When to Quit Your Startup

serious startups

Everyone on the Serious Startups panel has had to make the decision to quit before. And we’re all involved in ventures now that we sometimes wonder if we should walk away from.

Kane, David, and I have slightly different thoughts on how you know when to quit your startup. Check out the video and let us know what you think @seriousstartups.

Luke Harvard: How His Daughter Showed Him the Path to True Fulfillment


What does it take to be an Entrepreneur? Join us as Luke shares his Entrepreneurial mindset and an inside glance at his journey to becoming a successful Entrepreneur.

Luke is the Founder of Fearless Leadership & Vision Inspired People, a global community of movers and shakers. He advises and mentors business leaders, millionaire entrepreneurs and high profile individuals. His message regularly reaches 700,000 people worldwide on a weekly basis via Vision Inspired People.

Success Quote

  • ‘If you’ve got big dreams, you’ll never be satisfied living a small life.’ – Luke Havard click to tweet!

Business Failure

  • Luke shares a failure of epic proportions. When his 3-year old daughter showed him firsthand what he was missing out on, it not only broke his heart, but straightened him out.

Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment

  • Transparency is the true key to a life of fulfillment. Be YOU Fire Nation… and be proud of it!

Current Business

  • Luke is blown away with the power of podcasting, and his new Influence Academy is rockin’ and rollin’!

Best Business Book

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Interview Links

rsz_2star_fullThe Podcast Hangout! Join John Lee Dumas on his free weekly Podcast Workshop. Click here to join!

5 Tips for Riding the Startup Roller Coaster (Without Tossing Your Cookies)


The startup journey can be a rough ride. One minute, it seems like you’re steadily ticking up a steep hill toward blue skies, then whoosh! Down you go. In the early stages of a business, there’s no stability. Revenue is uncertain. You have no idea whether the customers in your market want what you have — or how to get it to them. It can feel like the best (or worst) roller coaster you’ve ever ridden. Funding struggles can make the startup journey even rougher. Venture-backed startups face intense pressure to consistently grow their revenue, and according to the National Venture Capital Association, an estimated 25 to 30 percent of VC-backed businesses fail. I think the reality is a much higher number than reported. Other startups are funded from the team’s collective back pocket, so when the startup suffers, so does everyone on board. But the startup roller coaster doesn’t have to be a hellish experience. With the right attitude, you can make those highs higher and those lows much more bearable. Here are a few tips for holding down your lunch in the face of pressure and uncertainty:

Think about values, not direction.

Meeting deadlines and milestones are common aggravators in the startup world, and it’s tough to remain optimistic when the obstacles seem insurmountable. But when everybody is so focused on relentless forward motion — instead of doing their best and appreciating the present — it can be destructive to your startup’s progress. By focusing on your core values (e.g., making users happy) instead of where you want to be three months from now, every day of work will become more enjoyable, and you’ll gain unstoppable momentum.

Enjoy the high points.

Another reason startups suffer is blazing through the achievements that make the whole journey worth it. When you experience a “win,” take the time to relish it. This isn’t easy and has been, admittedly, something that I have too often glossed over. Focusing on your high points can help you stay on track when you hit a snag and remind yourself why you started your company in the first place. And if you have lots to look forward to, like social events with your team or celebratory beer breaks for good progress, you’ll be more likely to power through the low points.

Shift your perspective on low points.

If you see the dips in your success as failures, they’ll act like failures, which means slowing you down and stalling your motivation. But if you treat them as valuable parts of your journey — a failed experiment or even as a startup rite of passage— they’ll make you stronger, teach you valuable lessons, and allow you to keep pushing forward with confidence.

Keep lines of communication open.

You often don’t know you have a communication problem until something goes wrong. Then, when a problem arises, everyone starts talking. Emails fly back and forth. People freak out. Keeping lines of communication open when it’s business as usual is great practice for putting out fires. Don’t just communicate when things hit the fan. By then, it’s too late. Collaboration is critical in a startup, but this can only happen when people are communicating honestly with one another.

Practice good karma.

If you focus on keeping your users or customers happy, delivering what they’re looking for, and making their lives easier, they’ll be much more likely to become loyal to your product or service. This kind of good karma can really speed up your journey to success and put money in the bank. By staying focused on your values and your customers, celebrating the highs, appreciating the lows, and constantly practicing good communication, you can ride the startup roller coaster without losing your mind (or your lunch). When you finally crest that hill and get a good view from the top, you’ll be able to remember your humble roots with a smile. If you don’t appreciate the journey, even the best outcome will feel lackluster.


Zvi Band is the founder and CEO of Contactually, a relationship-marketing platform that maximizes value and drives greater ROI from personal and professional networks. Zvi frequently participates in thought leadership panels at Tech Cocktail, WordPress DC, DC PHP, and DCRUG events. He loves solving new problems and building new products and services.

Do You Have the Stomach for This?


Recently I went through a little entrepreneurial funk.

I know I probably shouldn’t admit that in public, but if we’re honest, we know everyone has them. If you’re anything like me, this thought process probably sounds familiar:

  • Crap. I don’t know if I’ll pay the bills this month.

