Startups Are Not for the Lazy

lazy way to fish

October 23, 1016: There’s been a lot of talk about stamina in the Presidential campaign, and coincidentally I’m reading two books about historical figures whose success was propelled by an abundance of that trait. Startups are never easy, and, if you are the founder, you need to have a continuous reserve of energy to meet the challenges ahead. You must be able to light up the room with your enthusiasm when you are with your team, or with customers.

Don’t Be High Maintenance

a very low maintenance dog

October 16, 2016: As the founder of a startup, you have three constitu- encies: your customers, your team, and your investors. Being a low maintenance leader is a great way to get the maximum support from all three. This is not such a common term; it’s much easier to find references on low maintenance pets, for example. For this week’s essay let’s define some of the traits of “going low when others go high” (sorry but I couldn’t help that rephrasing from the politics of the day).

The Myths of Power

Putin and Kerry 2016

September 18, 2016: In startup financings there is usually much discussion about control. The founding group always wants to maintain voting control, and there is a valid argument for leaving enough room in the cap table to allow for subsequent higher value rounds. As I have frequently written, most professional investors will give you the psychological win of maintaining a voting majority but will protect themselves on the downside with the terms and conditions of a new class of stock such as a participating preferred.

The IRR of Simplicity

Bobby Jones ca 1921

September 5, 2016: Some recent successful exits in Austin have caught my eye for the relative simplicity of their business models. Patient IO is a case in point. AthenaHealth (NASDAQ: ATHN) acquired this young (2013) company to anchor a more individualized approach to patient care. ATHN was already a strategic investor, and Patient IO had participated in its More Disruption Please accelerator. So, no introductions were necessary.

Business Arguments You Cannot Win

baseball argument

August 21, 2016: Every startup leadership team has periodic arguments. There are always many gray areas in which one person’s guess may be as good as another’s. Monty Python’s sketch on this topic is one of my all-time favorites of theirs. It’s also the only bit of psychological rigor in this essay.

I rarely do lists in this forum, but this subject seems most appropriate for that, don’t you agree?

Finishing the Start

Take a swing!

August 14, 2016: I often describe myself as an expert at “starting the start.” Most of the students and budding entrepreneurs I advise have an idea and want to know literally how to convert that idea into a startup. My recommendations are applicable generically across a broad array of technology sectors, in part because I’ve personally had a wide variety of personal experience and in part because I’ve judged many thousands of entrants in startup competitions.

The Ears Have it

Eugen von Blass "Sharing the News" 1904

August 7, 2016: This past week I arranged a listening tour in Georgia related to my biomedical deal there. This was an opportunity for the founding doctor and me to talk with our lead investors, board members, healthcare partners, and others. The goal was to give candid updates about the business and seek counsel on recent modifications to our strategy. This was a successful trip, and it was a reminder of the importance of asking the right questions and being an attentive listener to the answers.


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