Startup quotes are the bumper stickers of our industry – we tumble and tweet them, and build websites dedicated to them. In a bid to sort through what is useful at an every day level, here is a list of 10 practical quotes that can help you build a better startup.
1. On funding
“Money is like gasoline during a road trip. You don’t want to run out of gas on your trip, but you’re not doing a tour of gas stations.” -Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Media founder
Looking for funding is not fun. It’s undoubtedly one of the hardest parts of being a founder and CEO. If you don’t need funding, don’t take it. If it’s something you do need then get what you need for a good runway and focus on the company and not on constant fundraising.
2. On teams
“If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large.” -Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder
In his pursuit for a decentralized, disentangled company where small groups can innovate and test their visions independently of everyone else, Bezos came up with the “two-pizza team” idea. If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large. That limits a task force to five to seven people (depending on how hungry they are). It comes down to this: it’s harder to stay agile with larger teams.
3. On focus
Make every detail perfect and limit the number of details to perfect.” -Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder
You have to be able to place your focus in whatever is most important in your domain. And the only way to do that successfully is to put the things that are not your focus into the periphery. No matter what role you are in, this is the level of awareness you must maintain in order to move your business forward effectively.
4. On failure
“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” -Drew Houston, Dropbox founder and CEO
“Fail early, fail fast, fail often,” is startup mantra. Failure is part of the learning process and each failure provides valuable information about how to succeed in the future. It comes down to this: don’t be disheartened by failure. See it as an opportunity to learn.
5. On getting to launch
“The last 10% it takes to launch something takes as much energy as the first 90%.” -Rob Kalin, Etsy founder
This ones a reminder to keep going and get your product out there. Ideas are easy, sometimes even the initial build is easy, but getting to launch can be a huge struggle. This includes the biggest internal battle of all; deciding what to leave out.
6. On building great products
“Every day that we spent not improving our products was a wasted day.” -Joel Spolsky, Stack Overflow co-founder
A product is never finished and if you’re doing it right then you’re constantly getting feedback from your customers about what they want. You need to take that feedback and implement it in a way that improves your customer offering. This needs to be a daily discipline.
7. On metrics
“Anything that is measured and watched, improves.” – Bob Parsons, GoDaddy founder
There are so many great metric tools out there Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, Mixpanel, and Flurry that make collecting data easy. Collecting data doesn’t make you “data-driven” (which is your aim)– leveraging this data consistently to prioritize, plan, and assess your activities. Develop high level success metrics based on your best assumptions about the key drivers of your business. Document these and measure them weekly.
8. On having what it takes
“No more romanticizing about how cool it is to be an entrepreneur. It’s a struggle to save your company’s life – and your own skin – every day of the week.” – Spencer Fry, CarbonMade co-founder
It’s easy to see why so many people romanticize the life of an entrepreneur with the call of “doing what you love”. The phenomenon of glossing over the hard bits has gotten so out of hand it’s now created it’s own genre of “startup porn”: A collection of entertaining, stimulating, and worthless activities that distract an entrepreneur from focusing on what really matters, hindering future achievements. Startups are tough, if you don’t know that, don’t waste your time and other people’s money making that discovery.
9. On taking advice
“Don’t take too much advice. Most people who have a lot of advice to give — with a few exceptions — generalize whatever they did. Don’t over-analyze everything. I myself have been guilty of over-thinking problems. Just build things and find out if they work.” – Ben Silbermann, Pinterest founder
Many first-time entrepreneurs would be guilty of doing this to some extent. But Silbermann is right – there is only one way to find out if an idea works, and that is by trying and testing it. Everything else is just an assumption. Learning what advice to take is a lesson in itself.
10. On making the right decisions
“Data beats emotions.” – Sean Rad, Adly and Tinder founder
Make decisions based on what you know, not on what you feel. This is much harder than you think when you are emotionally invested in building something. It’s human. Be disciplined in looking at the data and understanding the story it’s telling you, not the story you’re trying to read into it.