Serious Founders Manage Their Own Psyche

startup founders

“By far the most difficult skill for me to learn as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology. Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared to keeping my mind in check. It’s like the fight club of management: The first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown is don’t talk about the psychological meltdown.

–Ben Horowitz, The Hard Things About Hard Things

Last week in our podcast announcing the acquisition of Nibletz Media, Nibletz CEO Nick Tippmann said the most important thing he’d learned in building the company was that as a founder, you have to manage your own psyche.

When you’re the founder, there’s no one else to take responsibility. You’re the first and the last stop for everything in your company, which includes your own salary if not that of a team. You’re responsible for product-market fit, raising investment or funding it yourself, company culture, company reputation…

Talk about pressure. No wonder founders are all a little crazy.

But, at the risk of breaking the first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown, let’s talk about it for a minute.

It’s totally normal.

Well, as normal as anything else we entrepreneurs do. If you’re a startup founder, you will have at least one psychological breakdown, and anyone who tells you they haven’t is a liar. Or a bad entrepreneur.

Ben Horowitz, successful entrepreneur and VC, wrote an entire book about how hard it is to start a company. Trust me when I say you’re not alone.

Now that you know you’re not the only one, what do you do when the psyche threatens to manage you instead?

Acknowledge Your Thoughts

First, don’t run from your negative thoughts. Acknowledge them. If you pretend you aren’t having them, you’re just fooling yourself and not really addressing the issue.

Take a deep breath and take note of the thought that’s trying to control  you.

Now, is there something you can do about it?

Maybe you’re thinking your idea is too crazy and there’s no way it could work. Remind yourself of why you started in the first place. Talk to the people you’ve recruited, listen to the customers you already have.

Is there a particular issue that’s come up that you worry you’ll never solve? Block out some time, either by yourself or with the appropriate team members, and figure out some action steps you can take. Maybe you won’t see the complete solution, but getting started will make you feel better than worrying.

Do Something Else–Like Sleep

We entrepreneurs are infamous for our insomnia.

But, really, everything looks worse when you’re exhausted.

The best thing you can do for yourself is have one thing you do to relax. Read fiction. Watch science fiction. Exercise. Hang out with loved ones. Some kind of hobby or distraction will not only get you out of your own head, it might very well help you relax enough to solve whatever problem you’re facing.

Making a point to relax will also help you sleep. Worst comes to worse, I’m not above some melatonin or Nyquil to get the brain to stop moving.

Have a Great Cofounder

There’s a certain pressure as a founder to always be upbeat and positive. Your employees need it, your investors want it, and you better never let the press see you sweat.

Thankfully, if you have healthy cofounder relationships, you also have built in support.

Building a business is often compared to marriage. You and your cofounders have sacrificed everything to get your baby out into the world. No one knows what it’s like in the trenches than the people in there with you.

While building Nibletz, this is one area Nick and I did really well with. Almost always when one of us was doubting or stressing, the other was able to give encouragement. Managing your own psyche may be primary, but it’s great to have partners help out with that every now and then.

Whether you have great cofounders or not, building a community of peers and mentors will also help manage the daily strains and stresses of entrepreneurship. Go to founder meetups and conferences, get coffee with fellow entrepreneurs, and join communities like our Serious Founders group to get that extra support.

Managing your own thoughts and psychology is–by far–the most difficult part of entrepreneurship. There may be tips and tricks, but ultimately it will always fall to you.

And if you can learn that skill, you’ll find that you win more often than you lose.


The 3 Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned from Starting Up



I’ve been an entrepreneur for more than half my life. At 16, I founded Buzz Marketing Group, the youth marketing and influencer agency I still run today. It’s been a long road to get to where I am today, but I’ve loved every minute of this journey. Back in 1996, it was rare to be a teen entrepreneur. Now, I feel old!

incontent3But wisdom certainly comes with age and experience, and I’m happy to share with you some tips that have helped me throughout my career:

1. Always remember that everyone is important. There are no little people.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people ignore my assistant or employees, thinking they can directly connect with me. I surround myself with people much smarter and better than me in all areas, and those people deserve respect.

