A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. I just suffered through the worst "can you help me" call of my career. It was a rather hapless soul who was seeking my help networking within Santa Barbara's startup community. Fortunately, this particular call was brief. In the fifteen minutes that we chatted, the caller made some shocking networking mistakes.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Founder ≠ King Everyone around you knows that you have it, but you are in denial. You say things like, “I am open to giving control to the right person at the right time”. However, the reality is that the “right person” does not exist and the “right time” never arrives. Founderitis, Founder’s Disease, Founder’s Syndrome; by any name, this my way or the highway approach to running a business is the same affliction. When Founderitis strikes, the Founder’s drive, energy and vision(characteristics crucial to the startup’s initial success) become a hindrance to the company’s maturation into a self-sustaining entity.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Quick - name a phone company. AT&T? Verizon? Maybe you said Apple or even Google, but I bet Facebook didn't come to mind. Yet, that’s exactly who the Atlantic called out in an article last week (along with Apple), and they’re right. According to the author, 60% of Facebook’s revenue comes from mobile ads, double that of the prior year. Yep, Facebook is a phone company.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. I recently received an email from a former student in which he described how he was able to secure a lunch meeting with a high-profile entrepreneur who is operating multiple ventures in parallel. Benedikt Scholz is an exceptional student whom I had the pleasure of instructing when he recently studied at UC Santa Barbara. A native German speaker, he will soon graduate from University of Münster.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Noted American architect Frank Lloyd Wright famously cautioned his design disciples that form should not compromise function. However, for many online startups, form should drive the design process. I hesitate to write about design, as I have never considered myself to be a "color or font" person. Steve Jobs might have felt that an improper level of font worship was grounds for termination, but I usually erred on the side of utility. Good thing I was never entrusted with product design. At Expertcity (acquired by Citrix), I have had the pleasure of working with two executives who shared astounding aesthetic sensibilities: Klaus Schauser and Brian Donahoo. This dynamic duo, who now head up AppFolio, led the design and development of GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting. Their focus on ease-of-use form over function resulted in a series of products that defeated stalwart incumbents, including marketing-leader Symantec.
A version of this article previously appeared on Inc. Bob Wood has been a mentor to dozens of professionals during his long career in public service. Despite retiring several years ago, he continues to provide guidance to young (and not so young) professionals. As noted in You're Never Too Old (Or Too Successful) For A Mentor, Bob has become not only my mentor, but also my friend. Thus, I was honored when Bob agreed to share his insights regarding mentorship with my UC Santa Barbara entrepreneurial students.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. I have a confession: I used to quickly become frustrated whenever I tried something new and I didn't quickly excel. Rather than attempting to master the new activity, I would moved on to another task, seeking a gentler learning curve.
A version of this article previously appeared in The Wall Street Journal. Startups are an emotional rollercoaster; moments of sheer terror interlaced with bone-crushing, mind-numbing and highly addictive exhilaration. However, if unmodulated, the highs can become too high and the lows way too low. Long-hours, uncertainty and the never-ending pressure to survive can cause you and your team to overreact to wins, as well as setbacks. As Capitan of the startup rollercoaster, you must manage your company's mood swings, while doing your best to not puke (at least not while your team is watching).
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Note: This is Part III of a series exploring the power of mentorships. Access Part I HERE and Part II HERE. My relationship with my friend and mentor, Bob Wood, has matured over time. When we first connected, I was in listening mode most of the time, much like a dutiful student. However, as we established mutual trust, the balance of our exchanges shifted to the point that I am now a respectful but outspoken contributor to our friendship. This transition from a unilateral, teacher/student paradigm is essential to sustaining a mentor relationship over the long term. In our case, this evolution has resulted in a rapport which enriches both of our lives, which should be the ultimate goal of any mentor/mentee combination.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Stop complaining about how difficult it is to encourage well-mannered, highly educated, civilized professionals to work together. Instead, consider how difficult it would be to transform twelve convicted felons, with an affinity for violence and no desire to work together, into a cohesive, effective team. That is exactly what Major Reisman is forced to do in E.M. Nathanson’s World War II novel and subsequent film entitled, The Dirty Dozen. The steps Major Reisman takes to create this unlikely team are enlightening to entrepreneurs seeking to unite far more willing teammates.