  • I’ve worked 18 hour days every day for a year, but I can’t pay my freaking bills.

  • What’s the best thing I can do right now to make sure the bills get paid?

  • Damn! I don’t want to spend all my time only thinking about the short term. I have dreams…and goals…and and and…!

  • Screw it. What’s the point?

At this point, you’re wondering if your mother was right and you should get a “real job.” Oh, the peace of a regular paycheck, semi-normal work hours, and that long lost thing called a weekend.

I’m not going to tell you to suck it up and keep going. Maybe you’re not cut out for this. Maybe you should do yourself and the rest of the world a favor and find that nice stable job after all. Hey, there’s no shame there, even if we like to glamourize entrepreneurship to the point of it becoming unrecognizable.

I’m not going to tell you to keep chasing your dreams, because this is gut check time. This is when it’s time to really ask yourself, “Do I have the stomach for this?”

What’s your risk tolerance?

This is where you factor in all those people who matter to you. Do you have a spouse and kids? Are their needs being met in some way, preferably that doesn’t involve massive debt?

I’m not saying parents can’t be entrepreneurs, even struggling ones. I’m a single mom, so this is the big question that really hits home for me. My conclusion is that the future I’m building for my kids outweighs the struggles of the present.

But, that may not be your conclusion, which leads to the next question…

What’s your big picture–and is it worth it?

Do you have a long term goal? Or are you just wanting to “be an entrepreneur”? I promise you, being an entrepreneur for its own sake is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Take some time away from the daily grind and really define your goals–concrete things you actually want to accomplish. At the end of the day, will those dreams provide a payoff that exceeds your current struggles?

If not, maybe you should consider a new path, at least until you can define a long term goal worth chasing.

What do your advisers say?

I’m very lucky to have smart business partners who care not just about our business but about me and my family. When both of them consistently said I should not give up yet, I knew they were seeing the bigger picture I was missing.

Talk to people you trust, who know you and your unique situation. Listen to their advice, and when things seem darkest remember that they are probably seeing the pieces you’re missing.

How sleep deprived are you?

You might think this is out of place, but trust me. You don’t want to make major decisions on a sleep deprived brain.

Do whatever is necessary to get a few nights of consistent sleep. Melatonin works wonders for me, and everything starts to make more sense when you catch up on sleep.

What does your gut say?

And, then sometimes, you can’t quantify your thought process. Sometimes the answer is to simply follow your instinct. During my most recent funk, my instinct was to keep going, even when fear was telling me to stop.

If your instinct is to take a break or even stop altogether, go with it. You’ll be happier, healthier, and saner than the rest of us.

Going through hard times is never fun. But, it’s almost always a gift in disguise. Walking through the dark days will reaffirm your passion and vision, making you more confident the next time you struggle.

Or, it will be a big red flag that says it’s time for a new path.

WhatsApp Acquisition: A New Definition of Success?


whatsapp acquisition


Days later, we’re all still talking about it.

rsz_incontentad2Of course we are! It was the largest freaking startup acquisition in history. Twitter’s been full of “you could be X for the cost of WhatsApp” tweets. We got in that game with some surprising facts about the WhatsApp acquisition.

Judging from all the tweets, Facebook updates, and blog posts, no one’s quite sure how they feel about it yet. There’s a little awe, a lot disbelief, and more than a lot of jealousy.

For many people, news of the deal came out of nowhere. The founders aren’t exactly tech startups’ poster boys. More than a few people on Twitter didn’t even know what the app did, and suddenly Facebook is paying $19 BILLION for it?!

Remember the good ol’ days when we were shocked by the $1 billion Instagram acquisition? Doesn’t that seem quaint now.

If $19 billion is the new high water mark, where does that leave the other unicorns? Is this the creation of a new class of success–the super unicorn? The pegasus?

The Comparison Trap

With $19 billion as the new high number, what should the rest of us should be shooting for? Will startups be happy with the mere $1 billion they’ve been dreaming about for the last few years?

In the Wall Street Journal today, Box CEO Aaron Levie said that he expects the deal to spur an increase in acquisitions, with every tech giant willing to pay higher and higher prices for startups challenging them.

“It makes you depressed if you’re not selling at $20 billion,” the WSJ quotes him as saying. “I have a lot more work to do.”

Aaron Levie. Whose enterprise-focused cloud storage company will IPO this year in what’s expected to be a multi-billion dollar fashion. Who was named Inc’s Entrepreneur of the Year.

Aaron Levie is now looking at his measly $2 billion company and feeling like things aren’t quite right.

 Aaron Levie

How We Measure Success

The thing about $19 billion deals is that they are very, very rare. (This the first actually.) Maybe M&A deals are only going to continue to grow, and maybe the average acquisition will increase. But in the long run, it’s probably safe to say that 99.99999% of companies will never sell for $19 billion.

WhatsApp built the right product, in the right way, grew in the right areas, at just the right time to make them the perfect acquisition for Facebook. The chances of tons of other companies doing that are slim.

And that’s okay.

Startups are about money. We’re all kidding ourselves if we think the majority of founders are starting companies but don’t care about the money they’ll make doing it.

