“I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!” I screamed to myself as I walked to my car. I had just gotten the snot beaten out of me by the partners at one of my investors, “Donald Ventures.”

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I had been asked to present and update the partnership by “Raul,” the partner leading the deal for DV. The meeting was a precursor to DV continuing to invest in my company. And now, as I walked back to my car, I felt Raul had just given me horrible advice.

Several days before the partner presentation, Raul suggested that I emphasize…

“I told “Ray” not to screw it up,” I said to my friend, “Aric”, at dinner. My family and I were in town, visiting colleges for Avery, so we took the opportunity to have dinner with Aric.

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Aric laughed. Four years earlier, Aric introduced me to Ray because he felt I could help Ray build his company. Now Ray’s company is worth $1.5 billion and counting.

The most successful entrepreneurs avoid taking any unnecessary risks.

My advice to Ray to not screw it up was me saying, “Don’t do anything stupid.” In other words, don’t take any unnecessary risks.

I wasn’t telling Ray to play it safe. I was…

“Why are you worried about selling your company?” I asked Fred. “You’re just getting started, and you’re worried about selling (your company)? That doesn’t feel good to me.”

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I had just met Fred, and I was trying to decide whether I was going to work with him. And, an entrepreneur who volunteers they are focused on selling their company in a couple of years is not an entrepreneur I’m interested in working with.

Sign number one: You’re not thinking big if you’re thinking of a sale from the get go.

You know the old saying that building a startup is a marathon, not a sprint. …

“If I can just find a great CTO or VP Engineering to be my co-founder I know my startup is going to work,” I said to myself before I started building my company. In fact, I knew even before Jeroen, who would become my co-founder and VP Engineering, joined the company that my startup was going to work because I’d been building businesses like this for years.

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However, adding Jeroen join was key. The precious resource in my world of Analog ICs was design talent. …

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The doorbell rang. It was my co-founder, “Jim.” He was a few minutes early for our planning meeting with my other co-founder, “John.”

I opened up the door to my house, and I smiled and said, “Hi Jim.”

Jim looked like he had smoke coming out of his head. “I’m pissed!” He screamed a me.

Before I could ask him why, he continued yelling at me, “You put John on the board and not me! That’s why I’m pissed. I quit!”

There’s an implied prestige regarding your co-founders being on the board.

My heart rate shot up. I knew exactly what happened. …

“What other startups have gotten funded in your space?” I asked “Ray” during one of our first meetings.

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Ray said, “There are a lot of them. I think there are around 50, the last time I counted.”

“50! That’s a lot,” I said. “What are you going to do different?”

Ray then walked me through a detailed technical explanation of the uniqueness of his product offering. It was inspiring to hear.

“Here, let me show you,” he said. “The other competitors are all brute-forcing incremental improvement. Maybe only 2X to 3X better.”

There can never be too many competitors in a market when you have the right strategy.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because they are…

It was the summer of 2009, and we were closing in on our Series A funding. I wanted to update my fellow co-founders on our progress, so I scheduled a meeting at the local Starbucks.

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Three of my four fellow co-founders were on time for our 11 AM meeting. We were waiting on our Chief Technology Officer, “Raphael.”

11:10 AM. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Raphael walking through the parking lot. He looked like a geeky gunslinger dressed all in black.

We had been raising money since January 2008. …

I fell into a trap early in my career. I was wildly successful, well respected, promoted every year, and I was getting more and more responsibility.

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You’re wondering, “What is the problem? That’s what everyone wants, right?”

Yes, you want to be successful, but you don’t want to be a jerk.

I was a jerk.

I was a tough guy (I still am, btw.) in a kill-or-be-killed environment. I reveled in the kill. I needlessly hurt people. I did it because I wanted to win.

I was young. I had a lot of growing and learning to do. …

“Tell me about the other executives?” I asked “Jason,” the CEO of a life sciences startup.

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“There aren’t any other executives. It’s just me. That’s why I wanted your help,” he said. “I’ve never scaled a business before.”

That was almost four years ago. At the time, Jason’s revenue had just passed the $1 million ARR mark.

There are many stages to the growth of a startup. Jason was realizing that he was ending the first phase of building a startup:

Phase One: It’s all about you. Scaling to $1 million ARR.

Now, you can argue that there’s a Phase Zero of just getting your startup off the ground and building…

Do you know about the theory of rational thought? The theory of rational thought has at its core the basic assumption that people will act in a logical manner. Now, if that was true, then a great startup CEO would have much more power than a board of directors because a great startup CEO is running the company, not the board of directors.

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A great startup CEO will have much more effect than the best board of directors ever will on the success or failure of a company.

After all, you’re there every day, working to build your company. You’re intimate with every detail, every nuance of your company. …

brett fox

I work with startup CEOs to help them grow their businesses . I built several businesses from $0 to >$100M. Learn more at www.brettjfox.com

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