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Aaron Dinin, PhD

Aaron Dinin, PhD

2 months ago

I put my faith in a billionaire, and he destroyed my business.

More on Entrepreneurship/Creators

Bastian Hasslinger

Bastian Hasslinger

3 months 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.

Maddie Wang

Maddie Wang

1 month ago

Easiest and fastest way to test your startup idea!

Here's the fastest way to validate company concepts.

I squandered a year after dropping out of Stanford designing a product nobody wanted.

But today, I’m at 100k!

Differences:

I was designing a consumer product when I dropped out.

I coded MVP, got 1k users, and got YC interview.

Nice, huh?

WRONG!

Still coding and getting users 12 months later

WOULD PEOPLE PAY FOR IT? was the riskiest assumption I hadn't tested.

When asked why I didn't verify payment, I said,

Not-ready products. Now, nobody cares. The website needs work. Include this. Increase usage…

I feared people would say no.

After 1 year of pushing it off, my team told me they were really worried about the Business Model. Then I asked my audience if they'd buy my product.

So?

No, overwhelmingly.

I felt like I wasted a year building a product no one would buy.

Founders Cafe was the opposite.

Before building anything, I requested payment.

40 founders were interviewed.

Then we emailed Stanford, YC, and other top founders, asking them to join our community.

BOOM! 10/12 paid!

Without building anything, in 1 day I validated my startup's riskiest assumption. NOT 1 year.

Asking people to pay is one of the scariest things.

I understand.

I asked Stanford queer women to pay before joining my gay sorority.

I was afraid I'd turn them off or no one would pay.

Gay women, like those founders, were in such excruciating pain that they were willing to pay me upfront to help.

You can ask for payment (before you build) to see if people have the burning pain. Then they'll pay!

Examples from Founders Cafe members:

😮 Using a fake landing page, a college dropout tested a product. Paying! He built it and made $3m!

😮 YC solo founder faked a Powerpoint demo. 5 Enterprise paid LOIs. $1.5m raised, built, and in YC!

😮 A Harvard founder can convert Figma to React. 1 day, 10 customers. Built a tool to automate Figma -> React after manually fulfilling requests. 1m+

Bad example:

😭 Stanford Dropout Spends 1 Year Building Product Without Payment Validation

Some people build for a year and then get paying customers.

What I'm sharing is my experience and what Founders Cafe members have told me about validating startup ideas.

Don't waste a year like I did.

After my first startup failed, I planned to re-enroll at Stanford/work at Facebook.

After people paid, I quit for good.

I've hit $100k!

Hope this inspires you to request upfront payment! It'll change your life

Vanessa Karel

Vanessa Karel

4 months ago

10 hard lessons from founding a startup.

Here is the ugly stuff, read this if you have a founder in your life or are trying to become one. Your call.

#1 You'll try to talk yourself to sleep, but it won't always work.

As founders, we're all driven. Good and bad, you're restless. Success requires resistance and discipline. Your startup will be on your mind 24/7, and not everyone will have the patience to listen to your worries, ideas, and coffee runs. You become more self-sufficient than ever before.

#2 No one will understand what you're going through unless they've been a founder.

Some of my closest friends don't understand the work that goes into starting a business, and we can't blame them.

#3 You'll feel alienated.

Your problems aren't common; calling your bestie won't help. You must search hard for the right resources. It alienates you from conversations you no longer relate to. (No 4th of July, no long weekends!)

#4 Since you're your "own boss," people assume you have lots of free time.

Do you agree? I was on a webinar with lots of new entrepreneurs, and one woman said, "I started my own business so I could have more time for myself." This may be true for some lucky people, and you can be flexible with your schedule. If you want your business to succeed, you'll probably be its slave for a while.

#5 No time for illness or family emergencies.

Both last month. Oh, no! Physically and emotionally withdrawing at the worst times will give you perspective. I learned this the hard way because I was too stubborn to postpone an important interview. I thought if I rested all day and only took one call, I'd be fine. Nope. I had a fever and my mind wasn't as sharp, so my performance and audience interaction suffered. Nope. Better to delay than miss out.

Oh, and setting a "OoO" makes you cringe.

#6 Good luck with your mental health, perfectionists.

When building a startup, it's difficult to accept that there won't be enough time to do everything. You can't make them all, not perfectly. You must learn to accept things that are done but not perfect.

#7 As a founder, you'll make mistakes, but you'll want to make them quickly so you can learn.

Hard lessons are learned quicker. You'll need to pivot and try new things often; some won't work, and it's best to discover them sooner rather than later.

#8 Pyramid schemes abound.

