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Khoi Ho

Khoi Ho

1 year ago

After working at seven startups, here are the early-stage characteristics that contributed to profitability, unicorn status or successful acquisition.

More on Entrepreneurship/Creators

Tim Denning

Tim Denning

1 year ago

Elon Musk’s Rich Life Is a Nightmare 

I'm sure you haven't read about Elon's other side.

Elon divorced badly.

Nobody's surprised.

Imagine you're a parent. Someone isn't home year-round. What's next?

That’s what happened to YOLO Elon.

He can do anything. He can intervene in wars, shoot his mouth off, bang anyone he wants, avoid tax, make cool tech, buy anything his ego desires, and live anywhere exotic.

Few know his billionaire backstory. I'll tell you so you don't worship his lifestyle. It’s a cult.

Only his career succeeds. His life is a nightmare otherwise.

Psychopaths' schedule

Elon has said he works 120-hour weeks.

As he told the reporter about his job, he choked up, which was unusual for him.

His crazy workload and lack of sleep forced him to scold innocent Wall Street analysts. Later, he apologized. 

In the same interview, he admits he hadn't taken more than a week off since 2001, when he was bedridden with malaria. Elon stays home after a near-death experience.

He's rarely outside.

Elon says he sometimes works 3 or 4 days straight.

He admits his crazy work schedule has cost him time with his kids and friends.

Elon's a slave

Elon's birthday description made him emotional.

Elon worked his entire birthday.

"No friends, nothing," he said, stuttering.

His brother's wedding in Catalonia was 48 hours after his birthday. That meant flying there from Tesla's factory prison.

He arrived two hours before the big moment, barely enough time to eat and change, let alone see his brother.

Elon had to leave after the bouquet was tossed to a crowd of billionaire lovers. He missed his brother's first dance with his wife.

Shocking.

He went straight to Tesla's prison.

The looming health crisis

Elon was asked if overworking affected his health.

Not great. Friends are worried.

Now you know why Elon tweets dumb things. Working so hard has probably caused him mental health issues.

Mental illness removed my reality filter. You do stupid things because you're tired.

Astronauts pelted Elon

Elon's overwork isn't the first time his life has made him emotional.

When asked about Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan criticizing his SpaceX missions, he got emotional. Elon's heroes.

They're why he started the company, and they mocked his work. In another interview, we see how Elon’s business obsession has knifed him in the heart.

Once you have a company, you must feed, nurse, and care for it, even if it destroys you.
"Yep," Elon says, tearing up.

In the same interview, he's asked how Tesla survived the 2008 recession. Elon stopped the interview because he was crying. When Tesla and SpaceX filed for bankruptcy in 2008, he nearly had a nervous breakdown. He called them his "children."

All the time, he's risking everything.

Jack Raines explains best:

Too much money makes you a slave to your net worth.

Elon's emotions are admirable. It's one of the few times he seems human, not like an alien Cyborg.

Stop idealizing Elon's lifestyle

Building a side business that becomes a billion-dollar unicorn startup is a nightmare.

"Billionaire" means financially wealthy but otherwise broke. A rich life includes more than business and money.


This post is a summary. Read full article here

Bastian Hasslinger

Bastian Hasslinger

1 year ago

Before 2021, most startups had excessive valuations. It is currently causing issues.

Higher startup valuations are often favorable for all parties. High valuations show a business's potential. New customers and talent are attracted. They earn respect.

Everyone benefits if a company's valuation rises.

Founders and investors have always been incentivized to overestimate a company's value.

Post-money valuations were inflated by 2021 market expectations and the valuation model's mechanisms.

Founders must understand both levers to handle a normalizing market.

2021, the year of miracles

2021 must've seemed miraculous to entrepreneurs, employees, and VCs. Valuations rose, and funding resumed after the first Covid-19 epidemic caution.

In 2021, VC investments increased from $335B to $643B. 518 new worldwide unicorns vs. 134 in 2020; 951 US IPOs vs. 431.

Things can change quickly, as 2020-21 showed.

Rising interest rates, geopolitical developments, and normalizing technology conditions drive down share prices and tech company market caps in 2022. Zoom, the poster-child of early lockdown success, is down 37% since 1st Jan.

Once-inflated valuations can become a problem in a normalizing market, especially for founders, employees, and early investors.

the reason why startups are always overvalued

To see why inflated valuations are a problem, consider one of its causes.

