Startup Lessons for the Proto-Founder

I started SpeakerText in October 2008 during the financial apocalypse. No one funded us. No one was gonna fund us. And I’m definitely a nobody. We launched in January 2010 after burning through just $4k of cash. While I’m still mostly a clueless hack, there are a few things I learned along the way that I think founders and proto-founders reading this blog might find useful. Here’s a few them, in list form:

  • Fake it ’till you make it. No one is interested in the company you’re going to start in the future. Starting is a declarative act. Just go for it. People won’t follow unless you lead. And once you convince yourself that you’ve got something, it’s a lot easier to convince others to join you.
  • Pitch like a mofo. The difference between your initial idea and your ultimate product is the difference between a slab of rock and the David. There’s a thousand problems you need to solve, and the only way you learn about them––much less solve them––is to pitch, pitch, pitch and pitch again to every smart person you meet. Listen to what they have to say and regardless of how jumbled and contradictory their suggestions or complaints are, try to look for patterns and distill the deeper underlying pain points or problems with your model. Think of it as crowdsourcing. The masses have much to teach you, if you let them.
  • Advisors, they’re easier to find than you think. This goes along with my above point about pitching everyone you meet. Most people are afraid of embarrassing themselves, so they keep quiet, especially around successful, important people who could help them. Don’t. I landed my first advisor––Joe Kennedy, the CEO of Pandora––when I pitched him after a talk at Stanford. He gave me his card; I followed up. There was no formal arrangement or anything, but I was persistent, hit him up with questions only when I was truly flummoxed (ie didn’t waste his time), listened and kept him updated on our progress.
  • You need a Co-Founder, not an Engineering Bitch. Lots of business-y, idea-type people who say they’re looking for a co-founder are, in reality, looking for what is best described as an “engineering bitch.” Here’s how the pitch sounds from the engineer’s perspective: ‘For ten whole percent of equity, you will slave away to build a prototype out of my shitty idea, not have any say in the decision-making process…and oh yeah, you could be fired at any point.’ This does not make for a happy long term relationship. Instead, find someone you know and trust––I called up an old college friend––who will call you out on your bullshit and push back when you overreach. Date for a bit, then split the equity.
  • Recruit college kids. They’re young, hungry and don’t need of a living wage. Experienced, talented software engineers have lots of options in life, and most of them involve getting paid. College students, on the other hand, have less options, and probably have their living expenses covered by financial aid. Thus, the opportunity cost of joining your half-baked venture is dramatically lower than it is for legit professionals. For students, your startup is more like a resume-enhancing ‘extra-curricular’ than a regular job. The right person will love the responsibility you’re handing them. Score for you, score for them.
  • Go to job fairs. You’ll be the only startup there. This is a corollary to the previous point.  I went to the Columbia Engineering Career Fair in October 2009 and left with ~150 resumes. We hired three guys from that batch and paid them in iPhones. Doubtful we’d have access to such a rich employee pool any other way. Bonus: Distinguish yourself by being the approachable guy in the T-shirt. Lots of the attendees will be wearing suits for the first time––and hating it. Your casual garb will looks very enticing.
  • Sell the Vision, Not the Reality. You may or may not have a working product. Your product may or may not suck. You “team” may not really exist. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is your vision of what the product will be and how it will change the world. That is what gets people excited. That is what will make people work like dogs for no money, tell all their friends and drop everything just to get a product built.
  • Treat everyone you hire like a co-founder. In normal jobs, people put up with a lot of grief and bullshit because they’re getting paid. In a ghetto startup (like mine), that’s not really an option. Treat people well, be honest, and don’t bullshit them. Trust and your rep is all you got. Err on the side of sharing too much. It builds trust and earns buy-in from the people you hire.
  • Try before you buy. When you’re hiring folks, don’t promise equity upfront. Specify some sort of trial period where the person is to accomplish a specific, delineated task. Make sure you own all the IP created during this trial period, and make no promises for later. After the month or so is over, then sit down and talk equity. Making this clear from the outset will put both parties at ease.
  • “Stealth Mode” = FAIL. Your idea, as it exists today, sucks ass. Ok, let me rephrase that: My idea started off sucking ass. But I pitched smart people…and dumb people––and learned from both. Originally, SpeakerText was going to be a tool for journalists (I was a journo) to automatically transcribe and search within their audio interviews. Tiny, contracting market. Huge upfront software licensing fees. Customers are technophobes. #FAIL just waiting to happen. Had we kept our plans a secret, SpeakerText would probably just be one big bucket of fail today. Instead, after having tons of holes poked into our idea by friends, cousins, VCs, baristas, entrepreneurs and bored women at parties, we turned SpeakerText into a tool for video publishers and even our crappy v1.0 works with the massive market that is YouTube. Outcome: last night a Biz Dev guy from Disney/ABC sent me an email asking about partnering with some of their online properties. Reminder: we launched on just $4k.
  • In case you missed it earlier: PITCH PITCH PITCH. Over the last 15 months, I have pitched nearly every sentient being I have met. This includes a guy I met at 4am after doing CPR on his mom (I’m a paramedic). The dude turned out to be a senior partner at a major international corporate law firm, and 6 weeks later he offered to take me on as a pro bono client. My point here is that you never know who can help you and you never will until you open your trap and pitch. Not only will this help you find help, but it will DRAMATICALLY improve your pitch and lower your fear/nervousness when time comes to pitch real investors. Plus, it adds big time on the competition research front, because your friends/acquaintances/ex-girlfriends will see articles about competitors and share them with you on Facebook.
