Founders RAW Is Looking For A Seattle Based Videographer

We are gearing up for a new season of Founders RAW and I’m looking for a new videographer.

This individual needs to be local in the Seattle area and familiar with both recording, post production and slicing of longer videos into short clips.  You can get an idea of how we shoot Founder RAW by viewing of our previous videos here, as well as the video below.  If you are interested, or know of someone who might be interested in being a part of a fun team producing great entrepreneurial focused videos, please reach out to me asap.

  • Part time position, estimated 10-20 hours per week
  • Portfolio and previous video production experience strongly recommended
  • Compensation depends on experience as well as project sponsorship status
  • Establish yourself as an experienced video professional within the tech industry
  • Opportunity to meet well established CEO’s and founders of tech startups who possibly have other video needs

Is It Fair That Founders Get The Lions Share of Equity?

Something has bothered me for some time and its just now starting to get talked about.  Below is not a rant, but rather an exercise in thinking about fairness in compensation.

Founders receive huge amounts of equity in the companies they start, yet over time as more and more employees join on and work incredibly hard to help grow the business into a successful enterprise the percentage ownership (cap table) doesn’t reflect adequate compensation.  Why is it that an employee that joined just a few months or a year after the founder receive orders of magnitude less equity – and cash after a liquidity event – than the original founders?

Does it really matter if you were there first and if it was your idea to begin with?  If so, how important and impactful is it?  Millions of dollars?  Billions of dollars worth of difference?

Yes, founders do take inordinate amount of risk in starting a new venture and they should receive compensation to reflect that.  But when we are talking about $billion+ outcomes we then start to talk about income inequality on absurd levels.  The difference between a founder receiving $1 billion or $2 billion is not the same as taking that extra $1 billion and spreading it over 100 or 500 employees – that which makes quite a bit of difference in each of those people’s lives.

The fact is early and middle employees are hugely important to the success of a startup and should be compensated accordingly.  More so, they might even be vital to the company’s success, such as a Director of Sales or VP of Engineering may be in helping a gangly startup grow up into a mature and profitable company.

A recent podcast from Andreessen Horowitz covers this issue, and touches on how founders can think about structuring their equity grants a bit differently so that they can appropriately compensate early and later employees.

Anyway, listen to the podcast as it covers a lot of points in this touchy subject.

The Very First Thing To Do When Opening Your Eyes Each Morning

Close them for another 10 minutes.

The deeper I go in this industry the more I realize success is determined by the quality of my mental fitness.  It was with that realization I recently started the practice of mediation. This new direction might come to some as a surprise, as it does with me. I’m not a very “spiritual” person and have up until recently thought of mediation and other methods of silence with a “not my kind of tea” nonchalance.

What we view as different we tend to be afraid of and to be very honest I was afraid of meditating. It was just foreign to me. Yet that might be why I found myself in a situation where I was desperately needing it!

I realized in my first month of meditation it’s not as weird, shamanic, spiritual, or cult-like as I thought.  In fact, I realize now that it quite possibly could be the secret to a happy and successful life no matter what country you live in or what religion you claim to believe.

Why?

With so much stimulation, media distraction and impulsive opportunities today, clarity of thought is our most scarce resource. By not taking the time to center oneself in their purpose before they start their day, one may find each day harder and harder to complete. I felt this overcoming me during the last year or two – the subtle feeling of losing my compass and lacking the fulfilling energy of pursuing a direction that aligns with a purposeful life.

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So with a suggestion from my girlfriend – who has been meditating for more than 10 years and glows with its benefits – I jumped in.  Boy do I have a long way to go.  I haven’t established a strongly held habit yet but here’s what I learned in the first month.

1. Calmness.  I found I was becoming more tense as the years went on, and given my laid back nature this was starting to really bug me.  It probably has to do with the nature of our industry and the difficulties of being a founder or working for an early stage company.  As I started the practice of meditation I began to feel the tension ease off a bit.  It’s still there to some extent, but I am now learning how to deal with it and shift the excess energy to a more positive area of my life.

The main reason I feel better is with the consistent nature of meditation you are able to think, ponder, and review; this leading to an adequate evaluation of the difficult things happening over the course of your daily life.  Stress overcomes us not because of something that happens to us, but because we haven’t adequately perceived the reality of the situation and are uncertain of what we are going to do about it.  We lack clarity. My calmness has resulted from taking time each day to let my mind wrap itself around the challenging things developing in my life, and allowing my mind time to determine the next step.

