Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Notes 2014-2015

Title: Optimal Traits and Sustainable Advantages

Date: 2014-10-01

Speaker: Kevin Hartz, Julia Hartz (Eventbrite)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Complacency is death. Be in pursuit of relentless evolution.

What kind of industry can you disrupt with technology?

It isn’t about disrupting it is about democratizing.

The advent of technology will make it easier for people to gather offline.

Learn by doing.

Just start building.

Capital is always there when you don’t need it. When you desperately need it it isn’t available.

Focus on being customer centric in the early years.

There is a huge opportunity to bring on talent that is way more brilliant than yourselves, in more ways than you could possible imagine to focus on, in the beginning.

Understanding where you can access talent is extremely important.

E-commerce was defined by bad customer service, high fees, and little to no innovation.

Have healthy paranoia.

Things can shift quite rapidly in our world.

You should always be expecting the worst.

Think about how you can continue to increase your efficiency.

Complacency is death. Be in pursuit of relentless evolution.

Any founder has a little bit of crazy.

It is how you treat people and how you make them feel that makes all of the difference in the world.

When you’re a co-founding team of three you shouldn’t be overlapping. Hopefully you have complementary skills.

It is important to have clearly defined roles in leadership.

Culture keeps you centered. It should be a centering force for you and your team.

Title: The Power of Not Knowing

Date: 2014-10-08

Speaker: Liz Wiseman (Author)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

When you know nothing you're forced to create something.

Intelligence’s sibling is practical know-how.

Intelligence represents promise of the next big thing as well as safety and comfort particularly in an industry where things don’t stand still for very long.

In a technology company nothing is more important than technology transfer.

When you know nothing you’re forced to create something.

Focus on the basics.

Don’t assume anything because often we don’t know anything.

Experience creates a number of blind spots.

When we know the pattern we start filling things in. We start answering questions before they’ve been asked. We stop seeing new data points. We stop seeking feedback and input. We stop seeking new opportunities.

The most powerful form of learning comes when we are desperate.

Rookies are often a lot faster than people with experience.

Where we work in the space of the unknown is where we feel our greatest joy.

Spend zero time in jobs you’re qualified for.

Shop for a boss or be a boss.

Rely on your own brilliance.

Title: From Inspiration to Implementation

Date: 2014-10-15

Speaker: Tina Seelig (Stanford University)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

There is no right answer. It is up to you to chart your course.

Imagination is the ability to envision things that don’t yet exist.

Creativity is applying your imagination to solve a problem.

Creativity is the application of your imagination.

Innovation is applying your creativity to come up with a unique solution.

Entrepreneurship is applying innovation to bring ideas to life.

Entrepreneurship, to be successful, requires you to inspire the imagination of other people. You can’t do it alone.

You need to start with engagement.

Most people do not pay attention.

Many people don’t know they have a passion until they are engaged with something.

You need to engage before you can envision.

Creativity requires motivation and experimentation.

True entrepreneurs are quiltmakers.

You can start small.

Reframing is when you start looking at a problem from all different angles.

The question you ask is the frame into what the answers will fall.

Entrepreneurship requires persistence and inspiring others.

Starting anything is incredibly hard.

You cannot bring ideas to life by yourself.

With any job you’re not getting a job you’re getting the keys to the building.

Focus on a few things where you can make a big contribution rather than focusing on everything and doing a mediocre job.

If you ask permission you’re just transferring the risk to somebody else.

Being a student is a pretty risk free environment.

Instead of thinking of yourself as a risk-taker think of yourself as someone who is a big thinker with big ideas.

If you’re not engaged and paying attention you’re missing opportunities.

If you’re not failing sometimes you’re not taking enough risks.

Mine failures for learning.

Knowledge is a toolbox for your imagination.

There is no right answer. It is up to you to chart your course.

Title: Tackle Projects Others Don’t Want

Date: 2014-10-22

Speaker: Matt Rogers (Nest)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Being an entrepreneur is a very lonely place.

