Required Reading for Startup Founders

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I’m always on the lookout for great articles, talks, slides, and content related to starting and running new businesses. Whenever I come across a really good piece, I add it to the required reading list that I periodically share with the founders and managers I am working with.

I’m going to start posting that list here on the blog so it can reach a wider audience.  If you are founding or running a startup, go read/listen to these ten pieces now.

Seriously, these should all be required reading for anyone working in a management position at a startup. The wisdom below is real and will save you a lot of heartache, time and capital.

  1. 12 Things about Product Market Fit –   Finding product market fit should always be your true north. Without it, you are going to get lost, run out of water and die crossing the desert. If you can only focus on getting one thing right, this is it.
  2. Product Marketing for Startups – This is a great talk by Adam Gross, former VP of Marketing at Dropbox. Dropbox had one of most disruptive user acquisition models seen at the time. His comments on PR APIs are very poignant. I personally think a lot of startups waste a ton of time trying to use PR APIs that simply don’t exist.
  3. Don’t hire a VP of Sales too soon – Couldn’t agree with this more. Hiring a VP of Sales prematurely just hides your product market fit issues and creates a ton of distractions. Dial in your product market fit before you ramp up the sales organization.
  4. 100 Questions to Ask a VP Sales Hire – Ok, but when you are ready to ramp up… here are some great tips if you are not used to hiring sales people.
  5. Will You Make It Past being a Founder? – This one is for founders who are trying to make the difficult switch to being the CEO.
  6. How to hire a VP of Engineering. Don’t chase the unicorn.
  7. Radical Candor – As a manger, one of the most important things you can do is give your team candid feedback. Beating around the bush doesn’t help anyone (including you).
  8. How to Do PR and Launches – Don’t hire a PR firm to launch your new product/business. I have personally made this mistake more than once. Instead, put your energy into cultivate influencers directly.
  9. Sales Productivity Model – Two huge levers for scaling revenue are: 1) how long it takes a new sales person to become productive and 2) how long it takes a sales person to sell your product. Start obsessing about both.
  10. A Better Offer Letter – Now this is how you make an offer to a new employee! Clarity in the employment relationship is king.
  11. The different types of CTOs by long tine Amazon CTO Werner Vogels.

Share Insiders

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Perhaps the most interesting thing about Walmart’s recent $3 Billion acquisition of is seeing how the startup eCommerce company’s referral-for-equity launch program, Insiders, played out.

Maybe That should read “paid out”.

The top insider is set to make $20M on the stock options that he earned after investing $18,000 of his own money to drive the most pre-launch referrals. Nine other participants in the program will make around $2M each on their stock options.

So The question I have to ask is has redefined the sweet equity model? It sure feels like it.

This kind of windfall is sure to attract the attention of savvy founders who are looking for an edge when launching their startups.

And rightly so. As a cash strapped startup the potential value of your equity is your secret weapon. It’s one of your super powers. When wielded correctly, it can unlock doors, attract high value employees, and as has proven, even create a built-in fan base for your product that might have taken millions of dollars or years to establish.