Private company values only fluctuate following a new investment round, unlike publicly-traded corporations. The startup's new value is calculated simply:

(Latest round share price) x (total number of company shares)

This is the industry standard Post-Money Valuation model.

Let’s illustrate how it works with an example. If a VC invests $10M for 1M shares (at $10/share), and the company has 10M shares after the round, its Post-Money Valuation is $100M (10/share x 10M shares).

This approach might seem like the most natural way to assess a business, but the model often unintentionally overstates the underlying value of the company even if the share price paid by the investor is fair. All shares aren't equal.

New investors in a corporation will always try to minimize their downside risk, or the amount they lose if things go wrong. New investors will try to negotiate better terms and pay a premium.

How the value of a struggling SpaceX increased

SpaceX's 2008 Series D is an example. Despite the financial crisis and unsuccessful rocket launches, the company's Post-Money Valuation was 36% higher after the investment round. Why?

Series D SpaceX shares were protected. In case of liquidation, Series D investors were guaranteed a 2x return before other shareholders.

Due to downside protection, investors were willing to pay a higher price for this new share class.

The Post-Money Valuation model overpriced SpaceX because it viewed all the shares as equal (they weren't).

Why entrepreneurs, workers, and early investors stand to lose the most

Post-Money Valuation is an effective and sufficient method for assessing a startup's valuation, despite not taking share class disparities into consideration.

In a robust market, where the firm valuation will certainly expand with the next fundraising round or exit, the inflated value is of little significance.

Fairness endures. If a corporation leaves at a greater valuation, each stakeholder will receive a proportional distribution. (i.e., 5% of a $100M corporation yields $5M).

SpaceX's inherent overvaluation was never a problem. Had it been sold for less than its Post-Money Valuation, some shareholders, including founders, staff, and early investors, would have seen their ownership drop.

The unforgiving world of 2022

In 2022, founders, employees, and investors who benefited from inflated values will face below-valuation exits and down-rounds.

For them, 2021 will be a curse, not a blessing.

Some tech giants are worried. Klarna's valuation fell from $45B (Oct 21) to $30B (Jun 22), Canvas from $40B to $27B, and GoPuffs from $17B to $8.3B.

Shazam and Blue Apron have to exit or IPO at a cheaper price. Premium share classes are protected, while others receive less. The same goes for bankrupts.

Those who continue at lower valuations will lose reputation and talent. When their value declines by half, generous employee stock options become less enticing, and their ability to return anything is questioned.

What can we infer about the present situation?

Such techniques to enhance your company's value or stop a normalizing market are fiction.

The current situation is a painful reminder for entrepreneurs and a crucial lesson for future firms.

The devastating market fall of the previous six months has taught us one thing:

  1. Keep in mind that any valuation is speculative. Money Post A startup's valuation is a highly simplified approximation of its true value, particularly in the early phases when it lacks significant income or a cutting-edge product. It is merely a projection of the future and a hypothetical meter. Until it is achieved by an exit, a valuation is nothing more than a number on paper.

  2. Assume the value of your company is lower than it was in the past. Your previous valuation might not be accurate now due to substantial changes in the startup financing markets. There is little reason to think that your company's value will remain the same given the 50%+ decline in many newly listed IT companies. Recognize how the market situation is changing and use caution.

  3. Recognize the importance of the stake you hold. Each share class has a unique value that varies. Know the sort of share class you own and how additional contractual provisions affect the market value of your security. Frameworks have been provided by Metrick and Yasuda (Yale & UC) and Gornall and Strebulaev (Stanford) for comprehending the terms that affect investors' cash-flow rights upon withdrawal. As a result, you will be able to more accurately evaluate your firm and determine the worth of each share class.

  4. Be wary of approving excessively protective share terms.
    The trade-offs should be considered while negotiating subsequent rounds. Accepting punitive contractual terms could first seem like a smart option in order to uphold your inflated worth, but you should proceed with caution. Such provisions ALWAYS result in misaligned shareholders, with common shareholders (such as you and your staff) at the bottom of the list.

Alana Rister, Ph.D.

Alana Rister, Ph.D.

1 year ago

Don't rely on lessons you learned with a small audience.

My growth-killing mistake

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

When you initially start developing your audience, you need guidance.

What does my audience like? What do they not like? How can I grow more?

When I started writing two years ago, I inquired daily. Taking cues from your audience to develop more valuable content is a good concept, but it's simple to let them destroy your growth.

