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Startups Don’t Die, They Commit Suicide

Startups Don’t Die, They Commit Suicide
Justin Kan is the founder of and Socialcam. You can follow him on Twitter here and read his blog here. Startups die in many ways, but in the past couple of years I’ve noticed that the most common cause of death is what I call “Startup Suicide”, a phenomenon in which a startup’s founders and its management kill the company while it’s still very much breathing. Long before startups get to the point of delinquent electricity bills or serious payroll cuts, they implode. The people in them give up and move on to do other things, or they realize that startups are hard and can cause a massive amount of mental and physical exhaustion — or the founders get jobs at other companies, go back to school, or simply move out of the valley and disappear. I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret: while building and iterating on (long before launching Socialcam), there were many times I came to the brink of packing it up and moving on from the company that bears my name. Related:  Leadership

Why We Prefer Founding CEOs You’re just a rent-a-rapper, your rhymes are minute-maidI’ll be here when it fade to watch you flip like a renegade”—Rakim, Follow The Leader When my partner Marc wrote his post describing our firm, the most controversial component of our investment strategy was our preference for founding CEOs. The conventional wisdom says a startup CEO should make way for a professional CEO once the company has achieved product-market fit. In this post, I describe why we prefer to fund companies whose founder will run the company as its CEO. The macro reason: that’s the way most of the great technology companies have been built At Andreessen Horowitz, our primary goal is to invest in the great technology franchises. (*) While not technically cofounders, Andy Grove and Thomas Watson, Sr. were the driving force behind Intel and IBM, respectively. Two more quick data points before I move on to explain why this happens. The underlying reasons The innovation business These innovations are product cycles.

No more webpages? Every time Facebook changes its interface, an outcry erupts in my News Feed. Without fail, my network transforms into a village and Mark Zuckerberg is our Frankenstein. Minor tweaks send us into an outrage, and we want Facebook’s head on a platter for our momentary confusion. But then a few days pass, and instead of anger, we see adaptation. This, according to Jim Boulton of Story Worldwide, is the future of the Internet. “Five years from now, there’ll be no such thing as a webpage,” Boulton tells me. The Barbarian Group’s 2004 campaign Subservient Chicken allowed users to control a costumed chicken by typing commands that the chicken would react to via web cam. 2006’s We Feel Fine constantly searches for new occurrences of any number of ‘feeling’ phrases, categorizing the world’s feelings by age, gender, weather, and location. The web of the ‘90s was a blank slate. (via Insider Images) What sites do you wish were resurrected?

Full stack startups Many of today’s most exciting startups were tried before in a different form. Suppose you develop a new technology that is valuable to some industry. The old approach was to sell or license your technology to the existing companies in that industry. The new approach is to build a complete, end-to-end product or service that bypasses existing companies. Prominent examples of this “full stack” approach include Tesla, Warby Parker, Uber, Harry’s, Nest, Buzzfeed, and Netflix. Bad product experience. The full stack approach lets you bypass industry incumbents, completely control the customer experience, and capture a greater portion of the economic benefits you provide. The challenge with the full stack approach is you need to get good at many different things: software, hardware, design, consumer marketing, supply chain management, sales, partnerships, regulation, etc. My guess is we are still at the very beginning of the full stack movement.

What’s The Most Difficult CEO Skill? Managing Your Own Psychology. “It’s fucked up when your mind’s playin’ tricks on ya” —The Geto Boys By far the most difficult skill for me to learn as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology. Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared to keeping my mind in check. Over the years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of CEOs all with the same experience. Nonetheless, very few people talk about it, and I have never read anything on the topic. It’s like the fight club of management: The first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown is don’t talk about the psychological meltdown. At risk of violating the sacred rule, I will attempt to describe the condition and prescribe some techniques that helped me. If I’m Doing a Good Job, Why Do I Feel So Bad? Generally, someone doesn’t become CEOs unless she has a high sense of purpose and cares deeply about the work she does. And to rub salt into the wound and make matters worse, it’s your fault. 1. 2. 1.

