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Hope is the Enemy – Startup Advice from a Monk

I was recently reading a book by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk (Yes...I really do read books by Vietnamese Buddhist monks. No, I'm not Buddhist.) when I came across this section that struck me:

When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future...Hope becomes a kind of obstacle. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Granted, I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking about starting a business and this is out of context. None-the-less, I think some "live in the moment" lessons can be applied to this thing we call the startup.

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When Should You Find a Co-founder? Before your idea is even half-baked.

When Should You Find a Co-founder? I'm going to go with my gut here and say: Before your idea is even half-baked.

I've had a couple discussions recently about when is the right time to look for a co-founder. As soon as you have an idea? Once you've tested some of your core assumptions? Before you have an idea? There's no rule and I haven't seen anything written on the subject.

The Perfect Idea

The goal of your startup is to find a business model that works. If you think you've come up with the greatest idea ever, everything is worked out in your head, and you just need to execute, well...you're probably wrong about everything (or at least most things) and you won't get the one thing out of a co-founder than you really need: a second opinion.

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$3.95? We’re Rich! First Revenue During Alpha Testing

On Friday, I received this welcome email:

Subject: Sale - Entrepreneurs Guide to CustDev- ID:5777670 Entrepreneur's Guide to CustDev eBook

You have earned an affiliate fee of 3.95 USD for the sale (ID:5777670-686=
2856) of Entrepreneur's Guide to CustDev eBook on Thu May 27 2010 23:52:3=
9 MST.

Sincerely,
Entrepreneurs Guide to CustDev

startupSQUARE, having not yet progressed to beta testing, now has revenue! Granted, a very small amount of revenue. Why?

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No Titles Please – We’re a Startup

I had to laugh out loud when I read this at jacquesmattheij.com:

At some point in the thread he writes: "We are working on that now. It might give us more breathing air but still will keep us with a CEO (him) that I cannot trust professionaly."

I practically fell off my chair when I read that. A three letter title in a two man company ? What does that make him ? CTO ?

...and then he continues:

Titles are for insecure people that need to have their egos re-inforced or they are for people that have reached a stage in the life of their startup where it starts to make sense to divide the work in to fixed roles, where you have well defined territories and people as a rule will avoid crossing over in to each others territories.

I could not agree more.

That's why we only have one title at startupSQUARE: Co-founder. The Co-founder is responsible for whatever needs to be done, including dealing with the bank, ordering staples, and getting the coffee.

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First Dates and One Night Stands for Co-Founders

Before you and your co-founders step up to the alter and say "I do", it's a good idea to get to know each other a little first. Maybe even play a little footsie.

I've been searching and searching for good advice on the subject and consistently come up empty. There's plenty of advice on how to split up equity, qualities to look for in a co-founder, and even the occasional article on places to go to find entrepreneurs.

Why is there zero information on how to vet them?

The typical article seems to suggest a good conversation will do the trick, presumably because you've just dosed your co-founder with sodium pentathol and wired him to a lie detector.

While there's no perfect answer for this, just as there's no perfect first date, I'd like to suggest a few options.

(For the record: The perfect first date is always in black tie. Everyone looks good in a tux.)

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Why Get Married on the First Date?…Co-Founder Dating

In our customer development interviews with entrepreneurs looking for co-founders I've found many pitches follow this general course:

My idea is amazing, but I can't tell you about it. It's a 100% surefire billion dollar idea, if only I had someone to do __________. I will only tell you about my idea if you commit to indentured servitude for at least one year if not longer.

I find this a bit loopy.

Of course, not all are that bad. Still, many have one of the following three flaws, including the insistence of getting married on the first date.

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Customer Development with Network Effects

How does customer development differ with regards to products which require a network effect to be useful?

Short answer: No one knows.

Companies offering services such as Skype, eBay, Facebook, and others have cannot really test their value proposition without having a critical mass of users. A telephone with only one person on it is pretty useless. Yet these are some of the most lucrative inventions ever. So how do you apply the principles of customer development to these situations?

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