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secrets of fundraising
startup diversity and leadership
billion dollar models
Posterous, the startup I cofounded in 2008, grew 10X yearly and became a top 200 Quantcast website in that time. But by the end of 2010, growth had flatlined.When things were going well, we were too busy keeping the site online to have anything to disagree about.
I learned the hard way that if you haven’t prepared for conflict in your co-founder relationship, you’ll be at each other’s throats right at the moment when you most need to be working well together.
The mistake that my cofounder and I made was in avoiding the dynamics of our co-founder marriage altogether. We rarely spoke directly and honestly with one another. We didn’t stop to reflect on what he needed or I needed. We never sought professional support to ensure the health of our partnership. When the honeymoon ended, there was no healthy foundation to support the company.
During my time as a partner at Y Combinator, we always looked closely at how well co-founders knew each other before they started. Most people think of good co-founding pairs in purely functional terms: a business person paired with a technical person. This is deeper than that, because when conflict does arise (and it always does), if you have nothing in common other than the startup, you’ll struggle to find common ground at the worst of times. It’s necessary for founders to have something in common, but not sufficient in and of itself.
In my case, I had known my co-founder for over 8 years and we had been friends since college. We had history, but we learned history is not enough — you’ve got to maintain it like any relationship. It isn’t enough that you have been friends for years. It matters what your relationship is like now.
Successful co-founders actually embrace conflict, and are constantly in the process of resolving it. If you can’t argue and arrive at the best solution, you’re not doing the work to actually have a real, healthy working relationship.
You have to actually lean into the conflict and come out with a solution that makes sense, over and over again. If you find yourself avoiding it, then you have to consciously expend effort to fight that default behavior.
Don’t agree on something? Don’t leave the room until you have a resolution.
An hour not enough? Cancel your weekend, go on a hike, and figure it out.
In these situations, there’s nothing more important than for you and your cofounders to do the work and come out of it stronger.
There is an enormous gender gap in venture capital funding in the United States. Female entrepreneurs receive only about 2% of all venture funding, despite owning 38% of the businesses in the country. The prevailing hope among academics, policy makers, and practitioners alike has been that this gap will narrow as more women become venture capitalists. However, homophily does not seem to be the only culprit behind the funding gap. Over the past several years, the U.S. has seen an increase in the number of female venture capitalists (from 3% of all VCs in 2014 to an estimated 7% today), but the funding gap has only widened.
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Wanted to share a recent post about Gen Z.
Will be leading a food panel on this topic in NYC on July 18th
"I believe the most important thing we can do is work to bring people closer together. It's so important that we're changing Facebook's whole mission to take this on.For the past decade, we've focused on making the world more open and connected. We're not done yet and we will continue working to give people a voice and help people connect. But even as we make progress, our society is still divided. So now I believe we have a responsibility to do even more. It's not enough to simply connect the world; we must also work to bring the world closer together.We need to give people a voice to get a diversity of opinions out there, but we also need to build enough common ground so we can all make progress together. We need to stay connected with people we already know and care about, but we also need to meet new people with new perspectives. We need support from family and friends, but we also need to build communities to support us as well.Our new mission will continue our path and set our course for the next decade. The idea for our mission is: "bring the world closer together". The full mission statement is: "give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together". This reflects that we will not accomplish this mission ourselves, but by empowering people around the world to build communities and bring people together.Our lives are all connected. In the next generation, our greatest opportunities and challenges we can only take on together -- ending poverty, curing diseases, stopping climate change, spreading freedom and tolerance, stopping violence. No single group or even nation can do them alone.This isn't going to happen top down. Change starts local, when enough of us feel a sense of purpose and support in our own lives that we can start caring about broader issues too. Communities give us that sense that we are part of something greater than ourselves, that we are not alone, and that we have something better ahead to work for.This is our challenge. We have to build a world where every single person has a sense of purpose and community. That's how we'll bring the world closer together.A mission isn't just a statement. It's a nuanced philosophy and hope for the world. We carry out our mission not through repeating a statement, but in the work each of us do every day. And if enough of us work to build community and bring people together, then we just might change the world.Thank you for all you do for your communities and for the world. It's an honor to be on this mission with you, and I'm looking forward to doing this together."
The survey results show that no single management skill stands out above the rest. Respondents indicated that founders need to be management jacks-of-all-trades, so to speak. For eight out of 10 skill areas that we listed, at least 65% of respondents said that an aspiring founder should give high or very high priority to acquiring skills in that domain. As one respondent said, “Every one of these skills is important. The question is: For which skills will the CEO build deep personal expertise, and which will they outsource to other founding team members?”
Customer discovery and user-centered product design skills are paramount. Many respondents stressed that, during a startup’s early stages, its founders must gain a deep understanding of customer needs, and then must build on that understanding through rapid iteration and testing to prove product-market fit. As one respondent said, “Nothing else matters if you are building a product that no one wants.” Highlighting the importance of customer discovery research and lean experimentation, another noted, “Tech founders, sure that they already know what to build, are too often dismissive when told they should talk to customers.”
Always be closing? Respondents viewed selling as a crucial skill for founders, and noted that this encompassed more than just product sales. One said, “Having studied engineering in college, selling was the number one skill set that I was missing when I launched a company. As a founder, you are always selling: first to yourself and maybe a significant other, and then to potential cofounders, employees, customers, strategic partners, and investors.” Another added, “I was surprised how critical it is for a startup CEO to be great storyteller. Being able to craft and communicate a compelling story about why you are doing what you’re doing can inspire others to join you and fund you.”
Negotiations are never-ending. Respondents pointed out that negotiating was missing from the list of skills we asked about. One commented, “As with selling, a founder is constantly negotiating. Selecting the right partners and then structuring win-win deals with them is a vital skill — one that our aspiring founder didn’t learn in college engineering courses.”