Archive for the ‘Startups’ Category
A month or two back I read Daniel Tenner’s excellent article entitled “Taking the Leap.” Having run my own modestly successful startup for going on 5 years now, I can say with some authority that he makes excellent points. But one thing about the post bothered me: his advice is most applicable to your first startup. That distinction is critical.
Hacker News idolizes people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and other visionaries who take incredible risks in the face of absurd odds. Their stories are dramatic, and it’s delicious to read stories of people who buck the system and succeed. But it is a disservice to the less experienced to omit the beginning to every success story: the small successes they had early in life.
The men who mine asteroids and build electric sports cars don’t start with those ventures. To illustrate my point, I’d like to tell a quick story.
Back in 2008, my business partners and I were going door to door trying to raise a minuscule amount of funding. One of our business advisers gave us an introduction to a successful founder turned angel investor who had just sold his company. Everyone was talking about how successful he was, but over the course of developing a mentorship relationship, we heard about how he got his humble entrepreneurial start. He did it by selling asbestos file folders to legal consultancies at a time when everyone was going digital. The business model was in it’s death throes, but he was able to generate enough profit to reinvest it on his next company.
Read that again if you missed it: our visionary angel investor got started selling fireproof file protectors to lawyers who wouldn’t need them in a few years.
This sort of story is far from isolated. Success begets success. Elon Musk didn’t start with Tesla, he started by selling a $500 computer game called Blastar at the age of 12.
Don’t try and shoot the moon on your first startup. Bootstrapping reduces the upside of your ventures, but it also reduces the risk that you’ll fail. Daniel Tenner has it right: keep your head down, reduce your burn rate, and if you succeed doing that a few times, Mars, cold fusion, and hover bikes will still be waiting.
Naming a product is tough. It’s thankless, there’s no objective criteria for success, and when you’re first starting out, it can seem unproductive. But none of these are legitimate excuses for not spending a tremendous amount of time and energy picking that name. Later on, when you have paying customers, the name that shows up on their credit card statements will be a soothing reminder of your consistent and trustworthy brand. Changing it requires far more effort than most founders imagine, so do it right the first time. Here’s a concrete step-by-step guide to finding a great name for your startup’s product.
Create a list of possible names
There are dozens of excellent articles that can get you started with the process of brainstorming possible names. Most of these articles do an excellent job of summarizing the most common guidelines, so I will only briefly mention them here:
- The shorter the name, the better.
- Choose something that can be verbed. “I’m going to Twitter this” works much better than “I’m going to ShortMessagesWithFriends” this.
- Choose a relevant name, if you are starting an invoicing company, bikemanufacturers.com probably isn’t appropriate.
- Choose names with greater phonetic clarity. The word “phonetic,” for example is terrible because it isn’t clear when spoken whether it should be spelled “fonetic,” “phonetic,” “fonetik,” or “phonetik.” The proliferation of mis-spelled domains and product names have exacerbated this problem.
- For products that create new markets (AirBnB for instance), it won’t be important to have a name with high SEO value like “bestbnb.com.” If search discoverability is important, however, consider shelling out cash for a name that will rank for your keywords. You can think of this as money well spent compared to the Adwords, conference attendance, and content marketing you would need to do later to drum up traffic for a less discoverable domain.
- If you are struggling to come up with ideas, I recommend using Impossibility, which has the added benefit of only showing you available, non-parked domains.
Check availability and Price
For my second startup, we generated about 150 possible names to start. My cofounders and I checked their availability using InstantDomainSearch, and weeded out names that both didn’t excite us and were unavailable. Since we are creating a product that is unlikely to benefit a great deal from organic SEO, we disqualified quite a few domains that were selling for more than a few thousand dollars. 
Next, my founders and I rated each name on a scale of 1-10. Using this data, we created an average score for each name that equally represented our preferences. We sorted the names using our aggregate scores and chose the top 15.