2. Centeredness.  I never really knew what this term meant before starting to meditate, but now I understand the power of allowing your mind to focus on certain aspects of your life, steering away from harmful and negative things while steering towards ones more beneficial. It actually takes effort to think about what you are doing here on earth, what you want to accomplish, how you want to live each day, how you want to treat people each day and the trajectory you want your life to take.  All this becomes clearer when one consistently starts their day in deep thought.  Although just a month in, I am feeling more centered and aligned and I can’t wait to see where the next 6 months or year directs me.

3.  Slowness.  It seems like things are going faster and faster each day.  Computing power speeds up each year, and computers just keep getting smaller and more ingrained into our existence.  Emailing went to text messaging.  Taking pictures with a digital camera and uploading to a website went to snapping a pic and sending a quick Snapchat to a friend. We expect to grab our phone and instantly find a restaurant whenever we are hungry. We also expect a response from someone we communicated with – immediately.  Each day seems to be speeding up and taking our whole society with it. It’s no wonder people are so stressed out.

Meditation has shown me the power of slowness and what it can do in a world where people and ideas are flying by at the speed of light.  Slowness allows for thoughtful consideration of the world around you. It allows for deeper comprehension of all the things happening to you and around you.  There are many things in our world that are simply too complex to fully grasp only after a few seconds or immediately after a meeting.  Not taking the time to allow your mind and body to fully comprehend the world around you is a grave mistake.  Through slowing down and practicing mental clarity each morning I set the tone for a stronger, more agile, more flexible mind which now has a better understanding of when to make quick hasty decisions or to slow down and contemplate all angles of a situation.

Take it from someone who used to shrug off the concept of meditation, you are making a huge mistake by not starting your day with your eyes closed in deep thought about the day you are about to experience.

How To Approach A Startup When Looking For A Job

A friend recently asked me a good question:

What’s your feel on whether or not to contact a company without a clear position opening. There are a few startups I really dig, but they don’t currently have a job opening that fits my role. Is it worth it to shoot them an email to introduce myself and possibly talk about carving out a role if they like me enough? Or should I not waste my time?

My answer:

Best to naturally network and get to know people in real life like you have done with me, rather than reach out cold knowing they aren’t hiring for your skill set and hoping for the best. They’ll probably just think it’s spam and not respond – that’s what I do.  Most companies/startups hire for personality + skillset, and the only way to find that match is to meet them first and get to know them over time, illustrating your value.  So.. find a way to get to know the founders and employees of the startups you like first, then work the angle of getting a job at their company.

Reaching out to startups in an effort to connect and get to know the company is definitely a great idea.  But cold emailing thinking you will be able to land a job is a longshot at best, and shows you have no savvy way to integrate yourself within their operations.  Especially if they display on their website they are only hiring for certain positions- and you don’t see a good role that fits your skill set. (If they DO show they are hiring exactly for what you are great at, by all means reach out to them!)

The secret to getting hired at a startup is to get to know the people within the company by any means necessary. This effort will provide an opportunity to determine if you are a good culture fit – and you might find out there isn’t a good fit after all.  And just like a lot of things, that happens over time. It’s all about learning as much as you can about the founders, the employees, their product and what type of office environment they have. No startup I know of will keep the best engineer in the world on staff if they are also the biggest asshole in the world.  And vis versa, no person will want to work with a company/founders who have no idea how to treat employees with respect.

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.

And that is the root of networking – connecting with people in your industry.  “Networking” has gotten a bad rap and has been misconstrued in today’s fast paced transactional world. It’s not about the one night stand and getting hired as soon as possible.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It happens over time and over repeated positive interactions with various people within the startup, to the point where numerous people are asking “what does that person do and why don’t they work for us?”

So if you want to get hired by great founders in the industry, get out there and make sure they know who you are and why they should want you to join their team.

Dealing With Startup Uncertainty

I was asked a great question yesterday from someone who is just beginning their startup journey:

“How do you handle the uncertainty of being a founder?  I mean, there are so many unknowns how does one even start?”

long-pathThere are a few ways to take this question but the one I see and hear the most from people is from the angle of how different a startup is from a typical job.

