Should Founders Advise Other Founders?

I have recently found myself in the advisory role with a number of other early stage founders.  As I spend my time hearing about their story, their pitch, their business plan and their go to market strategy as well as their challenges, it usually occurs to me I am in a unique position and greatly appreciative of the opportunity to help another entrepreneur.

Mentoring and advising other founders gives me a chance to look at different markets and separate businesses – how they are modeled and structured.  It allows one to peel away the layers and look at what makes the market work, who’s involved and where the areas of innovation may lie.  It also gives me a lens into how another person approaches their entrepreneurial craft – which although I am the mentor and they are the mentee I still learn a lot!

No one is cut from the same cloth – especially entrepreneurs – so these experiences are vital to you (as a founder) as well as a person and friend.  I would encourage you to take the time to help others through mentoring and advising.  Like working out, it stretches you in ways you wouldn’t otherwise stretch, and strengthens “muscles” usually left dormant.

Advising allows you to jump into someone else’s business and wrestle with problems, only to be able to jump back out and not have to fully deal with them.  You then get to watch from the sidelines as the entrepreneur goes on and makes their own decisions.  You simply observe the outcomes.

In this way, you become a more well rounded entrepreneur and business person since there are constantly new things to learn about technology, innovation, markets, customers segments and the art of entrepreneurship in general.

I look forward to advising more founders and would encourage you to as well.

Jumping (Back) Into The Water Is Tough

After an extended break from writing this summer I now find myself having a hard time getting back in the groove.

Why?

Well, for one thing I rolled out a new company called Coinme, which is in the bitcoin industry.  It’s going well but it had most of my attention in the late spring and early summer.  I also jumped onboard this summer as Director of Business Development with a new startup called Knotis that is developing really cool tech for the local commerce space (steady paychecks are where it’s at!)  Things are going well and I intend to write about Knotis as well.

So I’m a busy guy helping to build a few different companies at the same time.

Also, not to be lost in it all this is the beating my MacBook took this spring.  After an event I organized I walked over to my laptop only to discover a beer had been spilled directly onto my machine.  When I found it, I picked it up and beer was dripping out of the bottom of it!

Needless to say I was very upset.

The next day all I got was a black screen when I tried to turn it on.  Turns out, after letting it dry everything was alright, except the esc, tab and shift keys don’t work.   Try typing and capitalizing words (shift key) with your right hand when you have done it with your left your entire life… not fun.  And so I stayed away from long form writing because it felt weird and I needed to learn how to do it the other way.

Well, I’m back.


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I want to get back into the habit of writing a few times each week.  It’s like exercise, we all need it and it does wonders for our health.

So look for new posts as I plan on picking back up on my writing about entrepreneurship, tech, life as a founder, and other things that catch my eye.

Kyle Kesterson Answers The Question: What Is Creativity?

This short piece comes from one of my founder friends here in Seattle, Kyle Kersterson of Freak’n Genius.  Kyle – one of the most creative and nicest people I know  – has been growing his startup for a few years now and from what he has told me of late they are destined for great things.

In this video he talks about Creativity and how anyone can be creative with anything in the world they find around them, all it takes is a little imagination.

“We should be MAKING FUN of everything in the world.”  

Take a look….

This Is One Of The Best Commencement Speeches EVER

Well, this is an insta-classic.

U.S. Navy admiral and University of Texas, Austin, alumnus William H. McRaven returned to his alma mater last week to give seniors 10 lessons from basic SEAL training when he spoke at the school’s commencement.

McRaven, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command who organized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, stressed the importance of making your bed every morning, taking on obstacles headfirst, and realizing that it’s OK to be a “sugar cookie.”

All of his lessons were supported by personal stories from McRaven’s many years as a Navy SEAL.  You need to watch the 20 minute video to grasp the magnitude of his words, but here’s the list of his 10 lessons.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

 

The Old Wise Man And The Eager Young Chap

“….But I thought it would be easier than this. It’s really hard.  It’s tough and I don’t know what I am doing.  What am I supposed to do?”

A long time ago in a far away land an old wise man and an eager young chap were taking a walk and talking about life.  The young chap was eager to do great things in the world but seemed to stumble each time he pushed forward.  Desperate and in despair, he sought out the wisdom of the old village elder in hopes to find his answer.

SadhuThe elder – being the oldest and wisest man in the village – had heard such worries before and was no stranger to these youthful cries.

“Young chap, I sense you need to understand something very important about this life.”

“Huh, what’s that?” The eager boy snuffed and wiped his head to push his hair out of his face.

“What you don’t realize is your most pressing and worrisome issues are everyone else’s least pressing and worrisome issues.  They are yours and yours alone to figure out.  No one can tell you what to do, you need to discover the answers yourself.”

“Wait, what do you mean?  You don’t care about me and my problems?”

“I didn’t say that, young man, but I do think you need to look deeper.”