A small audience doesn't represent the full picture.

When I had fewer than 100 YouTube subscribers, I tried several video styles and topics. I looked to my audience for what to preserve and what to change.

If my views, click-through rate, or average view % dropped, that topic or style was awful. Avoiding that style helped me grow.

Vlogs, talking head videos on writing, and long-form tutorials didn't fare well.

Since I was small, I've limited the types of films I make. I have decided to make my own videos.

Surprisingly, the videos I avoided making meet or exceed my views, CTR, and audience retention.

Recent Video Stats from YouTube studio — Provided by Author

A limited audience can't tell you what your tribe wants. Therefore, limiting your innovation will prohibit you from reaching the right audience. Finding them may take longer.

Large Creators Experience The Same Issue

In the last two years, I've heard Vanessa Lau and Cathrin Manning say they felt pigeonholed into generating videos they didn't want to do.

Why does this happen over and over again?

Once you have a popular piece of content, your audience will grow. So when you publish inconsistent material, fewer of your new audience will view it. You interpret the drop in views as a sign that your audience doesn't want the content, so you stop making it.

Repeat this procedure a few times, and you'll create stuff you're not passionate about because you're frightened to publish it.

How to Manage Your Creativity and Audience Development

I'm not recommending you generate random content.

Instead of feeling trapped by your audience, you can cultivate a diverse audience.

Create quality material on a range of topics and styles as you improve. Be creative until you get 100 followers. Look for comments on how to improve your article.

If you observe trends in the types of content that expand your audience, focus 50-75% of your material on those trends. Allow yourself to develop 25% non-performing material.

This method can help you expand your audience faster with your primary trends and like all your stuff. Slowly, people will find 25% of your material, which will boost its performance.

How to Expand Your Audience Without Having More Limited Content

Follow these techniques to build your audience without feeling confined.

  • Don't think that you need restrict yourself to what your limited audience prefers.

  • Don't let the poor performance of your desired material demotivate you.

  • You shouldn't restrict the type of content you publish or the themes you cover when you have less than 100 followers.

  • When your audience expands, save 25% of your content for your personal interests, regardless of how well it does.

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Sammy Abdullah

Sammy Abdullah

1 year ago

Payouts to founders at IPO

How much do startup founders make after an IPO? We looked at 2018's major tech IPOs. Paydays aren't what founders took home at the IPO (shares are normally locked up for 6 months), but what they were worth at the IPO price on the day the firm went public. It's not cash, but it's nice. Here's the data.

Several points are noteworthy.

Huge payoffs. Median and average pay were $399m and $918m. Average and median homeownership were 9% and 12%.

Coinbase, Uber, UI Path. Uber, Zoom, Spotify, UI Path, and Coinbase founders raised billions. Zoom's founder owned 19% and Spotify's 28% and 13%. Brian Armstrong controlled 20% of Coinbase at IPO and was worth $15bn. Preserving as much equity as possible by staying cash-efficient or raising at high valuations also helps.

The smallest was Ping. Ping's compensation was the smallest. Andre Duand owned 2% but was worth $20m at IPO. That's less than some billion-dollar paydays, but still good.

IPOs can be lucrative, as you can see. Preserving equity could be the difference between a $20mm and $15bln payday (Coinbase).

Joseph Mavericks

Joseph Mavericks

1 year ago

5 books my CEO read to make $30M

Offices without books are like bodies without souls.

After 10 years, my CEO sold his company for $30 million. I've shared many of his lessons on medium. You could ask him anything at his always-open office. He also said we could use his office for meetings while he was away. When I used his office for work, I was always struck by how many books he had.

Books are useful in almost every aspect of learning. Building a business, improving family relationships, learning a new language, a new skill... Books teach, guide, and structure. Whether fiction or nonfiction, books inspire, give ideas, and develop critical thinking skills.

My CEO prefers non-fiction and attends a Friday book club. This article discusses 5 books I found in his office that impacted my life/business. My CEO sold his company for $30 million, but I've built a steady business through blogging and video making.

I recall events and lessons I learned from my CEO and how they relate to each book, and I explain how I applied the book's lessons to my business and life.

Note: This post has no affiliate links.

1. The One Thing — Gary Keller

Gary Keller, a real estate agent, wanted more customers. So he and his team brainstormed ways to get more customers. They decided to write a bestseller about work and productivity. The more people who saw the book, the more customers they'd get.

