Jose Casanova
Oct 11, 2015 · 5 min read
First day of the cohort

TL;DR: I learned a lot

I was once employed by Coolhouse Labs, a technology accelerator, as a Developer in Residence for their summer cohort.

My duties included software development, advising on product decisions, developing user acquisition strategies, and generally being a value-add resource to the product team along with the companies in the cohort.

Here are a few things I learned over those three months:

Be Direct and Don’t Bullshit

You shouldn’t waste people’s time by bullshitting. Aim to be direct and straight forward in every line of communication.

It might hurt some feelings, but its better to get shit done. Call it as you see it and don’t sugar coat things.

Being direct, without sugar coating the truth, will help you achieve more in a short time.

Be Vulnerable and Challenge Yourself

Get out of your comfort zone!

This is the only way you can grow as a person and improve on your craft. It will also help you achieve better results in a shorter time period.

You can grow at 5% a week? Why not 10%? Yeah let’s set a goal for 10%.

Why is this helpful?

It will force you to focus on high-impact tasks and accomplish your priorities.

Challenge yourself by setting hard goals. It will unleash your creativity and help you accomplish them.

By tackling difficult issues, you will grow as an individual but you will also gain the confidence to achieve larger goals. I believe its one of the most important steps in becoming a master in a craft.

Do Not Gossip or Complain

Complaining doesn’t solve anything.

By complaining, you are wasting your energy on something negative (complaining) rather than using it to be productive and finding a solution.

Stop complaining and figure out a solution to get shit done.

If someone gossips, then cut them off immediately. Gossip instills negative thinking and demeans your character.

Gossiping about others leaves you an impression of someone that you might not have met yet.

For example, lets say Jane talks negatively to you about Sally, which you haven’t met yet, then your default connotation of Sally will be negative. Its a Lose-Lose.

ABC — Always Be Coding / Closing

You should always be coding and improving your product or closing deals.

Building a successful startup isn’t a 9–5 job, its a 24/7/365 one.

This is the level of dedication you must have if you plan on succeeding. You’re competing in an eat what you kill world.. you don’t want to be eaten do you?

Hustle for that next deal or next funding round (if you are looking to raise money).

But don’t forget to have fun with it! Don’t take things too seriously, because you’ll be learning from your failures along the way.

Communication is Key

Communication is so important because it keeps everyone on the same page. Infective communication is more costly to your startup via lost in productivity.

Keep an open line of communication with your team and with your users.

Generate a feedback cycle so that you can constantly improve your platform.

User feedback is key! Always talk to users to see is working and build upon that. Your original idea will NOT be the end product. Build around user feedback in order to get product/market fit.

Keeping an open line of communication eliminates any confusion and allows everyone to get shit done without loss in productivity.

Solve Real Problems

Make real products that people will actually use. People don’t need another social network, but they do need to find where the cheapest vet for their pet is.

Life Is about Experiences, Not Material Possessions

Life is about experiences, not material possessions. This was a piece of inspiration for me to travel Europe. You don’t need ‘stuff’ to make you happy.

We are moving more towards a collaborative-consumption economy so this trend is only going to accelerate.

Experience different things around you and go on adventures.

What will you enjoy remembering in 30 years? How you traveled across Europe or that nice car you had?

Don’t Trade Your Time for Money

Work on stuff that matters and that will make you happy… life is too short to do something you hate.

You Don’t Need a Product to Have Traction

Traction is key, but so is business development.

Sometimes you don’t need a product to gain traction, but a vision with a solid team building it.

You Need to Be a Full Stack Entrepreneur

From development to marketing, the trend moving forward is to go ‘full stack’.

This means you should be able to handle every business vertical — such as marketing, development, sales, customer service, etc. — so that you truly understand how everything works together.

Full Stack Entrepreneurship is essential to every early stage founder with limited funding.

This keeps your burn rate low since you don’t have to hire more people at such an early stage.

Surround Yourself with Smart People

Summer 2014 Cohort

Nothing is better than engaging in an intellectual conversation, or having smart people around you to help when you are stuck.

Remember, you are the average of the 5 people you hang out with most.

People Are Nice

People are genuinely nice.

Its hard to say this about people in Miami because lots of people typically want something out of you.

Everyone in Harbor Springs genuinely went out of their way to make sure we felt welcomed.

I Can Make Friends Anywhere

Back home I have a core group of friends that I hang out with, and don’t deviate much from them.

One of my initial thoughts of going to Harbor Springs was that I would be out of my comfort-zone and be forced to make friends.

And I did just that!

Word Spreads Quick

Watch what you say because word gets around quickly.

This forces you think about what you are going to say thoroughly before it leaves your lips.

Company Culture Is Important

Working at Coolhouse made me realize that culture is important.

If you enjoy what you are doing, are in an intellectually stimulating environment with smart people, then it doesn’t feel like work. This helps with productivity since you aren’t drifting by just for the paycheck.

Expectations + 1

Set expectations and always deliver more! Your users will be forever thankful and it’ll initiate the “wow” effect.

RIP Nate

Jose Casanova

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