Sunday, September 08, 2019

Relentlessly Resourceful - the key to success

Just read this article reposted on twitter 

March 2009

A couple days ago I finally got being a good startup founder down to two words: relentlessly resourceful.

Till then the best I'd managed was to get the opposite quality down to one: hapless. Most dictionaries say hapless means unlucky. But the dictionaries are not doing a very good job. A team that outplays its opponents but loses because of a bad decision by the referee could be called unlucky, but not hapless. Hapless implies passivity. To be hapless is to be battered by circumstances—to let the world have its way with you, instead of having your way with the world. [1]

Unfortunately there's no antonym of hapless, which makes it difficult to tell founders what to aim for. "Don't be hapless" is not much of rallying cry.

It's not hard to express the quality we're looking for in metaphors. The best is probably a running back. A good running back is not merely determined, but flexible as well. They want to get downfield, but they adapt their plans on the fly.

Unfortunately this is just a metaphor, and not a useful one to most people outside the US. "Be like a running back" is no better than "Don't be hapless."

But finally I've figured out how to express this quality directly. I was writing a talk for investors, and I had to explain what to look for in founders. What would someone who was the opposite of hapless be like? They'd be relentlessly resourceful. Not merely relentless. That's not enough to make things go your way except in a few mostly uninteresting domains. In any interesting domain, the difficulties will be novel. Which means you can't simply plow through them, because you don't know initially how hard they are; you don't know whether you're about to plow through a block of foam or granite. So you have to be resourceful. You have to keep trying new things.

Be relentlessly resourceful.

That sounds right, but is it simply a description of how to be successful in general? I don't think so. This isn't the recipe for success in writing or painting, for example. In that kind of work the recipe is more to be actively curious. Resourceful implies the obstacles are external, which they generally are in startups. But in writing and painting they're mostly internal; the obstacle is your own obtuseness. [2]

There probably are other fields where "relentlessly resourceful" is the recipe for success. But though other fields may share it, I think this is the best short description we'll find of what makes a good startup founder. I doubt it could be made more precise.

Now that we know what we're looking for, that leads to other questions. For example, can this quality be taught? After four years of trying to teach it to people, I'd say that yes, surprisingly often it can. Not to everyone, but to many people. [3] Some people are just constitutionally passive, but others have a latent ability to be relentlessly resourceful that only needs to be brought out.

This is particularly true of young people who have till now always been under the thumb of some kind of authority. Being relentlessly resourceful is definitely not the recipe for success in big companies, or in most schools. I don't even want to think what the recipe is in big companies, but it is certainly longer and messier, involving some combination of resourcefulness, obedience, and building alliances.

Identifying this quality also brings us closer to answering a question people often wonder about: how many startups there could be. There is not, as some people seem to think, any economic upper bound on this number. There's no reason to believe there is any limit on the amount of newly created wealth consumers can absorb, any more than there is a limit on the number of theorems that can be proven. So probably the limiting factor on the number of startups is the pool of potential founders. Some people would make good founders, and others wouldn't. And now that we can say what makes a good founder, we know how to put an upper bound on the size of the pool.

This test is also useful to individuals. If you want to know whether you're the right sort of person to start a startup, ask yourself whether you're relentlessly resourceful. And if you want to know whether to recruit someone as a cofounder, ask if they are.

You can even use it tactically. If I were running a startup, this would be the phrase I'd tape to the mirror. "Make something people want" is the destination, but "Be relentlessly resourceful" is how you get there.


[1] I think the reason the dictionaries are wrong is that the meaning of the word has shifted. No one writing a dictionary from scratch today would say that hapless meant unlucky. But a couple hundred years ago they might have. People were more at the mercy of circumstances in the past, and as a result a lot of the words we use for good and bad outcomes have origins in words about luck.

When I was living in Italy, I was once trying to tell someone that I hadn't had much success in doing something, but I couldn't think of the Italian word for success. I spent some time trying to describe the word I meant. Finally she said "Ah! Fortuna!"

[2] There are aspects of startups where the recipe is to be actively curious. There can be times when what you're doing is almost pure discovery. Unfortunately these times are a small proportion of the whole. On the other hand, they are in research too.

[3] I'd almost say to most people, but I realize (a) I have no idea what most people are like, and (b) I'm pathologically optimistic about people's ability to change.