But how much is enough? And are there other measurements of startup success to consider along with money?

For example, if your software startup sells for enough money to make you, your cofounders, and your first employees multimillionaires, is that enough?

If you build a legacy business that employs hundreds of people and provides outstanding salaries for all of them, will that bring happiness?

Or is it enough to remain a lifestyle business that supports you and maybe one other person for as long as you want it to?

These are questions we all have to ask ourselves. No one can answer them for every founder in the world. The WhatsApp deal should make us all stop and think, “Will I be happy, even if that’s never me?”

Because chances are good it won’t be.

5 Tips for Startup Life Survival

Startup life with @jwegener

The startup lifestyle can be grueling. If you’re not careful, it can take a serious toll on your physical and mental health. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a CTO, a programmer, or work in a nontechnical capacity; everyone needs a startup survival strategy to help them maintain their work-life balance as they learn to juggle an ever-growing workload, excessively long days and a personal life. It can be a pretty daunting task. Those who aren’t careful may find themselves suffering from burnout.

Anyone working at the forefront of technology and innovation is no stranger to the demands of startup life. In an industry where leaving the office before 8 p.m. is often frowned upon, it’s no surprise that industry leaders like Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer brag about working 130-hour weeks from time to time. Then there’s the famous Apple slogan, which has also helped set an industry precedent: “90 hours a week and loving it.” These increasing demands, coupled with the do-more-with-less mentality of such work environments, are having a detrimental effect on employees.

There’s a good chance that everyone who works at a startup has or will experience bouts of stress and burnout from time to time. What’s important is that one knows how to deal with the demands of the startup workplace.

Below are five tips for surviving the startup lifestyle.

  1. Get a life. Your work, while demanding, shouldn’t be performed at the expense of your life. It’s important to spend time with loved ones and make time to do the things you enjoy. Don’t neglect your relationships. But more importantly, don’t neglect yourself. While this may feel like a waste of time, it will leave you feeling refreshed, energized and ready to tackle your to-do list head on.
  2. Accept your limitations. Working at a startup doesn’t have to mean overtime and impending burnout. If you’re an efficient multitasker, you’ll be able to cram a decent amount of tasks into a full day of work. It’s essential that you understand your own needs. For some, perhaps an extended lunch break increases concentration and productivity overall, whereas some may benefit from short, frequent breaks throughout the day. Determine your needs and limitations to ensure you’re as efficient as you can be.
  3. Get moving. Exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle often fall by the wayside as workload increases. Being active will not only help you keep in shape but will increase your productivity in addition to making you happier and more energetic. So get moving and while you’re at it, pay attention to the food you are consuming. Certain foods are linked to increased brain stimulation, while others cause steep energy declines. These are simple lifestyle changes that may greatly improve your quality of life and will make you a more productive member of your startup team.
  4. Disconnect after hours. Just because you have a smartphone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t disengage from the office. Unless it’s something pressing, there’s no need to respond to emails outside office hours. And if you’re someone who has a tendency to obsessively check email, removing work email from your phone may be a good option. It’s important to take a break and make some time for yourself at the end of a long day.
  5. Write your manifesto. It’s important to be aware of what you stand for and what you want out of life. Do you know what your main life goals are? Is your current job getting you any closer to reaching them? Constantly evaluating your goals will help you see your job in a different light. For example, it may help you realize it’s time to find something that more closely matches your manifesto. Whatever it is that you discover, having a personal manifesto written out will help you see the big picture.

A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

Zach Cutler is a dynamic entrepreneur and marketing professional who formed Cutler Group, a Tech PR agency, in 2009. He specializes in crafting innovative communication campaigns to help emerging and established tech companies thrive. 

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.

3 Tips to Building Strong Startup Culture

startup life


The desire to be engaged in purposeful, fulfilling activity is universal. Maslow classified it as a basic need in his “self actualization” rung of the pyramid. Aristotle called it eudemonia, or human flourishing: “the soul acting in accordance with virtue.” Csikszentmihalyi proffers two concepts: good work — in which one “enjoys doing [one’s] best while at the same time contributing to something beyond [one]self”— and growth toward complexity — in which people flourish as their achievements grow. When we boil all these concepts down, we see that they are all derivations of the same basic principle. I call this principle Live.Learn.Grow™. These three words tap into a universal truth that people ultimately want to be and do their best.

So what does it take for this to happen?

What You Do Doesn’t Matter

A company has to realize that what they do doesn’t really matter. Sound completely nuts? It shouldn’t.

Think about companies that completely changed course or shifted strategy and direction. When a company that specialized in producing computers saw an opportunity in mobile phones, they introduced the world to the iPhone. When a video dating site called TuneInHookUp flailed, its founders decided to change direction and then created YouTube. An unsuccessful podcasting startup worked on a side project for months before making it their full-time gig and renaming themselves Twitter.

More and more companies are seeing that making drastic shifts to what they do doesn’t have to impact who they are, as long as they are true to how they do it.