  • Vest, young man. Starting a company without vesting your stock is like getting your girlfriend pregnant on the first date. Sure, it could work out, but if it doesn’t, you’re completely hosed.
  • Get creative with compensation––use the iPhone Payment Plan. Imagine you’re a highly-trained software engineer. A crazy guy with a “startup” (i.e. me) approaches you about doing some work. Scenario #1: Dude, I’ll pay you $2,000 for 150 hours of work…3-4 months from now. Scenario #2: Dude, promise to build this and I’ll give you an iPhone right now. Plus, as long as you’re working on it, I’ll pay your phone bill. If I like it and it works, I’ll toss in an extra $250 at the end and we’ll talk equity then. If not, you can keep the iPhone and I’ll even cover the cancellation fee if you want to ditch AT&T. We tried both approaches at SpeakerText, and surprisingly, Scenario #2––despite being a lot cheap––actually worked out a lot better. There’s something about the psychology of receiving a cool gadget that doesn’t quite equal out to the cash equivalent. Also, paying up for the iPhone upfront fosters trust, which in turn boosts productivity.
  • Yammer is an awesome tool for fostering camaraderie on distributed teams. Use it.
  • Build something people want before you attempt to raise money. The word for “visionary investor” is “entrepreneur.” If you’re an unproven schmo with no credentials like me, people generally––and investors in particular––will tend dismiss you and your crazy idea.  (If you’re a former Google VP, then you can probably ignore this tidbit.) The only––and the strongest––track record you can have is the product you’ve built and the traction/market feedback you’ve gotten.
  • Need legal advice? Do the Lawyer Hop. Every lawyer will give you an hour of their time for free. Remember that. Need 10 hours of legal counsel? Talk to 10 lawyers. Need to learn about IP, patents, etc.? Call a patent lawyer! More questions? Call another one! Don’t feel the need to restrict yourself to a local geography either. You can call up America’s leading legal luminaries and get an hour of their time for free, every time. This won’t work for producing legal documents, but it will work for fundamental questions of “is this legal?” “do I need to patent this?” etc. Also, different lawyers have different perspectives, so the lawyer hop a good way to get a holistic, composite understanding of a particular issue. Plus, when you need to actually hire a lawyer, you’ll know what a good one sounds like––and have a fat rolodex of people you’ve already talked with to draw from.
  • Patent lawyers will always want your money…except the good ones. Asking an IP lawyer, “Is my invention patentable?” is like asking a car mechanic “Does my car need any work done?” Unless you find a good one, the answer will always be yes. That’s how they make their money, but not how you make yours. Buyer beware.
  • Start a blog. Sound intelligent. Be interesting. The same reason you’re probably dying to pitch Fred Wilson and/or Chris Dixon is the same reason you should start a blog. Again, if you’re a no-name nobody like me, you’ve gotta build a name for yourself from scratch. Writing an intelligent sounding blog and then submitting posts to Hacker News, Digg, etc. is a great way to put yourself on people’s radar. Just last week I met up with an big time seed investor from the Valley. He had messaged me on Facebook after seeing one of my blog posts on Hacker News. Now he’s making intros to other big dogs and generally helping to legitimize our brand.
  • Tell a good story. Deep down inside, all Americans love entrepreneurs. People are suckers for the crazy, epic shit we do as founders. Don’t downplay it; wear it your on your sleeve like a badge of honor. Although it may not feel like it now while you’re in the trenches trying not to die, you’re living what lots of people (especially older, middle-management types) consider the dream. Tell your story to the right person (i.e. the frustrated wannabe founder with 3 kids and a mortgage) inside of a big organization and they’ll become your champion, guiding you through the sales process and giving you lots of actionable intel.
  • Comment on Brad Feld’s blog. But don’t kiss his ass. Important point to remember: powerful, successful people tend not to like having their ass kissed. People do that to them all the time, and my sense is that they hate it. And if they don’t, fuck ’em––don’t waste your time on people who want you to kiss their ass. More often, people in positions of power crave genuine interaction. The more powerful the person, the more they are surrounded by sycophants. Don’t be a sycophant. Outside of intros, a good way to approach these guys is to comment intelligently on their blog. I turned an exchange in the comments section of Brad Feld’s blog into a pitch for SpeakerText that turned into an intro to someone else. Never met Señor Feld before, but we had a legit exchange in the comments and took it from there.
  • Help people. It just feels good. Honestly, I feel very lucky to have been helped and guided by lots of smart people who probably had much better things to do with their time. Guys like Seth Sternberg, the Founder/CEO of Meebo. Awesome dude. Sequoia-backed. Ridiculously helpful. When I grow up, I want to be like him. Starting a company can be really stressful and scary; depending on the day, it’s easy to lose hope and dwell on how fuct/clueless/ready-to-fail you and your startup are. If for no other reason, helping people who know even less than you do will make you feel good about yourself, boost your ego and as a result, make you into a more productive founder. Win-win-win.
  • Tenacity is impressive. A lot of people “start” companies, but very few actually have the tenacity and drive to bring a product to market, hire people, etc. People will expect you to quit, and part of how you will impress them is by simply keeping at it, iterating your idea/product/vision, and making progress. As my Dad likes to say: Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

