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Book Summary - Do More, Faster by David Cohen and Brad Feld, 121230

Book Summary - Do More, Faster by David Cohen and Brad Feld, 121230

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Published by clementwan

My summary notes of "Do More, Faster" (http://www.amazon.com/Do-More-Faster-TechStars-Accelerate/dp/0470929839) for those interested in building a startup or joining a startup. (http://growthmatters.blogspot.com)

My summary notes of "Do More, Faster" (http://www.amazon.com/Do-More-Faster-TechStars-Accelerate/dp/0470929839) for those interested in building a startup or joining a startup. (http://growthmatters.blogspot.com)

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Published by: clementwan on Jul 10, 2011
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START-UPS
Do More, Faster
by Brad Feld and David Cohen
 
BOOK SUMMARY Last Revised January 26, 2013Vitals
Hardcover (352 pages),Wiley (October 2010)ISBN-10: 0470929839PSRP: 29.95 USD
Overview:
A compilation of interviews/essays from entrepreneurs and their mentors from TechStars– a successful startup incubator based in Boulder, Colorado. Crammed with practical advice around 7themes: idea and vision, people, execution, product, fundraising, legal structure, and work-lifebalance. 
Review:
While this book is geared towards tech startups, if you’re looking to build a new company irrespective of industry you’llfind something of use to you in this book. Highly recommended – but as the authors caution a few times, “it’s just data”.
Review
While this book offers some great advice to entrepreneurs of all stripes and industries, it’s geared primarily towards techstartups that build services on the web. Do More, Faster is acompilation of advice from some amazing entrepreneurs andtheir mentors/advisors with minimal overlap. I highlyrecommend this book for the range of advice it covers onnearly all aspects of a startup – but as the authors emphasize afew times through the book – “it’s just data”. Ideas mayultimately not be appropriate to you but that are, at aminimum worth considering.
Introduction
 This book, much like TechStars itself, is an attempt at bringingtogether insights of TechStars' of what makes a startupsuccessful. TechStars is a mentorship and community drivenstartup accelerator founded in 2006 with a 3 month intensiveprogram that culminates in a pitch to hundreds of investors.Each mentor is asked to focus on a single company and atmost two with 4-6 deeply engaged mentors per startup.About 70 percent of TechStars companies have gone to raisemore than $25 million in angel or venture capital, havebecome profitable or been bought by larger firms.
Theme 1: Idea and Vision
 
The core of a startup is a not a singular amazing world-changing and earth shattering idea
 
Startups are about testing theories and quicklypivoting based on feedback and data
 Tim Ferriss: Your idea is worthless. Don't over value, shelterand protect your startup concept; expose it to the real world."One can steal ideas, but no one can steal execution orpassion". Good people are more valuable because even if theyfail this time, they will learn and have other fundable ideas.Kevin Mann: "If you're not passionate about what you're doing,it won't mean enough to you to succeed. Startup founderschoose an insanely difficult path, so passion is a prerequisite."Isaac Saldana: Look for the pain. Talk to users and customersand address specific problems.Nate Abbott and Natty Zola: Get feedback early. Share yourideas with smart people - mentors, customers and partnersand focus your team to be "execution machines".Matt Mullenwag: Usage is like oxygen for ideas. You can neverfully anticipate how an audience is going to react tosomething you've created until it's out there. Ship early andoften to get unique competitive advantage of useful feedback to anticipate market direction and/or new supporters who youcan contact when your team pivots to a new idea. In a rapiditeration environment, the most important thing isn'tnecessarily how perfect code is when you send it out but howquickly you can revert, keeping costs of mistakes really low.David Cohen: Forget the kitchen sink. Focus on your passionand pick the smallest meaningful problem that you can be thebest in the world at and continue improving upon it. This willallow you to expand your scope from a position of strength.Darren Crystal: Find that one thing they love/can’t livewithout. Don't assume you know what your users are doing -carefully watch and study your analytics. Once you find it,make it better.Greg Reinacker: Don't plan. Prototype! Being open/publicearly in development process, discussing new features andhow things should work means that at launch you've alreadybuilt an invested fan base of potential bloggers.Niel Robertson: You never need another original idea if youget customers, then listen. Don't assume what they want.Spend time with them; ensure that a feedback loop is a part of every feature, element of product design.Sean Corbett: Get it out there. Don't worry about making itperfect. Build the smallest possible product that allows you totest assumptions and answer questions about your businessand then get it out there. If you target a large user base, it isunlikely you will offend enough people quickly enough toimpede growth.Bijan Sabet: Avoid tunnel vision. The vision you have may beachieved on a path than you originally plan. The bestentrepreneurs that execute well do several things: "Develop
 
