Archive for the ‘Startup Guide for Hackers’ Category

You asked the biggest profit making question ever. At the time you were probably standing in front of your customer. Or, perhaps you were sitting behind the comfort of your desktop. But man, you popped the question: “Do you know of a friend I could speak with who would also be interested in [insert your service]?” At this point, you’re ahead of the game. Most people don’t even ask the question. But you did. And sometimes, that feels like enough.

Then, the worst happens. The customer responds! In fact, you get three referrals. Three! That means, that you need to contact three new people who know absolutely nothing about you. What do you do?

Step 1- Celebrate. Whenever someone gives you a referral, that’s awesome. That means the customer, adviser, friend, or acquaintance, trusts you enough to put you through with one of their friends. So before you even begin, you’re on solid ground. You’ve been given a quality contact on a silver platter.

Step 2- Contact the referral within the week you received it. Timing is everything. Here’s why. Your customer probably already told his friend that you’re going to reach him (sometimes you know, sometimes you don’t). In this case, your customer is counting on you to fulfill your obligation in reaching his friend. Your customer put his social and in some cases professional reputation on the line in order for you to reach his friend. And you were postponing the contact how long? Another good reason to talk with the referral within the week is because you get lazy. Sometimes you forget. Don’t be a procrastinator. Startups can’t afford that.

Step 3- Thank the customer for the referral. Thanking the customer even before you reach the referral will put the customer at ease and feel good about his contribution. His friend is in your hands.

Step 4- Connect the dots when you contact the referral. A simple introduction including the name of the customer who referred the friend offers A LOT of clarity for the referral. If you’re writing an email, connect the dots in the subject line (“ Referral from Mike Hudson”). This will increase the chances of receiving an email or phonecall back.

Step 5- Update the original customer on your conversation with the referral. Your customers will love you for this. Even if the conversation with the referral leads to nowhere, just the fact that you came back to thank your original customer again means the world. It shows that you care about that customer and his referrals. It means that if you ask for another referral, the customer knows that you’ll follow through quickly and will be happy to present you with more contacts. In other words, you’ll build a stronger relationship with your customer. Trust baby.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.” – Goethe

Taking a bike ride whenever you want. Creating your own schedule on Google calendar. Coffee meetings at Cafe Your Fav. Heck, you’re probably doing work at  Cafe Your Fav. Teaming with your ambitious friends from college. Working by your local beach, lake, bay, or other body of water. Changing your financial, spiritual, mental, and physical life. Building an empire you can call your own. Changing the lives of your family, neighbors, and many strangers. Saving the world as we know it.

Oh, the sweet sweet pleasures of running a startup. Freedom. Yes, remember that! These are the reasons you dreamed of entering the life of an entrepreneur.

And yet, sometimes these pleasures are not enough. Eventually you begin to take your startup company freedom for granted. You want a Cannondale’s Synapse Carbon 3 bike. The chairs of Cafe Your Fav get awkwardly uncomfortable after a short 2 hours and 37 minutes. The Berkeley marina is still unsurprisingly navy blue around sunset.

As humans, we have an even greater internal drive that is helpful especially in entrepreneurship–pain. Or rather, avoiding pain.

A guaranteed traffic-filled daily work commute. Fifty to sixty plus hour work weeks. Lost family dinner times. Someone else telling you what to do who doesn’t understand your true strengths or potential. Working lunches. Working dinners. Staff meetings. Staff meetings. Staff meetings. Absolute slow and agonizing boredom. The lack of challenge. Slow life. No life. Slow progress. No progress. Dissatisfaction. Not starting a company.

When your startup juice is low, use dissatisfaction to your advantage.  Feel the pain. What would happen if you didn’t stay committed to building a startup? Startup it.


Random Startup Comedy Video:


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When recruiting…

It helps to be a programmer/ hacker/ engineer/ developer.

Or think like one.

Chris Dixon wrote a popular post on how to recruit programmers to your startup. In short, appreciating a programmer’s creative ability and technical contribution through compensation is huge. If you combine Dixon’s advice with having truth vision like elders (see earlier post on Seeing through People), it’s likely the programming gods will favor you.

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Elders can sniff out a fake.

