7 lessons learned from Waze founder, Uri Levine

Startup Grind London

I attended Startup Grind in London on 14th June and decided to share the highlights from my favourite talk of the day. It was an open, honest talk by Uri the serial startup founder behind Waze, FeeX and serves as a board member to startups such as Engie and Moovit among others. He is probably best known for Waze, which was sold to Google in 2013 for $1.1bn. Nevertheless the 7 lessons shared below are applicable for all startup founders and drawn from Uri’s experience working with other startups and not just Waze.

1. Entrepreneurship

  • Both love and hate can lead to finding your passion
  • Be willing to sacrifice as some things in your life will have to give
  • The biggest enemy of ‘good enough’ is perfect, trying to achieve perfection could kill your startup

2. Falling in Love

Ventures can be like dating:

  • Out of a ton of ideas you must fall in love with just one
  • It takes time to fall in love
  • If your friends and family don’t like her you disengage — same is true with customer feedback on products

3. Celebrate your ‘1st Time Ever’ experiences

Good

  • Momentous occasions like a new launch or new office move

Better

  • Flattery from competition who copy you or attempted law suits from incumbents (shows you are doing something right!)

Best

  • Thank you letter from users

4. The Startup Journey

  • Find a solution with many users with a problem
  • Build something crappy and get it in the hand of users as quick as possible to gain feedback
  • User feedback should drive your Product Roadmap

5. Star Tips

  • Make your mistakes FAST
  • Fall in love with the problem, not the solution
  • Focus on what you are doing and exactly what you purposely choose not to do

6. The Team

  • 50% of startups fail due to building poor teams, remember A-players hire A-players so make sure your first hires are A-players
  • Take risks when hiring but don’t only hire based on values, be willing to fire based on them too
  • Ask yourself — if there was a new CEO coming in tomorrow what decisions will they make (knowing they have no history of previous ‘decision guilt or bias’)?

7. Fund raising tips

  • Put your strongest points at the beginning and again at the end regardless whether it is your traction or the size of the market for the problem you are solving
  • Investors are users too (this is good and bad as this can cause an unconscious bias to decision making, i.e. “if I can’t relate, I won’t invest”)
  • Learn the art of storytelling with a clear beginning, middle and end with personal examples woven into the story to make it easy to understand

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