People to avoid while building a company

This is something I would love to tell to a younger Stefano. I recently (finally) met a great mentor who reminded me how important it is to surround yourself with the right people while building your company.

While you build your company you should ignore 3 types of advisors/mentors:

  • Corporate guys: they are top manager in a BigCo, never been entrepreneurs and never will be. Almost always useless for entrepreneurs as mentors/advisors unless they want to buy your product or invest in your seed round but even then it should be it, don’t give them control/board seats etc. They don’t understand what you deal with but they will pretend to and give you more issues than benefits.
  • The wannabe“: I met many in my journey. This is a tough one. They might present themselves as entrepreneurs but once you dive deep they will likely be involved in 34 different things at the same time, they are advisors, mentors, CEOs and talk like they have seen it all. They are always looking at a conference to attend and ideally speak at. They are building their brand and trying everything to see what works but they are usually clueless. The first rule for an entrepreneur is to focus on one and one only thing. They will waste your time and sometimes do also damages, mostly due to their inexperience, like saying things they shouldn’t about you to other people or give you (really) bad advices on how to manage your company.
  • People that are doing it for the money: the best advisors and entrepreneurs help other people because they enjoy it and love it. It’s a great way for them to give back and something that they naturally feel the need to do. Yes, they absolutely need to be compensated (don’t commit a mistake here, always pay them, mix of cash/stocks with clear expectations) but they are genuinely involved because they like you, believe in you and have really something to say. They probably don’t need your money but paying them (stocks, with vesting, is the best thing), even something small, makes a difference in your relationship. The best people in this category do something amazing for entrepreneurs: they will be there for you when you need them but they are humble enough to step back when they don’t know/understand something and they will be transparent about it.

Why a mentor is so important is something for another post 🙂

The extra mile

Credits: Mylene.Savard @Flickr

I always struggle with people that think that great and very unnatural things can be achieved by following old and tested rules, like if everybody could do that simply repeating a playbook. In Europe, we tend to think this way more than in other areas of the world, and ultimately I think the US are the ones that master this better than anybody else. While I write this I am thinking about business and entrepreneurship, but this is true in a lot of other human contexts.

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Lions, founders and large companies

This piece from Paul Graham is just a great read and a beautiful way to start thinking about your career and why you don’t necessarily need to work for a large company. Also, a great read for founders.

I particularly love the reference to building confidence for founders, it all starts there when you decide to build something 🙂

All the difference in the world

  1. I am reading “Dear Founder“, a great collection of letters for founders by Maynard Webb, a famous investor and board member who spent years working with the best companies and founders in Silicon Valley. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of years ago at Vertex Ventures.
  2. A friend of mine just posted this on Facebook. There is no better way to express it. I copied it here.
  3. A few weeks ago a young entrepreneur asked me “Who should I hire in my company in the early days?

All of them are connected to one crucial thing I learned the hard way. Continue reading

Chaos Monkey

I am close to the end of Chaos Monkey. If you want to understand more about Silicon Valley and how venture-backed startups work, this is the perfect introduction. Do not expect something unbiased: like every entrepreneur, Antonio went through several critical moments and tries to describe rules and problems that are common in the Bay Area for early stage startups that go through fund raising and acquisitions.

I particularly appreciated the insights on the early days of Facebook.