Friday, October 14, 2016

Getting a Job in a Startup

Recently, I have noticed a few misconceptions and confusions about getting a job at a startup.


A startup is not like a dollhouse!  It is not simply a smaller version of a house (e.g. like a dollhouse).  A startup is not a small version of a company.  There are usually no departments (it's almost always 1 person per role).  There is no such thing as "that's not my job", everyone does whatever is needed at a startup, and that can change week-by-week.   So, stop thinking you can apply to be the "strategic financial analyst" for a startup.  That job doesn't exist, be the CFO or Direct of Marketing instead... since those titles mean "you do everything".

That said, there are two phases where you can join a startup, the founding phase, and the funded phase.

Founding Phase 

In this phase, you are too early to get paid.  You won't.  There is no money.
However, you will be able to call yourself a "cofounder", and you will (or should) get stock.  A "founders share" which is somewhere between 10-20% or so.

The key here is believing and showing that for now, you can you do the whole thing!  What thing?
One of four roles:

  1. Technical - you can build the prototype (yourself, no help)
  2. Sales - closing deals, has a network in the industry and can get the sale. (especially important in B2B companies)
  3. Marketing - All aspects of marketing, including "making the website look pretty" along with: target customer, research, brand, design, lead generation (especially in B2B), content, business cards, etc.  Also, Sales, in the case of B2C (because sales and marketing are basically the same thing in B2C direct startups)
  4. Finance/Ops (rare) - this is not often needed, but sometimes a founder needs help with finance/ops.  You'll have to do it all: accounting, finance, planning, manufacturing, legal, etc. (FYI: the original idea person is the founder, the others are cofounders)

By the way, yes, you can work a side-job during this phase, but usually at least 1 of you needs to be "full-time" on it. (or you won't get hungry enough to make it actually launch)

Funded Phase 

During this phase, you get "hired", and have to "interview".  You have to"apply" to a job opening.  Good news is, you will get paid (usually less than market rates).  Bad news is, you will not get "much" stock (just a few stock options, like less than 1/4percent, maybe more if you are an executive).

How do you get a job in the funded phase?

  1. Know your role: in this phase, it's still about what you can do for the company... it has to fit into a box of either: sales, marketing, tech, or ops.  And you have to be willing (and eager) to do anything "legal" to help the company succeed, including get coffee/etc.
  2. Find the job: by networking for sure, but even more so, just by looking on LinkedIn or even craigslist.  Find the open position somehow!  Then apply to it.  By resume, usually, and even better by referral (hence the networking).  Make sure the referral has your resume too though, even startups use those.
  3. Interview: yep. You'll have to do that.  We're looking for passion, excitement, and SHOW US how you "have done this job before".  That is critical.  Don't apply for a job at a startup that you've never done... we don't (usually) have time to train you.

Transitioning from Founding to Funded Phase

Not all the cofounders join the company in a "paid role" once you get funded.  Usually just 1 or 2 do, then more as the company grows.  Some cofounders never get a paying job out of it... and that's normal.  (hey you get to keep your stock though, at least whatever % you have vested).

Why Startup vs. Enterprise/Big Company

Simply because it is more fun.  Why?  Because you get to do more things!  Everyone is passionate. And most importantly, what you do matters (to the big picture of the company)!

So, get out there, apply already, and have fun doing it!

Monday, September 26, 2016

8 Startup Things I learned from Austin Game Conference 2016

This year I was delighted to be asked to put together a panel for the 2016 Austin Game Conference.  It was a revival of an old conference that has been sorely missed in Austin.    My Panel, "Why your game company can't get funded" was highly attended, and I think (hope) highly rated.  The slides are attached below.

However, one of the main reasons to participate in a conference isn't to "preach" but to "learn".  I learned a lot by going to this year's #AGC16, here are 8 things I learned about startups.

1. Games need funding.  Not just game companies (which is what 3 of the 4 people on my panel talk about), but games themselves, small indy studios.  I'm so glad I had Mike Wilson of Gambitious on the panel to talk about how he supports indy games.  When I asked, almost the entire room was seeking funding for their game.  That's like over 200 people!  Cool!  Gambitious can help!