Many companies who modify strategy and approach are unsuccessful because their compass is pointed solely towards profits, not towards the people who create them. So what goes into how a company does business and, more importantly, how it does business well? I believe it’s about creating an environment that allows people to thrive.

Why “Core Values” Fall Short

Companies most often define their culture through a series of core or company values. If you take a sampling of some of the core values out there, you will see many of the same themes repeated. Really, don’t most people want similar things? We want to work in a place where we feel respected. We want our clients taken care of, we want to do good work, and we want our company to prosper.

So why do so many of these attempt to create a strong culture through values fail?

Values are often static and generic. In the effort to boil them down to universal truths, values are often universally useless. Many leaders and businesses try to create a list of values to impose upon the company, as opposed to creating a company with these values woven into the fibers of the business. They take the same approach with people; they try to hire folks who have the skills they need and then try to instill the values in them once they are onboard. Rather than that, hire people who, themselves, embody the values.

How to Define Dynamic Values for Your Organization

Values must remain a dynamic element in an organization. Each value of the snowball builds upon the other both at the individual and organizational levels, gaining a momentum that snowballs and propels the growth and development of both.

To work, your values must be:

  • Action-oriented
  • Relevant regardless of tenure or stage in the organization
  • Dynamic – they grow, change and develop with individuals
  • Holistic – they apply personally and professionally.

A critical assumption behind our approach is that businesses leveraging our methodology would have to outperform their peers in the market. Profit is only the means to the end, but it is a powerful validator for those who would initially be dismissed as “unsustainable nice-to-haves.”

In his book Conscious Capitalism, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey argues that profit maximization need not be the sole purpose of business and calls for “a way of thinking about business that is more conscious of its higher purpose, its impacts on the world, and the relationships it has with its various constituencies and stakeholders.” It is not that profits aren’t the responsibility of a business; without strong performance, people lose their jobs, investors lose their money, and customers lose access to a product or service. Instead, it is the blind pursuit of profits as purpose that leads companies astray.

Sound too good to be true? Mackey and his co-founder tracked businesses who adhered to these practices over 15 years and compared their performance to the S&P 500. The result? Businesses built on a higher purpose and values outperformed the market 10 to one.

I want to help create a world where everyone has the opportunity to live, learn and grow. Ultimately, that is what my company aspires to do daily for anyone we touch. While there are many ways to do this, I’m personally compelled to drive this change through the workplace. Since so much of the world spends so much time and energy at work, my assumption is that, by changing the way the world does business we can fundamentally change the world.

A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

Tynesia Boyea Robinson is the CEO of Reliance Methods, which puts Americans to work by providing human capital strategy and placement solutions for clients like Walmart, Trammell Crow, and the federal government. Tynesia serves on numerous boards and has published several articles, which have been featured in the Washington Post and in Leap of Reason. Education: Harvard MBA, Duke University EE & Comp Sci.

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.

Starting Up in 2013: The Good Stuff


Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a lessons learned series from entrepreneur Matt Goldman. You can read part 1 here.

Although we’ve had our share of screw-ups, we’ve also managed to do a few things right. Maybe you can learn from them:

We Took Two Products to Market

Building two products took its toll on our runway by slowing us down, but it also has granted us access to a wider audience and opened many promotional opportunities.

We had no intention of launching HookFeed before Minimalytics, but figured adding a cross-promotion in the “Thanks for signing up for the beta list” email would start building the list. It did.

We also have been able to reference both products whenever writing a post, and an amazing number of people click through to check them out.

Minimalytics has always been more popular, but we were able to grow an audience for HookFeed on the coattails of Minimalytics, and that would not have been possible had we not marketed them at the same time.

And the cost? Throwing up a simple animated landing page explaining what the product would do (which has since changed).

Our beta lists for the products are currently at 2,893 for Minimalytics and 1,322 for HookFeed.

We also announced the book we’re writing with Michael Sacca far before we had time to start working on it. By mentioning it here and there on the internet, the list has grown steadily to over 300 people without a dedicated marketing push.

We Didn’t Wait to Talk to People Until We Had a Success

From the very beginning, we began reaching out to successful entrepreneurs for help. Since we had some attractive landing pages up, and reached out to them in non-sleazy ways, we had a 100% response rate. We’ve learned so much from our product chats with people, and made some amazing friends online.

Along the way, we constantly felt like impostors. Like we weren’t ready to talk to these people since we hadn’t even launched a product yet. But I’m so glad we did.

The only thing holding you back from talking to your heroes is yourself.

We Trusted Our Gut

Everything about our early-beginnings would have been advised against by most people.

  1. Joelle was my co-worker (ok, kind of my boss) when we used to work at an agency. That’s when we started dating.

  2. I left my steady job last December to start Small HQ (and start burning through savings trying to finally launch a profitable product)

  3. Joelle joined me in March and we began working together

  4. We started living together shortly after this

  5. We chose to work on 2 products instead of focusing on 1

  6. We turned down client work and burned through savings

I’ve lost count of how many people have scoffed at the fact that we work together.

“You work with your girlfriend?! I don’t know if I could do that…”

Joelle likes to say, “If you can’t stand to be around your partner most of the day, why the hell are you even dating?”