Gary Keller focused on writing the best book on productivity, work, and efficiency for months. His business experience. Keller's business grew after the book's release.

The author summarizes the book in one question.

"What's the one thing that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?"

When I started my blog and business alongside my 9–5, I quickly identified my one thing: writing. My business relied on it, so it had to be great. Without writing, there was no content, traffic, or business.

My CEO focused on funding when he started his business. Even in his final years, he spent a lot of time on the phone with investors, either to get more money or to explain what he was doing with it. My CEO's top concern was money, and the other super important factors were handled by separate teams.

  • Product tech and design

  • Incredible customer support team

  • Excellent promotion team

  • Profitable sales team

My CEO didn't always focus on one thing and ignore the rest. He was on all of those teams when I started my job. He'd start his day in tech, have lunch with marketing, and then work in sales. He was in his office on the phone at night.

He eventually realized his errors. Investors told him he couldn't do everything for the company. If needed, he had to change internally. He learned to let go, mind his own business, and focus for the next four years. Then he sold for $30 million.

The bigger your project/company/idea, the more you'll need to delegate to stay laser-focused. I started something new every few months for 10 years before realizing this. So much to do makes it easy to avoid progress. Once you identify the most important aspect of your project and enlist others' help, you'll be successful.

2. Eat That Frog — Brian Tracy

The author quote sums up book's essence:

Mark Twain said that if you eat a live frog in the morning, it's probably the worst thing that will happen to you all day. Your "frog" is the biggest, most important task you're most likely to procrastinate on.

"Frog" and "One Thing" are both about focusing on what's most important. Eat That Frog recommends doing the most important task first thing in the morning.

I shared my CEO's calendar in an article 10 months ago. Like this:

CEO's average week (some information crossed out for confidentiality)

Notice anything about 8am-8:45am? Almost every day is the same (except Friday). My CEO started his day with a management check-in for 2 reasons:

  • Checking in with all managers is cognitively demanding, and my CEO is a morning person.

  • In a young startup where everyone is busy, the morning management check-in was crucial. After 10 am, you couldn't gather all managers.

When I started my blog, writing was my passion. I'm a morning person, so I woke up at 6 am and started writing by 6:30 am every day for a year. This allowed me to publish 3 articles a week for 52 weeks to build my blog and audience. After 2 years, I'm not stopping.

3. Deep Work — Cal Newport

Deep work is focusing on a cognitively demanding task without distractions (like a morning management meeting). It helps you master complex information quickly and produce better results faster. In a competitive world 10 or 20 years ago, focus wasn't a huge advantage. Smartphones, emails, and social media made focus a rare, valuable skill.

Most people can't focus anymore. Screens light up, notifications buzz, emails arrive, Instagram feeds... Many people don't realize they're interrupted because it's become part of their normal workflow.

Cal Newport mentions Bill Gates' "Think Weeks" in Deep Work.

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates would isolate himself (often in a lakeside cottage) twice a year to read and think big thoughts.

Inside Bill's Brain on Netflix shows Newport's lakeside cottage. I've always wanted a lakeside cabin to work in. My CEO bought a lakehouse after selling his company, but now he's retired.

As a company grows, you can focus less on it. In a previous section, I said investors told my CEO to get back to basics and stop micromanaging. My CEO's commitment and ability to get work done helped save the company. His deep work and new frameworks helped us survive the corona crisis (more on this later).

The ability to deep work will be a huge competitive advantage in the next century. Those who learn to work deeply will likely be successful while everyone else is glued to their screens, Bluetooth-synced to their watches, and playing Candy Crush on their tablets.

4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — Stephen R. Covey

It took me a while to start reading this book because it seemed like another shallow self-help bible. I kept finding this book when researching self-improvement. I tried it because it was everywhere.

Stephen Covey taught me 2 years ago to have a personal mission statement.

A 7 Habits mission statement describes the life you want to lead, the character traits you want to embody, and the impact you want to have on others. shortform.com

I've had many lunches with my CEO and talked about Vipassana meditation and Sunday forest runs, but I've never seen his mission statement. I'm sure his family is important, though. In the above calendar screenshot, you can see he always included family events (in green) so we could all see those time slots. We couldn't book him then. Although he never spent as much time with his family as he wanted, he always made sure to be on time for his kid's birthday rather than a conference call.