We then create a Google form, and sent the top 15 names to 30 people who were either potential customers, close friends, or both. The form asked recipients to rate the names using the same 1-10 scale.
Using the data from real potential customers and those who were heavily invested in our success, we created a final index of each each name’s overall goodness.
Steve Blank says that products rarely survive first contact with customers, and the same is true of names. In our case, we had an internal favorite which was disliked by our friends and potential customers. If we hadn’t sought feedback, we would have chosen a terrible name!
Contacting Domain Owners
Domain names can be shockingly expensive , but for most product-based companies, it doesn’t make sense to spend very much on the domain. Quality products take thousands of hours to build, brand, and market. Invest your time in a new name rather than fighting the baggage left by the domain’s previous owner.
After getting feedback about our choices, we disqualified the lowest five options and focused on getting one of the top ten names. Of those, only one was not registered, two were unwilling to sell, two did not return our inquiry email, and the remainder quoted prices ranging from $32,000 to $700. The audience favorite, however, was listed for $788, which we ended up purchasing.
Considering the costs associated with re-branding, it makes monetary sense to invest heavily in choosing the best available name. It took us 20-30 hours to make our decision, and among the tasks associated with getting a new business started, I count those hours as some of the most valuable.
 Interestingly, the most expensive domain we discovered had a “suggested retail price” of $80,000.
 For kicks, you might enjoy checking out the list of the most expensive domain names ever sold. The current king is $16M for insure.com.
Six weeks ago I handed my employer my formal resignation. Two weeks ago I waved goodbye and left the office to begin work on my second startup.
At this stage in my life I have no children, no mortgage, a small passive income from my first startup, two rock solid technical c0founders, a working prototype for our idea, a monetization strategy, and enough cash saved up to bankroll some small business expenses. In short, there was very little risk to quitting. Yet I still struggled with the decision and on that Thursday as I walked into the chilly North Carolina air, couldn’t help but wonder if I was making the right decision.
Quitting is hard for social reasons. I worked at a small Django consultancy with an excellent group of folks who I respect and admire. But even there, among independent-minded, intelligent, professional, driven peers, most were confused why I would want to quit an excellent job. One coworker was frustrated that I was helping perpetuate the Silicon Valley brain drain, “don’t move out there and be one of those guys,” he told me during my last week. But by far the most common reaction to my news was “why?” accompanied by what I perceived to be quiet pity. “Oh dear, he thinks he’s going to start the next Facebook.”
To everyone yearning to quit their job and pursue their startup dreams, do your homework, then quit now. I’m not sure I would be capable of quitting my job with $100k in a home loan, 2 children, and a car payment. Quitting gets more difficult the longer you wait, so brace yourself and jump soon.
Update HN seems to have picked this up, comments can be found over here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5508878 For those interested, we’re working a game to teach people how to program. It’s not even in the alpha stages yet, but can be previewed here: http://www.codecombat.com
When I founded Skritter in 2008 with Nick and Scott, we called it a startup. We raised three rounds of funding, hired developers to help scale our team, and attended startup summits, venture capital panels, and meetups filled with aspiring entrepreneurs working on the next big thing. As with all young startups seeking capital, our business plan growth model had us making 30M in profit in 3-5 years as we took the language learning world by force.
Four and a half years later, Skritter has become a viable, successful, growing company. We have three employees in addition to the founding team, and have provided employment for twice that many along the way. We’ve proven that our business model generates profit, that it adds value to customer’s lives, and that we can achieve product-market fit.
But somewhere along the line, Skritter stopped being a startup and became a business. And while I am deeply proud of our achievements, the change makes me sad.
When you run a startup, you dream big, you think in terms of conquering entire new markets, challenging entrenched competitors, and changing the world in a big way. You work hard, play harder, and forge lifelong relationships with your co-founders.
Businesses, by comparison, are more modest and mundane. Businesses tend to know whom their customers are, they have a good sense of what makes money and what doesn’t, and they don’t make a habit of re-investing every penny to try and shoot the moon with a new product. Businesses are like middle aged fathers who just want things to run smoothly without too much fuss. Startups are their star-struck sons spouting poetry to their lovers in moonlit gardens.