121 Replies to “Startup Lessons for the Proto-Founder”

  1. This article has so many gems! Awesome insight. Definitely tough to tell a good story to your former peers when you are in the trenches because we all grew up to take on our own personal career path. But nice advice on the chat with senior managers who would be potential champions.

  2. Your blog is interesting to me not because you have made it – although you have covered more ground than you give yourself credit for: I am not going to call it modesty, I am going to call if Founder’s Frenzy – but precisely because you are in the process of making it. You are a tech entrepreneur, no doubt. You got the ingredients. Hope you stick it out long enough. Hello from the trenches.

  3. Your blog is interesting to me not because you have made it – although you have covered more ground than you give yourself credit for: I am not going to call it modesty, I am going to call if Founder’s Frenzy – but precisely because you are in the process of making it. You are a tech entrepreneur, no doubt. You got the ingredients. Hope you stick it out long enough. Hello from the trenches.

  4. Matt,
    As President and founder of an e-commerce store, I read your post and found a number of great ideas! I especially like the commitment to frugality while maintaining quality. Too many entrepreneurs focus on the ‘big shot’ aspects of their dream rather than the street fighter tenacity that it takes to develop a dream.
    Great Article! I will refer back to it each time I need a good kick in the nuts. 😉
    Thanks,
    Neil

  5. Matt,
    As President and founder of an e-commerce store, I read your post and found a number of great ideas! I especially like the commitment to frugality while maintaining quality. Too many entrepreneurs focus on the ‘big shot’ aspects of their dream rather than the street fighter tenacity that it takes to develop a dream.
    Great Article! I will refer back to it each time I need a good kick in the nuts. 😉
    Thanks,
    Neil

  6. This is great Matt! I wanna be like you when I grow up 🙂
    Can you expand on the vesting topic? I surmise this is something I might not need to think about in the early stages of developing an idea but I’d like to know more about this.

  7. This is great Matt! I wanna be like you when I grow up 🙂
    Can you expand on the vesting topic? I surmise this is something I might not need to think about in the early stages of developing an idea but I’d like to know more about this.

  8. Matt – terrific post. These are all great points and I particularly love the “Help, it feels good” part. It can be much more powerful and rewarding later than one could think in the first place.
    One tiny thing though: Make it WIN! WIN! WIN! to sound more epic rather than biz-devy 😉

  9. Matt – terrific post. These are all great points and I particularly love the “Help, it feels good” part. It can be much more powerful and rewarding later than one could think in the first place.
    One tiny thing though: Make it WIN! WIN! WIN! to sound more epic rather than biz-devy 😉

  10. Well, I think the important part is to combine listening to customers/prospects/VCs/whoever with persistence & determination. It’s game of pivot, move, pivot, repeat. Try, fail, learn, iterate, repeat.

