It’s been one year since I was a startup founder/CEO. On May 2, 2016, we announced Pinterest’s acquisition of URX and began the next step in our journey. In that moment it was hard to comprehend how different this chapter would be from the one before it, and I’m grateful that I’ve gained some of this perspective over the last year.
In short- my biggest learning about product strategy from URX is the importance of aligning your vision with your business model. As with so many things in life, there’s a big difference between understanding things with your head, and knowing them with your heart. …
Spring has sprung, and the smell of fresh YC applications is in the air. It’s that special time that happens twice a year where thousands of budding entrepreneurs vie for a spot in the upcoming Y Combinator class.
For those among you who are preparing for your interviews over the next few days, I wanted to share some of the best practices that helped Andrew, Nate, James and me pass our interview and earn URX’s place in the Summer 2013 batch.
Each interview lasts about 10 minutes and the interviewers’ goal is to get as much signal about the team as possible. Because of this, the interviews are structured as a series of rapid fire questions that will cover a lot of ground. Having well prepared, concise answers that you can recall quickly is probably the single strongest indicator of success for your interview. We prepared for this by coming up with a list of ~50 expected questions, each with their own with 2–3 bullet point response (EDIT: Here’s our prep doc). Then, we spent hours grilling each other and loaded them into a flashcard webapp for self testing. …
Good Idea, Bad Startup
I had the privilege of being a guest lecturer at UCLA earlier this year to their Economics 106E: Startups class. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to give back to my alma mater and help inspire/educate the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Every time I give a presentation like this, I am careful to balance the “goods and the bads” of living the startup life.. It’s a major red flag to me when people want to join startups because they’re, “cool”- it feels like a professional obligation to share the ups and downs of the journey.
I hope you enjoy watching this presentation as much as I enjoyed delivering it:
In URX’s first 2 years, we grew from 4 co-founders to a 20-person engineering, product and business team. With this growth, many of our internal processes and communication channels broke. It didn’t feel like we were moving as fast as we were before, and it took longer to get everyone on the same page.
After analyzing our current processes, I came up with a new set of tenets that guide how I operate as a CEO. Thanks to the way communication overhead scales exponentially as a team grows, I expect to have to revisit these continuously along our growth curve.
Here are the 7lessons I learned growing URX from 4 to 20 people. …
originally posted October 17, 2013
“Andrew, this is it — we’ve got the right team, and the timing’s perfect. If we don’t go for this now, we will regret it for the rest of our lives.”
I could feel him thinking through the silence. “Alright dude, I’m in. Let’s talk to Nate and James and make this happen.”
It was a Friday afternoon in mid-January when Andrew, Nate, James and I went from being close friends to co-founders. …
Before becoming a founder, I assumed that when I had the right idea, I would know it was time to, “go for it”. I spent my first few years in Silicon Valley cutting my teeth and gaining as many skills as I possibly could. I worked on variety of side projects, met a ton of interesting people, and had a ton of ideas that I thought were interesting. When push came to shove though, I was still a wantrepreneur and that killed me.
Towards the end of 2012, I knew it was my time. After a fated conversation with one of my mentors, I realized that there was no way to prepare myself for being a founder other than by founding a company. Quickly thereafter, I joined up with 3 of my close friends and we set off to do something crazy. …
Convertible notes are a financial instrument for early stage venture fundraising that provide benefits to both entrepreneurs and early investors. They move much faster than equity financing and give investors a premium for taking on early risk.
In San Francisco (URX is in South Park) coffee shops it’s common to hear:
Capped Notes (a form of “convertible debt”) convert to Common Shares in the Company at its next round of funding. For startups, this is usually a Series A round.
I feel so fortunate to have spent the last 1 year, 11 months as a student at the most forward thinking company in the world. Working at Google, I was surrounded with incredibly talented people solving difficult problems in a culture of creativity, learning and personal growth.
Today is my last day at Google and, while I am incredibly sad to leave, I am, “uncomfortably excited” about what the future holds. The relationships, experience and skills that I gained during my time at Google have given me the confidence to pursue my dreams of being a startup co-founder.
Some of the most stimulating conversations that I‘ve ever had have been over the amazing food at Beta, Charlie’s or Big Table. I will miss the lunchtime talks and impassioned diatribes more than anything else. There’s no way to explain the culture more than just, “Googley” — unique viewpoints, analytical thinking and creativity flowed through the hallways and was palpable on campus. …
My life has changed drastically over the last two months but my love and adoration for my Mom has remained constant. I miss her and think about her every day and can’t help but feel a renewed sense of purpose in life. Her memory has filled me with hope and inspiration to go after my dreams and to not be afraid to take risks, as I know the worst failure I might experience will be nothing compared to the suffering that she experienced.
I have been asked a few times to share the Eulogy that I read at her funeral and today I felt inspired to share a glimpse at the type of person that my Mom was. …
Recent innovation in sensors, smartphones and connected devices enable users to measure an unprecedented amount of information about how humans interact with and live in the world. As this data continues to become valuable and actionable, a new layer of data revolution will emerge.
In most of the current ‘Quantified Self‘ products, the most compelling use cases revolve around health and fitness. They all solve for problems that exist within their communities and have a critical mass of users who are willing to try new things. Soon, similar use cases will evolve within parallel verticals like eco-consciousness and lifelong learning.
My Measurement Framework
My “Quantified Me” exists through 5 main interfaces: Fitocracy, The Eatery, RunKeeper,Withings and Fitbit. Each attempts to measure a specific part of my activity, either implicitly through sensors or explicitly through an interface. The goal of measurement in each context is to help you move towards certain milestones or achievements. …