The 5 psychological traits of successful startup founders

From The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done by Michael Dearing:

Personal Exceptionalism. Definition: A macro sense that you are in the top of your cohort, your work is snowflake-special, or that you are destined to have experiences well outside the bounds of “normal”; not to be confused with arrogance or high self-esteem. Benefit: Resilience, stamina, charisma. Deadly risk: Assuming macro-exceptionalism means micro exceptionalism; brittleness.

Dichotemous Thinking. Definition: Being extremely judgmental of people, experiences, things; highly opinionated at the extremes; sees black and white, little grey. Benefit: Achieves excellence frequently. Deadly risk: Perfectionism.

Correct Overgeneralization. Definition: Making universal judgments from limited observations and being right a lot of the time. Benefit: Saves time. Deadly risk: Addiction to instinct and indifference to data.

Blank Canvas Thinking. Definition: Sees own life as a blank canvas, not a paint-by-numbers. Benefit: No sense of coloring outside the lines, creates surprises. Deadly risk: “Ars gratis artis”, failure to launch, failure to scale.

Schumpeterianism. Definition: Sees creative destruction as natural, necessary, and as their vocation. Benefit: Fearlessness, tolerance for destruction and pain. Deadly risk: Heartless ambition, alienation.

Note: Does any VC firm select for these founder characteristics?

A better way to demo your product

From Why Most Demos Confuse by VC Roy Bahat:

Demoing a product by starting with the home page (or, actually, starting anywhere on the website or in the app) is like a realtor showing you a house starting in the living room… Consider, instead, walking through the front door — having come from somewhere, paid attention to the neighborhood, the cars on the street, the front porch.

Start with the first moment a user might learn of your product — maybe it’s an email invite, or a text from a friend, or a notification of a forced install from their IT department, or they heard about the app from someone. Then show what that first-user experience looks like.

If you think about the demo this way, you’ll gradually open the eyes of your audience so that when you do arrive at the actual service, they’ll be more likely to have that ah! moment.

And this goes beyond just the demo: most of us think of the entire product as what’s really only the “interior” of the house — the features, look, and flow of your site or app. We might be better served thinking of the product as including the “exterior” of how users will encounter it in the course of their day…

Using exhaustive lists to get unstuck

From Exhaustive lists as a reliable tool for unsticking yourself by Seth Godin:

When in doubt, or when it’s just not good enough, make an exhaustive list.

- Every successful product in this category that you’ve ever used, and why
- Every reason your current project might not work
- Every reason you can think of to use what you’ve made

The challenge of every is that it’s exhausting. You have to go to the edges, and that act, the act of going beyond the obvious, is where innovation lies.

Notes: (1) Making an exhaustive list requires you to write things down; that in itself increases clarity. (2) Seth Godin’s posts show how you can say much with few words, if you have extreme clarity about the topic or issue.

The 3 conditions that create virality

From Real Engines Of Growth Have Nothing To Do With Growth Hacking, quoting Ooga Labs co-founder Stan Chudnovsky:

The most powerfully growing products do three things at once:
1.They make you look smart to the people you invite.
2. They give real value to you when the people you invite join.
3. They give real value to the people you’ve invited once they sign up.

Notes: (1) Why does the recommendation need to make you look smart? Isn’t it enough that the recommended product gives real value to you and to the person you recommend it to? (2) Funny how statements of what should be obvious are nonetheless so enlightening. Cf. The 3 conditions of a great fremium business. (3) Thank you Guy Cohen for the link.

Understanding your customer’s needs

From What I learned from negotiating with Steve Jobs by Heidi Roizen:

Steve [Jobs] took the contract from me and scanned down to the key term, the royalty rate. I had pitched 15%, our standard. Steve pointed at it and said, “15%? That is ridiculous. I want 50%.” I was stunned. There was no way I could run my business giving him 50% of my product revenues.

I slogged down to my car feeling like I had just blown the biggest deal of my life. Lucky for me, someone had followed me out. Dan’l Lewin, one of the NeXT co-founders, said one sentence, which I will never forget. “Make it look like fifty percent,” he said.

[Steve Jobs] had promised the developers 50%, he had said the number within earshot of everyone, and he wanted to be able to tell everyone he got what he wanted.

Heidi hit 50% by deducting various costs before calculating the percentage, leaving her actual profit margin unchanged. She concludes:

In business school, I learned that negotiation is “the process of finding the maximal intersection of mutual need.” People are not often as clear as Steve was — it sometimes takes extra work and lots of iterative communications to find out what the other person truly wants, but the process creates better, more sustainable deals.

To build a great brand, do one thing right

From Get One Thing Right by Andy Dunn:

Consumers don’t need many things from your brand —they just need one thing from your brand. You may want them to need everything from your brand, but guess what: consumers don’t care what you want. Your job is to care about what they want, not what you want them to want. The difference between the two is the distance between a customer-centric company and an ego-centric company.

If you’re not careful, the mentality of you wanting them to buy everything from you could lead to them buying nothing from you.

Make one thing great. Get one thing right. That earns you the right to go from product one to product two.