Today’s assistant is tomorrow’s Vice President. How you treat people matters. In today’s world, your main contact could change positions overnight. It’s important to treat everyone with equal importance. And make sure this is authentic. I genuinely care about the people I work with, their families, their lives. It’s important to be totally vested.

2. You can always make more money, but you can never make more time. Use your time wisely.

I’m more likely to be upset by a 30-minute delay in a meeting than a 10 percent reduction to an invoice! I always tell my team we can make more money, but we can never make more time. Repeat this to yourself all day long. Focus on ways to be more efficient, delegate projects to someone who can do it quicker and better, and do not waste time. And please, please, please don’t waste time in meetings that don’t yield results.

I’m a big fan of Action Method and their process for making ideas happen. Always make sure meetings include action steps so it’s easier to pass along info to the right person to yield the right results. Make sure that everyone understands next steps and owns their next step. This saves time that can ultimately be put to use doing something else. Miscommunication and lack of clarity are big time suckers, and getting a handle on these issues will save you time and increase your bottom line.

3. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

This doesn’t mean that you need to script every detail of your life, but you need to have a roadmap. Even though I use the word plan, I really mean you need to have a vision. Where do you see yourself? Do you meditate on this vision? Can you see what it takes to get to that vision? Too often we get caught up in the minute details of things, and we lose focus on the big picture.

You have to give yourself time to do a daily check-in. For me, this happens first thing in the morning. I spend 15 to 30 minutes in a quiet mental space. This helps me go into my day fully focused. I also spend at least 15 minutes “free writing,” hoping to open up my creative space. I always get new ideas or think of solutions to existing problems. As entrepreneurs, if we can’t get ourselves into a place where we can innovate or problem solve, this is a problem. So always make sure you have a notebook (or smartphone) with you to take quick notes when an idea or solution comes to you. And focus on your vision.

Tina Wells, founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group earned her B.A. in Communication Arts graduating with honors from Hood College in 2002. She is the author of the tween series Mackenzie Blue, published by HarperCollins Childrens Books.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

How to Know If You’re An Awesome Founder


John Meyer

From Rob Go

Since I posted my Seed VC Decision Tree, one of the most frequent requests I’ve gotten is to define what makes an “awesome founder”.  I’ve hesitated to define this NibzNotes31because I think evaluating founders is very subjective and I hate to make anyone think I have a particular checklist or profile of founder that I’m looking for.  Since starting NextView, I’ve worked with founders of a wide variety of backgrounds, experience, and attributes.  Many of these founders share some common characteristics, but if you put them all in the room, I think you’d be surprised at their differences as well.

But, I try to respond to my readers as best as I can, so here’s my best attempt. I think there are many dozens of attributes that awesome founders have, but here are the four that I find to be nearly universal:


Founder Spotlight: Blake Miller Of Think Big Partners

Blake Miller, Partner of Think Big Partners, is passionate about helping entrepreneurs build, launch, and grow their companies. Follow him @imbmills.Think Big Partners

Who is your hero?

Elon Musk.

What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have to phenomenal mentors (in addition to my partners at Think Big), who have taught me so much about business in general. But the best advice I’ve ever received from them is: Be a good partner, work like nobody else will, and being nice goes a long way.

There’s a reason why we are called Think Big Partners. We want to work with people who have a partnership mentality. Being a good partner can mean a lot of things, but one of my biggest takeaways is that you don’t have to win all the time. Give a little before you get.

My favorite quote and something I live by is, “Spend a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?

I’ve learned that you need to write everything down. EVERYTHING. Proposals, statement of work, and small or large agreements. Even write down something as simple as when you’re in a meeting. Take a journal and take notes. Write down who was in the meeting, the date, and the key takeaways. It never ceases to amaze me how fluid memory is about what was agreed upon and what was expected. When someone “remembers something different,” you can respond with, “Nope, actually it was this, on this date, and this is exactly who was in the meeting.”