  11. Well, I think the important part is to combine listening to customers/prospects/VCs/whoever with persistence & determination. It’s game of pivot, move, pivot, repeat. Try, fail, learn, iterate, repeat.

  12. Well, the beauty of a blog is that u get to create a little community and interact with new people and build a genuine personal brand. If you’ve got good ideas and enjoy talking w people, then why the hell not? Plus, if you’re nobody and u know how to write, it’s a great way to get on people’s radar.
    That said, I need to look into SXSW…Thanks 4 the reminder..
    Cheers!
    -Matt

  13. Well, the beauty of a blog is that u get to create a little community and interact with new people and build a genuine personal brand. If you’ve got good ideas and enjoy talking w people, then why the hell not? Plus, if you’re nobody and u know how to write, it’s a great way to get on people’s radar.
    That said, I need to look into SXSW…Thanks 4 the reminder..
    Cheers!
    -Matt

  14. Hi Scott,
    Interesting idea. Although to be honest, I’m a bit leery of lawyers who want equity. Mostly, my experience has been that lawyers ask for equity in exchange for DEFERRING FEES, not in lieu of them. This seems like not so great a deal to me.
    I’ve never heard of a lawyer who will work for straight equity. But I’d be interested in meeting one.
    That said, I’m in NYC and while lots of lawyers seem to want to get in on the burgeoning startup sscene here, only a handful seem to know what hell they’re actually talking about. Do the lawyers hop and you’ll figure this out. Otherwise, it’s a steep learning curve.
    Thanks for the suggestion!
    -Matt

  15. Hi Scott,
    Interesting idea. Although to be honest, I’m a bit leery of lawyers who want equity. Mostly, my experience has been that lawyers ask for equity in exchange for DEFERRING FEES, not in lieu of them. This seems like not so great a deal to me.
    I’ve never heard of a lawyer who will work for straight equity. But I’d be interested in meeting one.
    That said, I’m in NYC and while lots of lawyers seem to want to get in on the burgeoning startup sscene here, only a handful seem to know what hell they’re actually talking about. Do the lawyers hop and you’ll figure this out. Otherwise, it’s a steep learning curve.
    Thanks for the suggestion!
    -Matt

  16. Depends on how you define “faking it.” What I mean is that at some point early on, u gotta say “I have this startup…” when in reality all you have is an “idea for a startup.” It’s that declarative act that matters.
    Def agree on Biz Karma. It’s a small world out there.

  17. Depends on how you define “faking it.” What I mean is that at some point early on, u gotta say “I have this startup…” when in reality all you have is an “idea for a startup.” It’s that declarative act that matters.
    Def agree on Biz Karma. It’s a small world out there.

  18. Your poker buddy was right about the need for Disqus support 🙂
    I’m the same schmuck as you, and agree with dang near everything you said. A couple I’d add that might resonate with others in the trenches:
    Find your early adopters. We all know that v0.0.0.0.0.0.1 of your product is dog shit and makes sense to very few people except you- so FIND THESE PEOPLE! Everyone that’s read Art of the Start knows about the importance of evangelism… it’s never too early to suss out who these people are and then kick-starting the engagement process with them. They’ll go to hell and back for you if you make them feel like an integral piece of the product’s evolution… think of them as wannabe entrepreneurs that live vicariously through your ballsy decision to take that big leap 🙂
    Nobody wants to steal your idea, so don’t bother with an NDA for pitching. Maybe a controversial statement, but unless you’ve stumbled upon the remedy for male pattern baldness, probably nobody is going to flatter you by trying to hijack your idea. Most pitch audiences have a very clear agenda- they are investors, advisors, potential partners, etc. Rarely does anybody attend these events with thievery being their lead objective… and if they do, it’s pretty unlikely they’ll be invited back in the future. Lucky for you though- you didn’t fully open your kimono during the 10-minute pitch, right? 🙂
    Very nicely put-together post… thanks for sharing!
    Cheers,
    Jesse (@jlearmonth)