Advice, at the end of the day, is just someone else’s opinion. And sometimes needs to be ignored.

The nature of it is that the most popular advice floats to the top, and when you’re dealing with something risky like entrepreneurship, you’re going to hear advice from many who have failed.

With all these lessons in my back pocket I’m more eager than ever moving into 2014 — though I have no doubt a whole new set of failures and lessons are just around the next bend.

Where will we be next December? No idea… but I do know it’ll be one hell of a ride!

 I’m Matt Goldman. I’m building HookFeed and Minimalytics. Also writing a book about how to build a SaaS rocketship with my partner Joelle and Michael Sacca.

Starting Up in 2013: Lessons Learned


Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of 2 part series from entrepreneur Matt Goldman. Read part on the great lessons from 2013 tomorrow.

This year has been a whirlwind.

Diving headfirst into the SaaS world is a roller coaster ride like no other, a constant fluctuation of peaks and valleys, mini successes and epic failures. And, when all is said and done, an invaluable string of lessons to carry on to the next ride.

This year Joelle (my girlfriend/business partner) and I have made the life-changing leap from 9-to-5ers to full-time entrepreneurs.

We’ve grown a little audience of our own, talked to our heroes, learned from our peers, launched a product…and then another one, met some amazing people, and perhaps most important of all, discovered a new lifestyle we didn’t think was possible before.And in doing so we’ve naturally made a ton of mistakes along the way.

While we’ve written plenty about micro-lessons we’ve learned throughout the year, here are some of the bigger ones we’ve learned. My hope is that there are a few nuggets in here you can take with you on your next trip around the track.


Product Takes a Long-Ass Time. Plan Accordingly.

We started in March, whipped up two landing pages, and got to work building out some ideas. Surely, we’d launch the products within a few months, and then make a ton of money, right?

Wrong. This was what actually happened:

  • April 8: Minimalytics Teaser Page
  • April 29: HookFeed Teaser Page
  • August 21: First Minimalytics Beta Tester
  • **HookFeed pivoted to focus entirely on Stripe Notifications in a Live Stream
  • October 24: First HookFeed Beta Tester
  • **HookFeed pivoted to focus on Stripe Email Alerts and Daily/Weekly Summaries
  • December 17: HookFeed Launched

So it’s been just over 9 months and we’ve only “launched” one of our products. Minimalytics is still in beta and needs significant development before it’s ready for prime-time. We overcomplicated things and are working on returning to our Minimal promise

Even though we’ve launched HookFeed to the public now, it will take several months before it is generating anywhere near enough revenue to cover two salaries entirely.

Luckily, we started with a longer runway than we thought we needed. You should set aside cash to fund at least 1 year to become profitable.

If you’re one of the folks who thinks you’ll have a profitable product in a few months (I sure did), then this bit is important. Listen up:

Your product will not make as much as you think, as soon as you think. Be ready for that.

We Spread Ourselves Thin

Nearly every experienced entrepreneur we’ve Skyped with has ended our conversation with, “Why the hell are you building two products? Focus on one.”

Every time we heard this advice, we said, “Yeah, Yeah…I guess it’s just a lesson we need to learn on our own. We want both products for ourselves, so we’re going to build both.”

Many great things have come of building two products at once (which I’ll touch on in a bit), but it has also increased our time to market on both products, increased our cash-burned, and slowed our learnings/pivots.

That being said, if I could press rewind and go back to March, I’d do it all the same. However, I would have paid more attention to the feedback we were getting from people smarter than us.

Juggling two products is really hard. Marketing two products and building one-at-a-time is much more attainable.

We Let Client Work Steal Our Focus

Although we started with the dream of never working for anyone again, whether they were a boss or a number of clients…I was approached by a retail chain seeking an overhaul of their various websites.

When Joelle came to work with me, we realized we could use an extension to our runway, and we signed a 4-month contract to rebuild their entire web presence. Luckily, I had just read Brennan’s book and ventured out of my comfort zone to charge about 5x what I would have normally charged. They accepted, and ended up being a great client. Our contract ended in July, but we made the decision to stay onboard for monthly work.

Up until July, we were spending about half of our time on client work, and that was enough to nearly derail our product efforts. Since then, we’ve been able to balance the two much better.

Our advice for product people taking client work:

  1. Don’t turn it away if it’s a good deal. Run if it’s a bad deal.
  2. Charge 3-5x what you normally do. Read Brennan’s book.
  3. Don’t bill hourly. Bill daily, weekly, monthly, or preferably per project.
  4. Group client hours together so you can spend chunks of time building and marketing your product(s).

We Had No Sense of Urgency

When you have a long runway, and don’t fully understand how much time/effort it takes to get a successful software product off the ground, it’s easy to squander valuable time.

That’s not to say that you should be spending every waking hour on your work, but rather that the hours you dedicate to work (which can be reasonable) need to be fully devoted to work.

We’re making changes starting this week, and actually setting working hours (gasp!). When you leave a full-time job and discover the freedom of working solo, you tend to resist any process that you dealt with at your prior job. One of those is set working hours.

