The details matter. Getting them right can be the difference between conveying a subconscious sense of credibility - or not. Pay attention to pixels, colors, margins, voice and all the things that "don't matter"
Filtering by Category: Pay Attention
"You're always very engaged in meetings"
A startup exec I've been working with said this to me recently.
She then went on to ask "Is it because, as an external advisor, you feel like you have very short windows to add/prove value?"
The truth is I've always felt the need to be super leaned in to meetings. I've never felt like I could coast/relax at any stage in my career.
When I was very young (15-22) I was the youngest person in the room - trying to convince 50+ year olds to do this "technology thing" my way.
When I was slightly older (20-30) running my own startups, I felt like every day and every decision was life or death. I was deeply invested and felt the weight of the world on my shoulders to come through for my team and my investors.
When I was at Uber, I was surrounded by some of the smartest and most experienced people in the world at their job. Combined with the fact that I felt like I had a real opportunity to make a difference at scale, meant that I had no choice but to be wide awake!
And now with my Advisory work, as she suggested, I feel like I have very small windows to really contribute/come through for the founder and the startup.
It's interesting because I'm also increasingly realizing I've been at a disadvantage my whole career due to my lack of caffeine intake!
In any case, I had always assumed everyone felt fully engaged for pretty much every meeting.
Opportunity Cost might be hard to measure, but it is not a theory or a soft abstract idea.
On Google it is defined as "the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.
The example they give is "idle cash balances represent an opportunity cost in terms of lost interest"
So, in simple terms, the money you leave in savings cost you whatever additional profits you could have made by investing it more cleverly in stocks or property etc.
Opportunity cost, however, is not just found in clearly defined scenarios where you can measure the alternative route retrospectively and do a calculation to figure out how much you lost. It's also felt in an infinite number of small decisions and procrastinations you might make every day.
Pushing a meeting to tomorrow. Passing on some hard work due to laziness or emotionality. Not following up with someone when they offer to introduce you to someone that could be helpful. Not following up when an introduction is made. Not taking or making a key investment. Staying in a small town when a different geography might suit your needs better.
On and on
I've been guilty of this many times. Most weeks. In fact.
My constant struggle, though, is to recognize the countless opportunities to optimize my costs and maximize my effective execution through life.
Be careful about being too opinionated about the kind of deals and opportunities you want and being too quick to reject ideas that at first appear "wrong".
Opportunities can be leveraged against each other and sometimes the best ideas come from the places you least expect.
From an investor point of view, the way you word/frame the things you say can be more important than what you’re saying. Because by framing it well you’re proving that you understand how to navigate it well.
It’s not a startup until you quit your day job. Until then it’s a side project.
It’s not a product until users are onboarding themselves. Until then it’s a technology/prototype/experiment.
It’s not a business until your product is generating revenue.
It’s not truly scalable until you can grow users/activity/revenue without a corresponding growth in employees. (H/t Colleague)
It’s not sustainable until your business is breakeven/profitable.
Brand and product design can be such an important yet subtle aspect to your business success. It's easy to dismiss it as unimportant frosting on the cake, but investors, customers and partners can so often make split second decisions based on subconscious cues like pixel alignment and colors.
Conferences are good, but must be supported by other marketing activities like a campaign/topic specific micro-site, Webinars, Blog posts and other materials to maximize impact and conversion from the "oh wow" moment to the "sign me up" action.
When evaluating and compensating for your weaknesses, I suggest taking a multi-faceted approach:
Be sober and honest about your weaknesses - but also be fair/kind to yourself too. Don’t, however, allow yourself to be crippled by neurosis (i.e obsessing)
While you may never turn them into strengths, lean into improving your weaknesses - at the very least you will understand them better and minimize blind spots
Don’t minimize the importance of things you can’t do just because you can’t do them. Recognise their value and...
Don’t obsess about turning them into strengths. Focus more on your natural/unique ability and hire/surround yourself with people you trust who make up for your weaknesses. Be explicit with them about their role in your life/business and ask them to help you handle that aspect of things.
As a young startup, the things you must avoid include...
Biting off more than you can chew
Protracted timelines/scope creep that can blow out
Over engineering your solution before you know what your users really need
Poor/miscommunication between stakeholders
Over promising and under delivering
This is why MVPs and strong cross functional process is essential.
Reminder: If your problem is getting from A to B then the MVP is a skateboard (then a bicycle, then a motorbike, then a little hatchback, then a sedan, then a Porsche), not 4 wheels.
As a Strategic Advisor, there’s two ways to handle first calls:
Option 1. Talk about how you could help, in theory, if they formalize the relationship with you. In this case you’re leaning on scarcity and mystery.
Option 2. Help as much as you possibly can, for free. In this case you’re hoping they understand the immediate value and recognize that the devil is in the implementation details.
I prefer option 2.
Add value. The rest takes care of itself.