Why Tim Cook is Steve Ballmer

What happens to a company when a visionary CEO is gone? Most often, innovation dies and the company coasts for years on momentum and its brand. Rarely does it regain its former glory. Here’s why.

Editor’s Note: for more on this theme, read “Visionary, Salesman and Pragmatist Model of Business Succes.”

Start-Ups: Stop Wasting Your Marketing Budget

Having the best product won’t help your start-up without a focus on segmentation, targeting and positioning.

Paul Graham

When a startup launches, there have to be at least some users who really need what they’re making — not just people who could see themselves using it one day, but who want it urgently. Usually this initial group of users is small, for the simple reason that if there were something that large numbers of people urgently needed and that could be built with … [ Read more ]

Ken Shotts

There are strong arguments that diversity promotes effectiveness. But I think that has implications that people haven’t really thought through. What about situations where some people believe diversity produces ineffectiveness? That’s not a hypothetical — this has long been the argument against diversity in the military. But there’s a counter-argument rooted in social justice. Do I want to live in a world where people’s outcomes … [ Read more ]

Elad Gil, Vinod Khosla

As Vinod Khosla has observed, your market entry strategy is often different from your market disruption strategy. And too many people focus on how small the market entry side is, but the entry point almost definitionally has to be small, because you have to find a space that isn’t covered or saturated by incumbents. If you find a gap and push your way through, often … [ Read more ]

Elad Gil

A lot of founders will go to customers and say “Hey, would you want to use this?” And customers will say “That’s great, we’d love to use it.” And so the founders go off and build it, but when then they come back with a product, no one’s using it. That’s because what they should have asked is, “Would you pay for this?” Being interested … [ Read more ]

Elad Gil

Markets with potential usually have a changing dynamic that allows new players to climb in and make room for themselves. It could be falling costs, new tech or a new distribution channel. Whatever it is, if you’ve heard something was difficult, you can’t just stop there because things have probably changed.

Elad Gil

As a general rule, when I make investments, it’s market first and the strength of the team second, which is quite different from a lot of other angel investors who are more founder-driven. I think that’s a mistake. Even if you have a strong founding team that’s able to pivot, they’ll probably stay trapped in the market they’re already in. Many great teams get taken … [ Read more ]

The Most Common Mistakes Made By Startups Throughout The Hiring Process

In the venture capital industry, we talk a lot about the importance of the founding team. But we might underestimate, especially in the early stages, something that might be as important as their drive, soft skills and strategic sophistication: their ability to recruit an A-class team. So I wondered, what are the best practices out there? I knew that I couldn’t find the golden formula, … [ Read more ]

Jim Clifton

Most well-meaning people are wrong about where startups come from. They believe startups come from innovation. But we found that startups come from what we call the “builder” quality: the entrepreneurial personality that leads people to start new ventures and bring them to success.

Khalid Halim

The double-edged truth of the fast-scaling startup: If the company grows as it should, it will outgrow many of its people.

Khalid Halim

The law of startup physics: humans grow linearly, companies grow exponentially.

Khalid Halim

I started noticing patterns in startups — which I’ve validated with executives and VCs over the years — that how companies scale and break matches military groupings. So, the most efficient group in the military is a group of three, then a group of eight, and then three groups of eight, so 24. Look across companies and you’ll see that around 24 people, someone speaks … [ Read more ]

Payal Kadakia

You know, in the beginning, people would say, “Oh, well, we need to build this thing to scale.” But, honestly, let the site go down. If people keep coming back, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re onto something. If they don’t due to a brief technical lapse, it’s likely not just the tech; there’s a dangerous fragility with your business or business model.

How to Calculate Your Total Addressable Market and Make a Great TAM Slide for Investors

I’ve seen hundreds of startup pitch decks and have found total addressable market (TAM) slides to be among the most frequently mis-executed. I get the sense they are often included as a formality in an attempt to get VCs to check a mental box and continue on hearing about other important things: the product, the team, the progress, the go-to-market, etc.
 
In this piece, I’m going … [ Read more ]

What Seven Years at Airbnb Taught Me About Building a Company

I first joined Airbnb as an engineer, and then as one of the first members of the budding PM team. Back then there were a couple dozen engineers, a few designers, and two very cute dogs. Over the next seven years as the company scaled to thousands of global employees, countless cute dogs, and over $30b in value, I took on a lot of interesting … [ Read more ]

Future Founders, Here’s How to Spot and Build in Nonobvious Markets

For Elad Gil, an important lesson for aspiring founders and investors alike is that nonobvious markets can lead to hypergrowth, but they’re hard to spot in the moment. The trick lies in finding what bucks conventional wisdom before anyone else and scaling that unlikely idea into a high-growth company — something Gil is very familiar with.

In his roles as an operator and angel investor, Gil … [ Read more ]

6 Ways Great Companies Use Board Decks to Their Advantage

After graduating from college in June, I had the chance to spend three months at Union Square Ventures, helping with a project that created anonymous aggregate insights for USV portfolio companies by analyzing data across stages, customers, and industries. In order to not put a lot of extra reporting effort on our companies, we approached this project by drawing from data in existing board decks. … [ Read more ]

Reconsider

Maybe, just maybe, you too have a nagging, gagging sense that the current atmosphere of disrupt-o-mania isn’t the only air a startup can breathe. That perhaps this zeal for disruption is not only crowding out other motives for doing a startup, but also can be downright poisonous for everyone here and the rest of the world.

How to Pitch Your Startup to a Venture Capitalist

Jenny Lefcourt is general partner at Freestyle Capital, a venture capital firm that specializes in seed and early-stage investments. She knows what it takes to be an entrepreneur because she’s been there. Lefcourt co-founded two companies — WeddingChannel.com and Bella Pictures — after dropping out of Stanford Business School. Meetings with investors to pitch the business and raise capital left her with a deeper understanding … [ Read more ]