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On top of the to-do list for the non-technical.

The Atomic Problem for the Nontechnical Founder without a trust fund.

Once upon a time in the distant lands of Silicon Valley, many fresh minted MBA students arrived in khaki pants and rolled up oxford button-ups to become the next tech titan; the next Larry Ellison or Steve Jobs. An Ivy-league business plan in one hand and hawt business cards in the other, they were ready to conquer Sand Hill Road’s money men. Millions of dollars flowed and success was overnight. Seriously, it was that easy.

As Mel Brooks once said, “It’s good to be the king”.

But, the fairy tale lasted less than a decade and businesses went bust faster than their meteoric rise to fame. The Valley had lost its veneer and many khaki MBA’s would find shelter at Big Blue or on Wall Street. …

Why the most important technology has always been a simple loop

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Photo by Johann Siemens on Unsplash

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: I hate when people use ‘simple’ to mean dumbed-down, unintelligent, lazy, or easy. For me, the word simple is sublimely elegant and incredibly challenging to achieve. When I say ‘simple,’ I am conjuring up its original meaning, coming from the Latin simplus; it’s made from the root ‘sem,’ meaning one, combined with ‘plo,’ or ‘to fold together.’ The ingenuity of a thing that needs to be combined only with itself that is so utterly what is needed requires no additions, a design so simple and beautiful it can be made in one fold. This always makes me think of the intentional design and natural simplicity of origami, or an Olympic-caliber dive. …

A Litmus Test for Founders

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Does your product swim upstream? NPS Photo/Russ Taylor

After ten plus years of product development, I have finally realized the fatal flaw in much of my thinking when it comes to good and bad ideas. I have often scrolled through the endless TechCrunch feed of startup news, skimming and judging new startups like a bored twenty-something-year-old on Tinder.

That’s a dumb idea! Nope, not gonna work. Oh, interesting … that’s cool. LOL did they really raise that much money on that idea?

Inevitably, years down the road I find myself dragging my fingernails down a chalkboard in disgust of how wrong I was. …

How being fragile can stunt growth and what to do about it.

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We all want to grow, but it requires doing difficult and uncomfortable things. Photo by Hannah Vorenkamp on Unsplash

As someone who has been making a serious effort to get back into working out after a few years where work wouldn’t allow it, I can say from experience: Building muscle hurts. For years I avoided things that would leave me achy and sore, but now waking up in the morning to some pain has become a sign that I’m doing something right. It turns out you’re not going to get very far if you don’t make yourself a little uncomfortable.

I was reminded of this truism recently when I picked up Nicholas Taleb’s book Antifragile. Well, at first I thought, “Is Antifragile even a word?”. Turns out it’s not, but as Taleb points out we don’t really have a word for the opposite of fragile. Yeah, I thought resilient too, but to be resilient is to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. To be fragile is to be easily broken or damaged. How do we, in the first place, not fall victim to even the most difficult conditions — but thrive in them? …

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Photo by Anton Repponen on Unsplash

Why the wave you are riding won’t last for long.

“What you are doing is very radical. Maybe too radical for our bank.”

These were the parting words after spending 90 minutes pitching my current startup to a very large Wall Street bank. This would have been a huge customer for us — the proverbial ‘whale’ that salespeople dream of and that can make or break a young company. But, unexpectedly, being told by a whale that what we were doing was just too radical put a huge smile on my face.

Sure, I would love to land a huge whale as a customer, but in my heart I know we have a lot of work to do before we cross that chasm. Our investor partners set up the meeting and I felt it would be a good opportunity to practice our pitch and learn a little about how these far-in-the future customers think about human performance. …

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It’s not Fight Club.

The first rule of Fight Club is: Don’t talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: Don’t talk about Fight Club.

On the surface, David Fincher’s film Fight Club was a celebration of nihilism. But a few layers deeper you realize it was also a narrative about the comradery of a group who banned together because they were different, and wanted to create something bigger than themselves. Founders Club isn’t much different: We have comradery, we have mentors and leaders, we are trying to execute on big ideas. Those big ideas just don’t involve complete anarchy and destruction. …

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Human Alarm Clock circa 1900. Tap, tap.

HR might not be dead, but for HR as we know it death is imminent.

In my 20 year career, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the Human Resources department — and I doubt I’m alone in this. Like many others, a negative experience with HR has left me distrustful of the department that seems too often to rush from one crisis to another without any specialized training and focus more on office parties and morale than the development and well-being of their people.

In a moment when the company culture is often in the spotlight and we have roles like the ‘Head of People’ or ‘Chief Happiness Officer,’ it’s time to take a good look at the true value of Human Resources, and how to lay the outdated, traditional takes on HR to rest. …

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Photo Credit: Shane Kell

What happens when your shadow runs away.

Like a shadow, Imposter Syndrome follows you wherever you go. Like Peter Pan, I’ve been trying to catch mine my whole life.

Peter Pan (1953 Walt Disney) Giphy

I’m 40 years old, but I can vividly remember the first time I caught a glance of my shadow. I was eight years old and falling behind in math class. Everyone understood with ease things that took me days to learn — but I was too scared to ask for more time or explanation. I’m sure the fear of being seen as not smart kept me from raising my hand and drawing attention to myself. …

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Image Credit Bryant Robertson

And neither am I. But here’s how to work at it every day.

Last year my team and I started a book club. Yup, just like Pam & Toby’s Finer Things Club from The Office. Ok, well — not quite. Our first read was Carol Dweck’s seminal book, Mindset. For some reason, I thought the book would blow people’s minds and set them on a journey of self-discovery and understanding. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen; instead, it became an internal sport to let each other know when they were of a fixed mindset. This was not the environment I had imagined creating for myself and my team: Competitive one-upmanship instead of self-discovery and growth.

Maybe it’s because having a “growth mindset” remains an inherently positive, but broad, amorphous designation in our culture. It has recently become a buzzword for company executives and human resources on their culture quests to tap their inner Satya Nadella. As my co-founder Alen is fond of saying, we’ve “jumped the shark” when it comes to how we talk about growth and fixed mindsets. It is no longer the mindful, counter-culture movement it once was when Carol Dweck originally started publishing her research and instead has become so ubiquitous that you hear it in everyday speech, and see it on resumes. …

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Raise, raise, raise.

On a typically mild San Francisco day back in February 2012, my co-founder and I, along with our first three employees, rolled up to an AirBnB that would be our home for the next few days. We were presenting at the LAUNCH Festival — a major competition for startups right in the heart of Silicon Valley. After getting our rooms and settling in, we gathered for a quick team meeting before heading down to the event.

During the meeting, one of our employees jokingly suggested we memorize someone’s phone number in case of an emergency; “You know, like if you get arrested and have to make one phone call.” Thinking about that now, it seems like something Jared from Silicon Valley would have said. But the excitement was electric, a heady mix of nerves and determination, and we all had the feeling that anything could happen next. LAUNCH would be our first opportunity to come out and show the world how our product would change how we all store data — at least that was our modest hope. …


Clint Gordon-Carroll

Clint is a serial entrepreneur based in SLC, currently working on a startup to kill the year-end performance review and help teams achieve greatness.

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