007

My thought of the day:

What does POS stand for?  Point of Sale?  Or piece of sh*t?

I’m by no means the first person to think this.   But however antiquated the online, virtual, world is flat, facebook, open social, iphone world may think offline business is, just think that only 7% of retail sales occurs online.  The rest is good old fashioned retail business.

Maybe the better question is: does anyone care?

Not right now, probably not ten years from now.  But once all this disparate data gets pulled together in some effective manner, that’s the most valuable collation of data ever created, simultaneously built and existing at the one place where purchase intent is clear… the physical storefront.

Facebook v. OpenSocial, it’s official

1 11 2007

TechCrunch now reports that MySpace is confirmed to be joining OpenSocial.   No matter how much of a Facebook fanboy you may be, this announcement puts real audience size oomph into OpenSocial.

Overall, I think and hope that OpenSocial means you’ll see a lot more interesting ways to leverage the social graph.  LinkedIn may not have the mainstream audience, but it’s professional applications could make for practical professional networking applications.  MySpace may not have the technical chops, but it’s still a youth favorite.  So on and so forth.

Would Facebook join OpenSocial?  It’s not entirely clear that they need to.  MySpace probably didn’t need to join either, except that they are late to the game.  Facebook is a big enough game to justify writing a specific application for it.

I am continually more and more interested to see how this shapes up.