In the past, I would wake up around 5-6am and “work” until about midnight. But throughout the day, I would go out for food, go visit Tiny Factory and chat it up, play the occasional video game, or go on cleaning sprees to avoid exerting any effort on the not-so-fun bits of work.

In the future, I’ll still be waking around 5am, but focusing harder and actually working during my brightest time of the day. Then working out, then eating lunch, then back to work, stopping no later than 6pm.

More of an effort will go towards writing and coding the tough stuff in the early morning, and handling the lighter tasks in the afternoon. Possibly over a beer.

I wasn’t sure how this would feel, but I tried it yesterday and it was amazing. Having no burden at 6pm sent a few questions through my head, “What books could I read?” “What should I cook for Joelle?” “Who should we hang out with this week?”

All good things that got neglected over the past year.

Two people walk holding hands on the beach 2-people-beach-shadows-002

We Spent too Much Time Together

When you live and work with your girlfriend, you see a lot of one another. We’re pretty used to this since we actually met at work at our last job. But it still takes its toll.

We’ve found that we are each most productive when we’re alone, and even better, out of the house.

My most productive time is:

  1. At my desk writing/coding between 5am and 8am
  2. At a coffee/beer shop in the afternoon

I’ve also noticed a 10x increase in Joelle’s output when she gets out of the house.

We’re making an effort daily to get out and away from each other now. Not just for productivity reasons, but also so that our time spent together is more valuable/appreciated.

It’s easy to fizzle the sparks that flew when you were first dating someone. Especially when most of the day you treat each other like business partners. It takes only a little extra effort to avoid this default, and return to the days of snuggles and sunset cuddles.

We Let Our Health Suffer

We’re both in relatively good shape, but during busy times this year, we let workouts take a back seat to work — and our health surely suffered.

I’m much worse than Joelle in this regard. She has run triathlons and been competitive her whole life. I have always avoided competitive sports and although I love the feeling after working out, I avoid it like the plague.

If you have a partner/team, encourage each other to workout and stay healthy year-round. The impact is incredible.

I’m Matt Goldman. I’m building HookFeed and Minimalytics. Also writing a book about how to build a SaaS rocketship with my partner Joelle and Michael Sacca.

*A version of this post was originally posted on Medium.


14 Hot Gifts For Your Co-founder


We don’t demand much in the startup world. Pizza. Coffee. $1 billion exit. Really, we’re very easy to please.

But come Christmas you might want to find a little something special for your ever-present pain-in-the-ass. Er, co-founder. I mean, you’ve put them through a lot in the last year. Late night meltdowns, last minute product changes, schizophrenic phone calls that are both wildly jubilant and overwhelmingly depressed. (I know, y’all are feeling a little sorry for Nick right now, aren’t ya?)

Anyway, here are a few things to consider when picking a gift for the people who got you here:

  1. Is it cheap? The exception, of course, is if you just closed a huge funding round. Then it’s time to pony up, cheapskate.
  2. Is it personal? You know these people as well as–or better than?–their spouses do. Generic gifts won’t cut it.
  3. Is it funny? A few laughs will always lighten the mood, and funny gifts will keep giving throughout the year.

Okay, with those guidelines in mind, here are our 12 gift ideas for your co-founders:

1. Coupons–Real, actual coupons or the homemade “good for a bottle of Scotch when we hit it big” variety. Cheap, and you can make them as personal or funny as you like!

2. Startup t-shirts from weBRANDMy personal favorite is here. They have lots of pithy sayings about startup life that will have you all nodding your heads.

WeBrand StartupLife

3. Access to VoozaYeah, this is totally free, but remove the hassle by putting in your co-founder’s email address for them. They’ll thank you, I promise.

4. Everywhere Else Memphis tickets–Sign up for our newsletter to get first dibs on discounted tickets. It’ll be the best thing you do for your startup in 2014.

5. A flask–These vary in price, but they’re easily personalized and made funny. And, what better accessory for spring break SXSW?

6. A good bottle of bourbon–For that flask, y’all. Alternately, you can just have a company party and finish off the bourbon. That’ll make some memories.

7. iTunes gift cards–While gift cards may not seem personal, they can often be the best gifts. If you have some spare cash, throw in a new pair of ear buds so you don’t have to listen to their crappy music anymore.

8. A new whiteboard–This one’s obvious, right?

9. Equity

10. Or a paycheck might be nice.

11. A surprise meeting with Fred Wilson–You’ll be the favorite co-founder for all eternity.

12. Forget your co-founder and give a lavish gift to their significant other. Let’s face it. You kinda owe them, don’t you?

13. Your favorite startup audiobook they’ve been refusing to listen to. It probably won’t come off as passive-aggressive…

14. Therapy–So, this ain’t cheap, but let’s face it. It’s one of those gifts they really need and won’t get for themselves.

The actual gift doesn’t really matter, though. The most important thing this time of year is to let your co-founders know how awesome you think they are and how you couldn’t do this without them. That way, hopefully, they’ll stick around next year, too!

While y’all are at it, can someone please let Nick know he can’t go wrong with jewelry or bourbon? Thanks!