Confused, the young boy lowered his head and looked down towards the ground.

“Do you know what I am struggling with right now, just as you have come to me with your hardships?”

“No I don’t, what?” the young chap whispered.

“I have lived a long time, many years more than you have.  I fear my time on this earth is coming to an end very quickly, and although I have lived a blessed life I am having a hard time letting go of life.  I love my family, my community and all the great experiences I have encountered.  Even as you notice me struggling to walk up this path, my heart is as young as yours and desires exactly what your young heart does.  I cannot let go of life but will be forced to very soon and this troubles me.  And because of that I live each minute as if it is my last – just as this moment is the most important thing to me right now – and I choose to not have a care in the world.  I put my entire heart and youthful energy into experiencing everything about this moment so as to take in as much as I can before I go.  I turn my biggest fear into my greatest strength.  And in that way, I fully live and discover things I would normally have not.”

“I sense you aren’t doing that, are you my young chap?”

A long silence fell over the old wise man and the young chap.

After a while, the young chap responded.  “No… ummm, I’m not.  I think I’m scared.  I think I’m scared of what others would think about me if I lived without any limits or cares as to what they thought.  What if I fail?  What will they think then?”

The old wise man stopped, turned and looked the young chap in the face with his piercing blue eyes and said “Son, never forget this lesson, it is you who cares the most about if you succeed or not.  It is you who is holding yourself back.  And if this is true for you it is true for the rest of the world.   No one cares but only about themselves.  You must go forth and do everything you dare dream of with little worry about what the rest of the world thinks.  They are too busy searching for their own village elder to help them figure out why they are struggling…  just like you.”

And with that, the wise old man vanished through a small path between two trees and was gone.

Smiling and a bit fazed the young chap scratched his chin, thought about the wise words for a moment and with a renewed look of determination walked the other way.

What I Learned Launching A ‘Crazy’ Bitcoin Startup

The months leading up to the announcement of our new company was chock full of lessons learned.  We launched Coinme on May 1st at Spitfire in Belltown during a well attended launch party, complete with our first Meetup and an entertaining expert bitcoin panel.

It was the culmination of many long days, phone calls, emails, re-designs, re-brandings, and all sorts of other seemingly frustrating things.  Below I have detailed three of which helped me realize a few things – namely the biggest risk of all is not taking a risk.

Setting a deadline is essential

Setting yourself a deadline – be it a launch party, a internal team milepost or some other marker – is the single best thing you can do to push yourself and your team to execute and actually complete what you set out to complete.  We set May 1st as our launch party, and determined the machine needed to be there, dressed in its new costume and ready to take live transactions in front of more than an hundred people.

photo (9)We also – very importantly – needed to get passed through the State of Washington as an officially licensed money transmitter business before this date.  You have no idea what was required for all these pieces to come together, and before we began this process I didn’t either.  But given we had committed to launch this company, we held ourselves to the deadline and pulled through right at the end.

I have painfully seen it time and time again with other startups in Seattle… they never release their feature or finally launch their company.  Crazily, they just keep working on things.  In the end, they simply don’t set themselves a deadline to stick to so they just remain in startup purgatory. This is not the right place to be as a startup – trust me.

Being early is both good and bad

One big thing I have learned is it’s very early in the bitcoin world, probably too early for most consumers.  Most people still have no idea what it is, why they should purchase it, and why they should use it for payments.  Although the answer to those questions will be left for future posts, suffice it to say the entire world is still trying to figure it out.  Coinme, as a company, believes in the transformative nature of the technology and feel it can influence not only financial transactions but many more industries.  And again, it’s way too early to tell.

But we feel our opportunity to influence such an early industry was/is too great to pass up.  We see areas where we can help educate and inform people about the positives, negatives and in-betweens of this new cryptocurreny world.  We’d rather be early to the party than too late.

Being early to the market can be good for a startup, but it also can be not so good.  If you are too early to the market you risk spending all of your available capital without generating enough revenues (assuming at some point you need to run on revenues, not invested capital) which will ultimately end the business.   Successful businesses are able to time the market in a way where they achieve both early mover advantage and customer adoption.  One without the other spells doom for any high growth company.

Calculated risk is worth it

I touched on this last post but I feel so strongly about it I think its worth addressing again.  Taking a calculated risk – hopefully a number of them – is one of the best things entrepreneurs can do to accel their careers.  Doing what no one else is willing or ready to do places a person in a very select group of people, a group where things are created, companies are sold and millionaires are made.  Even if the venture ultimately fails, the business (or tech) community will consider the founder a leader, an innovator and a healthy risk taker.

And you know what?

That’s exactly the person investors want to invest in.  That’s who others want to follow when they take their next job and join their next company.  That’s who the media wants to cover when they write about the next generation of business leaders.

No imagine if you don’t take that risk…

Trust me, what I learned over the last few months is that the biggest risk of all is not taking a risk.