Stigmergic systems SEO projectFuture projectsTechnical notesReferencesKemplelen Box Site map [Top] Copyright Peter Small 1995 - 2008 25 Pieces of Bullshit You Hear About Startups This list needs no explanation: 1) You need a technical co-founder. 2) We're really interested in what you're up to, but would love to see just a little more traction before we fund it. 3) No one else can do this. 4) We decided not to charge our initial customers. 5) It's easier to get funded on the west coast. 6) This is projected to be a $54 billion dollar industry by 2019. 7) Google can't do this. 8) We're oversubscribed in this round. 9) We wouldn't take $30 million if someone offered to buy us right now. 10) We only fund great entrepreneurs. 11) This accelerator is really hard to get into. 12) We're using lean startup methodology. 13) Google will have to buy us1. 14) I built that entire business for my previous company. 15) We have an agency that is going to distribute us to all the major brands, so we fully expect huge distribution and revenue in the next year. 16) We're not raising money right now. 17) We have proprietary technology. 18) We need to move fast otherwise we'll miss this opportunity.

My Life as a CEO (and VC): Chief Psychologist I’ve had a post in my head for months – maybe longer – about the role of a CEO. It originally appeared on TechCrunch as a guest post but just in case you missed it there. My primary role was “chief psychologist” and as I’ve learned over the past few years the same has been true as a VC. Both are basically people businesses. I finally got around to writing it having read Fred Wilson’s post about what a CEO does. He says it basically comes down to three key functions: Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholdersRecruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. Matt Blumberg, who runs one of Fred’s portfolio companies, Return Path, follows up with an additional three: Don’t be a bottleneck (make sure you aren’t holding up people’s work)Run great meetings (don’t be a productivity drain on the company)Stay fresh (be mentally and physically fit & attuned to what is going on in the world) Howard Lindzon weighed in with his comments:

17 Web Resources for Improving Your Design Skills Mollie Vandor is the Associate Product Manager at Prior to that, she helped launch, where she served as the Product Manager, amongst many other roles. You can reach her @mollierosev, on her blog, or on her latest addiction - Words With Friends, where she plays under the username "Mollierosev." While summer vacation winds to a close and students prepare to go back to school, the days of brand new backpacks and crisp notebooks are long gone for many adults. Although classrooms, teachers and tuition might be off the table, it doesn’t mean education needs to be. In fact, the Internet itself provides a wealth of educational opportunities. Here's a look at some of the best web resources for web design education. Design 101 is all about the basics: master the lingo, learn the software and familiarize yourself with the driving principles that govern good design. You may also want to learn a little bit about the grid system while you’re at it. Upper Division

The Right Kind of Ambition Some say that I’m they favouriteBut I aint hearing none of thatI’m about my team hoYoung money running back—Drake, 4 My Town Birdman - 4 My Town (Play Ball) | Listen for free at In my last post, I mentioned that you should strive to hire people with the right kind of ambition. I agree with much of this post but I disagree with the following:"As defined by Andy Grove, the right kind of ambition is ambition for the company’s success with the executive’s own success only coming as a by-product of the company’s victory." In addition to comments like the one above, my business partner Marc Andreessen suggested that I write a post on how to screen for the right kind of ambition. Why should senior managers have the right kind of ambition? At a macro level, a company will be most successful if the senior managers optimize for the company’s success (think of this as a global optimization) as opposed to their own personal success (local optimization). Screening for the right kind of ambition

Nobody Cares This post is dedicated to the late Al Davis. Rest in peace. “Just win baby.”—Al Davis Back in the bad old days when I was running Loudcloud, I thought to myself: how could I have possibly prepared for this? As I was feely sorry for myself, I randomly watched an interview with famous football coach Bill Parcells. That might be the best CEO advice ever. And they are right not to care. All the mental energy that you use to elaborate your misery would be far better used trying to find the one, seemingly impossible way out of your current mess.