What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?

I’m not a morning person at all. I’ve always been a night owl. Until recently, during the first hour or so of my day, if I’m not scheduled for a morning coffee I catch up on reading. I like to know what’s going on.

However, for the past month, I’ve been trying to change my habits and get something important done during the first part of my day. It’s been working well and helping to take pressure off of my day.

What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?

Sell something!

Start to create a solution to a problem people are willing to pay for. This helps so many things: product-market fit, cash flow, and traction. These things will also help you raise money from investors.

Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?

Learn at the very least the fundamentals of programming, even if it’s just HTML/CSS. Knowing how to use Word, Excel, etc. is not a skill anymore.

What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?

Success means having a positive impact on a person, commerce, and a skyline. We are already seeing success in impacting people and commerce through the entrepreneurs we get to work with everyday.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Do You Look At Employees’ Social Media Accounts

Social media snoop, Startups, Founders, YEC, Guest Post

Question: As CEO, be honest — do you look at potential employees’ social media accounts? If yes, what is it you expect to see from someone you WOULD hire (vs. wouldn’t)?

Positive and Professional

“Whenever we are vetting new team members, we tend to do a little Internet sleuthing to find out more about the person. Social media accounts are a huge part of that. We will look at Twitter and Facebook accounts to get a feel for their communication style and attitude. A positive attitude and professional communication give us confidence that their interaction with clients will be the same.”

Part of the Application

“I ask for links to all social media accounts right on the job application, and always check them out before contacting the person for an interview. The reality these days is that all of your employees represent your company, and they need to be aware that what they do and say is public. If I see a Twitter account or public Facebook page filled with angry, negative rants, that person is out!”

Don’t Actively Look

“I don’t actively browse people’s accounts because I don’t want to see what they do in their private life; that’s not what I am hiring them for. However, if candidates send me their profiles for me to learn more about them, I click. If nothing is hidden, it’s a downside because they come across as taking privacy lightly. I prefer to get a link to a well-maintained résumé site or a LinkedIn profile.”

Christian Springub | CEO and co-founder, Jimdo

Both Potential Employees and Current Employees

“I regularly monitor social media accounts of my employees. Negative things that I watch out for are excessive profanity, inappropriate photos, and explicit and/or suggestive conversations. It gives you a window into who somebody really is as a person. Every single one of my employees represents my brand. Therefore, I want people who present themselves in a way consistent with our image.”

Let Yourself Shine Online

“Definitely. I personally maintain a private Twitter list of potential hires and monitor them over time, for example. But I’m primarily looking for familiarity with social media, a sense of humor, and a true passion for what our company is doing. Consistent negative updates are usually a deal-breaker.”

Derek Flanzraich | CEO and Founder, Greatist

A Quick Glance

“I will look at the social media account of anyone I’m considering adding to my team — because of my field, I need to hire people who are already web savvy. But I also expect to need to give them some training and guidelines on what I expect to see on their accounts in the future. These are new tools and people aren’t always aware of what’s appropriate initially.”

It’s Part of Your Brand

“Absolutely, I do. The first thing I look at is a potential hire’s LinkedIn account and who I know that’s connected to him or her. We work with our clients to make sure their LinkedIn profile displays their professional brand in a positive way, and I expect the same from a potential employee.”

Very Valuable Tool

“I want to know that they fit the job description. For some positions social media is not relavant, but for some, I want to know if they are who they say they are and if they would fit my company culture. Social media is a great way to connect with anyone and also find out information about anyone. It is a tool, so use it as such.”

In the Age of Transparency

“Sure, I check them out; I like to see leaders and influencers. I stay away from shy people. We are in the age of transparency, and I want the members of my team to feel comfortable sharing their details online.”

Absolutely Not!