  19. Your poker buddy was right about the need for Disqus support 🙂
    I’m the same schmuck as you, and agree with dang near everything you said. A couple I’d add that might resonate with others in the trenches:
    Find your early adopters. We all know that v0.0.0.0.0.0.1 of your product is dog shit and makes sense to very few people except you- so FIND THESE PEOPLE! Everyone that’s read Art of the Start knows about the importance of evangelism… it’s never too early to suss out who these people are and then kick-starting the engagement process with them. They’ll go to hell and back for you if you make them feel like an integral piece of the product’s evolution… think of them as wannabe entrepreneurs that live vicariously through your ballsy decision to take that big leap 🙂
    Nobody wants to steal your idea, so don’t bother with an NDA for pitching. Maybe a controversial statement, but unless you’ve stumbled upon the remedy for male pattern baldness, probably nobody is going to flatter you by trying to hijack your idea. Most pitch audiences have a very clear agenda- they are investors, advisors, potential partners, etc. Rarely does anybody attend these events with thievery being their lead objective… and if they do, it’s pretty unlikely they’ll be invited back in the future. Lucky for you though- you didn’t fully open your kimono during the 10-minute pitch, right? 🙂
    Very nicely put-together post… thanks for sharing!
    Cheers,
    Jesse (@jlearmonth)

  20. Matt,
    Loved the article!
    Herere are couple of points I wanted to make:
    “Fake it ’till you make it” – I only had very bad experiences with working for/with those founders who liked to fake it ’till they made it. It turned out to be more of an exercise of their egos. I think combination of tenacity, humility, and transparency has such a huge draw, that people not only ignore your weaknesses, they jump in to help. That removes the need to fake anything.
    “You need a Co-Founder, not an Engineering Bitch” – YOU NAILED IT! But it also goes the business guy/gal way too. Too many devs think 1. they are biz geniuses too 2. devalue a biz person.
    “Help people. It just feels good.” – I would have moved this to the #1 spot. Treating the whole world like a one way street will make you into a self-promoting asshole who burns through connections like a chain-smoker through cigarettes. Business Karma exists (I know it from my entire career). You do good things for other people without expecting anything back and good things will happen to you when you most need it.

  21. Matt,
    Loved the article!
    Herere are couple of points I wanted to make:
    “Fake it ’till you make it” – I only had very bad experiences with working for/with those founders who liked to fake it ’till they made it. It turned out to be more of an exercise of their egos. I think combination of tenacity, humility, and transparency has such a huge draw, that people not only ignore your weaknesses, they jump in to help. That removes the need to fake anything.
    “You need a Co-Founder, not an Engineering Bitch” – YOU NAILED IT! But it also goes the business guy/gal way too. Too many devs think 1. they are biz geniuses too 2. devalue a biz person.
    “Help people. It just feels good.” – I would have moved this to the #1 spot. Treating the whole world like a one way street will make you into a self-promoting asshole who burns through connections like a chain-smoker through cigarettes. Business Karma exists (I know it from my entire career). You do good things for other people without expecting anything back and good things will happen to you when you most need it.

  22. Great post Matt – all real practical advises – one of the best posts with practical advises for people like me. I am working on towards my first startup and these tips are really helpful. Good suggestions about compensations, hiring and pitching… Although I like your idea of Lawyers hop but Scott’s comment on this is a good alternate tip and I will keep these in mind when I am approaching lawyers.
    Thanks for great article.
    Ghazenfer

  23. Great post Matt – all real practical advises – one of the best posts with practical advises for people like me. I am working on towards my first startup and these tips are really helpful. Good suggestions about compensations, hiring and pitching… Although I like your idea of Lawyers hop but Scott’s comment on this is a good alternate tip and I will keep these in mind when I am approaching lawyers.
    Thanks for great article.
    Ghazenfer

  24. Hey Matt – great fuck’n post. Indeed, based on my 15+ years of experience working with entrepreneurs as a corporate lawyer, you are spot-on with all your advice, except the part about the “Lawyer Hop.” Here’s a better idea than calling 10 different lawyers (for an hour each): find a smart, experienced corporate lawyer who is passionate about practicing law and then “pitch like a mofo” and get him so excited about your venture that he’ll do your legal work for equity (or, at worst, equity plus deferred and discounted rates). Then, once he’s on your team with skin in the game, he can assemble the legal specialists, like patent attorneys, to advise you and watch your back. Keep up the great work, bro. Take care, Scott