Startups are just more exciting, vibrant, and entertaining.
Bu they also have this frustrating tendency to fizzle out, fail, or explode catastrophically. Founders lose their shirts, relationships are ruined, investors are burned, and once stable, gainfully employed founders end up in their parent’s basements applying for jobs to cover their credit card debt.
I’m proud of what Nick, Scott, and I have built at Skritter. I’m proud we achieved the dream of building a profitable company. But if you’ve ever been there for the startup part, the irrational giddiness you get from building something new, you’ll know instinctively what I mean when I say it’s sad to see your startup turn into a business.
Back in my junior year of college, I switched my major from Cinema Studies to Economics. I was sitting in the office of my favorite professor and adviser, a man who had his Economics degree from Harvard. I was asking about post-graduate options.
“I was thinking about maybe getting an MBA one day. Do Oberlin graduates stand a chance of getting into the Harvard MBA program?”
My adviser smiled in a good-humored way. “Honestly George, I don’t know how anyone gets into the Harvard MBA program. I think you have to be magic to pull it off.”
When I heard those words, my heart sank, but I took the advice to heart. Five years and one startup later, I still vividly remember that conversation because it crystallized my understanding of how to pull off a seemingly impossible accomplishment: it’s a magic trick.
Getting into the Harvard MBA program might embody a magic trick for most people, but magic tricks encompass anything that appears to be impossible on the surface. Retiring at the age of 30, traveling full time while working remotely, being a C-level executive at a Fortune 500 company, or knowing people of repute. All of these accomplishments work to confound explanation and increase the perceived importance of the speaker. After all, only 1 in a million spend our evenings rubbing shoulders with A-list celebrities and our days on the cover of a business magazine. It’s unique, it’s interesting, and it defies simple explanation.
But it’s a mistake to write off such accomplishments as either impossible. It’s an even bigger mistake to write them off as unimportant or shallow.
I’ve learned the hard way that when you are an entrepreneur, it is extremely important to quickly impress people you meet. When all you have is a one-month-old company and a smile, people write you off unless you can quickly portray success. Maybe you didn’t go to Harvard or MIT, but the more magic tricks you have under your belt, the more investors, customers, and peers will assume you can accomplish your next audacious goal. This is the first step in actually living your life like you want.
Which bring me to choosing magic tricks. I’ve used common examples above, but your achievements will be most impressive if they are your own. Maybe you want to start a nonprofit mentoring program and positively impact 1,000,000 kids. Maybe you want to make the next greatest search engine. Maybe you want to replace Netflix and bring the world a decent selection of on-demand movies. You need to define what you want to achieve, and then do it. The coolest thing about magic tricks is that they are cumulative: the more you’ve already done, the more people will believe you can accomplish the next one.
After all, if you’ve already started the first commercial space program or revolutionized how people use technology or played basketball with president Obama, then you can probably do whatever you want.
You know the feeling well: you’ve decided to attend a networking Meetup, you get to the place it’s being hosted and only see one other car in the parking lot. You go into the building and your stomach sinks as you enter the appointed room. There’s only one other person there, and it looks like the organizer. You quickly check your phone: it’s 20 minutes past the starting time. How embarrassing. You’re the only schmuck who turned up. There are unopened drinks on the table next to uneaten food. You look desperately around: this poor organizer looks ready to talk to anyone and you see the next 2 hours of your life vaporizing in a mist of uncomfortable conversation as you try to politely leave.
You’re Doing it Wrong
Most people I know would be uncomfortable with the situation I described above. In fact, I would have been uncomfortable with it until very recently, when I realized how much it was holding me back. I don’t like being witness to, much less a part of a failing enterprise as much as the next person, but if you are going to start something new, you better get used to that feeling and stop letting it affect you.