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passion and vision for the problem they are trying to solve.Identify and understand what they have to do to make ithappen. Combine sheer will, determination and focus to makeit happen with a healthy sense of urgency. Have perspectivethat things rarely go as planned."Jared Polis: Focus. The key to success is focusing on a goodidea and implementing it well. Don't be distracted by otheropportunities along the way.Colin Angle: Iterate again. Few people care how youaccomplish something, they care about whether you createvalue for your end user. A mission statement can make adifference like ours, "Build cool stuff, deliver great product,have fun, make money, change the world." It kept thecompany united, gave it purpose and made it well positionedto endure the hardships encountered during early stages of existence, even if it is to call customers to tell them (a) no, therobot isn't done yet, and (b) please pay us anyway so we canmake payroll.Alex White: Fail fast. Be happy about having a bunch of littlefailures along the path to success, because if you're not failingyou're probably just not trying enough stuff. Recognize failureis likely outcome of any venture but with each iteration, yougive yourself a better chance for success. Fail fast, learnquickly and start again.Paul Berberian: Pull the plug when you know it's time. Thisdoesn't always mean you shut down the company. Step back from what you've created and think about what you can dobetter than anyone else in the world.
Theme 2: People
 
The most important thing in entrepreneurship ispeople. One of the goals of Techstars is to exposefirst-time entrepreneurs to mentors with a wide rangeof experiences/perspectives
Mark O'Sullivan: Don't go it alone. Many of the mostsuccessful tech companies have been created by at least twoco-founders. Having someone to share your burden, and walk with you into battle is invaluable.Dharmesh Shah: Avoid founder conflict. Be prepared for upsand downs. Address these issues as soon as possible - plan forworst, hope for best:
 
how should equity be split?
 
how will decisions get made? What decisions get made byboard?
 
what happens if someone leaves?
 
can any of us be fired? By whom? For what reasons?
 
what are the personal goals/expectations for the startup?
 
what will each person do/be responsible for?
 
what contractual terms will each of us sign with thecompany beyond shareholder agreement? (E.g. non-compete). At a minimum, all founders should be willing toassign whatever they develop to the company
 
what will we pay ourselves and who gets to change this inthe future? (Issue can be clouded by varying risk tolerances and invested cash by founders)
 
what are financing plans for the company? Self-fundedand boot strapped? Raise angel funding? Raise VCfunding? What happens if this doesn't happenWill Herman: Hire people better than you. Knowledge growsexponentially, they will challenge you to grow, your team willmove much faster and better people are easier to manage andare more self reliant. Use your mentors to help you moreobjectively assess gaps/recruiting given their experiencehiring people.Matt Blumberg: Hire slowly, fire quickly. A bad employee islike a cancer in the organization. Always do a comprehensive90 day 360 performance review.Laura Fitton: Be committed. If you can't quit no matter howhard you try, then you have a chance to succeed.Alex White: Build a balanced team. It is foolish to have morethan one non technical co-founder at the earliest stages of abusiness who helps leverage the technical assets. Thehealthiest startups have overlap in key areas and involvementwith direct feedback from users, investors. The goal is toachieve balance to become more effective as a team.Micah Baldwin: Startups seek friends, not sales relationships.In sales, relationships are useful insofar as they allow for sales.In a startup, a relationship is paramount because they screwup a lot - think of it as making friends who want to help youand care about what you're doing. A strong relationshipallows for mistakes.Emily Olson: Engage great mentors. Mentors should fit intoyour business and their experience should match up with thechallenges you face. To keep them engaged, make sure youclose the loop and give feedback for outcome of their advice -how it was used and results/conclusions.Greg Gottesman: Define your culture. In last decade, I havebeen convinced 3 most important factors in determiningsuccess of startup are team, product/service and market(timing, size, and so on). I recently added culture:
 
no politics - everyone gives everybody else credit. Ideas judged on merits not who comes up with them.
 
it's a mission - centered around belief the company isworking on something important
 
intolerance for mediocrity - quickly rejecting those whoare not meeting a high bar
 
watching pennies - e.g. "scrappy awards" given toemployees who demonstrated superhuman abilities tosave money
 
equity driven - everyone is on board to build somethingsignificant and employees want a piece of that future. If 
 