Thanks to Trevor Blackwell and Jessica Livingston for reading drafts of this.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Dosist- cannabis company makes hottest startup list

Dosist is a “modern wellness company” known for its proprietary cannabis dose pen with purported benefits such as helping to reduce pain, inflammation and even insomnia. 

The startup has hired more than 100 employees over the past year, attracting top talent from the likes of Apple and Tesla, and looks for candidates who reflect the startup’s stated values: 

inspirational, collaborative, accountable and committed to quality.

The Industry

The global cannabis industry is expected to reach nearly $15 billion this year, representing a 36% increase over 2018, thanks to both legalization in Canada and state-by-state efforts across the border.

Cannabis is more than just a socially-acceptable vice, like alcohol. It has been rebranded as a wellness product, not only for cancer patients seeking relief from pain and nausea but for anyone facing a range of conditions from anxiety to acne.

There’s  a sense that people in the industry are on the brink of a new frontier, more on par with the industrial revolution or the gold rush. 

Companies that operate in the cannabis space describe their culture as not that different from a Silicon Valley startup, with casual dress codes and flexible work policies.“

“One year in the cannabis industry is sort of like dog years.”

Another Unicorn born in Oz - Employee survey start-up Culture Amp worth $1b and climbing

Culture AMP has raised USD150m and is the latest Ozzie startup to become a unicorn!

The founders 

Didier Elzinga, founded Culture Amp alongside Jon Williams, Doug English and Rod Hamilton in 2009 with a  core mission of building a better world of work.

They started the company in 2009 with the "world's most naive business plan" of achieving 10,000 customers, generating $US10,000 in revenue each, equalling $US100 million in revenue.

10 years on this goal has been met ....

Next mission is to hit 100 million users - 1pc of worlds population.

What it does

Culture Amp uses data gathered from staff surveys to advise companies on how they can change workplace culture, improve performance and create better work environments.

The company has between 3 million and 5 million users across 2500 companies and employs around 400 people.

It’s customers

Culture Amp customers include Airbnb, GoCardless, McDonald's, Salesforce and Slack 

About two-thirds of its revenue is generated in North America, which Mr Elzinga predicts will remain the case for the next few years, but the company is committed to building up its European presence and expanding more into Asia.

"every market is moving to the fact that people matter more and culture is an amplifier" Mr Elzinga said.

Capital raised from blue chip VCs

US150 million has been raised to date with the last round of $US82 million being raised at a USD700m Valuation  in a round led by renowned investor Sequoia Capital China together with Global Founders Capital and TDM Growth Partners.

It raised $US40 million in a round led by Blackbird Ventures with other investors being Sapphire Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Index Ventures, Blackbird Ventures, Hostplus, Skip Capital and Grok Ventures.

Having already been a customer of Culture Amp for two years, Sequoia China came on board as the lead investor after its head of HR championed the product internally.

"The substantial investment in this stage of Culture Amp’s growth underscores our confidence that it has in the vision and the leadership team in place to help companies take action on complex workplace issues. Culture Amp has carved out a dominant niche in the global market," Sequoia Capital China partner Steven Ji said.

The business bootstrapped to $1 million in revenue and then did their first raise out of the US from Felicis.


It took three attempts for Culture Amp to find its feet and settle on its current product of real-time employee engagement surveys that deliver insights for employers on their staff and businesses.

“Scaling a startup from zero to $1 million is the “impossible” piece, while the second stage of growth from $1m to $10m is just “really hard” says Elzinger 

The processes, systems and people you need for a $1m is totally different to what you need as a $10m and different again for a $100m company. 

The secret is to realise this need and act on it

They started out trying to solve a performance management problem of performance reviews – something everyone hated.... but had to pivot as the business wasn’t getting traction .

In January, the company came full circle when it acquired Zugata, a company which has  overhauled traditional performance reviews - making them forward looking and more positive! 


Elzinga looked at Atlassian’s business model and realised Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar had nailed it! 

It takes practice consistency and grit to make things look easy! 

“It's like when you hear athletes talk about the fact that on game day, they're not that stretched because you just have to play. You put in all the work and then it will happen," says Elzinger.