Almost every new venture starts with discomfort. It’s easy to forgot that when you are running an internet startup because coding a site allows people to hide from that sort of discomfort for far too long. I would wager that if every web startup required the founders to knock on a 1,000 doors and pitch their product to the resident inside, very few businesses would get started, but those that did would be 1,000 times better off.
I’m talking about being willing to physically put yourself in socially uncomfortable situations to push your vision forward. I’m talking about hard sales, cold calls, meet and greets, and asking people for favors. I’m talking about being willing to politely ignore the unwritten rules of social decorum and get down to business. I think the more you are able to do that in your life, the more successful you will be at achieving your goals.
How to Do it Right
It’s all well and good to talk about being brassy and hustling for your vision, but how do you go from being a shy, socially-hypersensitive person (like I used to be) to a self-determined success? Here are two tricks that I use:
1) Prediction Boxing
When you are faced with something uncomfortable, you will find yourself making excuses to avoid it. What you are doing is trying to avoid encountering the worst case scenario. Let’s say you are going to cold call a potential customer. You have been putting it off for a week, but why?
There’s a quick mental exercise I do which helps me put possible outcomes into perspective. It works like this: think about what you are going to do, and generate a scenario in which everything turns out impossibly well, and I mean push this to the extreme. To use the cold calling example, the extreme positive situation is that your customer not only buys what you are selling, but they 100 copies of it and refers 100 of their corporate friends. Bam, your startup is now a success.
Now, think about the absolute worst case, and I mean the most god-awful worst way this could turn out. This time, your customer screams curses at you for the unsolicited sales call, tells all their corporate friends you’re an idiot, and adds you number to their block list. Okay, that would suck pretty hard.
Finally, think about a situation in the middle. Maybe you get a curt hangup, or a polite denial. Maybe they tentatively agree to try your software for free with no obligation, maybe they try to get you off the phone by making up an excuse not to talk with you.
I have found time and time again that the middle situation is the most likely, and so long as it doesn’t contain any truly horrible results, you should probably do what you are contemplating. Remember: think of the best, then the worst, then the middle situation, and if the middle doesn’t seem bad, go for it.
This is a motivational hack that one of my good friends shared with me, and has proven effective time and time again: tell people what you are going to do, and tell them when you are going to do it. You will get the most out of this if you tell people you respect, and since we are talking about intimidating challenges in a business context, I would recommend your co-founders. Here’s how I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone repeatedly to get stuff done:
Whenever my co-founders and I would come up with a marketing or sales suggestion that was uncomfortable, I would volunteer to do it regardless of my comfort level with the task and set a concrete deadline. This part is easy: it makes you appear valuable and important to your cofounders, and that feels good. The hard part comes later and you can build up the courage when that time comes. The most important thing is that you tell them exactly what you are going to do “I will cold-call 5 of our potential customers” and give it a deadline “and I will call them by this coming Monday.”
By making a formal, concrete, public commitment, you have raised the stakes of failure, and made it that much harder to back out. Now if you fail, you can’t hide: the people you respect most will know. You’ve put yourself in the position of having to succeed. Make no mistake, you don’t end up hustling accidentally. I recently saw a talk by a guy talking about customer development in which he said that he would never have done it if the alternative hadn’t been firing his best friends. One cold call may not push you to that extreme, but it’s a good indicator of how difficult it is to make a habit of hustling.
There are a few more tips and tricks that I could share, but I would prefer to wait and let my co-founder’s upcoming book about motivation hacking cover those topics instead. I don’t want to steal his thunder and he will do a better job than me!
Starting something new is scary because failure is scary. But you maximize your chances of success by improving your hustle and overcome that fear. To use the example at the beginning of this post, there is no reason to be scared of an empty room. Worst case scenario: you lose a bit of time, learn what doesn’t work, pack up early and try again. Be thankful when you fail quickly and cheaply and pick yourself up for the next attempt.