  25. Hey Matt – great fuck’n post. Indeed, based on my 15+ years of experience working with entrepreneurs as a corporate lawyer, you are spot-on with all your advice, except the part about the “Lawyer Hop.” Here’s a better idea than calling 10 different lawyers (for an hour each): find a smart, experienced corporate lawyer who is passionate about practicing law and then “pitch like a mofo” and get him so excited about your venture that he’ll do your legal work for equity (or, at worst, equity plus deferred and discounted rates). Then, once he’s on your team with skin in the game, he can assemble the legal specialists, like patent attorneys, to advise you and watch your back. Keep up the great work, bro. Take care, Scott

  26. Matt,
    Great post. I like you’re no-bullshit attitude.
    Best of luck with Speaker Text.
    BTW: Hard to believe the Marc Andreessen on your homepage is the same guy who was barefoot in that Time cover years ago.

  27. Matt,
    Great post. I like you’re no-bullshit attitude.
    Best of luck with Speaker Text.
    BTW: Hard to believe the Marc Andreessen on your homepage is the same guy who was barefoot in that Time cover years ago.

  28. A very interesting post. Although the business I’m starting up is entirely different, there are still a lot of useful tips here. In fact we have already implemented a few of them such as telling everyone and starting a blog, it’s true you find lots of useful contacts like that.

  29. A very interesting post. Although the business I’m starting up is entirely different, there are still a lot of useful tips here. In fact we have already implemented a few of them such as telling everyone and starting a blog, it’s true you find lots of useful contacts like that.

  30. I’m hearing about a lot of founders meeting investors, advisors, and future employees through blog comments and twitter. Even if you don’t live in the Bay Area you can still build an online discussion with someone notable from home and close the deal at a conference like SXSW. Sending mass emails will get you ignored but I know a lot of bloggers who read every comment ever written on their blog.
    Thanks!
    Jazmin Hupp
    @jazminhupp
    Women 2.0 & Tekserve.com

  31. I’m hearing about a lot of founders meeting investors, advisors, and future employees through blog comments and twitter. Even if you don’t live in the Bay Area you can still build an online discussion with someone notable from home and close the deal at a conference like SXSW. Sending mass emails will get you ignored but I know a lot of bloggers who read every comment ever written on their blog.
    Thanks!
    Jazmin Hupp
    @jazminhupp
    Women 2.0 & Tekserve.com

  32. Great post. I really appreciate the advice and encouragement. I don’t think I’ve ever found another post about startups as packed with consistently useful ideas. And I’m not sucking up. 😉
    Thank you for writing!

  33. Great post. I really appreciate the advice and encouragement. I don’t think I’ve ever found another post about startups as packed with consistently useful ideas. And I’m not sucking up. 😉
    Thank you for writing!

  34. Fantastic post, thanks for writing it!
    The last point has proved to be the single most important facet of daily life for me. Keep moving! Got up today and think your idea is lame? Man up and keep moving! Can’t get anyone to return your emails? Build a new feature and keep moving! Always be moving!

  35. Fantastic post, thanks for writing it!
    The last point has proved to be the single most important facet of daily life for me. Keep moving! Got up today and think your idea is lame? Man up and keep moving! Can’t get anyone to return your emails? Build a new feature and keep moving! Always be moving!

  36. I work as a private consultant for start-ups in Brazil and I’d like to translate this article to portuguese and send to some clients of mine, along with the original URL. May I?

  37. I work as a private consultant for start-ups in Brazil and I’d like to translate this article to portuguese and send to some clients of mine, along with the original URL. May I?

  38. Dude, this post got over 4,000 hits! And just a couple weeks ago i was doing ~35 hits a day. Anywho, glad u liked it. Also, my pa, he;s the man. In fact, he actually carved that “persistence & determination alone are omnipotent” speech thing into the wall at my home when I was growing up. The old man’s a depression baby with brown skin born fatherless in the new mexico desert. Started logging when he was 12, laying railroad tracks when he was 14. Bottstrapped his way to UCLA undergrad, grad school and then a PhD. Worked pipeline construction to pay his way through college and grad school. One tough motherfucker––tougher than I’ll ever be, that;s for sure.