A lot can happen in ten years.

Growing up with technology at a young age changes your mindset on how you interact with the world.

If somebody gives you a really hard problem get excited and figure out how to solve them.

Nothing ever works the first time.

Internships are super important. You’ll learn a ton.

Manufacturing is really important.

Things that people don’t care about are really important.

Doing the end-to-end in technology is really complicated.

Don’t chase the money. How much you raise is not important. What is more important is who you work with.

Being an entrepreneur is a very lonely place.

Surround yourself with a team that augments your weaknesses.

Always be working on the next thing because the chances are you competitors are going to be working on your first thing.

There are very few new brands that reach mass.

PR only gets you so far. At some point you need to reach the mass consumer.

You can’t do it alone.

Investing in new things that may never pan out is not something big companies do often.

Plans do change. The key is to have a plan.

You want to make sure you believe in what you’re doing.

When you build a product for yourself it is not always the right product.

Build a product for consumers. Know who they are.

When your team is small every single person matters.

The business world is 1% strategy and 99% tactics.

Don’t be afraid.

It is okay to take risks.

You should be measured with your risks.

Title: Life is Too Short for Bad Software

Date: 2014-10-29

Speaker: Lewis Cirne (New Relic)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Every business is a software business. They all need their software to work.

You have dreams but you also have doubts.

The very best engineers have an instinct for what people want.

Every business is a software business. They all need their software to work.

The people who build software are really the people who are changing the world in many ways.

Data is fundamental to every business decision.

Life is too short for bad software.

Your most precious asset is your time.

Make a product so easy to use that the customer can see the value without the help of a salesperson.

It is hard for a company to come out with a second act–an idea that is totally new, disruptive, and goes beyond the first idea.

When you are a solo founder it is very lonely.

Work with people that are going to bring out the best in you.

Keep recruiting your people after they come in. Check on them after three months.

You want people to feel valued.

Title: Seeking the Full Potential of Education

Date: 2014-11-05

Speaker: Jennifer Carolan (New Schools Venture Fund)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Human potential is everywhere.

Prioritize impact.

There is no silver bullet for education.

There are four million U.S. teachers. 40% are under the age of 30.

Entrepreneurs are a great pipeline for referrals to companies.

Look closely at the cap table.

The time is now to be building edtech companies.

Opportunity is so important for people.

Human potential is everywhere.

Title: Consumers and Brands in the Digital Age

Date: 2014-11-12

Speaker: Tina Wells (Buzz Marketing Group)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

You can always make more money. You can never make more time.

Build businesses while you are in school.

If you are an entrepreneur you have to be fascinated by your work and passionate about it.

Consumers have the power. They can dictate things to brands.

Trends come from all over the place.

Airports are going to become a more interesting hub for shopping.

It is important to understand what is going on in life for the average millennial.

It is the small innovations that can sometimes have the biggest impact.

The thing people don’t tell you about entrepreneurship is that sometimes it really, really sucks.

There is always competition. Consumers can choose to do nothing.

You can always make more money. You can never make more time.

Title: Nailing the Hard Things

Date: 2014-11-19

Speaker: Ben Horowitz (Andreessen Horowitz)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

If you can't build a great product it doesn't matter if you can build a great company.

People skills tend to be highly underestimated.

If you try to build a company with zero management skill and no network–that is hard.

In peacetime you’re much more focused on the development of the people and the development of the organization over the long term.

If you’re running out of cash you have got to get to a very accurate decision extremely quickly.

Sometimes at wartime you do things that undermine the organization.

Book: Only the Paranoid Survive

In the real business world most of it ends up being wartime.

Startups get really hard when the product gets into market.

If you can’t build a great product it doesn’t matter if you can build a great company.

Management is a learned skill. Nobody was born a great manager.

As a manager you have to evaluate people’s performance. You have to correct them. You have to make sure they are on task.