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focused solely on cash, indicative they may have lost faithin business.
 
perfect alignment - from strategy to vision to people
 
good communications especially in bad times. Hardissues addressed directly, not ignored.
 
strong leadership - leads by example and the "culturalsoul" of a company
 
mutual respect - not one of blame, disdain on otherdepartments
 
customer obsessed - defining who customer is, what theywant/need, what they will value enough to pay for now. This happens before code is written; customer feedback becomes core to the process.
 
high energy level - you can feel it
 
fun - everyone reinforces that fun is happening even if itisn't at that particular point in time. Whining isunwelcome
 
integrity - highest integrity in way they treat customers,handle employee issues, write code and go about dailybusiness. Enough confidence in business to believecheating in any form or even going halfway isunacceptable.Brad Feld: Two strikes and you are out. "Screwing me" isdefined as deliberate deception, purposefully hurting me (orsomeone I care about), doing something immoral/illegal. That's one strike (failure which is expected is not). Beemotionally clear in reaction (dispassionate but not passive,direct not hostile and specific not accusatory). A deepthoughtful conversation usually ensues which serves to build amuch stronger relationship or the potential for one.Warren Katz: Karma matters. Be open to helping others as younever know how or where that favor is returned.David Cohen: Be open to randomness. Met Brad Feld during a"random day" where he takes meetings he wouldn't normallytake or no specific reason to take but where he figures he willmeet a few interesting people and something good will comefrom it.
Theme 3: Execution
 
Efficiency of execution is so important that processesexist to detect it at TechStars - like direct/conciseemails, quick and dirty videos that show basics of whatthey're doing instead of time wasted on productionvalue.
 
The ability to get things done and focus on results
 
Not blindly going from A to B but doing so collectingand synthesizing enormous amounts of data fromdifferent sources along the way making appropriateand timely decisions
 David Cohen: Do more, faster. The competitive advantage of astartup is that there is little at stake in trying radical or non-obvious new things, not afraid of small failures. They can domore and as a result, learn more. Larger and more establishedcompanies have too much to lose to try something radicallydifferent or try blowing up their market.Howard Diamond: Assume you're wrong. Have a clear point of view/hypothesis and go after it with conviction but be willingto let go of your own assumptions and listen to customers andpartners. It is critical to create an environment in whicheveryone is comfortable admitting mistakes. When somethingdoesn't work, acknowledge the situation, synthesize the data,and try a different course of action.Ari Newman: Make decisions quickly. This is one of the biggestassets a startup has - the ability to be nimble. Motto: "buildsomething valuable, get the word out, and listen to yourcustomers. Iterate and repeat." Move quickly to where marketis going.Bill Warner: Understand that you will get conflictingadvice/information. It's just data (and a part of life). There canbe multiple correct answers.Ryan McIntyre: Use your head, then trust your gut. Theimportance of instrumenting your business properly to enableintelligent decision making cannot be overstated. You can'tmanage what you don't measure. But prepare for the data togive you a head fake (e.g. wrong subgroup of customers totarget). Constantly revisit data; measuring wrong things canbe worse than nothing. Take inputs gathered and makedecisions that feel right to both your head and gut.Eric Ries: Progress in a startup is the result of validatedlearning. It is better to forego non scalable revenues forinstance than validated learning about customers /developing a scalable (self-serve vs. live hand holding) formulato acquire, qualify and sell to customers in targeted marketsegments. Most aggregate measures of success like revenuesfor a startup are not very useful. None of dollars, milestones orcode can count as progress.Brad Feld: The plural of anecdote is not data. An entrepreneurmust synthesize data / different perspectives and form theirown opinion. One of goals of Techstars is to surround firsttime entrepreneurs with mentors who can flood them withstories, anecdotes, advice and data. It is good to haveconflicting advice as it forces an entrepreneur to go deeperand think harder about what is happening. Anecdotes comeeven before data in the information hierarchy that generallystarts with data, builds to information, and eventually peakswith knowledge. It is important to have a broad number of them before you start abstracting up to the data layer.David Cohen: Don't suck at email. Get to inbox zero (DavidAllen's GTD). Try to touch email only once. Respond to itimmediately or put it on to do list with a due date to be dealtwith later. Then, delete the item from your inbox and don'tuse it as your to do list. The biggest way people suck is notbeing clear and concise. Mark Sullivan of Vanilla came up with7 rules not to suck at email:

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