My CEO emphasized his company's mission. Your mission statement should answer 3 questions.

  • What does your company do?

  • How does it do it?

  • Why does your company do it?

As a graphic designer, I had to create mission-statement posters. My CEO hung posters in each office.

5. Measure What Matters — John Doerr

This book is about Andrew Grove's OKR strategy, developed in 1968. When he joined Google's early investors board, he introduced it to Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Google still uses OKR.

Objective Key Results

  • Objective: It explains your goals and desired outcome. When one goal is reached, another replaces it. OKR objectives aren't technical, measured, or numerical. They must be clear.

  • Key Result should be precise, technical, and measurable, unlike the Objective. It shows if the Goal is being worked on. Time-bound results are quarterly or yearly.

Our company almost sank several times. Sales goals were missed, management failed, and bad decisions were made. On a Monday, our CEO announced we'd implement OKR to revamp our processes.

This was a year before the pandemic, and I'm certain we wouldn't have sold millions or survived without this change. This book impacted the company the most, not just management but all levels. Organization and transparency improved. We reached realistic goals. Happy investors. We used the online tool Gtmhub to implement OKR across the organization.

My CEO's company went from near bankruptcy to being acquired for $30 million in 2 years after implementing OKR.


I hope you enjoyed this booklist. Here's a recap of the 5 books and the lessons I learned from each.

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — Stephen R. Covey

Have a mission statement that outlines your goals, character traits, and impact on others.

  1. Deep Work — Cal Newport

Focus is a rare skill; master it. Deep workers will succeed in our hyper-connected, distracted world.

  1. The One Thing — Gary Keller

What can you do that will make everything else easier or unnecessary? Once you've identified it, focus on it.

  1. Eat That Frog — Brian Tracy

Identify your most important task the night before and do it first thing in the morning. You'll have a lighter day.

  1. Measure What Matters — John Doerr

On a timeline, divide each long-term goal into chunks. Divide those slices into daily tasks (your goals). Time-bound results are quarterly or yearly. Objectives aren't measured or numbered.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the ride!

Jayden Levitt

Jayden Levitt

1 year ago

How to Explain NFTs to Your Grandmother, in Simple Terms

Credit — Grandma Finds The Internet

In simple terms, you probably don’t.

But try. Grandma didn't grow up with Facebook, but she eventually joined.

Perhaps the fear of being isolated outweighed the discomfort of learning the technology.

Grandmas are Facebook likers, sharers, and commenters.

There’s no stopping her.

Not even NFTs. Web3 is currently very complex.

It's difficult to explain what NFTs are, how they work, and why we might use them.

Three explanations.

1. Everything will be ours to own, both physically and digitally.

Why own something you can't touch? What's the point?

Blockchain technology proves digital ownership.

Untouchables need ownership proof. What?

Digital assets reduce friction, save time, and are better for the environment than physical goods.

Many valuable things are intangible. Feeling like your favorite brands. You'll pay obscene prices for clothing that costs pennies.

Secondly, NFTs Are Contracts. Agreements Have Value.

Blockchain technology will replace all contracts and intermediaries.

Every insurance contract, deed, marriage certificate, work contract, plane ticket, concert ticket, or sports event is likely an NFT.

We all have public wallets, like Grandma's Facebook page.

3. Your NFT Purchases Will Be Visible To Everyone.

Everyone can see your public wallet. What you buy says more about you than what you post online.

NFTs issued double as marketing collateral when seen on social media.

While I doubt Grandma knows who Snoop Dog is, imagine him or another famous person holding your NFT in his public wallet and the attention that could bring to you, your company, or brand.

This Technical Section Is For You

The NFT is a contract; its founders can add value through access, events, tuition, and possibly royalties.

Imagine Elon Musk releasing an NFT to his network. Or yearly business consultations for three years.

Christ-alive.

It's worth millions.

These determine their value.

No unsuspecting schmuck willing to buy your hot potato at zero. That's the trend, though.

Overpriced NFTs for low-effort projects created a bubble that has burst.

During a market bubble, you can make money by buying overvalued assets and selling them later for a profit, according to the Greater Fool Theory.

People are struggling. Some are ruined by collateralized loans and the gold rush.

Finances are ruined.

It's uncomfortable.

The same happened in 2018, during the ICO crash or in 1999/2000 when the dot com bubble burst. But the underlying technology hasn’t gone away.