Over the course of the last 5 years, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time managing sales and marketing for my own software startup and then a small web consultancy. I’ve attended conferences, made sales calls, printed flyers, and schmoozed at investor gatherings. And I’ve come to believe that marketing is just sales without accountability. Bear with me for a moment.
Marketing is Sales
Both marketing and sales are intended to produce the same end result: make more sales. Marketing is the top of the sales conversion funnel; the first interaction with a potential customer in which good salespeople provide value and make a lasting impression. But let’s not loose sight of the end goal: that first contact with a potential customer is fundamentally about sales.
Companies don’t sponsor trade conferences and staff booths because they want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on snazzy signs and airfare, they want to make more sales. Companies don’t maintain blogs because they want employees to become excellent writers, they want to be noticed for their contributions to their niche and make more sales. Companies don’t buy television, print, and radio advertisements because they want to support actors and graphic artists, they (you guessed it) want to make more sales.
Marketing Isn’t Measured
The problem with marketing is that it’s so far towards the top of the sales funnel that it’s difficult to measure. Sales calls either result in a sale or not, so it’s natural and easy to start measuring the effectiveness of those calls. It’s a lot harder to measure the value of meeting someone new at a trade show. Will the person become a paying customer? Will they refer someone to your business? Will they write about what great work you are doing? Or will they trash you to a potential customer? It’s just not something that’s obvious/easy to measure.
In light of that realization, businesses and business owners (myself included) simply throw up their hands at some point and start generalizing. “We have to get our name out there somehow, and people watch television, so why don’t we try a TV ad?” Or perhaps “We know some of our customers attend the BigConf Trade Show, so let’s exhibit this year.”
The unspoken rule of marketing is that most of it is wasted effort, but to measure it is either too daunting/demoralizing for marketing teams. My suspicion is that for companies in established markets, what most folks would recognize as marketing probably is worth the time and energy. Most companies can’t prove that, or course, but the fact that they are still around means that they are either spending little enough on marketing that their failures don’t sink the ship, or the marketing efforts are actually paying off.
Stop Marketing and Start Selling
If you work for a tiny company or are building a new product, you can’t afford to waste resources on unprofitable marketing or sales. You have to start measuring marketing efforts in the same way that you might measure sales. At this point you might be saying “Yeah, well, that’s all fine and dandy, but how the heck do you propose I do that?”
Simple: pick some metrics and start recording data.
Here are some examples of things that I’ve personally tried:
1) Enter people you meet at trade shows in a CRM and track sales as they come in later.
2) Attach a coupon code to print materials and track how many times the coupon is used.
3) Ask incoming sales leads how they heard about you, be bold and ask for a name if the person is willing to give you that information.
You might now be saying “but I’ll never be able to measure activity X!” One striking thing I’ve noticed about sales is that salesmen and sales departments are loath to invest time or money in anything that can’t be tracked. That’s a good starting point for marketing too. That doesn’t mean you can’t do activity X. It just means you have to get creative about tracking it. In cases where you can’t find any way conceivable way to track it, that’s generally a good indicator that it’s not a profitable marketing channel.
You might well choose the wrong metrics to measure the first time around. For instance, the first two years that I attended a trade shows for my startup, I measured booth traffic. I literally just wrote down how many people talked to me at the booth. It turns out that people visiting the booth didn’t predict sales at all. But that data saved us more than more than $10,000 when it came time to exhibit in year three. We had hard numbers that suggested that either 1) it didn’t make money for us to attend trade shows or 2) unqualified visits to our booth are not related to making sales to qualified leads. Because attending was expensive. As a result of additional data tracking, it later became clear that attending trade shows didn’t make us money. Dodged a bullet there!
Marketing doesn’t have to be blind, and when it does, don’t do it. Treat marketing like sales, measure everything you can, and in a year or two you should be able to make at least one decision that saves your company $10,000. Just remember me when you get promoted.