Most of the time a job has a description, some requirements, parameters, metrics to be measured upon, and a boss to report to. In and of itself, a job is limited and defined.  And most people are comfortable with being limited, since the limitations that are placed upon them at least provide an outline of the playing field where they will have to perform.  Do what’s expected of you and stay.  Don’t do what’s expected and you’re let go.

Requirements + measurement = outcome.

This is not so in a startup, or is not as apparent I should say.  The unknowns are vast and immense – such as what market are we focused on, what’s the product going to look like and how is it function, whom should be my cofounder(s), what ownership levels does everyone receive, what happens when people aren’t using our product, or when a larger competitor copies what we are doing, when do we know when to pivot or quit, when should we sell, etc…

In my opinion, the best approach to dealing with such uncertainty is to understand what a startup is and what the journey is all about.

According to Steve Blank, a startup is  “an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”  Clearly he’s stating that during the early years of a startup everything is uncertain.  The whole purpose of a startup is to go from uncertainty to certainty – or from nothing but an idea to a repeatable and scalable business model, to use his words.

The secret to being an entrepreneur is becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Just as Lewis and Clark set out from St. Louis towards the west, they had no clue where they would end up.  They just went west!  They were comfortable with not knowing what they would encounter during the journey or where they would end.  Lewis and Clark were explorers, but they were also the epitome of an entrepreneur.

Coming to terms with the fact that thousands of decisions lie ahead in the future and are totally unknown today is the #1 thing founders need to do on the outset of starting a company.  And simply focusing on the two most important decisions sitting in front of their face is the 2nd most important thing a founder must do. Tomorrow, two more things will present themselves and will need to be addressed, and you will focus your attention on those.  Outside of establishing a vision and plotting the direction of how to get there, most other aspects of building and growing a company will fall into place.

How do you climb a hill?  One step at a time.

Founders, We Have A Problem

Another month, another story of a founder committing suicide.

This is becoming a problem.  It’s high time we set aside pride and bring these issues out into the open.  Massive amounts of stress that possibly lead to depression are symptoms of a larger problem haunting founders and entrepreneurship right now, and I feel its getting worse.

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Previously I wrote about my experiences with stressful times and depressive thoughts.  I emerged from it and discovered it’s quite normal given what a founder puts himself through when starting a company.  Although it can be one of the greatest things you will do in your life, choosing to be a founder is NOT normal and whomever chooses the path must understand it takes extra effort to handle the stress.

I learned through the process: it’s not if you are going to experience depression, but when.  Will it happen right out of the gate due to anxiety about starting something brand new?  Will it grip you once your honeymoon phase wears off and you realize startup life is not as easy as the media makes it seem?  Or will it be once your bank account balance is red with parentheses around the numbers?

It’s just a matter of time.

Any one of those scenarios can trigger a withdrawal reaction deep inside your psyche, which kicks into motion a series of events that can end in a downward spiral.  And you may be so focused on your task at hand you won’t even know its happening.

I believe this is a huge problem, and its getting worse.  Much worse.  So bad that we need to start paying a lot more attention to the causes of these pressures before it’s too late.  We need to figure out how to battle back, because one more founder suicide is too much.  I mean really, we should never accept people jumping from buildings simply because they missed their monthly projections and received another NO from a potential investor.  Never.

I will point to us (as a society) and the media (wanting evermore clicks) for creating this nightmare, and here’s why.

The pressures of being a founder have magnified with social media.  Heck, today the pressures of being a decent human being seem to have magnified to scary extremes due to technology pervading our every second.

All this real time social sharing of our “awesomely magnificent” lives places unattainable standards on the most average of people.  Back in the day you would have had to pick up a US Weekly magazine when standing in the line at the supermarket to see bikini clad women on a beach partying with a group of good looking guys. Or an exotic beach house someone is renting for a weekend get away. This was all normal because it was typically celebrities living a life of abundance or random paid models in a magazine or on TV. Psychologically, we could deal with the dissonance.

Now, all you have to do is open Facebook on your phone to feel the pain of missing out. The excruciating difference is you know them personally, and maybe were even invited but couldn’t make it!  And now you have FOMO.

“Man, look at them.  They’re all are having a great time and I’m laying here on the couch like a loser.”