  39. Dude, this post got over 4,000 hits! And just a couple weeks ago i was doing ~35 hits a day. Anywho, glad u liked it. Also, my pa, he;s the man. In fact, he actually carved that “persistence & determination alone are omnipotent” speech thing into the wall at my home when I was growing up. The old man’s a depression baby with brown skin born fatherless in the new mexico desert. Started logging when he was 12, laying railroad tracks when he was 14. Bottstrapped his way to UCLA undergrad, grad school and then a PhD. Worked pipeline construction to pay his way through college and grad school. One tough motherfucker––tougher than I’ll ever be, that;s for sure.

  40. Right. And remember, big names won’t care that you’re a no name when you’ve actually done something cool that people want. In essence, by executing, you remove that initial execution risk from the equation.

  41. Right. And remember, big names won’t care that you’re a no name when you’ve actually done something cool that people want. In essence, by executing, you remove that initial execution risk from the equation.

  42. I have to say that your Facebook update from earlier today that your latest post was blowing up on twitter was pretty effective. I was like, here we go, Matt is bragging, AGAIN, like when he told the world he won at poker. But then I read the whole goddamned post from top to bottom. Tricky. Nice quotation from your pops.

  43. I have to say that your Facebook update from earlier today that your latest post was blowing up on twitter was pretty effective. I was like, here we go, Matt is bragging, AGAIN, like when he told the world he won at poker. But then I read the whole goddamned post from top to bottom. Tricky. Nice quotation from your pops.

  44. Matt,
    Great article. Really hit home.
    I am working with 2 awesome partners on a start-up for the last 10 months, finally have a prototype and some early partners, but still feel like we are just getting to the starting line.
    i know that in the long run, we will not be able to get to where we ultimately want to be without the help of a lot of people. We have certainly met some people willing to do what they can to help, and to lend their minds to the project.
    That said, the hardest part by far has been connecting with people that are willing to talk to the “no-name” start-up without the big exit track record, or even the big university degrees. But kind of like I sense from your article, fuck’em, we will get there one way or another, and remember the experience for the next generation of start-ups that we get to help.

  45. Matt,
    Great article. Really hit home.
    I am working with 2 awesome partners on a start-up for the last 10 months, finally have a prototype and some early partners, but still feel like we are just getting to the starting line.
    i know that in the long run, we will not be able to get to where we ultimately want to be without the help of a lot of people. We have certainly met some people willing to do what they can to help, and to lend their minds to the project.
    That said, the hardest part by far has been connecting with people that are willing to talk to the “no-name” start-up without the big exit track record, or even the big university degrees. But kind of like I sense from your article, fuck’em, we will get there one way or another, and remember the experience for the next generation of start-ups that we get to help.

  46. Matt- good stuff, it is amazing the highs and lows in working a start up (from idea to working the prototype to pitching- and the million other things in between)…
    Re: Pitch like a mofo, and PITCHING PITCHING PITCHING… So true, you do get better each time and even if it doesn’t pan out, you can get a couple more leads, which gives you more opportunities to pitch more and more connections…

  47. Matt- good stuff, it is amazing the highs and lows in working a start up (from idea to working the prototype to pitching- and the million other things in between)…
    Re: Pitch like a mofo, and PITCHING PITCHING PITCHING… So true, you do get better each time and even if it doesn’t pan out, you can get a couple more leads, which gives you more opportunities to pitch more and more connections…

  48. Yeah, part of me thinks it’s the thing that distinguishes the entrepreneur investor from the money-man investor. To go back to our original conversation, entrepreneurs want to focus on accomplishment rather than idle praise. It’s the doing they find rewarding, not the bullshit that comes with it after the fact.

  49. Yeah, part of me thinks it’s the thing that distinguishes the entrepreneur investor from the money-man investor. To go back to our original conversation, entrepreneurs want to focus on accomplishment rather than idle praise. It’s the doing they find rewarding, not the bullshit that comes with it after the fact.

  50. Glad to be helpful. There’s so much bullshit out there. And honestly, having my daily FML moments is helped by knowing that I’m at least doing something that’s contributing to the world.

  51. Glad to be helpful. There’s so much bullshit out there. And honestly, having my daily FML moments is helped by knowing that I’m at least doing something that’s contributing to the world.

  52. I agree with everything said. Startup or not, college students are universally known as free labor. I would surely take a job for an iPhone even though I already have one.

  53. I agree with everything said. Startup or not, college students are universally known as free labor. I would surely take a job for an iPhone even though I already have one.

  54. Matt, I’m currently working on my first startup and read many startup blogs as my “education” if you will. I will make sure to add this to my list not only for the good information but your post is easy to relate to (the whole I’m a nobody thing). My key take away here is the PITCH. I try and tell everyone I know about my startup and get many perspectives. This usually leads to some good ideas or at least some thoughts that eventually lead to good ideas. Thanks!

