Squashing Bugs

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We’re getting closer and closer to shipping our new app with each bug we squash. I’m really proud of this team—Joe (pictured above) stayed up all night working on fixing a really gnarly bug that’s been causing issues with our app. I’m inspired by his effort and creativity. He’s leading by example and I think it’s motivating us all.

He’s taught me to ignore negativity, persevere and keep building. I’m really inspired by Joe. I have a lot to learn from this guy.

I hope we can launch this new app and get some traction. I’d love to show the world what this team can do. We’re so close.

Interview with Scott Belsky, via Expa

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Last night I attended an Expa event with Scott Belsky. He shared his story and a ton of startup lessons. Scott co-founded Behance and is now a general partner at Benchmark. He also served as a VP of products at adobe when they got acquired. Here are some memorable quotes from the evening.

“Products are like a bonsai—Sometimes you have to cut some of the most beautiful branches to make sure the trunk is healthy.”

“Process is the escriment of misalignment.”

“The easiest decision is not to make a decision.”

“As a leader you have to short circuit your reward system.”

“Acquisitions are like feeding a domesticated lion. You have to aggravate the lion by shaking the meat in front of it, until it finally gets fed up and eats it.”

“Focus on verbs and actions, versus documenting everything.”

And his favorite question to ask people who are raising money, “How do you hire people?”.

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This was definitely illuminating, and the timing is so relevant. As I work on Flare, I really have to think about all these things.

Back to SF

After a week and a half back on the east coast, I’m back to SF. I had a pretty good meeting tonight with one of my buddies, Norm. He asked me a couple of hard questions—things that made me really think why I’m here. It kind of caught me off guard.

If you weren’t working on your current project, what would you be doing right now?

It’s kind of interesting that he asked me this. When I first started this project, it was something on the side. It’s definitely something that I enjoy doing, but he really wanted me to think about what I’d be working on if I wasn’t tied to any project. Would I really be working on this on my own?

He said, there are plenty of people in SF looking for projects to work on, but very few are extremely passionate about doing something that they’re genuinely moved by. I think the answer is that I definitely want to learn more about this space—it’s something that I’ve been really curious about, and I want to learn the ins and outs of early stage companies. I also want to give a stab at a consumer facing product right now. But, the reality is that I probably wouldn’t have come up with this mission on my own.

Anyway, his point was that when you have your own mission and personal passion behind something, it motivates other people. He said, that gravity inspires people, and it’s how projects get funded. I’m not sure how much of that is true, but it definitely sounds romantic and appealing.

If I read between the lines, he wanted me to think about the future. What’s the next project after this, and can it be something that can be closer to my heart? How can I think bigger and take things to the next level? Can I take Expa to the next level?

I have a couple of ideas, but I think the point was, I have to keep thinking about those things—the next side project.

Anyway, I have a lot to think about. There’s a ton to do—first step is to get this stealth project out of stealth mode. Then I can start thinking about the next big thing… even if the next thing starts off as a small side project.

Culture in the Long Run

Over the years, I’ve been really curious about company culture. It’s always fun reading articles talking about how you shouldn’t F up company culture. But if you read between the lines, there’s actually a financial reason why culture matters in the long run for start-ups. Given enough time, you’re probably going to move on or get fired… and the only influence you’ll have on the company is the culture you’ve left behind.

You know, I actually hear ex-founders talking about how they don’t recognize any of the new faces in their company. It’s fascinating to think about how all those new faces are working every day to build value (and making the company worth more).

The interesting thing about culture is that it’s hard to change for the better after things have gone south. So it seems really important to establish the right direction really early.

It all starts with the founders and the first hire. I’ve been told that the first hire is like mitosis—the first cell division in an organization that carries its DNA. One of my mentors explained to me, “your first hire will echo all of your best and worst attributes.”

So with that in mind, I’m trying to be more conscious of my attitude and perspective. I constantly ask myself questions like: How do we build values around innovation and a relentless work ethic into our DNA? How do we balance decisions based on data versus gut instinct? How do we handle disagreements and distractions? How do we set an example of excellence? How do we learn from our mistakes and run more efficiently? And ultimately, how do build things we’re genuinely proud of and have fun?

Anyways, big f’n kudos to any of the leaders out there that have built a successful culture. It’s not easy, and it’s certainly not luck. And yeh, when its done right, culture can be a lucrative thing. It’s a bet I’m ready to double down on.

The Product Metronome

”Product is the metronome of a team”

Hooman’s been feeding me with some profound nuggets of advice. As I dive into the role of product, he explained that it’s more than just creating growth and delivering things. It’s about helping the team find a cadence and rhythm not only for releasing, but an attitude around a company. When you’re calm, cool and clear, everyone around you will mirror that—and that’s a part of building product culture. Creating a cadence is something I’m going to have to work on. And being consistent with that will set an example of excellence.

If you had to choose between two teams (with the same output), which would you rather have?

a) A wired team filled with raw horse power and brute force?
b) A calm team that’s highly efficient that continually improves.

And the real question that Hooman alluded to—“which one is going to scale better in the long run?”

As I take on this new challenge, I will need to find balance in my life. Finding some zen will help me become a better metronome. The best is in front of us, and I look forward to our team playing together as a symphony.

”All great leaders have a platform of people that they can lean on.”

Hooman hit me with another bit of sound advice. For example, Mark Zuckerberg always seems to have a calm cool persona… but he relies on a network of people around him to put his thoughts together. But what most people don’t realize is how much he leans on his platform of advisors to guide him. Same goes with the president of the United States. One could say this about all leaders.

When Hooman asked me who I could talk to about the following things, I didn’t really have a good structure for how I utilized my network:

  • Someone to bounce creative ideas.
  • Someone to vent to when I’m frustrated.
  • Someone to run through strategy and growth.
  • Etc.

Having a network of people that you can lean on for wisdom, creativity and sometimes to lend an ear, is a platform that you can use. And the sum of having a platform of people you can lean on plus acting as a metronome is a great formula for becoming a leader.

It’s a lot to think about… but I’m pretty excited to be working on creating new systems, not just for design, but for building companies. This is going to be epic.