It is easier to teach the innovator how to be a CEO than to teach a CEO how to be an innovator.

It is just as much work and just as traumatic to build a company that is trivial and nobody cares about as it is to build a significant and important thing so you might as well try to do something important.

A big thing in venture capital is size.

The whole point of an executive is to get (the company) leverage.

With Bitcoin it is the first time there is a ledger that everybody could use and nobody owns.

Silicon Valley is still by far the easiest place to build a really important technology company.

Title: Make Government Work Better for All

Date: 2015-01-14

Speaker: Jennifer Pahlka (Code for America)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

The government can work but only if we make it so.

It is really hard to understand the really difficult problems we face as a country if you do not experience those things yourself.

If you want to recruit some of the best technologists in the country give them something to work on that really matters and they will succeed.

We need to redefine participation in government.

It is not just about having a voice or an issue.

We are at the verge of being able to say there is no excuse for complaining.

Solutions can come from anywhere.

Government needs to work for the people but it is only going to work if it is also by the people.

Government can work for actual real people and by actual real people.

You can no longer run a country properly if the elites don’t understand technology in the way that they grasp economics, or ideology, or propaganda.

The government can work but only if we make it so.

Title: Find Your Niche, Help the World

Date: 2015-01-21

Speaker: Shah Selbe (National Geographic Society)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

So often the limits on opportunity are the limits we put on ourselves.

We are living in an amazing, remarkable time with opportunity literally being everywhere.

A lot of opportunity is in places you don’t expect it to be.

There is a lot of opportunity now–it is up to you to take it.

Think beyond the Silicon Valley bubble.

Get industry experience.

There are ways to be entrepreneurial when you are at a big company.

Engineers are the ones who build the society we live in.

The feeling that you get–the impact that you get–out of working on something without expecting anything in return has a profound effect on the person you are and what you end up wanting to do with your life.

So often the limits on opportunity are the limits we put on ourselves.

In the forty years we have lost over 50% of the wildlife on the planet.

Find your inspiration.

Put yourself out there. Try and fail. Pick yourself back up. The world needs you.

Nobody ever creates anything without failing before.

Title: Growing a Creative Company

Date: 2015-01-28

Speaker: Jeanne Gang (Studio Gang Architects)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

It is hard to get the right balance.

Have a diverse group–people with different points of view.

Every single building is a unique thing.

It is hard to get the right balance.

Title: Making Complicated Things Simple

Date: 2015-02-04

Speaker: Alon Cohen (Houzz)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Sometimes it is best to jump in and not thing too hard about what is going to happen.

(Successful entrepreneurs) take something that is complicated and make it much simpler.

It is not enough to be talented at something. You actually have to work very hard.

Pick the right people.

It is never too late (to start a company).

You can learn on the way if you go and work other places.

At big companies it is difficult to get people to feel empowered.

Try to hire people that are very entrepreneurial.

The first few hires you bring are critical.

A-players bring A-players.

Founders are best at moving walls and getting things done.

Sometimes it is best to jump in and not think too hard about what is going to happen.

At the end of the day it is really about the people.

It is always important that you keep investing in the future. It is what keeps you ahead of the game.

Every startup is different.

On the inside you know things are not always what they look like on the outside.

Title: Figure Out What’s Important

Date: 2015-02-11

Speaker: Kathryn Gould (Foundation Capital)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Do interesting stuff.

Whatever you do make sure you are learning from really smart people.

Do interesting stuff.

Be very careful about who you take on as a client.

Don’t raise so much money that you can’t sell at a modest price and be happy.

It is still about market opportunity.

When you raise venture capital it is really important to get a great venture capitalist on your board.

Be very particular about who your investors are. It is not always about price.

Take a great venture capitalist at a lower price than some person at a ridiculously high price.

Look for a target customer with a compelling reason to buy.