I didn't realize how bad it was until I started a company. You must spy and constantly research. As a founder, you'll receive many emails from people claiming to "support" you. Be wary and keep your eyes open. When it's too good to be true. Some "companies" will try to get you to pay for "competitions" to "pitch at events." Don't do it.

#9 Keep your competitor research to a minimum.

Actually, competition is good. It means there's a market for those solutions. However, this can be mentally exhausting too. Learn about their geography and updates, but that's it.

#10 You'll feel guilty taking vacation.

I don't know what to say, but I no longer enjoy watching TV, and that's okay. Pay attention to things that enrich you, bring you joy, and have fun. It boosts creativity.

Being a startup founder may be one of the hardest professional challenges you face, but it's also a great learning experience. Your passion will take you places you never imagined and open doors to opportunities you wouldn't have otherwise. You'll meet amazing people. No regrets, no complaints. It's a roller coaster, but the good days are great.

Miss anything? Comment below

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Akshad Singi

Akshad Singi

1 month ago

Four obnoxious one-minute habits that help me save more than 30 hours each week

These four, when combined, destroy procrastination.

You're not rushed. You waste it on busywork.

You'll accept this eventually.

  • In 2022, the daily average usage of a user on social media is 2.5 hours.

  • By 2020, 6 billion hours of video were watched each month by Netflix's customers, who used the service an average of 3.2 hours per day.

When we see these numbers, we think "Wow!" People squander so much time as though they don't contribute. True. These are yours. Likewise.

We don't lack time; we just waste it. Once you realize this, you can change your habits to save time. This article explains. If you adopt ALL 4 of these simple behaviors, you'll see amazing benefits.

Time-blocking

Cal Newport's time-blocking trick takes a minute but improves your day's clarity.

Divide the next day into 30-minute (or 5-minute, if you're Elon Musk) segments and assign responsibilities. As seen.

Here's why:

  • The procrastination that results from attempting to determine when to begin working is eliminated. Procrastination is a given if you choose when to begin working in real-time. Even if you may assume you'll start working in five minutes, it won't take you long to realize that five minutes have turned into an hour. But if you've already determined to start working at 2:00 the next day, your odds of procrastinating are greatly decreased, if not eliminated altogether.

  • You'll also see that you have a lot of time in a day when you plan your day out on paper and assign chores to each hour. Doing this daily will permanently eliminate the lack of time mindset.

5-4-3-2-1: Have breakfast with the frog!

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Eating the frog means accomplishing the day's most difficult chore. It's better to schedule it first thing in the morning when time-blocking the night before. Why?

  • The day's most difficult task is also the one that causes the most postponement. Because of the stress it causes, the later you schedule it, the more time you risk wasting by procrastinating.

  • However, if you do it right away in the morning, you'll feel good all day. This is the reason it was set for the morning.

Mel Robbins' 5-second rule can help. Start counting backward 54321 and force yourself to start at 1. If you acquire the urge to work on a goal, you must act within 5 seconds or your brain will destroy it. If you're scheduled to eat your frog at 9, eat it at 8:59. Start working.

Micro-visualisation

You've heard of visualizing to enhance the future. Visualizing a bright future won't do much if you're not prepared to focus on the now and develop the necessary habits. Alexander said:

People don’t decide their futures. They decide their habits and their habits decide their future.

I visualize the next day's schedule every morning. My day looks like this

“I’ll start writing an article at 7:30 AM. Then, I’ll get dressed up and reach the medicine outpatient department by 9:30 AM. After my duty is over, I’ll have lunch at 2 PM, followed by a nap at 3 PM. Then, I’ll go to the gym at 4…”

etc.

This reinforces the day you planned the night before. This makes following your plan easy.

Set the timer.

It's the best iPhone productivity app. A timer is incredible for increasing productivity.

Set a timer for an hour or 40 minutes before starting work. Your call. I don't believe in techniques like the Pomodoro because I can focus for varied amounts of time depending on the time of day, how fatigued I am, and how cognitively demanding the activity is.

I work with a timer. A timer keeps you focused and prevents distractions. Your mind stays concentrated because of the timer. Timers generate accountability.

To pee, I'll pause my timer. When I sit down, I'll continue. Same goes for bottle refills. To use Twitter, I must pause the timer. This creates accountability and focuses work.

Connecting everything

If you do all 4, you won't be disappointed. Here's how:

  • Plan out your day's schedule the night before.

  • Next, envision in your mind's eye the same timetable in the morning.

  • Speak aloud 54321 when it's time to work: Eat the frog! In the morning, devour the largest frog.

  • Then set a timer to ensure that you remain focused on the task at hand.

Victoria Kurichenko

Victoria Kurichenko

2 months ago

What Happened After I Posted an AI-Generated Post on My Website

This could cost you.

Image credit: istockphoto

Content creators may have heard about Google's "Helpful content upgrade."

