You Can Now Listen To Founders RAW on iTunes As A Podcast

Founders RAW can now be listened to on the go as a podcast accessed via iTunes.

At this point we are only offering full conversations, in the form of their RAW audio, as the Founders RAW podcasts.  Soon, you will be able to hear conversations with:

Itunes_podcast_icon_300Myself and Nate Martinez – co-Founders of Founders RAW

Michael Grabham – Founder of Startup Grind Seattle

Patrick Henley – Founder of AMP

John Cook – co-Founder of GeekWire

Bob Crimmins – Founder of MoonTango

Adam Lieb – Founder of Duxter

Simon Crosby – Founder of Bromium

… and all others full conversations we have going forward!

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Talk To Enough Successful People And Patterns Emerge

I am truly grateful for what have the opportunity to do each and every week.

We started Founders RAW a few months ago and are almost to our 10th full conversation with entrepreneurs here in Seattle.   For those who aren’t aware, Founders RAW is a new multimedia property where we showcase videos of casual conversations with other startup founders.  When I realized I was having great conversations with my founder friends at local startup events I decided we need to record this stuff and push it out to others.  Maybe you can learn something as well.

Check it out for yourself >  Founders RAW.

I typically sit down with one person each week, grab a beer and dive deep into what it’s like to start a company.  One of the big things I have taken away thus far is how patterns emerge during these conversations.

Founders RAW behind scenes

Sitting with Simon Crosby during our Founders RAW conversation at the WTIA TechNW event in Seattle.

What do I mean by patterns?

By patterns I mean in how these founders identify the challenges they face and how they dealt with and overcame them.  Not to say all entrepreneurs experience the same things, but as I peer deeper into my conversations and read between the lines, certain characteristics or principles seem to be emerging.

The founders also seem to allude to similar experiences of company near-death and despair – yet they continued forward when all seemed lost.  So yes, no one is immune to the inevitable challenges and tough times ahead.

Benind scenes 2

Sitting with Carlos Guestrin during our conversation at the WTIA TechNW event in Seattle.

Vision

Each founder I talk with embodies a strong sense of vision – they know where they are going and what they want to accomplish.  Vision is what sets them apart from their competition and allows them to navigate changing waters when their market matures and shifts with the times.  John Cook had a vision of digital media even when he was working  as a reporter for a traditional newspaper.  Amazingly, he pitched them on rolling out a whole new concept involving the web and digital properties, only to be shot down my management.  So he left and started it himself!

We know now who had the vision and who was stuck in the past.

Strength

The founders I have spent time with all have the quality of strength, meaning they are able to endure and deal with the challenges ever-present in entrepreneurship.   Whether it be dealing with co-founder issues, standing up to advisors and investors when their business model is challenged, or when push comes to shove they determine to out innovate the competition.  Adam Lieb, founder of gaming social network Duxter, displayed a strong sense of character as he detailed out his experience raising money from angel investors.  It’s not easy for startup founders to raise money, especially here in Seattle vs down in the Valley.   The lesson I took was investors want to invest in strong, vision oriented founders, not weak leaders who will bend at any sense of difficulty.

Flexibility

Lastly, as market forces change the tech landscape founders must be flexible and change with it.  Advancements in technology are only speeding up and drastically influencing how we build our companies.  Just a handful of years ago AWS/Amazon was nowhere to be seen.  Now, because startups can now host in the cloud using services like AWS and Heroku, startup costs have dropped dramatically and thus have allowed a founder to launch a company in under $5K initial investment.   Bob Crimmins made a huge point regarding this as he spoke about what he is seeing with the TechStars companies he mentors.  “They act quickly, test frequently and iterate often.”  That is why the successful ones are growing – the lowered cost to start and grow has allowed for more/quicker iterations of web products and services.

It’s been fun thus far and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  And I think you should do this too!  No, you don’t have to record your conversations like we are but I think Mark Suster was onto something when he says you should take 50 coffee meetings this next year.

John Cook

Chatting with John Cook of GeekWire during our Founders RAW conversation.

Yes, Youth Can Be Entrepreneurs Too

Adam Lieb, founder and CEO of Duxter, started his entrepreneurial journey at a very early age.  He founded and sold his first company at the age of 11! Not too shabby, eh.

I sat down and talked with Adam during one of my recent Founders RAW conversations where we covered what it’s like to start a company so early in life, the value of Law School and how easy (or hard) it is to raise money for a growing startup.