How To Kick Your Email Addiction

Email addiction

Hello. My name is Chris, and I’m an email addict.

Email addiction is taking a serious toll on both our personal lives and work productivity. Long gone are the days of handwritten letters, snail mail and faxes. Why use those outdated practices when you can simply type a message from anywhere and instantly send it to anyone in the world?

The problem starts when we abuse email and it begins to replace other, more personal forms of communication. A co-worker once said to me, “It’s easy to be mean over email.” In order to be effective, email needs to be used correctly. Yes, it’s a phenomenal way to send a non-urgent message, a great use of recapping a meeting or telephone call, and possibly the best method for updating multiple people on a project. But it is very ineffective at conducting a discussion, carrying on a conversation, getting to know someone, or addressing a serious matter.

For many entrepreneurs, email has become a crutch. Below is a five-step program to kick the habit for good:


This is the first and most difficult step. The key here is to remove temptation: You can’t kick the email habit if your phone is constantly alerting you that a new email is waiting to be checked. Go into your settings, click on the ‘Fetch new data’ button, and turn off the push notification. Doing this will put you back in control and allow you to check emails when you want, not when the sender sends them. If you are feeling adventurous, take it one step further and set your fetch data to ‘manual.’ This simple change will give you your personal life back.


Timothy Ferris of “The 4-Hour Work Week” recommends setting up an autoresponse to incoming emails that announces that you are only checking emails twice a day. I’ve tried this approach, but it only pissed off my colleagues.

Instead of announcing to the world when you will or won’t be checking emails, start more subtly. Just do it. Check and respond to your emails only three times a day. The first thing that I do when I get to my office is download my emails. That sounds like an email addict move, right? But as soon my emails are downloaded, I disconnect from the Internet. This allows me to read and respond to emails without getting an instant reply, which could start an unproductive email conversation. I can then review, reread, and edit emails before I go back online — reducing redundant messages and more importantly, allowing me to delete heated messages that shouldn’t be sent in the first place.

When you actually connect again, you can take 15 or 20 minutes to quickly reply to any time-sensitive emails you received.


Efficiency experts in fields ranging from business to coaching agree that time blocking is a very productive habit. Finish one task before moving to another.

As I mentioned, when I get into the office, I immediately download my emails. I scan those emails for any urgent matters first. If there are urgent emails, I pick up the phone and address those issues immediately. Once that is out of the way, I start working on the day’s top priorities.

By dealing with urgent issues in person or over the phone, you can keep the inefficient email conversations out of your day.


The key is to be consistent and train others to expect it. If you always address major matters in person or over the phone, people will begin to call you with anything urgent instead of using email. They will also start to think through what or when they email you, knowing that you will not respond immediately.

Bonus: You won’t have to worry that you are missing something by not always being connected to the Internet.


You will relapse. You will carry on an unproductive email conversation with someone and spend hours glued to your computer screen and email account, and you will become angry with yourself for doing it. This will happen. I guarantee it.

When you do, simply start over and get back into the groove of only connecting to emails three times a day, calling or meeting with people instead of emailing them, and blocking your time, including the time spent on emails.

Rinse and repeat until you get your life — and your productivity — back on track.

Chris Hunter is Co-Founder of Phusion Projects, LLC, a Chicago-based alcoholic beverage company that sells its products (including Four Loko, Island Squeeze and Moskato Life) nationwide.  He’s also a father, husband, traveler and triathlete.

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.

11 Ways To Manage Startup Stress


 Stress relief


“For me, stress builds up quickly when I’m not accomplishing as much as I should or could. That usually means I’m getting distracted by emails, phone calls, unnecessary meetings, or in-office visits. Luckily, this can be somewhat controlled if you just remove the distractions when you sit down to accomplish a task. Productivity will improve and as a result stress levels will tend to fall.”

Phil Frost | Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Main Street ROI


“Everyone talks about closing your eyes, breathing deeply, going for a walk, etc. But in my experience, that just lets my mind wander back to the stressful subject/task. In times of high stress at our office, someone usually fires off a few trivia questions to the rest of us. It forces us to shift gears and use a different part of our brains. When we’re done, we feel relaxed and more creative.”

Matt Peters | Co-Founder & Creative Director, Pandemic Labs


“Meditation and yoga may sound like the antithesis of the entrepreneurial lifestyle (and a bit corny), but they’re actually complementary. You don’t need to tie yourself up into knots (risking office embarrassment and a trip to the ER!) to reap the rewards of this practice. Even just standing in mountain pose — evenly balanced, eyes closed, steady breath — can help reduce stress tremendously. “

David Ehrenberg | Founder and CEO, Early Growth Financial Services


“A couple of pages of writing always does wonders to create perspective and clear my head. Plus, the ability to decompress in this way only requires pen and pad which can be found almost anywhere. “

Lisa Nicole Bell | Founder/CEO, Inspired Life Media Group


“When times get stressful, you need to move and let loose for at least 3 minutes. I love finding new music on Pandora or YouTube that gets me pumped up and allows me to forget about the to-do list for a few minutes. Some businesses (which will remain anonymous) even do Gangnam style dance parties!”