It is very rare that a startup gets beat by a larger company. Mostly they get beat by some other startup down the street who is smarter than they are.

Get somebody else on your board other than an investor. Somebody who can bring an outside experience.

Title: Putting Startup Success in Perspective

Date: 2015-02-18

Speaker: John Collison (Stripe)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Question the way things work.

Startups over time tend to get higher and higher up in how they describe themselves.

A challenge you will face as you go through the early stage with your early customers is figuring out what is core to the product and what is not. What should be part of your vision and what will need to change as you hit obstacles with your customers?

Vision is what you are not willing to change.

There will be things that make sense in the early days that don’t scale later on.

Obvious in hindsight doesn’t really help you.

Be mindful in the day to day life you live.

We live in a world that is completely broken in a lot of small and big ways.

Question the way things work.

Companies that are successful in changing an industry are often not started by insiders.

We are all swimming in opportunity but it is often really, really hard to see it.

Bad ideas take a lot of time and often never achieve escape velocity but good ideas take a really long time to achieve escape velocity too.

It is important to be really clear in your own mind, and as time goes on be good at communicating, about what is unique about what you are doing.

The Internet economy should not be the U.S.–it should be the world–and we need to fight really hard to make that happen.

Product strategy is always going to be really hard.

You have to get good at pretty quickly learning new skills.

A bad mistake when it comes to hiring is so demotivating–it can spread badly to the rest of the company.

The correct way to do hiring is branches of a tree–when you hire someone you are not just bringing them you are bringing their effect on the culture and all of the other people they are going to bring in with them.

It is important as you grow to become more metrics driven.

The quality and tenor of your personal interactions matter a lot.

Title: The Startup Journey: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

Date: 2015-02-25

Speaker: Joshua Reeves (ZenPayroll)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

The magic of entrepreneurship is the idea of wanting to take the impossible and make it real.

Academics tie to what you do in a work environment.

(For college) the actual mindset is more valuable than the coursework you are going through.

Discover who you are. Discover what you care about. Understand the things that interests you. That requires experimentation.

With school there is no right or wrong answer.

When you choose what you want to do when you graduate think about who you want to become like.

There are two main types of learning. There is academic learning and there is tactical learning.

Tactical learning is learning whatever it is you need to learn to overcome the obstacle in front of you.

You can have ten years of work pass by without ever taking a step back to determine if you like what you are doing.

Set up your own quarter or semester system. Set up that (introspective time) otherwise life will pass you by.

Solve a problem that you can imagine spending the rest of your life working on.

Deciding who you are going to start a company with matters way, way more than skills or expertise. Understand what their motivations are and that they align with your motivations.

Solve a problem by creating a business rather than creating a business to solve a problem.

Payroll is more about people than payments.

Don’t be intimidated by your lack of knowledge. It can be a huge asset for you as well.

Starting a business is a labor of love.

Celebrate the human aspect of what it means to work.

It is a very intense experience to build a company.

Fundraising is not about capital–it is about people.

You can almost apply the same lens to fundraising as you do to hiring.

It is not a zero-sum game.

We can always get better.

Values are who you are. They are what you stand for.

Giving equity aligns economic outcomes and every person is an owner of the business–literally. Nobody should be treated as an employee. Nobody should be treated as if they are there to complete a single task.

Building things that are really great, and have a big impact on the world, take time.

Trust your team.

Fire yourself from as many jobs as you can.

It is an incredible time to be in technology and startups.

There are a lot of problems out there and a business exists to solve problems.

As long as there are problems there are opportunities for new businesses to be created.

Find a problem that really matters to you.

There are a lot of problems out there waiting to be solved.

The magic of entrepreneurship is the idea of wanting to take the impossible and make it real.

Interviewing isn’t just them learning about you. It is you learning about them.

If you are in a business that doesn’t have a lot to do then you are probably not in a very interesting business.

Mentorship can happen in many ways.

All that matters is the way that you spend your time.