What a great conversation!

Fear – It’s Just Part Of The Process

If you are a founder – or thinking about starting your own company – a really important lesson is to realize fear will always be present with you.  There’s no way around it.

You will question your ability.

You will wonder what is going to happen to your company tomorrow.

You will be scared to talk to investors, customers and potential new hires.

You will be worried as to what the media will write about you and your idea.

All this will be there, don’t fool yourself otherwise.  The best thing for an entrepreneur to do is come to grips with the fact that your fears will persist.  The next best thing to do is to find ways to deal with those fears, and to grow through them.  Finding advisors, talk with other CEO’s or founders, reading others thoughts about starting companies.  All these things help us get through the challenging times of starting our companies.

Or go to Founders RAW and watch what others are saying!

Stay True To Your Roots Regardless of The Competition

I love the way John Cook describes how he maintains the GeekWire focus and brand among stifling competition.  Basically, he says

If you want to differentiate yourself you need to stay focused on your unique DNA – your roots if you will – and why you started in the first place rather than just copying whatever the other competitors are doing.”

That’s an awesome statement and one I try to live by as a founder as well.

But how?

I think there are a few fundamental methods of staying true to your roots.

1)Deeply Know Thyself

It’s important to know why you started your company or built your product in the first place.  Was it something that occurred to you through a life experience?  Or did you see numerous other startups doing the same thing and raising money from investors so you thought you might as well jump in and do it as well?  Really evaluating and understanding the why of your pursuit will bring you closer to your roots, which will inevitably lead to differentiation from the rest of the pack.

2) Talk To Your Users and Customers

Rather than looking at the competition, you need to look at your users.  Very early on you need to talk to your customers or users to determine why they are using the product and what value they are deriving from it.  The insights from your users will open your eyes to aspects of your product you may have not seen before.  This Customer-centric practice will keep you internally focused on your product/vision/future rather than what all the other competitors are doing in the space.

3) Be A Leader, Not A Follower

One of the best ways to stay true to your roots is to be a market leader, one who blazes the trail vs finding someone else’s trail.   Leaders usually have unique insights on an existing model and are doing something new and different than the competition.  They don’t care what others think or what the competition is doing.   They are independent thinkers and use their own models as testing for what works and what doesn’t.  In this manner, Leaders typically are the unique and original brands the other competitors are trying to copy – to little avail.

Listen to John touch on his perspective of staying true to GeekWire’s roots.   Go to Founders RAW >>

Hang In There

I tend to get a bit emotional when I find myself looking back over my almost 2 years of full time, full contact entrepreneurship.

Why?

Well, it’s been such a crazy ride.  It’s been up.  It’s been down.  I’ve been in.  I’ve been out.  I quit my last full-time job over 2 years ago with basically nothing to jump to but my own gut instinct, which told me – akin to Field of Dreams – “if you jump, they will find you.”

I jumped.  And they found me.

It was incredible to jump into my company full-time, but in reality it hasn’t been all roses.   Mostly I’ve hung in there and “weathered the storm”  as they say, until brighter days came.

It was then I realized what this entrepreneurial journey is all about – hanging in there.  I was reminded of this recently as I was chatting with GeekWire founder John Cook.  He mentioned it as I asked him about some of the lessons he has learned over the last few years building GeekWire.

He said something to the extent of “if you just hang around long enough you will make it.”

What I think John is saying is you need to be patient enough to give yourself the opportunity to encounter success.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It sometimes doesn’t happen over a year.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) some people must wait many, many years before the seeds they have planted actually grow into something they can reap benefits from.

But you just have to hang in there.

John is a perfect example of this in action.  He spent about 10 years working for an old traditional newspaper, the Seattle PI.  At the time, he was covering tech and could see what was about to happen (or happening) to the newspaper industry due to the growth of the web.

In fact, he and his friend Todd actually came up with an entire plan, shared it with the PI and suggested they go another direction, embracing the web as opposed to fighting it.  John and Todd told the PI they would run it.  Those executives didn’t listen the John and Todd, which at the time I am sure was frustrating to the both of them.

Yet, today…. GeekWire is an up and coming digital media resource, has a great presence in Seattle and beyond, and is growing strong.   The Seattle PI?  They shut their doors on their physical paper a few years ago and are struggling to stay relevant in this new digital world.

Lesson: It will come soon enough if you just hang in there.