Based on your recommendation of First Round's "Review" blog, I've been reading all the posts. AWESOME one today on how Pandora managed an engineering resource crunch to get to where they are today!
“This is incredible, because someone very smart at one point thought, ‘We would be absolutely stupid not to do this thing.’ But really, when viewed in context of all the opportunities for the business, half of the things people thought were important immediately fall away," says Conrad.
Pandora's use of fake money is genius because it exposes something that's often lost in organizations: That there's a cost to everything. There's a cost to choosing to focus in one area; it happens at the expense of another area whether the company realizes it or not. Pandora's Post-It sticky approach laid that bare and made the trade-off process a tangible thing:
“Basically, a feature that takes one engineer one month to complete is worth $5. If it takes them two months, it’s $10, $15 for three months. So if you’re thinking about dedicating an engineer to one project for the whole 90 days, that’s $15. If you’re going to put two engineers on it, that’s $30 and so forth,” he explains. “With this in mind, we put dollar values on each of the idea slides we made." ... Every quarter, Conrad would print out and tape up all 80 submitted idea slides with their requisite dollar amounts. Then he’d hand out stacks of Post-It notes to each of the stakeholders in the room. Taking his example, if you have five people participating in the prioritization process and $150 in engineering capacity, you would make five stacks of stickies, each worth $5. Everyone gets six so they have $30 to “spend” on features. It’s important everyone gets the same amount whether they’re the CEO or customer service."
And here are some other great quotes:
He readily busts the myth of “failing fast.” This wasn’t the environment at Pandora, with little time and money to waste. “There’s this motto in our industry that says fail fast and fail often,” he says. “But none of us can actually do that right? We have all kinds of constituents — employees, investors, users — they are expecting you to do smart things, not dumb things. So one of the first things I said was let’s not pretend we can just try things and some will work out and some won’t. That’s not winning, that’s losing.”and...
"The more you talk about what you’re going to do a year from now, the more that becomes etched in stone. You have to make sure you’re doing the most valuable work at any given time.”
Something hit me today like a ton of bricks.
Something that's so damn obvious I can't believe I never encapsulated it into a single coherent thought before.
The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is... trading up.
Yep, that's right, trading up.
Trading up, as in the Red Paperclip guy who, after a series of trades, went from a paperclip to a house.
Something hit me today like a ton of bricks. Something that's so damn obvious I can't believe I never encapsulated it into a single coherent thought before. The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is... trading up. Yep, that's right, trading up. Trading up, as in the Red Paperclip guy who, after a series of trades, went from a paperclip to a house. Except I'm not talking about trading paperclips for houses. I'm talking about turning nothing into something. I'm talking about hustling. About maximizing opportunities. About asking yourself, "what could I do with this thing I just got, to turn it into something bigger and better based on my goals?" (the "thing" being press, or a successful product launch, or an introduction, or basically anything). I just realized today this is something I do all the time. I've done it so much that it's ingrained in the very fabric of my being. It'd be really easy to take this the wrong way, especially if you don't trade up often or at all. I don't mean this in a manipulative sort of way at all. There's a certain earnestness you have to have in doing this to live a good life while always reaching for something greater. Let me just give you the small example that made me realize it today, in chronological order: We're looking to hire engineers. In a big way. So I heard the news on TechCrunch today about Digg laying people off And then shortly thereafter I saw this blog about people scouting for Digg engineers, which mentioned that Joe Stump of SimpleGeo used to be lead architect at Digg. And then I thought to myself, "hmmm, I know some SimpleGeo guys" so I looked up the people I know to see what their email addresses were in an attempt to discern a pattern of email addy so I could email Joe I found that they were all [email protected] and thought "hmmm I'd better verify that, because Joe is a common name, so his might not be [email protected]" So I did a Google search for "[email protected]" and viola! A few things did pop up - enough to assure me that I had his email address right (note - took part of the email addy out in this link for spam bot mitigation) So I emailed him, letting him know about my relationship w/ SimpleGeo and how we were looking for engineers And he emailed me back letting me know he'd shard my info with some ex Digg engineers I 'traded up' a series of thoughts & actions to achieve a goal, starting with a simple thought about how ex-Digg