Personal

The Personal section contains resources to help you navigate the personal aspect of running, joining and working at a startup. From handling stress, preparing for job interviews, improving your personal productivity, learning new skills, and bettering your personal brand, this section will help you advance personally and professionally. 


Deciding to Start a Company »

Deciding to start a company should not be taken lightly. With your time, money, energy, relationships and even health at stake, you should be well aware of the journey ahead of you. You should also consider whether it is best that you use the upcoming timeframe to work and learn the ropes under another founder and managing team so that you can be better prepared to start a company at a later time. 

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Deciding to Start a Company

Hunter Walk

There’s one question to ask yourself periodically, especially when considering a new assignment over an external opportunity, and that question is: Imagine you were at a different job you loved and a recruiter from [Google/ Apple/ Facebook] called you to offer you your current job at [Google/ Apple/ Facebook], would you chase it? Or in other words, would you re-apply today for the job you currently have? If you answer “no, I wouldn’t fight hard for the job I have” then you owe it to yourself to find something that you can be excited about.

 

Scott Britton 

You usually hear about people wanting to start companies because they have a problem they want solve or think they have some unique insight that might result in bags of cash. I think there is another reason that is spoken of less frequently. When people would tell me how hard it was to build a company a certain itch would arise that made me wonder if I had what it took to start my own. Ultimately, I think it stems back to the fact that we as humans compare ourselves and abilties to our peers  to seek external validation. I don’t think this motivation alone is the right ingredient for building a successful company. However, I do think its important to recognize its existence and be aware of how it affects our professional decision making. 

 


Joining a Company »

Startups are very risky endeavors. Before joining one, you should do your diligence to learn about the company and the position you are being offered to ensure that you believe that the team and the company are worth dedicating the next few years of your life to. 

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Joining a Company

Hunter Walk

Job interviews are terribly insufficient for both sides – a candidate only gets to experience their prospective employer through a few select individuals and the hiring manager would actually rather observe interactions in a real job setting as opposed to a series of 45 minute discussions. “Try Before You Buy” is where both parties figure out a way to work on a project together before mutually committing. Well, it seems like “ditching the interview” is growing in popularity. 

 

Babak Nivi

Here is an employee offer letter from Yokum Taku at Wilson Sonsini, published in its entirety, in various formats. If you’re an employee, ask questions if your offer letter varies substantially from this one. Ask questions even if it doesn’t.

 


Job Interviews »

A staple of any job hunt is a job interview. Job interviews are easy to mess up, but they are also easy to prepare for and to succeed at. This section offers the best resources on job interviews so that you succeed where others fumble. 

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Job Interviews

Brad Feld

I’ve always thought this was a great interview question. I’ve used it with founders of companies I’m looking at investing in, TechStars founders, and execs for early stage companies. Basically, anyone who I’m trying to understand what they are thinking about long term. The variety of answers is fascinating, often deeply personal, and occasionally very confusing to me. But they are always enlightening.

 


Leaving a Company »

Whether from being fired or from quitting, employee turnover is an inevitable part of startup life. The frequent change in company strategy is not only existent, but encouraged until product-market fit and growth strategies are achieved. Company funding elements also play a major role. Therefore, being fired or having to quit is something worth accepting as a reality, and it is worth being informed of best practices to make these difficult transitions as frictionless as possible for you and your career. 

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Leaving a Company

Hunter Walk 

There’s one question to ask yourself periodically, especially when considering a new assignment over an external opportunity, and that question is: Imagine you were at a different job you loved and a recruiter from [Google/ Apple/ Facebook] called you to offer you your current job at [Google/ Apple/ Facebook], would you chase it? Or in other words, would you re-apply today for the job you currently have? If you answer “no, I wouldn’t fight hard for the job I have” then you owe it to yourself to find something that you can be excited about.

 

Hunter Walk 

Careers are sets of decisions where you have the chance to emerge from the chrysalis every so often and show the world, show yourself, how you’ve evolved. You are not your org chart, your department budget, or your title. Don’t let success at a company prevent you from pursuing scary and wonderful new opportunities to build. It took me a little longer than it should have, but from the other side, it’s pretty awesome.

 


Productivity & Self-Improvement »

Working at or on your own startup requires enormous productivity, efficiency, and skill. This section covers best practices on how you can improve your ability to work and generate an output, as well as how you can go about attaining the hard skills and knowledge that will make you more competent at your job. 

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Productivity & Self-Improvement

David Lee

For me, one skill that really stands out among some of these folks is their ability and willingness to listen. I’m not just talking about the level of listening where you remember what the other person said. And not the pollyannish notion of “I feel your pain.” I’m talking about the deeper level of listening that requires a mastery of body language, a genuine level of empathy and most important, a genuine interest and curiousity in the speaker or subject matter, or both. They are curious in either the person or the material, regardless of the person or material.

 

Mark Suster 

For now I have to live with occasionally not living up to other people’s expectations. And to telling people to bug me multiple times if I haven’t responded to an email that they deemed as important.  If that’s you – I apologize now, in advance.  I’m willing to accept that I’ll never be a black belt in email.

