Tara Viswanathan

If you have to ask if you’re in love, you’re probably not in love. The same goes with product/market fit — if you have to ask if you have it, you probably don’t.

Tara Viswanathan

In startups, there will be times you need to persist, and times you need to pivot — therein lies the founder’s dilemma. To get conviction on the right path, validate your gut feelings with logic and research.

Kevin Fishner

While early employees help set implicit norms, building systems early in a company’s lifecycle sets explicit norms. How do decisions get made? How are meetings structured? How are goals set? These systems are much easier to build when the company is small, and very challenging to put into place as the company grows.

The Tactical Guide to Making Better Decisions When Starting and Scaling Companies

For the past couple of years, Annie Duke has been sharing her advice with founders and angel investors in closed sessions for the First Round community, but given our focus on open-sourcing so others in the tech ecosystem can learn, we thought readers of The Review would be curious to see a few pages from her decision-making playbook, tailored specifically for the startup context.

In this … [ Read more ]

Irving Fain

Naivety is an important quality for entrepreneurs to possess — there are no assumptions about what is and isn’t possible. The ability to not know what lies around every single corner is actually an advantage because it forces you to look around corners that you normally would never go towards.

Run This Diagnostic to Thoughtfully Build (and Evaluate) Your Startup’s Culture

Most founders tend to remain high-level when the topic of culture comes up. For starters, there are tons of reads on why culture matters, but strikingly few on how to actually architect it. We all understand what it means to some extent, but it’s rarely defined or broken down. There are frameworks for product/market fit or founder-led sales, but when it comes to culture, the … [ Read more ]

When Pitching an Idea, Should You Focus on “Why” or “How”?

There are two camps on the most effective way to frame an innovative idea. One contends you should emphasize why the idea is desirable. The other says you should focus on how to implement the idea. Which one is right? A research project found that the answer depends on your audience. If you’re making a pitch to novices, focus on why. If you’re making it … [ Read more ]

Marco Zappacosta

The cultural attributes and values of an organization are really a reflection of who joins early on — the shared values that bring the early team together. Building the culture starts with who you hire, and it’s nothing more than that. It’s a mistake to be too explicit about the culture and values upfront in the earliest days of a startup. You don’t know yet … [ Read more ]

Marco Zappacosta

It’s useful to recognize the ways in which you’re not a special flower. In the early days, you think you and your company are special in every way, and then over time, you realize there’s a lot of stuff that everybody goes through.

Jeff Lawson

You’ve got to send people out in different boats to explore new ideas, but when you see the signs of success, make sure you’ve got the ability to double down in real-time on the winning boat.

Your Startup’s Management Training Probably Sucks — Here’s How to Make it Better

At early-stage companies, where you’re still wrestling with product/market fit and building up the company foundation, management often falls to the back burner, leaving folks to generally figure it all out for themselves. However, many of the cracks that emerge as startups scale can be traced back to those missing managerial cornerstones.

One root cause? Manager training, which is largely ignored by startups as a BigCo bucket … [ Read more ]

Jeanne DeWitt Grosser

As a rule of thumb, I don’t think most leaders can handle scaling back more than one order of magnitude in org size — for example if you currently have a 10 person sales team, look for someone who’s led a 100 person sales team, but not 1000.

Great Startups Deserve Great Brands — Build a Strong Foundation by Avoiding These Mistakes

Arielle Jackson has helped shape hundreds of startup brands. “Working with hundreds of brands has cemented the importance of focusing on the fundamentals of your purpose, positioning, and personality early on. These are the essential elements of a brand strategy. When you get this stuff right, everything flows from there. You don’t get distracted by the competition. Your website writes itself. Your messaging breaks through … [ Read more ]

The 30 Best Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs in 2021

Since 2013, First Round Review has committed itself to an annual ritual, one that serves as an opportunity to both take stock and remind ourselves of that early promise to stay tactical. Each time we turn the page to the new year, we comb through every article we published over the last one to concentrate the standout tactics into one actionable guide of advice. As … [ Read more ]

Waseem Daher

What some investors say is that the only problem you can’t fix is the problem of market size. But most folks’ intuition about how big a market or a problem is typically quite off

Finding Language/Market Fit: How to Make Customers Feel Like You’ve Read Their Minds

Language/market fit is the most under-appreciated concept for early-stage startups. For starters, most founders are focused on finding product/market fit, zeroing in on the right set of features to match their prospects’ needs. Moreover, fine-tuning language seems like “marketing,” which is usually seen as a later priority, not step zero. Lastly, people also don’t tend to like going out of their comfort zone — and … [ Read more ]

How good are you at business building? A new way to score your ability to scale new ventures

Why do so many great ideas just fail to take off? Executives have plenty of explanations for why their new businesses fail to scale, from poor operations to insufficient talent to simply bad luck. But in many cases, these explanations are based on gut feeling or frustration looking for an outlet, not on a deep understanding of the facts. So we have reviewed more than … [ Read more ]

Falling Flat: Why Startups Need Hierarchical Structure

Wharton management professor Saerom (Ronnie) Lee has a word of warning for aspiring entrepreneurs who envision an egalitarian workplace where there are no bosses and every employee ranks the same.

According to his latest research, startups with flat organizational structures often fail.

20 Underrated Qualities to Look for in Candidates — And 50+ Interview Questions to Suss Them Out

If you’re a hiring manager, this is the perfect time to check in and rededicate yourself to running an even better process, whether that’s by doubling down on your existing approach or trying out new hiring tactics that break the mold. In particular, there’s an opportunity to reconsider the very qualities you’re hunting for.

Over the years, we’ve interviewed hundreds of startup leaders, collecting their go-to … [ Read more ]

Sam Altman

You should trade being short-term low-status for being long-term high-status, which most people seem unwilling to do. A common way this happens is by eventually being right about an important but deeply non-consensus bet. But there are lots of other ways–the key observation is that as long as you are right, being misunderstood by most people is a strength not a weakness. You and a … [ Read more ]