Can we all agree that most of the shit we see Facebook, Instagram, twitter is not real life? It’s people’s highlights.  It’s the best of the best pieces of their lives. When surfing Facebook and Instagram we must keep in mind no one shares the boring, crappy and mundane stuff (okay, yes there are those people we end up hiding but most sane people filter their thoughts and posts).

If you look at Facebook, Instagram or other social photo sharing apps – numerous times a day – you are subconsciously beating your self up.  EVERYDAY.

You are doing this because as humans we naturally compare ourselves to others.  It’s a survival mechanism.  Survival of the fittest, and if someone is doing better than you, or stronger, or better looking, or more fit, prettier, wealthier, smarter, free-er, etc… it threatens your very existence.

Of course, all the above is a function in startups and happens to founders as well.  We read about such and such new startup raising a huge round of funding on TechCrunch and wonder why we haven’t hit it big yet.  We hear about a big acquisition deal and beat ourselves up because we haven’t earned our millions yet.  Couple that with the pressures of supporting a company, sharing the vision with everyone when they don’t believe you, making the employees payroll and all the other things to worry about. A founder’s shoulders can only bear so much weight before they break.

I don’t have the ultimate answer but I can say this: depression happens – probably to most everyone – so it’s not the thing to worry about here.  What is most important is what you choose to do before and during your most challenging times in an effort to ebb and flow through it.

Do you have a pet who can be your best friend and bring you joy no human can do?  Do you meditate or frequently reflect on your thoughts?  I just started and I’m excited to see where that journey takes me.  Do you have a therapist or someone unattached you can counsel with on a consistent basis?  Do you get enough physical exercise to blow off steam and stay healthy?  Do you monitor your social media and technology usage so you maintain the proper perspective about yourself and yourself worth?

Depression happens and quite possibly outside of your control .  What you do about it is up to you.

Pulling The Plug Takes Courage

A common challenge many founders experience is when it’s time to pull the plug on their startup.  This issue has been brought up a number of times in recent conversations and given my experience in this area I thought I’d lend a little perspective on the subject.

First a little background.  About 4 years ago I cofounded a startup called Seconds with a handful of people.  We ran it for a while but really didn’t hit breakout velocity to raise venture capital and build out the business full scale.  So after 2+ years I decided to pull the plug and move on.

That is about the shortest and easiest way to describe what I went through at the time, which was much more excruciating and painful than those last few sentences describe.  I’ll save you the 10 page novel!

But it’s a horrible place to find yourself. If you are anything like me, you don’t quit. You uphold your promises. You are competitive and want to win.  You and your cofounders have stuck together through thick and thin and you feel if you bailed right now you would be quitting on them and going against your word.  So you just keep holding on, thinking it will get better.

Well, I quit and it’s great to finally be able to say things are much better now for me compared to 2 years ago. I finally realized I was really stuck and the best thing for me to do was to stop and look at all my other options.  Like an addict, I needed to step away from my daily habit of trying to make things work in my company and focus my energy elsewhere. I committed to improve in the areas in my life that were giving me the most stress – namely money (or lack there of) and that meant I needed to get a job. I realized I could move myself forward in our industry as an employee of a startup, not having to be the founder.  I decided I’d join another startup so I could continue to grow as an entrepreneur and startup executive, being able to learn all the things I wasn’t able to learn during the time with my company.

In the summer of 2014 I joined Knotis as Director of Business Development and was able to pick up right where I left off in my own startup. I am now heading up strategic partnerships and assisting with investor relations to help raise money for the company.  The last year has been chock full of investor meetings with people held in high regard in our industry, strategic partnership conversations with companies we read about in the news, and a continuation of my entrepreneurial path void of massive stresses like how will I afford to eat and drink each night.

Anyone looking in the mirror wondering if they should continue hammering away at their startup when it seems like it’s not moving forward should take note.  It does get better.  But you may have to quit your startup to get there.  You may have to stop dead in your tracks, notice the road you are on is not heading in the right direction – in fact it dead ends right up there around the bend – and turn around.  Find a new road.  There are more roads and options for which direction to take your self and your creative career than you actually realize.

All it takes is courage to own up to the fact you didn’t succeed THIS TIME and creativity to find a new opportunity so you can succeed NEXT TIME.