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Most founders think of their startup runway in terms of time — like an hourglass slowly trickling away sand. They take their money in the bank and divide it by their monthly operating costs, and that’s the number they tell their investors and themselves.

But that number really doesn’t tell you much, and it’s the lazy way to think about it. It doesn’t force you to plan what, exactly, you’ll accomplish, and how, during that time. …


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For a long time, the main way to attract and keep talent in the tech industry (especially in the major tech hubs) boiled down to perks: free yoga, ping pong tables, full-service smoothie bars, happy hours — you name it.

But maybe thanks to the increased presence and acceptance of distributed teams and remote work, that’s now changed.

Today, most employees, myself included, see “perks” as meaningless — just bait to keep them at the office longer.

Instead, in the past few years, I’ve noticed employees at fast-paced, growing companies wanting something different: freedom. That may be the freedom to work from home a day or two each week or the freedom to break up their work day in order to pick up their kids from school. …


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Startups fail for a number of reasons. And some of the most common ones have nothing to do with the product itself. Many startup failures that I’ve seen have come down to one issue: the inability to settle creative disputes effectively.

Of course, settling disputes effectively is really difficult.

Dictating from the top-down, for example, inevitably leaves one side feeling slighted or offended. It also fosters resentment for you as the decision maker. Whatever conclusions you come to when finalizing creative direction should be seen by all sides as fair and logical — in other words, supported by data.

That’s why the best place to start when it comes to conflict resolution is prioritizing data and logic.

But how, exactly, do you do that? What if both parties involved believe passionately that they’re right? …


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Do you remember all the dating sites before Tinder came along? Match.com, eHarmony, OkCupid — the list goes on. What did they all have in common? The worst onboarding experience imaginable.

I remember it like yesterday, the hours 21-year-old me spent setting up my OkCupid profile. Searching for photos, cropping them, uploading them, updating my preferences, writing and having friends edit short-form essay questions about myself — all of this just to start using the service.

And then Tinder comes along. Login with Facebook and… you’re done.

You went from 0 to actually fully productive and using the app in a matter of seconds. All your pictures are uploaded for you. Your name, age, and location are already pre-filled. All you need to do is update your preferences and start swiping. You could always add taglines or extra information about yourself later on, but it was not necessary to do this in order to start using the product. I always loved that Tinder let the users experience the full value of the product right away and then later decide for themselves whether they wanted to invest more time into completing and “optimizing” their profiles. …


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Aggression seems to be a bad word these days — and I’m not sure why.

In tennis, when I was younger, I was always told to be more aggressive. In boxing, if you’re not aggressive at least some of the time — well, you get knocked out. On the sales floor, if your reps aren’t trained to aggressively pursue leads, your company makes less money. And even more personally, if in your professional life you don’t advocate for yourself aggressively, you’ll never end up with what you want.

For some reason, these days, if you’re a tech founder or employee and you’re labeled as “aggressive,” you essentially become a pariah or an uber villain.


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So imagine this: You’ve been recruited by this company for months. You’ve been through their entire interview process, been wooed over dinner or drinks, and are super excited to join the team. It’s your first day. You get to their office and are shown to your desk. The HR person now comes up to you and sadly informs you that they forgot to order your equipment and it will be a few days before it arrives… so you go home.

This is not some fictional scenario. I’ve seen this happen to friends and former coworkers multiple times. It’s also happened to me. …


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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

In the tech industry (and especially in the Bay Area), we glorify the technical founder — the founder with both the vision as well as the programming experience to create the product him or herself.

But what about the founders who are just really good at sales? Shouldn’t founders be equally skilled in that area — or, at the very least, shouldn’t we give sales the credit it deserves?

When I was building my first company, TrackingSocial, I tried leading our sales process, even though my focus definitely falls more in the “technical” camp. …


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What do you think of as “essential” when building a new product? Well, you need a login system, CMS system, good user flows, and analytics hookups, among other things.

But what about the more human aspects of the product? Those small touches and unanticipated experiences which actually make customers happy and (fondly) remember and share the experience they had with your product?

What I’m talking about here are the sort of hidden gems you often come across in the gaming industry, like the “invincible frying pan tactic” made famous in PUBG, or the seemingly endless secret rooms or easter eggs players stumble upon in Super Mario. These are the kinds of surprises which become sensations on YouTube and in threads on Reddit. These are what make these games truly memorable, shareable, and replayable. …


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There’s a misconception in the Bay Area that if you’re starting a company, you need to raise outside capital to both operate and be considered legitimate. The process has been overly glamorized. Big rounds are celebrated, even though they don’t always translate into any exit, nevermind one that is meaningful for the founder(s).

I’ve always struggled to understand why peers and friends celebrate raising money, especially in their early stages (Seed and Series A).

At this stage, the only concrete thing you can “celebrate” is that you just gave away a portion of your equity, operating control, and the ability to draw profits from the business… permanently.


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In the early days of your startup, there may be no decision you make as a founder that will be more critical than your initial hires. I’m talking about your first client engineers, server engineers, product managers, salespeople, designers, etc.

If you hire the right people for these roles, your company, future employees, and investors will thank you for it.

But if you hire the wrong people, it can be a nightmare — this is coming from experience.

In building Dairy Free Games, my co-founder, Dennis, and I once expedited our hiring process to bring on a lead game designer we were certain would be incredible. He’d managed the game design and economy design processes for some of the biggest gaming companies in the world; he spoke eloquently about the intricacies of game design and his approach to the process — he seemed like a slam dunk. …

About

Alex Paley

Head of Studio @GluMobile, Co-Founder @DairyFreeGames, Investor, 120 WPM

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