Kelly Azevedo | Founder, She’s Got Systems


“All our team members have the option to work on a GeekDesk, a workstation that has the ability to change height for sitting or standing workers. Movement and change of position combat stress and break up the tension of a long work day.”

Robert J. Moore | Co-Founder and CEO, RJMetrics


“Find a quiet place. Then take ten deep breaths. As you finish your last breath you will notice additional emotional tranquility, mental acuity, and physical energy. “

Kevon Saber | Cofounder , Fig


“My favorite strategy to manage stress is to schedule breaks and take them. As a small business owner, it may seem effective to go at it 100% all day long, but this is no strategy for long-term success. Schedule breaks, at least three per day, and commit to taking them. As an entrepreneur, you have full ability to work 15 hours per day, but in the long term, you aren’t doing anyone any good.”

Andrew Schrage | Co-Owner, Money Crashers Personal Finance


“While big distractions should be removed from the workplace, taking a small break every so often is important. It’s easy to get caught up and forget to ever look away from the computer monitor, so having a few small built in distractions to the day can be beneficial. Even something as small as issuing nerf guns and telling your team to shoot certain people when they walk through the door can help.”

Thursday Bram | Consultant, Hyper Modern Consulting


“Members of our team attend a Monday night hot vinyasa yoga class that’s out-of-this-world amazing. It’s challenging, calming, and starts the week off right.”

Derek Flanzraich | CEO and Founder, Greatist


“Startups often work 15-hour days, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll grow tired of the people around you. Work from the park on nice days, or answer emails from a coffee shop. Be especially careful during winter months, when it’s possible to never see daylight.”

Matt Wilson | Adventurer in Residence , Under30Experiences


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.

7 Steps For Leaving Your Work At Home During Vacation


When I finally made the leap to starting my own consulting company, it was with a sense of totality. I, a serial executive for various startups, had finally realized that I didn’t want to be behind the scenes anymore. I was ready to be numero uno. Entrepreneurship seemed to be everything that working for a company wasn’t. Plus, I have three rambunctious boys at home. Wasn’t it time to have that relaxed morning routine with them?

All those dreams came to a screeching halt when my consultancy grew to an agency with more projects than I knew what to do with. My husband came home to be my developer and I hired qualified help as quickly as I could. But it wasn’t enough. Soon I found myself 10 pounds heavier, in chronic pain and suffering from an ulcer…at 33 years old. When I broke down while watching Les Miserables in my basement, the solution was crystal clear. I was working 14-hour days, sleeping poorly, visiting the doctor regularly, and growing my client base at a rate even I couldn’t pace. I finally asked myself:
What is the point of having complete control over your time if you don’t ever, EVER take a vacation?

So I informed my husband and partner that we’d be taking the entire month of July off. In April it seemed like a great idea. As June grew closer, I became much more apprehensive. How would the business function? Who would lead my merry band of workers? How would projects get completed?

Whether you are leaving for a week or the entire holiday season, the following steps can help you breathe a little easier while you’re basking in the Bahama Breeze:

  1. Build up your team. This might not work if you are a power-hungry boss that belittles her employees. But if you hired them because they are smart and capable, trust them to be smart and capable. You will need to assign your projects to team members well before your departure so that they can be introduced, sit in on calls or meetings, and learn how you speak to and interact with that particular client, project or vendor.
  2. Designate a project manager. Red Branch Media operates under the assumption that everyone does what they do best…and that’s it. But with the leader gone, that model simply won’t work. So we looked for someone with project management experience to lead the team. Sure, I could have trained someone to do the job. However, it would have been difficult for them to go back to their former tasks when I get back.
  3. Change your billing structure. If you rely on sales to make payroll or projects with big checks to cover costs, you may want to shift that model before your vacation. Make sure your payroll is taken care of by looking into small business or back office tools to automate the process. If your clients will agree to it, spread out your payments so that you still have revenue while you are gone.
  4. Get your finances in order. We’re heading to Europe. And while we’ll have phones in order to be in touch with our kids, we are expecting the unexpected. So we’re doing our best to eliminate any financial headaches while we’re gone. We’re paying ahead on all our bills and paying down any credit balances in case that sleepy little hotel in the hillside doesn’t take Visa.
  5. Double up on work. In order to take July off, you have to work extra hard in June. In fact, by my estimate, we’re working nearly three times as hard. But there is a rationale to this; you cannot enjoy time off if you know you left something undone. Especially when your baby, I mean, BUSINESS, is hanging in the balance.
  6. Work hard and reward your team. We have deadlines to meet. If we don’t meet those deadlines by the time our flight takes off, we’re going to be hard pressed to pay for this vacation. So we’re asking everyone to pitch in a little more and a little harder. We’ve implemented a bonus structure to that end. By the time we’re gone, they’ll think running this office is a piece of cake!
  7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I know NONE of it feels like small stuff. But it is. While our businesses and clients loom large in our own lives, the weight of the world is not actually on our shoulders.

Learning to let your business survive (or maybe even thrive) without you can be a valuable tool for you, your team andyour clients.

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space.

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.