2. Companies that help games are fundable.  There were several companies at AGC who were "supporting games", and their business models are not hit-driven, since they make money when the game sells.  I had previously listed one such company here, but took it down due to their request to NOT say their pricing.  I'm disappointed at that, but have removed it to respect their wishes.  That said, I cannot recommend a company that is going to be obtuse about pricing... so I will not be recommending that company.

3. Companies around games, get acquired.  While at the show I stopped by the twitch booth, who was there?  Curse.  Apparently, Twitch bought Curse that week, really cool!

4. Big traction, even without great monetization, can lead to exits!  See the above point about Curse being bought by Twitch.  Twitch understands monetization, and Curse needed that help.  Smart buy Twitch, smart!

5. Huge ideas, get funding in a big way.  This was the first I was exposed to the company called MAGIC LEAP.  They are hiring in Austin, and I'm intrigued!  Some kind of stealth AR company, funded by Google, a $1B valuation.  Yep!  Big!

6. Great ideas need to be launched to become great.  I ran into an old friend, and they had to take a break from their startup.  As a result, their startup kinda stalled.  Fortunately, they are back at it, but it reminded me: unless and until you launch, you aren't really doing it.  So DO IT!  Launch!

7. Not every company should do a conference.  There were a large number of booths with no point.  Not hiring, not fundraising, and frankly, looking a little bored.  If you are going to do a conference, have a reason!

8. A conference is a startup too! This one was a reboot of an old conference, but to me it really did feel like home.  All the old-school folks, and a lot of the new folks too, all making new connections and renewing old ties.  The venue was great, the A/V worked, and everything (especially the opening night party) was great.  The only part that was missed (for me) was water for the speakers... Chris promises me they'll fix that next year!  All-in-all, a great start to a great conference, I hope it lasts for years to come!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Speaking Opportunities Help Your Personal Brand

What do you want to be known for?  The guy or gal that never shows up? The friendliest person who never sparks controversy?  Or, maybe the most energized and opinionated person in the room?

Me, I have opinions.  The only way anyone will care about them though is if I show up.  And the best way to show up is for a speaking opportunity.  That's why I try to accept as many as I possibly can.

Do you have a unique brand to yourself? Do some volunteering, and let people know, You'd love to speak.  It will help your brand grow!

Recently l, I spoke at Sartup Grind Austin.  I got extreme.  I know, maybe too far?  It's okay, I will hopefully be remembered as a result!  Don't just have an opinion, have a FUCKING EXTREME opinion.  If nothing else, it will spark discussion.

A few "extreme points" I made:
1.) Austin is great because we genuinely want to see each other succeed.  We can celebrate successes of our peers and it motivates us more!

2.) California sucks because it is the opposite of Austin.  People there engage in success theatre, and then make Each other feel bad to get motivated.

3.) Just do something!  Stop making plans and instead, launch something already!  Lean Startup trains this, and my message, now part of my new book is that you can learn to launch: my book teaches you how to build a webpage and collect money in about an hour.  No More Excuses!

So, get out there, show up, volunteer, have a message, and speak when invited. I do!

See me next at Austin Game Conference on Sept. 21st!  Game Funding Panel!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Our Need for Validation & Startup Passion

When I started my first company in 2004, I was unsure.  Unsure of myself, my idea, and my ability to execute.  That self-doubt can be crippling; it makes you hesitate to go all in, to really believe.  And if you don't believe, nobody else will.  You. Have to have the passion to show it.

That is one reason that finding an investor seemed so important to me on my first company.  I thought I needed their validation, even more than their money.  

Validation from a VC is the worst place to get that though!  I didn't learn that until my second company.  It is far far better to get validation of your idea from preorders or even better, from paying customers.

I guess that is why I love The Lean Startup by Eric Reis so much.  It gives you permission to make an MVP and get going fast, get validation of all your assumptions from real customers!

However, The Lean Startup fails a bit too. It doesn't tell you what it will be like, that you will hit bumps, and that you must persist (more than just pivot) but persist-pivot!   It also fails to tell you how to actually build that MVP and get it going!  

That's part of Europe I wrote my book: Lean Startings.  Through storytelling, you learn what it means to persist, to fail, and to succeed.  You also learn how to build that website, how to take preorders or orders, and ultimately how to fulfill and satisfy customers!  

 Please get my book; I wrote it for you!