Most business partnerships are a waste of time. Guy Kawasaki says so, Paul Graham says so (see the section at the bottom), and I have learned from personal advice that both men speak truth. The thing is, partnering is most appealing and dangerous to a startup early on. In those critical months and years where credibility is scarce, partnerships seem to offer a quick path to legitimacy and (your partner will lead you to believe) wealth. So it’s imperative to develop resistance and skepticism to partnership offers. But how?
Well, one method stumbled right into my lap recently. This is a spam message that I received last week:
“LET’S PARTNER INTO PROSPERITY: Kudos!!! You’ve got a very good work going here. I’ve been contracted to develop a website and a phone application that can help people in a particular Country to learn their three different dialects. It’s a multimillion $ Project to be funded by the Government. I understand that a lot of scamming bullshit is going on online but you won’t need to spend a dime of yours, all we need is the service of a person that has the knowledge required which would be magnanimously remunerated. I don’t know much about language software design, if you do or if you know anyone that can partner with me on this please mail me now without any delay: firstname.lastname@example.org Do you have a website? If yes, what’s your website? I’m waiting… Success!!!”
It’s got all the elements of a bad partnership: vague intentions, an appeal to the legitimacy of some large organization (the Government!), a nod to skeptics, and call to action. My advice to you: the next time someone proposes a partnership, simply tack “… Success!!!” to what they say to remind yourself that most partnerships are a waste of time. What’s scary is that many seemingly legitimate partnership offers are more dangerous than this example because they lure you into wasting time on them. At least in this case I can just click delete and get on with my day.
I attended Pycon this year and had intended to post this shortly thereafter. Life got in the way, however, and it’s only now being released. This is what I had written:
I attended Pycon last week and directly after representing my company at the job fair, there was an awkward bit of time where I had my suitcase, laptop bag, and nowhere to go. So I sat down outside of the exhibit hall on the floor and started responding to some email that had built up. The kind lady from behind the now-empty registration desk came over after a few minutes and invited me to sit there instead of on the concrete floor. I gladly accepted and setup my laptop behind the modular registration table.
After no more than a few minutes, several confused-looking conference attendees stopped at the table and began to ask me a question about how they could get lunch without their badges. In mid-sentence, I suggested they talk to the woman who had invited me to sit there in the first place, mentioning that I wasn’t really a staff member. I then returned to my emailing.
A few minutes later, a couple approached and asked how they could replace their lost badges. Again, I motioned them to my benefactor, and gave a single-clause explanation of why I was behind the official counter. I was now distracted, but resolved to get my emails out.
But it was not to be, because after only a few more minutes, another gentleman came up and asked whether we had a lost and found. I resolved to move both so I get something done and so as not to make the registration team look bad, but it surprised me how easy it was to fake my credentials. Granted, being mistaken for a conference organizer didn’t take a huge leap of faith for anyone present. I was wearing a conference badge and lanyard, I was tapping away at a laptop, and I was sitting behind a desk with the other conference organizers. But it was easy to fake my role: all I had to do was move my backside twenty feet from where I had been sitting previously.
To be clear, I don’t encourage anyone to use social engineering for evil, but as this simple example proved to me, it’s important to remember how easy it is to fake it and faking it is immensely valuable. When you are running a startup, for instance, you need funding, employees, and first customers. All of them will want to see you project a certain image. It’s often not as simple as just sitting behind a counter with a laptop, but it’s often not significantly harder either. So the next time you need to influence people, remember that faking is easy.
I have been uncomfortably busy for the last 6 months. Between my startup, a monster commute, religious conversion classes, and preparing to get married, I have had to motivate myself to work more than I would otherwise prefer. This blog post is a collection of short, candid lessons I’ve learned about motivating yourself to work a lot. To be clear, I’m talking here about motivating yourself to work when nobody is forcing you to do so. Working, essentially, for your own goals, not your boss, your company, or any external parties:
1) Set Numeric Weekly Goals
I have found that this is best done hourly. I try to work 25 hours on my startup per week and I minimize my commute time by tracking it. You have to be strict about working towards your hours. Share your hourly goal with your close friends/spouse. Enlist them in motivating you to meet your goals. Make it clear that you want to succeed. If you have a support network, setup a system of prizes for accomplishing streaks of productivity. I’m on a minimalist kick right now, so for every 3 weeks that I meet my quantitative goals, my fiancee has to fill a medium-sized moving box with excess stuff from around the house and donate it. It’s a small token but it’s a big motivator!