  55. Matt, I’m currently working on my first startup and read many startup blogs as my “education” if you will. I will make sure to add this to my list not only for the good information but your post is easy to relate to (the whole I’m a nobody thing). My key take away here is the PITCH. I try and tell everyone I know about my startup and get many perspectives. This usually leads to some good ideas or at least some thoughts that eventually lead to good ideas. Thanks!

  56. Fun post. Love yammer. Agree with running your business past anyone you can — always interesting to hear what they say, where they get confused. Tooootttalllly agree on needing a technical *partner* if you are non-technical (like me).

  57. Fun post. Love yammer. Agree with running your business past anyone you can — always interesting to hear what they say, where they get confused. Tooootttalllly agree on needing a technical *partner* if you are non-technical (like me).

  58. Very cool. I like the points (made here and on the Investor page of speakertest.com) about treating co-workers with respect. “Spin-a-yarn” is good advice too. Must be easier being a journalist though.

  59. Very cool. I like the points (made here and on the Investor page of speakertest.com) about treating co-workers with respect. “Spin-a-yarn” is good advice too. Must be easier being a journalist though.

  60. God damn you’re good… added to my feed reader with a single post. Thanks for sharing your honest, passionate, and (most of all) non-holier-than-though experiences/lessons regarding this whole startup gauntlet that I’m ramping up the sack to dive into myself. I know I’ll be coming back to this post again and again as I get further along with my project, especially when I hit the inevitable FML bumps during the process. Lastly, and I swear this isn’t me just puckering up to your backside… that’s a very nice product you’ve got there. Congrats.

  61. God damn you’re good… added to my feed reader with a single post. Thanks for sharing your honest, passionate, and (most of all) non-holier-than-though experiences/lessons regarding this whole startup gauntlet that I’m ramping up the sack to dive into myself. I know I’ll be coming back to this post again and again as I get further along with my project, especially when I hit the inevitable FML bumps during the process. Lastly, and I swear this isn’t me just puckering up to your backside… that’s a very nice product you’ve got there. Congrats.

  62. Matt, thanks for your honest and no-bullshit style of delivery. Great advice, and although some of it I’ve seen mentioned time and again before, other things are really cool, e.g. the stuff about the job fairs and unconventional hiring practices. 🙂

  63. Matt, thanks for your honest and no-bullshit style of delivery. Great advice, and although some of it I’ve seen mentioned time and again before, other things are really cool, e.g. the stuff about the job fairs and unconventional hiring practices. 🙂

  64. Re: Ass Kissing – totally agree. I much prefer a thoughtful discussion, even if I strongly disagree with the other perspective. Ass kissing is for – well – ass kissers.

  65. Re: Ass Kissing – totally agree. I much prefer a thoughtful discussion, even if I strongly disagree with the other perspective. Ass kissing is for – well – ass kissers.

  66. Really amazingly good post. I will store and review again and again.
    So when can I pitch to you?
    my skype ID is paul.nelligan
    my email is nellboy(AT)gmail(DOT)com
    I’m not joking, I would really like to get your feedback on my product!

  67. Really amazingly good post. I will store and review again and again.
    So when can I pitch to you?
    my skype ID is paul.nelligan
    my email is nellboy(AT)gmail(DOT)com
    I’m not joking, I would really like to get your feedback on my product!

  68. Brilliant post dude! I’m very happy I stumbled upon this. Great tips in here. Going to adopt all of the ones I haven’t already. I plan on sharing this with every startup person I know. Good stuff!

  69. Brilliant post dude! I’m very happy I stumbled upon this. Great tips in here. Going to adopt all of the ones I haven’t already. I plan on sharing this with every startup person I know. Good stuff!

  70. Dude! Amazing post! Will you be my friend? Pleeease? haha
    Damn you seriously stole so many points from a blog post I was writing up just recently. And yes, just started using Yammer and it is very tight.
    ps can you please get disqus installed on your blog? Current comment system makes it very hard to log in.

  71. Dude! Amazing post! Will you be my friend? Pleeease? haha
    Damn you seriously stole so many points from a blog post I was writing up just recently. And yes, just started using Yammer and it is very tight.
    ps can you please get disqus installed on your blog? Current comment system makes it very hard to log in.

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