Charlie Crystle recently wrote an interesting post about honest self-representation among entrepreneurs. Assessing roles and contributions in early-stage startups can be tough. Ideas tend to morph quickly, there can be a lot of input from different communities, and The Cult of the Inventor tends to dictate history.
Because startups go through several phases before achieving exit or maturity, key contributors who join along the way often have little appreciation for what came before them and little appetite for what has to be done after they leave. And there’s no shortage of ego in the mix.
The term founder can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Founders usually:
- Create and shape an idea
- Create a company
- Fund or get funding for the company
- Bring in resources to help execute on the plan
There are myriad books and articles on founders and founding but here’s some dumb advice to anyone who has worked at an early-stage startup and hopes to leverage that experience into another opportunity:
- If you joined a startup as an employee with a paycheck and others worked long and hard, often without compensation, to create what you’ve joined, give credit where credit is due. You may think that you’re creating all the value going forward, but don’t underestimate the value of what you’ve been given to work with.
- Don’t inflate your role; don’t diminish the role of anyone else. It may seem tempting to claim sole ownership of something you worked on; it may be equally tempting to marginalize the achievements or involvement of someone else. This is usually transparent, and while it won’t help you, if discovered, it will hurt you.
- If you were an early employee, but didn’t found, co-found, help conceive of, incubate, encourage, or inspire the creation of the company, don’t say you did. There is plenty of glory and compensation for being an early employee, architect, product maven or leader. And, while being a founder per se probably won’t open any doors, saying you were one when you were not will definitely shut doors.
- Be careful about characterizing your involvement in fundraising, and be
prepared to support any claims you’ve made with references. The people who raised the money are the people the VCs/investors believe were instrumental in their investment.
A final note, which should go without saying, but sadly, can’t: When it comes to characterizing your background and that of others, don’t be a jerk. Even if you think you came into a broken situation and turned things around, or if think you created something that someone else subsequently came in and destroyed, simply focus on your achievements in the context of the team and own your mistakes. Avoid assessing blame or implying fault- it will only raise questions and engender ill will and it won’t help you.
HB recently wrote a pretty compelling summary of the relative size of Google, both in terms of market cap and share of the ad market. Eye opening, to say the least: Welcome To The Googleconomy.
Those who have been viewing the gPhone-Android-OHA developments of late as a Symbian rehash or a non-event should look at Google’s position in the overall advertising market. It’s amazing to me that when a company that makes its money in advertising (and not just any company) leads the launch of a new mobile platform, so much of the discussion remains around software platform and applications.
Charlie touches upon the situation leading to the renaming of my blog here. The Prius has become a badge of good intent for some who would otherwise not suffer inconvenience for the sake of the environment. It’s also part of a more serious series of life changes for many of us.
Lest we forget, for some it’s a car that gets essentially the same mileage as an ’86 Honda CRX. For others it’s a way to buy into the carpool lane. I’ll take the intent.
Fred Wilson has an interesting thread going here in response the Times story. I love the Bay Area and, in particular, the intellectual and economic ferment that so characterize it. It’s a great place to live, work and play. But the variables associated with starting, funding, and exiting a startup are so complicated, and the emergence of distributed workforces and "right shoring" as a commonplace tactic for early-stage development have me scratching my head after reading this article.
Apple finally announced the much anticipated iPhone at the MacWorld 2007 Keynote. The design is stunning and the feature set seems compelling enough; does it support Cingular’s burgeoning HSDPA network like the new Treo 750? I can’t tell.
I’ve long been conflicted with regard to handsets and carriers. I’m a bit of a design and user experience junkie, and I travel a lot, which means that in theory the selection and flexibility of GSM/3G handsets would suit me. My Nokia E61 is a fabulous phone. It has everything (except a camera). What doesn’t it have? Sadly, it lacks the thing I need most on a daily basis: a carrier with great voice coverage and widely-deployed 3G in areas where I most frequently find myself (I live in California and most of my travel is in the US). I now use Verizon on a daily basis and reserve my E61 for European travel. Will the iPhone change this? If the carrier’s network supports the design promise of the handset, it will be worth a serious look. We’ll see how that comes together.
For the first time in years, I am not going to CES.
I canceled my reservations at the last minute last week, sparing me
from a tour of duty that would take me from LA to Vegas, onward to NYC
and finally to Philadelphia before returning home.
I’m nostalgic about my CES experiences in years past, and for good
reason- I’ve filtered out all recall of the cab lines, the smoke, the
overflow from the adjacent adult-entertainment expo, and the sheer hell
of actually trying to get anywhere on time. Why hasn’t Purell done more with CES- their tag line is “Imagine a Touchable World.” Touchable world indeed.
I will miss seeing seeing my friends and colleagues, and I’ll have
to travel a bit more this quarter to connect with the folks I would
have seen at CES, but as I sit in my study and balance my daughter on
my knee I can honestly say I’m glad to take a year off.
A special shout out to the Retrevo team, who, in the face of the very inclement circumstances noted above, are braving CES to report from The Retrevo Gang with Scoble.
To my friends and colleagues I offer this heartfelt wish: May you
get out alive and more accomplished than when you arrived. Happy New
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