They not only have tons of life experience but tons of people experience. In other words, they understand how people work. They notice a liar when he is avoiding eye contact and mismatching his words and body gestures. Elders can sense ingenuity in a heart beat based on a handshake. You may know someone like this. Maybe a mentor, friend, or grandparent. Elders are usually people who have been around for a while.

Most investors fall into the elder category. They care about the details and use those details to determine your character and capabilities–teachable genius or arrogant jerk? Yes, increasing traction is important (see an earlier post on gaining traction) but what’s even more important is what’s behind the traction–you! That’s if you plan on sticking around to grow your startup. Otherwise, investors will find other ways.

As a startup, you should know the way of the elder. In fact, become an elder. You don’t have to be old. Study people. Learn the tricks. Sniff out the liars. Get faster at it. In the long run, this will save you time (and pain) when hiring.


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“What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” -Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher

Well, maybe.

Most techy founders are obsessed about two things: product and money. There is a problem with this. If one focuses too much on the product, then it’s easy to miss out on building things that people actually want. If one focuses too much on the money, then it’s easy to make poor decisions for short term gains. Both obsessions lead to destruction.

What is the fresh founder supposed to be obsessed about then? In addition to being obsessed about your vision, a founder should also be obsessed with learning.

I know, it sounds cliche. It’s not. Running out of learning definitely is worse than running out of money. The most successful startups are composed of the fastest learners. The fastest learners tend to be the ones that move the fastest too. Go figure. And the most adaptable.

Not sure what you’re supposed to learn? Start making mistakes. Learning from your own mistakes is a good motivator. You can also learn from other people’s mistakes too. Eric Ries wrote a whole book about it.

Is your startup fail safe?

You wake up every morning with a knot in your stomach. Before you open your eyes, you think of seventeen ideas you want to pull off in the next 24 hours. Scratch that. Twenty-three ideas. As you lug yourself over to your favorite cafe, Roast or Toast, the sparky barista asks how much progress your startup has made. Are all baristas morning people? All of a sudden you remember the   Read More ...

“It goes on and on and on and on…”

People aren’t nice. It goes along with life not being fair. If life’s not fair, then why do people need to be nice? See? Here are 7 ways you can take criticism. Constructive and destructive. Naughty or nice.

1- Stay cool. Being a cool cat will train you to be just that, a cool cat. Keep that emotion steady.

2- Ask for specifics. Sometimes people do not realize they’re being unhelpful. Help them help you. Ask for specifics to their (and your) problem.

3- Stay positive. Criticisms are opportunities to improve your [insert something you do or make] or build your character. Remember, if it doesn’t kill you, it builds character.

4- Be thankful. Thanksgiving wasn’t that long ago! You’re used to this. A sincere thanks will go far in terms of respect.

5- Change something. You received criticism for a reason. Do something. Of course, you do not need to take action on every critique. Just the ones that actually help.

6- Listen to Journey. It’s important to never lose sight of your vision. Don’t stop believing.

7- Listen to Journey again. Repetition is key.

Magic People aka Amazing Startup Founders

Where can one find the well-rounded entrepreneur? The one who not only can demonstrate technical prowess but also can create a genius roadmap to the startup’s future? In a world full of specialization, these people are rare gems. They can produce amazing things, like magic. I call these people, the MagicPeople (see equation above). There are many stories of this species. People like Sean Parker, founder of Napster, and founding   Read More ...

Immigrant Entrepreneur Song: Let me create jobs!

Are giant sea-bound incubators the answer to the Silicon Valley immigrant entrepreneur’s cry?  Probably not. But times are changing. Americans are now supporting a new type of visa for immigrant founders who want to create jobs in our country. It’s called the Startup Visa. Founders from afar, I commend you. After listening to stories from firsthand immigrant entrepreneurs, I’ve never seen such dedication to building a successful company…just to stay   Read More ...

Coming soon! An almost classic startup guide every hacker should own if he wishes to have a clue–The Hacker’s Guide to the Ultimate Machine: Your friendly startup guide according to the startup sages. For the last 3 months, I have been interviewing startups, mentors, angels, and VCs to address real questions hackers have on building a startup–from inception to scaling up. With each conversation the guide has evolved. Indeed, as   Read More ...