2) Build in Emotional Accountability
Obviously there is accountability at a regular full-time job, but if you want to work 80 hours in a week for yourself, you will need your own accountability systems. In the case of my startup, I meet with my cofounders weekly and I want nothing more than to have progress to report. For my religious conversion classes there is homework with deadlines. I am going to get married on the 9th of June, so everything needs to be planned by then. All of these deadlines create immediacy that is tangible and allows me to hunker down and get things done as efficiently as possible.
3) Cut Non-Social Entertainment
This includes television, movies, single-player video games, reading, walking in the woods, and any other activity you do solely for yourself. I’ve always found absolute rules easier to live by because they don’t bring up messy grey areas, and this tip is no different: you can easily determine if something you are doing is both 1) entertaining and 2) doesn’t involve others. Sorry, but if you want to work really hard, you can’t afford to watch Community or play Skyrim.
4) Choose Your Battles
As soon as I started working a bunch, I got inquisitive about where my time went. I realized early on that eating takes too much time. Even when I rushed, it took me at least 1.5 hours a day just to put food in my mouth hole. That was time I couldn’t be working at full tilt (I know because I experimented with eating and working simultaneously). To minimize time spent eating, I started eating a lot more convenience food which is regrettably less healthy than home-cooked meals. At the same time, I made a conscience choice not to fight my rising BMI. As a healthy eater all my life, I still try to eat well, but I realize I don’t have enough time and work is more important at this juncture. I snarf organic grassfed beef sticks, cram whole wheat crackers, bust out a bowl of frozen fruit, or eat yesterday’s leftover mac and cheese and get back to it as quickly as possible. Unless you can operate for long stretches on significantly reduced sleep , you will need to pick the battles you are willing to fight on a daily basis.
5) Make Sure There’s An End in Sight
There’s nothing more demoralizing than being under a lot of pressure and having no feasible way to alter your circumstances. You can work 80-100 hours a week for a terrible boss, however, I have yet to find a person capable of working for themselves under equally hellish conditions without an escape plan . Simply put, if you are working for yourself at an uncomfortable level, you need a light at the end of the tunnel. In my case, it’s the launch of my company’s iPhone/iPad app and my wedding date. You can push everything in your life to the brink to achieve your goals, and every once in a while that make sense, but to do so without a goal is madness.
I do not suggest that anyone work this much. Plenty of people do, especially when working on their companies, but I can tell you from personal experience that it’s absolutely not necessary to build a successful startup. Further, working too much damages your relationships and body. Right now my fiance and I agree that this work schedule is the right thing to do for us, but it’s no fun spending more time commuting each week than I spend with my future spouse. It’s no fun being 15 pounds overweight, unable to pursue hobbies, and stuck in front of a computer 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. In short, I don’t envy those people that consistently work this much. With that said, if you find yourself in a similar position and need to work like hell for a while, the tips above have proven very effective.
 I have read extensively about polyphasic sleep, I’m conducting my own sleep experiments with my Zeo headband, I have a Fitbit, and everything I’ve measured suggests that I need to sleep about 7 hours a night. If I sleep less than that, I have significantly degraded performance throughout the day. So, for those of you who only need to sleep 5 hours a night: I’m incredibly jealous, but it doesn’t appear to work for me.
 I suppose that a person could do this to themselves if they were neurotic, and I would readily believe there is a larger-than-average overlap between entrepreneurs and neurotics. Just the same, I haven’t personally met anyone masochistic enough to inflict this sort of pain without at least a pipe dream to work towards. The types of dreams that people motivate themselves with could be an entire blog post by itself.
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