It is not just what you do but who you do it with.

It is not just about accomplishing the goal but how you accomplish that goal.

You can never go wrong by overly focusing on people.

Heroism doesn’t scale. Heroes become martyrs.

Title: Injecting Innovation into Intractable Systems

Date: 2015-03-04

Speaker: Laurene Powell Jobs, Tom Byers (Emerson Collective)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

You have to be data driven.

You have to be data driven.

The same principles apply in the nonprofit space as they do in the for-profit space.

Education is big business.

When people are not satisfied with what is happening in our country and our output they should fight for change.

Social entrepreneurs generally do not make a lot of money. The intrinsic rewards are off the charts.

Title: Experience is Your Reward

Date: 2015-04-08

Speaker: Sean George (Invitae)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

The best thing to do is what is right for the mission.

One reason to go do something that is big and disruptive is that it is so incredibly difficult to do. If you’re going to spend all that time then you might as well do something that is big and important.

Do something if you can’t stop thinking about it.

You will have your highs and your lows.

You cannot put enough energy into your team.

The best thing to do is what is right for the mission.

The people that are going to move the company through the next phases are going to be different people than the people you started the company with.

(As you grow) the culture you build from day one gets challenged consistently.

You’re going to have a lot of downs with your ups.

For all of the chances of failure–you gotta have it mean something.

Workforces are getting distributed.

Title: Impact Will Keep You Motivated

Date: 2015-04-15

Speaker: Ron Gutman (HealthTap)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Look for people that won't endure the journey--look for people that will enjoy the journey.

It is all about the mission.

Waking up in the morning knowing you’re doing something meaningful gives you amazing amounts of energy.

The one thing that never gets old is a mission.

Look for people that won’t endure the journey–look for people that will enjoy the journey.

Try to bring the people that you wouldn’t mind getting in trouble with.

You want to make sure that the people you are with are compatible with you when things are not going that great.

(The mission) is the glue that keeps it all together.

Keeping the values, and not just writing them, is something that will help you keep it all together.

Helping other is better than anything else.

Think big. Think strategy.

In order to make better products you need to keep iterating on them all the time. Start simple and then iterate and iterate. Listen to users.

Don’t be afraid to launch products very quickly.

Test small. Don’t test big.

Don’t wait many months and years to build big things because you are going to be too late.

Smiling has amazing power.

It is possible to build positivity into your life by just being conscious of it.

Live the moment.

Deciding to remain positive is very important when you are trying to conquer these kinds of challenges.

Really think about how to hire the best person in the world for the job you that have at hand.

The most important challenge as an entrepreneur is really finding the most amazing person for every position in the company.

Create an environment where failure doesn’t exist–learning does.

Title: Non-Linear Path to Leadership

Date: 2015-04-22

Speaker: Kyle Forster (Big Switch Networks)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

You respect a company more when you are outside and competing against it than when you are inside of it.

If you hire well you wind up recruiting a lot of people that have more experience than you do.

Book: From Good to Great

Balance the brutal facts with the preservation of hope.

Visionaries are quirky to work with. They are very demanding.

Sitting (near a visionary) is an early adopter.

You have to win the first group (visionaries) to get to the second group (early adopter). They are the gatekeepers to the mass market.

You respect a company more when you are outside and competing against it than when you are inside of it.

Title: Simple Rules for a Complex World

Date: 2015-04-29

Speaker: Kathleen Eisenhardt (Stanford University)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Rules let you scale.

Simple rules are simple.

Simple rules are unique.

Simple rules relate to a defined activity.

Boundary rules and how to rules are the easy ones to learn. Priority ones are a little harder.

You can spend an endless amount of time in business in meetings.

Highly creative people are often using rules.

Rules around creativity force you to think more.

The hardest rule of all to learn is when to stop doing something.

Rules let you scale.

Sometimes you’ve got to break the rules.

Be sure you’ve got a really good first boss.