Inspired by Yolanda Redrup Reporter - Sep 4, 2019

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Women in Tech - opportunities in Telaviv

Women of Startup Nation (WOSN) began three years ago as a project by Barr Yaron to document the achievements and stories of women in Israeli high-tech, and has evolved into a community that today numbers 18,000. 

The first high tech incubator for women - WOSNA – Women of Startup Nation Accelerator has been created in Telaviv by Barr Yaron, Oshrat Goldberg and Jordan Windmueller, who met at Stanford Business School, while studying for their MBAs.

The focus is fashion, artificial intelligence, fintech, real estate, advertising, enterprise software and govtech - and the rule is that each has at least one woman on its founding team.

Their first intake started last month , had received 130 applications for 11 places in the program’s first round.

The Pain

The high- tech  industry faces a critical labor shortage, but women account for a little more than a third of the industry payroll and just 9% of all entrepreneurs.

Out of 7,100 startups active between the years 2000 and 2017, only 7%, or 490 companies, had female founders or co-founders at the helm, according to a 2018 report published by Israel-based market research firm IVC Research Center Ltd.

Of the 125 companies with the highest market capitalization on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, only three companies are headed by women, according to a recent report by Standard & Poor's. Now, Tel Aviv’s newest accelerator—Women of Startup Nation Accelerator (WOSNA)—is out to change these statistics, one female-founded startup at a time.

A typical feeling from a woman employee 
“I felt like they were staring at me for leaving work early, when in reality I was just balancing my work and home commitments.”

Imagine  knowing she would be surrounded by others who will never give her that look.

This was the motivation for making Barr Yaron start her own company.

What WOSNA is 

WOSNA is a 4 week intensive business 101 with a mentor . It   provides  a  four-week program gives a boost to budding tech entrepreneurs with little or no experiencing in starting up a business. 

 Lectures and workshops from investors, entrepreneurs and tech executives from the Israel tech ecosystem.

The accelerator also provides legal, engineering and other consulting. Each company is assigned a female mentor and contact person with a special connection to its industry who stays onboard for four months after the accelerator program is over.

The Companies

The companies include online personal shopping assistant AskLily Ltd., crowdfunding for community events startup FanFund Ltd., online accessibility verifier SenseIT Ltd., and software company Dzomo Ltd., which is still in stealth mode.

Outomi - a startup which has developed online tools for creating AI without any previous programming knowledge. The startup needed help with developing a business plan and a pitch for investors.

As mentors, it was assigned Orly Shoavi and Ronnie Sternberg, founders of the startup SafeDK, which was sold last month to the U.S. company AppLovin. Its contact people are Silicon Valley investors and the AI startup UiPath.

Other  Israeli initiatives for women

SheCodes, that helps women from all over Israel interested in learning coding. NaShim BaHigh-tech (Women in High-Tech) recently joined the global organization Lean In founded by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. 

Meetupsiot helps women with networking by visiting and summarizing meetups.


Sunday, September 01, 2019

Katrina Lake - a role model for female entrepreneurs

Katrina Lake - 35 - mum - founder and CEO of Stitch fix- now a $3b company,was named by Forbes as one of the wealthiest self-made women in America.

The Pain 

While at Harvard Business School studying for a master's degree in entrepreneurship, she came up with an idea of bringing a better shopping experience into the homes of women who don't have the time and easy access to a wide range of fashion options or the time to shop around. 

To raise money for this idea - “stitchfix” was a challenge in a 94pc male dominated VC industry.

The Solution

A personalized shopping service that uses algorithms and recommendations from stylists to curate boxes of clothing and accessories that match a customer's style, size and fit preferences. Customers have expanded to clothing for men and kids.

The Photo 

A photo of Lake holding her then 14-month-old son as her company went public went viral on social media and Lake became a role model for women -- and especially mothers -- trying to make it in the startup world.

"The response was amazing. I never anticipated it," she says.

The Money

Stitch Fix has also impressed Wall Street since that Nasdaq debut. The company's stock has more than doubled to nearly $30 a share as it continues to grow its customer base, sales and profits. 

It's current market cap is nearly $3 billion with 2.7m customers.

What Katrina Lake focuses on as a CEO

Lake says one thing she has realized is that her role as CEO goes far beyond boosting the bottom line.

"I think it really forces you to think more about what is the culture that I'm creating, what is the impact that I'm having," she says.