“I see little to gain by snooping on prospective employees personal social media accounts. I would fully expect to find them engaging in completely unprofessional activities outside of work as they should be. I’m more concerned about what kind of game face they can put on when the suit up in the office and judge them on their professional performance alone.”

Christopher Kelly | Co-Founder, Principal, Convene

Social Media Doesn’t Lie!

“People tend to always interview really well, and sometimes that means they choose to withhold certain information that prospective employers wouldn’t want to hear. Every employer should look at a potential employee’s social media to see how they truly behave as a person. as we’ve found this always does play into their work ethic and character in the workplace.”

Time and Frequency

“Yes. During the interview process, we consider social media use in the context of time and frequency. If an applicant is consistently active during working hours, that is the only real red flag for our business — unless they are managing company social media accounts. For a social media specialist, online presence is a job requirement; otherwise, it’s a distraction.”

Smile on Social Media

“In our business, we work with the public. Smiling and being friendly is important. I expect to see potential employee smiling in photos and socializing. If I see potential employees not smiling in any photos or posting photos of inappropriate behavior, I would not want that person serving my customers.”

Nancy T. Nguyen | Founder/Sweet Sylist, Sweet T Salon

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.









Image: social media

After Battle With Depression Reddit CoFounder Aaron Swartz Commits Suicide


The 26 year old founder of Reddit died yesterday in New York. Aaron Swartz was reportedly dealing with depression which was compounded by a July 2011 indictment for hacking JSTOR.

Swartz, often considered by many as an Internet pioneer, had allegedly set up a laptop in a closet at MIT with the intent to take the pay wall protected JSTOR content and distribute it for free. It’s believed that Swartz’ hack was why JSTOR moved to a more liberal freemium model.

Swartz appeared in court September 24, 2012 where he plead not guilty.

Swartz began his tech career at 14 when he co-authored the RSS 1.0 specification widely used today. He also founded Infogami which eventually merged into Reddit.

“The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true,” confirmed Swartz’ attorney, Elliot R. Peters of Kecker and Van Nest, in an email to MIT’s The Tech

Australian Startup: Attendly, CEO Offers Infographic: What Founders Should Be Able To Do

Attendly is an event registration and ticketing platform focused on the needs of event managers and web developers. It’s fully white labeled so the event organizer can adopt Attendly’s technology as their own and let Attendly run the background for any well attended event.

The Melbourne Australia based startups CEO and founder, Scott Handsaker is a world traveler, black belt in Taekwondo, sky diver, and he doesn’t eat meat or fish. More importantly he is an entrepreneur and a founder himself. As such he has developed this inforgraphic to show the things that Founders of any startup should be able to do.

The highlights include, understanding a term sheet, cold calling c-level executives, and writing a novel. Check out the info graphic below and see how you measure up to this interesting infographic.

A Startup Founder Should be Able To…

Check out Attendly here

Help a brother out here

Founders Card, Entrepreneur’s Card Now At 5,000 Members

Two year old Founder’s Card is now 5,000 members strong. The exclusive discount card, geared towards founders and entrepreneurs was started by Eric Kuhn two years ago. Members of the card pay a $495 registration fee and a $60 start up fee to become part of an exclusive club.

While there’s no secret club house in the woods or a secret decoder ring, FoundersCard members enjoy substantial discounts at businesses they typically need like Apple, Virgin Atlantic and several 4 and 5 start hotels.

FoundersCard also gives members access to exclusive members only networking events and cardholders are a who’s who of the rich and powerful in the tech, startup and VC crowd. Having the card is definitely “in”.

Although the baseline cost to join is $495, referrals into the FoundersCard’s exclusive club are given access for just $295. While that may seem like a great deal, Inc Magazine reports that serial entrepreneur Adam Rodnitzky recently responded to a Quora thread about FoundersCard and when asked if it was worth it he replied: “Are you bootstrapping or pre-exit? Then FoundersCard is probably not worth it … yet.”

source: Inc