This change is another Google effort to remove low-quality, repetitive, and AI-generated content.

Why should content creators care?

Because too much content manipulates search results.

My experience includes the following.

Website admins seek high-quality guest posts from me. They send me AI-generated text after I say "yes." My readers are irrelevant. Backlinks are needed.

Companies copy high-ranking content to boost their Google rankings. Unfortunately, it's common.

What does this content offer?

Nothing.

Despite Google's updates and efforts to clean search results, webmasters create manipulative content.

As a marketer, I knew about AI-powered content generation tools. However, I've never tried them.

I use old-fashioned content creation methods to grow my website from 0 to 3,000 monthly views in one year.

Last year, I launched a niche website.

I do keyword research, analyze search intent and competitors' content, write an article, proofread it, and then optimize it.

This strategy is time-consuming.

But it yields results!

Here's proof from Google Analytics:

Traffic report August 2021 — August 2022

Proven strategies yield promising results.

To validate my assumptions and find new strategies, I run many experiments.

I tested an AI-powered content generator.

I used a tool to write this Google-optimized article about SEO for startups.

I wanted to analyze AI-generated content's Google performance.

Here are the outcomes of my test.

First, quality.

I dislike "meh" content. I expect articles to answer my questions. If not, I've wasted my time.

My essays usually include research, personal anecdotes, and what I accomplished and achieved.

AI-generated articles aren't as good because they lack individuality.

Read my AI-generated article about startup SEO to see what I mean.

An excerpt from my AI-generated article.

It's dry and shallow, IMO.

It seems robotic.

I'd use quotes and personal experience to show how SEO for startups is different.

My article paraphrases top-ranked articles on a certain topic.

It's readable but useless. Similar articles abound online. Why read it?

AI-generated content is low-quality.

Let me show you how this content ranks on Google.

The Google Search Console report shows impressions, clicks, and average position.

The AI-generated article performance

Low numbers.

No one opens the 5th Google search result page to read the article. Too far!

You may say the new article will improve.

Marketing-wise, I doubt it.

This article is shorter and less comprehensive than top-ranking pages. It's unlikely to win because of this.

AI-generated content's terrible reality.

I'll compare how this content I wrote for readers and SEO performs.

Both the AI and my article are fresh, but trends are emerging.

Here is how my article written with SEO and users in mind, performs

My article's CTR and average position are higher.

I spent a week researching and producing that piece, unlike AI-generated content. My expert perspective and unique consequences make it interesting to read.

Human-made.

In summary

No content generator can duplicate a human's tone, writing style, or creativity. Artificial content is always inferior.

Not "bad," but inferior.

Demand for content production tools will rise despite Google's efforts to eradicate thin content.

Most won't spend hours producing link-building articles. Costly.

As guest and sponsored posts, artificial content will thrive.

Before accepting a new arrangement, content creators and website owners should consider this.

Maria Stepanova

Maria Stepanova

2 months ago

How Elon Musk Picks Things Up Quicker Than Anyone Else

Adopt Elon Musk's learning strategy to succeed.

Photo by Cody Board on Unsplash

Medium writers rank first and second when you Google “Elon Musk's learning approach”.

My article idea seems unoriginal. Lol

Musk is brilliant.

No doubt here.

His name connotes success and intelligence.

He knows rocket science, engineering, AI, and solar power.

Musk is a Unicorn, but his skills aren't special.

How does he manage it?

Elon Musk has two learning rules that anyone may use.

You can apply these rules and become anyone you want.

You can become a rocket scientist or a surgeon. If you want, of course.

The learning process is key.

Make sure you are creating a Tree of Knowledge according to Rule #1.

Musk told Reddit how he learns:

“It is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang onto.”

Musk understands the essential ideas and mental models of each of his business sectors.

He starts with the tree's trunk, making sure he learns the basics before going on to branches and leaves.

We often act otherwise. We memorize small details without understanding how they relate to the whole. Our minds are stuffed with useless data.

Cramming isn't learning.

Start with the basics to learn faster. Before diving into minutiae, grasp the big picture.

Photo by niko photos on Unsplash

Rule #2: You can't connect what you can't remember.

Elon Musk transformed industries this way. As his expertise grew, he connected branches and leaves from different trees.

Musk read two books a day as a child. He didn't specialize like most people. He gained from his multidisciplinary education. It helped him stand out and develop billion-dollar firms.

He gained skills in several domains and began connecting them. World-class performances resulted.

Most of us never learn the basics and only collect knowledge. We never really comprehend information, thus it's hard to apply it.

Learn the basics initially to maximize your chances of success. Then start learning.

Learn across fields and connect them.

This method enabled Elon Musk to enter and revolutionize a century-old industry.