engineers were available and I might have a connection to someone who could connect me, to following through with an email and response. I don't know if anything will come of this, but that's somewhat besides the point. It's kinda like baseball scores. Having a ".267" is pretty solid and a ".335" is even better - if you do it enough times, you'll see results. Or to put it another way -- the way I just figured out today-- if you trade up often enough, you'll get outsized, unusual and extraordinary results, even if you completely strike out much of the time. The example I showed you above isn't even that impressive. I think any entrepreneur worth their salt will say, "so what? I would've done the same thing. In fact, I'm going to email Joe now." Some of you may have in fact already emailed Joe from reading the part above. That's exactly my point. This is what all good entrepreneurs do. In fact, we do it without even thinking about it, which is why it hit me today that it's such an obvious thing and yet such a marker for success. I must do things like this dozens or more times per day. If I were an Angel or a VC, I'd find a way to test for this. Another example from today that comes to mind: Sean, one of my co-founders, sent me an article about a "first of its kind" partnership Apple just inked with a Fortune 500 company. So I used Jigsaw to find the contact info for the person mentioned in the article who inked the deal with Apple and emailed him. Who knows if anything will come of it. The process of looking him up and composing an email to him took me about 3 minutes. But if something comes of it, it could mean meaningful revenue to our company. Most likely, it won't happen, but it's a numbers game and seeing his name in the article and reaching out to him is just another example of 'trading up.' It's something I do almost without thinking about it. Trading up explains why entrepreneurs are always thinking about work, or taking work home with them, or mulling things over in the shower. Trading up explains why being an entrepreneur is an all-consuming experience. Because you know that that one email you didn't get to write, or that one phone call or meeting you didn't take, or that one networking event you didn't go to could have been the home run. Although many (I might even say all successful) entrepreneurs do this, I don't think many non-entrepreneurs do this, simply because they don't have to. It's mentally exhausting to always be thinking about trading up. Or to put it another way, it's not exhausting once you've done it enough, like building up a muscle group. You have to be hungry to always be looking for ways to trade up. If you have a nice job, or you're satisfied, you won't need to trade up. You never develop those mental muscles. You never see the little opportunities in front of you that you can turn into big opportunities ".335" percent of the time. Some day I may feel like I don't need to trade up anymore. Then again, it might just be set like concrete into my persona; unchangeable. I've already had one person disagree with me that "trading up" is the most important facet to being a successful entrepreneur, but I'm going to stick with it for now, at least until someone can convince me otherwise in the comments. PS see, there I am, trading up again. Putting a line and the end of my blog to encourage comments, so I can make a connection, so I can have another data point in my batting average. I'm telling you, this is big. PPS if you like this blog, please vote for it on Hacker News. Yep, trading up again, you called it.
I suppose I've been a little extra book crazy lately, perhaps its a winter thing. However, I can't help but be reminded of my old friend, Nat. He's probably in Belize right now, or perhaps he's finally made it to Antarctica. Nat was a small fellow, much smaller than average. I think it made clothes shopping difficult. When Nat would have a particularly good day at the thrift shops, he would say, "Somebody died in my size!", and smile real big. It was a bit morbid, and was probably true on at least one occasion. He thought it was hilarious. And it must have stuck with me, because when I walked into the "Last Word Bookstore" (40th and Walnut) today and looked at the 'Hinduism' section, my first thought was, "My God, a Ramakrishna devotee died." There were so many books from the Ramakrishna Mission, that they wouldn't even all fit on the shelves. They overflowed onto the floor. Not the best book Karma, I know, but I wasn't going to get in a fight with the bookstore guy about it. Enough Ramakrishna and Vivekenanda to keep you busy for a long, long time. Of course, there was some other good stuff, some Ramana Maharshi thrown in for good measure, and a few hardbacks from india written by obscure swamis. You could tell it all came from the same guy. I wonder what happened to him. Did he die? Did he become a Christian? Did he move to India? I hope he moved to India. I was proud of myself, I didn't buy even one. I spent this week's book allowance on those that bag of tantra from craig's list, and it is keeping me plenty busy. I just thought I should put it out there, in case anyone else in in the market for "The Complete Works of Swami Vivekenanda"($35), or in case anyone feels like making me a present. Hah!Keep your lamps trimmed and burning...