A rule takes the emotion out (of a decision).

Title: Blue is Where You Should Be

Date: 2015-05-06

Speaker: Mike Rothenberg (Rothenberg Ventures)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

The more stupid you feel asking questions the more you need to ask that question immediately.

It is really important what people are trying to do and what their mission is.

Entrepreneurship is an incredibly exciting place to apply pattern recognition and problem solving because those are unsolvable problems.

Everybody is more complicated (than a resume).

What you have to decide is what are your values? Are they good for you and are they really what you should be pursuing?

Be relentlessly open to feedback.

The first time you ask someone for feedback, even if it someone you really trust, they will tiptoe.

The more stupid you feel asking questions the more you need to ask that question immediately.

Great founders are amazing at getting support.

Entrepreneurship is getting support outside of things that you can control.

You can observe who are good entrepreneurs by observing who they are building relationships with.

The network is the only thing that matters in seed.

Everyone in a network must benefit from it.

Some of the first choices you make matter a lot.

To engage a community you actually have to do things that people care about and you have to do it on a regular basis.

Everyone is rational. Everyone is an incentive creature. If you think someone is acting irrationally then you don’t understand them.

You know awesome when you see it.

Philanthropy is really awesome.

Execution is vastly more important than ideas.

Title: Creativity Unleashes Value for the World

Date: 2015-05-13

Speaker: Chinedu Echeruo (Constant Capital Partners)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Creativity plays a big role in success.

Ideas matter.

The true source of human capital and potential is the ideas you come up with.

Product matters. Product solves so many problems in so many ways.

Ups may actually be downs and downs may actually be ups.

Creativity plays a big role in success.

There are real competitive advantages with being first to market.

Technology represents a huge opportunity for Africa.

To have a successful company in the early years you need to have a great idea, a well-functioning team, a product with some traction, and capital.

Build systems around people, product, and capital.

Entrepreneurship is solving problems profitably.

Title: Entrepreneurship Takes Flight

Date: 2015-05-20

Speaker: William Marshall (Planet Labs)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Be different.

Keep on iterating the technology.

Take an agile approach to software development.

Finding the right investors is really key.

Do something meaningful to help the world.

Don’t do an MBA.

The best business people didn’t study business. They were entrepreneurs in some other technical discipline and then they applied themselves (to business).

You need a great idea and that is not related to business skills.

If you have an idea where is the best and optimal place to affect that problem?

Hire people smarter than yourself.

Do something you love.

Have humility.

It is good to wait until you have done something before announcing it.

Only talk to the people making decisions.

You’ve got to be adaptable.

Be different.

We are already on a spacecraft–it is called the earth.

Title: Find Your Venture’s Emotional Core

Date: 2015-05-27

Speaker: Susan Koger (ModCloth)

Link: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Part of the drive that will you to start things will never let you be satisfied.

There is no right way to be an entrepreneur.

When you are making big decisions sit down and think about what are the worst case scenarios. Write them down.

Part of the drive that wills you to start things will never let you be satisfied.

Work on the practice of celebrating your wins.

It is okay to be a rookie. It is okay to not know what you are doing.

Resist faking it because you might miss opportunities to find your own path.

Don’t be afraid to go into an industry you don’t know anything about.

It is okay to look back and cringe.

You have to get out there and do stuff.

Once you actually get things in front of your community–in front of your users–that is where you get the feedback that actually matters.

The emotional core of what you do–the purpose of what you do as an entrepreneur–is really important. It is what endures.

Your purpose is what connects your team to the work. It is what makes everyone move in the same direction.

It is important to understand your audience.

You have to have the drive. There are going to be some days where you need something to get you out of bed.

The emotional core is what gets you through tough times.

The concept of an overnight success story does not exist.

All entrepreneurs have different stories.

If you feel good about it get it out there. Don’t sit on it and hold it in because it isn’t perfect. It will never be perfect.

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