 


Entrepreneurial Qualities »

Being a successful entrepreneur or startup employee requires a special skill set. From being incredibly productive and inspirational, to having integrity and common sense, being keenly aware of how you should act will help you achieve success in every interaction you have and with your startup as a whole. The key of such entrepreneurial qualities are broken down below.

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Entrepreneurial Qualities

David Lee

Truly gifted, passionate people often have the ability to make the complex simple and almost fun. It’s an infectious quality. I’m a sucker for this. When a founder can clearly, articulately and plainly explain complex and mind-numbing topics, I’m almost 80% of the way towards investing. It’s probably not the most helpful bias but I have it.

 

Fred Wilson 

I believe that there are "unique and defining characteristics of entrepreneurs." Here are some of the ones I observe most frequently: 1) A stubborn belief in one's self; 2) A confidence bordering on arrogance; 3) A desire to accept risk and ambiguity, and the ability to live with them; 4) An ability to construct a vision and sell it to many others; and 5) A magnet for talent.

 


Networking »

From cold emailing tactics to best practices on asking for introductions, with the right tips at hand networking can be easy, and fruitful. This section provides the best resources so can grow your network and make real connections to help you grow whatever you happen to be working on. 

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Networking

Scott Britton 

One of the most important things in writing an effective cold email is to keep it short. However, communicating all the things necessary to elicit a response in 3-4 sentences can be extremely challenging. One  way I’ve been able to overcome this and start dialogues with many c-level execs and big time entrepreneurs is by communicating my message in a more visually engaging format that’s easier to consume than text.

 

Scott Britton 

Architecting a compelling follow-up during the actual interaction is a great way to start the relationship building process with influential contacts. Interactions with busy, important people are often fleeting. This is why creating a reason for continuing the interaction without seeming too self-serving or formal is so important.

 


Personal Brand »

Your personal brand concerns how you present yourself to the world—and in particular, to the community in which you are trying to make an impact. Whether your trying to improve your personal career or your company's reputation, this sections provides resources on how to expand your reach and to gain respect. 

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Personal Brand

Brad Feld

I meet a lot of people. I hear a lot of people introduce themselves. I interview a lot of people. Sometimes I want to hear their story; most of the time I don’t. I’ve realized recently that I’m tired of hearing histories. And I’m tired of telling mine. It’s easy to find out most by a simple search on the web. Or a scan through LinkedIn. Or listening to one of the video interviews I’ve done where someone has said “tell me your story.” I was thinking about this especially in the context of any interview. I don’t care where you went to school (I never have). I don’t care what your first job was. I don’t care what happened 15 years ago. I care what you did yesterday, and last month, and last quarter, and last year. That’s probably as deep as I want to go in the first five minutes of our interview. 

 

Mark Suster 

Should you blog? Yes.  As Brian Solis is fond of saying, “PR stands for public relations, not press release.”  That’s right.  In the era of two-way communications people expect an authentic voice and not the Wizard of Oz pulling levels behind the curtains.  Blogging is an important way to build an audience and also drive SEO traffic.  It’s also a great way to build relationships with people interested in your topic area.

 


Feedback & Mentorship »

Getting feedback and working with mentors is arguably one of the best ways that you can improve your career and whatever you happen to be working on. Seeking such advice may at first seem daunting, but this section has resources to help you.

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Feedback & Mentorship

Fred Wilson 

Most of the time the entrepreneur will have a better feel for their product vision than the VC will. But there are times when what the entrepreneur is doing is not working and the VC will have to figure out how to get the entrepreneur to see that. I have learned to trust the entrepreneurs instincts until it is very clear I should not. Finding that line is art and not science and takes a lot of experience. And I still get it wrong from time to time.

 

Brad Feld

The great leaders I know are vulnerable. Maybe not to everyone, maybe not all the time, and maybe not in all contexts. But the allow themselves to be, simply, themselves. Human. They allow others in. They know they can be wrong. They know they can fail. And they know they can improve. Vulnerable.

 


Giving Presentations »

Giving presentations is a great way to grow your personal brand. It may also be a required part of your job—whether you happen to be presenting internally to your team, or you are representing your company at a conference. Such public moments are ripe with opportunity to realize growth, but they can also cause great damage to you and your brand if you are unprepared are if you otherwise provide a poor presentation. This section will help you understand the value of giving presentations, and it also has resources on how to nail them.

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Giving Presentations

Hilary Mason

If you’ve had a talk proposal accepted or been invited to speak at an event, you’ll usually get a chance to chat with the organizers before you show up to give your talk. While you probably have a good idea of the topic of your talk (if you don’t, that’s a post for another day!), event organizers can be invaluable in helping you frame a talk that will succeed with their audience. They are on your side and they want you to do great, or they wouldn’t be hosting you at their event. These are two questions that I always ask the organizers before I speak.

 

Hilary Mason

Slides are the supporting structure for your talk, not the main event. Speak the meaty and informative portion of the presentation out loud and use slides as a backdrop to set either the emotional tone or reinforce the message that you are trying to convey.